I am sure you have all felt the familiar feelings of butterflies in your tummy, whether it’s the terror before an up-coming exam or the excitement of a second date, or had that “gut” wrenching ache when you receive bad news or followed your “gut” instinct knowing with certainty what direction you need to take for the next chapter in your life.
Have you ever wondered why it is that you experience these deep emotions deep within your gut?
The answer lies in exciting research showing that the brain and the gut are unequivocally connected – infact the gut has been called the second brain. The gut is lined with millions of neurons which allow the gut to communicate with the brain via the Vagal Nerve helping to regulate everything from appetite to immune function to emotional wellbeing.
Wondering how this works? Well this is where the gut microbiome comes in – your gut is home to literally trillions of microbes – most of which are beneficial bacteria called PROBIOTICS. These good bacteria work tirelessly to support nearly every aspect of your health.
The gut microbiome stands as your first line of defence, imagine those armies of good bacteria all armed and ready to fight and slay any bad bacteria that enter our system via the mouth. 80 percent of our immune system resides in the gut, protecting us from disease and illness.
The gut microbiome is also responsible for regulating and producing several mood-enhancing chemicals that help the gut communicate with the brain. Over 90% of your body’s serotonin “the happy hormone”, is produced in the gut influencing your mood, your body’s stress response, sleep regulation, and even your response to pain.
Remarkably the composition of the gut microbiome may even affect your weight status – research has shown that the gut microbiome of an obese individual is markedly different from that of a lean individual.
In essence the health and well-being of your gut microbiome helps to support a positive mood, sharp cognition and a balanced emotional state – all of which contribute to your glorious “gut” instincts!! A trustworthy gut – one whose instincts you can count on to nurture and advise you, needs to be healthy. The gut microbiome needs 85% of its bacteria community to be good bacteria in order to be able to do its job properly, and in this day and age that’s not always an easy balance to maintain. So many things can deplete your populations of probiotics:
How can you nourish your gut bacteria so that they can continue to nourish you?
Eating a diet rich in probiotic foods helps to optimise and support the beneficial bacteria.
Yoghurt, Kefir, Sauerkraut, Miso, Kombucha and other cultured fermented foods. These foods help to boost the microbiome by increasing the number of bacteria in the gut. The gut is colonised by over 400 different species of bacteria and eating a variety of different cultured foods help to increase and diversify the number of bacterial strains in the gut.
PREBIOTICS AND FIBER
One of the best and easiest ways to increase the health of the gut microbiome is through the ingestion of fibre. Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot digest because we do not have the enzymes to break it down. However, our gut bacteria do have the necessary enzymes and can break down fibre for their own energy and health.
Prebiotics are a specialised plant fibre that beneficially nourished the good bacteria already in the bowel or colon, acting as a fertiliser they help the good bacteria grow, improving the ration of good:bad bacteria. Prebiotics can help increase the absorption of calcium and magnesium, both mineral essential for heathy bones. Foods rich in natural prebiotics are: onions, garlic, legumes, oatmeal, bananas, apples, berries, leeks, leafy greens and whole wheat grains.
Consider combining cultured fermented foods with foods rich in prebiotics for a synergistic effect.
Antibiotics are life-saving and definitely have a time and a place in our health. However, antibiotics can be over prescribed – often for viruses, on which they have no impact anyway! A course of antibiotics will not only kill the bad bacteria causing the infection, but it will also wipe out your good bacteria that are so beneficial to your health. This throws out the delicate balance of the gut microbiome – and it can take months for it to rebound and rebuild.
If you do have to take antibiotics think about replenishing your good gut bacteria with a supplement. Look for a supplement which is refrigerated and contains at least 30 different strains and 50 billion live cultures.
Bone broth has been used and prescribed for centuries in all traditional cultures to help heal you from the inside out. By slowly simmering the bones for long periods, you transfer the nourishing benefits into a digestible liquid which contains gelatin, essential amino acids and minerals elevating it to the list of “superfoods”. By sealing and healing the gut, it creates the perfect environment for the gut microbiome to work, boosting the immune system.
