diet

GUT HEALTH AND ITS IMPORTANCE

Many of us consider our gut to be simply an automated food processing system that, at best, does little more than digest our food and at worst, is the source of discomfort and illness. But have you ever considered that your intestine is your largest organ? Its average length is greater than the width of a tennis court and its surface area is approximately 200 times the surface area of your skin. So why is our gut health so important? There is increasing emerging evidence that the size and complexity of our gut play a vital role in more than just nutrient absorption; it’s also connected to our immune system, mental health and general wellbeing.

Nutrient absorption – we are what we absorb, not just what we eat

Taking the food we eat and processing it so that we can absorb and utilise the nutrients is the most obvious role of our gut. Having been broken down by the acidic stomach, the majority of nutrient absorption takes place in our small intestine, but this absorption varies between 10-90% depending upon the health of our intestine.

Three ways to increase nutrient absorption:

Drink a glass of water 30 minutes before each meal. This will prime the digestive system

Chew your food for longer. This will boost the digestion process and food will taste better

Avoid caffeine and alcohol whilst eating

The gut-brain axis – your gut instinct

Our gut contains a network of neurons equivalent in complexity and size to the brain of a cat, and we all know how intelligent cats are! This neural-network, known as the ‘Enteric Nervous System’, not only controls digestion but it also connects directly to our brainstem to provide two-way communication with the unconscious part of our inbuilt master computer. One of the key messengers in this network is serotonin. In the brain, this messenger is well known for producing feelings of positive wellbeing and happiness, yet approximately 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract.

This ‘second brain’ in our gut determines, not just our digestive health, but it also affects our mood and even the way we think and therefore behave. Maybe our ‘gut instinct’ has a more rational basis than we previously realised.

The immune system – battling the bugs

The immune system is our body’s natural defence force. Ready, armed and willing to attack any foreign invaders, the immune cells are housed in our lymphoid tissue. Examples include our lymph nodes and spleen, but 70% of lymphoid is in our intestine which makes it the body’s largest immune organ.

Our micro-biome – the good, the bad and the ugly

We now understand that our gut factory is not fully automated, it actually houses a huge workforce! Bacteria are often considered the bad boys of biology causing infection, disease and illness, and whilst for some bacterial strains this is true, there are many other bacterial strains that are vitally important for us to survive. They co-habit in our bodies, living and working in our large intestine – the micro-biome.

There are over 40 trillion bacteria in our gut, making up 1-3% of our body weight and in fact, there is more bacterial genetic material in our gut than there are human genes in our body! These good bacteria support our immune, gut-brain axis and digestive system in many ways, including producing enzymes, vitamins and hormones we cannot make, and enhancing the absorption of certain minerals. Ensuring we cultivate our good gut bacteria, encouraging their growth and productivity is essential to our overall health and wellbeing.

Three steps to boost your microbiome:

Exercise regularly

Vary your diet with lots of nutrient-dense vegetables and berries

Avoid refined sugar and processed food.

Making the right choices on a daily basis to promote good gut health will not only improve your digestive health but it will also support your immune system and mental health. Optimal intestinal health truly is the key to good general wellbeing.

Aloe Vera Gel helps absorption and is a natural anti-inflammatory.  Aloe contains pre-probiotics and therefore contributes to the good bacteria in the gut.

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Try Forever Active Pro-B™ in tandem with our patented aloe vera, which acts as a prebiotic. Whether your goal is to promote a healthy digestive system or enhance nutrient absorption and immune function, add Forever Active Pro-B™ to your daily supplement program.

As probiotics themselves are quite fragile, Forever Active Pro-B™ uses an exclusive, cryo protection technology that protects the probiotics during manufacture and throughout shelf-life. The strains in Forever Active Pro-B™ have been selected and engineered to have high resistance to stomach acid and bile salts allowing them to reach the intestine. Clinical studies have shown these strains have a greater ability to colonize and proliferate and survive the passage of the GI Tract.

Health, diet and the menopause

A bit like taxation and death, for women the menopause cannot be escaped.

I went through it with no, nil, zilch, nada symptoms and now, I know, you hate me.

Symptoms:

Monthly weight fluctuations / Swelling, puffiness and water retention / Bloating / Headaches / Mood swings / Tender breasts / Low mood / Unable to cope with ordinary demands / Backaches, joint or muscle pain / Premenstrual food cravings (especially sugar or salt / Irregular cycles, heavy bleeding or light bleeding / Infertility /Premenstrual migraines / Breast cysts or lumps or fibrocystic breasts / Family history of breast, ovarian or uterine cancer / Uterine fibroids / Hot flushes / Night sweats / Insomnia / Crashing fatigue / Low libido / Dry skin. hair, vagina / Palpitations / Poor memory or concentration / Weight gain around the middle / Facial hair.

HORMONES

It’s pesky hormones that create the menopause. Our ovaries become less responsive to two hormones Luteinizing Hormone and Follicle Stimulating Hormone. As we age we produce less of these, which in turn fail to regulate oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.

STRESS

This also affects hormone levels. Cortisol is a hormone that we do not need a lot of in our bodies. It’s the fight or flight hormone, designed to keep us safe, however we no longer need to get away from the sabre toothed tiger who is going to eat us. Producing cortisol diverts hormones from producing oestrogen, testosterone and DHEA and leads to reduced progesterone levels. This can result in early menopause.

