Intuitive Gut

Contributor: Lacy Phillips
Photographer: Lacy Phillips
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All bodies are uniquely different from one another. This is often forgotten in today’s modern world. We crave the “quick-fix,” the all-healing pill, the “20-minute calorie-torching” workout and especially the “get-healthy-fast” diet. We’re fed trends that succumb to these wishes in the form of new rules of eating that filter in and out of popularity by the month. Especially during the month of pop culture's January New-Year-new-you. 

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As someone with a lifelong journey to reach optimal health, I’ve tried them all: paleo, vegan, Whole30, Intermediate Fasting, juicing, raw foods diet…every form of restrictive diet followed every documentary and book recommendation to a T. But, I never felt just right. My body was trying to tell me something, yet I was tuning it out. I was ignoring my body’s signals and disconnecting from my intuition.

Advocates for such restrictive diets like paleo, vegan and raw are adamant that their way of eating is the answer to all that ails them. And that’s because it probably is…for them. Everyone’s gut biome is equipped with unique combinations of bacteria, some better at digesting certain foods than others (think dairy, fibers, sugars…etc); bodies can differ in their make-up of digestive enzymes, their response to glucose, their ability to absorb vitamins….the list of variables is lengthy and thus the one-fits-all approach to dieting is a failing one.

Navigating your health can be complicated, confusing and frustrating. I still have yet to solve the puzzle of my own health, but I’ve learned a lot along the way. And the first major lesson I’ve learned is that the answer lies inside yourself – yes, literally…but it takes tuning into your intuition and your body’s own messaging to fully become aware: taking close note of how you feel after consuming different foods, looking for signals from your skin (eczema, rashes, acne), monitoring your energy levels…it can help to find a health practitioner you trust to guide you through your body’s messaging system.

Lacy, our lovely Creative Consultant Amanda, and I have all experienced unique quests for health. And, surprise, have all found very different methods and answers that work for our completely unique bodies. I’ve asked them to share their summaries and have contributed my own:

LACY

I've been on a wild ride with my gut for years now. First understanding the importance of gut microbiome through The Body Ecology Diet and the GAPS Diet along with The Good Gut. I started to see the correlation between my hormone imbalance and yeast symptoms due to leaky gut, so last year, I finally took the true plunge to heal it; therefore, for seven months, I followed The Paleo Approach. Because I'm no stranger to weird wellness cooking, it wasn't too hard for me to jump into. And boy did it help immensely. Mostly by cutting out anything inflammatory. My digestion profoundly healed. It helped stabilize my blood sugar levels and moods. And it diminished my PMS. 

Due to the new research that adding new probiotic strains to the body constantly may not be the way to go, I've stopped taking probiotics and I only subscribe to probiotic-rich foods now such as fermented drinks (Braggs ACV drinks), ferments, and raw fermented dairy. My motto usually sounds like this towards everything in wellness: "If we weren't doing it 500 years ago, it's a fad."

AMANDA

I've always dealt with a sensitive or upset stomach. Looking back on my old diet habits, the "healthy" foods I was eating may have been clearly lacking nutritional substance. And, during that time I had always struggled with emotional issues such as mood swings, depression, and PMS symptoms. That was two years ago, now I am keenly aware of that the state of our gut is directly related to our emotional state and intuitive abilities. In the book, Intuitive Being, she describes the stomach as the second brain because it includes a cluster of nerve endings that are pinged to our intuition. 

This past year, I started seeing an Ayurvedic practitioner to heal hormonal imbalances that were caused by an IUD. After two years, my body couldn't take it anymore and I developed ovarian cysts, fatigue, migraines and weight gain. After understanding my personal dosha composition (Kapha-Pitta), we started eliminating foods that were wrong for my body and started incorporating easy to digest foods and herbs. I started with a special blend for the reproductive issues and then Triphala Powder at night. I noticed my stomach change almost instantly. It went from being uncomfortable and bloated to comfortable and balanced. I had no idea this is what I was missing out on my whole life. And, what came from slowing down and eating home-cooked meals was a huge increase of self-love and care which directly translated to a more balanced and stable emotional state. Because at the end of the day, I am taking care of myself, really good care of myself. The more I practiced this awareness of what I was putting in my stomach, the more aware I was of everything else in life - hence heightened intuition. 

LILA

I have always suffered from a sensitive stomach, severe anemia, chronic fatigue, a poor immune system and a totally unpredictable digestive system. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I discovered I have celiac disease. This diagnosis solved some of my major health frustrations and led me on another journey to heal the damage the disease had done to my gut and find answers for my chronic fatigue.

After experimenting with nearly every diet imaginable, I decided to quiet my fear of needles and have an extensive panel of genetic testing done in desperation for some answers. My doctor administered the test, however, some companies are emerging that perform a similar test in-home, such as Habit. I was fascinated by the results. I discovered I have an insulin sensitivity which makes me prone to unstable blood sugar levels, severe spikes and then drops in energy, therefore highly affected by any form of sugar. I also learned my body survives best on a diet high in polyunsaturated fats and lean protein. I have a difficulty in maintaining my B6 & B12 vitamin levels. Long, endurance-focused workouts are most compatible with how my body stores and burns energy…There were pages and pages of data, most I have yet to digest, but taking a peek inside my genetic makeup has offered me clues to how I can better my health. I’ve found that eating a high-fat (good fats like coconut, nuts, fish, avocado, ghee) diet, heavy in fermented foods to heal my gut, very low in sugar and eating consistently every few hours has begun to stabilize my energy levels, reduce inflammation and has led me to start feeling real results.

Although we all had varied journeys (The Paleo Approach, Ayurvedic medicine, genetic testing), you may find some similarities between our results: prioritizing the health of the gut addressed many of the signals our bodies were giving us that something wasn’t right, and once we set out to find what works best for our individual systems, we were guided to answers and real results.

TIPS FOR TUNING INTO YOUR BODY'S SIGNALS

i. Keep a detailed food journal of what you're eating and how you feel afterward. Finding patterns in which foods are causing you discomfort can help guide you to what best suits your system.

ii. Are you craving any particular foods? Sugar cravings are a sign your blood sugar has dipped and your body needs sustainable energy (think healthy fats and lean protein). Craving chocolate could mean you're low in magnesium. Try to get to the root of your craving to understand your body's needs.

iii. Skin rashes and inflammation can be signal something in your diet isn't suiting you, that you are lacking minerals, or that your liver is congested.

iv. If something doesn't feel right, it isn't right. Some "superfoods" aren't super for everyone. Trust your body and your intuition.

v. Understand what it means to have a healthy gut. Gut health is essential to overall health and learning how to maintain a healthy gut can help ward off many mental and physical ailments.