Turns out, even health coaches, GUT health coaches, get sick. Crazy, right? The truth is, no one is fully immune from bacterial or viral gut infections, no matter how much kale you eat. #hardtruth

While I am a big fan of preventative care and constantly working to improve the resiliency of your gut and immune system, it’s also useful to know some strategies you can use when the not so proverbial sh*t hits the fan. Check out my go-to list of remedies, tricks, and coping mechanisms based on my recent 3-week stint of digestive distress.

Activated Charcoal to the rescue!

This is not the same stuff you use to grill a juicy steak at a summer barbecue! Charcoal is made by heating carbon rich materials like wood or coconut shells, a process that leaves behind a fine black powder. Activated charcoal has oxygen added to it to increase the porosity. That means the surface area of this stuff is real intense; 1 teaspoon of activated charcoal has more surface area than a football field!

Because of that, AC is incredibly effective in binding to toxins and bacteria that could be responsible for the digestive distress you’re experiencing. It can also help with gas and bloating, though researchers aren’t exactly sure why at this point. If you’re having diarrhea, try taking 1 teaspoon (or roughly 1 gram) of AC with plenty of water. Don’t be surprised if your bathroom trips slow down and your poop turns black!

Turn to healing foods

There’s a reason your grandma used chicken soup as a cure-all back in her day. The healing properties of bone broth (think regular chicken broth, but made with the chicken bones as it simmered) are like a salve on a wounded gut. The collagen, gelatin, amino acid, and glycine-rich liquid is just what your body needs when solid foods won’t stay in your system. Chicken or beef bone broth are both great choices if you’re battling a stomach bug.

Ginger tea, another well-known remedy, should be another staple in your tummy trouble plan. It’s an easy way to get some of the anti-inflammatory and nausea reducing qualities of ginger into your system. Try making your own by peeling and finely slicing about an inch of ginger into a pan of simmering water for 20 minutes, strain and sip slowly.

Rice. There- I said it! As a big supporter of ancestral based and grain free diets, I hesitated to include this tip. The fact of the matter is, white rice is very well tolerated by most people and can be soothing to a turbulent digestive system when battling an infection. Furthermore, it can bulk up your stool and get some needed calories into your body. Try adding some steamed white rice to your bone broth, or look for some rice crackers with few ingredients on the label. Adding salt can increase palatability and also restore depleted sodium levels if diarrhea has persisted for more than a day or two.

Know when to seek medical help

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t enjoy going to the doctor, much less the hospital. There are times, though, when it’s the best thing you can do for yourself. When I was sick for 3 weeks recently, I had not one but TWO visits to the Emergency Room throughout the entire ordeal. The problem with digestive illnesses is that our bodies often lose vital fluids and electrolytes more quickly than we can replenish them. You’ll know that you’re reaching that point if you feel especially weak, thirsty, and you’re not peeing often. If your body isn’t retaining fluids, it’s time to head to the hospital. You won’t believe what a couple of bags of electrolyte filled fluids can do for your outlook and energy level.

Another reason to seek help, particularly if your symptoms persist for more than a few days, is that you don’t know what’s wrong! Acute diarrhea and stomach cramping can easily be attributed to food poisoning or viral infections, but those are not the only causes of such symptoms. In cases of gnarly bacteria (think e coli) or a parasite, you’ll need medical intervention in order to get better.

Lastly, if you have any other medical conditions, it’s imperative to be seen by a medical professional. When I got sick recently, I gave myself a few days of treating at home (activated charcoal, healing foods, and lots of rest) before I knew it was time to head to the ER because I have a chronic condition called Addisons Disease. With Addisons, my body doesn’t produce the life giving stress hormone called cortisol. Instead, I take it orally 3 times per day to duplicate the circadian rhythm that the body is meant to create. During bouts of diarrhea or vomiting, my medication isn’t being properly absorbed, which means that I can quickly turn a corner and be in a very dangerous situation. I’ve never had to go to the hospital to get an emergency injection of my medication in all of my years with Addisons Disease, until this time. As dramatic as it sounds (cue the music!), don’t be a hero. Get help when you need it and stay alive.

Other tips?

What’s worked well for you during a bout of stomach upset? Leave me a comment if you’d like to share!