It’s never good news to find out someone you care about has a chronic disease and needs medication.
A while ago a good friend of mine was diagnosed with an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), which usually encompasses Crohn’s Disease, which my husband has, and Ulcerative Colitis. Because of our experience with IBD and our diet helping to keep my husband’s symptoms nearly 100% at bay, my consolation when I hear of others’ bad news is that at least I have something helpful to share with them.
In my friend’s case, I knew she already had a ton on her plate, wasn’t feeling well, and wouldn’t be able to completely overhaul her diet to try something like GAPS. She needed some baby steps…so clearly she came to the right person.
I’ve long been meaning to get my response to her up as a post so I could share the same answer with others looking for some relief from the pain of IBD (and I’d say it should apply equally to IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, since the issues are all in the gut but in varying degrees and causes). When the Heal Your Gut Summit (link no longer available) that runs this week piqued my interest, it reminded me that I still had it sitting on my computer. Time to share with the world!
I gave her 3 baby steps to take in order:
IBD Baby Step No. 1: Get a Really Good Probiotic
I used to use Miessence brand powdered probiotics and also the liquid when we’re shorter on time. Both made such an impact on my candida symptoms, and the ingredients are very high quality. I played the probiotic fairy and sent some to her.
Nowadays I find it’s more important to rotate probiotics while also incorporating probiotic food and drink in your diet.
Some Quality Probiotics
Some of these I’ve used, some I’m planning to use, and some have been recommended by friends and professionals alike. It’s good to remember a few things about probiotics: 1. People should get different colonies of probiotics, so switching brands/strains every so often (6 weeks?) is good practice. 2. What works great for one person’s needs doesn’t always work for another. These can be very different! A one-day trial to Probiotic Advisor might help you get up on current research quickly if you’re really digging in; otherwise, here are some to narrow down the thousands of brands out there.
I’ve personally tried:
- Just Thrive Probiotics – this one can be taken during antibiotics and not be rendered ineffective, which almost all other probiotics are! It’s the top recommended probiotic overall by Paleo Mom Sarah Ballantyne. 😮
- RightBioticsRX – the top recommended probiotic of all soil-based options by an expert I’ve been working with. Read more here. Use Subscribe and Save to save more!
- Note: If you’re struggling with digestion, especially constipation, or you feel like you really need to populate your gut with healthy probiotics, I would recommend Saccharomyces Boulardii in addition to any other you choose (except the 2 above which include this strain). Saccharomyces Boulardii is research-proven to get through the digestive tract without being killed, which is rare.
- Seed Daily Synbiotic – the new player in the field but recommended by superstars like Chris Kresser for its unique probiotic/prebiotic synergy. Here’s my full review including a number of surprises for my thinking and a 15% off code!
- Balance One probiotics with a unique time-release formula (use the code KITCHENS15 at either Balance One’s site or even Amazon to save 15% either place! Wow! Use the code at checkout on Amazon btw.)
For Little Ones (we use all of these):
- Mary Ruth’s liquid probiotic is a soil-based, liquid probiotic that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and tastes like…nothing! It’s my new favorite for administering to kids!
- WellBelly by WellFuture (9 strains of probiotics in apple and banana carrier – it’s a powder)
- Buddies in my Belly probiotic powder (2 strains of probiotics + potato starch carrier and prebiotics) or chewable tablets
Recommended by experts I trust:
- Biokult – highly recommended by many, including the GAPS diet
- Klaire Labs Pro-biotic complex V-caps or Ther-Biotic Complete (25 billion CFU)
- Probiophage DF (7 dairy-free strains)
- Transformation Enzymes (5 billion CFUs that may get through digestive tract…)
- Primal Blueprint (6 strains, 10 billion CFUs)
- Pharmax high potency (4 strains + FOS) or long-term HLC maintenance (2 strains)
- Pro-Bio from Enzymedica (8 strains)
- Syntol from Arthur Andrew Medical (13.6 billion CFUs with prebiotic, spore germinating blend, yeast cleanse)
- Dr. Mercola’s probiotics
IBD Baby Step No. 2: Make Chicken Stock
Chicken stock is incredibly healing to the gut and something everyone should make homemade, because it’s nearly impossible to purchase proper bone broth commercially. (Wise Choice Market sells it online, but it’s pricey.)
