Thank you to Silver Fern for sponsoring this post! All opinions expressed are my own.
With gut health becoming more and more of a focus in our culture, people are more curious than ever about probiotics! Clients and readers often ask me, “are probiotics really worth taking if you have gut health concerns?” My answer is almost always, yes! Having a healthy balance of good gut bugs is vital for maintaining good gut health, and in turn, good health as a whole, and probiotics can help provide that.
The problem is that everyone says that probitoics and gut health are important, but they don’t always say why they’re important. Here, I’ll be clearing up some confusion with sharing some of the top benefits of probtiotics, as well as my own personal experience and recommendations.
First, What Are The Benefits of Probiotics?
1. Probiotics support a healthy microbiome
The term microbiome refers to the diverse flora living within our gut. Science is still only scratching the surface with fully understanding the complexities of the human microbiome. So in short, it’s incredibly important to have healthy gut bugs.
A healthy microbiome is vital to keeping our gut to stay balanced to absorb nutrients in our food and maintain a healthy immune system. Whereas, an imbalanced microbiome can result in overgrowths like candida, SIBO, and other dysbiosis, and whole host of health problems.
Taking a probiotic can help to keep our microbiome balanced, and diverse with healthy gut bacteria.
2. They support a healthy immune system
70-80% of our immune system lives in our gut. Thus, in order to have a healthy immune system, we need to have a healthy gut. An imbalanced microbiome is associated with increased infection, and lower immunity in general.
By adding in healthy probiotics that influence a healthy microbiome, we support our immune system as a whole.
3. They support the overall integrity of the gut lining
The lining of our gut is only one cell wall thick, and can easily become damaged. A damaged gut can lead to food intolerance, autoimmunity, and a myriad of other issues. An imbalanced microbiome can be more than enough to allow the gut to become damaged as a result of overgrowths, inflammation, and more.
By supporting our microbiome, we support the overall integrity of the gut which can potentially help to combat some of the associated issues.
4. They help prevent and control a variety of bad side effects of poor gut health
You’ve heard me say this a million times… our gut health is connected to everything. It impacts our ability to absorb nutrients, the health of our immune system, and our overall health and vibrance. By supporting our gut health with a good probiotic, we can in turn help positively impact and support our bodies ability to fight off the following bad side effects of poor gut health…
- Digestive distress
- Food intolerance
- Mood disorders
- Hormonal imbalance (and associated weight loss resistance and lowered metabolism)
- General inflammation
So, I know what you’re thinking… “what probiotic do you take?!”
I’ve taken a lot over the years, and have had varying results. Some have made a positive improvement, others felt counter productive. Most recently, I’ve started taking Silver Fern and am excited to share my results with it!
My Experience with the Silver Fern Ultimate Probiotic
When Silver Fern reached out to me, I was in search of a new probiotic after a formula change of my former one. I had heard of Silver Fern before and had seen positive reviews online, but hadn’t tried it yet. They offered to send me a bottle of their Ultimate Probtioic and see how it worked out.
By the time I started my first bottle of the Silver Fern Ultimate Probtioic, it was right in the middle of the holiday insanity. I had essentially eaten only bacon and dairy free chocolate chip for days, and I seriously felt it. I felt stressed, run down, sluggish, fatigued and my digestion was just an overall mess right after the holidays.
I started the Silver Fern Ultimate Probiotic right after Christmas and felt hopeful after hearing good things from others. Much to my relief at the time, I was immediately impressed! I noticed an improvement in my post holiday digestion within a matter of days, and it has continued to support my digestion in the weeks that have followed.
I’ve been taking two a day in the morning and have felt great taking it. Since then, I’ve confidently recommended it to several others.
Everyone is different when it comes to health. We all have a different natural balance of our microbiome, and there is no one size fits all, but regardless, I can still recommend this probiotic for working well for me as someone who has had their fair share of gut issues!
What Makes Silver Fern Different
It has no fillers or nasty ingredients
I’ve had the experience of trying to find a new probiotic right off the shelf of the grocery store several times with little success. Why? They almost all had some sort of filler or junky ingredient. Dairy, gums, fillers, and so many other poor quality ingredients that just don’t belong in a probiotic. This probiotic doesn’t have any of that stuff!
Many probiotics are less effective because of low survivability of the strains. Silver Fern is third party tested to have a 100% survivability rate, thus delivering more benefit.
Potent and ancestral stains of bacteria
One of the biggest variances in probiotics is the quality and type of probiotics strains. Many probiotics can use ineffective, or counterproductive strains. Where as, the Silver Fern Ultimate Probitoic focuses on using more ancestral strains that are found in nature such as…
- Bacillus Subtilis HU58
- Bacillus Coagulans
- Bacillus Clausii
- Saccharomyces Boulardii
- Peidiococcus Acidilactic
Good quality probiotics can be hard to access and track down but the Silver Fern Ultimate Probiotic is easy to buy online! I recommend checking out their website to read more reviews and determine whether or not it could be a good fit for you.
