Love your gut, heal your (leaky) gut

gutOur guts play a major part in helping to keep our immune system balanced, due to 80% of our immune tissue being located within our digestive system. When bacteria and viruses start to enter our gut, it can cause a condition called leaky gut.  There is where the small intestine wall starts to become damaged, which creates holes that allow particles (such as from gluten, dairy, other foods you are intolerant to, antibiotics, mould, to leak into your bloodstream. The immune system views these particles as invaders and starts to attack, which can then lead to things like malabsorption of vitamins and minerals (like B12 and iron), and auto-immune disorders.

Without a healthy balance of good bacteria in your gut, the immune system starts to become defenceless and organs become reactive (causing thyroid issues, rheumatoid arthritis, constipation, IBD, adrenal fatigue, colds, fibro, headaches, acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

There is also a gut-brain connection – both the gut and the brain have neurons and each has a nervous system. This can the lead to things like: ADHD, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and OCD.

One of the first indications of leaky gut is increasing food intolerances. Therefore do some testing to find out what foods you have become intolerant to and remove them from your diet. The person doing the testing (eg naturopath, dietician) can usually indicate to you how long you need to remove the offending food for. and when you can reintroduce the food. You will need to keep a food diary of symptoms during this time.

Some top triggers:

Gluten: Grains these days contains far more gluten that they did when originally grown and are also quite hybridized. It is common for gluten not to be broken down properly in the gut which causes inflammation and then leakage. It will then start attacking your own tissues, like joints and thyroid. I personally noticed my pain levels significantly reduce when I eliminated gluten 9 years ago.

GMO foods – laces with pesticides, herbicides, viruses which kill of microbes in the gut.

Processed sugar – sugar causes imbalance in the body and over produces yeast which produces toxins that eat away at the wall, and also can lead to candida which causes all sorts of symptoms. Sugar also reduces collagen production, which can cause sagging of skin. I prefer to keep the wrinkles at bay as long as possible;).

Dairy – conventional dairy contains many different chemicals, growth hormones, antibiotics added to it when given to livestock and we then consume it. Since giving up dairy my rashes and acne have greatly improved. There are many nut milks on the market these days, you can make your own, experiment:).

Antibiotics: can be vital in treating life-threatening conditions to kill off bad bacteria, but also take the good with the bad.

Stress: Constant stress over the long-term will cause a range of negative effects including decreased nutrient absorption, oxygenation of the gut, less blood flow to the area, and decreased metabolism.

Food additives can lead to skin problems, diarrhoea, bloating, and asthma.

Top healing foods:
Bone broth – contains amino acids which repairs and detoxes. Full of luscious bone marrow, containing collagen.
Coconut oil – anti-microbial, especially good for candida. It kills off yeast in the body.
Blueberries – highest antioxidants, restevorial and flavonoids, lower in sugar and more sour which nourishes liver and easy digestable form of fibre.
Orange and yellow foods nourish the spleen. Worry and anxiety affects the spleen and pancreas.
Probiotics: Line your gut and provide protection, especially after a bout of antibiotics. They create enzymes for better digestion, and can help produce B12 and vit K. I take one daily, containing 50,000IU. Some really good brands these days don’t need to be refrigerated.
Digestive enzymes – breaks down your food and gives your gut a rest.
L-glutamine powder – amino acid which lines your small intestine and gives it the building blocks to repair.

Drink lots of water – it flushes out toxins. Invest in a good water filter and adding lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to your water will aid digestion and break up mucus in the body.

Some gut healing herbs include Echinacea, astragalus, licorice, cinnamon, comfrey, slipper elm bark, and aloe vera.

Many vitamins provide detoxing benefits, and help decrease inflammation and provide help in building up the gut wall and absorbing nutrients.

Also stress reducing practises such as yoga, medication and deep breathing. They help calm the gut and balance gut-brain connection.

