One of my personal goals for health and wellness has been to explore gut health and start intentionally incorporating more gut friendly things into our meals and lifestyle. What a fascinating topic! There are several simple steps you can take to support your gut health.
What Is Gut-Health?
There has been lots of talk recently about what has become known as “gut-health.” The Johns Hopkins Medical Center website, one of the most well-respected hospitals and Medical Schools in the United States, there is a good reason for this. Hidden within the walls of your digestive system is what is known as “your second brain” and this “brain in your gut” is changing the way that we look at the links between mood, digestion, health and even the way that you think.
Does Disease Begin with Gut-Health?
The answer is not exactly. Not all the diseases start in the gut. For an example, it doesn’t apply to the genetic or inherited diseases. But, there are evidences that lots of chronic metabolic diseases do. They begin in the gut. We can prevent these diseases by following some easy steps.
Step 1: Know What Second Brain and Why Does It Matter
This “little brain” is called the “enteric nervous system” or ENS and it comprises 2 thin layers of over 100 million nerve cells that line your GI tract from your esophagus to your rectum. The role of the ENS is to control digestion, including swallowing to releasing the enzymes that help break food down, to the control of blood flow, which aids with both nutrient absorption and elimination. The ENS communicates with our brain with significant results. When you have an unhealthy gut the symptoms of that can manifest themselves in other parts of your body. It’s your body trying to tell you that something is wrong or out of balance. Studies have found that increasing your gut-health can lead to improvements in:
• Immune function – 80% of our immune system is located in our guts
• Brain function
• Symptoms of anger, sadness, and depression
• Toxin levels in the body
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
• Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
What Results? How Is This Even Possible?
The ENS may sense things that our cerebral brain can’t. Evidence has been found that when the GI tract is irritated it sends signals to the central nervous system, which can trigger our mood and ultimately affect it. When you consider that between 30%-40% of the population has bowel problems of some kind and that a higher percentage of these individuals develop depression and/or anxiety it’s easy to see how there could be a connection.
Our bodies are filled with bacteria – good and bad. There are more bacteria in a human body than there are cells and there are an estimated 100 trillion microorganisms living in our bowels alone (http://www.naturallivingideas.com/ 13-ways-to-improve-gut-health/.) The key here is to have more good than bad bacteria in your gut – the fancy name for the good microorganisms is probiotics. Probiotics help us do things like:
Step 2: Get More Probiotics
There are quite a few ways to get probiotics, but one of the easiest is to take a supplement called a probiotic. You will find many different kinds under different brand names and it would be a good idea to talk to your physician or pharmacist to see which is the brand that they recommend.
There are foods that are also high in probiotics. These foods include:
More Probiotics, What Else?
The ones that your grandmother and mother told you - stress less and laugh more. Stress, especially long-term stress, not only affects our gut bacteria, but it also affects the productions of hormones and neurochemicals that communicate with our brain. When it is long-term stress these chemicals and hormones can change permanently (unless you specifically work to change them back). Long-term stress may also lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach ulcers, IBD, IBS, and potentially food allergies
Laughter really is the best medicine. It helps to reduce stress and floods your body with the happy hormones and chemicals that make the good overtake the bad. There was even a study conducted (you can read more about it by clicking the link,) https:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19543102, where researchers studied healthy people as well as those with atopic dermatitis – a disease that is often associated with imbalances in gut bacteria. The researchers had the participants watch funny movies daily for one week. In only one week, the patients’ gut flora had changed and resembled the healthy participants.
Step 3: Play in The Dirt!
This is true both literally and figuratively. Gardening is good for you because it gets you outside, gives you exercise, and putting your hands in soil introduces your body to the microorganisms that are found on the plants and in the ground. In a more figurative way, stop killing all the bacteria. They have recently stopped putting anti-bacterial agents in things because humans are killing all the bacteria, the good and the bad. And what is happening? The bad bacteria are getting stronger and the good bacteria are dying.
Studies have shown that kids who grow up with a dog have both a lower risk of allergies and a healthier immune system. Dogs are associated with a type of house dust that actually exposes us to important strains of bacteria, L. johnsonii is one, which is essential within the digestive tract (http://www.naturallivingideas.com/13-ways-to-improve-gut-health/.) Dogs also work somewhat like a probiotic, helping develop healthy bacteria that boost your immune system, stopping you from getting ill, and possibly reducing allergies. Dogs also help you, or in some cases force you, to exercise more and help relieve stress in your life.
