What better way to celebrate Sunday morning in style than with my delicious gluten free pancakes. They are light and fluffy and if you omit the yoghurt they are also suitable for anyone who has a sensitivity to lactose. Last weeks blog looked at the gut and how avoiding foods that you know cause problems for you, can take some of the stress off your gut. Bloating, pain, lethargy following a meal are all an indication that perhaps that food is not ideal for your body ... I have said a few times that for me as I entered my peri-menopause I noticed that avoiding gluten had such a positive effect on me from my mood, to my energy levels and of course my digestion. Developing food sensitivities at a time of excessive stress or hormonal changes is not uncommon - so listen to what your body is telling you, it quite honestly changed my life when I took most of the gluten out of my diet. Are there things I miss - YES of course - does not having them make me sad ... NO definitely not!!
1 1/2 cup gluten free flour (available at Healthy U)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 cup almond milk
2 tbsp plain yoghurt (if you are not lactose intolerant)
1 tbsp olive oil
Honey to taste (1 tbsp)
1 tsp vanilla paste
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!
We had this for dinner earlier this week, it was quick, simple and delicious and full of wonderful nutrients for the brain.
Salmon is loaded with Omega 3's which help to strengthen the synapses in your brain related to memory, and tomatoes are an easy source of brain protecting carotenoids. Served with a delicious portion of steamed broccoli which is packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C and beta-carotene, and essential to keep your brain in good health.
4 (6 ounce) salmon fillets
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 small garlic clove, smashed
1/2 a lemon, thinly sliced
3 fresh thyme sprigs
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Step 1 Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Step 2 Place the salmon in an oven proof skillet, then season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In a bowl, stir together the tomatoes, garlic, lemon slices, thyme sprigs, oil, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over and around the salmon. Bake until the salmon is just cooked through and the tomatoes are slightly wilted, 12 to 15 minutes.
If you need a sugary snack to make it through the day, Hemsley and Hemsley Paradise Bars are definitely a way to make your guilty pleasure as guilt-free as it can be.
“If we find ourselves stuck somewhere and hungry, these bars do the job without sending our blood sugar levels flying sky high,” the London-based sisters say. “We prefer them without the additional water, but every now and then we find someone who likes them a little softer in the middle, so add water to the mix if that’s you.”
Give them a try, they are dead easy and seriously delish!!
Makes 24 bars
7 oz bar of creamed coconut or 1/2 tin of coconut cream
6 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp raw honey
1½ tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of sea salt
5 oz shredded coconut
7 oz (85% cocoa solids) dark chocolate
1. Line a 8 in square tin with baking parchment. In cold weather, place the unopened packet of creamed coconut in a bowl of warm water to melt it through (you can massage the packet to help it along). In warm weather, the creamed coconut will already be fluid enough. I could not find the creamed coconut so I used just enough of a tin of coconut cream to make a nice dough.
2. When it’s soft all the way through, pour into a bowl and mix in the coconut oil (it will melt if it’s hard), raw honey, vanilla, salt, and 2–4 tablespoons water if you like a softer centre.
3. Stir in the shredded coconut evenly to create a doughy consistency.
4. Pour the dough into the prepared tin. Press the mixture down with the back of a spoon to make it level and set in the fridge for 15 minutes until hard.
5. Turn the tin of coconut mixture out onto a chopping board and slice into 6 horizontal slices by 4 vertical. Place them onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment and keep in the freezer while you prep the chocolate.
6. Melt the chocolate in a glass or metal bowl over a pan of warm water – make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl and do not allow the water to boil or simmer – you may have to keep removing from the heat. This should take about 30 minutes.
7. When the chocolate has almost melted, take the bowl off the heat and place on a tea towel to avoid slipping. Leave it to cool as much as possible without it hardening to give a thicker coating to the paradise bars – stir occasionally.
8. Dip the frozen coconut bars into the chocolate using two forks, letting the excess drop off, and carefully place back onto the cold baking tray, leaving space between each bar. If the chocolate mixture becomes too cold, you may need to put it back over the simmering water again. This bit was quite messy!!!
9. When you’ve finished dipping all the bars, place the tray back in the fridge until set. Once set, seal in a glass or ceramic container in the fridge or freezer until required. If they are kept sealed in the fridge, they will keep for a month – or longer in the freezer.
For those of you who have hit that forty-plus stage of life you will be familiar with the talk about bone health and hot flushes but have you found yourself in a room forgetting what you went in there to do, or unable to remember even a single thing without writing it down. I am afraid that the hormone roller coaster does contribute to the mental fuzziness you are feeling. However you are not alone cognitive decline and dementia is on the rise and a look at the stats makes gloomy reading, but the good news is there is allot you can do to help slow that rate of decline down and even improve your brain function. The current UK and global stats for dementia and cognitive decline are frighteningly high, 850,000 people are estimated to be living with dementia in the UK and 1 in 3 people born in the UK this year will develop dementia in their life time. I am sure you will surprised to learn that the dementias are now the leading cause of death in the UK. However this is not isolated to UK and The World Health Organisation estimate that the global number of deaths due to dementia will increase by 40% from 2015 to 2030.
So the big question is - what has happened in the way that we live, what we are eating, and our environment to cause this global trend of increase in dementia. Africa has the lowest incidence of dementia, followed by Asia, Europe and then America, and so it would appear the more developed the country and the further we are from our original human habitat and nutrition and the more exposed we are to environmental pollutants and processed foods, the worse the situation.
Can lifestyle and nutritional interventions slow down cognitive decline? The good news is that I think the answer is unequivocally YES - there are definitely things that you can do regarding your lifestyle and your nutrition that will support cognitive health.
The key elements that support brain health are:
Check out The MIND diet www.healthline.com/nutrition/5-studies-on-the-mediterranean-diet and make sure that your gut health is in tip top condition too.
Stimulus & challenge
It appears that we have the ability to create new neurons in response to new situations or challenges for all of our lives SO you can teach an old dog new tricks!!
Rest & calm
Sleep is vital in the prevention of dementia www.sciencenews.org/article/sleep-brain-alzheimers-plaques-protein.
Lowering your toxic load
Consciously avoid exposure to environmental toxins (skincare, eat organic).
Movement & exercise
Increase blood flow and therefore oxygenation of the brain.
Love, community, connection, faith and purpose all enhance oxytocin production which helps improve brain function.
To find out more about how to live longer and better check out www.bluezones.com
BRAIN BOOSTING SMOOTHIE
½ cup blueberries
1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder
½ cup water
Place all the ingredients in a blender and whizz together until delicious and smooth!
AVACADO - This green powerhouse is packed with monosaturated fats or “good” fats, helping to keep blood sugar levels steady and your skin glowing. It contains both vitamin K and folate, preventing blood clots in the brain (protecting against stroke) as well as help improving cognitive function, especially both memory and concentration. They are also rich in vitamin B and vitamin C, which aren’t stored in your body and need to be replenished daily. Plus, they have the highest protein and lowest sugar content of any fruit. Adding them to your smoothie also makes it smooth and creamy!
BLUEBERRIES - Blueberries are extremely high in antioxidants, and are packed with vitamin C and vitamin K and fiber. Because of their high levels of gallic acid, blueberries are especially good at protecting our brains from degeneration and stress.
WALNUTS - It turns out that eating walnuts can keep you from going nuts, a few walnuts a day can improve your cognitive health. Their high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals also improve mental alertness. The vitamin E in the nuts can also help ward off Alzheimer’s.