IN just three days, you can begin your journey of microbiome health for life. This three-day reboot is to provide the tools that you need for a lifelong shift in your diet, your health and your mood.
Day 2: Get your supplement game on
While there are no “one-size-fits-all” supplement plans, there are certain supplements that support your health in a variety of ways.
Pruning the excess bacteria
As probiotics have been getting more media attention these days, you may have read about “supporting the good bacteria” and “eliminating the bad bacteria.” To me, that’s a human-made construct that has nothing to do with how nature actually works. My approach understands there are no “bad” bacteria. In the right context, all bacteria have the potential to do good, contributing to the health of the whole body ecology. Health problems occur when some bacteria proliferate unchecked. So our goal is not to “eliminate the bad” but rather to restore balance, pruning the naturally occurring bacteria in your gut that have overgrown to excess while still maintaining a diverse and vibrant ecology.
Some supplements can help you reduce the excess. To prune your microbiome, look for a combination product that contains at least two of the following ingredients, and follow the directions on the bottle:
- Caprylic acid
- Grapefruit seed extract
- Boosting digestion
Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) offer enormous benefits to digestion and gut function. They are a fuel source for the cells of your large intestine, improve insulin sensitively while increasing energy expenditure, modulate your immune system and protect against inflammation. SCFAs have also been shown to be neuroprotective, which is important for your brain, while also improving brain plasticity for those with neurological disease.
To improve digestion, brain function and gut function:
Digestive enzymes—look for a product that contains protease, lactase, amylase, DPP IV, alphagalactosidase.
Gut motility and brain function
These supplements help your digestive tract keep food moving, which aid in digestion, as well as the elimination of toxins. Both via the gut and through their impact on the brain itself, they also support brain function.
- Alpha-lipoic acid
Probiotics: The more strains included, the better. Ideally, you want at least 50 billion CFU, but diversity is even more important than total quantity.
In my practice, I work with individual patients to create their own personal probiotic combination based on their blood work and other testing—probiotics are not, unfortunately, “one size fits all.” Hence the term “Microbiome Medicine”—I find what particular bacteria strains are deficient and causing the brain fog or other health symptoms.
The most important two strains are called bifidobacterium (B.) and lactobacillus (L.), which have been shown to aid in improving a number of neuropsychiatric disorders and dysfunction including anxiety, depression, OCD and memory issues.
Studies have also shown that the following bacteria also help with depression:
- L. casei
- L. acidophilus
- B. longum
- B. infantis
- L. helveticus
- L. rhamnosus
- B. bifidum
- B. breve
- L. plantarum PS 128
- B. longum Rosell 175
- L. rhamnosus
Brain fog is another condition that can be effectively addressed with supplements. The following are good for targeting brain fog:
Prebiotics are important to ensure the health of bacteria already living and growing within the intestine.
- Inulin powder
Breakfast, Day 2: Breakfast sundae of yogurt, apple, berries and walnuts
Snack, Day 2: Cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and radishes with sea salt and olive oil dips
Lunch, Day 2: Curried Chicken Salad With Apple, Jicama, Fennel & Walnuts
Here’s your chance to use up the leftover chicken from the Chicken Bone Broth. The jicama, radishes and tomatoes are all “microbiome superfoods,” loaded with just the kind of prebiotic fiber that your microbiome needs to be diverse and strong. The healthy fats in the nuts and vinaigrette help support your brain, plus the nuts, fennel and garbanzos have plenty of microbiome-friendly fiber.
Ingredients, Lemon Vinaigrette
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, ad more if needed
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients, Curried Chicken Salad
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1 cup cooked chicken, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 (1/2-inch) slice peeled jicama, diced
1/4 cup canned garbanzos, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup diced fennel
1/4 heaping cup cored and diced apple
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 heaping cup mixed salad greens
2 radishes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 roughly chopped tablespoon cashews or walnuts
1. Make the lemon vinaigrette:
Combine the lemon zest and juice in a small, bowl. Add the mustard and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Whisking, slo wly add the olive oil. Add additional salt, pepper, and lemon juice as needed.
2. Make the curried chicken salad: Mix the curry powder into the lemon vinaigrette.
Combine the chicken, jicama, garbanzos, fennel and apple in a bowl with 1 and 1/2 tablespoon of the curried lemon vinaigrette. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Place the salad greens in the middle of a plate. Scoop the chicken mixture on top and fan the radishes and halved tomatoes around it.
