You’ve been diagnosed with IBS, what now?

A different kind of diagnosis:

First things first  – realise that IBS is not really a diagnosis in the true sense of the word “the art or act of identifying a disease from its signs and symptoms” (definition from Merriam Webster). It’s actually a ‘diagnosis of exclusion’, meaning you’re told you have ‘IBS’ when there’s nothing else making any sense from your case history, symptoms & all the testing you’ve had done. It’s not bowel cancer, not coeliac disease, not diverticulitis, not inflammatory bowel disease, not a food intolerance…hmmm – you must have ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome ‘. I guess it’s much more comforting hearing that from your Dr / specialist than ‘we have no idea what is making you feel so unwell’ (which is also usually true).

“Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits in the absence of a specific and unique organic pathology, although microscopic inflammation has been documented in some patients”.  (Medscape) Keywords here are ‘functional gastrointestinal disorder’ & ‘in the absence of a specific and unique organic pathology’.  This means that the gut is not functioning normally, but there appears to be nothing wrong with it…no disease process going on…nothing that shows up on the tests currently available anyway.

A new definition for functional gut disorders:

“Functional GI disorders are disorders of gut-brain interaction. It is a group of disorders classified by GI symptoms related to any combination of the following: motility disturbance, visceral hypersensitivity, altered mucosal and immune function, altered gut microbiota, and altered central nervous system processing” I’ll explain briefly what these all mean below:

  • motility disturbance = how the bowel contracts & causes movement of food & waste through the GIT isn’t normal.
  • visceral hypersensitivity = gut distension / pain / discomfort is felt more strongly & acutely.
  • altered mucosal & immune function = your gut immune axis is a bit wonky. Your gut lining & gut bugs that live there aren’t working together optimally.
  • altered gut microbiota = your gut microbial balance is out. The ‘ecosystem’ inside you has been disturbed or just isn’t harmonious.
  • altered central nervous system processing = your brain is processing signals from the gut differently to normal.

If you suspect you may have IBS but aren’t really one for going to the dr, one IBS ‘self-test’ you can do is: eat normal healthy food for a month & if you often suffer from bloating, pain, discomfort, irregular bowel motions…then there’s a good chance you have IBS! If your gut is doing really weird & annoying things (sometimes extremely painful & debilitating weird things that can be so intense you become anxious, depressed & even suicidal)…it’s highly likely you have IBS. 

EVEN THOUGH AN IBS DIAGNOSIS IS NOT REALLY A TRUE DIAGNOSIS – IT’S IMPORTANT. IF YOU’RE SUFFERING FROM GUT SYMPTOMS & THINK IT MAY BE IBS, GET YOURSELF CHECKED OUT BY A PRACTITIONER ASAP. IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO EXCLUDE SOME OTHER CONDITIONS THAT MAY HAVE SIMILAR SYMPTOMS, BUT MUCH MORE SEVERE CONSEQUENCES IF LEFT UNDIAGNOSED.

(Things like coeliac disease, food intolerances, inflammatory bowel disease, or even cancer can present with IBS-like symptoms). Get your badly-behaved gut checked!

IBS Sub-Types:

Realise that your IBS is not the same as the IBS your neighbour / friend / colleague / mum / aunty may be experiencing. Remember, just because your gut trouble has been given the same name as theirs, it doesn’t mean you have the same stuff happening or the same cause, or the same triggers.

There are many recognised IBS sub-types: these just narrow it down a little, but still don’t mean that treatment or triggers will be the same.

  1. IBS-C (constipation is the predominant symptom)
  2. IBS-D (diarrhoea predominant)
  3. IBS-M or A (mixed or alternating. This is the best of both worlds, with both diarrhoea & constipation experienced often).
  4. Post-Infectious IBS (usually begins after a bout of gastro, food poisoning or traveller’s diarrhoea, but not necessarily so soon after that you’ll connect the dots). This one is more of a cause than a sub-type, as post-infectious IBS can morph into any of the above types, though more commonly IBS-D or M.

…then, of course, there will be subtypes within the subtypes.  And you can switch from one sub-type to another, maybe CBD (confused bowel syndrome) could also be a sub-type? 

Warning Signs – Don’t Ignore These:

If you have tummy symptoms that you think may be IBS, but also experience any of the following – you need to get checked out ASAP!

  • Fever
  • Persistent ongoing diarrhoea
  • Unexplained or significant weight loss
  • Blood in stools or dark coloured / black looking stools
  • Iron deficiency anaemia
  • Nausea & / or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain that isn’t relieved completely by having a bowel motion
  • Initial onset of symptoms occurring after age 50

So – now that you have your ‘diagnosis’, (or whatever it is)…what to do?

In most cases, upon ‘diagnosis’ with IBS you will have been offered various medications – something to block you up when you have diarrhoea, laxatives to help you go when constipated, some type of fibre supplement, some probiotics & maybe some antispasmodics to help control bowel contractions / cramping.  

The Low FODMAP Diet:

If you’re lucky, your GP / gastroenterologist has referred you to a dietician, nutritionist or naturopath who can help you try & figure out food triggers using a Low FODMAP diet (which limits certain rapidly fermentable carbohydrates known to cause IBS symptoms). My advice would be to shove the medications to the back of the cupboard, to be used in times of great need, but try your hardest to understand & follow the Low FODMAP diet & get an understanding of how FODMAPs affect your gut. While it won’t help everybody, for many it can be an absolute game-changer. But don’t go it alone, get help – FODMAPs can be super-confusing with an already confusing gut! The diet, when used properly, can help up to 75% of people diagnosed with IBS to manage their symptoms & feel more in control very quickly, so this is the first step to take. At least give it a go to find out if it will be useful for you – one potentially great tool in your IBS management toolkit.  

Note – a Low FODMAP diet is not meant to be a long-term diet, nor is it recommended for those without IBS. It is a tool to manage gastrointestinal symptoms, & great for general gut awareness, but is not recommended as a healthy life-long diet choice as many very healthy (& prebiotic) foods are excluded.

Some More Natural Tools for IBS Management:

  • hypnotherapy (proven to be useful in IBS management), check out the Monash Uni research on this
  • meditation (proven to be effective for stress management, which is critical with IBS)
  • other forms of stress management. I cannot stress enough how strongly stress will impact your IBS. Stress can cause everything to grind to a halt – when you’re fighting or fleeing, you aren’t eating / digesting. It will interfere with the migrating motor complex & also stomach acid production (which can lead to constipation, SIBO & all round poor digestion). Do ‘whatever floats your boat’ & helps you sail through life more happily – make time for it! Exercise, funny movies, massage, yoga, deep breathing, art, music…find your pressure release valve & hit it really regularly)!
  • sleep, get enough. When we’re stressed out & not sleeping properly, our gut microbial balance changes (not in a good way), & that can make sleeping well even harder. It really is a cycle – bad gut, stress, worse gut, worse stress….until the nervous system & gut are completely dysfunctional.
  • herbal relief (slippery elm, turmeric, aloe vera, herbal antimicrobials, bitter liver herbs, pomegranate, ginger, peppermint, berberine & polyphenol-rich herbs…get professional guidance from a naturopath, functional GP or herbalist for best results. Many plant extracts have been proven to help with IBS, or have been used for hundreds or even thousands of years to support healthy digestion).
  • leave spaces between eating (give your migrating motor complex a chance to ‘clean up’)
  • probiotics & fermented foods  (these can be hit & miss, so it’s best to get help from a practitioner who knows their bifido from their bacillus!) Some supplemental strains may aggravate some IBS people, e.g. SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) people usually don’t tolerate the common & usually beneficial Lactobacillus strains well. In general, I think it’s best to try to get probiotics from foods, but sometimes capsules or powder are just more convenient.
  • prebiotics (get help again, taking prebiotics can significantly alter your gut microbial balance, so you need to work with someone who can choose what is most appropriate for your system. Once again – prebiotic foods are generally better than supplements as they contain more diverse types of fibre & because mother nature made them, not some factory).
  • exercise (moderation is key, being sedentary means poor gut function & microbial diversity, but overdoing exercise can hurt your gut).
  • intermittent fasting (this can help by giving the gut a longer rest period in between meals & also can cause changes to the gut microbial population).
  • fat / fibre / carbs / protein (experiment with what fuels your body best. Some feel better on a high-fat diet, some seem to function better with more carbs…see what works best for you). Fibre is crucial to good gut function as it provides food to support your beneficial gut bugs – just increase gradually to avoid gas & bloating
  • ACV / lemon water (many people swear by these, taken first thing in the morning to ‘wake up’ & prime the digestive system for action).
  • magnesium (helps many with IBS-C, plus it’s great for helping you relax if you’re deficient – which is extremely common. Constipated stress-heads LOVE magnesium).
  • charcoal (handy to carry capsules in your handbag to swallow if you’re prone to gas & bloating).
  • coffee (be careful with caffeine – it is a bowel stimulant. Everyone responds differently but just be aware of it. Some use it as a morning stimulant to help them ‘go’, others find it gives them the runs & need to avoid entirely).
  • carbonated beverages (will aggravate bloating, just be aware).
  • alcohol (some types may be ok in moderation but it depends – listen to your body).
  • self-massage (great to help unblock trapped gas pockets or help move things along, add some peppermint oil into a carrier oil or moisturiser).
  • get enough sleep (if you’re not sleeping well, your gut microbial balance won’t be optimal & neither will your ability to handle stress).
  • gluten & dairy (2 really common triggers – aside from FODMAP’s, although there is overlap, worth trialling a GF DF period of a few weeks-months to see how you feel).
  • sugar (makes you fat, moody, pimply, rots your teeth…& disrupts your gut microbial health. IBS is just one more great reason to minimise it).
  • avoid antibiotics where you can (wiping out your gut ecosystem & hoping something that functions well grows back is a huge gamble that quite often ends in a long-term gut issue). Sometimes antibiotics can be useful though, to ‘clean the slate’ so you can start from scratch again – eating well & making an effort to cultivate & nurture a better ecosystem.
  • medication review
  • other medications can list IBS-like symptoms as a ’side effect’ (ask your pharmacist for detailed digestive info on your drugs).
  • look into an FMT (faecal microbe transplant). Although not commonly recommended for IBS, definitely worth getting an expert opinion if nothing else is helping you. Be aware that there are potential risks involved, but also massive potential for making much needed gut microbial changes. This treatment would need to be supported with many of the above tips for best results (otherwise, you’ll likely end up back in the same place again after a while).

Some Kind of Normality!

New found control of IBS symptoms can help immensely with getting some normality back into life, as it’s not just your bowel motions that IBS affects. It’s your productivity, your employment options; your ability to travel, study, attend classes & events; your relationships, your social life, your sex-life, your parenting ability…your mental-emotional well-being. Everything. When your gut is unpredictable, you can’t say ‘yes’ to things you’d normally love to, for fear that you’ll end up: looking 5mths pregnant, suffering extreme pain, getting extremely embarrassed, being stuck in a hotel room, having to answer a million questions, feeling uncomfortable, or just plain starving.

People with normal healthy bowel function tend to take this kind of freedom for granted. If this is you – spare a thought for those whose gut literally dictates their life! 

If you have tried other methods that have been successful please email me, I’m still learning & the best teachers are people living the day-to-day IBS rollercoaster!

Jeanie xx
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

 

P.s. In this episode of Eat Play Poo – I talk to Marina Iacovou from the Monash University, and she gives some great insights to the future of IBS – it’s about an hour long be we had a great chat :-)

Building Poos – you Don’t Just do Them

Contrary to what we all say, you don’t just ‘do’ a poo. It’s a lot more involved. You actually have to build it, prepare it for shipping & then move it (well the moving kinda happens at the same time as the building & prepping for shipping…like a mobile building team). It’s just like building an impressive sculpture or artwork, while simultaneously shipping it to its destination (obviously Uranus).  

So…if you often find yourself struggling to ‘do’ a poo, you should think of it more like ‘something is going wrong with the building materials or the workers, or there’s an issue with the shipping’. Ask yourself the following Q’s: 

Building Materials for Building Poos:

Am I consuming enough fibre, with plenty of variety? If you’re slack in this department, pooing for you will be like trying to create a giant outdoor sculpture using a handful of play-doh & a team of 2 people – you’ll never succeed because you simply don’t have enough material to work with or enough workers. Good dietary poo-building materials include fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, & legumes. Unrefined plant food basically, & not just a small amount. To succeed in ‘poo production’ your diet needs to be mostly made up of unrefined plants (have a think about what your dinner plate looks like – chances are it needs more plants). Eating a large range of plant products is also crucial. More types of fibre = more types of gut bug (that’s a good thing, it means you’ll have a nice diverse team of workers with many skills!) Plant food provides food to support plenty of microbes (your team of builders) who will gobble it up, use it as an energy source to grow & carry out all their amazing helpful duties & reproduce (with a healthy poo as the byproduct). A poo is largely made up of these microbes (the accumulated bodies of exhausted / dead workers as well as loads of still-alive ones). There is also of course water, some left-over undigested plant matter & some bits n pieces of you from your gut lining & its secretions. Behold! A multi-media, living sculpture! You’ve just got to keep providing the inspiring building materials to keep your skilled workers happy & busy!

Workers Needed for Building Poos:

Do I have enough team members? Your gut-microbes are your poo-builders & sculptors (among other things, that’s just one of their more obvious roles). They like to keep busy, but they also appreciate a rest – so give them plenty of plant foods to eat but also provide some downtime (this will allow your gut to clean up after them as they build & sculpt & do their thing). Some people have a poo problem because there is a problem with the workers. Their population may have been wiped out by repeated bombing (with chemicals, medications, antibiotics etc), or there may be a skill shortage. If you’re missing important microbial strains you could be trying to build a house without a plumber or painter or electrician. You can still do it, but the building process won’t be so smooth & the end product will be imperfect. So, if your poos are imperfect / you feel like the building process isn’t going smoothly – get some new workers! Ask at your local health food store for a good multi-strain probiotic (you only want workers with good references)! And grab some kefir, kimchi, sauerkrout & yoghurt while you’re in there. 

Delivery Process: 

How are the roads? Think of your gut as the ‘road’ & your nervous system as the computer system controlling what goes where, at what speed & at what time. So the road needs to be kept in good condition, it needs constant maintenance & repair (which your workers will mostly do while they’re building, as long as you’re supplying the plant foods they need). The digestive ‘road’ has it’s own favourite building materials needed for big repairs as well.  Along with what the workers generate from the breakdown of fibre (short chain fatty acids), your gut also loves the amino acids glutamine, glycine & proline (make bone broth a regular addition to your diet if your gut-lining needs repair work). 

The control system:

Are you in charge? How’s the control tower – aka your nervous system? This also plays a huge role in determining how things move along. Too stressed & you can cause major blockages or even the opposite, uncontrollable flow of unfinished work (loose stool). Worse still is a constant alternation between the two! Sleep well, exercise well & have a plan to help you when stress creeps in, it will always be potentially there ready to get you, you just need to be prepared & have your coping mechanisms at the ready (& not just wine – I’m talking yoga, meditation, deep breathing, massage, getting out into nature, connecting with friends, having a good laugh…& maybe a wine every now & then – whatever floats your boat). These things help improve your gut function via activating the ‘rest & digest’ side of your nervous system (most of us spend far too much time in the ‘fight or flight’ response – no wonder digestive issues are so common)!

