There are a few simple changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle to improve the health of your digestive system. It’s much easier to take a supplement or a “healing food” than to remove a whole food group out of your diet. Sometimes removing specific foods if you have a sensitivity or food allergy will provide the biggest relief physically and mentally, but we’ll leave that topic for another today. Today we’re discussing powerful gut healing foods.
Some people have a condition known as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO for short). The small intestine is extremely important in the digestive process since most of our food is digested in this part of the gut. The small intestine should be almost completely sterile. The popular probiotic supplements that people love to take are filled with bacteria that should be living in the large intestine, not the small intestine. SIBO is what happens when various bacteria start living in the small intestine. This happens when your immune system is run down. Once this has happened you can continue indirectly “feeding” these bacteria via eating the wrong types of foods.
SIBO and our emotional state are very much related. I found the following quote in this article:
SIBO [small intestinal bacterial over growth] is strongly associated with depression and anxiety, while eradication of SIBO improves emotional symptoms.
SIBO can be a tricky pathology to overcome completely but everyone can start making a dent in the population of bad bacteria in their small intestines by eating a raw carrot salad every day. Ray Peat says the following:
“it is helpful to optimize bowel flora, for example with a carrot salad; a dressing of vinegar, coconut oil and olive oil, carried into the intestine by the carrot fiber, suppresses bacterial growth while stimulating healing of the wall of the intestine.“
Nearly every morning for the last few months I’ve been eating a raw carrot salad covered with 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil and a bit of salt. Since doing this I’ve noticed less smelly stools as well as some very well-formed stools. Apart from this I can’t really tell, but according to Ray Peat raw carrots have a anti-bacterial and anti-fungal effect. Apparently this is the reason why carrots never seem to go off in the fridge.
Eating your raw carrot salad with coconut oil turns it into a double whammy of anti-pathogen goodness. In the section on coconut oil in the book Perfect Health Diet the authors give a few references to the short-chain fatty acids in coconut oil having antimicrobial protection against yeast, fungi, certain parasites, certain bacteria as well as viruses such as HIV and herpes.
Bone broth is another fantastic substance which helps with digestion and gut healing. I eat bone broth every day, and usually have some with most meals. You can read more about this in my other blog posts over here and here.
Vitamin A is also extremely important for gut health. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride devotes an entire chapter to it in her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome. She says the following:
As we have already discovered, poor digestion causes vitamin A deficiency. But vitamin A deficiency can cause cause digestive problems. In fact gut disease is one of the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency, because the gut lining is one of the most active sites of cell production, growth and differentiation. Neither of these processes can happen properly without a good supply of vitamin A. Leaky gut and malabsorption are the typical results of vitamin A deficiency.
What are good sources of vitamin A? The best sources of vitamin A are animal livers of all kinds, egg yolks, butter and cod liver oils. The orange and yellow plant foods are good sources of beta-carotene, which is a vitamin A precursor. Unfortunately the conversion process from beta-carotene to vitamin A is dependent on many other vitamins and minerals and doesn’t always work very well. It’s better to get your vitamin A form animal sources.
Personally, I find chicken livers to be a very palatable source of vitamin A. 1 tub(250g) per week is more than enough. I also sometimes eat lamb liver for variation and six to twelve egg yolks per week. If you don’t like the taste of chicken livers it’s probably because you need to find a better recipe. Unfortunately most of us grew up without eating animal organs so the taste of the more unusual animal parts, like liver, can be quite a shock to the system. Nothing a good recipe can’t fix though!
If you just can’t seem to adapt to liver then a decent cod liver oil is your next best bet and is very easy to take.
Vitamin A will also help you with your mood problems (very much so in fact). Consuming lots of vitamin A has helped me an incredible amount.
One more group of foods I can heartily recommend for gut health are the orange fleshed, starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, butternut and pumpkin. These vegetables are the cornerstones for getting your carbohydrate calories in on diets like the paleo and GAPS diet (minus the sweet potatoes if you’re doing this one). These carb sources provide good energy in the form of starch and sugars with a very minimal amount of gut irritants and toxins. Most vegetables and defnitely all grains and legumes have antinutrients and lectins in them that are harmful to our gut.
Good luck with the orange fleshed veggies, carrots, vitamin A and bone broth. I’m sure it will make a huge difference in digestive health and hence your mood and hence your overall well-being.