It may well be that a large part of maintaining good health is maintaining good gut-health. There are many ways that you can do this, including exercise, and learning to listen to your body; however, some of the easiest changes that you can make are to:
How do you incorporate gut health into your diet and lifestyle?
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection http://www.naturallivingideas.com/13-ways-to-improve-gut-health/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1954310
It's only the first week of September but already the weather seems to have decided it's fall. It was only 55 degrees today so time to break out the sweat shirts, jackets and tennis shoes.
For lunch I made my comforting lentil soup which is filling, nutritious and so easy to make in the crock pot or instapot. I made mine in my instapot which saves time and fewer pots to clean. If you have time, let it simmer on the stove top and fill your house with a wonderful aroma.
Simply serve with a side of buttered bread and you have a perfect fall lunch.
Comforting Lentil Soup Recipe:
1 lb pork sausage
1 head of garlic, diced
1 onion, diced
1 bag of lentils
2 cans chicken broth
4 cups water
2 carrots, diced
1 bunch of kale, cleaned and shredded
1 can of diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
To use in the crockpot: Start by browning the sausage in a saute pan on the stove top. When the sausage is browned add the garlic and onions and give it a stir. Allow the garlic and onion to soften, about 5 minutes. Move sausage mixture to the crock pot and add in the lentils, chicken broth, water and carrots. Let simmer for 4 hours in the crockpot on the medium setting. About 30 minutes prior to serving add in the kale, diced tomatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with a slice of buttered bread. Enjoy!
1 I've been there - four times to be exact - trying to figure out what to have on hand to eat after a new baby comes into our family. Once they arrive life is pretty much turned upside down for a few months and there isn't as much time or energy to prepare meals or snacks. I have found planning ahead helps me to eat well and nourish myself during the newborn stage.
Here are my 5 go to's for helping increase energy, stamina, balance mood and help keep you from reaching for processed convenience foods when life is stressful.
Fresh fruits. Have plenty of fresh fruit on hand - in the fridge, freezer and on your kitchen counter - apples, bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, kiwis, oranges, grapefruit, berries like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, mangos, pineapple, and grapes all make a quick refreshing snack that needs no special preparation and offers plenty of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. (And don't forget fiber...because I know how those first bowel movements after a new baby go!)
Raw veggies. Like baby carrots, radishes, celery, zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and more. Cut them up into bite sized chunks and store them in a covered container in the refrigerator and grab a handful when you are hungry. Enjoy them with your favorite dip or try my yogurt dip below.
Nutritious spreads. Hummus, peanut butter and nut butters, like almond or cashew butters, or mashed avocado make an easy and nutritional snack when spread on whole grain crackers, bread, or pita slices.
Fish. Research also shows that nursing mothers who do not consume enough omega-3 fatty acids are more likely to experience postpartum depression. Try canned fish like salmon or tuna over whole grain crackers or a bed of lettuce leaves. Sprinkle lemon juice and some salt and pepper to taste over top for a light and fresh snack. Make it meal with some fresh fruit and veggies on the side.
Smoothies. Whip up a quick fruit smoothie with plain yogurt, fresh fruit (like strawberries and banana), ice, spinach and flax seed oil. You can make several servings all at once and keep them on hand in the fridge for something quick to sip on throughout the day.
Mama Simply Yogurt Veggie Dip:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon each finely diced;
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon
Mix together and chill before serving
Morning time is just not my best time. I usually take several hours to wake up and feel like I can start getting around to doing things like laundry, picking up, errands, etc. I usually schedule appointments and errands for after 10 am because anything before that it just not going to be pretty. Knowing this about myself, I usually plan a few super simple and easy crockpot meals planned that I can just throw together in the morning without a lot of fuss or effort.
Here is my super simple pork roast recipe:
One pork roast
4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 onion, sliced
salt and pepper
1/2 cup of water
In a crockpot add in the whole pork roast and throw in the garlic and onion. Top pork roast with salt and pepper and parsley. Pour the water in the bottom of the crock pot. Set crock pot on low for 8 hours or on high for approximately 4-6 hours. Enjoy with a side of green beans, some garlic smashed potatoes and sliced watermelon.
*If you would like, add in some carrots and potatoes to the crock pot with the pork roast to make dinner (and clean up!) even simpler.