Sprinkle the nuts on top and serve with the remaining vinaigrette.
Snack: Caribbean-spiced garbanzos, leftover from Day 1
Dinner: Mediterranean Fish Stew with assorted salad greens and Lemon Herb Vinaigrette
This quick-and-easy fish stew can be made with a variety of firm-fleshed white, low-mercury fish, such as cod or halibut. The onions and carrots are “microbiome superfoods” that nourish and replenish your gut bacteria. The fat in the fish and salad vinaigrette helps support your brain cells and the cells in your gut wall while the resistant starch in the Herbed Rice is terrific for both gut and microbiome.
1 pound cod, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon salt, add more if needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, add more if needed
2 large garlic cloves
5 anchovy fillets, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped carrot
3/4 cup chopped fennel
1 (28-ounce) can organic tomatoes, with liquid
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons snipped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon roughly chopped parsley, plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped, for garnish
Herbed Rice (leftover from Day 1 dinner), for serving
Assorted salad greens
1. Place the fish in a small, nonreactive bowl with the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Marinate for 15 minutes.
2. Place the garlic in a food processor and chop finely. Add the anchovy fillets and process until smooth. Set aside.
3. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil and add the onion, carrot, and fennel. Cook for about five minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the anchovy mixture and cook for a minute over low heat. Add the tomatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes have begun to break down.
4. Add the thyme, half of the tarragon, the roughly chopped parsley, and the fish. Simmer until the fish turns opaque and flakes when prodded with a fork.
5. Add 1 teaspoon of the tarragon and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper and lemon juice to taste. Garnish with the finely chopped parsley.
6. Serve with the herbed rice and vinaigrette-dressed salad greens.
Refrigerate the extra portion for another dinner or a fish salad lunch.
Reactivate your will
The foundation of healing is to activate your will—to tap into your own innate desire to receive and to give. This can be done at a very fundamental level, by connecting to your purpose or through a sense of awe. Let your gut instincts guide you to which suggestions will be most healing for you.
Some of these suggestions may strike you as difficult. That’s because your will may be a bit out of shape, just as your body gets out of shape when you don’t exercise. Those first few exercises can be scary and uncomfortable—but soon your body welcomes the exertion. In the same way, I invite you to train your will, making it stronger and more muscular. Slowly but surely, you will feel more empowered and strong, in both your receiving and your giving.
Some of these suggestions may seem too small to make much difference. Don’t be fooled. These seemingly tiny actions can create big, unexpected shifts in your will, helping you to transform your brain and body and return you to a stronger sense of self.
Try these microbiome-enhancing activities:
Quiet time: Find a safe, comfortable place where you can sit or lie quietly for at least five minutes: in a cozy chair, on a couch or bed, in a scented bath. Allow your body to relax and simply be quiet. Allow yourself to receive the physical comfort of that moment. Then think of a time when you received something—from a family member, friend, stranger, animal or even a special place. What you received might have been a helping hand, a smile, a sense of peace—something large, small or in between. Sit or lie quietly, receiving now what you received then.
Reach out: Think of something you need that would make you feel cared for and nurtured. It might be a physical object, or it might be someone to help you clean your house or take care of your kids for an hour. Find a person you trust and ask for what you want. Allow yourself to receive it.
Say hello: Next time you are in a public situation—at work, in a store or walking down the street—say hello to at least one person with your warmest smile. This is an especially good exercise if you don’t feel like smiling—if you’ve been having an awful day or feel especially depressed. See whether you can activate just a tiny flicker of connection with other people—a smile as they hand you change or as you pass them by. Notice their response and how it makes you feel.
Shift the focus: In a situation where you feel hopeless and powerless—a long line, a doctor’s waiting room—find someone else to focus on. Ask someone how he or she is doing or comment on your shared situation in a sympathetic way. Make it your secret project to cheer the other person up for just 60 seconds. I bet you’ll emerge from the experience feeling more empowered and cheerful than you were before.
Music: Choose a piece of music that you enjoy. Sit quietly for five to 30 minutes and savor the music, allowing yourself to receive whatever it offers. If you’d rather sway, tap, clap or dance in response to the music, by all means, let your body go. Sing or hum or shout along as the spirit moves you. In a very real sense, listening is your receiving of the music; dancing and singing are your giving back to it.
Team sports: There’s nothing like a team sport for giving and receiving—for experiencing how those two aspects of your will are really one. If you like sports, or think you might like them, go for it.
