Gloriously Good Guts went to print with The Pink Magazine for The Times of Malta.
July was rounded off with very humbling milestone in my professional career, as I was able to to share a holistic perspective on gut health, when my article 'Whats gut got to do with it?' was published in The Pink Magazine, supplement for the Times of Malta July edition. This also marked a personal achievement of mine, which has been to write, share and hopefully inspire good health and well-being feelings. I am a very reflective person - I believe this provides us space to acknowledge how far we have come, take some beneficial detours and still keep sight of the destination. So in sharing my article I encourage you take the time for yourself to take stock, look how far you have come and re-establish those personal and professional goals,; hopefully taking you one step closer to being the best version of yourself.
There is no online version but if you missed the supplement below is the content - please enjoy and share if you think it will inspire someone in their journey for a gloriously good gut.
WHATS GUT GOT TO DO WITH IT?
"With the rising increase in gut health concerns across Europe, is it not about time we turned our attention to the importance of our own gut health? The Digestive Health Across Europe report (2018) identifies that across Europe 1 in 4 people are affected by Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and only 1 in 3 people seek medical assistance for their digestive health concerns. These figures highlight the vast amount of people who suffer in silence, perhaps managing as best they can and considering it a normal but inconvenient part of their daily lives, that is until they reach breaking point. It is important to acknowledge that our modern lifestyles our gut health is being compromised by increasing stress factors and poor diets, but good gut health isn’t just something that we should focus on when we are trying to get out of pain and distress. It is a part of a better understanding of developing a ongoing intuitive connection with your gut and acknowledging its' importance. This may seem like an alien concept to most but given that 70-80% of your immune system is held within your gut, poor gut health can and does have far reaching consequences on your general health, wellbeing and your energy levels.
Who wouldn’t want to feel healthier, happier and have more energy?
When we do eventually seek medical advice for digestive discomfort; having struggled for some time we are often looking for an immediate resolution but it can take a long period before digestive health diagnosis is found and several ‘trial and error’ attempts of different pharmaceutical recommendations before there is an improvement in symptoms. The thing about gut health, well it is more than just a ‘what goes in then comes out approach’ - good gut health is about lifestyle choices, individualised nutrition and developing an awareness of what works for you. Research has over the last decade focused on the 'micro biome'; for the average Joe and Jane thats your gut bacteria. Your micro biome begins its own unique development when you are born, as you leave and obtain bacteria from your mothers birth canal, and this is continually altered every time you eat something or come into contact with others. Your day to day environment playing an important role in your micro biome. Think of it as your tiny village within! Turnbaugh et al (2007) found that there can be variations of 10-100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells held by every person and that these are largely within the gut. Thus, making up a hugely diverse set of nationalities (gut bacteria) amongst your villagers. For most this can be a difficult or strange concept to understand, but the important thing is to understand that by creating a symbiotic relationship with your gut bacteria, which is diverse and constitutes good gut bacteria and and you will reap the physical, mental and emotional rewards.
The thing about bacteria, is that in order for the good to thrive, just like humans, they needs to be fed and provided with a good environment. Thankfully you have full ownership over how you choose to house these bacteria, and every time you eat & drink you have the opportunity to replenish and feed your bacteria. It is incredibly important that we consume a diet high in fibre, not only because your gut loves fibre but it also helps to keep you fuller for longer and has many nutritional benefits. But as Andreu Prados (2016) found where a diet lacked in fibre, this impacted on permeability, the quality of the gut mucous and increased chances of pathogens entering the gut barrier junctures. In addition to this, it is incredibly important for your gut mucous, immune system and microbiota that your diet contains probiotic and prebiotic foods. The better your food choices and your gut will thank you in return with tremendous benefits.
Have you ever noticed how the more sugar and unhealthy fats you eat, the more you want them?
Well thats because the bacteria which live off these food choices are multiplying every time you feed them and when they multiply they take over more space, speak louder than the good bacteria and win in the foods you consume - hence you giving into your cravings. It's a case of ‘he who shouts loudest wins’. In the same bite, it is important to acknowledge that the healthier you eat with more plant varieties, the more plentiful your good gut bacteria, which 'call' for better food choices. It shouldn’t have to take a nutritionist or personal trainer to inform you that the better your food choices, the better your health, sense of wellbeing and physical performance both in your daily activities and fitness and wellbeing pursuits. The better shape your gut is in, the greater ability you have to provide your body with the nutrients from your foods; directly affecting your physical, mental and emotional functioning.
So getting down to the nitty gritty…What is the link between your gut and your brain and what can you do?
