Monday, March 11, 2013

Improve Your Gut Health & Improve Your Overall Health

How to improve your gut health

March 11, 2013
This was written by Kris Carr, a health crusader and best selling author of health issues and how to heal your body. This article was taken from her March Newsletter and included permission to copy and share. You can find her at

We’ve all heard the saying, “listen to your gut.” And while that advice often refers to our intuition, it should also speak to our digestion. Your gut guides your overall well-being. Quite literally, your gut is the epicenter of your mental and physical health. Yet it’s all too common to experience lots of digestive issues that make a huge impact on our strength and vitality. If you want better immunity, efficient digestion, improved clarity and balance, focus on rebuilding your gut health.

I know it may seem like there’s always something we could be doing better. And frankly, our quest for getting well can be downright exhausting! Sometimes our health issues can feel so big and daunting. This is especially true when it comes to serious chronic diseases. I remember getting frustrated many times. I thought to myself, for gosh sake, I’m doing everything I can to heal this disease and though I’m grateful it’s still stable, why won’t the sucker just go away? I give up! Then I decided to take it down a notch and focus on healing areas of my life and my body that I actually could control. My digestion had always been really weak. I got colds every year and had a list of health problems stemming from my gut. That’s when the light bulb went off. I decided to forget about cancer and focus my energy on my digestive health instead. Finally, improvements I could see, feel and measure!

By supporting this mighty system, you’ll see chronic health issues (like fatigue, fogginess, colds, aches and pains) diminish, and you’ll feel abundant energy return. I know it sounds too good to be true, but it really isn’t. I’ve experienced these results, and I’ve seen hundreds of readers do the same. Now it’s your turn.

Today, we’re going to cover the basics of digestive health. You’ll learn what your gut does and why it’s so important to keep it healthy. Then, we’ll discuss how to care for your wonderful gut so that it continues to take care of glorious you. Let’s dive in!

What happens inside your gut?

Your gut holds trillions of bacteria that help process your food, produce nutrients, and fight disease. In fact, there are ten times more bacteria in your gut than cells in your entire body! These little guys are super important and they need your help. Since what you eat, drink and think affects the environment in your gut, your daily choices play a critical role in whether those trillion plus bacteria help or hinder your well-being.

It’s all about balance when it comes to gut health. When your gut is in tip-top shape, about 80-85 percent of bacteria are good guys and 15-20 percent are bad guys. You feel great, your body is strong and nimble, you rarely get sick, your energy is consistent, you poop like a champ, and life is good. The healthy bacteria are free to do their job with ease. They assist with digestion, produce disease-fighting antibodies, crowd out bad bacteria and produce certain hormones, vitamins and nutrients.

But when the harmful bacteria stage a revolt, all hell breaks loose. They totally gum up the works and cause painful problems like inflammation and infection, which can then lead to health issues such as constipation, Candida, allergies, arthritis, headaches, depression, autoimmune diseases and more.

Medications (especially antibiotics and antacids), environmental toxins and chemicals, stress and illness greatly affect the ratio of good to bad bacteria. When bacteria are wiped out indiscriminately, the good guys get mowed down, giving the bad guys a chance to increase their ranks. Hello, chronic health issues.

The food you eat also affects the ratio of good to bad bacteria. Everything you consume is processed and either absorbed into your body or eliminated via your gut. Your gut completes the amazing task of digesting your food and pulling the nutrients, vitamins and minerals out of the food so that they can be absorbed into your bloodstream.

And your gut’s mind-blowing capabilities don’t stop there. Your gut also identifies invaders — toxins, microbes, viruses and allergens that could harm your health — and moves them through your digestive system so that they can be excreted. Buh-bye!

The key to this system working in your favor is two-fold:

1) Lend your gut a hand by feeding your body whole, plant-based, nutrient-dense foods.

2) Consistently practice a healthy lifestyle (less stress, exercise, less exposure to environmental toxins, proper rest) that supports the good gut bacteria and keeps the harmful bacteria under control.

Your mental health affects your gut health (and vice versa).