Group projects in the arts, politics, etc.: Joining a group of any kind, for any purpose, can set off a powerful exchange of receiving and giving. Find an activity you like or would like to know more about. Join a group and discover the pleasures of giving and receiving.
Discover/rediscover: Give yourself five to 30 quiet minutes in a safe, pleasant space. Write one of the following sentences at the top of the page—your choice:
What’s my purpose?
What gives my life its meaning?
What do I contribute to the world?
What makes me feel most inspired and alive?
Then, for five to 30 minutes, write whatever comes to mind. Set a timer for the duration of your choice and don’t stop writing until it goes off. If you don’t know what to say, write, “I don’t know what to say” over and over until you find yourself writing something else. Unless you truly hate the physical act of writing, use a pen and notebook; otherwise, a computer is OK.
Connect/reconnect: Think of something that makes you feel purposeful, meaningful, and connected. It could be a way of “giving back”—volunteering at an organization, doing a favor for someone else, teaching someone a skill or concept that you’re good at. It could be a form of self-expression—writing, painting, composing, building, repairing, or renovating. It could be something extremely personal—your own special activity. Find half an hour each week to engage in this activity.
Breakfast, Day 3: Grapefruit and orange sections, avocado and kiwi slices.
Snack, Day 3: Roasted carrots, Brussels sprouts and asparagus.
Lunch, Day 3: Mexican Fish Salad With Jicama, Black Beans, Avocado, and Lime.
Jicama and tomatoes are microbiome superfoods that nourish your gut bacteria, as do the black beans. The healthy fat in the fish, avocado and lemon vinaigrette helps keep your cell walls strong, which is especially important for brain health. This is a wonderful meal for a satisfying, protein-rich lunch, giving you the wherewithal to get through your afternoon energized and alert.
¾ cup flaked, cooked firm-fleshed white, low-mercury fish, such as cod or halibut
2 tablespoons peeled and diced jicama
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon snipped fresh cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices peeled and diced avocado
¼ teaspoon finely chopped jalapeño pepper, or more to taste
2 tablespoons diced tomato
1 tablespoon peeled, seeded and diced cucumber
1 scant cup cooked organic black beans (if canned, drain and rinse)
2 cups salad greens
4 thin slices avocado
4 thin slices tomato
1 sprig cilantro
Mix the fish in a small bowl with the jicama, 1 tablespoon of the vinaigrette and the cumin and cilantro. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
In a second small bowl, combine the avocado, jalapeño, tomato and cucumber with one teaspoon of the vinaigrette.
In a third small bowl, combine the black beans with one tablespoon of the vinaigrette.
Heap the greens on a plate and arrange the fish in the center surrounded by the avocado mixture and the black beans. Garnish with the avocado and tomato slices, cilantro and a lime wedge.
Snack, Day 3: Apple slices with almond butter.
Dinner, Day 3: Chicken stew with fennel, turnip, and portobello mushroom with roasted potato salad and garlic-sautéed kale.
Prepare this savory chicken dish for one dinner and refrigerate or freeze the second portion for another dinner. You’ll love the full flavors from the tangy marinade and the variety of textures from the different vegetables. Your brain will love the fiber in the fennel and turnip and the healthy fats in the olive oil.
2 boneless chicken breasts or 4 chicken thighs
2 tablespoons white vinegar
½ cup turnip, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
½ cup fennel, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup portobello mushroom, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh tarragon, plus 1 teaspoon, for garnish
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
Marinate the chicken in the vinegar in a nonreactive bowl for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F.
In a saucepan, sauté the turnip and fennel in one tablespoon of the olive oil. After about 10 minutes, when the turnip begins to soften, add the mushroom and garlic. Cook over medium heat for about five minutes.
Add the tablespoon of chopped tarragon and the orange juice. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Drain the vinegar from the chicken. Dry with paper towels.
Heat the remaining teaspoon of olive oil in a baking dish and add the chicken. Brown on the stovetop over medium heat for two to three minutes on each side. Cover the chicken with the vegetable mixture.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
Garnish with the remaining teaspoon of chopped tarragon. This dish may be baked ahead of time and refrigerated for three days or frozen.
Good luck with this reboot. I know I’ve given you a lot of information and asked a lot of you in just three days. Take your time, follow my suggestions, and soon enough, you will start to notice that your microbiome—and your overall health and vibrancy—is back to its optimal function.