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:)

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:).


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!


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!