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The Dirty Truth about your Gut: The Facts about Feces and Why Variety is the Spice of the Gut!

I first discovered *The Gut* way back in college (and it wasn’t because I started seeing some of my friends develop a gut from drinking all of that beer – you know who you are). My first experience with gut health, or lack of gut health, was when it released a wrath of fury on me the morning of a biochemistry exam 20 years ago. I’ll spare you the details, but my first bout of IBS distracted me so much from a last-minute cram session that it resulted in my first grade below a B, maybe ever. It took almost 20 years to find freedom from that discomfort - mostly by ignoring western medicine and consistently experimenting on myself with diet and lifestyle choices. Doctors in the early 2000’s told me that since I didn’t have a gluten allergy, stress was the culprit, and practicing biofeedback would solve everything. But for me, it was so much more than that.

I bet some of you are certain you don’t have a gut problem because your doo-doo is made of pure gold. Yes – I mean your actual poop. You’ve got a perfect Bristol Stool Scale score of 3 or 4 with wonderful sausage-like dumps that pass easily and regularly and your mom is putting up a monument in your honor. Truth be told, even if your shit doesn’t stink, it’s almost a certainty that your brain function, energy levels, immune system, metabolism, and hormones are all being impacted by neglecting the needs of your gut. In fact, 70%-80% of our immune cells are present in the gut so it’s not something we can afford to readily ignore in the age of a pandemic.

I also want to be straight with you all - there is no one perfect diet for every person out there that will solve the world’s problems. We are ALL different and you need to do what is best for YOU as an individual. What I can share with you, however, are tips and tricks that worked for me and can help move your movements in a better direction (I can’t stop with these puns).

1. Your digestive health is determined by the overall patterns you have day-in and day-out with nutrition and lifestyle. The damage that happens over time leads to serious problems: chronic inflammation, IBS, leaky gut syndrome, and more.

2. Having a cheat meal at Carbone (gluten alert!) is FINE as long as YOUR body can handle it. However, the problem for 72% of the US population is that food allergies and sensitivities lead to dysbiosis. Insert Science Lesson: Dysbiosis is a disruption in the gut bacteria profile when the bad bacteria outnumber the good. At this point, the intestinal lining weakens and the barrier holding all of that sh*t inside of you (literally) is broken. Toxins then leak into the body and all hell breaks loose!

3. HOWEVER, once your gut is broken, you CAN heal it! Fun fact: Once I finally healed my gut from the problems I developed from eating gluten, dairy, and processed foods, I’ve been able to sneak some treats back into my lifestyle in moderation without ANY repercussions.

4. Pro Tip: The secret to healing your gut and creating a more ideal gut scenario, is by feeding the microbiome a diverse range of foods, varying in color and texture. This will help you to truly reap the benefits of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in your food that will nurse the gut back to health and feed the good gut bacteria (so it outweighs the bad).

5. So what the heck do I eat?! Recovering from the damage and inflammation created by processed foods and working towards recovery and resolution lies in eating high-quality fiber in its most basic forms: fruit, nuts and seeds, legumes, and beans. It’s also great to toss in a high-quality prebiotic and probiotic, and don’t forget the magic of the FERMENTED FOODS.

6. But wait! I eat a salad every day for lunch, so I’m good! Bad news: a salad a day will NOT keep the doctor away. As I mentioned above, the key is variety, variety, variety. So, while eating a salad for lunch every day is a GREAT alternative to some of the *bad* foods you may be triggered to eat during a stressful day at work and a barely-there lunch break, if you are eating the same 5-ingredient salad from Chop’t every day, you aren’t paying attention to most of the 2000+ strains of bacteria living in our gut microbiome that are looking for something fun to eat!

7. And finally, there was some truth to be gleaned from the doctor that sent me away for biofeedback. Certain breathing exercises CAN relieve gut distress and I incorporate these daily in my meditation practice :)

To wrap this all up, it seems only right to bring this back full circle to the illustrious beer gut that started it all. Please remember that while beer is a fermented beverage, it will not help in your quest to have a happy, healthy gut, unless you drink a strong Belgian. Another fun fact: Belgian Beers go through fermentation twice, leading to the generation of a probiotic yeast that can kill some of the bad bacteria in the gut! So go forth and drink the beer. Best of luck with your next deuce. Proost!


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