Focusing on maintaining a healthy gut and listening to and trusting your “gut” instincts can help you dial into your innermost thoughts and feelings, so you can live your healthiest days with purpose and joy!!
If you are a regular to my classes I am sure you will have heard me say, a number of times that I am not a big fan of diets, certainly not very restrictive diets, however I do try to avoid gluten and have done for quite a few years now. It began when I joined Savanna (my daughter) on an anti-inflammatory diet to help her through a difficult time. This involved cutting out gluten, sugar (which I do not eat allot of anyway), dairy and red meat. I kid you not within a few days of starting this diet I felt like a changed person, like a huge cloud had lifted from over my head. Needless to say we found sticking to such a strict diet hard and slowly we re-introduced foods. Over a period of experimentation, I determined that for me - foods with gluten almost instantly caused the symptoms of fatigue and irritability to return.
I am not fanatical and eating the odd desert with some gluten seems to be fine, but I know that I have eaten more gluten recently than I have in a while, and almost instantly I feel ridiculously tired and lethargic and I know without question that the feeling of brain fog, lethargy and tiredness (and the odd moody moment) that I feel after eating gluten is not in my head!!
There are certain foods that are very inflammatory (sugar, dairy, gluten) - and as we get older the wear and tear on our bodies takes its toll and our ability to metabolise these foods decreases, and we start to demonstrate symptoms of food sensitivity. If you feel like you maybe suffering from gluten sensitivity or an intolerance to dairy try removing the foods that cause you to feel uncomfortable or out of sorts and see if it makes a difference. You may find, like I did, that this is life changing for you!
Below is one of my most favourite dairy free/gluten free recipes from Deliciously Ella, its a winner every time!!
FOR THE BASE:
- 1 and a 1/2 cups of almonds
- 2 and a 1/2 cups of medjool dates
FOR THE MIDDLE:
- 2 cups of soaked cashew nuts
- 2 frozen over-ripe bananas
- 1/3 – 1/2 of a cup of maple syrup depending on how sweet you like it
- 1/3 of a cup of freshly juiced apple juice
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
FOR THE TOP:
- 1 cup of freshly frozen blueberries (packaged frozen berries have too higher water content and make the mix too runny so freeze your own for a couple of hours before making this)
- 1 cup of strawberries
- 1 frozen banana
- 4 medjool dates
- 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Before making this you need to slice the three bananas and freeze them for at least three hours along with the blueberries. You also need to soak the cashew nuts for at least four hours.
Start by making the base. Put the almonds into a food processor and blend for a minute or so until the nuts are nicely crushed. Once this has happened add the pitted medjool dates and blend again until a sticky mix forms. Press this into the base of a cake tin and place in the freezer.
Then make the middle layer by simply putting all the ingredients into the food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Take the base layer out of the freezer and pour three quarters of this mix over it before putting the cake back into the freezer – keep the final quarter of the mix in the processor as it’s needed for the top layer.
Wait about twenty minutes for the middle layer to set in the freezer before making the third layer. To make this simply add the remaining ingredients to the blender combined with the mix from the middle, blend until smooth and then pour over the middle layer.
Place the cake back into the freezer to set for two hours before serving. You’ll need to remove the cake from the freezer and allow it to warm up for a few minutes before you serve it. Then enjoy!
There is so much advice out there about the best way to live your life, what you should and shouldn't eat, and the best way to exercise - and I think it can all be very overwhelming and confusing. So I thought I would try and write a simple version of what I feel encapsulates the "prevention is better than cure ethos" that I try to embrace not only in the way that I lead my own life but in what I try to emulate and encourage to my clients in my professional life.
I do think good nutrition is important - but I don't believe in diets, or fads and fancies. A nutrition plan that provides good whole foods that are nutritious, and the "less animals more plants" way of thinking is a good one. Make vegetables the star on your plate - different types, different colours and you can't go wrong.