Here’s how to make it, including alllllll my best tips from 7 years of a traditional foods diet, and some other tips from Tiffany in a great guest post.
Homemade stock of all kinds (you can also do it with beef bones and fish bones) is the foundation for the GAPS Diet, which is a very popular gut-healing protocol. I’d recommend it, or one of the other gut-healing options listed here (or that have come into being since that post), for anyone with serious gut imbalances.
IBD Baby Step No. 3: Cut Out Grains
I’d say get the first two going, and then slowly work on this one.
Cut down on grains first. Raise your awareness of when you rely on grains to find out where you’ll need to work harder to avoid them. For example, if you eat a grain-based cereal or oatmeal every morning for breakfast, you need more than one breakfast idea without grains.
Then make a goal to cut them out 100% for a few days. Keep it short, 3 days to a week, just so you can set yourself up for success. You can do anything for 3 days.
Track how you feel, watch your BMs, watch kids’ behavior, sleep cycles, etc. See if you notice anything. If you go back to grains, especially if you can cut them out for at least a week, then really watch to note changes in how you feel after the first meal or two with grains. You may learn a lot!
In general, many experts agree that grains are quite simply difficult to digest, and if there are any gut issues, omitting grains gives the gut a better chance to heal. In our family, we try to have at least one month a year where we don’t eat any grains, a sort of “system reset.” We probably should do more! But we definitely eat fewer grains than your average population, I’m sure.
Here are some of my best tips to simplify a grain-free experiment, including Grain-free menu ideas to keep it simple, FAQs on the grain-free lifestyle, and all my best grain-free recipes and resources in one place.
If 3 steps doesn’t seem quite enough, I ran a post last fall that would be overwhelming unless you have a little head start: 100 Steps to Take Today to Heal Your Gut.
More Than Just Baby Steps
When you’ve found a probiotic you like, feel comfortable with making homemade stock and have figured out how to omit grains and if it does any immediate good, then you start doing some more research.
For a long time, the GAPS Diet was almost the only gut-healing diet out there. I compared it and a few others in this post, but since then you can find many more out there, often refined to hit certain symptoms/maladies. The SCD Diet is usually well-liked for IBD, and the guys over at SCD Lifestyle do a lot of good in getting the word out. So start with research (skim the topics at the Heal Your Gut Summit (link no longer available) to see if anything matches what you’re dealing with exactly – the more specific the target, the better!).
But in general, it’s worth looking into the GAPS diet if you’re hoping to heal your gut.
Here are some resources:
I tried to write a few “introductory” posts to help people answer the basic gut healing questions:
- Health Home Happy: What Can You Eat on the GAPS Diet (surf around this site if you have child gut needs; her kids have been through it)
- a good series, starts with Demystifying the GAPS Diet
- an incredible kid story
- Neat GAPS healing stories
- Why does it help kids with developmental issues?
If you think you’d like to try GAPS, prepare with:
- GAPS Starter Package (aff. link), including 30 days on GAPS intro, 8 weeks of grain-free meal plans, and a freezer cooking guide
- How to prepare for the GAPS Diet
- Getting Started on GAPS
- These are the official GAPS sites, but they’re confusingly laid out – they really just send you to read the Gut and Psychology Syndrome book, which isn’t a bad thing to put on your Amazon wish list…
And if GAPS just doesn’t feel right for you for whatever reason, you should definitely read about the low FODMAP Diet. I did an amazing interview with a FODMAP coach last year called “Cutting Grains Didn’t Fix my IBS Symptoms!” – or go right to her coaching program to see what it’s about.