Two years. That's a long time. That's the amount of time it takes your gut to heal from one round of antibiotics. Two years! The widespread use of antibiotics is slowing down as we come to understand not only the massive impact of the excessive use of antibiotics on ourselves and our health environment (think antibiotic resistant super bugs) but also that there are other more effective ways to heal ourselves without the use of antibiotics. There is absolutely a place for antibiotics but our obsession with healing illness quickly and painlessly and getting back to our super busy lives is coming at a substantial cost.
As humans, our body is 90% bacteria cells and 10% human cells. Astonishing really. But what this means is when we use antibiotics and other antibacterial products (handsoap, sanitiser etc) we are literally killing the cells that are our body. When we take antibiotics, the medicine kills not only the bacteria that is causing us to be unwell, it also kills off all the good bacteria that are doing an amazing job to keep us physically and mentally healthy.
With 80% of our immune system contained in the cells on the outside of our gut and 90% of decisions made in the body by our gut (truly bestowing on the gut the title of the second brain) our physical and mental health rests pretty heavily on the health of our gut. If our gut is unhealthy, we are unhealthy and we will see the impact in a poor immune system, emotional distress such as depression and anxiety, tiredness, lack of motivation, poor sleep and the list is endless.
So if you've needed to take a course (often more than one course because it hasn't worked) of antibiotics, you need to know how to restore the health of your gut to restore the health of your body and mind.
Nose to Tail eating – historically we ate every part of an animal and left nothing to waste. This meant that we had the benefit of the vitamins and minerals in the organ meats, bones and cartilage. Buy cheaper cuts of meat and use your slow cooker to allow all the wonderful flavours and nutrients to be released from your food. Cook with the bones in the meat too! This means lots of stews, curries, casseroles and soups.
Bone Broth – our grandmothers would have a pot of bones on the go most days of the week. Bone broth was a staple in our food and has been for thousands of years. As the bones and cartilage are slowly cooked, they release gelatin and other essential vitamins and minerals that heal the gut. Many of us grew up being fed chicken soup when we were sick. Well there’s more to that than a delicious food that warmed our souls, the gelatin in the stock literally heals your gut.
Probiotics – taking a good quality probiotic is essential to reintroduce good bacteria back into your gut. I like to use a range of products so that I am putting different strains of bacteria into my body because this will help to build a strong gut.
Green Vegetables – we grew up being told to eat our greens. What great advice! Green vegetables contain antioxidants that reverse the effects of oxidization of foods in our diet. Protein oxidises as it cooks, that’s a natural process. So when we couple protein with greens, we are giving our body the benefit of the protein and the anti-oxidant properties of the green vegetables. This can be as simple as throwing some baby spinach leaves onto a plate of bacon and eggs, having a green smoothie in the mornings or using a great quality green smoothie powder. Green vegetables also help to alkalise the body which helps the body fight disease.
Alkalinity – the body needs to maintain a really careful balance between acidity and alkalinity. Acidity causes disease in our bodies and many of us are too acidic because we don’t get enough of the good things in each day and we are eating too much of the wrong things. Many foods are acidic, particularly processed foods, meat, dairy and grains. An easy habit that you can change for great health is to have a glass of warm water in the morning with the juice of half a lemon squeezed into it. Although the lemon is acidic, in your body it becomes alkaline and helps to restore the acidity/alkalinity balance. This is particularly important if you want to lose weight, your body will not let go of unwanted kilos if you are in a state of acidity.
Natural Products – when it comes to your home, your body and your clothing, use natural products whenever you can. It terms of cleaning, Eucalyptus Oil, white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda are your best friends. These three items with hot water will clean every surface in your home. Stubborn stains can be treated with a mixture of vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, Eucalyptus Oil can be used straight on benches (great for getting grease off of stove tops) or mixed with water to clean bathroom surfaces and floors. Not only will you save a lot of money on cleaning products, you are reducing the chemical exposure in your home and have less cleaning too. Have you noticed that bench top sprays or window cleaners leave a sticky residue? Dust clings to that meaning you have to clean more often! Skin care products often contain many chemicals. Your skin is your largest organ so it pays to treat it with care. Chemicals such as parabens are endocrine disruptors meaning they harm your immune system. Choosing products that do not contain parabens, SLS's and other nasty chemicals will help your body, mind and environment. If you are not prepared to eat it, don't put it on your skin.
SLOW – we are all so rushed these days but when it comes to our food, slow is best. Slowly cooking our foods allows it release amazing flavours and retain essential vitamins and minerals. Even on the stove top, allow your vegetables to braise at a low temperature for longer rather than cooking them quickly at a high temperature. Lower temperatures ensures we do not overheat cooking oils and we retain and release the goodness in our food.
Salt – our body needs the 80+ essential minerals contained in really great quality salt. Forget table salt or iodised salt, my favourite is pink Himalayan Rock Salt. It is sourced from the purest storage of sea salt on the earth and will give your body such wonderful minerals. Salt that is contained in processed foods is not good for your health, but the salt from the earth is critical to your health. The balance between water and salt in your diet is important. To give you an idea, you need 1/8 of a teaspoon of salt for every 250ml glass of water you drink. So go ahead and add flavor and nutrient to your foods with great quality salt. You can read more about salt in my blog post on salt.
Fermented Foods – our ancestors used to use fermentation as a method of preserving foods for when food was scarce. And in many parts of the world fermented foods are still a part of everyday eating. The process of fermenting introduces into our gut a host of beautiful and local bacteria that are essential for great gut health. You can make fermented vegetables easily at home and you can also buy fermented vegetables. Start with a little each day and you will have created a wonderful healthier habit! You will then look to add small amounts to other meals as the flavours fermented foods add to meals is wonderful.
Avoid Processed Foods – sorry to go on about it but jump on the anti-processed foods bandwagon with me because processed foods aren’t really food. When I talk about processed foods, I am not only talking about the obvious foods that our parents would call ‘junk food’, I am also talking about jars of sauces, breads, cakes and biscuits, flavour sachets such as taco seasoning and slow cooker bases and products such as dips and crackers that have preservatives, colourings and flavourings. Read the labels. If it contains numbers or words you don't understand, it's highly processed. Sugar is also hidden in many processed foods under different names. My blogpost on sugar explains more.
Supplementation – I'm not really into supplementation with chemically produced vitamins and minerals. The Vitamin C for example that is available on your chemist shelf is Ascorbic Acid which is a chemical concoction. You are better off getting your vitamin C from nature through organic citrus (the spraying of citrus destroys the fruit’s natural Vitamin C) and using products such as the camu camu berry which is 460 times more potent than the Vitamin C found in an orange.
Read labels – an easy healthier habit that you can adopt is to read the labels on everything you pick up off the supermarket shelf. If it contains numbers, words you don’t understand or preservatives, you know it has been processed and need to make a choice as to whether to seek out an alternative brand that may be better or avoid that product all together. That doesn’t mean you have to make everything from scratch or cut out foods that you enjoy eating, just be aware and make an educated choice about what you want. We all rely on packaged foods to some degree in our lives for a number of reasons. And this is the world that we live in and our children will need to navigate. By giving ourselves the tools to understand food, how we feel when we eat certain foods and being clear about what we are and are not prepared to accept for ourselves and our families, we know we are best placed to lead healthy, happy lives!
As always, I'd love to hear your feedback, stories, comments or questions. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.