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Ins/Outs of 2024: Gut Health Edition

Everyone is starting the new year off with what habits they want to continue in 2024, and which ones can stay in 2023. I figured it's time to do mine, specifically around gut health and wellbeing.


2023 was a huge learning year for me when it comes to gut health and my well-being. In 2023, I decided to take charge of my gut health again and started working with a naturopathic doctor. I took a deeper dive into the root problem of my gut imbalance, and essentially started my gut health journey from scratch.


There was a lot of time, money (and a few tears) along this journey as I tried to overcome my chronic IBS symptoms. When looking back at all of the tests I did, habits I've picked up, and dietary changes, here is my top list of habits I am going to focus on in the new year, and ones that I'm not even going to sweat over in 2024.


Ins - Habits to Continue in 2024


These tips and tricks have been fundamental to changing my gut health. I have seriously seen such a big impact when I prioritized these things last year and it would slow down my gut healing journey if I quit them in the new year.


#1 Daily Supplements


Supplements can be a bit of a buzz word when it comes to gut health. It feels like they are constantly pushed on us girlies with stomach issues as "the only thing you need!" and then we wind up with 20+ bottles of random supplements in our cabinets.


But they are fundamental when you are on your gut healing journey. The one that has been a game changer, and I will continue to consistently take in 2024 are charcoal capsules. With SIBO, I often experience a lot of uncomfortable gas/bloating. The activated charcoal absorbs excess gas in the body, helping to significantly reduce bloating caused by food. It's one that my naturopath recommends, and I have passed it on to friends and family who love it, too!


For the most part, I would recommend blocking out the noise from social media on supplements "you just had to have!". Everyone's gut healing journey is different, so what works for me, may or may not work for you. But the purpose of sharing my journey is providing full transparency, and that includes the exact protocol my naturopath set up for me. I do this not to influence you, but to educate and empower you on your own healing journey.


So, 2024 will be the year of finding which supplements will add value to your health!


#2 Prioritize (Quality!) Sleep


Last year I realized that if I am doing all of the important work around diet and lifestyle changes for my gut health journey, sleep had to be at the top of my list. Sleep is the time for our gut to repair, inflammation to be lowered, and our hormones to be rebalanced. Without it, basically all of the work dedicated to healing my gut would go out the window.


I knew that in order to go through some serious healing, like getting rid of my SIBO, I had to give my body time to rest and repair.


So, I made it a priority to set an early bedtime on a consistent basis. Now the key here is consistency. There is various research that points to the benefit of regular bedtimes and sleep patterns, showing that an irregular sleep pattern can negatively affect the bacteria makeup of your gut microbiome.


I was not going to let poor sleep reverse all of the steps I was taking to ensure I have a healthy gut microbiome!


Taking control over my sleep habits, even over the weekends, was a fundamental part of my healing journey last year. By prioritizing my sleep schedule, I felt my energy levels, concentration, and brain fog improve during the day. And it all started with prioritizing my sleep schedule. Really, just putting yourself and your bedtime routine first.


If you struggle with going to bed early on a consistent basis, just think of it as an appointment you have to keep. You wouldn't cancel an appointment last minute, right? So why cancel your bedtime appointment (mine is at 9PM, no shame!).


A solid bedtime routine truly goes a long way, and I have found that winding down helps shift my body to a rest and digest state, allowing for a deeper slumber. Leave unhealthy nighttime routines in 2023 and instead make some tea, grab a book, and start winding down for the night early. I promise you won't regret it!


#3 Avoiding my Trigger Foods


Last year I was introduced to the elimination diet where I quickly learned I am intolerant to gluten, dairy, soy and corn. Since discovering this last summer, I have steered clear of these foods in my diet... for the most part.


I find that I can be tempted in the New York City food scene and when traveling, especially since I am such an avid foodie. It felt super restricting removing fundamental food groups out of my diet. I mean, have you seen how all of the good food has dairy and gluten in it?!


While for months I kept to avoiding my trigger foods, there were a few occasions where I would just go all in. And yea, it hurt me. A lot. I really had to learn how to keep my gut health in check and make that the priority instead of the short-term reward of eating my favorite pasta dish.