Again, everyone is different. We all have different tastes, genetics, health background, and balance of our gut. Checking with a doctor to ensure whether or not a supplement is right for you is always a good practice, especially if you’re dealing with a known overgrowth.
Regardless of our different background, a healthy microbiome is an important piece of the puzzle for long lasting gut health, and a probiotic supplement is definitely a good choice to consider!
Photography by Maribel Morales.
The holidays are easily one of my favorite times of year. I love the extra time with loved ones, the tradition, the decor, the gift giving, and the overall feel of joy! But let’s be honest… it’s not all gumdrops and candy canes for all of us. With the temptation of less than healing foods, and the myriad of ways to take on stress, the holidays can really take a toll on your health… especially your gut health.
We know that your gut health is so central to the health of your entire body. It impacts your mood, your ability to absorb nutrients, your autoimmune status… the list goes on. As someone with Hashimoto’s disease and long term health issues, one of the biggest factors in how I feel at any given time is my gut health. It’s the key behind so many of our issues.
So, why are the holidays such a concern for your gut health? Here are just a few ways that the holidays can result in a less than optimal environment for gut health…
- Lack of healing foods or excess of sugary, processed foods
- Emotional stress
- Physical stress (due to lack of exercise, or stress from travel)
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of self care
The list goes on…
Allowing your gut health to fall by the wayside can have lasting effects beyond just the holidays… it can cause health flares, and a myriad of other illnesses. However, it also impacts our ability to enjoy the present moment that we’re in. If I’m doubled over in pain from bloat or stomach cramps, I’m not enjoying the holidays… period.
Though it’s important to continue to care for our health, it’s equally as important to not restrict or deny ourselves of holiday fun! Restriction can be just as damaging as indulging. So where is the balance?
Here are 5 easy ways to keep your gut healthy during the holidays while still enjoying yourself!
1.Continue to incorporate healing foods daily
The holidays don’t have to be non-stop cookies, pies, and gingerbread houses. There are still plenty of opportunities for you to keep up with a normal healing diet throughout the days and weeks!
The misconception is that if you slip up with too many treats, or a non compliant food once, then there’s no point in even bothering with healing foods… you might as well just go completely off the rails. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Even if you have one off day or over indulge at a party or two, all is not lost. You can still turn it around and continue making healing choices.
Here are some ideas for incorporating healing foods during the holidays…
2. Bring healing food to share at holiday gatherings
One of the most common places that we can trip up in our healing journey is at parties, dinners and other gatherings. It can be hard to say no to plates filled with Christmas cookies, warm mugs of hot chocolate, and other yummy appetizers.
However, it’s a lot easier to stick with healing foods at parties when you bring your own that’s good enough to share! This is a trick that I’ve been using for years, and it always works. Not only does it keep me happy and well fed, but other party go-ers are always happy with the healthy treats and appetizers.
Here are some ideas…
3. Lean on supplements when necessary
We could all use a little help every now and then, and the holidays are a perfect time of year to lean on some extra support from supplements to help. Of course, you always want to work with a doctor to ensure that supplements you’re taking are compatable with your health status, but here are some ideas to discuss…
- Activated charcoal. You can get this at any drug store… I don’t have a particular brand I like more or less. This is a must for me when I’m traveling or eating out. Activated charcoal can help combat side effects from eating food that makes us sick. It’s great to take after you accidentally eat something that makes you feel ill. However, taking too much can have bad side effects so you don’t want to over do it or take it when you don’t need it. It’s just a back up!
- Digestive enzymes. Taking an enzyme could be a good idea if you have gut issues. The type you get will vary, but I like this brand.
- Digestive bitters/ HCL. This helps stimulate stomach acid which aids digestion. This is my favorite one, but everyone is different.
4. Manage your stress & mindset
The holidays are incredibly stressful. There’s travel to coordinate, dinners and parties to plan, gifts to shop for, and more. Regardless of your situation, there’s going to be some associated stress.
Stress can be just as damaging to our gut health, and health in general as inflammatory food. The stress hormone cortisol keeps our body is a sympathetic state which interferes with our digestion, our ability to heal, and even the health of our gut lining. I’ve gone through a number of flares that were triggered by stress alone, and have seen the negative impact that stress can have in my own clients and friends.
It is so imperative to manage your stress and mindset during the holidays! So, how do you do that?
First, remember that this is temporary. This won’t last forever, and you’ll be out of the woods in a number of weeks.
Next, remember to make time for self care, relaxation, and fun. I can’t think of anything more relaxing than curling up with a good book on the couch near the Christmas tree, or taking a walk in a neighborhood with Christmas lights. Find moments of joy, and prioritize them during the holidays.
Finally, shift your mindset around the holidays to focus on gratitude and giving. There’s always something to stress out about, but there’s also something to always to grateful. When we focus on what we’re thankful for, and give back to those that are less fortunate, we dwell on our own stressors less.
5. Make time for movement
Movement is so important for the overall health of our body. We need to regularly move our body to keep our joints healthy, regulate our sleep, aid our digestion, and more.
