The key to a happy belly is taking care of what's inside. Your gut is filled with a diverse population of microorganisms, known as the microbiome. Below are four ways to making it happy and keep it that way.
1. Eat Plant Fiber. One way to keep your belly happy is to feed it real, whole foods with fiber. Plant fiber is the preferred food source for your friendly bacteria. You can get plenty of fiber by eating both cooked and raw vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Only plants contain fiber, and the more it looks like it did when growing, the more it will benefit your body and your microbiome. Choose organic whenever possible, because GMO foods and pesticides contain chemicals, such as glyphosate in Roundup, that alter and destroy your friendly gut bacteria.
2. Eat Fermented Food. Foods that are naturally fermented contain probiotics within the food and brine. Examples are sauerkraut, pickles, and unsweetened kombucha. They are found in the refrigerated section of your natural food store, and never contain vinegar. Make sure you read the label carefully to know that it is truly fermented. You can also make your own at home.
3. Reduce Sugar and Processed Food. We all know that eating less processed food is good for us, but here is the main reason why: Sugar, processed food and fast food are all clinically proven to reduce the health of your microbiome. The sugars and emulsifiers in processed foods are what feed the unfriendly bacteria and yeast. This leads to them becoming stronger, taking up more real estate in your intestines. The more the unfriendly bacteria grow, the more you will experience problems in your digestion and beyond.
4. Reduce Standard Meat and Dairy. When animals are raised on factory farms, they are fed antibiotics which then get into their meat and milk. If you eat these animal products every day it's the same as taking low dose antibiotics every day, which we all know is harmful to our friendly bacteria. To ensure you are not getting antibiotics, read the label and look for organic, grass-fed or free-range.
1. Coconut cream
When you are planning on making a basic vegetable soup, try adding a can or two of coconut milk/cream instead of the oil right at the beginning. This is the basis of making a coconut curry, but you do not need to use curry powder to make this dish awesome! You can keep the spices simple, use just water for the broth, and add a little sea salt. Or you can make it even more delectable by adding some garam masala spice mix.
2. Peanut sauce
Getting to pour peanut sauce over your stir-fry makes it seem like you are out at a restaurant! It goes with any combination of vegetables and protein, and if you are avoiding peanuts you can just substitute almond butter in the recipe. Here is my basic peanut sauce recipe:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup nut butter
1 teaspoon salt or soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
splash of rice vinegar (optional)
Combine all in a small sauce pan on low heat, stirring until creamy. Adjust anything to your taste preference. Add more water for thinner sauce, more nut butter for thicker sauce. Easy!
The idea of a frittata comes from Italy. It is basically a quiche without the crust, which makes it so much easier to make and healthier too! If you were thinking of making a basic saute or stir fry for dinner, try making it into a frittata instead. I have made them for breakfast parties and family dinners. They are also an "anything goes" type of dish that you can customize based on what's in your fridge that day. Just make sure you have plenty of eggs!
All you need to do is saute the veggies in a big pot until they are soft (zucchini, onions, broccoli, spinach, and Italian herbs are all good options). Transfer them to a baking dish and pour beaten eggs over until they are covered, but not drowning. Bake for around 30 minutes. There are countless recipes for frittatas on the internet. Remember that you can substitute just about anything it calls for, or omit it all together. It will still be yummy!
Tea has been used medicinally in all cultures across the globe. It can be so nourishing, relaxing, and easy to do. Below are some common herbal teas that you can use as medicine to take away your tummy troubles, and other ailments as well. Combining herbs is a great way to get many medicinal benefits as well as creating new flavors. Who says you can't put two tea bags in one cup of tea?
1. Chamomile – prevents or relieves stomach cramps, calms the nervous system (including stress and anxiety), anti gas and bloating, helps nausea, heartburn and headaches. The slightly bitter flavor of chamomile is what makes it a great digestive aid.
2. Lemon balm – calms the digestive system and nervous system, contains many vitamins and minerals, helps abdominal pain, gas and bloating.
3. Ginger - stimulates the digestive system, helps in the absorption of nutrients, absorbs gases and toxins and helps the skin to release toxins through the sweat.
4. Fennel seeds – relieves nausea, anti-flatulence, anti-gas, relieves stomach cramps, helps indigestion and bloating.
5. Dandelion root and leaf – improves digestion, and acts as mild laxative agent. Roasted dandelion root is a great liver cleanser, and can be used as a coffee substitute. Dandelion leaf is a great kidney cleanser and acts like a diuretic to reduce water weight.
6. Peppermint - relieves irritable bowel syndrome, calms digestive spasm, relieves gas and reduces pain and discomfort.
A proud moment in my parenthood was when my youngest, not yet two at the time, would ask for arugula. At mealtime, if she saw me or my husband eating an arugula salad, she would say excitedly "I want awugoowah!"
