I want to explore gut health vs gut healing today.
Gut Health vs. Gut Healing
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To this day, I (incorrectly) use the terms gut health and gut healing because I use them interchangeably. Most people do.
They are not the same things, though. Even their definitions prove it.
Health: the state of being free from illness or injury
Healing: the process of making or becoming sound or healthy again
Health is a state of being; healing is an action we need to take.
I’ve started thinking about this in terms of (or maybe stages that break down like):
- How do we prevent gut issues from occurring in the first place?
- Once gut issues do surface, how do we heal the gut?
- And finally, once we are healed, how can we move forward from those gut issues?
What I know for certain is that I have been at each stage throughout my journey, and if there is one thing I wish I’d known when starting my journey it would have been this:
Gut health and healing are not the same things. The advice you’ll be given, information you’ll read, and resources you’ll trust all can have their place on your journey. But they will not all be (necessarily) right for you each step of the way (or maybe even at all).
Let me share more about what I mean because I think this can help you today.
Preventing Gut Issues
This is the place everyone wants to be, but chances are this is not where you’re currently at.
Preventing gut issues would be optimal health. It means that there is nothing currently wrong with your gut or any other systems throughout the body. Remember, it’s all connected, so just because you might be at a Bristol Stool Chart number 3-4, doesn’t automatically mean you’re healthy.
If you are one in a million (probably quite literally) with zero gut issues, then here are some of the best ways for preventing gut issues:
- fermented foods
- avoid highly processed foods
- consume 25+ grams of fiber per day
- maybe even many of these things listed via 15 Reasons Why Your New Year’s Resolution Left You More Bloated Than Ever (<– because this is the stage when you’re healthy, not healing)
The list could go on-and-on. I mean, to the extent of “don’t breathe in air (because it’s polluted).” In other words, almost every single thing you do in life could disrupt the gut microbiome. Life circumstances could trigger a gut infection or autoimmune disease at any time, seemingly out of nowhere.
Healing the Gut
Once your gut has been compromised in any way, shape, or form, manifesting in ways from constipation to diarrhea, brain fog to fatigue, and more, you have entered the healing vs. health stage.
I would guestimate that 90%+ of you (yes, you reading this!) fall in this category. You are not “healthy” (in terms of the gut health place you want to be at).
Thus, you are not ready to move forward yet because you still haven’t had enough days/months in a row where you’re feeling as “healthy” as desired.
Healing the gut is so different from the other two places on this journey because it’s temporary. Anyways, it should be temporary. There is nothing easy about healing the gut, but as I stated long ago (even via the first version) in The Gutsy Girl’s Bible,
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
You will never heal without a change. And this is why so many people come to me during this stage and say things like,
I’ll never get over this stress. How can I heal?
I’m a staunch Vegetarian. Can I heal like this?
(Without getting a grip on that draining stress, you’ll never heal. Maybe some of the foods on your Vegetarian diet are making you ill daily, etc.)
They say that what you resist, persists. It’s 1,000% true. If you don’t want to admit it, then that could be the very thing holding you back from truly healing.
Here are some of the best things I did to heal my gut:
- avoid highly processed foods
- more meats, fats, broths – less complex carbs
- less fiber; but strategic fiber so I was still getting in some
- more supplements, as needed; in conjunction with a doctor or other practitioner
- meal spacing and/or intermittent fasting
- broke up with intense workouts
(By the way, if you went back to 2008/2009 when I first began this journey, most of these were not on the list. Hence, it took a very long time to heal. I’m just trying to expedite this process for you.)
Here’s the thing. The things above were my gut healing powerhouses. They might not be yours.
Did I want to do them all, every single day? Of course not. Gut healing is no picnic, that’s for sure.
Also what I know for sure about this stage? You should not stay here beyond the time when you truly feel empowered to move forward. THIS stage is NOT for life; anyways, it shouldn’t be.
The gut healing stage is carefully crafted, created, and implemented. However, I promise that if you stay in a restricted stage for too long, in addition to possibly not fully healing, you might even find new problems arise.
Moving Forward from Gut Issues
Once you’ve arrived at a place where you feel healed (again, 90+% usually), you’re ready to move forward.
Note, though, that just because you’ve gone on this gut-healing journey, the journey isn’t actually over. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll be on the track right back to where you just came from.
At this stage, there are some key things you can and should consider to move forward.
These are some of the ways I believe are best in moving forward from gut issues:
- see all from preventing gut issues
- pay attention to those things which landed you at stage 2 to begin with; continue to focus there (still need therapy? a strong prokinetic? HCL with protein meals?)
- minimalist approach to supplements
- re-introducing as many different foods as possible; variety is a friend
- clean up other areas of your life, like your home cleaning supplies, tampons, and beauty products
They key in moving forward is to do so slowly but surely. When the day comes to move forward don’t eat all the vegetables, take 2 probiotics, have mounds of fermented vegetables, and stop taking medications without the help of your doctor.
Moving forward, while it should no longer feel like a part-time job and restricted, should still be semi-calculated.
For example, now that I am healed, I no longer live on meat, fats, and broth. Instead, I eat meat strategically for health, fat daily (not constantly), and broth whenever I make a batch. I didn’t go back to eating junk, processed foods 24/7; but I also don’t live with food fear. And I certainly didn’t sign up for another half marathon training cycle 🙂
Know the Difference
It’s very real; gut health vs gut healing. The confusion between the two could be keeping you unwell.
The truth is that I do not believe people have any intentions for harming your journey when they recommend probiotics, prebiotics, and 25+ grams of fiber per day for everyone, at all times, no matter what.
They are just assuming that everyone is in a place where the gut is functioning optimally.
But for you, it’s not. Not forever, just not today. Hang in there, someday real soon, my friend.
Ask me anything! Is there something in particular you’re wondering if it falls under gut health or gut healing? Leave it in the comments below.
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You will heal. I will help.