So…you don’t just ‘do’ a poo. It’s not that simple! You need to constantly supply the correct building materials, attract & keep enough good workers to build it & ensure you have a working delivery system to ensure it gets to its destination on time, every time. If you need some help with the materials try Blend11 or NeoBlend, & if you’d like some more workers to help out try Prescript Assist. PondWater can help with the road repairs & maintenance as well as provide some extra special building materials. 

If you need more support – request to join our gut health community Eat Play Poo or email me anytime. You too could become a great builder / sculptor!

Jeanie X
jeanie@goodmix.com.au 

Leaky Gut – What is it & How Do You Fix It?

What is leaky gut? (AKA ‘Intestinal hyperpermeability’)

We all have 2 obvious holes in our digestive system, one at the top end (mouth) & one at the bottom end (anus). But along the way there are actually a lot more little openings, in our small intestine. These ‘tight junctions’ are teeny-tiny regulated openings designed to allow useful things from our food out of the intestines & into our bloodstream (i.e. nutrients, vitamins, minerals etc) & keep harmful things out (chemicals, microbes, & other unwanted particles like larger proteins). Leaky gut happens when your tight junctions are not working as they should, get ‘a bit too loose’ / don’t function properly, or when there’s some damage to the cells lining the gut. Damage can occur when the bad guys vs the good guys battle is favouring the baddies, also things like excess alcohol, medications (especially NSAID’S like ibuprofen), parasites, gastro bugs, stress, extremely strenuous exercise & poor sleep can cause / contribute to a leaking gut.

What happens when you have leaky gut?

With all these things leaking out into your bloodstream that aren’t supposed to be getting in there, your immune system activates, as its job is to protect the body from dangerous invaders. It sees all these random things leaking out from the gut into the bloodstream as intruders & potentially dangerous, so it goes into overdrive, sometimes a bit ‘trigger happy’ & may become overwhelmed. When your immune system is freaking out, it releases inflammatory chemicals & you may notice things like food intolerances / sensitivities, hayfever, asthma, arthritis, eczema & other skin issues (like acne, rosacea, psoriasis) getting worse. Brain fog, sleep disturbances, fatigue, aches & pains, depression, weight gain, hormonal imbalances & even autoimmune diseases will be triggered or feel much worse when your gut lining isn’t working as it should.  You may also notice more direct gut problems like bloating, gas, ’IBS’ type symptoms (constipation / diarrhoea / abdominal pain & discomfort). Long term, there are links between chronic leaky gut & insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome & the development of diabetes & cardiovascular disease (chronic inflammation caused by ‘endotoxins’ leaking from the gut into the blood stream). 

What causes / contributes to leaky gut? (That we know of so far).

We all have a degree of normal & healthy ‘gut-leakiness’. Our gut lining is supposed to allow certain things out, things that the immune system will see as normal & not react to. It’s when damage occurs to the gut lining or our tight junctions aren’t as tight as they need to be – that’s when trouble starts. Below is a list of potential triggers & things that can cause / aggravate a leaky gut.

  • alcohol (small doses can be ok in healthy people, bigger doses = gut trouble, & if your gut is already damaged you’ll feel much better if you abstain completely).
  • NSAID’s (Ibuprofen might save you from pain in the short term, but can create a heap more in the long term!) It is not designed for & is not ‘gut-safe’ to use long term. Avoid it wherever possible.
  • antibiotic use (killing your gut bugs every time you get sick = gut-immune devastation). The more often you use antibiotics, the more you’ll be open to the next infection going around. Take great care to rehabilitate your gut if you do need to take a course of antibiotics.
  • other medications. Ant-acids & stomach acid blockers are the biggest culprits for leaky gut, as these can lead to big changes in your gut microbial balance further down the GIT. There are numerous other pills that can also wreak digestive havoc, so ask your pharmacist which of your meds can cause gut side-effects.
  • a bout of gastroenteritis (a severe infection can be very damaging to your gut lining & often leave your gut bugs seriously out of whack – think post-infectious IBS, extremely common).
  • overgrowth of certain gut microbial populations or an ‘out of balance’ gut microbiome (caused by food, stress, medications etc), too many bacteria in the wrong area (i.e. SIBO / small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIFO / small intestinal fungal overgrowth).
  • gluten in food (gluten impacts the tight junctions in sensitive people, it makes them leakier). Anyone with suspected leaky gut or the conditions commonly associated with it should experiment with a gluten-free diet for at least 6 weeks, preferably longer to observe their reaction). Our breads & pastas are not the same as they once were due to agricultural developments & food processing changes, & our guts can’t cope as well as they once could (they’re in pretty poor shape now).
  • excess sugar & refined carbohydrates (processed food) causing poor gut microbial population. Minimise these as much as you can in your diet! For your gut as well as your blood sugar, your weight, your heart health, mental health etc etc etc – just don’t have them in the house, you know you’ll eat them if they’re there!
  • chemicals in our foods (non-organic foods esp those grown using the weed killer glyphosate aka ‘Round-up’). These chemicals can interfere with your gut bacterial activity, even if they are supposedly safe for humans, they have not been tested safe for our gut bugs (as important as any organ of our body).
  • artificial sweeteners (these can cause imbalances to your gut ecosystem, & they still lead to obesity – don’t eat / drink them).
  • extremely intense or prolonged exercise. If you are a serious athlete, you need to be aware that this will put you at risk for developing leaky gut (even if it’s just post competition / hard training). L-glutamine is a great supplement to support athletes with gut issues.

How Do I Test For Leaky Gut?

Your doctor, specialist or naturopath should be able to organise some tests to see if your body is showing signs of gut leakage.

  • urine test. This is the easiest & most common way to test – you’ll be given something sugary to drink & they’ll check if large sugar molecules are leaking through the gut lining later on (your pee will provide the answers).
  • SIBO breath test (not strictly a test for leaky gut, but chances are very high that your gut is leaking if you have SIBO – small intestinal overgrowth).
  • LPS & actomyosin antibodies tests (blood testing to see what level of immune reactivity is going on to ‘lipopolysaccharide’ – something found in higher levels in the blood when gut bacteria are leaking out in the bloodstream, & actomyosin – exposed to the blood & immune system when the tight junctions get leaky).

How Do I Fix Leaky Gut?

If you think you may have leaky gut, you should get everything looked into & be tested to exclude other causes (like Coeliac disease for example). An integrative GP or naturopath who specialises in gut health will be the best person to book an appointment with, they can recommend what needs to be checked & also arrange some ‘leak detection’ testing if leaky gut seems likely.  

