If any one of my friends had to describe my most notable identifiers, I’d guess they’d go something like this: blonde, 5’5″, has a horrible stomach.
Far before gut health was a wellness trend, my gut has been somewhere within the realm of broken. I’ve been to dozens of doctors and have done elimination diets galore, but at the end of the day, my problem seemed unsolvable; more days than not, I felt the wrath of what was a stomach that was angry with me. And it isn’t “Oh, I’m a little bloated today!” kind of problems—I’ll spare you the details, but it’s “I can’t leave the house today” kind of problems.
Quarantine has been an endless stream of days that feel straight out of Groundhog Day, but being confined to my home gave me a new opportunity: to get control of my stomach once and for all. Without after-work happy hours or eating out with friends multiple times a week, it gave me the space to focus on finding things that helped my stomach, rather than hurt it (looking at you, wine and mac and cheese). And let’s be real: there’s no better time to be taking care of ourselves than now.
After a little trial and a lot of error, I finally feel that my gut and I are on good terms—for the first time since I can remember. Here’s how I improved our relationship for good:
I got serious about taking pre- and probiotics
I’ve had points in my life where I was great about taking probiotics consistently, but I always ended up veering away from being consistent because I was under the impression that they cost an arm and a leg (at one point I was buying month supplies for $60—which comes out to $2 for a single pill).
Here’s the thing: since my stomach is so deeply off its rocker, I can actually tell when a probiotic is working. It isn’t a miracle fix, but after a couple weeks of taking them consistently, I notice that I haven’t been having as many episodes as usual. I’m a probiotic brand’s worst nightmare: I can tell when their products aren’t up to par.
This process led me to my new holy grail, Rae Wellness’ Pre + Probiotic. Rae Wellness has been my go-to supplement brand since I spotted their products on an endcap at Target a few months ago, and after picking up their Pre + Probiotic supplement, I was immediately hooked. All of their supplements are vegan, gluten-free, and non-GMO and have no added sugar, artificial preservatives, or harmful fillers or colorants—so basically, they take out all of the bad stuff (that have no business being in a supplement to begin with) and replace it with only the good.
Rae’s Pre + Probiotic’s pure formulation helps balance the gut and support daily digestion with apple cider vinegar, a prebiotic that helps keep the gut flora balanced; and acidophilus, a probiotic that contains fiber. It’s also worth noting that all of Rae’s supplements have a subtle minty flavor, which makes taking them an enjoyable experience—a far cry from the past probiotics I’ve tried.
Rae also took my inconsistency problem and eliminated it completely by having a fool-proof “subscribe” option on their website. Instead of needing to remember to pick up new supplements at the store every 30 days, I now have them delivered to my door at the same time every month—and I save 20 percent in the meantime, making them about the same cost as a couple of lattes. It’s a small investment that makes a huge difference to my well-being.
I got into a consistent exercise routine
I’ve spoken about being a morning workout person in the past, but once quarantine started, that went completely out the window. It felt like waking up before work to exercise just gave me more hours to do nothing in my day, but after a few early mornings helped me realize how much working out in the morning helped my workday at home, I decided to commit.
Now, my alarm goes off two hours before I need to be online for work. I thought I’d miss the sleep, but how much better I feel throughout the day makes me not give it a second thought. I get to get an hour-long workout in, then shower, get ready, and make my coffee before my Slack icon turns green, and it leads me to start the day level-headed and more ready to take on whatever the day brings. My morning workouts feel like a zen time with just the world and me, and it brings me much more peace than needing to dread a post-work workout all day. Getting my body moving first thing in the day gives me a grip on any anxiety I might be feeling, which is vital to keeping my stomach in check. Which brings me to …
I prioritized activities that decrease my anxiety
While my morning workouts are #1 on this list, I’ve added other things to my day that help keep my anxiety in-check—and anyone with gut problems knows that anxiety exacerbates any problems you’re having (I’ve had doctors tell me my stomach problems are completely anxiety-related—a theory I’ve since debunked, but that still shows the power of how much anxiety can affect our bodies).
Normally, besides my face masks and the occasional bubble bath, putting things meant to decrease my stress into my day-to-day life wasn’t a huge priority. But since I now have what feels like endless hours in my day, adding a few things to make me feel better was much easier. For me, it started with the small things, like diffusing an essential oil or putting on some real clothes (don’t worry, not jeans) before I started work. I also have prioritized keeping my space as clean as possible by doing a deep clean once a week, and wiping down all the surfaces in my apartment (with a rose-scented cleaner that brings me a shocking amount of joy) before I go to bed. Having routines meant just for me, to make just me feel good has made my quarantine days feel more bearable—and at some points, have been the things that have kept me going.