It’s harder to get movement in during the winter… I know. Walks become colder, and it’s harder to get to the gym when it gets dark so late. So you have to get creative….
Getting in little walks throughout the day like a lunch break walk, or walking right when you get home from work is one of my favorite strategies. Home work outs are also a great option, and one that I’ve been loving recently is Yogaglo. It’s $18 a month, and has tons of great options to get in some movement. Another option that I haven’t tried but have heard a lot about is barre3, which has also started a online subscription service.
No matter what it is, make time for movement daily during the holidays to keep your body healthy, and your spirits high!
I hope these little tips were helpful! For more resources, check out my e-book, the 30 Day Gut Healing Guide, and my free Facebook group, Gut Healing Support.
When I started Unbound Wellness to share my journey and successes in healing Hashimoto’s, it wasn’t under the false impression that I didn’t still have things to work on in my health… not at all. Even after making great strides in our health, we’ll still have to continue to pursue good health and may hit road bumps along the way.
For me, I hit a big road bump last year. My hormones were out of whack, I wasn’t feeling 100%, and I found out that I was severely mineral deficient mercury toxic. One year later, and I’m still not perfect, but I’ve seen a dramatic drop in my mercury levels and a huge change in my minerals. After a year of hard work, I’m finally read to share what I did, how it all was, and what I’m still working on with my health!
First, a big disclaimer… do not, and I repeat, do not attempt to detox any heavy metals on your own. You need doctor supervision. Detoxing metals is very, very dangerous if done wrong, and I could not have done this without a doctor. I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice… these stories are personal. Please consult a doctor for all of this.
So, how did I find out I was mercury toxic?
I started going to a new functional medicine doctor (Dr. Anne Coleman in Richardson, TX) to basically help me with issues that I was experiencing and to to make sure I had resolved any underlying health issues before we started trying to have kids in a few years.
She insisted of getting a hair mineral analysis to test for metals (not sure of the brand… each doctor does something different), and I almost didn’t do it out of being cheap. However, when I did I was shocked to find out I was very mercury toxic, and incredibly mineral deficient.
How did I get mercury toxic?
That’s the million dollar question… I’m not 100% sure. Here’s how it can happen…
- Contaminated water
- Amalgam dental filling
- Gestational exposure
- Food exposure (like big fish)
- All of the above + poor detoxification
I’ve never had serious dental work, so my running theory is that I did get a big mercury dump from all of the tuna I’ve eaten in the past. Tuna is easily one of my favorite foods and I would eat 3-4 cans a week… WAY over the limit for a person my size. Plus, throw in the fact that I was deficient in minerals that would help me detox it (like selenium) and you have a bad situation.
We all get exposed to metals and chemicals throughout our lives, but if we’re healthy enough naturally detox them, it may not be much of an issue. However, with genetic issues, impaired liver function, and more, many of us suffer the consequences.
What are the symptoms and complications of mercury?
The symptoms of mercury toxicity can include…
- Neurological damage and issues
- Development of autoimmunity
- Persistent candida
Obviously, I have autoimmune issues, but I also have struggled with headaches my whole life as well as balance issues, so I really did see some symptoms that could have been related to mercury.
As for the complications, mercury toxicity that’s bad enough can seriously damage your brain, gut, organs, and can even kill you. That is why it’s so important to work with a doctor. Many attempts that people make to detox can just make them worse if they go about it the wrong way.
How I Detoxed Mercury
As we’ve already established, this is my personal journey and I share this as inspiration for those going through it, and general information to bring to your doctor. In no way am I suggesting that you too follow this protocol. This protocol was tailored to my tests, my genetics, my health, etc… You need to follow your own protocol and not copy mine. Again, you have to see a doctor and do this under the care of a doctor. I’m just sharing my experience as hope that recovery is possible!
My approach with my doctor was simple and fairly gentle. I didn’t want to go too crazy on IV therapy, chelation, etc. The goal was to do a year or so where I did gentle therapy and see if that worked to move my mercury… and it did! So here’s what I did…
I Worked On Raising My Other Mineral Levels in General
To fight off a pathogen, foreign invader, or illness, you have to be healthy enough to do it. The same goes for metals… you have to have sufficient mineral status to be able to naturally detox. My doctor gave my supplements for my specific deficiencies at the time to raise my levels, and I focused on getting lots of minerals from my food.
Mineral deficiency takes time to correct, but mine finally improved!
Sweat is an amazing natural form of detox. I went to hot yoga about once (sometimes twice) a week and it really gave me some detox reactions in the beginning. I felt fatigued and generally disgusting when I first went, however, my doctor was excited to hear that I was doing it so I kept at it and eventually started to like it! It was a gentle way to detox, and one that I really enjoyed.
This was possibly the hardest one for me…. because I hated it. I’ve heard so many amazing things about Infared Sauna and my doctor recommended I try it. So, I had the bright idea to try a 140 F sauna when it was the dead of summer in Dallas, TX and already 105 F outside. Needless to say… I hated it.