  • avoid the main triggers / aggravators mentioned above
  • make sure your upper GIT function is good as this is crucial for the function & microbial balance further down. You may benefit from apple cider vinegar, digestive enzymes, chewing your food more, taking a bitter liver-stimulating herbal formula.
  • exercise is essential for a healthy digestive system. If you’re an athlete or go to extremes – be aware this can compromise your gut lining as blood flow is directed away from the digestive system in favour of your muscles, causing damage to the cells lining the gut. If you’re sedentary, you need to start moving to fix your gut as a stagnating gut will breed lots of nasty bugs, that will stay lurking long enough to damage your gut lining. If you are not currently exercising due to pain / injury – you need to start moving the non-painful parts at least, this will help.
  • sleep. If sleep is a problem for you, it will be messing with your gut (it may also be caused by your gut microbes). Eating more fibre & less sugar = great for the gut, & can also help with sleep too.
  • stress management (regular massage, holidays, time off, counselling, meditation, laughing lots, spending time with people who relax you – not the stress heads…make time to do the things that you love). Do not underestimate the ability of stress to make you sick, or the ability to manage your stress better to get you well again.
  • sunshine (vitamin D is very important for your immune system & also your gut lining). Get yours tested.
  • eat lots of polyphenols & practice some intermittent fasting (increase your population of the ‘akkermansia’ gut bugs, these gut guys help maintain & strengthen your gut lining).
  • pre & probiotics (try eating a fibre rich diet that also includes fermented foods, or use a probiotic supplement regularly). Get guidance with these if you think you may have SIBO, often found with leaky gut). We find this probiotic to be well tolerated by those with leaky gut / SIBO.  PRESCRIPT ASSIST PROBIOTIC
  • kill off your gut bug nasties (decrease sugar & carb consumption, eat your prebiotic fibre, use antimicrobial herbs & probiotics when you know you’ve overindulged & have overfed your bad guys – seek help with this to get started).
  • L-glutamine, zinc, N-acetyl glucosamine are nutrients that you’ll find in most ‘gut repair’ type products in the health food store & are very useful in healing the gut lining.
  • licorice (the plant, not the lollies – you can try liquorice tea or a herbal tincture / capsules)
  • greens – your gut bugs LOVE their greens, even if you don’t! If you hate eating greens, drink them in a green smoothie instead. They can be sooo yummy this way! PondWater – our supergreens powder is a ‘2-in-1’ gut tonic (organic grass & algae plus a good therapeutic dose of aloe vera inner leaf gel, perfect for adding into green smoothies).
  • collagen is great to help heal leaky gut. It is found in meat, skin, gristle & cooked bones. Sip on bone broth, chicken soup, or add collagen powder to a smoothie regularly.
  • aloe vera, slippery elm, okra, oats, oysters = rich in mucopolysaccharides (good gut-healing foods)….some great vegan bone broth alternatives (except the oysters obviously!)
  • resistant starch. This is easily found in cooked & cooled rice & potatoes, potato starch & green banana flour (& in smaller doses in many other foods).
  • calm the immune system response. Eat oily fish, turmeric, ginger, flaxseed – include lots of the natural anti-inflammatories in your diet (or take these in supplement form).

Love to hear from anyone who’s suffered from leaky gut & managed to ‘plug the leaks’ using any of these strategies (or maybe something else). Comment below or send me an email direct :)

Jeanie
jeanie@goodmix.com.au 

 

Why You Need to Focus on Fibre: The Forgotten Nutrient

Protein, carbohydrates & fats have received plenty of attention in the health & medical industries over the past 20 years, with Drs & diet gurus telling us to ‘eat less fat’, ‘increase complex carbs’, ‘increase protein’ & then ‘eat more fat’ ‘decrease carbs’ & ‘eat less animal protein’….it’s confusing & exhausting just trying to keep up with research & changing opinions! Many of us health-conscious people now have a substantial collection of conflicting dietary advice books, largely focussed on fat, carbs & protein….but fibre has been quietly sitting in the corner waiting its turn – left out of the equation & only seen as important for constipated folks.

It makes sense – we humans can’t actually digest fibre. It’s obviously not that important to our health if we can’t break it down into anything usable, right?…it’s just good to keep everything moving through the bowel, right?

WRONG! It seems as though fibre will finally start getting the massive attention it deserves, now we’re discovering all the links between our gut microbes & health. Did you know that your fibre intake can influence everything in the list below? And this is just a very basic short list, there are many, many more.  

  • weight loss & body composition
  • cholesterol problems & cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes & metabolic syndrome
  • inflammation in the gut & throughout the body
  • allergies, eczema, asthma & hay fever
  • skin issues
  • mood disorders & mental health
  • energy levels
  • hormone balance
  • Immunity
  • digestion & absorption of nutrients

How Does Fibre Effect Your Gut Health?

The reasons it can help with the above list are complex – but basically, fibre helps to improve your ‘internal ecosystem’ (specifically your gut microbial diversity & abundance). Our gut bugs eat whatever makes it through into the large intestine intact (i.e. fibre), & when they are well fed every day – they do all kinds of great things for us. Our gut is like an internal compost heap, & the rest of our body the garden. When our gut is working well it can generate a lot of goodness to nourish & heal our body, & when it is not working properly – the entire system will struggle. The research on this topic is fascinating, & will completely change the way we look at food, medicine & health over the coming years.

Quick! Get Me Some Fibre, Any Fibre Will Do!!

Not so fast. Before you reach for the ‘All-Bran’, you need to know that DIVERSITY is really important with your fibre intake. 

The old approach of using a single source fibre supplement (i.e. bran, psyllium, inulin etc) may help you to become more regular, but is not optimal to support overall good gut health & microbial balance (which is a foundation of good overall health). You can’t just ‘fix’ a low fibre diet with a few tablespoons of some supplement! It’s like relying on just one type of vegetable for your vitamins & minerals, instead of eating a variety – you’ll miss out on so many nutrients & end up really unbalanced.  

We carry (in our large intestine) many different types / strains of fibre-loving microbes, & they all have different food preferences. Relying heavily on one type of fibre will create an unbalanced population as you overfeed some of these critters, but neglect to feed the rest – so you end up with an overproliferation of the ‘few’ who love & thrive on all-bran, or psyllium, or inulin, or prunes, or whatever – & these guys can take over / over-crowd the gut ecosystem leaving little room for the rest.

The key is to eat plenty of fibre daily, & ensure that you are getting it from loads of different kinds of plants – ie a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, seaweed, herbs & other plant fibre sources with diverse polysaccharides (parts of the plant that we cannot digest in the upper GI tract, but that will become food for our microbes in the bowel). Hint – these are not found in the refined foods that we’ve become accustomed to over the past 50 years!

Refined sugars & starches tip the balance in the wrong way – they support the growth of the bad guys. Not to mention the gut bacterial impact of things like preservatives, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers etc…these additives may have been ‘tested safe for human consumption’ but unless we know how they are impacting our gut ecosystem – how can we really know their long-term effects? The indirect health impact (through our gut bugs) may in fact be quite significant. The point is – we need to keep our diet as natural as possible, & include a good variety of nutritious plants to keep our gut bugs well fed, & balanced, thus maintaining a thriving internal ecosystem.

Unfortunately, the opposite is generally true. The average westerner eats too many refined carbs, a lot of sugar & poor quality fats, plenty of artificials with very limited fermentable fibre – sourced from only a few different types of unrefined plants (a token daily apple or lettuce & tomato on their lunchtime burger).

This means we are providing copious amounts of simple carbs / sugars to feed the ‘bad guys’, & very little roughage for the good guys in the bowel. As a result, there is precious little fermentation happening in the large intestine, which is one of the absolutely vital keys to good health – fibre is the fermentation material needed by our bowel bugs – they convert complex carbs (from fibrous foods) into SCFA’s (short chain fatty acids), which are potent anti-inflammatory substances & key nutrients for maintaining the health & integrity of the gut lining – among many other things (worth reading up on).

My Own Internal Anti-inflammatory Factory??

Gut bugs + diverse fibre = home-made anti-inflammatories = better health & happiness = yay! When you think about inflammation as a cause / key contributor in almost all modern disease states – it makes really good sense to be feeding our own ‘anti-inflammatory generators’ with diverse fibre, every day, as a priority.

