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This is the time of year when many of us make New Year’s resolutions to eat better and get more exercise, but I have one that may change your life. It changed mine, BIG TIME, and it involves the brain-gut connection and how healthy aging is directly connected to the microbes that live in our intestines. 

Two months ago I made five easy changes to reset the microbes in my gut, and they’ve changed my life.

Part 1: Dr. Amy Shah explains everything you need to know.

My health transformation began when I listened to a Mel Robbins podcast (also on YouTube) while I was on the treadmill. Robbins was talking about her “food baby,” the bloated distended stomach accompanied by abdominal pain she often gets. Her guest was Dr. Amy Shah, a medical doctor trained at Harvard, Cornell, and Columbia University, who’s an immunologist and leading expert in women’s hormonal health and nutrition. 

I could identify with Mel Robbins, because almost daily, I had a bloated food-baby stomach, accompanied by abdominal pain, plus I had explosive diarrhea that often came without warning. This embarrassing condition frequently kept me a prisoner in my home until I was certain everything had passed, so when Dr. Shah laid out her method to heal inflammation and reset your gut, I didn’t hesitate. 

Entire books have been devoted to this topic, but that day, I started following Dr. Shah’s suggestions, and three days later, I was a different person.

As a rule, I already followed #6-10, so #1-5 were the only ones I needed to address.

1. No white bread, pasta, rice, or potatoes. (It could be the gluten that’s getting you.)

2. Add sourdough bread to your diet. It helps heal your gut. (It’s now the only bread I eat.)

3. Add pineapple and/or cucumber to your daily diet. They also help heal your gut.

4. Give up sweets.

5. Give up dairy. (It bloats many people.)

#6-10 I was already doing.

6. Give up cruciferous vegetables. They can cause gas.

7. Give up carbonated beverages. They can cause gas.

8. Alcohol and eating late at night can also play a role in an unhappy gut and not sleeping well.

9. Daily, do a 12-hour fast: For example, stop eating at 7pm and resume eating at 7am. To have a balanced gut, your gut needs 12 hours when it doesn’t have to digest food. 

10. Get 30 minutes of sunlight and exercise. A 30-minute walk will achieve both.

Exercise is the BEST probiotic you could ever take.

Once you’ve experienced the positive difference these habits can make in your life, you can gradually start adding one at a time back into your diet and zero in on the ones that may trigger your problems. 

When I started adding #1-5 back into my diet, all it took for my gut to return to its former unhappy self was one chocolate chip cookie!

After getting my gut in a balanced environment where the microbes that lived there weren’t mad at me anymore, the pain, bloated abdomen, and explosive diarrhea disappeared, and SO DID MY ASTHMA! Also, the whites of my eyes had turned a little yellow, but all of my blood and urine tests were perfect, and my physician assured me my liver, pancreas, and kidneys were fine. After faithfully following #1-5 for a week, THE WHITES OF MY EYES TURNED WHITE AGAIN!

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised because an out-of-whack gut-brain connection has also been linked to depression, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, lower levels of good cholesterol, and eczema.

Part 2: Mel Robbins and Dr. Amy Shah continue their conversation.

A month into following Dr. Shah’s suggestions, it was time for my five-year colonoscopy. Since my colon turned out to be the picture of health, it allowed me to rule out a list of other problems. If you suffer from some of the things Mel Robbins and I did, it might be that the microbes in your gut may be unhappy.

You might consider trying Dr. Amy Shah’s diet and if you don’t experience relief, you may want to call your doctor and check for colon polyps/cancer, inflammation, Diverticula, Irritable Bowel Syndrome/Disease, Celiac, Crohn’s, or ulcerative colitis. If your gut’s not happy, you could have serious health problems.

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  1. Hi Brenda!

