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Gut Health: The Delicate Balance to Ultimate Health

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Gut health and the human microbiome have been recurring themes in my blogging. On Monday, I received my 25 week pregnancy update and in the article it stated that during these next few weeks of pregnancy, the baby is establishing and developing her immune system. I started thinking, and researching what to do to make sure her immunity will be the best it can be.

Maternal Microbiome

All of the research pointed back to gut health, and the microbiome. Ah-ha! Something I am familiar with. Why is gut health so important? Our guts are literally our second brain, there are over 100 million neurons that line our digestive tract. Our guts house more neurons than our spinal cords! That is pretty incredible! These neurons, along with over 100 trillion bacteria need to stay in perfect balance to help maintain our health.

When the “bad” bacteria is abundant, we see many problems. Compromised immunity, skin issues, trouble achieving and maintaining our ideal weight, brain-fog, lack of focus, and even our emotional/mental health are linked back to this delicate balance of gut bacteria. Craving sugar, wheat, starches and gluten is a warning sign that the bad bacteria is “louder” than the good bacteria in our gut. When this happens, it is possible to starve out the bad bacteria and nourish the good to begin to find that balance. Removing grains and sugar from the diet will starve the bad guys. Foods that nourish the good bacterias are fermented foods, such as keifer or sauerkraut, and fibers from dark, leafy green veggies.

Knowing what your “second brain” is telling you by listening to your food cravings is a great way to build your own immunity, which in turn will give baby a heads up as she develops in-utero, and if mom’s microbiome is functioning well, baby will receive what she needs during the birth process and the “good-guys” will colonize quite quickly. When our microbiome is uninterrupted, that is when we are in “good” health.

The Antibiotic Conundrum

When our immunity is compromised it is easier to pick up viruses and bacteria and suffer their ill-effects. We see our doctor and are often prescribed an antibiotic. An antibiotic may kill the bacteria that is making you ill. However, it also wipes out the delicate ecology in the gut. Have you ever been sick after a round of antibiotics? Maybe started having digestive or skin issues? Possibly a yeast infection? All of your “good” guys have been destroyed and now need nourished and fed.

In the medical community, it is often suggested to take a probiotic immediately after taking an antibiotic. This is good advice, although restoring the microbiome to its original homeostasis can take up to 18 months after 1 round of antibiotic. And, no. I am not saying do not take an antibiotic if you are truly ill with a bacterial infection! The moral of this information is to get your microbiome and immunity in tip-top condition by taking care of your gut health to prevent the need for an antibiotic.

The Body’s Biggest Job

All day, every day our bodies are working on ingesting food, digesting food, assimilating the nutrients from the food, and eliminating the remainder. This is another piece of the puzzle that will boost immunity and microbiome for mom and baby. In our gastrointestinal tract, having an appropriate balance of digestive enzymes supports the digestion and assimilation process.

We need support breaking down proteins, carbs, and fats from the foods we eat. The Standard American Diet, along with commercial farming practices and cooking methods do not allow us to receive adequate enzymes from our food alone. One of the benefits of adding additional digestive enzymes to the body is increased energy. This is because our body is adequately breaking down and assimilating food without increased energy output going to the GI tract just for digestion.

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Postpartum & Beyond

Knowing that gut health is linked to so many disorders of the human body really is great information when it comes to postpartum health and beyond. No matter who you are, pregnant or not, male or female, young or old, gut health is the place to start when wanting to achieve wellness.

For me, learning that certain strains of gut bacteria are responsible for emotional and mental health was quite enlightening. After delivering my second son I suffered from postpartum anxiety. Luckily, I was able to change my diet and add a few good supplements and I received relief from my symptoms very quickly. Knowing this information, I can prepare myself for what’s to come postpartum with this birth by adequately nourishing and supplementing during my pregnancy. So, my supportive methods are supplementing my diet with fiber, digestive enzymes, and probiotics. The benefits for me are increased immunity, better skin and slower aging.

If any of these issues spark your interest, or you know your gut is something you are needing to rebalance and restore. Feel free to email me and I am happy to help you with get started choosing food, supplements, or even just to point you in a direction to do your own research.

 

 

 

 

 

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Instant Pot Bone Broth

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I recently posted my Instant Pot bone broth on Instagram and had a few folks wanting to know the how to’s. I am becoming happier with my Instant Pot, now that I have found a few staples and am happy with the time and effort it takes to use it.

Bone broth is one of our staples. I like to make a few batches and freeze so that we have it for soup bases. I am also going to make a few batches to have for postpartum. Soups and bone broths are warming and healing for the postpartum period. I recently purchased the book The First Forty Days, and although I was not wowed by the book and recipes, the philosophy of nourishing the mother with warmth, vital nutrients and  minerals is a concept I can grasp.

So, how do I make Bone Broth in my Instant Pot?

I make a whole pasture-raised chicken about once a week. We save the bones for broth. Sometimes just in the fridge, but sometimes I will freeze for a later time.

