One of the little gems I took away from the recent Linden Leaves Well-being Series, was the talk by Mainland Tactix player, Jess Moulds. A Christchurch based dietitian who runs her own business, Relish Nutrition. Her discussion about food, coffee and our busy lives resonated well, and I know so many busy women can relate to these issues. I wanted to pass this on, because these simple tips, and reminders, could be the info you need to inspire a few more healthy choices & feel better everyday.
Here are Jess's top 5 tips for improving your gut health...
- Chew your food well
Sounds basic doesn't it, but it doesn't ways happen that way. It is common for people to struggle to slow down and find the time to chew their food properly. We sometimes eat as if we have teeth in our esophagus, but we don't. As soon as our food has left our mouths its all up to our stomach, and our intestines to do the rest of the work. So if we don't chew our food well and we send large chunks of foot to our stomach, the stomach has to work really hard to break it down, sending larger chunks to the small intestines. The small intestines is actually where we do all our absorbing of all our nutrients, vitamins and minerals. If the food is in larger chunks when it gets to the small intestine, we can absorb as many of the nutrients in the food we are eating, and it also sends some large chunks that shouldn't be there to the large intestine. The large intestine is where we hold most of our gut bacteria (good bacteria) which breaks it down into small molecules and ferments it. The by product of fermentation is gas and that's often what happens when people don't chew their food properly is they get large chunks in the large intestine, and they get the over production of gas which can cause bloating and flatulence, constipation and common IBS symptoms.
- Keep stress levels down
Managing stress is becoming more and more important because we are all living very busy lives, and when we are on the go all the time we are producing more stress hormones. Adrenaline and cortisol are our two stress hormones. When we are stressed, whether because we are in danger or because we have 200 emails to answer. Our body doesn't really know how to interpret the difference, so it will produce adrenaline to help us get away from what it perceives as danger. When you are stressed and producing more adrenaline it pushes your blood supply to your legs and arms, so if you are constantly stressed your digestive system becomes a bit sluggish because it doesn't get the blood supply needed to actually stimulate the nerves and break down the food. The best way, and actually the only biochemical way to change this is via your breathing, that really deep diaphragmatic breath is crucial for being able to tell your body you are safe and not in danger.
- Reducing caffeine
Caffeine has a really long half life, that means it takes a long time for the liver to break it down properly and excrete it from the body. So if you have a coffee at 8am by 8pm, quarter of that caffeine can still be in your system. So if you have a coffee at 2pm or 3pm that can be a huge amount of caffeine that can still be in your system at night and that can not only affect the quality of your sleep, but its the deep REM part of your sleep that we don't get into when we still have caffeine in our system, and that's the part of our deep sleep that helps us feel really alive the next day. The other thing about caffeine is that it is a stimulant. So it tells our body to produce more adrenaline. So if you're on the go and busy all the time, then your caffeine intake will add to the level of stress your body experiences, and from a gut perspective that's is really not helpful. My advice is to have one, max 2, and earlier in the day, but just set a realistic goal for you and work on cutting them down. This does include caffeinated teas.
- Get plenty of fibre
Fibre is a great food source of food for our gut bacteria (called prebiotics). As humans we don’t have the enzymes to break dietary fibre down. The bacteria in our gut are actually what breaks fibre down for us. Fibre is important for helping make your good bacteria thrive.
Good sources of fibre
Wholegrain breakfast cereals, wholewheat pasta, wholegrain bread and oats, barley and rye.
Fruit such as berries, pears, melon and oranges.
Vegetables such as broccoli, carrots , mushrooms and sweetcorn.
Peas, beans and pulses.
Nuts and seeds.
Potatoes and kumara with skin on
Everyday if you can. Probiotics are live micro-organisms that live right throughout our digestive system. We want our good bacteria to be flourishing so we can get all of the health benefits from our food. Things like boosting our immune system, breaking down our foods, being able too absorb our food, fighting off pathogens, keeping our hormones in balance. Having a healthy gut is really important. Yoghurt, kimchi or sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir. They are a great thing to start introducing daily.