When it comes to your digestive wellness, have you ever wondered, when enough is enough?! Enough bloating, enough worrying about what you can and can’t eat, enough anxiety when traveling….enough!
In this blog, I’m recapping a live Q&A with myself and Crossroads of Fitness’ fitness and nutrition expert Garrett Wood. We discuss Garrett’s gut health journey and compare notes along the way so that you can learn how two gut health experts took their health into their own hands, what they did, and mistakes the say to avoid along the way.
Watch the interview below or read on for a recap.
When Accepting the Norm Isn’t Enough
We hear from countless clients every week who have experienced symptoms for so long that they’ve come to believe it’s just the way they are now or have altogether given up trying to get ahold of it.
Trust me, I get it!
Garrett and I both suffered for years until we finally understood that it didn’t have to be the norm for us. But as soon as we each choose to feel better, we of course wanted it right away! While there are things that can bring immediate relief to the problem, what we both realized is you have to be patient with yourself and understand that if it took that many years for a condition to develop, it will also take time to un-do. But so long as you’re doing the right things, you’ll be amazed at how quickly change can happen!
Wondering what kinds of sustainable changes you can make? Join my 3-month Love Your Gut program to work on all of this with my close guidance and support!
Know That Gut Issues Can Often Start in Childhood
In our interview, Garrett explained how her gut health issues actually started in childhood. As a frequently sick child, she was on antibiotics, steroids, and, of course, the Standard American Diet (including lots of wheat when she was gluten-intolerant!). These medications and foods alone can lead to a lot of unnecessary digestive bloating and discomfort. Through her journey, she has not only transformed her gut, but also her mindset (afterall, you are what you eat and think!)
Problems only continued from grade school into college as she continued to eat processed food, exercise her way into feeling better and succumbed to disabling anxiety. Her body only continued to yell for help!
Fortunately, through functional lab testing, she discovered that her gut was a host to multiple parasites and she had both adrenal and chronic fatigue. Finally seeing on paper what matched up with how she felt ultimately gave her the power to turn things around.
If your gut health issues have been going on for as long as you can remember, we encourage you to first think about what was happening during your childhood:
- Were you frequently sick?
- Did you take antibiotics and lots of other medications?
- Did you live in a stressful household?
- Did you experience any trauma early on in life?
- How were you born? C-section or vaginally?
- What was the health of your mother like at the time of your birth?
- What did you eat growing up?
- …and so on
If you feel like you, too, have “mystery symptoms” that seemingly came out of nowhere, please know that you are not alone and there are tests like the ones I run that can help you actually get to the bottom of even the most complex health concerns! And working with me, I’ll help you pinpoint what could have triggered your health issues so we can even more strategically bring your body back into balance.
When to Make Digestive Health a Priority
Many of us, when we first begin our gut health journeys, slowly dabble in some diet changes, trying a supplement or two, and cautiously watch to see if our bodies change. While this is a good starting point, often it’s not enough to really move the needle. Case in point: Although Garrett had a plan in place to begin supporting her digestive health, she was still pushing herself in ways that weren’t supportive to her healing (cue still drinking lots of coffee and exercising way too much). Her body needed something else to truly heal.
She realized she needed to commit 100%. Not 80%, not 90%, but freakin 100%.
Two months into her gut health journey, she decided to go all in.
This meant removing coffee, sweeteners, and all the other items that were only worsening her adrenal fatigue and other health issues at the time. The coffee fed the anxiety and the sweeteners fed the bloating. She needed a clean slate to really assess how she was progressing.
What’s at Stake if Digestive Health Issues Aren’t Addressed?
Brushing symptoms under the rug and pretending you feel fine when you know without a doubt that you don’t can only work for so long. In fact, Garrett saw firsthand how ability to show up in the world was rapidly declining as issues progressed and she wasn’t making gut health a priority (yet).
Anxiety was getting in the way of her ability to work, focus, effectively coach, and do what she loved to do! Having been through this exact hamster wheel myself, I know just how debilitating and frustrating that all feels. Can you relate?
So what’s at stake? If gut health issues are ignored for too long and continue to proliferate, symptoms can quite literally take ahold of your body. In fact, it wasn’t until I was staring at the lights in the ER room at 2 am one night that it finally clicked for me. If I didn’t take things into my own hands, I would be facing some pretty serious surgery (hello, ileostomy bag!) and still no one would be able to talk about my diet with me. For me, everything was at stake, and for Garrett, many other important areas of her life were, too.
Know that simply not doing anything can only make issues worse down the road, and not doing enough when issues have gotten intolerable may be inadequate. I encourage you to go all in, and with the support, guidance and encouragement of me, you can do exactly this in just 3 months in my Love Your Gut group program.
Why We Wait Until Symptoms Are Practically Unbearable…
Unfortunately, not feeling well and having stomach aches has become normalized in our culture and society. We’re programmed to turn to band-aids like medications and mask it for as long as we can. But what we really need is more people advocating for true wellness and whole foods.
