Managing Gut Health in the Home
Managing gut health within your own home is a true positive opportunity. The home holds a platform for increased flexibility, a chance to experiment with new strategies, and of course a safe space to work on symptoms and healing. Compared to an office setting where you have to play by someone else’s rules, your home can provide an enlightening reprieve to be investigative, curious, and essentially your own best advocate. Of course if you live with family members or a partner, it can be challenging when you begin to change your routine, as others may not understand this new path and consequently new you. The best advice is to have faith in the process and to be confident in your approach. You may be surprised to see how quickly your housemates follow suit when they witness your growth and healing; leading by example and doing the work is the best way to show empowerment and leadership over your own health.
Having an arsenal of tools ready and on-hand when you begin your gut healing journey at home is critical to 1) develop confidence and 2) establish a routine with long-term sustainability. Below are some suggestions we often recommend to our clients:
- Meal Prep: Cooking and baking are great ways to reconnect with food and develop a positive relationship to it. For many of us battling years, or sometimes even decades, of gut symptoms, our relationship with food and the kitchen may understandably suffer. Subconsciously, you may have associated many foods with pain, but getting hands-on in the kitchen may help reignite some of the lost positive connections. Food and cooking brings families together, emerses people with culture and tradition, and activates both the scientific and creative parts of the brain. Once more comfortability is established with all the bells and whistles of cooking, it can become an outlet or escape for everyday stressors, and a steady source of entertainment. If you are new to the concept of meal prepping, we suggest starting small and working your way up. Perhaps start on a Sunday early evening, and plan for the next 1-3 days rather than 4-5 which can be a large undertaking as a beginner. Eventually, you can aim to budget in some meal prep time two to three times per week if it’s something you learn to enjoy. The goal of meal prepping is to take away stress, not create more. Find a pattern, time, and place that fits your unique schedule. For some more meal prep inspiration, take a look at the meal prep guides here: Meal Prep Part 1 and Meal Prep Part 2
- Create Ambiance: If meal prepping is something you dread, or mindful meditation exercises are considered a chore, before closing the door on these gut healing strategies we strongly recommend changing the narrative and editing the physical space. Yes, you read that right! For both meal prep and meditation, light some candles with your favorite scent. Small things ignite big change (pun intended). Set a mood that draws you in and makes you excited. While cooking, this may mean blasting the top music charts, turning on your favorite television show, re-watching that movie in the background that you have seen one hundred times, but it still gives you a sense of comfort. For meditation, start the practice by the window, examine how the sun settles on your face and how it makes you feel. If you have a pet, have them keep you company. Even if at first it’s distracting, it can also become a daily ritual for the two of you (or more, depending on the number of pets)! The beauty of implementing strategies from home allows a space for flexibility and to develop originality, take advantage of this as you continue to work toward a healing a gut.
- Morning Bowel Routine: If we all had the luxury to work from home during the day, this step wouldn’t be quite as challenging. However, for people who need to be out the door at a certain time, they may particularly benefit from a daily morning routine at home that ultimately encourages a bowel movement. That rushed “fight or flight” response to our alarms, where we likely hit snooze two to three times before actually venturing into the world, (guilty) sets our body in a position to actively avoid that bowel movement we so desperately want for healing. Below are two scenarios: one that creates an environment supporting constipation, and another that can help ease your body into a bowel movement. If the upgraded scenario seems like a foreign language to you, don’t get discouraged. This is an opportunity for growth and improvement!
Original Scenario 1: You hear your faithful alarm and snooze two to three times. The next step is to scramble out of bed and storm to the spin bike for a HIIT – spin combined class. After 45 minutes of a heart-pumping workout that leaves you drenched in sweat with your eyes still partially closed, you rush to take a seven minute shower since that is all you have time for. By this point, you have only had a few sips of water, but you can’t stop because you were supposed to be out the door ten minutes ago. You rush to get dressed in appropriate work clothes; for those that work from home it involves a nice shirt and sweatpants, while the in-person crew puts together their full-body ensemble. At this point, there is no time for a bowel movement as you pour coffee in a to-go cup and you’re off for meeting number one of the day. Of course this scenario is hypothetical, I know there may be a lot of moms reading this who have kids, or older siblings who are responsible for getting the family ready for school. Whatever is causing the “rushed” feeling may be stemming from different obstacles, however, the idea is the same: this chaotic rush does not allow for your body to appropriately relax for a bowel movement.
An Upgraded Scenario 2: You hear your faithful alarm and snooze two to three times, but this time you put on your softest yoga clothes. You walk to the kitchen where a glass of warm water awaits you with a pinch of salt. After you drink some water, you do a low-impact pilates yoga mix for 25 minutes where at the end you meditate for two minutes. You don’t have to rush into the shower this time because there was no sweat, dry-shampoo and deodorant does the trick! Between the warm water, low impact workout, and 2-minute mindfulness, your body is more primed for a bowel movement. As you sense relaxation, you use the bathroom for no longer than a few minutes, get dressed, and head about your day. To reiterate above, this is of course hypothetical. Many women may be reading this who have other morning responsibilities besides taking care of themselves, however, the message is clear no matter what: somehow creating a safe space for your body to knowingly relax in the mornings is a critical step to encouraging a satisfying trip to the bathroom. If you have a family or kids, this is undoubtedly trickier, but sneaking in even just one of these strategies, like a pause as you drink your warm water, or just the two minute meditation, may be enough to signal a safe environment for your gut.
Ultimately, the at-home approach is not one-size-fits-all. In fact, this is the time and place for creativity and originality. Try different methodologies, be fearless in the walls of your own home, and carry that energy with you throughout the day! In summary, meal prep helps you have balanced meals readily on hand, the ambiance you create can help make new habits easier to adhere to, and a morning routine (even if just 2 minutes of peace and water) that can set the right tone for the day to support a regular and satisfying bowel movement.
This article was written by gutTogether Health Coach Samantha Kane