It has even been questioned whether just adding a heap of plant fibre to a junk food diet can somewhat mitigate the damage / inflammation caused by the junk in this way…questioned, but not proven.

When Food Shopping, Think About This…

The less processed our food is, the more likely that it will make it through our stomach & small intestine undigested, which may sound like a bad thing… BUT, it is these undigested fibrous foods that become food for our friendly helper-bugs! I.e. raw veg are better for the bugs than cooked, whole grains better than refined flour… we seem to do best on a combination of really unrefined foods & some more refined / easier to digest stuff, but experts believe the modern diet is much too far towards the ‘easy to digest’ processed end of the spectrum.

Do The Experiment! 

If your gut is not super-sensitive / already out of whack, do an experiment on yourself by increasing your intake of unprocessed plant foods (making sure to focus on diversity), & just see what happens. Go slowly to transition comfortably – increase your intake gradually over time rather than all at once, or you may initially become bloated, gassy, uncomfortable & possibly constipated as your unprepared, unpopulated gut struggles to deal with the sudden influx of fibre. Over a few days / weeks though, your population of bacterial fibre-munchers should increase hugely & become much more healthy & diverse. Take note of how this effects you – look for changes in regularity / gut symptoms, body composition / weight-loss, mood, brain function, skin, immunity, aches & pains…it’s such an easy experiment with massive potential gains! If you feel that there’s no way you can tolerate fibrous foods due to severe gut symptoms – look into the low FODMAP diet. This can help many with IBS / gut issues to uncover the foods that are setting off their pain / bloating / gut symptoms.

Everyone is Different:

Remember that every gut is different, & the high fibre diet that works well for your neighbour might make you feel awful. This can be because you & your neighbour both have different digestive systems & gut bacterial populations. You may have lots of bean-loving bugs, but your neighbour may have very few, so she may feel uncomfortable after a big bowl of high-fibre hommus & celery sticks whereas you can thrive on it. Maybe apricots are ok for your neighbour but give you diarrhoea. Different fibre will have varying effects on different people, & sometimes it’s all in the dose. If you’re not used to a particular food, or way of eating – make changes gradually to ensure a smooth transition, or get some help from a professional to start with. 

So introduce slowly, find out what works for you, & enjoy the whole-body benefits of eating more fibre!

Print out this Bristol Stool Chart and laminate for the toilet door, & leave it there until your kids know exactly what they should be doing (or pooing) each day, & the many reasons they might go off track. You could save them from a heap of pain, stress & money later on in life by teaching them the importance of gut health.

Your visitors will get a good laugh (& possibly an education) too :-)

Click the image to get the free chart.

Bristol Stool Chart
Best Poos Ever

How Many Poos Should I Be Doing Each Day?

So we at goodMix are all for talking crap – it’s what we do best! And some of our customers have great questions that warrant a public answer (you know – the question that everyone is wondering about but is too scared to actually askthe question that everyone is wondering about but is too scared to actually ask). Here’s my best answer (sorry my answers always seem to be long) to one of these poo FAQ’s, received again via email this week!

Q: “I’m in good health, just wondering how many poos should I be doing in a day?”

A: Depends on lots of factors – including…

How many times you’ve eaten that day (or more relevantly the previous day or 3, as it takes a while for food to get all the way from entry to exit).

i.e. if you’ve been bedridden with the flu & not really eating for days, you may easily go a week with no poo action whilst recovering. Same situation when fasting. This is totally normal as your digestive system will slow almost to a standstill, & take a while to get back to normal once you’re eating regularly again.

Volume & quality of food you ate, & how much fibre that food contained.

A person eating KFC & Macca’s burgers 3x daily washed down with energy drinks will be unlikely to produce any healthy poos, as there’s nothing much in these ‘foods’ to support your gut bugs, whereas a person consuming a variety of fresh, natural, whole plant foods that agree with them will have sufficient fibre intake to support a thriving & diverse ecosystem of gut microbes who literally help your gut to produce good healthy poos. A huge percentage of your poo is actually gut bugs (yup, it’s alive – a bit freaky when you think about it!!) The rest is mostly made up of fibre & water. Fibre & fluid provide the building blocks of healthy poos, & your gut bugs are like the builders (sorry any builders reading for the comparison). Anyway – when things are ‘not happening’, it can be due to not enough or poor quality building materials coming in, or maybe there is a problem with the builders (they’ve been wiped out with a bout of gastro or a course of antibiotics, there may be a party going on in there with too many of the wrong bugs hindering the building process, or the building site (your gut) needs some maintenance to make it all work properly again.

Past health history, especially related to your brain & nervous system, hormones, gut, liver, previous medications esp antibiotics.

Everything in your body is connected, & just as your gut health influences other body systems, your other body systems influence the workings of your gut. Ie – if you’ve had a brain or spinal injury (or an illness that has affected the nerve supply to your bowel), it’s expected that nothing will work as it should – regular poo production & movement may need a lot of assistance. Even if you’re just feeling stressed out, your nervous system spends too much time in ‘fight or flight’ mode instead of in ‘rest & digest’ mode – so you will have sub-optimal digestion & subsequent poo production as all of your energy has been diverted away from your digestive system. Your hormones can also affect your gut function & your poos – ladies know this, many experience constipation a day or 2 before periods & then the floodgates open with the flow, & so many 50 plus ladies have told me that ‘everything changed’ when they became menopausal. Your liver & gallbladder function can directly influence your bowel function as well, as bile secreted by the liver is a natural laxative (we secrete more bile when we eat, especially when we eat fatty foods). Sometimes people can experience constipation whilst eating a low-fat diet, & strict low-fat diets can actually be a cause of gallstones forming (not enough bile movement).

How much water you’ve been drinking / the fluid content of your foods.

We need to be hydrated for digestion to work, & everything comes to a bit of a grinding halt when we don’t drink enough. Drinking too much fluid with meals is not a good idea though, try to drink most of your fluids in between your food ideally.

If you’ve been very sedentary or very active.

When we move, it stimulates our digestive system to move too (our body knows that when we’re active, we’re using up our food energy, so it hurries everything along & makes room for more incoming nourishment). When we’re sedentary, everything (including digestive processes & our metabolism) slows right down.

What medication you’ve used lately / chemicals in your food & environment.

Some medications cause digestive symptoms directly, & some cause them indirectly. If you are at all concerned, ask your Dr or pharmacist if it’s possible that your meds may be making you constipated, giving you diarrhoea or making you feel bloated / uncomfortable. And try to eat organically as much as possible, your gut bugs tend not to like chemicals (they may be tested safe for humans but their impact on our gut bugs hasn’t been taken into account). As a general rule, more chemicals going into your tummy = less good gut bugs = less good poos.

Stress levels.

You’ll notice a big difference in how many poos you do daily / weekly when stressed vs relaxed, but it can go either way or even alternate. People who normally go regularly & without drama can suddenly become uncomfortably constipated or ‘get the runs’ when highly stressed. Most people with IBS know only too well that when they’re stressed out, their gut symptoms are always much worse. Keep calm & poo well (that could be a fridge magnet).

Being Away From Home.

There is nothing quite like the comfort of your own home loo. People who are forced to use work bathrooms / public bathrooms etc, or cannot go easy on the job throughout the day are at high risk of developing poo problems. It can even start as young as pre-school. I often speak to mums who are little kids decide ‘I only do poos at home, not at kindy’. Arrgh!! This is something you need to sort out quickly, as it can rapidly escalate into a situation where the child becomes badly backed up, & pooing hurts – so they hold it in cos it hurts, & so on. I have heard from one market mum that this happened in her kindy aged child, to the point where she needed to be hospitalised with a ‘mass the size of a coconut’ blocking things up & she was ‘vomiting faeces’. Yup, true story. Poor little thing went through such an ordeal (narrowly avoided surgery) but now poos happily ever after with a little help from her Blend11. Kids (& adults) need to get comfortable pooing away from home – women especially have issues on holidays (take your Blend11 with you every trip, many now do) & don’t be shy, if ya gotta go – GO!