Remember protein and "good" fats are essential to your health, and both will help balance your blood sugar levels and keep you feeling satiated for longer. Crowd out the junk with plenty of beautiful, tasty, healthy food.
Fermented foods, probiotics and prebiotics are great for the gut and help with absorption of nutrients.
I love a little bit of reality - so lets aim for 80% whole nutritious food and 20% party time!!
* A quick one on food allergies - I am no expert but there are definitely times in our lives when other things maybe out of kilter that we can develop food allergies (sensitivities) and these have a large affect on our levels of inflammation in the body. Food allergies are very real, it is not just someone being fussy. If you think certain foods maybe affecting you adversely - try cutting back or eliminating them for a while and see if it makes any difference.
I think hydration deserves it own mention - your body depends on water to survive. Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to work properly - make drinking enough water a key part of your health plan every day. Work out how you are going to do that - I measure the water I need to drink at the start of the day and make sure that by the end of the day - come what may - I have drunk it all!!
Well it would not make sense if movement was not high up on my list of most important "pillars of health". Exercise is important for so many reasons - we know it keeps your heart and your bones healthy, but it also keeps your brain healthy. Exercise is a huge mood booster, but it can also help to keep those brain pathways open delaying ageing and cognitive decline.
Fancy trying something new - sign up for my newsletter to get the weekly schedule, there are classes every day and something for everyone! Some "hot and sweaty" and some wonderfully restorative pilates.
If going to the gym is your worst nightmare - don't worry there are heaps of ways to get good exercise - take a walk in nature, have a game of tennis, just move ....
GOLDEN RULES OF EXERCISE:
Exercise should leave you feeling energised NOT depleted.
Do something you LOVE to do.
It is not called “The Breath of Life” for nothing. Breathing is one of the most basic functions of the human body, and breathing correctly is a vital step to ensuring your body is optimally healthy. The breathe not only fuels the body with oxygen, it helps digestion, can clear a foggy mind and it drives the function of your core. To learn more about the breathe and your core READ MORE
While it may sound simple and something we do unconsciously, you may have developed incorrect breathing habits throughout your life, which could be affecting your health and even be causing back pain. If you are not sure book a one to one appointment with me and I can assess your breathing patterns for you.
Sleep is as vital to sustaining a balanced life as breathing, eating and drinking. How much sleep we need varies from person to person, but generally a good 8 hours sleep is recommended. During sleep your body and psyche regenerate for the day ahead. To get some tips for a good nights sleep READ MORE
In our daily lives we come into contact with literally thousands of poisons all hidden in every day chemicals which really affect the way our bodies function. Make sure you are aware of what you are using in your house and putting on and in your body and avoiding as many of the potent toxins as you can READ MORE
We all know what stress does to us, and how it makes us feel. No matter how indulgent or fancy the term may sound, self-care is crucial for your physical, emotional and mental well-being.
Self-care is important to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself as it produces positive feelings and boosts your confidence and self-esteem. Self-care is necessary to remind yourself and others that you and your needs are important too. Find time to do the things you love - life is for living NOT existing.
Hand in hand with self care is finding your tribe. Science has proven the importance of social connections to humans, and people with strong social connections at the beginning and end of their lives live longer! Being part of a "tribe" doesn’t just brighten your life; it actually makes you healthier. A tribe can come from anywhere. Your tribe can be centered around your family, or people from work, or people who share the same hobbies or interests as you. Sharing and caring are two of the most wonderful things we as humans have to offer.
Finally PURPOSE & ATTITUDE
We all need a why - something to motivate us. Your why will not be the same as my why. What drives each one of us is very different, but that sense of purpose is so important. As is your "Attitude" - are you a glass half empty or a glass half full kind of person? A positive attitude will help you get through the highs and lows in life - your attitude determines your direction!! Remember - your attitude about any state or condition in your life is always within your power to choose - BE POSITIVE!