During our live Q&A, Garrett spoke to her work with clients in fat loss. She explained that many people who are focused on fat loss tend to hone in on calories and weight loss from a linear approach rather than a holistic approach. They then tend to miss key signals their body is sending them that things are imbalanced and so they overlook mounting health issues due to drastic dieting or excessive exercising.
We often don’t wait to get help until we realize it’s affecting many other areas, such as sleep, work, and relationships. Speaking from two very personal experiences, we encourage you to not let something you can heal become your ‘new normal’! Bloating and digestive discomfort is not normal! Ask why first and get curious about your body and mind.
The First Steps to Take Towards Digestive Wellness
The very first step in the process is to listen to your body. Your body has what’s called “innate intelligence”, meaning it already knows what’s wrong and what it needs to heal — you just need to listen close enough to pick up on its cues. Here are a few pointers:
- Are you tired after you eat certain foods?
- Does your anxiety spike after that morning coffee?
- Do you get bloated after eating wheat, dairy, or sugary products?
- Do you have stomach aches when you’re nervous?
Your body is incredibly wise and intelligent. These are all important clues. Start listening.
Next, you need to trust yourself. Trust that when your body tells you something, it’s right. Don’t second guess it by Googling around or looking outwards for a magic pill to mask the symptoms. If you can repair your relationship to yourself and regain trust, an amazing thing happens. You start developing a mutual relationship with your body, and your body will respond favorably to that.
Meditation and deep breathing are two other habits to learn early on. They support a calm mind, and with a calm mind comes a calm belly. The mind-gut connection is oh-so-real (it’s called the vagus nerve) so to see real progress with your digestion, you also need to make progress in your brain.
Then there’s sleep. Too many of us don’t get enough of it and all of us need more of it. Aim to get 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night, getting to bed around 10 pm. This gives our bodies ample time to detox, repair, and rejuvenate damaged cells in the digestive tract, calm down inflammation in the body, and remove toxins from the body. We provide a lot of support around this in the Love Your Gut program, which you can enroll in and begin following right away.
Another big piece of the healing journey is adding in supplements. While I don’t advise openly about supplements because everyone is so different in terms of what they need, there are a few core supplements those with serious gut health issues should consider taking.
Especially for Garrett, drinking aloe vera juice, omitting artificial sweeteners, exercising less, eliminating alcohol, eating more calories, and taking collagen powder helped tremendously.
How Can Reducing Exercise Actually Support Your Health?
It may sound counterintuitive that in order to be healthy, you need to exercise less. But if you’re pushing yourself to work out from a place of obligation when what your body really needs is rest, you’re doing your body a disservice.
We can only heal when we’re able to listen to what our body needs. Of course exercise is important, but sometimes, and especially on a gut healing journey, our body needs gentleness. This allows your body to preserve energy for healing the gut. This might be hard for all of my type-A’s out there, but trust me, you will develop a much more loving relationship with yourself and your body when you learn to take the pressure off.
Common Gut Health Roadblocks to Watch Out For
First, don’t get discouraged. It may take seeing several doctors and practitioners before you find the right person for the job. The person you choose to help guide you to better digestion should meet a few criteria:
- Have experienced similar digestive health issues as you
- Tried a lot of what they’ll be recommending to you
- Have specific studies in the area of gut health
- Be able to guide you with practical tools to implement in the real world
That’s what I’m here for those who are looking to move beyond complex digestive health issues like ulcerative colitis, leaky gut, acid reflux, infections, SIBO, and many other autoimmune and pathogen-associated health issues. I’ve had them, I’ve dealt with them, and I can help you make sense of it all and create a clear roadmap forward. Book a free call to find out more about working with me in my programs.
Also, know that sometimes we have to get worse before we get better. It’s called the healing paradox and can often be due to the toxic load from the detox process. That can include a heightening of symptoms for a few days or weeks, followed by an immense relief from it all — usually for good.
You may also need to re-adjust the way you travel. Prepare your items to bring with you and your body will thank you! Here are my travel tips for those with a digestive health condition.
For Garrett, it was especially hard to give up coffee and alcohol. The social and ‘relaxation’ aspect of drinking made that quite difficult. That’s why it’s important to find healthy ways to relax, and there are many delicious non-alcoholic beverages out there!
She also found that curbing her stress through acupuncture was a very useful tip and helped her to put herself first. After all, stress is one of the greatest contributors to poor digestion.
Sharing Our Journeys
It’s so exciting to see that Garrett is in such a different place than she was just five years ago. Not only does she have the right tools to support better digestion, she is now able to see the huge signs that she ignored, which she is now passionate about educating others about.
Because of her own journey, Garrett became inspired to share her story so she could inspire others. This vulnerability helped to connect her to not only herself, but her clients and followers. She also wanted to bust through the myths that she found in the fitness industry in order to redirect people towards empowering and helpful information.
I set out to share my own journey for a very similar reason, and find it an absolute honor to work with people in a very similar spot to where Garrett and I were many years ago because I’ve lived it and come out on the other end healthier than ever and I love to see that in each of my clients.
If you’re ready to make your digestion a priority and get the guidance to balance gut health naturally and completely, join the next round of the Love Your Gut group program (currently enrolling) or request a free consult if you’d like to work one-on-one with me.