Spring Gut Reset
Spring Cleaning for Your Tummy
by Gretchen heimsoth
Spring has no doubt sprung! Blossoms have budded and transitioned to leaves, it is getting warmer by the week, and seasonal farmers’ markets are reopening. As the seasons turn, there is a benefit in focusing on the various shifts going on around us, how our bodies respond to those changes, and their own needs accordingly shift.
After a season of the cooler, denser energies of winter, spring has a noticeable lightness and expansiveness. Digestive needs change as our bodies respond to the temperature changes around us. spring and summer are rich times of the year, abundant in seasonal foods that nurture our gut bacteria. Looking at this time as an opportunity to focus on getting a variety of foods in your diet to build your gut and, in hand, your immune system function for the next winter is a wise venture. I like to think of gut health in three simple steps. Feed the bugs (bugs=slang for your guts bacteria), eat the bugs, protect the bugs. For this piece, I am going to focus on feeding the bugs after winter with a seasonal spring bounty.
Your microbiome feeds off and reacts to everything you take in, seen and unseen. Sometimes we can be exposed to an additive or contaminant we are not aware of, and it can throw our systems for a loop. We are largely empowered, though, to be able to nurture our guts with a little knowledge and foresight.
When discussing feeding the gut in healthy ways, it’s important to do what you can to eliminate processed foods and beverages. There is a real reason why living off processed foods results in us not feeling tip-top. All the food additives, texturizers, preservatives, chemical sweeteners as well as sugars all do a number on our guts. They either kill off our good bacteria, feed the bacteria we do not want, or both.
When the bad bacteria are allowed to proliferate, they start producing metabolites that cause a cascade of negative effects in our bodies. Metabolic problems, anxiety, fatigue. They also send signals to your body, including the brain. So, if you are in a pattern of eating sugar or something you know you should not frequently indulge in, you may not have a sweet tooth as much as the bacteria proliferating in your gut does. Yes, they have this much influence, it is not just a metaphor.
A healthy diet for your tummy is one that is full of seasonal variety, rich in color (color translates to flavonoids, which are a group of plant metabolites thought to provide health benefits through cell signaling pathways and antioxidant effect) and fibers. Think Mediterranean diet and aim to eat the rainbow.
The recommendations now are 7 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. That can seem overwhelming. A serving is a small portion. About half a cup. A little over 3 cups of vegetables is what to aim for. While they seem processed and are to an extent, greens powders thrown into a smoothie can help boost a serving or two in the flavonoid department and can take stress off the mind. In our busy and stressful lives these days, I support these kinds of healthier hacks to meet your goals. Organic greens and no preservatives is the best to look for. Fibers are the food of the microbiome. Gut dysbiosis is also why we get gassy from certain foods. You may not have enough of a certain bacterium to break down the starches. If that’s the case and you know your trigger foods, start small and build up from there.
Spring produce offers up some glorious selections. Asparagus is a great prebiotic and a glutathione powerhouse (it’s why your urine smells funny, so good for you though!) So are strawberries and artichokes. All three of these are abundant locally.
Fava beans offer variety most of us don’t take in regularly. Spring peas, beets, all the abundant greens. Fiddlehead ferns almost touch on wild eating and foraging adventures. Spring onions, leeks, onions, and garlic. Our flavorful allium vegetable friends. These foods are foundational to gut health and cardiovascular health. I personally can’t live without them. Spring is one of my favorite seasons, and the produce selection here locally just gets better and better until September/October.