It was a harsh reality to part with these foods, but once I realized the type of damage they were doing to my body, it was easier to be disciplined. Not only would I experience the physical symptoms of gas, bloating, constipation, etc., but mentally I found that consuming these foods was affecting my energy levels, focus (hello brain fog) and anxiety.


I truly feel my best self when I avoid my trigger foods, so this will be coming with me in the new year!


#4 24-36 Hour Water Fasting


Water fasting was a new thing I discovered in 2023 after my naturopath recommended it and I read Dr. Mindy Pelz's book, Fast like a Girl. And WOW it completely changed the game for me.

Incorporating 24–36-hour water fasts into my routine has had such a beneficial role in my gut healing journey, especially overcoming SIBO. There were so many days where I would wake up and feel constantly bloated, gaseous, and nauseous. Even taking out my trigger foods, I just could not escape the severe bloating and stomach pains.


By aligning longer-timed fasts with my menstrual cycle - something Dr. Pelz goes into detail about in her book - I noticed a significant difference in my physical and mental well-being. For once, I felt like I was finally regaining control of my health.


There are many scientific benefits I won't spend time going through, but essentially at the 17-hour mark, our body shifts to autophagy. At this stage, the bad cells in our body are cleared away, making room for stronger, healthier cells. It supports our body on a cellular level, and when you're going through an intense healing protocol, like the one I did for SIBO, it helps to speed up the healing process.


It was a gamechanger for me in 2023, and it will 100% be incorporated into my routine in 2024!


#5 Castor Oil Packs


Again, I am not one to be heavily influenced by what I see on my social media when it comes to gut health. Castor oil packs were circulating #guttok for a while last year, and I was so proud that I never gave in to the trend. I just didn't believe it actually worked.


But, when my naturopath recommended castor oil packs for my morning bloat, I was super eager to try it. Clearly, I trust what she tells me!


Since I often wake up feeling bloated, constipated, and inflamed, my naturopath recommended I try castor oil packs on my stomach at night. The ricinolein acid found in castor oil penetrates deep into the skin, relieving abdominal pain, and discomfort from bloating and constipation; overall supporting the body's digestion and detoxification process.


I bought this castor oil pack and 100% castor oil to wear at night and you guys...the way that I gasped the morning after I first used this on my stomach.


Not only did I wake up not feeling bloated at all but, it significantly improved my bowel movements. The nights I started to wear this, I did not feel as constipated the next day! This was MAJOR.


I don't know what magic is in castor oil, but now I wear it 4-5 times a week and wake up feeling like a better version of myself. I don't know about you, but I am going to keep feeling like a better version of myself in 2024!


#6 Get your Sweat On!


Look, I am never compelled to do a workout where I am dripping sweat afterwards. High cardio? Not for me.


But when I realized the importance of our body's detoxification pathways, I knew that I had to find ways to sweat more. While there are already systems in our body designed for detoxification (without them, we literally could not function) we can externally support these processes, so they are not blocked.


If the detoxification pathways leading to your liver or kidney are blocked, either from gut issues, hormonal imbalances, chronic inflammation, it can lead to further symptoms and chronic diseases.


If you're not using the bathroom frequently (aka are always constipated like me) the best way to support our body's natural detoxification is through sweating.


Yes, you're thinking what I'm thinking. We're literally sweating out the toxins that are building up because you are so constipated.


Sweating helps stimulate our lymphatic system, which carries unwanted toxins and pollutants out of our bloodstream. You can sweat through heavy exercise, but last year I loved incorporating steam rooms and infrared saunas into my weekly routine. I also will take hot baths, just make sure you are properly hydrated with the right minerals, so you do not get dehydrated during these sessions!


Let's continue to sweat our asses off in 2024!


#7 Working with a Naturopathic Doctor


I would be amiss if I did not continue to work with my naturopath in 2024. Literally, all of these lessons are from her that I started to incorporate on my gut healing journey last year!


By having a doctor that actually understands what I am going through and takes the time to work with my lifestyle has been the best thing to come out of last year. It was a costly and time-intensive decision, but I decided 2023 was going to be the year I stop taking shortcuts and start taking charge of my health.


It is also a major reason why I am sharing everything that I am learning from my doctor on my page. I am giving you all the tea on what REALLY helps to heal your gut.


