Meditation and Rebalance

woman meditating

Is it just me or is meditation everywhere? Every time I turn around someone is talking about it. Writing books about it. Discovering it. Or, finding a new way to do it. Is meditation magic? Is it “woo woo” stuff?

I’ll say the answers, in my opinion are, “yes” and “maybe” depending on your perspective. What I will say definitively is that meditation plays a huge role in Rebalancing our digestive tracts.

Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and help modulate our immune systems. How meditation does these things isn’t clear. What is known is that meditation help you learn to focus your mind, still your thoughts, and relax. Over time, the more you meditate consistently the more you respond to stress differently. I started meditating last year. I’ve found that when something stresses me I am able to respond – act in a thoughtful way – rather than react – fly off the handle. I’ve found that I’m less prone to letting my mind run amok.

Why is this important? For many people with digestive issues, stress plays a role in when and how their symptoms show up. A stressful time means that their symptoms will show up or get worse. If we can control how we respond to stress, the appearance or worsening of the symptoms can be stopped or minimized. Pretty cool, right?

Meditation doesn’t have to be “woo woo”. You don’t have to put on “weird” music and sit with your legs in funny positions. I promise. You can meditate sitting in a chair, on the floor, walking, cooking, eating, running. And, you don’t have to do it hours on end. Whenever you can take a few minutes is when you can meditate.

If you want to try meditating, I suggest starting small – 5 to 15 minutes at a time. I find first thing in the morning is the best time to meditate. You can use apps to help, guided meditations where someone gives you cues through the process, or just set a timer and focus on your breath. Whenever a thought come in to your mind, don’t run away with it. Thank it, or notice it, then bring your mind back to your breath.

Below are some resources to help you get started, and keep, meditating. One of my favorites is the Headspace app. If you want a fun read to help you understand meditation better, I’d highly recommend Dan Harris’s book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works—A True Story. Dan Harris is an anchor on Nightline and Good Morning America weekends. The story about how he got on the road to meditation is worth the read.

Do you meditate? If so, what have you noticed?

Meditation resources:

Headspace website and/or App

10% Happier website and App (Apple only)

Calm app

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works—A True Story by Dan Harris

Re-balance? That presumes I had balance at some point.

Relaxation.

Relaxation.

The last of the 5Rs of Gut Restoration is “Rebalance”. Although balance is a concept that we often spend time, effort, and energy chasing (and feeling like we fail at achieving it) the components of “balance” are critical not to just our gut health but also our overall health.

Rebalance includes: stress management, sleep, exercise, mindfulness, and other lifestyle factors that help you feel more “in the zone” or like your life is “clicking”. Why are these things important? Three words – parasympathetic nervous system.

The parasympathetic nervous system controls organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, and gastrointestinal tract all the way from the stomach to the large intestine. The Vagus nerve diretly connects our brain to our digestive tract. Yes, your brain and your gut are linked. About 80% of the nerves go from your gut to your brain (I always thought it was the other way around).

Stress management is the first key of Rebalance. When we are stressed the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight response) can take over and override the parasympathetic nervous system. This means that, for one thing, your digestive tract receives less blood and slows down when we are under stress. This makes sense because if we are having to run from a bear, we want the blood going to our legs and arms, not digesting the lunch we recently had. However, when our stress levels are raised over time, this can impact our digestive tracts in the long term. That’s when we need to step back, re-assess and help get the parasympathetic system back in the game. Because, even if you’re doing all of the other Rs, you won’t get the results you want without including the fifth – Rebalance – and stress management. Some of the other pieces of Rebalance are intertwined with stress management. We’ll touch on it more in this post and next week’s post.

Sleep is critical to our body’s ability to repair. When you workout you are damaging your muscles and body. That’s the point of working out. It’s when you sleep that your body repairs the damage you’ve done in the workout. When we sleep our body releases hormones that help keep us healthy. Our minds get to process the events of the day. Quality sleep helps you learn because that is when the neural pathways are built. If you want to get to the “top”, whatever the “top” means to you, do as Arianna Huffington says, “Sleep your way to the top.”

