Are you PISSED? Here’s what to do about it.

The other day my teenager told me she was going out with her friends and I said, “Okay honey. Have a good time!” That may seem unremarkable and normal to you and it is. But five years ago I may have had a different response. I noticed it that night. I thought to myself, See? That’s what a normal mother says. I am a normal mother again. I felt both grateful and sad.

Last Monday I hit five years post stem cell transplant—a huge milestone in my cancer survivorship. When I look back on the past five years, I see a very gradual improvement in my physical and mental health. It feels like time passed slowly and quickly at the same time.

This past week, I’ve been thinking more about the mental journey. I look back on how irritable and angry I was (I alternated between fire and ice) around my kids, my husband and family and just feel terrible that they had to live through that.

And then two separate health studies landed in my newsfeed yesterday: one is about depression being caused by gut bacteria and the other that anger is actually a symptom of depression. Things that made you go Hmm.

So here’s the deal. When I was recovering from the super harsh chemotherapy I got, I felt extremely emotionally fragile. That is understandable given the fear, uncertainty and shock of the diagnosis. I’m sure you have felt emotionally fragile too. Who doesn’t get a cancer diagnosis and not get thrown onto an emotional roller coaster?

I cried a lot, mainly in the beginning, but mostly I was irritable and angry at everyone and everything. For years, I could only handle perfectly peaceful and tranquil people and events. I did my best to manage this emotional fragility with positive actions like removing myself, meditating, journaling, and actively creating happiness and laughter. This helped enormously and I highly recommend it.

But that’s not all I did. I attended to my gut.

I look at how I feel now five years later, and I am so much more even keel. I can handle stuff. After reading these articles, I wonder how much of  my current emotional balance can be attributed to the fact that my gut has healed greatly since then. And conversely, I am curious how much the sorry state of my gut microbiome then (those trillions of bacteria in our gut) was a factor in that fragility.

You see, the treatment required for Mantle Cell Lymphoma fried my entire digestive tract. I imagine it was like a napalm bomb to those tiny gut bacteria. I don’t regret the war I waged because it saved my life. I am certain of that. And fortunately, I was aware at the time of the importance of gut bacteria from my health coach training so I’ve been actively rebuilding it from the beginning.

Rebuilding the gut microbiome takes time but you can start feeling the positive effects right away. There are two steps to the process: re-establishing the bacteria and then feeding them so they repopulate and thrive. I cannot stress enough the importance of doing this is. Research is showing everyday the vast influence these bacteria have on our lives. I encourage you to make this a top priority so you feel better as soon as possible. Here’s how.

How to Rebuild Your Gut Microbiome in 3 Steps

  1. Re-establish the bacteria with the two following methods:
    Take a high quality probiotic. Choose one high in diversity of strains (10-15 at least) as well as CFUs (90 billion or more per capsule). I also recommend trying a sporebiotic as these claim to survive the stomach acid to actually reach the digestive tract better. I take Mega Sporebiotic and alternate it with Dr. Formulated Probiotics Once Daily Ultra. If you are brand new to this, gradually add probiotics to minimize any adverse affects. Additionally, eat naturally occurring probiotic rich foods. Foods like sauerkraut, kim chi, miso, yogurt and drinks like kombucha and kefir are actually a better source of probiotics than a pill because there are more bacteria in one tablespoon of the food than what you get in a pill. And you usually eat more than a tablespoon of sauerkraut or yogurt so it’s more effective.
  2. Feed the bugs.
    Again, you can do this by taking a pill and/or by eating the right foods. Take what is called a “prebiotic” which is bacteria food, and/or you can eat the foods that the bacteria like. Gut bacteria like fiber and certain forms of fiber in particular. The top five best prebiotic foods are: chicory root, dandelion root, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic and onion. Notice these are all root vegetables. Other foods high in fiber are great too though like legumes, seeds, and whole grains.
  3. Support them emotionally. Stress causes damage to the immune system where most of the bacteria live. Manage stress through the conscious happiness practices I mentioned briefly above: meditation, gratitude awareness, deep breathing, and exercise.

Give gut microbiome rebuilding a try for several months and see how you feel. Let me know in the comments below how it’s going!

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