It took two years of intense stomachaches before I finally, reluctantly dragged my butt to a doctor to figure out what was going. But really, all I had to do was look in the toilet to know that there was a serious problem with my digestion.
People get so squeamish about the scoop on their poop, but it’s the easiest way to gauge how your gut is performing on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis. You’ve got to take stock before you literally flush those valuable clues down the toilet! And let’s just say that if you can identify 4 out of 5 of your Just Salad toppings from that day’s lunch, it’s probably time to make some changes.
My stomach issues cleared up remarkably quickly after I took gluten out of my diet. But part of being autoimmune and having a generally sensitive system, means that my digestion still sometimes gets a little janky without my really knowing why.
Back in March, I got my food choices even more under control by partially weaning myself off animal products and recommitting to shopping at the Farmer’s Market. But this month I want to give my gut the tools it needs to fight my battles for me and properly process the things I’m putting in it. Though diet is certainly an important factor, I also want to focus on not just what I’m eating, but how I’m eating it.
Read on for more on my eater’s digest experiments. A poop log may or may not be involved, but I promise not to share it. At least not until they invent a monkey-holding-its-nose emoji to pair with the smiling poo.
From one healthy hedonist to another,
I kicked off my October wellness challenge a little early with a fascinating Wellness Wednesday hangout with Dr. Robynne Chutkan, whose latest book, The Microbiome Solution, is all about how our trillions of bacteria truly hold the key to our health. The book is full of actionable tips on how to live dirty and eat clean for the sake of preserving your gut garden of helpful microbes.
Since I already eat a lot of plants, I thought I would dig into some of her other recommendations for living dirtier, like keeping my window open, adding some plants to the house, and washing my hands with just gentle soap and water. From the sound of it, my transition to natural beauty products was a huge leg up for my digestion. In our chat, Robynne explains the gut-skin connection and how our interaction with the outside world impacts our microbiome. You can watch the whole thing here.
I’ve also upped my intake of natural probiotics like kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi. To see how adding these good bacterial transients to my diet actually impacts my gut, I’ve been getting my stool tested once a month by UBiome. Their system is super easy – you can even get a monthly subscription to see how you’re doing over time!
Towards the end of the month, I’m super excited to have the power couple of gut health as guests for another Wellness Wednesday. Erica and Justin Sonnenburg are authors of the bestselling book, The Good Gut, and a wealth of information on the role bacteria plays in the body. If you have questions, let me know in the comments section and I can field them during the hangout!
There are many digestive supplements and probiotics that can help repair your system. But it often doesn’t matter what you eat, if you’re not chewing your food properly. Saliva is such an important piece of our digestion puzzle and we often swallow our food down so fast that our bellies are forced to do most of the work.
Mindfulness is part of that equation. Because when you eat in a quiet environment and aren’t distracting yourself with spreadsheets or Sex & The City re-runs, your body can devote more energy to actually processing the food you’re putting in it.
The goal of this month is to understand the digestive system and all the little things that improve it (chewing your food until it’s mush while wearing a moomoo) and impede it (inhaling your dinner semi-whole while your stomach cries uncle in the world’s most restrictive pair of Spanx).
So part of my goal is to chew my food as much as possible, even if the idea of making steak smoothies in my mouth makes me want to gag. I’m also going to try to really focus on eating and savoring my food. Perhaps not watching TV while eating will prevent me from lying down like a beached whale 5 minutes afterwards, which is also not great.
Have you had any digestion successes or failures? Do you wonder if probiotics are actually effective? Got any burning questions on the scoop on your poop?
This is a safe space, so let er rip in the comments section!
The Wellness Project is a year-long blog series (and upcoming memoir) about how to find the balance between health and hedonism. To find out more about the inspiration behind the project and to get the monthly theme schedule, click here.