Paleo Pad Thai Casserole and Gut Health
Hey, friends! How’s everyone doing? It’s back to being stinkin’ cold here in Iowa … but this weekend’s forecast?! Lot’s of happy Irish folk. Can’t. Even. Wait.
- Latest podcast episode, I’m talking about The Mindfulness Diet, listen here.
- I made PaleOMG‘s Paleo Pad Thai casserole and it was so stinkin’ scrumptious! Scroll down for recipe.
Today I’m talking about our gut health and how crazy important it is to our overall health and well-being.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is the gut? Some will say it’s the stomach, others may say the small intestine. And I’ve found the definition to be a little confusing and rather ambiguous. The “gut” by true definition is the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or digestive tract.. The GI tract encompasses many organs, starting from the mouth to the anus. So when people say, “gut health is important,” or “is your gut healthy?” It gets WAY confusing (and a little overwhelming).
To keep it as simple as possible, let’s reference the gut as our stomach, small and large intestine – the main stage of our digestive churn, burn and turn. Because digestion is key to a healthy gut, we need to understand exactly whats happening in our digestive system, or what’s supposed to happen…
- When we eat food, we release salivary amylase (saliva) that moistens our food so it moves more easily through the esophagus into the stomach. Saliva or salivary amylase carries an enzyme that begins to break down the starches from food. So right there, our digestion is already starting to happen
- Once the food reaches the stomach it starts to mix the food with digestive juices and slowly releases this new mixture that mixes with our partially digested foods and is then steadily passed into the small intestine.
- Once it gets to the small intestine, it continues the mixing and the pushing. The walls of small intestine start to absorb the food’s nutrients and begins to pass them out into the bloodstream for further use.
- Finally, any nutrients that are not absorbed continue on to the large intestine where they’re eventually passed over to the rectum for elimination (your poops!)
Sound super simple? Understand that digestion is a really complex process and although I somehow chalked it down to four steps, it’s way more robust.
So, where do the issues lie? And why is digestion so important to our overall health and well-being?
Just looking at the steps, you can see that during digestion (if working properly), the nutrients in our food are absorbed and passed on. It’s easy to see then that the right types of nutrient-dense foods are crazy important here. Kind of a no-brainer, right?
But what’s going on when your digestion is not working properly? First off, know that if you’re digestive system is insufficient, your body may not consume or get the good nutrients from the healthy foods you’re eating. Think of it like putting gas in your car and there’s a hole in your gas tank. You’re still spending time, money and energy pumping gas – but a lot of it’s going to waste. This is similar to those who are eating really healthy but may have a faulty digestive tract!
There are lots of symptoms one can exhibit if their digestion is off. It can range from skin issues and mood swings to the inability to lose weight and bloating and gas. The range of issues that begin in the gut is huge.
So, what can you do to heal it?
Grains, dairy, sugar, unhealthy oils, excessive carb consumption and alcohol all proliferate a pained gut.
Let’s break a few of these down:
Sugar (something we all too often consume) affects the gut directly and indirectly. First off, sugar can feed the bad bacteria (candida/yeast). The other, more indirect way is that the consumption of sugar triggers your adrenals to respond, heightening your levels of cortisol. The more sugar you eat, the more cortisol that will be released. An overproduction of cortisol inhibits the production of hydrochloric acid – one of the main digestive juices needed to break down your food. Because your gut is already weak, these undigested food particles then leak out into the bloodstream (ouch) and because the body doesn’t know what to do with them – they attack it. This can lead to autoimmune issues and a series of other complications and problems.
Vegetable oil (unhealthy oils) – most vegetable oils are of the omega-6 category, which are pro-inflammatory. We need both omega-6 and omega-3 in our diets, however, modern day diets tip the scale off balance – we are super heavy on omega-6 oils (pro-inflammation). In addition, vegetable oils are highly processed and their already weak molecular bonds are weakened even more. Because of this, these weak bonds can (and will) create free radicals within the body. So we have inflammation and free-radicals two things that not only can destroy our gut lining, but also set our bodies up for myriad of other digestive issues.
Carbs (Gluten or grains) – similar to sugar and bad oils, grains and gluten also produce inflammation in the body. And and over-consumption of them? … you guessed it, chronic inflammation. If that’s not bad enough. Take the make-up of our modern day grains (I’m talking bread, wheat, oats, etc.). Most grains contain something called “anti-nutrients”:
- Lectins: bind to insulin receptors, wreck havoc on intestinal lining
- Gluten: protein in gluten are gut-irritants, cause increased gut permeability and can produce issues with our calcium and vitamin D3 levels
- Phytates: stops nutrients from being available (think: all that nutrient-dense food we’re eating may not be getting anywhere)
Those are just three examples of how types of food and nutrients can pose a serious threat to our gut health!
Now some solutions.
Healing your gut is possible and it really just takes some time, patience and a commitment to good, healing food.
- Remove the offenders. Eliminate processed and refined sugars, grains, bad oils, dairy, legumes, alcohol – as mentioned, many of these foods cause irritation to the gut-lining and promote inflammation.
- Eat foods that support anti-inflammation. Wild-caught fish, pastured eggs, quality fish oils
- Eat your vegetables!
- Get some sun and increase your vitamin-d levels naturally
- Restore your gut. Consume foods that are rich in probiotics, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, coconut milk yogurt – or invest in a quality probiotic – these feed the healthy bacteria in the gut
- Try healing foods. Bone-broths, coconut oils, organ meats – all promote the healing of the connective tissues and creation of new cells in the gut
Happy gut healing!
And for the recipe – this came from PaleoOMG and like I said, it was scrumptious, great for meal prep and full of flavor. See the full recipe post here.