How the health of your gut affects you

The gastrointestinal system (GIT), or simply put, the gut, encompasses a large proportion of your body. It starts with the cephalic phase (thought, smell or sight of food) and ends at the anus. Its primary function is to break down food into its basic macro and micro nutrients and to further absorb and assimilate them.

Many things affect the optimal functioning of your gut and this in turn can have an effect on your mood, immunity, energy levels and overall wellbeing.

The gut is sterile at birth, however immediately after, it starts to become colonised by trillions of microorganisms. By the age of 1, each person has their unique bacterial profile which remains the blueprint for the rest of their life. While changes may occur through disease, infection, stress and diet, it will always revert back to its established infant microbiome. This does not mean however that we can’t influence the gut to have a healthier microbiome by the foods we chose, the self-care techniques we incorporate into daily life and through physical activity. [i]

There is accumulating evidence suggesting that our gut microbiome plays an important role in our mood. Research suggests that our gut microbes are involved in each individual’s neural development and function, both in our peripheral nervous system and centrally in our brain.[ii]

The mechanisms underlying gut–brain axis communication involve neural pathways as well as immune and endocrine mechanisms. The gastrointestinal tract is the point of interaction between the body’s largest concentration of immune cells, a network of 500 million neurons and the gut microbiota.[iii]

This inner world depends on cellular and molecular communication to keep the host healthy. Immune, inflammatory and neuronal cells directly respond to bacterial and viral components in our microbiome and has been associated with mood conditions such as depression and anxiety through elevated inflammatory markers.i

Secondary symptoms of disturbed sleep, mood affected appetite and fatigue are also associated with gut infections or gut dysbiosis (imbalance). Further solidifying the fact that your gut health has a direct relationship to your overall wellbeing.i

As you can see, the health of your gut can affect your mood and wellbeing at any age, depending on what it is exposed to. During adolescence though we tend to see more intense mood swings or apparent gut disturbances. This is largely thought to be contributed to increases of hormone production. However, the health of the gut also plays a vital role.

Being a young adult exposes you to a larger variety of stressors and environmental stimuli on a backdrop of significant physiological change and development, which is especially apparent in the brain.

This is the time of development where risk taking and experimenting begins, separation from family, commencement of work and earning money and increased stress due to academic and/or social pursuits.iii

All this leads to changes in diet, sleep patterns, increased cortisol production, alcohol and drug use and possibly the need for antibiotics due to infections like glandular fever. These particular stressors have been widely documented to affect the bacterial constituents of the microbiome and need to be considered when treating adolescent behaviour.iii

Supporting your gut health

The best way to support your gut health at any stage of life is through a holistic approach. This includes gut nourishing nutrition, stress reduction and self-care techniques such as mindfulness, movement to maintain a healthy weight and getting plenty of sleep.

As a Naturopath, I am trained to tailor a treatment plan specifically for you and your individual symptoms. However, from a general perspective, if you follow these basic guidelines you will notice a difference in your overall wellbeing.

Step 1: Remove factors that can be causing damage to your gut

  • If you know you have an allergy or intolerance to a specific food or food group, remove it from your diet for a period of time. This will allow the body to decrease inflammation caused by the intolerance. It is best to seek a professional to guide you through this process.
  • Reduce or remove processed food. This includes deli meats, sauces brought in a jar, junk food and most take-aways.
  • Reduce intake of Omega-6 fatty acids. There is a specific ratio needed by the body of Omega’s 3:6:9. Unfortunately our Western diets are very high in Omega 6 and low in Omega 3. When this ratio is out of balance, systemic inflammation increases leading to an increased risk of inflammatory conditions such as mood disturbance, some heart conditions and metabolic disorders. High amounts of Omega 6 are found in vegetable oils and margarine which are common ingredients in processed foods.
  • Stress plays a vital role in our gut health. As mentioned above the gut-brain axis is very strong with each affecting the functioning of the other. Exploring ways to reduce or manage your stress is extremely beneficial.
  • Be mindful about medications. Obviously if you are prescribed a medication for a health condition it is very important that you follow the advice of your health professional. However, if you do have the choice to take or not take antibiotics then err on the side of caution as they can have a dramatic effect on your gut microbiota. The same goes for anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen. This type of medication may increase the permeability of your gut wall and has been linked to development of stomach ulcers and irritation if not taken carefully.

Step 2: Replace with what may be missing in your life or diet

  • It is always good to start with the basics – take the time to prepare, sit and eat your meals properly. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, our digestion starts with the cephalic phase so the smell, look and taste of cooking a meal initiates our enzymes and hydrochloric acid in readiness for digestion. Chewing your food instead of swallowing it and rushing off to the next thing will also support your GIT to break down the nourishing components of what you are eating. Also, allow a decent amount of time in between meals so your GIT gets a break. Usually 4 hours is beneficial.
  • Add healthy fats in to your diet. A simple way to do this is swapping your cooking oils and dressings to olive oil, coconut oil and/or butter. Other healthy fat additions are avocados, nuts and seeds and wild caught fish (especially salmon) as they help to balance the ratio of Omegas 3:6:9.
  • Eat a diet high in fibre. Fibre is a great way to help diversify your gut microbiota. It also helps to reduce constipation and other bowel issues as well as keep your weight controlled. Sources of fibre include fresh vegetables, beans and pulses (kidney, black, chickpeas, lentils) and unrefined, wholegrains such as oats, millet, quinoa etc.
  • Schedule in relaxation time. This is so very important for stress management and is often the first thing overlooked. Have a think about what relaxes you. Is it reading a book, seeing a movie, having a nap, having a catch up with friends, taking the dog for a walk. Really think about it and schedule it in to your every day.
  • Drink plenty of water. It has been said so many times before, however it is of great value. Good hydration equals good stool elimination as the water absorbed in your gut hardens stool for easy passing of waste products. Aim for 25-30ml per kg of body weight.