I understood that I would not be able to heal within eight months of working with a naturopath in 2023, so she's coming with me in 2024! It truly takes time to reverse a (seemingly chronic) condition like IBS, and truthfully, it will never feel like the right time. Putting yourself and your health first is the most important. We're not going to leave that lesson behind!


Outs - Habits to Say Bye to in 2024


In 2023 I tried more wellness and gut-health hacks than ever. Here are some key trends I tried that can stay in 2023. Of course, everyone is different! But if you are looking to jumpstart your gut health journey in 2024, I would not waste your time and money on the below.


#1 Green Powders/Juice Cleanses


Quite honestly, I was never a fan of these. I always thought they were a bit gimmicky, but that doesn't mean I didn't try them. Shoutout to the marketing team at AG1 and Bloom Greens because they are everywhere on social media.


But in reality, they have more additives than the good you are getting out of them. Plus, if you are drinking a green juice or doing a juice cleanse, you are probably a girly who has a healthy, balanced diet anyways and doesn't need them.


While I am not a fan of juice cleanses (I mean, at that point you might as well do a 24-hour water fast) I did love making my own juices that had gut-loving benefits. Since I started my new diet for my SIBO, I found that I had intense sugar cravings and die-off symptoms. Making beet juice or ginger turmeric shots helped with these cravings, and the nutritional properties found in foods like beets, ginger, and turmeric are brilliant at lowering inflammation and helping with gut motility.


It's easy to make juices at home and noooo you don't need to do three days of juice only. In fact, that's not super awesome for your blood sugar.


So, let's keep green powders and juice cleanses a thing of the past!


#2 Smoothies and Cold Foods


On a similar note, 2023 was the end of my smoothie and cold food era. This is a tough one for me to admit. Hell, I even have an Aloe Vera Green Smoothie recipe that I still love and crave.


But when I started working with an acupuncturist and learning more about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for my gut health, I learned that cold/raw foods slow my digestive system. I was having a smoothie almost every day, and my acupuncturist implored me to try cutting it out for a week and cook all of my veggies, so they were not raw.


In TCM, it's said that cold and raw foods weaken the fire in your gut, making it difficult to digest food. This leads to an energy, or qi, deficiency. Symptoms from qi deficiency include constipation, migraines, fatigue, and cold hands/feet. By focusing on warming foods, you can remove stagnation and promote healthy digestion. This leads to less bloating, inflammation, and constipation.


It doesn't always have to be the temperature of foods that has to be warm. It can also be the incorporation of warming spices, like ginger garlic, and turmeric into your meals. These spices will help "warm up" your digestive system, resulting in fewer GI problems.


Based off my acupuncturist recommendations, I cut out smoothies and raw foods for a week. After the trial period, I reached back for my smoothie, but immediately felt nauseous and bloated. Like, I could feel the impact instantaneously.


It's wild, but since cutting out raw, cold foods like big earthy salads and smoothies, my bloating and nausea have significantly improved.


I understand if you are not familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine or alternative ways of healing, it can all sound a bit wacky. We are familiar with Western medicine treating every symptom we have and ignoring the root causes of our health issues.


I invite you to try avoiding your morning smoothie for a week and see if you notice a difference!


#3 Drinking excessively (or at all!)


It can feel nearly impossible to say no to drinking when you are you in your 20's, living in city like New York. It seems like every social event is centered around happy hours, wine nights, and night outs. But when I learned that one of the root causes of my IBS symptoms was from alcohol consumption, I knew that my relationship with alcohol needed to change.


Last year, I quit drinking for a couple of months as I was testing for my trigger foods through the elimination diet. During this time, I started experimenting with mocktails and elixirs to compensate for the lack of a drink in my hand. I noticed that my energy levels, brain fog, and gut issues were improving during this time, but I didn't realize how much they were improving.


One night, I decided to go back to my old ways. I went out for a friend's birthday in the city and took one too many tequila shots. The amount of sheer anxiety, nausea, and just unwellness I felt the next day was enough to make me not want to binge drink again.


I don't think 2024 will be the year that I completely stop drinking (what can I say, I still love my red wine with a nice steak dinner!). But it's definitely going to be a year where I say no more to casual drinks during the week, excessive nights of drinking, and hangovers. I learned that you can still have a social life AND stay sober for the night. And honestly, you feel like you have more control over your mental, physical health, and gut health.