At first I didn't think much of it, but then I reflected on what many American two year old's are eating every day (think mac and cheese, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets) and I realized that she is probably a rare two year old to even know what arugula is!
Like it or not, our kids are going to end up eating what the adults around them eat. Even before babies are born, they are tasting what mom is eating through the amniotic fluids around them. And then when a baby is breast fed, the flavors, herbs and spices of mom's food go into the breast milk. So, every meal for baby has a subtle variety of flavors, be it sweet, bitter, spicy, or salty. And this is where they first learn to "like" these tastes. After all, what is more comforting than momma's milk?!
When kids grow up, they tend to fall back on what they grew up with, even if they have a bout of junk-food addiction as teenagers. My kids certainly love sweets like jelly beans or chocolate, but if they have gone more than 24 hours without a good dose of vegetables, they end up literally devouring a plate of veggies when put in front of them. They are still pretty young, but I am hoping this love for real, healthy vegetables will last for life.
I often get asked, "Isn't the SIBO diet basically the same as the Paleo diet?" My answer is, "It's not that simple."
The Paleo diet was created based on what we believe humans were eating back when all they could do was hunt and gather their food. It allows for eating all natural meats and seafood, all parts of the animal, but no dairy. It allows for any fruit or vegetable, nut or seed that could theoretically be found in nature by taking a walk. That eliminates all cultivated foods such as grains. It is not based on any nutritional science of the foods allowed, and is often followed as a fad diet to become healthier. Not all fads are bad! The paleo diet is certainly a healthy diet because it virtually eliminates all processed, packaged, and "junk" food. Try making a doughnut without grains! And many people have successfully eradicated diseases following this diet.
The SIBO diet, on the other hand, is based on the types of carbohydrates or sugars in food. You see, bacteria love carbohydrates and they eat them through a process called fermentation. The more fermentable the carbs or sugars in a food are, the more they will cause digestive problems if you have SIBO. And it is not as black and white, with a yes and no food list, because SIBO patients can get away with having, for example, 1/4 cup of a certain green vegetable, but maybe not 3/4 cup. And of course, the specific goal of the SIBO diet is to stop feeding the bacteria, not to become healthier overall like the Paleo diet is often used for. Also, the SIBO diet is almost always used as part of a comprehensive SIBO treatment plan including antimicrobial therapy. I can't imagine this one ever becoming a fad!
With both diets, all grains are not allowed. This is where the similarity stops. The SIBO diet allows for some dairy, some legumes, and even peanuts. A very helpful food list guideline for the SIBO diet, compiled by Dr. Allison Siebecker, ND, can be found here. The gradation of foods from "most likely OK," to "maybe will cause some fermentation problems," to "most likely will cause some fermentation problems" makes it more of a trial and error on an individual basis. So you see, it's just not that simple!
12 different names for MSG
You probably shop in the organic and natural section of the grocery store, trusting that the food here is as healthy as can be. Perhaps you buy “natural” chips, crackers, or veggie burgers. Unfortunately, many of the packaged foods here still contain monosodium glutamate (MSG). Yes, it is the same MSG that we all try to avoid when considering to eat at a Chinese restaurant. For some people it can cause debilitating headaches. For others, GI upset. For most of us, we just want to avoid it because we know it is an unhealthy additive.
Why is it in my food?
Flavor enhancers like MSG do exactly what the name implies: they make the food taste better than it normally would. Aspartame (Nutrasweet) is also an excitotoxin. MSG had a humble and innocent beginning as a flavor enhancer. At the time, food manufacturers thought that since it is a type of amino acid found in nature, it must be safe to eat. Of course, lead and mercury are also found in nature, but we know better than to put them in our food!
Why is it bad for me?
Most of the flavor enhancers, including MSG, are also excitotoxins. Excitotoxins are literally toxins that enter your brain and excite certain brain cells. After about an hour of this over-stimulation, the brain cells die secondary to free-radical exposure.
The neurons that are most affected are motor neurons, which can lead to neurodegenerative diseases such as Multiple sclerosis (MS). Excitotoxins are a common trigger for migraines, but can also cause other seemingly unrelated symptoms such as childhood behavior problems or fatigue. MSG is often in baby and toddler foods too. Excitotoxins are particularly harmful at this age because young brains are still developing.
What are the other names for MSG?
MSG indeed has many pseudonyms. As long as an ingredient is not 100% MSG, it can go by another name. Familiarize yourself with the list below so you can avoid it next time you shop. The easiest way to avoid eating an excitotoxin is to avoid packaged foods, but when you must, please read the ingredients label carefully!
Dr. Melissa DeForest: I am a Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in digestive disorders. My goal is to educate, inspire, and empower others to lead a life they love.
Disclaimer: All information presented here is for educational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise, supplement, or diet routine.