Your Constitution & Baseline Metabolism.

How your metabolism processes things – some people are just ‘fast’ & some ‘slow’ at digesting / metabolising & pushing everything through their system. It may be a case of ‘always have been always will be’ some people seem to be born fast or slow – this can just be your constitutional tendency, but it can also be related to thyroid function (an underactive thyroid will make you slower, overactive will make you move things faster – neither is good, you wanna be somewhere in the middle ‘just right’). Check thyroid if you’re a too fast or too slow type for no obvious reason.

So…let just says you’re spending plenty of time at home, you’re not overly stressed, you don’t take meds, you’re eating plenty of fibre, you exercise, you’re thyroid is sweet & you’re well hydrated. How many poos should you be producing daily?  

I speak to a lot of people about their poos each week & this is my conclusion (just my opinion – not saying it’s correct, just my thoughts based on what I’ve learned & heard so far).

There are variations of what can be considered ‘healthy’ & normal with regards to ‘poos per day’, just as there are with many other bodily functions. How fast should my hair or nails grow? How fast should my heart beat? How many hours should I sleep each night? We’re all a bit different, & there are many healthy people, who don’t all work in exactly the same way. I think there is a ‘spectrum’ of healthy.

But in general – a relatively healthy human with a plant-rich diet that works well for them & an optimally functioning gut should be producing & eliminating between 1 & 3 well formed, easy to pass stools daily (with some days that aren’t normal due to changes in routine / food / illness / stress etc). I know many of you reading this are thinking ‘I would kill for daily, regular, well-formed easy to pass poos!! Those who already have them, you should feel truly blessed, I actually think you are in the minority these days! I chat to Blend11 addicts who used to only ‘go’ every 2 weeks & are now going twice daily (rejoice) or those who were bloated, in pain & very irregular with loose stools that now feel much more comfortable & at ease. To go from unpredictable to regular can literally be life-changing!

You don’t have to be perfect every day / every week, but in general – 1 to 3 daily would seem normal & healthy to me, & no stress if you miss the occasional day due to circumstances / stress – just don’t make it a habit. The main indicators for healthy toilet habits are – does your tummy feel comfortable or do you often feel discomfort / pain? Do you need to strain or is going to the loo painful or very urgent / too fast? These are more important to me that ‘the numbers’. Quality over quantity. Some people brag about how many poos they do daily but remember you can go overboard too – if everything is being pushed through your digestive system too quickly, that leaves less time for absorption of valuable nutrients along the way. Too many poos (esp if they are on the loose side) can indicate food intolerances as well. You want the transit time to be not too fast, not too slow, & poos to be not too hard or too soft. Goldilocks poos!

In general – to speed & soften things up, use more fibre, water & exercise – to slow things down & firm them up, remove possible irritants (gluten, dairy, alcohol, FODMAP’s, caffeine etc), use some gentle fibre (low FODMAP ideally) & be calm / take time to relax. And in both circumstances – get a checkup if concerned! Work your way backwards from ‘the best poos ever’ & you’ll find a happy & healthy gut – one of the foundations for overall good health – if your poos aren’t good, neither will your insides be!

Love to hear some more numbers! What’s your average daily range? Do you feel awesome but fall outside what is considered normal / healthy? What changes have you made to your poo frequency & how? What is it that completely throws things out for you? Write a comment below or send me an email :-)

 

Bristol Stool Chart
Best Poos Ever

Place this handy chart up on your toilet door and teach everyone who sits on your loo about a healthy gut / poo: Bristol Stool Chart – free download

 

Jeanie
jeanie@goodmix.com.au 

 

 

Hiding Veggies! Handy Tips for Fussy Eaters

With so many cheap processed foods trying to sabotage our shopping trolleys, the constant role of us parents is to find new ways to sneak healthy foods (particularly veggies) into our family’s food! Some kids are super-fussy, & it seems all they want to eat is sausages, chips & crackers! I don’t advise you to ‘just let them grow out of it’, as in my experience – kids who are allowed to get away with eating just sausages & chips as kids often continue to do so, & they don’t get used to the tastes & textures of vegetables & salads the way kids who are brought up on them daily do. You either do the introductory work when your kids are young, or they will pay the price for it later with ongoing fussiness, nutrient deficiencies & the health issues that arise from them. Getting veggies in can be hard work at times, but it will pay off – & there are many ways to sneak things in / introduce gradually so it’s not too scary!

It’s not only the kids who experience trouble with eating their veggies, I actually speak to quite a few adults who are definitely old enough to realise that they should be eating more veggies, but still really struggle with textures / tastes & do not eat very many at all! Because they find it so difficult to eat veggies themselves – they’re unable to enforce good vegetable-eating habits in the kids, so the issue gets passed down & compounded!

Here’s a few easy & inexpensive dishes, perfect for getting more veggies into the ‘average Aussie family’ diet. You’ll notice most of these dinners use mince as a base – reason is it’s inexpensive & kids are generally pretty good with it, plus it’s an easy texture that allows you to hide a lot of veg in it. You can experiment with beef, chicken, lamb, kangaroo or pork. Make it free range & grass fed wherever you possibly can (ask your butcher or farmer at the markets!) I ethically agree with & have experimented myself with both a vegetarian & vegan diet in the past, but I do feel that for rapidly growing kids, some animal protein & fats are important & very useful nutritionally. Just look for & support the producers who operate on a small scale & treat their animals with more care, & incorporate loads of veggies & plant foods in so that meat isn’t playing the starring dietary role, but is there in smaller quantities to supply the nutritional bits that plants don’t cover.

Meatballs / Patties

Better option for BBQ’s than the kid-favourite sausages, as you can pack them full of veggies! The secret is to chop everything really finely, or use a processor / blender. Into your mince you can add add onion, garlic, fresh herbs (i.e. basil, oregano, chives, rosemary, mint, curry plant), carrot, celery, mushroom, capsicum, zucchini. Just watch the water content with the wetter veggies (you may need to squeeze the water out of grated zucchini  for example). I generally add in something absorbent like chia meal or chia flour (ask in your health store) to help bind the patties & soak up any excess moisture from the tonne of veggies. You can also add in some seaweed flakes (i.e. dulse or kelp) to sneakily boost nutrition, salt & pepper & some dried herbs & spices like cumin, thyme or sage.

Bolognaise

A quick & easy option for most families – yet there is a big nutritional difference between the average ‘pasta-meat-sauce’ spaghetti bol & a veggie packed healthy version! To maximise your veg intake, start with onion, garlic & mushroom (all finely chopped). Fry these & then add finely chopped celery, carrot, capsicum, zucchini, & even beetroot. Add in some leafy greens, seaweed flakes, herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary all work well), & then mix all of this into your cooked mince, along with some plain chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce (I use molasses as a mineral-rich sweetener / flavour booster & salt & pepper). I’ll often just eat this without the pasta, but the kids miss it! You can use GF pasta or even some ‘courgette’ / spiralled zucchini noodles. Serve with some simple raw greens or a salad, & some grated cheese to top if desired.