Did you know you have two brains? Yup, you’re THAT smart. The central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) controls almost all voluntary and involuntary activities within your body. For example, a voluntary action would be slicing your veggies, while an involuntary action would be blinking, breathing or falling in love with Matthew Crawley’s character in Downton Abbey (kidding, not!). The involuntary actions carried out by your central nervous system are constantly at work taking care of you. Nice, right? Thank you, central nervous system; you’re a peach!

Now guess where your second brain lives. Your gut! Yup, it has a mind of its very own. Your gut’s “brain” is known as the enteric nervous system. This system is home to 100 million neurons within your intestinal wall. These cute little neurons transmit important information throughout your body. They also control digestion and send status updates to the brain, letting it know how things are going in your belly.

Your two nervous systems have an intricate relationship that’s just now being explored by scientists through the field of neurogastroenterology (that’s a mouthful!). While the enteric nervous system initiates and sustains digestion on its own, signals from the brain, such as stress and anxiety, can have dramatic effects on how well it works. In addition, the brain receives chemical messages from the gut, which can affect your mood and emotions. In fact, the vast majority of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, anxiety, depression and more) is actually made in your gut, not your brain! It’s all connected and sadly, few doctors ask you about your digestive health when you tell them you’re feeling too blue to cope.

Your gut is a major component of your immune system.

Did you know that about 60-70 percent of your immune system lives in your gut? Meet your GALT; also know as gut-associated lymphoid tissue. Your GALT lies just below the mucosal lining of the gut wall. It’s very thin (only one cell thick!), and most importantly — it’s integral to your immune system. The GALT contains specialized immune structures called Peyer’s patches that are filled with immune cells, such as B cells and T cells, which are responsible for recognizing and neutralizing harmful bacteria. When pathogenic bacteria visit your gut via food or your environment, the Peyer’s patches trigger your immune response to prevent them from passing through the gut wall.

Another way your gut protects you from infection and disease is through an abundance of healthy bacteria. To keep harmful bacteria from overthrowing your gut, healthy bacteria need to thrive and cover your gut wall — the only thing standing between everything inside your gut and your bloodstream. It helps to imagine that your gut wall is a parking lot. There are a limited number of “parking spots” along your gut wall. You want good bacteria parked in those spaces, so bad bacteria are crowded out. Keep those spaces filled by adopting the following gut health tips.

Now that you know how important your gut health is to your overall well-being, how can you take care of your spectacular gut?

1. Take a probiotic supplement. A daily probiotic supplement will help boost the good bacteria in your gut, keeping the bad guys under control, boosting your immune system and easing digestive issues. This is especially helpful when you’re taking a medication, such as an antibiotic that has wiped out a large amount of gut bacteria. Some recommended brands: Dr. Ohirra’s, Primal Defense, Healthforce Nutritionals (Friendly Force), and MegaFood’s Megaflora.

2. Eat probiotic whole foods. You can also eat whole foods that are fermented and contain large amounts of good bacteria. Sauerkraut, Kim chi, miso, microalgae and coconut kefir are fantastic plant-based probiotic-rich foods.

3. Eat prebiotic whole foods. Certain foods feed and support the growth of good bacteria. By eating more whole, plant-based, fiber-filled foods, you’re fueling the bacteria that support your health. Raw onions, garlic, dandelion greens, artichokes and bananas are some of the best prebiotic foods to add to your diet.

4. Eat regularly, but not constantly (and don’t eat late at night). To give your gut a chance to clean up and clear out bacteria and waste, it needs a rest from digestion. Every 90 minutes to two hours, the smooth muscle in your intestines move and groove to keep bacteria and waste truckin’ through your digestive tract. But this process is put on hold every time you eat. Can you see why snacking constantly slows down digestion and contributes to bacterial overgrowth? I’m not saying that you need to fast for long periods — eating regularly helps prevent constipation and bloating — but it’s best to take breaks between meals.

5. Stay hydrated. A good rule of thumb for staying hydrated is drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, you should drink about 65 ounces of water. That’s about eight 8-ounce glasses of water. Your gut needs water to keep bacteria and waste moving through your digestive system, which will help prevent constipation and bloating. When you’re dehydrated, these issues can throw off the balance of bacteria in your gut and lead to inflammation. Give your gut a hand and drink more H2O!