Whilst you work on making your gut healthy, look at making your surrounding environment healthy as well. Clean with non toxic products, choose natural fibres in your home, open windows (as long as you don’t live next to something like a coal loader, in that case get a special air humidifier). Use products on your skin and hair that are as natural as possible as they can be absorbed into your body (60% to be precise).

All disease lives in the gut – Socrates. Here’s to a healthy gut and a healthy you:)

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Six salt solutions

Salt is definitely my friend – I have used it in many different ways for health issues, and here are the top six reasons I find salt so effective:

1). Swimming in salt water always makes me feel refreshed and relaxed. It contains vitamins, minerals, and microorganisms that can absorb through your pores to boost your immune system. It helps to dry out cuts, cleanse wounds, and clear toxins. And it definitely has helped clear out my sinuses! And swimming is a great exercise all round for those of us who are injured, as it is low impact, and an all body exercise.

2). If you aren’t up to swimming, use salt scrubs in the shower. Exfoliating with salt helps to remove bacteria from the skin as it has antiseptic properties and also unclogs pores. It’s easy enough to make at home – use 1/2 a cup of oil, such as almond, a cup of sea salt, about 10 drops of any essential oils you like (whether you want it be relaxing, refreshing, or invigorating). Put salt in a bowl, add the oil, and stir with a spoon. You can change the texture by adjusting the amount of base oil, and then tap in the essential oils and mix well.

3) If you prefer baths, then use Epsom salts. They are different to normal salts as they are made up of magnesium and sulfate, which can enhance the detoxification capabilities of the body. These two minerals are easily absorbed through the skin, into the bloodstream, and help to detoxify and reduce inflammation. Do not however use Epsom baths if you are pregnant, dehydrated, have open wounds, burns on your skin, or cardivascular disease.

4). I have investigated and used salt rooms in the past few years, namely the Salt Therapy Centre in Newcastle. They are supposed to be beneficial for conditions like asthma, eczema, psoriasis, and enhance immunity. The salt is broken down into micro-particles and sprayed around the room, where the particles embed into the lungs, absorb bacteria, fight infection and help with blockage. I can’t say I’ve been enough to notice any lasting benefits, but found each session to be very relaxing, and it did start clearing up blockages in my chest.

5). I love salt lamps, and my partner likes to lick them! They neutralise the Electro Magnetic Field (EMF) in our environment caused by electrical devices we have surrounding us and purify the air with negative ions, and decrease the number of airborne bacteria indoors. I have one in my bedroom, and it has definitely decreased my coughing at night.

6). My doctor advised me to put salt in my drinking water for low blood pressure, and dizziness. I just put a few pinches of Himalayan salt in my water bottle each day. And if I get sore throats, I will add some salt to a glass of water and gargle with it to kill bacteria.

Salt – so abundant, so easy to use, so beneficial:).

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Yoga Nidra

Recently I spent a day at a yoga ashram where I got to experience Yoga Nidra, a relaxing lying down meditation (I sat in a chair due to injuries, but I think it would be preferable to be lying down, if suitable). Yoga nidra is the deepest possible state of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness. It is that state of between being awake or asleep, and you remain aware of your environment while being in a dream-like state. Although some people do find it hard to keep awake during this meditation!

We began by tensing the muscles in different muscles of our body, then relaxing them. Our minds were brought to examine the physical environment outside the room and inside the room. Visualized imagery was used, as well as a personal affirmation called San Kalpa, which is a short positive statement of intent of what you want to change in your life. It is an instruction from your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which should be uttered in the present tense as if it is already happening.

I opened my eyes after a 30-minute yoga nidra session and felt like I had slept for hours, when I had been completely awake and aware the whole time. I felt like I didn’t want to move; I was connected to my body – in that moment I was not feeling any pain, and it felt amazing:).

Regular practise of Yoga Nidra is helpful to rest, restore, and renew the whole body, mind, and spirit,  to process and release stress and tension that can lead to physical, emotional, and mental disturbances. Studies have shown that a single hour of Yoga Nidra is as restful and refreshing as four hours of sleep.

