7 Strategies That Have Helped Heal My Gut and Manage IBS

By Jared Koch
|
August 23, 2022
A photo of a man holding up construction paper intestines

I’ve had digestive issues as far back as I can remember. When I was younger, I wasn’t interested in nutrition at all — my eating philosophy could be easily boiled down to “just eat whatever you’re in the mood for.” I didn’t know that there was a correlation between my digestive issues and the foods I put into my body. But as I got older, my stomach issues got worse, and I started to realize that feeling sick all the time wasn’t normal.

Read next: What You Need to Know About the Gut Health-Sleep Connection

The turning point came when I started taking yoga lessons. I was talking with my teacher after class one day, and my stomach issues came up in conversation. My yoga instructor convinced me that I had to change my diet and start really caring about nutrition. So I started looking into it, and pretty quickly, I could tell that this was going to be important for me. 

I began studying nutrition more intensely. I enrolled in a program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and after I earned my degree, I worked as a health coach. I tried out a bunch of different dietary approaches: a raw food diet, a vegan diet, and a protein-and-fat-heavy diet that was similar to keto. I also tried a few elimination diets in an attempt to discover what might be triggering my IBS symptoms, and found that this was very helpful for my clients, as well. I cut out different ingredients at different times, including gluten, dairy, and sugar, then slowly added these back in to see how they made me feel. Ultimately, I found a diet that worked for me, and helped me heal my gut and seriously reduce my IBS symptoms. 

Now that my gut has healed, I can enjoy gluten, dairy, and sugar in limited quantities again. Of course, if I go all-out, I’ll still have a flare, but I can dip a little piece of bread into a plate of mussels or eat a small piece of cheesecake and be ok. I believe in limiting ingredients rather than excluding them since it’s just a less restrictive way to live life. 

These are some of the most important steps I’ve taken to heal my gut and manage my IBS. If you’re having gut health issues and are looking for a way forward, this could be a good guide to help you on your journey faster. 

1. Let your body tell you what works — rather than letting trends determine how you eat

I tried a lot of diet strategies, but found that a strictly vegan or vegetarian diet wasn’t right for me. When I was vegan, I looked drawn and didn’t have my usual energy levels. So I started adding high-quality animal protein back into my diet, and discovered that I quickly looked healthier and had a lot more energy. Everyone’s body is different, but for me, building my diet on a strong base of good-quality meats and vegetables has been a game-changer. Instead of opting for a diet that’s getting a lot of media attention at the moment, I really recommend paying attention to your own body and seeing what works for you. 

2. Pay attention to how your body responds to specific ingredients (and get really granular)

By choosing to notice how different foods affected me, I found that some really surprising ingredients just didn’t work. Kale, for instance, upset the heck out of my stomach, and it didn’t matter whether I ate it raw or cooked. This was surprising to me because my stomach was just fine with plenty of other vegetables that are closely related to kale, like broccoli and cauliflower, and tolerated plenty of other green, leafy vegetables like spinach and romaine lettuce. Kale was the only problem food in this family — go figure. So if you’re on a similar journey, I’d suggest you try out individual ingredients and see how you respond to them, rather than assuming that everything in one category is bad for you. If I had a bad experience with kale and decided I shouldn’t eat any cruciferous vegetables, that would mean placing a really unnecessary limitation on some really healthy foods.  

3. Take stress reduction seriously

We tend to think of our brains and bodies as separate entities, but the truth is, they’re all part of the same system, and can profoundly affect each other. Stress can seriously impact your gut, which has its own, lesser-known nervous system and is often called your “second brain.” Studies show that stress directly causes symptom flare-ups in IBS sufferers specifically. I’ve found that some proven strategies for stress reduction, like yoga and meditation, help keep flares at bay — and when I do get a flare, stress management techniques tend to make them less terrible. 

4. Keep some Boiron Diaralia on hand

Sometimes I’ll have a flare-up and I can absolutely pinpoint the reason: if I eat a big slice of ice cream cake at my kid’s birthday party, I can pretty much guarantee I won’t feel fantastic a few hours later. But although I’ve learned what most of my big triggers are, sometimes I’ll experience a flare and won’t know why. Because I don’t always know what’s going to happen, keeping Boiron Diaralia on hand has been hugely beneficial for me. It’s an all-natural, homeopathic digestive aid that helps relieve diarrhea and all the intestinal pain, bloating, gas, and nausea that often comes with it. I like that it’s really gentle and doesn’t have any of the unfortunate side effects you find in most over-the-counter drugs. And as a special gift from Clean Plates and Boiron, we’re offering readers a free full-size sample of Diaralia Meltaway Tablets (60 tablets!) to bring with you on your next trip.    

5. Add more ginger to your life

If there’s one whole food ingredient I’d recommend to anyone with stomach issues, it’s fresh ginger root. Ginger has been proven in medical studies to have antioxidant and antiulcer effects, provide serious nausea relief, and potentially reduce pain for people with IBS. It’s also delicious — peppery and sweet — and you can incorporate it into meals in so many ways. I often use it in stir-fries and salad dressings, and it’s also great as a teasan: just take a couple slices of fresh ginger and add boiling water, a little raw honey, and a big squeeze of lemon juice for a delicious, healthful drink that’s great for your gut health. 

6. Consider taking probiotics

It’s a great idea to eat foods that contain probiotics, like yogurt, kimchi, and kefir, but if you’re dealing with IBS, you may want to look into taking a probiotic supplement, too. Probiotic supplements have been shown in studies to significantly improve IBS symptoms when used over a period of eight weeks or more. Personally, I take a probiotic every day and I think it’s done wonders for my gut health.

7. Chew your food more thoroughly

In order to really get my IBS under control, I had to improve on a lot of bad eating habits — and that wasn’t just limited to the foods I ate, but how I ate them. I discovered that by chewing my food more and eating more slowly, I could really improve my digestion. Here’s how that works: chewing your food is a great tool to slow yourself down. Even if you’re eating really healthy foods that your individual body responds well to, you can still have digestive issues if you consume them too quickly because you can throw your digestive system out of balance.  These may sound like such simple, small changes, but the truth is that they can have a huge impact on how you feel. 

Clean Plates and Boiron have teamed up to offer readers a free full-size sample of Diaralia Meltaway Tablets (60 tablets) to help make your next trip much more comfortable. 

Read next: 7 Tricks for Making Hard-to-Digest Foods Easier on Your Stomach

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