6. Lessen refined sugar and processed foods. When you consume processed, sugar-laden, refined foods, you’re giving bad bacteria an all-you-can-eat buffet, which increases the likelihood of all the aforementioned bull crap that weighs you down and dims your shine.

7. Lessen stress. Remember when we talked about the connection between your brain and your gut? When you experience chronic stress, your brain goes into fight or flight mode, causing your digestion and blood flow in the gut to slow down, the muscles that push along waste and bacteria to freeze up and the secretions for digestion to decrease. All of these stress responses equal a poorly functioning gut! Take care of your gut health by coping with stress through breath work, yoga, meditation, therapy, time in the outdoors and the countless other stress reduction techniques available to you.

I hope this information inspires you to love your gut back to health. Your turn to share: How will you help your gut today? And if you’ve been down this road, what has helped you recover? I’d love to know! I’m still on the path, as are many of my readers.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013



Okay, it’s fair to say that cancer sucks. It robs you of your energy, your hair, your freedom to travel at will, your ability to be around small children if you’re receiving chemotherapy, your dignity, your hopes and dreams and now – your financial comfort. Even those with insurance find themselves running out of coverage if their treatment progresses. People have had to sell their homes and other valuables just to make ends meet.

My insurance is currently covering all treatment so far, but due to my pain level, I was forced to go on disability. I haven’t driven in about 10 months and I am on pain meds which makes driving unsafe. My husband and I have always made the same income, so for me to lose mine for disability is devastating to us. Barely making ends meet at the end of every month, we’ve relied on friends providing gift certificates to food stores so that I can stay on a reasonably healthy diet while on chemotherapy, care packages with goodies inside and cheerful cards to keep my spirits up. My son and daughter are also jumping in there to help. My daughter lives in Maui and has flown out here twice over the past few months to help out with chores around the house like cleaning and yard care. The men in the house do okay, but they don’t clean in detail like a woman. These are things that I have been unable to do due to pain. Every time just before she leaves, she fills our refrigerator with wholesome organic foods from local health food stores. Back in August, she also organized a benefit in Maui with the local restaurants she works for along with some local artists and shop owner. Together, with her hard work and marketing, they raised close to $6K. This helped to catch up on bills.

My son and his girlfriend jumped in during the holidays and did all of the cooking for both Thanksgiving and Christmas so I can get the rest I need and recover from chemotherapy side effects. At Christmas, my son did all of my shopping for me since I had to stay away from public places. Chemotherapy destroys your immune system and the common cold could end up putting me in the hospital. I am so proud of my children. They are my legacy and I know that I am leaving behind two strong compassionate people with integrity to carry on.

Recently, my son and his girlfriend have moved into our apartment downstairs. This is a win win situation as they get an apartment at a discounted price with no credit checks and deposit and we get a little extra income each month to help with bills.

I have learned through this ordeal, that I have many friends out there. They do what they can within the limits of their own finances and I’m sure, at times, their assistance has put a financial burden on them also. They send food gift cards, care packages of goodies, gift cards for organic foods, healing mushrooms and other healing herbs, and cases of Ensure for my weight gain project, cheerful cards on a routine bases, emails, text messages and voicemail messages to show they care. They are true friends and I am forever grateful for having known them. They are angels in disguise.

My concern over our finances and my husband’s stress level led me to create a business that I can literally run from bed. It’s still in the beginning stages, but moving forward daily. It’s a cancer related, web based business and a service that is very close to my heart. I don’t want to say too much at this point, but hopefully it will take off and provide my family with extra income now and after I’m gone if they choose to continue to run it.  I will keep everyone posted on my business venture. For now, let me tell you that it’s called:  “The Cancer Kickin Bag Lady”.