Yoga Nidra may:

Reduce chronic pain; strengthen immune system; lower blood pressure; reduce anxiety, depression, and addiction; balance the nervous system; calm and stabilize mind and emotions; reduce or eliminate pain medication; reduce or eliminate insomnia; strengthen endocrine system; lower cholesterol levels; effectively reduce PTSD (was involved in a study on soldiers with PTSD and subsequently used as a tool for them); remove unwanted physical and mental stresses and tensions, and enhance creativity.

So look up a yoga nidra practise today (I found one on You Tube), or even better find a yoga centre that includes yoga nidra in their classes, and get ready to relax:).

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Memory – use it or lose it (and tips for keeping it)

As technology use increases, our memory decreases. There is a term for this – it’s called digital dementia, a term coined by neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer, who has written about how our cognitive abilities are breaking down, with our reliance on technology causing deterioration in brain performance, such as short-term memory dysfunction. People are relying on smart phones and other devices to remember information for them, which weakens the brain muscle, and can lead to short attention span, short term memory problems, and even emotional disturbances, like depression.

We need to rewire our brains to reverse this damage and keep our brains healthy. Here are some tips I personally use to keep the brain matter buzzing.

Write things down. I write in a daily diary at the end of the day, and make notes of things I may need to do for the next day. I also have a wall calendar where I note down my appointments, that I look at when I walk past it every day, which helps retain the information in my head.

Read a book – reading an actual book rather than a tablet has been shown to improve memory retention.

Learn a new language – this will make your brain work harder, which makes you smarter.

Learn an instrument – instruments require the use of both sides of the brain, which will help strengthen and balance.

Exercise – this increases blood flow to the brain, and accelerates the transport of nutrients.

I especially love jigsaws, and crosswords – really gives my brain a nice workout.

If we focus on disconnecting from technology, it will improve our brain health, emotional health, organisations skills, time management, and hopefully lead to better real-time connections with people, and places. Unplug, unwind, and remember…………..:).

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I breathe, therefore I am

While we need to breathe to survive, breathing is also strongly related to our feelings and thoughts. If we are not in control of our breath, can we be in control of our emotions? I’m guilty of shallow breathing. Developed over a lifetime of feeling anxious, tense muscles, back injuries, and not feeling present. Notice how our breathing changes when we are confronted with stress, and anxiety. Where does our breath come from? More often than not, it will come from the chest, when it needs to come from the belly. We breathe fast and shallow in these instances and deprive ourselves of oxygen, and control over our body and mind.

Breathing fully involves our back muscles, intercostal muscles (the muscles between the ribs), and our pelvic muscles as these muscles cause the lungs to inflate and to deflate. Our breathing is the most relaxed when we awake, before we think about all we have to do that day.

While still in bed, and with your eyes shut, place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Where is your breathe coming from? Mentally go through the activities you have planned for the day. Slowly breathe in, counting to 5 in your head, and as you breathe out, count to 5 again. Repeat this several times to help your body get into a rhythmic breathing pattern. Notice any changes in your breathing, and where your breathe is coming from now. Become aware of how your body is responding to thoughts or movements. Make it a routine and notice any changes occurring over time, and incorporate any other exercises you feel will help your breathing.

Breathing correctly costs nothing, and is a great way to connect to yourself, and calm yourself. It can help with better sleep, as you are teaching yourself to let go, allowing yourself to rest, and soothe the body and mind. Learn to control your body to control your mind. To gain confidence in all aspects of your life. Breathe in positivity, breathe out negativity. Breathe in love, breathe out anger. Breathe deep, breathe freely. 2477352_9599199_lz

Be still, be present, just breathe.

Recently I was watching one of my favourite reality shows, and was dismayed to see one of the young (28) male’s come closing to having a heart attack. He hardly ever took enough time to eat, to sleep, to slow down, to stop, to listen to his body, and just breathe. Being hooked up to numerous wires was a wake-up call for him. He realised he wasn’t present in his life. For a person who loved life with a passion, he was close to losing it. He sat down, closed his eyes for a minute, and just breathed. There he was, in the stillness, in the here and now.

