18 September 2016 / Nutrition

Gut Health

A couple of weeks back I had the opportunity, through my work, to attend one of Ben Warren's seminars on gut health. For those who haven't heard of Ben Warren, he is a brilliant nutritionist who has a large focus on holistic health. He is located in the North Island, but fortunately for us, he travels the country holding seminars to talk about about health and wellness. If you haven't heard of Ben already, I'd encourage you to begin following him. Check out his site BePure (he shares fantastic recipes and articles here). 

Gut health is something I myself have been focusing on over the past year due to my own health issues, so hearing what Ben had to say was really valuable and I just want to share a couple of things I learnt from the night. 

To begin, our gut holds a large influence on other health factors. We often associate our gut just with digestive issues, however it plays a role in many other systems. The health of our gut can have an effect on our immune system, mental health, thyroid, skin, and of course our digestion. If our gut becomes compromised, it is likely it will take a toll on some other aspect of our health. As Ben says, our gut is where health begins. 80% of our immune system lies within our gut, so as soon as our gut comes under stress, our immune system is affected and it's response is weakened.

A compromised gut can also lead to skin, brain, joint, colon, and adrenal issues. In fact many health issues can be from a leaky gut. If you experience any intolerances to food, talking to a health professional is a good idea to figure out exactly what it is. 

We can begin to help our gut out by taking probiotic supplements, to increasing the amount of fermented and whole foods in our diet, and reducing our intake of processed foods. If you ever have to take a course of antibiotics, it it often recommended to supplement with probiotics either during, and most definitely after. However there is a large benefit in adding a probiotic as a daily supplement, all year round. They replace the good bacteria in your gut that has been lost and can help to repair the gut. Probiotic yoghurt is an option, but a supplement is going to deliver a higher dose which will be more effective in times of need.

We must also look at the entire circle of health, and keep our diet in check. Processed foods can be damaging to the gut over time, with sugar feeding bad bacteria growth in our gut. Modifying your diet by eliminating processed foods, and increasing whole foods will have a huge impact on your overall health. Working towards a plant-based diet is the way to go, with the addition of whole grains, legumes, nuts and a portion of lean meat if you like. Processed foods lack nutrients, whole foods are full of nutrients. 

Some habits that Ben encouraged to begin everyday is to start your day off with lemon and water. You may already do this (if you do, keep it up!), otherwise it really is a good habit to start. Drink it before you have your breakfast and it will basically prepare your stomach before you eat by supporting production of hydrochloric acid, which is needed for the breakdown of our food. 

Relax at meal time:

Deep diaphragmatic breathing before, during and after eating will help control our autonomic nervous system to lower our pulse, to ensure we are relaxed. 

Chew your food properly:

The breakdown of carbohydrates actually begins in our mouth, so chew your food properly before swallowing and to help out your digestive system.

 

It's amazing how much of an impact these small changes can have on our health. Try them out at your next meal time if you experience digestive problems.