Lasagne

Same veggies as the bolognaise. Chopped finely – this is just the bolognaise brew arranged with layers of sauce / cheese / pasta! You can use GF sheets or finely sliced pumpkin as the ‘pasta’ layers too.

Shepherd’s Pie

All of the same bolognaise veggies will work here too, & you can incorporate some sneaky tinned asparagus into the sauce (blend it in), & throw in some frozen peas. I often use a mix of cauliflower or sweet potato in with the mashed potato topping, & you can throw some green / brown lentils into the mince part – or even use these instead of the meat. You can use things like salt & pepper, tomato paste, mustard, molasses & herbs / spices / natural sauces to make it flavoursome.

Mexican

Great crowd-pleaser to introduce some legumes! Soak some black beans overnight, then rinse & drain them before boiling until soft. Or you can use canned if you’re not good at planning! I use a combo of whole beans & some of the canned refried beans. These can be added in after you’ve cooked up the rest of the mix, which can be your meat (if using, you can easily make a great vego mexican brew with just the beans & veg) plus finely chopped onion, garlic, celery, carrot, broccoli / cauliflower, zucchini…whatever. You can use molasses as a sweetener, plus salt, pepper, cumin, turmeric (not too much or it gets bitter) & coriander to make it taste ‘Mexican’! Serve with guacamole (mashed avo with lemon / lime juice, salt, pepper & garlic) & fresh coriander / shallots on top.

Rice Paper Wraps

Onion & garlic, add in some ginger for the Asian flavour, or whatever Asian style paste / herbs you like – i.e. coriander, basil, mint, lime juice, tamari…just fry the mince with the garlic / ginger / spices / paste, add finely chopped veggies / herbs, & have some others raw & grated on the table when you serve up. You can have several bowls for different people to choose their own additions, & some dipping sauce. Or instead of Asian style, try a rosemary & garlic lamb mince with yoghurt, mint & cucumber dressing. You can find the wraps in the asian section of the supermarket, & you just need to dip them into hot water to make them soft enough to wrap (requires a little practice, small children will need help making theirs).

Wedges

A great winter hot veggie snack. Sweet potato & potato, homemade & oven baked. You can coat in some tapioca starch & spices to get them really crispy / crunchy. Cook in macadamia or coconut oil, & serve with yummy dips (see below!)

Dips

You can hide a lot of veggies (& probiotic yoghurt / healthy olive oil) in dips. Cooked sweet potato & pumpkin, cucumber, herbs, avocado, semi dried tomato, beetroot, olives etc – & we think of dips as party or snack food, so tend not to be on the lookout for veggies! Google veggie dips or any of the above-mentioned veggies with dip & you’ll find recipes. Also – they are nice & smooth, & generally there are crackers to be had with them – so veggie dips can be a winner for veggie-shy people! 

Wraps

You can find some half-decent GF wraps in the supermarkets now. Bundle up a heap of healthy fillings with some kind of yummy dressing. Meat / cheese – whatever other fillings you / the kids like, to go with the veggies. Think avocado, hommous etc. 

Omelettes

Mushroom, tomato, onion, herbs like rosemary, parsley & thyme, baby spinach & shredded kale…just start of with a few teeny tiny bits & you can increase as they get used to the ‘bits’.

Quiches

Same as omelettes – start with a few bits & increase as they get used to the new tastes / textures.

Pies

You can add some veggies chunk style, & some hidden, finely blended into the pie ‘sauce’. Top pies with mashed & seasoned veggies.

Coleslaw

This can be a good one as most veggie-fussy types like mayonnaise / creamy dressings. You can make a basic coleslaw with just shredded cabbage & carrot, or add in shallots / raw onion, celery, kale, capsicum, grated beetroot, parsley etc. Kids usually like a little grated cheese in there too.

Beetroot Salad

Use the fine holes on your grater, to grate a large raw beetroot with 2 medium carrots. ‘Dress’ with some fresh grated / juiced pineapple & / or orange, & add in some desiccated coconut & currants if desired. Amazing sweet & juicy side salad that many kids & adults like, & a great way to introduce raw beetroot to those who’ve never tried it.

Potato Salad

I like to add boiled eggs into potato salad to balance the carbs with some protein / fats. You can add finely chopped shallots / chives, raw onion, parsley, celery, frozen peas….potato salad is great for resistant starch (the carbs turn into this when cooked & cooled down). Resistant starch is good food for your gut bacteria.

Fried Rice

You can use quinoa too (or a mixture) & use leftover meats or veggies in here. I use shredded fried eggs, free range nitrate free bacon, or chicken leftovers, onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, shallots, carrot, corn, frozen peas, capsicum, broccoli, cauliflower (chopped up into tiny bits). 

Mash

You can sneak cauliflower into your mashed potato, use lots of butter & salt & pepper to flavour, & garlic, chives or parsley are also yum in mash. You can add cooked broccoli & carrots into sweet potato / pumpkin mash…mash makes textures less of an issue so you may have luck with some different veggies incorporated in this way.

Pesto

Herbs are super-nutritious like veggies (often even more so) but can be expensive. It’s great to grow a few in the garden / pots. You can make amazing fresh pesto using basil & baby spinach, parmesan, olive oil, salt & pepper, lemon juice & garlic. This pesto can also be used to flavour other veggies. It goes great with roasted sweet potato chunks, or in a salad.

Spinach & Feta Pies

Kids love greens hidden in cheese! Most people love mini spinach & feta pies. Use a cupcake / muffin tray to bake a heap of these – great way to get some greens & protein in if dairy is well tolerated. Basil is awesome in these.

Platters / Finger Food

Olives, carrot, celery, capsicum, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, snow peas, sugar snaps, beans….you can make great healthy platters using veggies. Just combine with things you already like i.e. cheeses, nuts, crackers, dips etc. Finger food / platters are very kid-friendly & they’ll be able to experiment carefully with a little encouragement.

Green Smoothies

Pineapple / banana / papaw / mango / kiwi / apple / pear etc can be the ‘sweetness’ to make a glass full of raw green veggies yummier! Celery tops, cucumber, baby spinach, kale etc can all be blended up into drinks – many people find drinking their veggies is actually easier than eating them!

Red Smoothies

You can make an amazing, vibrant red smoothie using raspberries, watermelon, dragon fruit & beetroot. This is just cool for kids because it is SOO bright red. Pink grapefruit & ginger are nice flavours in this too.

Juices

Some people can’t handle the thick, fibrous texture of smoothies with veggies in them. Juice can be a great way to get used to the different veggie tastes, without having to deal with the textures at the same time! Try small amounts of spinach, kale, cucumber, carrot, beetroot, ginger, turmeric etc – using familiar things like apple, mandarin, pineapple & orange to sweeten / mask.

Cakes

You can make quite a few cool cakes with veggies win them. The obvious one is carrot cake, but google chocolate beetroot or zucchini cake, black bean brownies…you can actually sneak veggies into cakes & sweet treats!

Raw Carrot Cake
Bristol Stool Chart
Best Poos Ever

Place this handy chart up on your toilet door and teach everyone who sits on your loo about a healthy gut / poo and may even show the direct effect of eating more veggies: Bristol Stool Chart – free download

I hope you find some of these tips useful, & I’d love to know your thoughts, struggles or even your own tips! Just leave a comment below or send me an email !

Jeanie Xx
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

Constipation in Babies & Toddlers – 8 natural tips!

Bbaby-21167_1280reast feeding

Helps to form the healthy internal ecosystem your child needs for good digestion, & immunity. Do it if you can, & you will have WAY less issues with constipation than what is likely with formula fed bubs. It’s an investment that will pay off down the track – if you can’t breastfeed, look for the formulas with prebiotics.