I’ve been guilty of not being still within myself for an extended period. I thought to be still was to be wasting time, because I wanted to do everything, and do it now. I didn’t realise that not taking that time out would lead to prolonged illness for me. Humans have a capacity to push themselves past their self-imposed limits and sometimes that’s okay, because they surprise themselves by achieving more than they ever thought possible, and they realise it was their mind that was holding them back. But there’s a difference between pushing yourself beyond what you thought you could do, and ignoring the warning signs that you’ve done too much.

Some people think inaction is a bad thing. But without inaction, your action may suffer. The stillness allows you to become more self-aware of what is going on around you, your thoughts, to catch your breath, to allow calmness that can then permeate through your body, and your day. Find comfort in stillness, and become good at it. Go inward at least once a day, to radiate calm outwards, even within the midst of chaos!

Try it now – stop what you are doing, sit down for a minute, close your eyes, breathe into your belly, focus on your breath, be aware of it, open your eyes, smile and remember to breathe as you go about your day. Practise, practise. The more you practise the easier it will be to experience calm, to cope with the madness. Take the de-stress pill called stillness.

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Food as Medicine part 2 (and a bowl of soup on the side)

I’m sure most of us have at some point cut down/cut out foods that aren’t good for us (for health reasons or to try and lose weight), but do we put as much thought into eating certain foods that have specific health benefits, and aid in illness prevention?It’s the season for warm foods to keep us toasty roasty, and to nourish our body with healthy goodness while it competes with cold weather and being exposed to more viruses.

While I enjoy eating soups year round, in winter it is beneficial to add ingredients that help keep the bugs at bay, and also work on metabolism, that are cancer-preventative, and anti-inflammatory. You can pretty much add any vegetable to a soup without having to follow a recipe, – go crazy, chop chop, add some spices, some stock, and 10 minutes later it’s simmering away.

Last week I made a nurturing soup of broccoli, zucchini, celery, asparagus, and baby spinach. These green ingredients are chock full of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and are great for immune, bone, and heart health. I don’t use onion and garlic as I avoid FODMAP foods due to food intolerances, but if you are fine to eat them, they are very beneficial. Instead I add some ginger for calcium, potassium, B vitamins, and it’s also great for nausea. Lentils were added for some iron and folate and a generous sprinkling of turmeric, cumin and rosemary aid digestion and metabolism, help with pain, and get some more iron, magnesium, and calcium into me. Once it was ready, I added some toasted slivered almonds for crunch, omega 6, and good fats.

If you have any health concerns, it’s worth looking up what foods will benefit you the most to help manage them. Viola! – tasty medicine in a bowl, with no side-effects!

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Food as Medicine (introduction)

Recently I cut my vitamin supplements right back; I was taking so many vitamin powders and tablets that I rarely felt like eating. And did I feel like they were making a massive difference? Not really. Perhaps to my dwindling money tree, but not to my energy or pain levels. So with perfect timing I started a nutrition course that discusses in-depth vitamins, minerals, and what foods to find them in. Using a symptoms chart, I worked out what vitamins and minerals I am deficient in, and wrote down all the foods that I should be eating the most. And no, refined sugar is definitely not one of them! I also have noted down the fibre, protein, and carbohydrate, and fat counts in those foods to make sure I get a good balance of each.

But no surprise, being a coeliac and having a compromised immune system, even with big doses of supplements, I appear to still be deficient in many nutrients. That’s why making food my medicine is so important. The main benefits from eating these foods is cleansing my body, fighting free radicals, boosting my immune system, and lowering inflammation. When I gave up gluten 8 years ago, my pain from numerous injuries substantially decreased. Until then I would be curled up on a ball on the floor crying in pain for years, and using my TENS machine daily.

Eating good, clean foods is giving my body the best chance to heal. We only have one body, so love it, nourish it, and hopefully it will reward you for many wonderful years to come!