    Couldn’t agree more with the sudden appearance of a “jelly belly” At age 62 mine just popped up! I had always known about the Second brain or brain-gut connection yet struggled with finding the root cause.
    I live in England & have taken a much bigger step in delving into my gut health & overall sluggish feeling & bloat.
    Have a look at the Zoe diet. It’s not a “diet” it’s life changing food choices based on the individual’s own chemistry.
    Blood sugar monitoring, poop samples & bloodtests get you started. The science team then looks at your biology & determines what foods your body loves, tolerates or doesn’t want. They score each food item: ad infinitum according to your tolerance. This enables you to eat by choosing higher scoring foods which enrich your gut biome & even create more healthy bugs.
    When I saw the second set of “rules” set out by Dr Shah I had to disagree. Zoe allows you to eat anything with the knowledge & education of your personal physiological needs.
    You get horrible gas from certain greens due to lack of appropriate gut bugs to digest them. Zoe teaches you how to diversify, switch up and create a more diverse biome so that you can eat & enjoy those foods.
    I encourage you to educate yourself further. Dr Shah is on the right path but Dr Tim Spector has taken it to a whole new level.
    I have lost 15 lbs in 4 month & have never felt deprived. My flat belly is back & im back down a dress size. 65 looks great!

    • Hi, I agree with Cheryl about Zoe and Dr Tim Spector. I also live in UK, in Wales.
      I found by increasing vegetable quantity and variety, my guts did improve dramatically. There was initially some discomfort ,but that settled down quickly.
      Also incorporating more fermented foods, such as sauerkraut helped a lot. I also eat sourdough bread.

      • Love hearing this Amanda! Dr. Shah also suggests eating more fermented foods. I eat lots of “plants” each day and it’s only when I add more that I have some discomfort. Everyone’s health and gut health is different so it takes committed trial and error to find what works best for each of us. Thanks, again, Amanda. Brenda

    • Hi Cheryl, Thanks for telling me about Zoe. I went online and filled out their questions. Since I suspect I may have Celiac which I’m now controlling with diet, and I answered as such on the questionnaire, they said they couldn’t help me, which doesn’t surprise me. When I stay on a gluten-free diet and follow Dr. Shah’s suggestions I have no problems. I’m grateful to know about Zoe and happy it’s made such a difference in your life. Thanks again for telling me, Brenda

  2. I completely agree. I have done most of those steps and am much better when I do.
    I have a sugar addiction, so it can be hard. The hardest thing for me is all the traveling I do with my husband for his business. It’s hard to get a gluten free, dairy free, sugar free menu.
    Glad that you are feeling better and your gut is happy Brenda. I never knew how much gluten affected me, until I gave it up. My dermatitis went away, the diarrhea left, my belly flattened out, and I finally lost the 8 pounds I had been trying to lose for 15 years.

    • Amazing the difference a gluten-free, dairy and sugar-free diet makes, isn’t it, Gray? Yes, traveling, even going to someone else’s house for dinner can be problematic, but at least we’re able to manage it the vast majority of the time. Thanks for the comment, because it’s good to know there’s someone else with the same situation. xoxox, Brenda

  3. I also listen to Mel, but must have missed this one. Will definitely go back and listen. With an adult son who has Crohn’s and a daughter who has Celiac, I encourage everyone with IBS symptoms to check for these. We have no family history for either, so initially dismissed the possibility. And with Celiac, you can have low-grade symptoms for a long time, while unknowingly developing other health problems. Osteoporosis can develop because of nutrient absorption issues. My daughter was diagnosed with Celiac in college, and immediately had a bone density test. Her bones are not as dense as they should be for her age, but it was caught early. It’s a serious enough issue that if one tests positive for celiac, it’s recommended that immediate family members get the genetic test.
    Love what you do, and appreciate such an informative post!

    • Great information, Kellie! Thank you! Interesting that your son and daughter have had gut issues, but fortunately you’ve been on top of them. Because I had breast cancer, chemo, and as a preventative for metastasis of bone cancer, I take physician-managed doses of Vitamin D and Calcium and get a bone density test every year. Thanks for reading my blog and letting me know you enjoy it. I appreciate you, Kellie. xoxox, Brenda

  4. Brenda, Like you I had explosive out of the blue diarrhea. So embarrassing because I didn’t always make it to the bathroom. I did some checking on my own and essentially came across Dr Shah’s diet and my diarrhea stopped. My doctor is testing me for Celiac so we’ll see. It’s one of those subjects no one wants to talk about so thank you for this blog and your candor.