However, I believe the reason I disliked it so much is because it was giving me such a heavy detox reaction, thus it did really seem to be effective.
I do plan to try it again now that it’s cooled off here in Dallas! I do recommend them… I just don’t recommend trying it for the first time in the dead of summer 😉
Something else my doctor uncovered was my elevated liver enzymes. A healthy liver is necessary to help aid natural detoxification, and with my hormonal imbalance, acne, gallbladder issues, and more it was clear that I needed liver support.
I did milk thistle in a dose that my doctor recommended to me (I switched up brands), I did castor oil packs, and my doctor prescribed a supplement protocol from Quick Silver Scientific called the black box detox. This was very expensive, and my doctor was the one that recommended it to me… so please just don’t go out and buy it! Ask your doctor about it.
I Cut Out Tuna
Honestly? This was the biggest one for me. I love tuna. Canned tuna salad, tuna sushi, tuna steak… man… I love it. As I said, I ate 3-4 cans a week and decided to go cold turkey. The only fish I really ate was sardines and salmon.
I can’t say for sure, but I feel like that likely made the biggest difference.
How Do I Know I Got Better?
Again, this is why seeing a doctor is so important. I had to retest to know I was getting better. So I redid the hair mineral analysis to see that my mercury levels dropped 3x!
Did I Get A Detox Reaction?
Because my protocol was so gentle and over the course of a year, I didn’t have any violent reactions. However, I definitely had days (especially my sauna days and when I started the black box detox protocol) where I felt sick and fatigued, but it wasn’t anything violent.
Do I Notice a Difference?
One thing that I can say or sure is that I no longer have as many headaches as I used to. That’s easily the biggest difference that I’ve noticed and obviously one of the main ways that it was manifesting.
My Best Advice on Mercury…
- Work. With. A. Doctor. I can’t stress this enough.
- Do your own research and bring that to your doctor. There were plenty of things that I picked out myself, like hot yoga, that I felt like made a big difference.
- Focus on getting out the biggest offender. For me, I really feel like it was tuna. If it’s amalgams for you, focus on that with your doctor.
- Know that it is possible! I thought there would be no way to drop my levels this much without chelation. But change is possible!!
What I’m Still Working On With My Health
I’m still not perfect! Even after my Hashimoto’s stabilized and I got rid of mercury, there’s still more work to do. Here’s what I’m still focusing on…
My mercury levels may have dropped but I also had elevated aluminum levels that really didn’t. I feel like a big part of that was not taking cutting out sources seriously, so I’m working on that.
A bad side effect of my metal detox? My adrenals are tanked. Detox is hard on the body and my adrenals have only gotten worse.
I’ll be seeing my doctor talk about adrenal support supplementation, but in the interim, I’m focusing on stress reduction, sugar control, sleep, and gentle exercise.
Hormone balance & estrogen dominance
Hormones are all connected. Seeing as my liver is still rather “meh” and my adrenals are shot, I am estrogen dominant and low in progesterone. I’m continuing to work with my doctor on it, but the biggest sources of relief thus far have been liver support and controlling my sugar intake. Slowly but surely, I’m already seeing improvement,
I’ve never gotten a firm diagnosis of candida before… however, it’s strongly correlated with mercury toxicity, and I have the tendency to be a huge sugar monster! If you can’t tell from my love of baking 😉
I’ll be focusing on my own sugar control and getting retested for candida in 2018.
And there you have it! 1700 words to prove that I am not a perfectly healthy human. No matter how far we come, we still have to focus on keeping ourselves healthy and addressing speed bumps along the way. I’m grateful to be able to see change, and to share this message of hope with all of you!
In the world of chronic illness, autoimmune disease, and the pursuit of better health, we’re all very aware that we should be focusing on our gut health. We know that our gut is connected to everything in our body including our immunity, our mental health, and our hormones. We can all assume that we need to be focusing on our gut… but how do we really know what to focus on?
Though it’s true that there are a myriad of things that we can all implement in our lives for better gut health, testing is always best! Here’s the thing… I know that testing is expensive. Trust me, I’ve been around the block with all of these! The tests listed here are thoroughly worth the cost, and two of them can easily be done at home, essentially for free!
First, Why Test Your Gut Health?
I’m a huge advocate for testing and not just guessing. Testing your gut health will help you determine what you need to focus on, whether or not you have any serious issues that need more effort to address, and can help you indicate whether or not you’re on the right track with the changes that you’re making.
Blindly making changes can lead us in the wrong direction, and can sometimes do more harm than good if we adopt that wrong protocol.
Like most things in life, testing isn’t a surefire thing. There is always room for error and false positives and negatives. However, testing will help guide you along much in your gut healing journey than doing it all blindly.
4 Ways To Test Your Gut Health
1. Visual Inspection
This is the first test I will always recommend for determining the health of your gut and digestion. The visual appearance of your poop (yes, we’re using the word “poop” here) is an amazing indicator for what is going on in your gut, how your digestion is working, and what foods you’re are and are not absorbing well.
