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It’s going on Month Five of my stomach woes. They started when my husband and I got food poisoning. It was June 6. I know this because my little one’s pre-k graduation was on the 7th. I spent the entire night of the 6th in the bathroom — and most of the morning of the 7th, too. While he got sort of better, I did not. This past summer is a blur of stomach pain, gas, bloating, and white food. (I had to stop eating everything except bananas, chicken, turkey, rice, applesauce, and dry toast.) I lost about eight pounds. My husband told me I looked like I was desperately in need of a sandwich, his way of saying I looked too skinny. I couldn’t work out because I had no energy and was trying to conserve calories. My muscles atrophied. It sucked.

Along the way the doctors I saw (and there were several) did blood work and took stool sample cultures. One performed an endoscopy. Then they did more blood work. In the end the nice gastroenterologist who did my endoscopy without anesthesia told me that I just had to wait until my digestive system healed. The toxins from the food poisoning killed off good bacteria and some of the cells in my system responsible for making digestive enzymes. Yes, there was medication to manage some of my symptoms, but he knew I was a natural as possible kinda gal so he told me to just wait it out. Eat a bland diet. Avoid certain things like raw veggies, dairy, caffeine, and acidic foods, and take probiotics, he said. Probiotics would help replenish the good bacteria in my intestines that help keep the bad bacteria in check and contribute to immune system health. Eventually, he said, I’d be able to eat dairy and salads and veggies again.

He was right for the most part. I’ve been taking probiotics since June and I’ve slowly been able to add vegetables and fruit back into my diet. It’s crazy how excited I was eat tomato and dairy-free chocolate again. Dairy is still out, though, and I haven’t even tried a salad. The last time I did my night ended rather uncomfortably — in the bathroom.

Anyway, since my diet is still somewhat limited there are some things that are part of my daily menu:

  • Bananas
  • Gluten- and dairy-free pancakes with organic maple syrup
  • Coleslaw
  • Hummus
  • Edamame
  • Sunflower butter
  • Mustard
  • Avocado
  • Grilled onions
  • Dark chocolate that doesn’t contain milk

Tonight, as I was reading about probiotics — the good bacteria that lives in our intestines keeping them healthy and helping us digest food — I discovered something sort of cool. All of my daily go-to foods are prebiotics.

What are prebiotics? Nourishment for probiotics. Prebiotics are what encourages the growth of all that good probiotic bacteria in your gut. This seriously blew my mind, especially since I created this list instinctively. I didn’t look it up online or ask my doctor. I just ate what my body told me to eat.

The fact that something like maple syrup, which has always been reserved as a once-a-week treat, is now a daily habit blows me away. I certainly didn’t know that the folks who produce the probiotics Lactobacillus bacteria actually use maple syrup to grow the stuff when I made it my daily breakfast condiment. I just craved it. The same goes for avocado, which I’ve always loved but never eaten on a regular basis. And coleslaw, which I put on all my sandwiches now. The same for all of the above, really, except for dark chocolate. I’ve been eating that daily since I was in my 20s.

So why does this matter? To me, it goes back to the adage of letting your body tell you what you need. You really do know what’s best for yourself. Could it be a complete coincidence that I started eating prebiotics right after being sick with something that killed the good bacteria in my intestinal tract? I guess. But I just think it’s too weird and too random that most of my current diet has both prebiotic and probiotic aspects to it. What do you think?

One Response to “Feeding the Bacteria in My Gut”

  1. Peter Eicher says:

    Hi Karen,

    You might want to look into “resistant starch” as a way of further rebuilding your digestive flora. It’s something I just started trying myself a few days ago – a bit too soon to show real results but so far, so good. Things do seem to be, ummm, shifting around (not the easiest subject to talk about, is it!).

    The research around it seems compelling. Here’s a link to a number of blog posts you can start with:

    http://freetheanimal.com/tag/resistant-starch

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