My Stage IV Lifestyle:

I want you to know that this is unusual for me. I don’t like to dwell on my future or the things that I may be missing, but sometimes you just have to get them off your chest. Anyway, there’s always hope and I can always be the exception to the rule of how long you live being treated for metastic breast cancer. Even though the continuous treatment doesn’t fill me with joy and enthusiasm, the fact that I’m still alive does.

At the moment I am currently on my 6th round of chemotherapy. I am on Taxol and Herceptin for HER2+ breast cancer. When it first started, I would have 3 bad days and 4 good days after my treatment. At this point, I have 6 bad days and 1 good day which just happens to be my treatment day. Then the cycle starts all over again. I have lost my hair and almost 20 lbs which I cannot seem to be able to gain back due to nausea and vomiting. I wake up at around 7:00 am and take my first pain pill. Then go back to sleep for 4 hours until the pain wakes me up at 11:00 am when my next pill is due. I spend 95% of my time in bed on the computer due to lack of energy. Showering is difficult at best. Basically, everything most people take for granted are not easily incorporated into my daily routine. The pain in my spine stops me from getting around the house and doing normal things like cooking family dinners or even light housework.

My husband does the shopping and most of the cooking is shared between my husband and my son. My husband and/or my son take me to my doctor appointments as I haven’t been able to drive in quite a while. I just don’t feel safe behind the wheel anymore during my chemo treatments.

Going shopping or just window shopping or going out to eat is limited due to my white blood cell count being so low. Chemotherapy tends to lower your immunity and leaves you open to infection which can very easily turn life threatening. For example, on my daughter’s first visit she brought my grandson Zeke with her. Zeke is 4 years old and as cute as a button. He was at the very end of a mild cold that he had had for about a month before their visit. No one in the house caught his cold except for me. I woke up on the 3rd day of their visit with a 105 fever. I went to the hospital where they diagnosed me with pneumonia. My Oncologist’s orders from then on were to not go near any child under 12 years old.  There is also a new fear that my Oncologist put in my mind – salad. Can you believe it? I love salad. I can only eat it if I wash and prepare it myself. So, there will be no restaurant salads or ones prepared by others for me. It’s the raw food issue and bacteria.

So anyway, when I am able to walk around the house a little, I go from the bed to the couch, back to the bed. The computer is my lifeline to the outside world and sometimes I lack the energy for even that.

Chemotherapy has many side effects such as always being cold. Even going into the refrigerator for something to eat or drink is a challenge. There’s tingling in my hands and feet to the point where I can’t walk sometimes. It’s like walking on feet that have gone to sleep. The constant nausea is a real challenge and then there’s the fact that all food tastes different to me. Unfortunately, the taste of food doesn’t change for the better. There’s also shortness of breath, mouth and throat sores. Sometimes the shortness of breath is so bad that I can’t talk. Chemo brain has set in. It mimics mild dementia with short term memory loss. I do memory exercises to ward this off as long as I can and I’m also told that it’s temporary. At least now I have an excuse for forgetting things. That’s a cancer card I use a lot lately, but unfortunately, it’s true.

All of the above, to different degrees, will be my life for the long haul. Stage IV metastic breast cancer is not curable. It is treatable with different chemotherapies, but the treatment is constant and non-stop. Each chemotherapy drug will have different side effects and challenges to the body; some better than others, until there is no more treatment available. Each treatment has a positive effect for a limited amount of time. No one therapy works for years and years. When one stops, they start another one until there isn’t anything left to try. At that point there are always clinical trials, and oh yes, hope, a healthy lifestyle and the sheer will to live. Current statistics are that the average life expectancy after diagnosis of metastic cancer is 3 to 10 years. This is not predictable and there’s no way to tell how long you have, or at least I don’t think there is at the time of this writing. Each person’s cancer metastases’ differently and at different rates. It may be as simple as your insurance company’s willingness to continue paying for treatment. Who knows?

Well there it is – my venting. Like I said, I don’t like to do this. It’s not healing. But to tell you the truth – sometimes it’s just necessary. Here’s counting on at least 10 more years and being the longest living Stage IV Cancer Kicker that this disease ever came up against.  All I can say for now is….CANCER CAN KISS MY ASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks for indulging me. I love you all.