Next week, I’ll continue on the “Rebalance” theme.

I’d like to hear from  you about what comes to mind when you hear the word “balance”.  How do you get and/or maintain balance? Do you think it’s even achievable?

If You Want To Be Able To Close Those Doors, You’ve Got To Fix The Foundation

Cracked concrete

If your home was damaged, would you fix it? If there were holes in the ceiling or walls, would you patch them? If the heating or air conditioning systems weren’t working, you’d call someone ASAP. Right? If you keep getting cracks in the walls and doors don’t close in your house, you eventually have to look at the foundation.

Your digestive tract is 24 to 30 feet long. That’s a lot of space for things to go wrong. It would be equivalent to a multi-storied house with multiple basements, lots of rooms, plumbing, and heating and air conditioning systems.

If your digestive system is damaged it also needs to be fixed. And, just like your house, the fix depends on what is wrong with it. You wouldn’t try to fix the foundation with a plunger, right?

When I work with clients, the main things I look at doing are:

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Repairing the mucus layer (remember your entire digestive tract has a layer of mucus to help keep the digesting food moving)
  • Strengthening and repairing the lining of the small intestine

The “repair” R of the 5Rs goes hand-in-glove with the other R’s (Remove, Replace, Reinoculate and Rebalance). Doing the work to repair the inflammation or the lining of the small intestine won’t work if you haven’t removed the foods that are causing the inflammation and damage. It’s like when you keep patching the cracks rather than looking at the foundation of your house.

How do you repair your digestive tract? Typically, it involves supplements because getting the nutrients needed to repair the digestive tract in food can be a challenge. The supplements I use with clients depends on a lot of things. Two of the key things are: what’s going on, and where the damage is. The key supplements I look at include:

  • Glutamine for repair of the lining of the digestive tract
  • Aloe Vera for mucosal healing and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Curcumin as an anti-inflammatory
  • DGL-Licorice root for gut lining repair
  • Demulcents to soothe irritated intestinal lining
  • Fish oil as an anti-inflammatory
  • Glutathione-enhancing supplements for mucosal lining repair and anti-inflammatory properties

There are a lot more supplements that come into play. I’m not saying you need any or all of these or other supplements. My goal is for you to be aware that the targeted use of supplements can help repair damage done to the digestive tract.

As with any other supplement, you want to be sure to buy quality brands and brands that have been tested for purity and contamination. (Here’s a link to a post about reading the supplement facts panel. And another post with a lot of details about supplements and how to check that you’re buying quality supplements.)

Repairing a damaged digestive tract is one of the steps of improving your overall health. The first place I start when working with clients is looking for foods and drinks that could be causing damage and removing it – the first R – Remove. If you’d like help identifying those thigs that could be causing your issues, using a food log is a great place to start. If you want to get the food log I use with my clients, click here to get your Symptom Log.

We interrupt this regularly scheduled program to bring you . . .

Picture1

Have you ever been going along and things are great. You are rockin’ it! Everything is falling into place. Then. Out of nowhere. BAM! Something hits you and you’re off track?

That happened to me last week.

Here’s the backstory: I’ve had Irritable Bowel Syndrome for about 14 years. In the past year or so I’ve gotten it under control. Every now and then something will happen that sends it, and me, off track. That happened last week.

Fast forward to last week: I tried a new breakfast. And, something different for lunch. Both contained packaged items. Both had ingredient lists that looked like they would be OK. Both were certified Gluten Free. But, something went wrong. And, I paid for it.

So, what to do when this happens? I look at the 5 R’s and figure out what I need to do.

I start with Remove. I get those things out that I think may have caused the problem primarily food and drinks. I go back to foods I know and trust.

Then, I look at Replace. Am I using my digestive enzymes consistently? Did I use them when I ate? Not taking those enzymes when I eat, since I have problems digesting and absorbing proteins and fats, can cause all sorts of problems.

