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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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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