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Stress part 2 (my 5 top tips for serenity)

1. Self care (relaaaaaax).

So important! You need to keep yourself healthy first and foremost to make it easier to look after others (like children), and for sanity!. If you don’t have a lot of time to yourself, then make your home your sanctuary. I have set up a little nook off the lounge expressly for de-stressing purposes. Find a space that you can call yours, no matter how small and when you use it, you are not allowed to think of anything but relaxing:) Focus on the present. If you like baths, make it special – add candles, music, and relaxing potions. Find a space outdoors, in nature, read the paper with a cup of tea, or just close your eyes, enjoy the feeling of the sun on your skin, or rug up and enjoy the warmth and feel of a soft, cosy throw. For those that have the time, and money, enjoy a body therapy, such as a facial or massage. Or you can give yourself a facial, and ask someone at home to give you a foot massage. Ah, bliss!

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2. Emotional awareness

Our thoughts can contribute massively to our stress levels. Listen to your self talk, for internal negative messages. Be kind to yourself!  Work on any old belief patterns that may be holding you back from a new job, new hobby, new life, and causing undue worry.

3. Exercise

Lack of exercise, or being sedentary, is linked to many health problems, so get moving! And exercise totally burns off stress as well as calories! Work out what parts of your body you want to improve, and what kind of exercise you like doing. Obviously something like tai chi or yoga is not going to give you the muscles that weight resistance would, but yoga will still tone and lengthen. Swimming and walking are two great ways to keep fit for those of those who can’t do anything too strenuous.

4. Get creative

Who likes being creative? I’ve set up an art and music studio in my garage with a new sewing machine and affirmation pictures on the wall. Painting is so therapeutic, and I get to splash paint everywhere. Adult colouring books are very popular at the moment and all you have to do is colour between the lines, no drawing talent needed:). Sitting around the keyboard with a friend having a singalong is great for stress. Music! Music makes everything better! Have a dance, work off that tension.  Or just yell the words of the song out, and scare the neighbours. Particularly good for those of us who are unwell, the singing, not the dancing. Or just dance in your chair. I do.

5. Online supermarket shopping

This has been great for me. I’ve been ordering groceries online for 10 years. No driving, no looking for a parking spot, no wheeling around a trolley, trying to get past people, waiting in line, and carrying heavy bags. It’s worth the $6-11 delivery free (and free Wednesdays) just for that! And I usually get free samples included ( my last shop I got about $30 worth of free groceries).

So today, and every day, dance, sing, pamper yourself, laugh, and be joyous xx

Stress

Today was a stressful day. I now have tea in hand, relaxing music playing in the background, with the oil burner pumping out goodness into my senses. How do you cope with stress? People who suffer from stress have a higher likelihood of heart disease and heart attacks, among other negative effects on the body. Now, we don’t want that! Lifestyle choices play a much bigger part in whether we get ill than genetics do. We want to support our immune system throughout our everyday lives of work, play, looking after the kids, cooking, driving (wow, sounds exhausting just listing those)! And for those of us who aren’t well enough to do many of those things, that is stressful in itself. Relying on others for help can be stressful, and not being able to do what we once could. What can we do for ourselves today for 5-10 minutes to de-stress, to incorporate into our daily routine? Can you spare a few minutes when you wake up to centre yourself, to start the day off in a good headspace before life gets in the way? Sing in the shower, give yourself a little head massage. On the way to work, if you are on public transport, look out the window and enjoy the scenery. Stopped at traffic lights, do the same (but not for too long!). Breathe deeply when you feel stressed to slow the stress reaction – breathing properly is so important to many body functions. We don’t think about as we do it automatically but it’s simple and we can do it anywhere. For those of us who are at home a lot, I will talk about meditation in future blogs. Whatever you are doing, just think about ways you can simplify things to make them less stressful. Take some time for you every day, even 5 mins, to nuture you, that doesn’t cost anything, and lessen the risk of any nasties happening! Your nervous system, immune system, and other systems say thank you, and I say how’s the serenity:). xxNuture