Next, is Reinoculate. I start doubling up on my probiotics and ensuring I’m including fermented foods daily. When something is wrong in my GI tract, I’ve learned that it throws my microbiome out of balance. Getting it back in balance quickly is key to recovering.

Repair follows next. Do I need to do anything to repair damage that may have been done? If I think so, I add in some additional supplements and foods targeted at calming inflammation, repairing and protecting the GI lining and wall.

Rebalance is the final step. I step back and look at what else is going on – stress, sleep, and working out. Stress is also a trigger for me. Maybe it wasn’t the food. Maybe I was stressed. If so, what do I need to do to manage that better. Did I workout? If not, maybe I need to start working out more regularly. All of those things play into my GI health. What do I need to do to rebalance other areas of my life? I figure it out, then take action.

I’m still working on recovering from this last flare up. Still trying to fine tune the 5 R’s. And, each time a flare up happens, the recovery is a bit different. I have to step back and play detective to figure out what happened and how to fix it. I’ve also learned to give myself some grace. After something like this I tend to be a bit “foggy” and fatigued. I’ve learned to give myself some extra time to rest. To realize that I may not be as mentally “on” as I’d like. And, understand that in a week or two I’ll be back to normal. Things will start rockin’ again soon.

One of the things I did when I first started getting my symptoms under control was to follow an elimination diet and a structured reintroduction program. Honestly, it was a challenge doing it on my own. I know this process is key to helping people figure out what food and drinks cause symptoms. If you’re ready to start taking control of your symptoms, check out my new online program to help you figure it out.

Reinoculate Your Gut – The Third “R”

syringe

Do you remember going in as a kid to get your inoculations? Vaccines? Do you love going in to the doctor’s office to get a shot? I don’t.

When working through the 5 R’s of Gut Restoration, Reinoculate is the third “R”. (I skipped over the second “R” because I covered it a few weeks ago. Here’s the link to it.)

Fortunately, you can reinoculate your microbiome without using a needle. You can use food and supplements. That’s right, food can help your microbiome. And, it has to be the right kind of food. Specifically, fermented foods.

I’ve talked about fermented foods before (here’s a link to the post on The Magical Microbiome). Those fermented foods contain the microbes that help reinoculate your microbiome. Each different food contains different microbes. This is why you should eat a variety of fermented foods like sauerkraut, Kim Chi, yogurt with live cultures, kefir, and kombucha.

Depending on what’s going on with your microbiome, you may also want to use probiotic supplements. When choosing probiotics, I recommend looking for ones that are proven to have live microbes in them. Usually, these are refrigerated. If you are sensitive, intolerant, or allergic to dairy, do your homework! Many probiotics are dairy-based. This may mean spending time on the company/product website or even calling or emailing them. Honestly, I recommend calling. They respond quicker than an email or using a “Contact” form on their website. Also, if you’re going to use probiotics, I recommend alternating them every month or every-other month. And, be sure that when you alternate that you choose probiotics that have different strains in them. How do you know? Look at the supplement facts panel. It will (or should) list the strains that are included in the probiotic. If you’re only switching brands and not looking at the strains, there’s a good chance that you’re getting the same strains from a different brand.

Finally, once you reinoculate your gut, you’ve got to feed those microbes. What kind of food do your microbes need?  Typically, your microbes do well on foods that you can’t digest. That means fiber. Lots, and lots of fiber. Fiber isn’t just good for keeping you full and helping keep you bowels moving. They’re food for your microbiome! We want those little guys to work hard digesting all that fiber. What are good sources of prebiotics? Here’s a list of some of the best prebiotic-containing foods:

  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Onion
  • Bananas (greener ones are great)
  • Asparagus

The 5 R’s of Gut Restoration aren’t necessarily in order. Next week, I’ll talk about Repair, which usually comes before Reinoculate when working with clients.

If your tummy isn’t happy and you don’t know why, take a look at the new online program I’m offering – the Happy Tummy Bunch. It just may help you get a happy tummy. And, who doesn’t want that?