Diet For Intestinal Flora Health
If you came here seeking a flora-restart plan for you, this blog will be a great read. Also look at this protocol for curing candida, H pylori, and other flora issues.
My babyhood flora situation
I have come to the conclusion that my health problems developed before my birth. Not just because of my mother's amalgam fillings, which gave me a dose of mercury while developing, but because my mother has been repeatedly on antibiotics for much of her lifetime. In fact, she was on antibiotics for ten years straight during her early years. This was what doctors used to do if you got scarlet fever, to make sure you never got it again. Because if you got it again, you died.
What does it mean for the baby if the mother has taken antibiotics a lot in her lifetime?
Babies are born with the flora of their mother. My mother had imbalanced intestinal flora. To make things worse, I developed rheumatic fever as a newborn and took antibiotics for that. It's a vicious cycle. You have a poor immune system, so you get sick more easily. Then they give you antibiotics to kill off the bad bacterias which weakens your immune system and so you get sick more easily.
I was sick a lot as a kid. By sixteen my gut was destroyed. I was constantly burping, getting sick, experiencing very painful acid reflux, bloating, constipation, locking jaw, yeast infections, and so on. When conventional medicine failed to help, I started researching. At the age of seventeen I put into action some of what I'd learned from the web, and I discovered what it felt like to have energy for the first time in my life. As a result, I became fascinated with food, nutrition and biology.
Over the years, I've become an expert in intestinal health. I've struggled with it so much that I've had to learn more and more about it. By the age of twenty I was taking on clients and helping them with their intestinal issues.
I've taken antibiotics over and over in my life time, somewhere between ten and fourteen times as a child. If you've taken antibiotics more than three times in your life without a restoration plan, the chances are that your flora is a total disaster. This reduces your ability to absorb nutrition and successfully fend off disease.
If two or more of the following symptoms apply to you, then your flora could use some radical improvement.
- Stomach pains, bloating, gas and/or acid reflux
- Skin problems (skin infections, eczema, psoriasis, acne, itchy skin)
- Foggy brain, difficulty concentrating
- Constant tiredness, exhaustion and/or adrenal fatigue
- Mood swings, irritability , anger outbursts, or anxiety attacks
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Intense cravings for sugars, sweets, and breads
I used to have all of the above symptoms and more. I experienced a major shift from removing many toxins from my diet in 2008, but it wasn't until I tried an exclusively raw vegan diet in 2010 that this all shifted. I was living in California at the time and I found that for the first time in my life – as a direct result of switching to raw food – I enjoyed sunshine! Always before it had given me headaches and made my skin immediately feel as if it were burning.
In 2011 I was frustrated that some of these symptoms came back. Of the raw foodists I knew, it seemed like they weren't having this problem after a year of raw veganism, so why was I have a return of problems?
I was on a mission to experience perfect health, so I wasn't content with my improved list of symptoms which I described like this in 2011:
- Twice a week I get a strong craving for something starchy/bready or sweet, or fatty.
- Twice a month I get "in a mood" where I'm apathetic/depressed for a few hours.
- Three times a month I get stomach pains, generally following a large meal containing both fruits and fats
- Mild skin breakouts
I came to the conclusion that I needed to balance the bacteria in my gut. Of course, I didn't realize at the time that nobody really knows how to do that. Science doesn't have a magic recipe for good gut flora. We only have piles of anecdotal evidence about what has worked for some cultures and some individuals.
In April 2011 I moved from Walnut Creek, California to Buffalo, New York. I experienced the worst shift in my health that month than I had since going raw vegan. The stress was so intense that I actually binged on deep-fried shrimp and fries – foods I hadn't eaten in years!
So how to get back on track? I devised a system, that I will detail in a moment, but first, another question.
Why doesn't a raw vegan diet provide good bacteria?
Unless you're eating fermented food at least twice a day, you're not getting a significant influx of good bacteria in a modern life. Most people no longer eat dirt on their own home-grown vegetables or consume home-made sauerkraut regularly.
Some raw vegans make their own sauerkraut in huge batches, but most tend to stumble into raw food through comfort foods – raw vegan pies and cheesecakes, raw vegan crepes and wraps, raw vegan pizzas and crackers. These recipes are fun, delicious and wholesome, but they're not probiotic. In fact, most of these recipes are dehydrating enough to be counterproductive when you're trying to clean up your intestinal environment.
In 2011, in a single week I would consume a bottle of kombucha, two servings of sauerkraut, two servings of fermented nut cheese, and a serving of home-made coconut kefir. I learned that this would never be enough to overcome an unbalanced intestinal tract. Even adding probiotic supplements isn't enough because you have to deal with the existing, unwanted, entrenched flora.
Rebalancing Your Intestinal Flora
Here I present to you a combination plan to tackle the bad bacteria full force, and then send in a flood of healthy bacteria.
The diet illustrated below has been indicated as a method for curing cancer, candidiasis, diabetes and many other conditions quite rapidly. I learned about these techniques from Misty Mountain Retreat in Australia, Dr. Gerson, Dr. Ritamarie, Dr. Gundry and many other pioneers.
