While we were doing the Leaky Gut Webinar yesterday, Steve brought up some free things that we can do to improve leaky gut. What a great idea! I wanted to recap the tips that he shared, and share some of my own. Did you know that managing stress is a key component to keeping your gut from being leaky? With stress comes either too high or too low cortisol (again, check out the webinar for more info).
Stress and Chronic Conditions
I’ve seen this in my own life, and if you look at your life I’m sure you can notice a pattern. When you’re in a high stress situation do you break out in hives? Get eczema? Fall into depression? Have increased anxiety – beyond what would be expected for your situation? Have digestive trouble?
While you notice those symptoms from acute anxiety (a sudden job loss, a family member falling ill, an autism diagnosis for a child, etc) you also are going to see a lower level of stress-related problems from chronic long term stress as well.
Here are 8 things you can do to improve leaky gut by managing stress – both physical and mental
1. Go to bed earlier.
I can’t, you say, I have too much to do. What if you got up early to do what you need to do instead? I just recently started doing this – I go to bed by 9 or 10, and if I have a lot to do I get up a couple hours before the kids. When I would try to do everything I needed to do at night I wouldn’t get to bed until 11:30, and wasn’t asleep til after midnight. With this new schedule I’m actually sleeping 8 hours (9-5), and I’m getting more done in two hours the morning before the kids get up (5-7) than I was in the 4 hours (7:30-11:30) after they went to bed. As a bonus, if I am up in the middle of the night with a child, I can choose to sleep until 6:30 or so, I can’t retroactively go to bed earlier.
For help falling asleep, try tart cherry juice, also GAPS legal.
2. Get outside.
This helps both physically and mentally. Physically you are reducing your toxins by breathing in fresh air. If you pack your healthy lunch, you’re not tempted to eat food that you shouldn’t be, and if you sit on the ground or go barefoot, you’re grounding yourself. Mentally, there’s nothing so refreshing as being in nature, away from cell phone reception if possible. If you do not feel refreshed by being outside – this is a good free exercise to practice contentment and help you break the attention-killing habit of checking your phone every 45 seconds.
Do you know how to meditate? It doesn’t have to involve CDs of waterfalls, sitting cross legged on the floor, or any sort of equipment. Choose a time when you have 10 minutes uninterrupted. Silence your phone. Set a timer for 10 minutes and sit with your feet flat on the floor, back straight. Choose a spot on the floor about 10 feet away that’s about the size of a dime – I often pick a corner where the wall meets the floor or even a child’s toy that’s left out on the floor.
Focus on this spot (I prefer this method, as I don’t like to close my eyes) and focus on deep breathing with your belly and whole diaphragm – not breathing up high in your chest. Just look at this spot, and let thoughts drift through your head, but don’t dwell on them. Eventually you will become bored, keep looking at your spot. I know that I’m completely relaxed because my vision starts doing funky things, waves will come in and out, the colors will go dark and then light again – my mind is bored, and it’s playing. This is really restful, see how 10 minutes doing this can increase your attention, patience, and attitude.
4. Release Judgement & Feel Your Feelings
Are you under the impression that you will not change into a better person unless you’re constantly beating yourself up mentally? A lot of us, especially moms who are looking to help their families, have this idea. It’s wrong. Even if you’re not judging yourself, you will improve – I promise, I know you, you want what’s best with your family. Judgement releasing will give you more energy and lower your every day stress.
For whatever problem you’re feeling guilty about repeat, “I release judgement that _____ is bad or wrong” “_____ is not in fact bad or wrong”. As an example, I felt guilty that I didn’t start intervention with my daughter soon enough, every day I had the thought run through my head. A friend showed me how to do judgement releasing, and it turns out that I was only being stressed out by this feeling of guilt, it was not motivating me to do more or be better (as I thought it would). My judgement release looked like this – you might not use these words, you might have others. “I release the judgment that not doing dietary intervention for my daughter when she was younger is bad or wrong” “Not doing dietary intervention until my daughter was older is not, in fact, bad or wrong.”
I used judgement release a few times a week – if you find yourself beating yourself up mentally about something, take 30 seconds and try it and see if it removes a mental block.
5. Toss toxins.
Do you use air fresheners, scented laundry detergents, scented candles, little pots of air freshener in your car? Swap those out for fragrance-free versions, or get rid of them altogether and open the windows instead. Once you detox from those things, smelling something like a Yankee candle will give you a headache and smell ‘fake’.
6. Substitute good food for bad.
Save all your grocery receipts for a week, or a month, and add up how much you spend on ‘extras’ and non nutrient dense food like chips, soda, fruit juice, crackers, breads, etc. Aim to cut that amount in half the next week or month, and spend the extra on higher quality meat, more vegetables, and coconut oil.
7. Keep a gratitude journal.
Steve recommended keeping a gratitude journal as a way to help fix a leaky gut. Before bed, write down 3 things that you’re grateful for, and review your journal when you’re feeling down. I do this a little differently, as part of our dinner table conversation, we have everyone say their favorite thing that happened today. This encourages everyone to think about what they appreciate, rather than dwell on the negatives. The kids are really enjoying this, I can tell they think about what they’re going to say during the day because they always quickly reply to the question with a nice variety of answers.
The actual act of smiling reduces stress. Smiling can help improve leaky gut in a few ways. It actually will lower your stress, even a fake smile. Within our families and community, smiling is reciprocated more often than not, which will lift the moods, and yes, even help repair leaky gut of everyone around you.