#4 Multitasking


Another huge contributor to my gut health issues has been chronic stress from taking on too much at once. Whether it's work-related tasks or personal to-dos, multitasking will lead to a sense of overwhelm, overstimulating the nervous system. When we are overstimulated, our cortisol levels spike, making it difficult to shift to a rest and digest state. And that ultimately impacts our gut health.


I am no longer staying in an era where I think I have to do a million things at once.


Last year, I tried to prioritize intentional moments and a slow-living lifestyle. But doing that in NYC can be really difficult, as one could imagine. Even on my walks around the city, I arrive at my destination and not even know how I got there. I was either on my phone, texting and scrolling, or too caught up in my own thoughts to pay attention to the path ahead.


Leaving this habit behind in 2023 will be for the best. It's time we move into a slower-moving lifestyle, setting an intention with each task at hand, so we do not overstimulate our nervous system and drive up our stress.


#5 Doom Scrolling


On the same wave of multitasking is doom scrolling. We can all have those moments where we open TikTok for "just a couple minutes" before bed. Then, we find ourselves wide awake at 3AM still scrolling on the For You Page.


It never makes us feel great, does it? So, why keep doing it?


If you are anything like me, you do it as a form of distraction. Whether it is late at night and cannot shift off my anxious thoughts, or after an IBS flare-up, where I just want to lay in bed and rot. I reach for my phone as a form of comfort, and a way to ignore how I am feeling. But that's not going to heal my body.


Not only does it take me away from the present moment, but it offers a form of escapism that is unsustainable. By longing for a false sense of reward in the form of dopamine - a reward-based neurotransmitter that is already depleted in those struggling with gut health issues - I am ignoring the chronic symptoms at hand. Instead, I am just yearning for a quick dopamine hit that I can feel from scrolling on social media.


In reality, I could use this as a moment to seek out healthier forms of dopamine and serotonin producing activities. I did a 7-day Daily Dose challenge last year, and found immense benefits from using exercise, meditation, and social gatherings as a way to heal my gut.


Doom scrolling and quick hits of dopamine will not help your healing journey in the long run. In fact, it's probably impacting your sleep patterns, which is something we want to prioritize in 2024! Instead of being tempted by doom scrolling, try charging your phone in another room and reach for a book at night.


Let's keep doom scrolling a thing of the past, as we move towards a healthier and better version of ourselves!


#6 Delaying your Healing Journey


So long are the days where we are not putting ourselves first!! I think this is a major theme we can all agree on.


And it includes our gut health journey 🤍


Much like doom scrolling and multitasking, delaying your gut health journey is a form of distraction. It's always "I don't know where to begin...I don't know which supplements to take, or what tests to take...". I know, I gave the same excuses for years.


And it doesn't help that we doom scroll and compare our health to others online. I would argue that too is a form of distraction. Comparison is preventing you from starting your healing journey.


Someone is always going to be healthier, fitter, and one step ahead of you. And it will remain that way if you never take the first step to start healing.


It doesn't have to be the right step; it just has to be a step forward.


I'll be honest, I started last year feeling so confused about my gut health journey. I was in between practitioners and did not know if it was financially worth it to start over with a new holistic doctor. I thought I would be going backwards.


But I took a step forward and decided to work with a new doctor. I pretty much started my gut health journey from scratch, and it was terrifying. It's been a slow process and there are days where I still battle if it was the right decision. I remind myself that there is no such thing as a quick way to heal.


By remaining indecisive about where to begin your gut healing journey, you are deciding not to heal. You are choosing to remain sick by not putting you and your health first.


I understand it's not as simple as this, but 2024 is not the year to be delaying our gut health journey. By ignoring our current health issues, like chronic gut issues, hormonal imbalances, acne, and more, we are depriving ourselves of a healthier life.

 

I am beyond excited to continue sharing my gut health journey with you all in 2024! It will be another year of growth and trials, and I hope we can all be one step closer to becoming a healthier version of ourselves!


Let me know your ins/outs of 2024 below!


 

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links from Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

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Welcome! If you made it here, you are probably looking for answers on where to begin your wellness journey. I'm Jessica, and I started my gut health journey over 3 years ago. As an avid foodie and wellness enthusiast, I hope to inspire you on your realistic wellness journey.

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