While the science surrounding the importance of gut health is beginning to solidify, implementing these practices is another story. Since each person has a different set of irritants that trigger inflammation, chronic diseases, brain fog, and the like, healing your gut and strengthening your immune system is easier said than done. Take it from Kelly Trach, a wellness coach who spent over 10,000 hours experimenting with different triggers to heal her chronic fatigue, her brain fog, her digestive issues, and her inflammation.
"I was formerly sick … my immune system was ultra weak, I was forever exhausted, and I lived with chronic inflammation," she writes over on MindBodyGreen. "Headaches, brain fog, stomach pains, and crazy bowels were my constant … and my stomach was so bloated that strangers asked if I was pregnant." After unsatisfactory feedback from doctors, she decided to turn to functional medicine and use herself as a guinea pig; she ultimately discovered that she had celiac disease, leaky gut, IBS, Candida, and other allergies and sensitivities.
After 10 years of experimentation, here's what finally relieved her symptoms and improved her quality of life:
Choosing Nontoxic Products
"Imagine a cup of water," she writes. "The more chemicals you inhale from your phthalate-filled fragrance or absorb from your paraben-filled lotion, the more the water rises." And "once you've hit the brim, it overflows, the immune system attacks the synthetic invaders, and inflammation occurs." To reverse the damage, Trach swapped everything synthetic—from her detergent to her mascara—for clean products listed on the Environmental Working Group's website.
Changing Her Diet
Of course, cutting out inflammatory foods is an important part of the equation. "What changed my game was a plant-based, gluten-free, low-sugar diet," she explains. "I eat whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, gluten-free grains, and good fats." It's worth mentioning that this process is different for everyone; there's no one-size-fits-all diet, and it will likely take some time to figure out what works for you.
Genuinely Manage Stress
This doesn't mean taking one night a month to get a full eight hours of sleep—it means making self-care a priority. "Stress causes dysfunction in the intestinal barrier," which in turn causes you to get sick. "I practice daily gratitude, take proper breaks to lie down, and acknowledge my emotions when they come up versus shoving them away," she adds. "Plus, I exercise daily to physically release and shift my mind."