The days working from home feel much longer to me than they did from our office, so I wanted to tackle the afternoon slump I was so often feeling, and Rae’s DeStress Supplement has been the answer to that. I have to admit: I am often a skeptic about anything promising me any amount of zen, but this supplement has made me a believer.
Rae’s Destress capsules help fight mental fatigue and calm the mind, and I find myself avoiding the 1pm “I have four hours left of work and will never check everything off my to-do list” panic I was so often feeling. With natural ingredients L-Tyrosine, which supports mental processes and cognition to help you deal with the challenges of the day; Rhodiola rosea root, a natural ingredient to calm your mood and fight fatigue; and GABA, which helps support a balanced mood and promote calm, I also don’t need to worry about any weird ingredients going into my body that other supplements might sneak in there.
When my mind is calm, my body is calm, which means less emergency gut problems and more time actually enjoying my life.
I figured out the foods that make me feel my best
When your stomach is acting up and it feels like any of the approximately 1 billion foods on the planet could be the culprit, it is impossible to know where to start. Like I mentioned, I’ve done the elimination diets, but they’ve honestly left me no closer to a cure than I was before—so instead, I found the foods that made me feel good instead of just trying to eliminate the ones that make me feel bad. It makes the process feel more bearable and approachable and motivates me more than cutting out everything that tastes remotely good (@ Whole30).
Obviously, raw, whole foods are at the top of this list—but I need to watch how much fiber I eat, so not eating too many fruits and veggies is also key. The #1 rule I stick to is the simpler, the better. I’m not making anything crazy over here, but eggs and toast for breakfast make me feel 10x better than picking up a breakfast sandwich to-go that I didn’t have the control of making. I like to cook for myself for as many meals as I can and meal-prep whenever possible, and it’s been fun to keep eating the things I ate on days that I lay down in bed and realize my stomach feels normal (usually night time is the point where I realize that my stomach, in fact, does not feel normal).
I’m no doctor, but I’d assume that a part of this is that I’m getting the nutrients my body craves, and they make it easier for my body to be functioning properly (again, looking at you, wine and mac and cheese). A multivitamin is also a key to achieving this, especially on the days that, yes, both of the aforementioned culprits were a part of my diet. A multivitamin is a must for even those among us who are the least likely to take a supplement, but not all of them are created equal. You want one that’s going to support your health from head to toe, and if you look closely at the labels of many that are available, they aren’t exactly formulated to do that—and what’s the point of taking a supplement if it isn’t really going to help you?
Rae’s Multivitamin is formulated with all of the ingredients you might pick up in individual supplements, but packed into one, do-it-all pill that can provide it all. With vitamins A, C, D, and E, biotin, and ashwagandha, they support everything from immune system function to skin health and hair growth. If you want to take one step toward improving your health, this supplement is the place to start.
I made sleep a priority
It triggers a big eye roll in me that the simplest things often feel like the hardest to do—sleeping enough, eating veggies, exercising—and that those are also the things that can affect our health the most. And of course, the gut is no exception.
I’ll admit it: I love to sleep. When I wake up in the morning I give a little smile and pull my comforter closer because I literally just feel happy to sleep, but what I’ve always been lacking is routine. On weekends my body would let me drift off until 11am, but on weekdays I was waking up five hours earlier than that—leaving my body not knowing what was going on and making it harder for me to fall asleep every night. The past three months, I’ve tackled that.
With the help of Headspace’s Sleepcasts (I absolutely swear by these), I made it a priority to fall asleep at the same time every night and wake up at similar times every morning. Of course, I sleep in later on weekends, but I try to keep that to somewhere around 9am instead of closer to noon. It’s left me with a body that knows what to expect, which leaves it happier and healthier on a day-to-day basis. And hey, with what feels like unlimited hours in the day right now, it was a fun challenge to actually try to get this under control.
I’ve long ago accepted that my stomach will always be a little bit of an enemy to me. It will never like when I eat out or devour an entire package of cauliflower gnocci, but with the right steps, it can be better—and that’s all I can ask for. To me, consistently taking steps to make it better—rather than expecting it to be perfect—is more satisfying than anything else I can do for my health. And it turns out, it doesn’t need to be hard or overwhelming at all.
This post was in partnership with Rae Wellness, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.