Health and illness starts in the gut. More messages go from the gut to the brain than the other way around. Your gut contains trillions of good bacteria. This is known as the gut microbiome and is crucial to your health. Bacteria help to digest food, and keep your immune system strong. The microbiome has a major influence on your health and your entire system and can lead to major issues.

GUT

1. Diet – the Western diet has foods high in fat and refined sugars. Too many processed foods can result in an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in the gut. Studies have shown that eating too much processed food can result in erosion of the mucus layer protecting the cells of the intestine. Probiotics can increase the amount of good bacteria in the gut. Found in aged cheeses, olives, pickled beetroots, sauerkraut, soya beans and Greek yoghurt. Aloe Vera is a prebiotic and acts as a fertiliser for the good bacteria in the gut. Prebiotic’s can also be found in berries, bananas, tomatoes, vegetables, barley, flaxseed, oatmeal, black/white/kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils

2. Sleep and mood – our gut contains 90% of our serotonin – a feel good hormone. Serotonin also helps to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. Low levels of serotonin can contribute to depression.

3. Inflammation and infection – good bacteria in the gut help to smother the bad bacteria responsible for infection. The gut also contains bacteria which help cut inflammation and keep our immune system safe.

4. Skin – our natural oil on the skin helps to keep bacteria out. The natural moisture on the skins prevents bacteria from invading our bodies.

DIET

Hormonal changes can also cause bones to weaken, which will increase the risk of osteoporosis. Calcium and vitamin D are linked to good bone health. Many foods are calcium rich, including dairy products like Greek yogurt, milk, cheese and also cabbage, kale, spinach, tofu, beans, sardines. Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, but as we age, our skin is less efficient at making it, so vitamin D can be found in oily fish, eggs, and red meat, but this should be eaten in moderation because it can cause inflammation.

Also ensure there is enough iron in your diet – red meat, egg yolks, chichen, port, turkey, chickpeas, shellfish, spinach, broccoli, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate. Also ensure your vitamin C level is high enough because without this, your body cannot absorb iron.

Top foods for regulating hormone levels – Avocados / Flaxseed / Broccoli / Pomegranate / Beans / Salmon / Leafy Greens / Nuts

Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring plant compounds that can mimic the effects of oestrogen in the body. In Asian countries such as Japan, menopausal women rarely experience hot flushes and this is put down to a diet rich in soybeans, soy products, tofu, flaxseeds, linseeds, sesame seeds and beans. The phytoestrogen content in foods varies dependant of the processing methods.

Maintaining a health weight can also help avoid heart disease and diabetes, plus your body weight may affect your menopause symptoms. Eating regularly is important when going through the menopause, so every 2 – 4 hours to maintain a good metabolism and keep blood sugar stable.

TRIGGER FOODS

Caffeine, alcohol and foods that are sugary or spicy may trigger night sweats and mood swings, so avoid eating/drinking them late at night.

EXERCISE

There is no evidence to suggest this can help menopause, however it is incredibly beneficial for good health. These benefits include improved energy and metabolism, healthier joints and bones. It can relive stress producing feel good endorphins and improve sleep. So in a round about way it does help because it can improve sleep, anxiety, low mood and fatigue. Strength training maintains a better muscle to fat ratio which in turn increases metabolic rate and helps to maintain a good weight.

WATER

During menopause, many women experience dryness, possibly caused by a decrease in oestrogen levels. So drinking 8-12 glasses of water can help.

REDUCE REFINED SUGAR AND PROCESSED FOOD

This should be a goal for everyone. Refined carbs and sugar can cause sharp rises in blood sugar which can make you feel tired and hungry. Excess sugar is stored as fat and can also lead to Type 2 diabetes.

SLEEP

If you are having trouble sleeping avoid the trigger foods at night. Try and stick to a sleep schedule even on the weekends. Practice a relaxing bedtime regime and don’t use electronic devices 90minutes before going to bed. Exercise can also aid sleep, but not before bed. It sounds obvious but make sure the temperature is right in the bedroom, especially at this time of year when there is a tendency to turn on the heating. Radiators can be turned down individually so do not have a hot bedroom. If your mattress or pillow is not comfortable change it, after all you could be going through this for years so the cost will be worth it. Keep your phone out of the bedroom to avoid the temptation of looking at it. Write down your worries before you go to bed, get them out of your head so you’re not mulling over them.

RELAXATION

Relaxation can decrease the effects of stress on the mind. There are techniques that can help to deal with everyday stress caused by life and health problems. Short meditations can help even if it’s only 5 – 10 minutes. Practice breathing techniques. I love the sport yogi and on this site, you get loads of great stuff for £5.99 a month https://www.thesportyogi.com/

The Calms App or Headspace App is also useful for meditation and mindfulness. If you’ve never done anything like this, try it, you might be pleasantly surprised.

SUPPLEMENTS

There are a variety of supplements around. My ones are

Aloe Vera Our purifying drinking gel boasts 99.7% inner leaf aloe gel to aid digestion and skin health. It’s also high in vitamin C which contributes to the normal function of the immune system and to a normal energy-yielding metabolism.

Royal Gelly High level of B5, regulates sleep patterns.

Nature Min Full of minerals which we need to absorb chemicals.

A-Beta-Care Vitamin E slows the ageing process, helps PMT and fatigue.

Multi-Maca Increases hormone levels, helps with hot flushes and hormonal changes.


If you want any more information on these then please get in touch via the website.