Healing my gut has been (and still is) a winding journey full of sound healing sessions, hypnotherapy, forest bathing, probiotics + a gazillion other supplements, elimination diets, and finally, ferments.
IBS, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, is so common that more people are said to have this condition than any other chronic health issue including diabetes!
Do you know someone with IBS?
So what is IBS anyways?
Healthcare professionals define IBS as an intestinal disorder causing pain in the stomach, wind, diarrhea and constipation. I've had all the above symptoms which led me on a long path to finding a lot of partial solutions. Not only have I had gastrointestinal symptoms, but I've also experienced symptoms of fatigue, sleep irregularity, low-hanging headaches, as well as anxiety and mood dips.
IBS can affect all aspects of one's life and trust me, it's not fun! But do you know what is? Ferments! I've been making fermented drinks for years inspired by my ahead-of-the-curve grandparents who made Kombucha way before it was cool. However, I didn't consider ferments when creating a gut-healing regime until I picked up the book Cultured Food for Health by Donna Schwenk. She states:
"Medical Treatments seem to do little to help, and so I started looking for an alternative. It was cultured foods and prebiotics that set [my daughter] free from the debilitating condition by creating a new microbiome in her gut."
And so I dared to add kimchi, cultured carrots, water kefir and kombucha to my diet to see what happened.
Why fermented foods for IBS?
The answer is simple. Fermented foods can restore damaged Gut Microbiota. Gut Microbiota is the population of microorganisms that keep your gut happy, healthy, and functioning. Things like repeated antibiotic use, food poisoning, excess stress and environmental toxins harm our microbiota. If our inner terrain is messed up, then things like food sensitivities can develop and lead to severe discomfort in the gut.
This leads to the vicious cycle that I have been on for almost a year: elimination diets-> nutrient deficiency-> low energy-> stress because I don't feel like I am getting better->stress response-> more food sensitivities->stricter elimination diet->greater nutrient deficiency
->anxiety/depression. Repeat and feel worse. It is clear we need to first re-establish a healthy microflora where beneficial bacteria flourish and function.
The good news? Fermented foods are loaded with probiotics which feed the healthy bacteria in the gut and can restore your microflora. What if you didn't need to pay thousands of dollars on expensive food sensitivity testing? What if you could shift your inner terrain so much that the sensitivities simply went away?
START LOW AND GO SLOW!!!
I made a bunch of mistakes just for YOU. Seriously, you don't have to suffer like I did when starting your ferment gut-healing regime. "Start low and go slow" as my Functional Nutrition mentor, Andrea Nakayama likes to say. I fermented carrots and got so excited that I ate almost the entire jar... I regret that decision. I hurt for two days and had some of my most severe IBS symptoms.
This is a warning- don't play lightly with bacteria. When you begin to eat fermented foods or drink fermented drinks, harmful bacteria and yeasts begin to die which release toxins as they go. If your gut was in poor conditions to begin with, you'll begin releasing loads of toxins that your body just can't handle.
It is common for symptoms to get worse before they get better. I want to encourage you to persevere and if you do, you will reap the benefits of ferments. I took a couple days off after I got sick from eating all those carrots and then I eased back into it by drinking a couple sips of kefir for a few days.
In just days of consuming kefir, I started feeling less abdominal discomfort, my bowel movements returned to a near normal, and I was able to integrate more foods into my diet that I had previously avoided.
If you have IBS, you may need to shift your inner terrain and re-establish a healthy microbiome in order for healthy bacteria to do what they do best! One amazingly effective and affordable way to do this is to consume fermented foods and drinks. Remember, start with just a little of your fermented food of choice, notice how you feel, and don't give up if you feel worse for a couple of days. It's okay. Your body needs time to adjust and to heal. If you are patient and continue consuming fermented foods, you may begin to notice that your symptoms ease up- congratulations! Your body can heal. It may need a bit of extra support, but it has the resources. You may just need to feed it some good good bacteria!
Remember, with purpose, perseverance, and pain as our teacher, we can heal. -Sofía