The gut has been referred to as the second brain and it goes beyond just having a ‘gut feeling’. The brain and gut are directly connected via the vagus nerve; referred to as the gut-brain-axis. Your left and right vagus nerve starting in your brain, take a web like descent to your vital internal organs via your central nervous system, down your spine, and connecting down to your small and large intestine. Every primary digestive organ and assisting organ is connected by your vagus nerve. The vagus nerve, (just like your muscles) is better off when well toned. This equally takes practice and repetition. It is not good for your sympathetic nervous system to be out of balance, either your sympathetic ‘flight and fright’ and your parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’.
Although it is acknowledged that it’s pretty difficult in this hectic world not to be in fight and flight, which impedes good digestion. But in life we should practicing obtaining balance, the yin-yang effect. In todays constantly active culture it is incredibly important to value the importance of your parasympathetic nervous system as an important part of your daily self-care. This can be something that we have to re-learn, to tap into. Particularly in a world where the ’crazy busy’, ‘superman/superwoman’, being a ‘driven’ professional and ‘burning the candle at both ends’ have become the ‘norm’. You can develop your self-care by accessing and creating some quiet space in your life, for you. Which can be done through meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, walking in nature, reading and engaging in any calming activity - find what works, take the time, make the time and in time you will feel the benefits. It is also equally important to ensure that you engage in regular exercise. Not only so you can reap all the health and aesthetic benefits, but also to encourage the process of detoxification through sweating and elimination. Just strike the balance. You owe it to yourself and your gut bacteria to improve your health and well-being and those around you will benefit from your renewed vigour and mood.
Whats the link between your autonomic nervous system and your gut health?
Well itis important to know that your digestive system is governed by your parasympathetic nervous system and as a process, functions best when uninterrupted and in a calm state. This means giving yourself the time and space to enjoy food without being interrupted by your bleeping messages, email notifications or being distracted by the hum drum of the background television and worse still your inquisitive mind of social media scrolling. Put in place boundaries with yourself, acknowledging the benefits of these boundaries and the carry over they provide. These modern technology vices will all be there when you have finished your meal. For now I challenge you to be present in your important bodily function of absorption and digestion. Notice the smells, taste and textures of your food and the satisfaction that follows with mindfully eating. Then take a moment or two to allow your stomach to start digesting. These could be your first steps to changing your digestive health.
This all being said it should come as no surprise that your digestive system is affected by stress! Stress comes in different forms (relationships, financial, deadlines, toxic load) and it impacts on us all differently. Paul Enck (2017) in a study of military soldiers found that the gut wall lining (intestinal permeability) and microbiota were impacted upon due to the physiological stress during their training period. Although this study is of a group of participants undergoing intense physical and psychological stress, its important to acknowledge that we all experience stress to some degree but our body cannot differentiate between the different type of stress. A little stress can be beneficial, it can be the driving force in meeting your deadlines, but ongoing and persistent stress which is not managed and counteracted with rest, relaxation and self-care will have an impact on you physically and mentally. There have been links between those affected by IBS and being affected by anxiety and depression. A large proportion of your feel good chemicals are made in your gut and a healthy gut makes and retains more happy chemicals. This providing further reason to find and engage in activities, to spend time with others and to give yourself positive experiences for your feel good factor.
Let’s not underestimate the importance of good quality sleep, one of the most under-used naturally restorative functions available to us, and at no additional cost. Your gut lets you know the benefit of good sleep, by way of easier and fuller elimination, no bloating, no sugar and unhealthy fat cravings and improved mental clarity. Become a master of your own sleep hygiene and you are one step closer to developing a good gut and even closer to your total health. This can mean regularly going to bed at a set time, committing to your natural circadian rhythm and making sure you have at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
SO WHAT'S THE TAKE-AWAY?
Understand the importance of your nutrition and making conscious food choices, this includes; Prebiotic’s, Probiotic’s and Fibre.
Make time for exercise in all its different forms.
Give your head and gut some space to relax and de-stress.
Enjoy your food, honouring the process of digestion and make sure you are well hydrated everyday.
Give your gut-brain axis some enjoyable joint experiences by spending time in nature, which is great for your parasympathetic nervous system.
When your gut is out of kilter and you would benefit from a re-set, seek professional help from a colonic hydrotherapist to help you restore balance.
And finally, but most importantly don’t forget to listen to your new friend, the gut-brain connection, its likely to be whispering OR SCREAMING something that is valuable."
So there you have it my first published article and hopefully one of many. Since arriving on this tiny and beautiful island it has been my mission to help others in their health and well-being journey and the written word is just one form in which I hope to do so. Watch this space for collaborative retreats, educational workshops and more...
So heres to being bold in your pursuits for being the best version of yourself, to following your gut instinct and for nurturing the good gut feels.
Image from www.thetimesofmalta.com
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