We've all been told time and time again that vegetables are crucial parts of our nutrition. They provide us with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and are supposed to make us feel great...
So why are you instead feeling way worse? Why does a salad leave you more bloated and uncomfortable than before? Why do all those gut friendly or gut supportive foods make you feel so unbelievable sick?
It's not as uncommon as you think and there are two main reasons that this gut health irony is happening.
Let's dive in and fear not, because we'll also explore practical ways to overcome these issues, allowing you to get all the benefits of a vegetable-rich diet without the uncomfortable aftermath.
1. A Stressed or Weakened Gut:
Feeling the Crunch (in the wrong way)
Vegetables are really hard to digest, especially when they are raw and crunchy
They require lots of acid & enzymes to break down and if you or your gut are stressed, you're not going to be producing enough of those needed digestion aids. This means you'll leave behind tons of undigested bits that will wreak havoc on your gut - think bloating, gas, and indigestion.
Digestion is also a resting action. So if you're trying to wolf down your salad in-between a busy day, it's probably not going to go over well.
The main culprits for a stressed or weakened gut?
Chronic Stress & Busyness
Physical Stressors like Infections or Injuries.
To give your gut a helping hand, it's essential to focus on strengthening it.
How to reduce stress & strengthen our gut
Start by making it things easier for your gut. It's hard to build strength and heal when you're pushing too hard.
In this case, it's about ditching the raw vegetables for cooked ones...
Cooked vegetables are way easier to digest than raw vegetables. This means that salads do not need to be your main vegetable source. In fact, cooking makes it much easier to absorb the amazing nutrients from our fruits and veggies.
When it comes to lowering stress, that's a more complicated topic. It does start with identifying your stressors and teaching your body to come out of stress mode.
If you want to learn more about stress management for your gut, check out this free
resource: The Quick Guide to a Calmer Gut
I also cover easy habits around food that improve our ability to release stomach acid and digestive enzymes to ultimately digest our food better and bloat less in another blog. You can check those out here.
2. Problems in the Microbiome: When the system is unbalanced
Our gut microbiome, a bustling community and ecosystem of microorganisms, plays a crucial role in our digestion and overall health.
But sometimes, this community gets a little overzealous when we load up on veggies. In fact, we predominantly eat vegetables to feed our gut bacteria. However, if we have imbalances or an overgrowth of certain species, we end up feeding possible troublemakers.
When the microbiome is out of balance, you can have excessive fermenting of vegetables and producing gas as a byproduct. That's why you might feel bloated and gassy after your healthy vegetable based meal.
Some bacteria can also release histamine—a compound responsible for a range of discomforting symptoms, including pain, diarrhea, heartburn, and even rashes or hives.
These imbalances are why the Low FODMAP diet is a popular strategy for IBS and other gut problems - it eliminates vegetables and fruits that are popular and rich foods for our bacteria. But this is not a good strategy for rebalance on it's own.
Creating balance and harmony in our gut microbes
Microbiome imbalances can have various causes including stress, restrictive diets, antibiotic use, and even constipation.
To address these imbalances and reclaim digestive harmony, we need to take a twofold approach.
First - we must correct the existing imbalances and remove any overgrowth. Another word for this is a cleanse. Now before you go rushing to start a new diet or buy that cleanse you saw online, please note that this step will get you no where if you don't follow through with step two. (In fact many of my patients have done multiple cleanses prior to seeing me and were frustrated when their symptoms keep coming back)
Second - we must create an environment that fosters a balanced microbiome. Here are some of the foundation that support this harmony:
A diet rich in different and diverse fruits, vegetables, and fiber (I know this seems counter intuitive but once we correct the imbalance, we NEED our fruits and vegetables to create a stronger gut)
A regulated stress response
Consistent and restorative sleep
Daily movement and daily nature
Embracing the Journey: And giving yourself extra kindness
We all want our health to be a simple uphill journey. Healing is a bit more complex. There will be set backs or as I like to call them learning opportunities
So give yourself some extra kindness and gentleness as you go on this journey and when in doubt ask for help. There's no reason for you to be going at this alone.
Ready to get that support you deserve? Let's chat.