This can be done every single time you go, and it can change from meal to meal, which is what makes it such a powerful tool.
Here are some of the things to look for and what they mean…
The color of your stool is incredibly telling, and very easy to identify issues! Here are some colors to watch out for….
Pale or greenish-yellow stool – This could be a sign of bile duct obstruction and/or fat malabsorption which is a huge indicator of poor digestion! If this continues, see a doctor to talk about getting your gallbladder checked out and a nutritionist about what you can do to better digest fats .
Black or red stool – This could be sign of internal bleeding and needs to be addressed by a doctor immediately. However, if you’ve recently eaten beets, be sure to take the into account!
Green stool – Eat a lot of veggies? This may be a sign that you’re not digesting them well and that the nutrients may be going to waste! Talk to a nutritionist about improving your digestion, or try cooking your greens.
Yellow stool- This could be a sign of infection or intestinal inflammation and needs to be addressed by a doctor.
Visual & Physical Indicators
Bristol Stool Chart Analysis- Using the bristol stool chart can help identify digestive and gut health issues. Closer to #1 means constipation, and closer to #7 means diarrhea, which are both cause for concern. If you consistently experience something other than type #3 or #4, consider reaching out to a doctor or nutrients.
Floating/Sinking- Floating stool is an indicator of fat in the stool which means you’re not digesting fats well, when stool than immediately sinks is a sign of too many nutrients still in the stool.
Physical straining- Sometimes our digestion varies, yes, and having one episode of physical straining isn’t the end of the world. However, if you find yourself physically straining to go more often than not, that’s a sign that you need to pay attention to constipation issues.
Frequency- How often you go #2 is incredibly important for determining the health of your digestive system. Chronic constipation can put you at risk for microbiome imbalance and infections.
Everyone is different and there is no gold standard for how often you should go, but a good average is somewhere between twice a day, and every other day or so. Again, that’s a general estimation, but if you find yourself running to the bathroom after every meal, or only going a couple of times a week, I would definitely take that as a sign to look further into improving your digestion.
2. The Beet Test
What the heck is the beet test? This is an easy way to test your transit time at home! Finding out how long food stays in your digestive system before it passes can give you insight into whether or not your digestion is sluggish and you’re constipated, or if it’s too fast and you’re not absorbing nutrients.
How You Do The Beet Test…
- Simply eat a meal with beets. I find that raw works best, but this will vary for everyone. Record when you ate the beets.
- Watch and wait for the beets to pass in your stool. You’re looking for a red/purple color.
- Record your results and compare. There is no gold standard, but 24-48 hours is a good general starting point. If you find yours to be way off, or you see a big change in two different beet tests that you’ve done, take your results into account with a doctor or nutritionist.
3. Functional Stool Analysis
If you really, and I mean really, want to get a full view of what exactly is going on in your gut, getting a functional stool analysis is the best way to go. This involves sending a stool sample (preferably over a number of days) to a lab for inspection, and the results can have a dramatic effect on how you go about managing your gut health.
What does it test for? Each test will vary, so you have to be very specific in what you ask your doctor for, but stool tests can generally test for the following…
- Presence of specific strains of microflora
- Certain bacterial or fungal overgrowths
- Nutrient malabsorption (indicating “leaky gut”, fat malabsorption, etc.)
- Enzyme levels
- Parasite infection
How to get one… Working with a functional medicine doctor or an NTP is the best way to get a good quality stool test. I have a post here to help you find a good one.
But isn’t it expensive? Yes! They can be anywhere from $300-600. But if all other attempts at improving your gut health have failed, and you’re really going to work with a doctor to build a custom protocol for you with the information you get from the test, it’s worth it.
4. Lactulose Breath Test
Are you dealing with severe bloating and suspected Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)? This is the test you want to ask your doctor about!
What is it? This test entails altering your diet for about 24 hours, drinking a sugar drink (yes, it’s gross) and taking breath samples over a period of time to test whether or not you have a bacteria overgrowth in your small intestine.
Though it can certainly have it’s fair shares or false negatives and positives, but it’s one that you want to get if you suspect SIBO. Talk to a doctor about ordering one and what to do with your results.
So, now that you’ve determined the problem, what do you do to improve your gut health now?
The million dollar question! The answer? It depends. You need to follow a customized protocol that corresponds on what’s wrong with your gut to really address the issue.
However, here are some general pieces of advice to get you started…
1.Work with a doctor
This is always the best course of action for really customizing your protocol. I have a post on finding a good doctor here.
2. Work on improving your digestion
Almost all of these test can tell you if you’re having problem digesting your food. Exactly what you do will vary depending on what you’re
experiencing, but check out this post I have on 8 steps to improve your digestion naturally.
3. Eat a healing diet.
The exact diet you adopt will be unique to you, however if you’re just getting started or are in need of more guidance, I created a 30 Day Gut Healing Diet Plan that’s full of shopping lists, easy to follow meal plans, and AIP recipes with low-fodmap and GAPS modifications!