This diet has two phases: Starve; Replenish
The starve and kill phase is about starving and killing bad bacteria. The replenish phase is for filling the body with good bacteria.
Phase 1: Starve unwanted parasites, bacteria, fungi, etc
A raw vegan diet already does a good job of limiting flora problems. The big imbalances come from pasta, flour, bread, white sugar, brown sugar, molasses, corn syrup, trans fats, aspartame, canola oil, msg, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and hydrogenated oils. None of those are included in a raw diet.
Even whole food diets can contain too much empty carbohydrate and not enough antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and healthy fats.
Raw vegetables offer nothing for bad bacteria to feed on, and the vast amount of fiber helps clear bad bacteria out. Enjoy as many raw vegetables as you like.
Raw fruits offer little for bad bacteria to feed on. The natural sugars in raw fruits provides enough for an imbalance to remain, but not enough to cause a tremendous sporing of bad bacteria.
People who include agave in their raw diet may still experience severe imbalance if they consume it often enough. Remember that agave is High Fructose Agave Syrup.
For a long time the idea of starving out candida has gone around as the "way to go" if you want to successfully get rid of it. Unfortunately, many people are learning the hard way that merely cutting out everything sweet can cause candida to become more systemic. If there is nothing in the intestines to eat, candida goes elsewhere. It is common to have flora issues in the lymphatic system body-wide. To avoid this, you can water-fast until it is really, really gone. An easier route is to combine the bacteria-starving diet with a strong course of herbal antibiotics. Supplements like "para-rid" and "parasite free" with an array of bacteria-killing substances highly enhance this phase. You can also use laxitives during the first few days of the starve phase such as Smooth Move tea by Traditional Medicinals, or aloe juice. I recommend aloe juices sold in glass without the use of strong preservatives, or adding the clear gel from the inside of home-grown aloe to your smoothies.
Excellent fruits for phase one: avocados, olives, peeled cucumbers with seeds removed, raspberries, blackberries, grapefruits, dried schisandra berries.
Acceptable in moderation fruits for phase one: kiwis, mangoes, blueberries, pomegranates.
Not okay fruits (due to fructose): bananas, pineapples, pears, peaches, plums, oranges, nectarines, most dried fruits, and apples.
More not okay fruits (due to lectins*): tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, goji berries.
*Learn more about a lectin-free diet in my article: My first three weeks on The Plant Paradox Program.
When you do phase one ("Starve"), be sure you absolutely do not turn to typical oils and fatty foods as your source of calories in place of fruits and vegetables. I made this serious mistake in 2013. I ate nuts, oils and seeds with abandon. I also ate lots of sauerkraut and vegetables. And I developed very painful lymphatic blockages in my breasts and glands around my throat from too much rancid fat combined with lectins. There are some oils, nuts and seeds you can consume, which I will list for you now, but emphasize vegetables and fruits more.
Excellent seeds, nuts and oils for phase one (consume up to 1 cup of these items combined daily and up to ½ cup of any if these individually): freshly ground flaxseed, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, hemp oil, chia oil.
Acceptable in moderation (¼ cup or less per day of all of these items combined) for phase one: tahini (sesame seed), hemp seeds, hazelnuts, macadamia nut, olive oil.
Acceptable in extreme moderation (1 tablespoon or less per day of these items combined): Brazil nuts, pinenuts, walnut, pecans, roasted almonds, chia seeds.
Not okay oils, seeds and nuts (due to high omega-6): sunflower oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, grapeseed oil, canola oil.
More not okay oils, seeds and nuts (due to lectins): cashews, peanuts, corn, wheat, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.
The "starve" phase as described above continues for the full time period of the diet, which is six weeks.
To kill off the unwanted flora, emphasize garlic, onion and powdered cayenne. A garlic tea can be made from several cloves of garlic, pressed and steeped in a teapot. I also recommend grapefruit seed extract, especially if you're not taking a parasite-killing herbal blend.
Note: Garlic, onion and hot peppers should be avoided for people with stomach ulcers. I also learned this the hard way. With stomach ulcers, you first need to tackle healing those. One of the best things you can do for those is drink lots of fresh celery juice and/or cabbage juice, especially first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Celery and cabbage are both healing a multitude of ways. Cabbage is a high source of l-glutamine which is the amino acid most helpful in healing ulcers of the stomach and of the mouth (cankersores). Spirulina and asparagus are also high sources of l-glutamine and its required co-factors for healing your stomach lining.