 

Bones from 1 chicken (can also use beef, fish, or lamb)

3 stalks of celery

3 carrots

3 bay leaves

an onion

a couple of tablespoons of peppercorns

2 Tbs. Apple Cider Vinegar

2 tsp. grey sea salt (I buy French Grey)

  1. Put all ingredients in the Instant Pot.
  2. Fill Instant Pot 2/3 full with filtered water.
  3. If you have time, allow to sit for 30 min. before cooking (I rarely do this), but it will allow the ACV to break down the marrow in the bones a bit before cooking.
  4. Set the soup/broth setting, low pressure 120 min.
  5. Allow the pot to do its thing, allow to natural pressure release.
  6. Strain the veggies/herbs and bones from the broth.
  7. Store in glass containers in fridge or freezer.

When we clean and cut veggies for other recipes, I will often save the ends of carrots, celery and onions in a freezer bag and just use all of the scraps in my broth making.

 

 

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Instant Pot Beef Stew

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1.5-2 lb grass-fed, grass finished beef stew meat

olive oil

2 onions, sliced

2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

4 carrots, roughly chopped (I don’t eat carrots, my older son does)

8 oz sliced mushrooms

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. brussels sprouts

2 Tbs. Cassava flour

1/4 c. red wine

2 c. beef stock (grass-fed)

3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs. fish sauce

1 Tbs. coconut aminos

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. thyme

salt/pepper

  1. Season beef with salt and pepper. Turn Instant Pot on saute function, heat olive oil and brown meat in batches, and set aside in a bowl.
  2. Deglaze pot with wine, scraping bits and cooking to allow some of liquid to cook off. Add more oil if needed, then add onion, carrots and celery, allowing to brown and cook for a few minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts cooking for an additional 5-6 minutes, until softening.
  3. Toss meat with cassava flour and meat juices.  Mix beef stock, balsamic, fish sauce and coconut aminos. Add meat and broth to pot, bay leaves and thyme and stir to mix.
  4. Close lid and start stew function. This will cook about 35 min. Allow to release pressure for 10 min.
  5. At this point, if the stew is not thick enough for your liking you can turn on the saute function and cook 10-15 min more. It was perfect for us without.
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Food for Thought

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Any time I take on a new project or passion, I will research it, feel secure with my plan, and then usually get the rocket off the ground with intense focus. So much so, that my husband often feels left behind a bit in my trail of smoke. Since my last post, I have made our meal plans, researched further into healing autoimmune responses, went on the search for appropriate pantry products, and now have experienced the change within my body for 6 days.

With Ezra’s anemia, I have had to spend some time in the medical world. I kind of go a little bonkers looking around and seeing what the mainstream recommendations are for our health and wellness. Even with breastfeeding there is a lot information floating around suggesting the mother’s diet does not impact the infants health. I read an article today that stated “research tells us that the quality of a mother’s diet has little influence on her milk. Nature is very forgiving – mother’s milk is designed to provide for and protect baby even in times of hardship and famine.” I do feel that has some truth, however to say our dietary choices will not impact the infant seems to be a bit stretched.

I guess that is how we can live in a society where the quality of our food is poor, the labels we read are not transparent, and chemicals are in every nook and cranny. Since moving toward the lectin-free diet this means removing quite a few foods from my diet, it requires finding high quality meat, eggs and dairy products, and eliminating some of the foods that have often been deemed “good” for us. Having a pretty clear list of what is acceptable and what is not is helpful for my mind. Prior to this diet I imagined I was doing a good job with food quality. I was buying and cooking mainly organic food. Little did I know that 100% organic, or free-range, and all of that labeling is actually NOT the highest quality. Those animals are still fed “vegetarian” feed that is full of corn and soy. So inadvertently I was still being subjected to those ingredients through the meat/eggs/dairy that I was consuming. The old saying is “you are what you eat”– and that includes the entire food chain.

I often reflect on the diet I had as a child. The Standard (or even quite a bit below standard) American Diet of the 80’s & 90’s. We had a few seasons of fresh fruits and veggies during my childhood, although the majority were canned vegetables. We ate a diet very heavy with meat and potatoes, “country cooking” and the common processed foods/fast foods of the time. In my nearly 40 years of life, I have gradually began to put the pieces together of how the toxic build up could cause some of the heath issues that I carried into adulthood. Finding an answer for infertility (without going the medical route) was where I started learning about endocrine disruptors and the chemical overload we have in our homes. I started removing chemical cleaning products, changing my household items, stopped reaching for OTC solutions for common ailments and really began making the shift. That became quite easy and just a way of life. Dietary changes have been more difficult. It has definitely been one step at a time.

Having Ezra has been my major trigger to fix this piece of the puzzle. I saw him go through so much in the first few days of his life, and now recognizing our food choices have further compromised his health has been a major ah-ha moment. Having an awareness of how my body has reacted to certain foods is making it easier to recognize when the same thing occurs with my children. Parents are truly the first teachers.