It’s an awesome way to get more guidance on gut healing meals, and get new recipes. You can get your copy of the e-book here!
I hope this list of tests was helpful and that you’re able to take advantage of them. Remember… testing and not just guessing is always the best way to go!
The majority of my blog (and really my career) is about healing. Healing your gut, healing from Hashimoto’s, and eating healing foods. Though you’ll typically find me talking about healing with delicious paleo recipes, castor oil packs, and collagen peptides, today I want to talk about healing with something different… and that’s forgiveness.
Though most of my readers have some form of autoimmune disease, chronic illness, or gut issues that they’re trying to resolve with diet, we are all broken people in some sense. Whether it be our health, our emotional wellbeing, or something else entirely, no one is perfect, and we all have some healing to do.
We’ve all been angry at something. In this world of chronic illness, we’re most often angry at the doctors who failed us, at the people who didn’t believe us, at the food system that’s broken, and at ourselves for getting to a certain place. Sound familiar? Are you checking all boxes right now? These grudges hold us back from healing.
I want to share with you what I’ve learned first hand about how to heal with forgiveness. Why it matters, why you’re not a bad person for being angry for what happened to you, and who you need to forgive.
Why We Need to Forgive to Heal
Anger, grudges, and emotional pain are inflammatory. Just as inflammatory, if not more, than a big ol’ sugar-y cookie, and maybe even a cigarette. The stress keeps our stress response going, the anger keeps us from enjoying life, and the victimization keeps us from believing that we can ever heal.
Forgiveness is a central part of any healing journey. No matter how hard it is, or how long it takes us to forgive, we need to strive to do it.
You’re not a bad person for feeling angry, hurt or wronged. You’re human. Feeling wronged is normal… but it’s holding you back from healing.
Who You Need to Forgive to Heal…
Forgive Your Doctor and The Medical System
We put a lot of weight on the shoulders of doctor and the medical system. We trust it to solve our problems and make us whole again. And that isn’t wrong. Doctors spend their professional lives working to help us heal, and we can’t be expected to do that work ourselves. But when they lead us astray, we suffer both from health issues without relief, and the psychological pain of anger that keeps us from healing.
I’ll never forget how wronged I felt by my doctors as a kid. Growing up I hated eating meat, I was overweight, I was exhausted, and my body was crying for help. What I really needed was a loving voice to help me fix my digestion, heal my gut, and teach me about a nutrient dense diet. What I got were doctors that laughed at me when I told them that eating meat and fat made me gag, doctors that called me fat, and doctors that told me I just needed to exercise more to be healthy. I will never forget that doctor that once told me that all I needed to do get my daily required amount of protein was to eat enough peanuts to cover the palm of my hand. I am not lying. I was really told that advice by a doctor in middle school.
Looking back, that makes me angry. I saw dozens of doctors who wrote me off, turned me away, and made me think I was crazy to the point that I didn’t even believe I was sick. It held me back in my health and my life for years. I was livid.
However, one of my favorite things that my old boss used to say was “doctors are practicing“. Doctors are human, and the medical systems are inherently flawed. They will never be able to single handedly solve all of our problems.
That grudge that I held against doctors made me insane. It kept me from trusting my good functional medicine doctors fully, and it made me feel like I would never heal. All of that kept me from healing.
It’s hard, it feels wrong, and it does not make anything that crappy doctors told you okay, but in order to get over the pain and move on with your health, you have to forgive.
I had to move on and forgive the doctors that wronged me to form a new, better relationship with my new doctors, and with the research that was being put out their by doctors that I was using to educate myself. It didn’t make that ridiculous peanut doctor situation okay… but it freed me of the emotional pain that it caused me for years.
Forgive The Food System
This one is especially hard. It sounds like something absolutely crazy to ask of you. The same system that pumps our children full of sugar, grows GMO corn, and feeds us all the wrong information. I’m asking you to forgive that?
Again… forgiveness doesn’t make it okay.
Forgiving this system doesn’t mean that you can’t still speak out against it. It releases you of the anger and allows you to advocate for a healthier, more natural food system.
What our food system does is not okay. But where does anger alone really get us? Pushing for a better system and educating on change gets us somewhere. I’ve had to force myself to spend my energy on celebrating all of the things that are right with the natural, organic, and local food system, rather than just getting angry about the bad. And guess which one people like to read about more? Guess which one actually gives them valuable information that improves their lives? You guessed right 😉
Forgive Those Who Wronged You
I’ve had my fair share of naysayers in my life. Former friends and ex-boyfriends who thought my health problems were made up, my way of living was stupid, and refused to take any interest at all in what I was doing with my health and my life. Thinking about them would make my blood boil for years.
Forgiving those people doesn’t make it okay. It also doesn’t mean they need to be in my life anymore… most of them are not. But it helps me get over them, and it helped me open my heart to new people, or restart relationships with people who have wronged me in the past.
This is arguably the biggest one, and the one that I see most people struggle with. I’ve had so many people come to me saying, “I did this to myself” or asking, “What did I do wrong to deserve this?”.