Phase 2: Replenish with desirable flora
What to eat during your flora-balancing regimen:
- Nori wraps
- Salad topped with herbs, berries, avocado oil, ground flaxseed, hempseed and olives
- Guacamole with plenty of cilantro in the mix served with flax crackers (gluten-free, sweetener-free, lectin-free crackers)
- Fresh, home-made vegetable juices
- Snacks of pickled artichoke hearts, pickled asparagus, pickled garlic scapes, kim chi and olives
- Peeled cucumbers with seeds removed, topped with mustard
- Home-made kale chips and/or chard chips made with an herb-rich and/or garlic-rich coating (use avocado oil, and do not buy store-bought brands with sweeteners, cashews or peppers in them)
- Celery and baby carrots
- Soup made from wakame flakes, chickpea miso, spices, herbs, garlic and (optionally, if you're an omnivore) bone broth from grass-fed animals
- Kelp noodles
Phase 2 additions:
- Inner Eco (coconut kerfir)
- Coconut yogurt (such as Cocoyo)
- Kim Chi (fermented spicy vegetables)
- Lacto-fermented vegetables
- Probiotic Supplements
- Kombucha (not Kevita brand or other overly sweet and cheap brands/flavors – I recommend AquaVitea and Brew Dr. as two brands that offer kombuchas with powerful benefits and not too much overt sweetness)
- Water kefir
- Fermented hazelnut cheese
- Organic tempeh (only include this if soy has previously been an ongoing part of your diet)
- Kefir and yogurt from goats, sheep, camels, etc. (Do not consume dairy products from cows unless they are certified A2 cows. Only include diary if you previously have included dairy in your diet without known reactions. Do not add any non-fermented dairy into your diet.)
Phase 1 and Phase 2 together make up a six-week period of time. Transitioning from the first phase to the second one can be gradual or abrupt, but either way, the focus changes from eating intense foods to clean out your unwanted flora (such as garlic), to eating replenishing foods such as kefir. If you choose to take anti-parasite supplements, continue these for three weeks and make sure you go onto high doses of probiotics the same day you stop taking the anti-parasite herbs.
General Eating Recommendations Overview during a Flora Cleanse
- Nori wraps emphasizing vegetables
- Cranberry juice, pure and unsweetened
- Guacamole emphasizing onions and garlic (up until you're in the replenish phase)
- Lots of fresh home-made vegetable juices, especially celery, cabbage, and kale
- Large daily salads using cold-pressed refrigerated oils (flax oil or hemp oil usually)
- Some fruits daily in moderation: kiwi, pomegranate, grapefruit, oranges
- Coconut water from young coconuts
- Inner Eco daily
- Additional probiotics, sauerkraut, kim chi, kombucha, water kefir, etc, at your discretion
- Limit cooked foods to highly beneficial vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, and asparagus.
- Limit animal products to wild-caught fish, fish oil, and the occasional egg from a pasture-raised bird.
- Only consume dairy if you've previously consumed dairy with no known reactions, only yogurts and kefirs (no cheese, no milk), only diary from grass-fed animals that are not cows, or at the least, not A1 cows.
- AVOID all lectins including cashews, peanuts, beans and gluten.
- Avoid rancid fats including most store-bought oils, coconut meat, and coconut milk.
- Avoid all sweeteners including agave nectar, white sugar, brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup and honey.
- Avoid dried fruits (with the exception of non-sweet dried fruits such as seabuckthorn berries).
- Avoid stimulants and drugs such as alcohol, coffee, and smoking.
- Avoid processed foods, most cooked foods, most animal products.
- Avoid excessive stress.
When Lytenian and I tried this the first time I struggled quite a lot. In 2011 I wrote, "I'm used to eating three to six bananas a day, often with berries, plums, apples, etc." However, in the years to follow, I've dramatically improved my success and the success of my clients by incorporating what I've learned from great pioneers such as Dr. Gundry; it is important to leave out the lectins (no cashews!) and it is also highly important to take in a lot of antioxidants. You can use supplements like camu camu powder, spiriulina powder, and chlorella powder to dramatically up your antioxidant diversity and range while also balancing your intake of amino acids, minerals and vitamins.
After six weeks you can transition to a diet containing sweet fruits that remains mostly raw vegan. Or you can transition to a diet that is based primarily on cooked vegetables and wild-caught fish but low in fruits. I recommend taking one direction or the other. I've found that diets high in sweet fruits are best if the overall diet is raw with limited animal products (or no animal products). I've found that diets that include a lot of sweet fruits with meat in the same day are less effective for digestive health as well as building muscle.
You can still consume important supplements such as fish oil on a diet that is otherwise raw and vegan. You can still consume high-antioxidant fruits such as berries on a diet that is centered around fish and vegetables. I do not recommend consuming low-value animal products such as pasteurized milk, bacon, or eggs from chickens raised on corn (even if it is organic corn). If you want animal products in your diet, go for the ones that have high nutritional value such as raw goat milk from grass-raised goats, or whole, healthy animals where you consume the bones, skins, heart, liver, etc, and not just the meat. Safest of all is wild-caught fish which provides long-chain fatty acids without the same cancer-causing issues of land animals.
Vegans, I highly recommend that you consume sea vegetables every day: spirulina, dulse, chlorella, etc. These will fill in gaps in amino acid consumption, vitamin intake, and mineral intake. Also be sure to continue to consume plenty of fermented food every after the diet ends to be sure you at least get some vitamin K2, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 from fermented food, even if it is usually just a trace amount. If you can, get natto and consume it regularly. Beware of beans that have not been pressure-cooked.
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