We seem to be constantly focused on how we look. We spend huge amounts of money on products and treatments that promise to make us look better. From expensive hair salons to designer clothes we seem to believe that the better we look on the outside the better we (hopefully) feel on the inside. But have we really given enough thought to how our bodies are functioning and feeling on the inside? While your hair and makeup may be perfect and your suit impeccably matched have you given much thought to how your body looks on the inside? I am all for taking pride in your appearance. However, it was not until I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and temporarily unable to take care of my body on the inside, that I truly understood the importance of proper gut health.
- Eliminate the major offenders – this may take the form of a professionally designed and administered detoxification program or by simply removing foods and activities that you know are harmful (smoking, excessive alcohol, fast-food). It doesn’t really matter what kind of protein supplement you take or whether you eat white or brown rice if you are eating multiple fast-food meals, smoking, and leading a generally unhealthy lifestyle. You are trying to drive at 65mph with the parking brake on. Figuring out the carbohydrate difference in white or brown rice is inconsequential. First remove your biggest offender to a nutritious and healthy lifestyle. Stop smoking and drinking first! Once that is accomplished you can move on to the white/brown rice dilemma.
- Create the right environment for digestion – Now that you have eliminated your biggest offender to health focus on promoting optimal digestion. You are what you absorb. In general, we absorb nutrients well. We easily digest and absorb about 97% of our food. However, if our digestive tract becomes irritated, as can occur with IBD, food allergies and/or food intolerances, our capacity for absorption is severely limited. Do not take digestion and food absorption for granted. Chew slowly. Digestion begins in your mouth so don’t rush this process. Actually enjoy eating great and healthy foods and you’ll feel and see the improvements to your body. A digestive enzyme and probiotic are also extremely beneficial to digestion. Probiotics are types of beneficial, healthy living bacteria located in the gastrointestinal tract that can enhance immune system response, increase ability to digest food, increase the ability to assimilate the nutrients from food, and increase ability to synthesize and absorb vitamins and minerals. Digestive enzymes help to contribute to overall gut health through their ability to breakdown nutrients and ultimately help the body absorb foods.
- Focus on introducing healthy foods into your daily meals – Basically stay away from processed and man-made food items sold in the center isles of your grocery store. Stick to the outer ring where the fruits and vegetables, meats (organic, grass-fed), and refrigerated items (greek yogurts, juices, etc) are found. Actually enjoy eating these great foods and you’ll feel and see the improvements to your body.
Ulcerative colitis is a complicated chronic disease. The principles of living a healthy and strong life are not. Focus on keeping things simple when it comes to your health and well-being. Create the right environment inside your body for optimum health. “Genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Whether one lives with or without IBD, we all have some degree of control over how we live, the foods we eat, and whether or not we promote health in our daily lives.
I hope that you have – and continue – to make smart decisions to ensure, promote and build health for your body.
~With Strength and Nutrition