I used to go over the timeline in my own head for years of how I got sick. First, I didn’t want to eat real food, then I binged on sugar, then I restricted and didn’t nourish myself, then I over did antibiotics and NSAIDs, then I got sick. It felt like it was all my fault.
Personal responsibility and recognizing what we can do to change aren’t bad things… but hating yourself? That’s bad news.
There likely are things in your life that you can do differently. We all make mistakes. But the longer that we hold onto that guilt and shame for what we’ve done in the past, the longer we stay stuck.
Yes, I did a lot of things wrong with my health that didn’t help. However, I didn’t know better… I didn’t have the information that I have now.. and I’m human.
Forgiving yourself is a mental shift that takes a lot of work… but it’s incredibly powerful for moving forward.
But, How Do You Forgive?
First, Recognize That Anger and Grudges Are Human
Forgiveness is one of the most powerful, and most difficult pieces of a healing journey to achieve. We hold grudges, we get angry, and the majority of the time, we have good reason to be angry. We’re angry about a doctor or a medical system that held us back from true health for years, we’re angry at a loved one for how they’ve treated us, or maybe we’re angry at ourselves for where we are in life.
Next, Remember That Forgiveness Doesn’t Make it “Okay”
The biggest misconception with forgiveness is that it makes what happened to you okay. It doesn’t. If you were wronged by someone or something, forgiving them or the situation doesn’t make it okay.
Forgiveness frees you of the emotional anguish of anger.
Still Be An Advocate For What Is Right
You can still advocate against what happened to you. That’s why I still advocate against most conventional doctors even though I’ve forgiven the system that wronged me for years. Forgiving doesn’t make it okay.. it just allows you to take one step further along if your healing journey.
Forgive Verbally and In Your Heart
If someone has wronged you, or you feel like you have wronged yourself, verbally offer forgiveness. Acknowledge it with your voice.
But more importantly, forgive in your heart, fully and completely. So many times we can say we’re forgiving something, but still hold grudges. Remind yourself over and over to let go of these grudges.
Finally, Remember That You Can Be Forgiven and the Greatest Example for Forgiveness Already Exists
We live in a society that’s pretty void of forgiveness. Say or do anything wrong, and you’ll forever have a target on your back. And though justice needs to be served, and doing bad things is not excusable, we have little example of grace and forgiveness in society.
The ultimate example of grace and forgiveness to me is God’s grace. Being human is not about being good enough… we’ll always fall short. But. No matter how far we are from being a whole complete person, He can and will still forgive us.
Forgiveness isn’t easy. We’ll all have to do it a million times over in our lives and keep reteaching ourselves how to do it. But, when we do, powerful things happen to our health and our life.
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Whenever we’re talking about gut healing and long term gut health, the conversation almost always move straight to bone broth, glutamine, and cutting out gluten. Though these are all valid steps to take towards better gut health, it’s really not the whole picture. There are so many practices and home remedies that you can start doing today that have nothing to do with food to help heal your gut!
Some of these practices have made just as much of a dramatic difference in my gut health as something like food and supplements, and are mostly inexpensive and easy to do. As always, double check with your doctor before hand, but these are all great remedies to ask about!
My Favorite Gut Healing Practices & Remedies
(that have nothing to do with food or supplements!)
1.Castor Oil Packs
Though this method may require the most tools, they’re fairly in expensive, and this is a highly effective practice!
So, why is this a great gut healing tool? When we have impaired gallbladder function, stagnant bile, or impaired digestion, moving forward with gut healing is Castor oil has been used for generations as a way to topically increase the flow of blood, bile, gastric juices, and other liquids within the body. It’s also been known to be helpful with ovarian cysts.
Applying a castor oil pack onto your right rib area if you have fat digestion issues, liver issues or gallbladder issues can be a great way to get stagnant bile moving and assist your fat digestion! Ever feel nauseated after a greasy meal? This is an amazing way to help with that. It’s also helpful to put over your stomach area for stomach aches to get gastric juices flowing.
So, how do you apply a castor oil pack and what do you need?
What you need:
- Castor oil
- Wool flannel
- A heating pad
- A large mason jar or glass tupperware
- 2-3 old towels and clothes that you don’t mind staining (this stuff stains!!)
- Plastic wrap (optional.. can be replaced with more towels)
How to do it:
- Cut the flannel to a size that’s enough to cover the surface area that you’re trying to apply it to.
- Place the the flannel in a large mason jar and saturate it in castor oil. Make sure it’s soaked through.
- Apply the flannel to the desired area and wrap it in either plastic wrap on a towel to adhere it in your skin.
- Place a heating pad on top of the area where the flannel is, and wrap yourself in a towel. Lay a towel down on the bed or the floor and get comfortable for 30-60 minutes with the heating pad on. You may hear gurgling or feel liquid moving… that’s normal!
- Use baby powder to remove the castor oil, and store the flannel in the jar for a few more uses.