    • Dana, I could have written your comment, word for word! It is embarrassing, but I’m glad I spoke out because it’s a problem for a lot of people. Also, I find it interesting you’ve had the same positive results with Dr. Shah’s diet. Yes! Thank you, Brenda

  5. Yes!
    I have been there too!
    I question rice having gluten?I was told I could EAT THAT!Im in GOOD SHAPE NOW.
    It took YEARS!

    • Elizabeth, I know that white rice can cause problems for some people. I rarely eat rice, but I have switched to rice Thai noodles when I fix Asian food and they don’t give me any problems. Glad you’ve got things under control. xoxox, Brenda

  6. If you ever want to eat some of the foods that cause you gas and bloating you might try taking digestive enzymes before consuming them. I love Mexican food, but beans, spicy salsa, onions etc cause a lot of problems in my gut. Taking a digestive enzyme before I eat that meal usually takes care of those symptoms. Make sure the one you choose contains Amylase

    • Hi Jamie, For general gas and bloating, I have a hunch you’re right about taking digestive enzymes before a meal, but for those who have serious gut issues, I think they need to be managed by diet. I’ll let you know after I’m tested for Celiac and see what the gastro doctor says. I learn something from all of you so thank you! Brenda

  7. Hi Brenda,
    Thank you so much for sharing a topic that is close to my heart. I have IBS and an extremely sensitive stomach. I try to be totally gluten free. I’m under the care of an excellent Gastroenterologist, he is investigative and gets me. It’s highly unusual to find a doctor that studies your background and gives you 30 minutes of his time. I use Align (capsule/probiotic) and IBgard. Also I was drinking Almond Milk (vanilla) mentioned to have in small amounts. The information I read suggested Rice Milk so that is what I have switched over to. It does not help having RA for so many years and the infusions and meds I have to take in order to TRY to keep a reasonable quality of life. As you get older and of a certain age we develop all kinds of health issues I did not even know existed until the past 11 years. It’s been a real eye opener. As you have found out as well. A big learning curve, sometimes you have to be your own doctor through doing extensive research.
    I’m so happy for YOU that your colonoscopy was all negative. What a gift that was to hear. The prep is not easy to do, it’s so invasive and hard on your intestines.
    I have not had a chance to read from the sources you shared but I look forward to doing that very soon. If I learn one new thing it’s all so helpful.
    You remain in my thoughts. I hope your eyes remain healthy. Wow, it’s great news that they are in better health too.

    Happy Galentine’s Day to you from my to yours.

    Warm hugs

    • Happy Galentine’s Day to you as well, Katherine. You’re right about encountering new problems and challenges as we age, but it sounds like we’re both doing everything we can to be knowledgeable and proactive about the issues we face. A gluten-free, dairy and sugar-free diet have made huge differences in how I feel, and it wasn’t like I ate a lot of any of these things. To the contrary, but it’s amazing how just one chocolate chip cookie can throw me back into bloating, pain and diarrhea without warning. Crazy! But the good news is that both of us are on the right track. Sending you love and hugs back, Brenda

  8. Hi Brenda,
    Yes, it’s me again, I’m back. I just completed Part 1 & 2 of Dr. Amy Shah on re setting your gut and I throughly enjoyed listening to her sharing her knowledge of resetting your gut.
    Everything she said made sense to me. Also like Mel Robbins and her straight forward tell it as it is story telling of her life experience with “bloated food baby stomach.” I so relate to these words and have experienced so much of what she discussed. I’m glad you are feeling so much better.
    Many hugs for sharing your upfront life experience. You are refreshing.

  9. Katherine, I had the same reaction when I listened to Mel Robbins and Dr. Amy Shah, and I knew I had to immediately give it a try. You’re refreshing as well because it takes “guts” to leave intimate messages about your life. My mother used to say, “You don’t have to tell everything you know, Brenda,” but LOL!… Obviously I do! xoxox, Brenda

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