If you buy into the idea that food is a foundation for good health, then how about thinking of food as medicine?
Laura’s gut journey
My problematic gut
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who woke up one day, thinking their deepest desire was to talk about digestion. I certainly didn’t.
My name’s Laura Hanke and my journey into gut health began with the challenges I experienced as a child – some of which continued into adulthood.
For a long time, gut problems were the ‘story of my life’ – from being hospitalised with bad constipation as a child, to struggling with IBS, eczema, acne and infected skin as an adult. Not only did these ups and downs affect how I felt physically, they also really affected my confidence and my happiness.
I’ve grown up in the entertainment industry; as a singer, I’ve spent a lot of time in front of cameras, and I was always told that looks were important. I constantly thought about my appearance – “will I look bloated in this outfit?”, “will they be able to tell that my skin is bumpy?”, “when and where can I go to the bathroom?”, “is water available in case I’m constipated?”. Ironically, worrying about the problem, made the problem worse.
Travelling all roads to find comfort
After a LOT of trial and error, including trips to the GP, diets, prescriptions, no prescriptions, moisturisers, no moisturisers, standing on my head upside down praying to the Universe (a joke, but I felt like I had tried EVERYTHING),
I am pleased to say that I feel good in my gut, my skin and my health. Yes, I get the odd flare-up now and then, but it certainly doesn’t affect my confidence, my happiness, or my wellbeing.
When I got diagnosed with IBS, I just felt a bit ‘blah’. Great, I thought, now I can put a label on my gut problem – but how do I fix it?
I think general medicine is very useful, and many people find it helpful in dealing with digestion issues; however, my GP didn’t give me the tools I needed to solve my gut issues, nor the information to help me get to the root of the problem.
I hear this a lot with my clients as well – that they get their diagnosis but are unsure on how to deal with it on a daily basis.
I tried a gluten free diet, low FODMAP, dairy-free, low fat, low carb, paleo, juice cleanses – you name it.
There is no diet that’s ‘best’ for everyone – we’re all different
Finally, a happy gut
In the end, what helped me the most was switching to a plant-based diet (to reiterate: plant- based, not a processed vegan diet). However, there is no diet that’s ‘best’ for everyone – we’re all different and have different needs when it comes to our food. Besides, you can have the ‘best’ diet and still experience gut problems.
If your trigger is something else – like stress, anxiety, pollution, medication, toxins, etc. – the problem won’t go away if you only change your diet.
What I’ve learned
One very important thing that I have learned through my journey (and lots of research), is that our bodies and mind are connected – especially when it comes to the gut.
Have you ever experienced getting ‘butterflies in your stomach’, or blushed because you got embarrassed or shy? These are physical manifestations of emotions. I find it fascinating how our bodies and minds are so interlinked.
I believe the gut is connected to many more diseases than we think. The issue might not manifest in the gut, and the symptoms might not seem gut-related: auto-immune diseases, allergies, anxiety, depression, cancer, asthma, obesity, heart diseases – these can all be improved, if not cured, by looking at the gut.
When I researched more on the gut, it dawned on me how little, as a population, we know about how our daily choices affect our long-term health.
When I started looking at my own habits, I realised that I was constantly in ‘reactive’ mode – I watched Netflix before bed, looked at my phone first thing in the morning, and ate my lunch on the go, often rushing off to somewhere.
In other words, I spent my days in a more-or-less constant state of ‘fight or flight’ – as you can imagine, this isn’t a healthy response for your body to be in long-term.
Here’s something I talk a lot about now when I coach others: it’s not about surviving your day; it is about living your day. Don’t get me wrong, it is not easy to change your habits, but it’s about thinking about the bigger picture of your health.
I spent my days in a more- or-less constant state of ‘fight or flight’
Habits to treat a grumpy gut
It’s important we find a solution that we continue with for the rest of our life – rather than just fix the problem quickly only for it to reappear. Habits that serve our life and make us feel good, and they allow us to get on with our day and let our gut do its job without having to worry about it.
Things to ask yourself if you have a grumpy gut:
- Do you start your day by looking at your phone?
- Do you eat your lunch whilst sitting at your desk?
- When was the last time you took a deep breath and actually felt your body?
- When was the last time you took a break from your screen?
- When you’re doing your weekly shop, do you pick the vegetables that come pre-packaged in plastic, or the ones with dirt on?
- Do you use antibacterial cleaning products and soaps?
And things I wish I had known whilst going through my challenges:
- Having support on your gut journey is massively important
- You can’t just outsource the solution to your gut problem – finding what works for you specifically is key
- One-off sessions with experts are of limited use
- It can take a minimum of three months to find a solution based on your diagnosis, symptoms and wishes.
If I could give one tip to those who are reading this blog and want to improve their gut health – don’t look for a quick fix.
I’m sorry if that wasn’t the answer you were looking for, but the reality is that no fad diet or trick helped me or any of my clients.
Three tips for your gut journey
- Don’t compare yourself to ‘the average person’ or someone else with similar issues – you are a unique human, both in the literal and metaphorical sense
- Be curious about what works for YOU, and your life
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions – there are so many resources and information out there
These days, we don’t suffer from a lack of information on gut health; that isn’t an issue – I believe the real challenge is knowing which information to take on onboard; when to implement what, why, and in what capacity.
And remember, you don’t need a diagnosis to want to better your gut health. We can all improve our gut. Unfortunately, it’s often only once we experience issues with something that we actually consider making a change. I hope that will change.
From my gut journey to yours
My journey has been a long one – but yours doesn’t have to be. I’ve researched, experimented and have taken qualifications on the subject. I’m now a gut coach – which is not something I would have thought was possible when I was starting my gut journey!
I am not a medical professional, and I never claim to cure anyone, but I am proud to say that every single person I’ve worked with has significantly improved their overall health – and some cured their gut problems by working with me for only a few months.
If you have any questions about your gut, or if you want to hear more about my coaching, please don’t hesitate to reach out.