So, how often should you do it? That varies greatly depending on your goals, and health. Talk one on one with a doctor about it if you want more insight, but I think 30 minutes 1-2 times a week is a great way to start! I use it on my liver/gallbladder area about once a month as I historically have issues with that area, but I do want to get into the habit of using it more.
2. Oil pulling
This next practice is a very low barrier to entry, and you likely have everything you already need to do it! Oil pulling is the act of sloshing oil around in our mouths… more or less gargling with oil. Just like we have flora in our gut, we have flora in our mouth that can directly impact our gut. Oil pulling helps to pull bad bacteria from the mouth and the body that can impact the health of our gut.
What you need:
- Oil like coconut oil or sesame oil if tolerated.
How to do it:
- Add 1-2 tbsp of oil to your mouth first thing in the morning and slosh it around, like you’re rinsing your mouth.
- Start slow at first with 5-10 minutes and work your way up to 20 minutes.
You can do this daily, or start with a few times a week. I haven’t been able to get into a daily habit with this, but it’s doable!
3. Dry brushing
Dry brushing is another cheap method that only needs one tool. It helps to improve lymphatic flow, digestion, and detoxification through the skin.
What you need:
How to do it:
- On your dry skin, brush in upwards, towards your heart or in a circular motion and upward motion on your stomach.
You can easily do this daily! All it takes is 10-15 minutes. Though I’ve gotten out of a daily habit,
4. Infrared sauna
Infrared sauna i done with infrared light, and it claims to be much more effective than normal sauna. From what I’ve read and heard from my own doctor, IR sauna help detox on a cellular level, rather than just make you sweat out excess liquid. This is helpful for removing toxins and heavy metals, which is often at the root of so many gut issues.
This is one that I got off to a rocky start on myself. I started doing it as part of my mercury detox protocol… in the middle of Texas summer. 140 F degree sauna + 102 F degree car on the way out did not mix. I was far too heat exhausted in general to keep up with it in the summer, but plan to pick up again in the fall.
Where can you do it? You can easily buy an infrared sauna for your own home, which I’ve seen many people do. You can also go to a yoga studio, gym, spa, etc. that has a sauna there. Depending on how much you do it, you can work out which is more cost effective.
How much you do it will depend on whether or not you’re actually on a detox protocol. From what I’ve read, daily isn’t always recommended as it can result in too much loss of fluid. You can easily start at 15-30 minutes a few times a week.
5. Colonics or enemas
This is likely the most controversial practice on this list, and your success and the safety of doing it will vary greatly from person to person. Regardless, colonics and enemas are both designed to clean out the colon and rid the body of toxins which can help in gut healing. Though they’re more of an advanced level practice with a higher barrier to entry, enemas can be part of cancer treatment, and colonics are often used to help in the removal of parasites and candida.
So, what’s the different between an enema and a colonic?
Personally, enemas are not my favorite, but they’re still worth mentioning as so many have questions about them. Enemas can be done at home with an enema kit. With water or coffee (not just your everyday coffee… coffee like this) and help to clean the colon. Coffee enemas specifically can help boost glutathione as well. Learn more about how to do it here.
A colonic needs to be done with a certified specialist, and gets much deeper than an enema. A colonic involves constantly flowing water which helps to get more water into the body.
Regardless, I highly recommend talking to your doctor about both of these therapies before trying them to make sure it’s a good move for your current plan.
6. Gentle exercise
The human body was made to move far more often than most of us actually do! Exercise helps to get the lymph moving, reduce stress, eliminate inflammation, and help the body the naturally detoxify from toxins, all which are necessary pieces to healing!
The type of exercise that everyone can handle will always vary, especially if you’re healing from illness. Here are just a few gentle exercises that I recommend to get started doing even 15-30 minutes a day:
- Daily walks
- Yin yoga
- Light yoga
- Slower weight lifting
7 . Prayer and/or meditation
When we’re healing chronic illness, our mind can move at a thousand miles a minute. We think about food choices, how we feel, what we should be doing, and constantly question everything, which is the perfect recipe for stress.
Our body cannot heal in a stressed out state.
As a stressed, burnt out brain is exactly the last thing the want when we’re trying to allow our body to heal, prayer and meditation can both help ease stress tremendously! As someone who always turns to prayer and God’s guidance when I’m too stressed, I can tell you first hand that it always calms me down and puts my mind at ease.
Here are some of my favorite ways to get started:
- Morning devotionals (I often use the Bible App)
- Meditation apps (Headspace and Calm are great for this)
- Yoga Nidra (I love using this before bed! This is my favorite video)
8. Gratitude journaling
Another one of the best ways to stop stress in its tracks is to practice gratitude. No matter how bleak things may seem in life, there’s always something to be grateful for. The sooner that we focus on the food, the fast that the bad seems to melt away.
Starting is as simple as sitting down every day for a few minutes and writing down what you’re grateful for. It could be five little things, or one big thing. You can do it unguided, or use a journal like The Five Minute Journal to guide you.
I hope this extensive list was helpful! Let me know which ones you try, and which are your favorite already.