 

Break the antibiotic cycle.

This is huge – so many babies & toddlers are spending most of their time in daycare centres filled with other small people with developing immune systems, poor personal hygiene & hands & mouths all over everyone…so the amount of colds & flus, gastro bugs, infections of all kinds can be just overwhelming. In many cases parents need to work, & daycare is seemingly the only option. Sicknesses are perceived to be handled quickest using antibiotics so everyone can get back into care / work / school with minimal time off – but this is generally untrue for childhood headache-1540220_640infections, as the vast majority are viral – not bacterial. When we give a child a course of antibiotics, we are actually wiping out much of their natural defense & compromising their immune system greatly – so next bug that’s going around (i.e. Monday morning back at daycare), will be much more likely to cause them problems.  It is a vicious cycle, & daycare centres & antibiotics should be avoided wherever possible by those wanting to look after their children’s gut health (& therefore general health). Obviously go by your health professional’s recommendations & don’t ignore infections – BUT, please – if your Dr still prescribes antibiotics readily for childhood infections, you need to find a new doctor!! Damaged gut bacterial populations are a big cause of constipation, diarrhea, bloating, & IBS in both kids & adults…not to mention more cold & flu’s.

 

Fluid intake. 

thirst-1474240_640This is often a tricky one with little ones! Use a special cup (you may want to invest in a new one every few months if that makes a difference to the fussy drinker, or have a rotation system  – either way, give them their own special bottle, cup or straw that they love to drink from – it can really help you to monitor fluid intake as well as encourage busy kids to drink on the go! In warmer months use smoothies, fresh juices (with veggies, not just fruits), coconut water, icy fruit slushies, frozen smoothie ice-blocks etc; in winter use soups, hot drinks like lemon & honey tea or yummy herbal teas like liquorice, hibiscus, rosehip, healthy hot chocolate or carob drinks (carob has no caffeine so ideal for younger kids, but is nice & sweet).

Good Gut Bacteria Food.

A toddler who lives on white bread, rice crackers, ham, cheese & sausages (unfortunately all too common today), will not be getting the fibre required to nourish their good bowel bacteria, & will have all kinds of trouble as a result.  The bacteria that live in your bowel are very influential in stool consistency, transit time, & general digestive ability (not to mention behaviour, immunity, nutrition & growth). We need to ensure a constant supply of ‘good bacteria food’ – i.e. fresh fruit & veggies (esp leafy greens), n8362669328_531042f827_nuts, seeds, legumes, & some whole grains if tolerated well. (Blend11 or NeoBlend are easy & go well into yoghurt & smoothies to increase the diversity of daily prebiotic fibre. Make sure each meal or snack has ‘something for the bugs’ as well as for the kid! For the extreme fussy eater, try chopped fruit in jelly cups (as a first step), hiding blended veggies in things like bolognaise sauce etc, ‘ice-cream’ made from frozen fruits etc, small amounts of dried fruits – dates & apricots are great to make bliss balls etc. For the kids used to a more natural diet, they can eat pretty much anything adults are eating – smooth pasty baby food is a big mistake to rely on, as kids will not get used to the different textures of fibrous foods – they really need to be eating some of what mum & dad are eating (mum & dad obviously need to eat well as an example – get over your own fussiness!).

Supplementation.

For babies & toddlers up until around 2.5 years of age, bifidobacteria is the dominant & most important strain of good gut bacteria – these guys are vital to ‘set the stage’ for a healthy gut microbiome all through life. Babies born via caesarian & those who’ve been predominantly formula fed will have much lower levels of these good bugs than those born vaginally & breastfed. A good baby / toddler specific probiotic with bifidobacteria can really help to correct the balance & improve ‘poo problems’ in young ones!

The Fear Factor.

Just one episode of painful constipation can make toddlers scared to poo next time around & thus start to ’hold it in’, which makes the stool become harder (more moisture is reabsorbed by the body the longer the stool is ‘waiting’ to come out, so it will become less moist & therefore more painful to release). One hard poo can quickly become a bigger issue with fear of passing motions due to pain really complicating a physical problem with a mental aspect as well! Do not take constipation in little ones lightly – jump on it at the first sign to avoid escalation!

Exercise / Movement.baby-84626_640

The TV & the i-Pad may be great free babysitters – BUT – it is completely unnatural for a toddler to stay motionless for the long periods of time they do whilst watching TV / playing games. You will just about NEVER see an awake, healthy toddler sit still for 2 hrs at a stretch, but put them in front of a device / TV & they become instantly immobilised! Very tempting for parents to have a break, but also I believe a big potential contributor to digestive problems – exercise / movement is essential for healthy appetite & digestive function (& for good health in general!). Keep screen time to an absolute minimum, kids need to move & learn to use their bodies & brains – not be sitting in front of screens motionless & un-creative.

Fats. 

Good fats are awesome kid foods – they provide loads of calories to satisfy the constant hunger that fast growth can bring. Nuts, seeds, coconut, grass fed meats, oily fish, pastured eggs, organic full fat dairy – all of these provide loads of nutrition for growing bodies, & the fats help stimulate the liver (bile secreted when we consume fats acts as a natural bowel stimulant, & fats & oils provide important lubrication to the stool to ease it’s passage). Do not be scared of fats – our population has gotten sicker & fatter since the ‘low-fat’ approach to diet became popular / recommended. LOW FAT IS DEFINITELY OUT, the research that led to its introduction was wrong. Google Mary Enig – fat guru, ‘Big Fat Lies’ (book that explains it well), ‘The Cholesterol Myth’…there is heaps of info out there.  Blend11 & NeoBlend  are chock full of the healthy fats we need.

 

GO-TO GUT FOOD & DRINK  LIST AIMED AT FUSSY TODDLERS:

Breast milk –  keep your supply ‘there for when you need it’ as long as practically possible. If you have the ability to breastfeed easily, DO IT, & keep it up as long as you can as your milk is the absolute best gut tonic for your child – it’s full of good bacteria, as well as the prebiotics (food for the good bacteria) to help establish a healthy internal ecosystem for life. Even after weaning onto solids, it can be great to keep expressing once daily just to keep an ‘emergency supply’ in the freezer for use in case of sickness or antibiotic use – or just as a general tonic added into their solids even if you no longer wish to be ‘breastfeeding’.

Green smoothies – hide kale & spinach using things like pineapple, banana & berries. You may be surprised how well kids take to a small (not overwhelming) serve of ‘hulk juice’ or ‘frog juice’ (or whatever you think will appeal). Great to use peer pressure when introducing things like this – invite some more ‘experimental’ / less fussy kids around & just make one for yourself, offer all the kids a shot glass or similar – then increase from there. Start yummy, increase veggies gradually. Straws can really help too.

Coconut oil based raw treats – I’ve been told by many that eating coconut oil helps with regularity in older folks (some swear by it) – the same just may be true for kids & it’s so easy to incorporate into healthy, yummy raw desserts etc. See our recipes for some ideas to get you started.

For constipation prone kids try dried figs, dates, prunes, apricots, pears (or bliss balls made using dried fruits as the binder / sweetness). Kids tend to love these ‘sugar bombs’, so don’t go overboard!

Canned peaches, pears, pear juice, prune juice…fresh is best but go with where the child is ‘at’ to get out of trouble. Pear in particular is high in a natural laxative, once again – don’t go overboard or you’ll end up with a sweet tooth!

 

Bristol Stool Chart
Best Poos Ever

Place this handy chart up on the toilet door and teach them about good gut health early: Bristol Stool Chart – free download

 

LOVE to hear what has worked well for you guys – please share any useful tips with other mums & dads!