Step 3: Repair damage and help protect for your future gut health

  • Probiotic foods also known as fermented foods help to populate your gut with good bacteria and help keep balance of bacteria in your microbiome. These foods include sauerkraut, kim chi, kefir, miso, tempeh and live cultured yogurt.
  • Prebiotic foods help to feed the bacteria in your gut in order for them to stay alive, healthy and in balance. Foods such as asparagus, eggplant, broccoli, kale, cabbage, garlic, endives, onion, artichoke, leeks, pulses and chicory are good choices.
  • Anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric, leafy greens, nuts, fatty fish, tomatoes and fruit help to keep gut inflammation low increasing the integrity of your mucosal linings and optimising your guts ability to do its job.
  • Glutamine is a well-researched amino acid associated with gut repair. It is found in beef, poultry, raw spinach, almonds, cabbage and organic milk products.
  • Remember if you have a known intolerance to food it is best to remove it for a period of time, however seek the help of a professional to guide you.
  • Sourcing your food is very important as is buying seasonal fruit and vegetables. With poultry try to purchase organic or free range. With beef chose grass feed and with fruit and vegetables chose organic or spray free.
  • Everything in moderation has benefit. Try having meat free days in order to increase your consumption of pulses, legumes and vegetables.
  • Enjoy your food, eat with friends or family, make it a social event where you share food and stories.

 

[i] Forsythe, P., et al. Mood and gut feelings. Brain Behav. Immun. (2009), doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2009.05.058

[ii] Palmer, C., Bik, E.M., Digiulio, D.B., Relman, D.A., Brown, P.O., (2007). Development of the human infant intestinal microbiota. PLoS Biol. 5, e177

[iii] Karen-Anne McVey NeufeldPauline LuczynskiTimothy G. DinanJohn F. Cryan, Reframing the Teenage Wasteland: Adolescent Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis (2016) Volume: 61 issue: 4, page(s): 214-221

What’s so good about bone broth?

What’s so good about bone broth?

Well, in short, many things! My handsome dog, Billy, was sick over the weekend with some sort of gastrointestinal upset. We went to the vet and he received acupuncture, a spinal adjustment some homeopathy and Chinese herbs. These worked wonders over the next few days and he is definitely on the mend. I of course had to add some nutritional adjustments to help soothe his gastrointestinal tract and to make sure that he was not loosing too many vital nutrients and fluids. The answer was simple, bone broth!

*Please note that bone broth ingredients does differ for dogs and humans. For Billy’s broth I only used grass fed bones, apple cider vinegar, celery and kale with water.

 

 

Broth is an ancient food that traditional cultures and trained chefs have been using for ages; it is an inexpensive and versatile source of nutrients. Years ago, many families kept a pot of broth simmering on the hearth. This provided an easy base for soups and other recipes and also a way to keep the broth fresh before the invention of refrigerators.

It’s one of the many traditional foods that we’ve largely forgotten in modern culture. Broth is easily and simply made by boiling bones (beef, chicken, fish, etc) in water with an acid (like vinegar) and optional spices, vegetables and herbs. Broth can boil for as little as 4 hours or up to 48 (or more as traditional cultures did).

Nutrient Absorption

Broth is wonderful for nutrient absorption in two ways:

  1. It is a source of bio-available nutrients in an easy-to-digest form
  2. Its amino acid structure and high gelatin content makes it soothing and healing for the gut and enhances the absorption of nutrients from other foods as well.

Supports Hair, Skin, Nails & Joints

Broth contains collagen, which supports hair, skin and nail health. It also contains glucosamine, chondroitin sulphates and other compounds that support joint health.

Bone broth provides the amino acids needed for collagen production. Collagen keeps the skin smooth, firm and reduces wrinkles. The gelatin in bone broth also helps strengthen hair and nails and speed their growth.

Necessary Amino Acids

Broth is an excellent source of several essential amino acids that are often difficult to get from diet alone:

  • Proline: A precursor for hydroxyproline, which the body uses to make collagen, proline helps the body break down proteins and helps improve skin elasticity and smoothness. It is often recommended for its benefits to the heart, including keeping arteries from stiffening.
  • Glycine: Necessary for DNA and RNA synthesis and digestive health. It is used for the production of glutathione, for blood sugar regulation and digestion (through bile salt regulation). Glycine also enhances muscle repair/growth by increasing levels of creatine and regulating Human Growth Hormone secretion from the pituitary gland.
  • Arginine: Helpful for proper kidney function and wound healing. It is also good for hear t health by keeping the arteries supple.
  • Glutamine: Bone broth is an excellent source of glutamine which aids in the proliferation and repair of gastrointestinal cells. It is vital for maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining and keeping our gut bacteria healthy.

Gut and Immune Health

Chicken soup and broth is a timeless remedy for illness, but modern research is starting to understand its role in immune health. As we now understand that much of the immune system is in the gut, broth is especially helpful because its high gelatin/collagen content supports gut health and its amino acids help reduce inflammation. Gelatin helps “heal and seal” the gut, and in doing so is helpful for reversing leaky gut syndrome and digestive problems.

Broth vs Bone Broth vs Stock

  • Broth is typically made with meat and can contain a small amount of bones (think of the bones in a fresh whole chicken). Broth is typically simmered for a short period of time (45 minutes to 2 hours). It is very light in flavour, thin in texture and rich in protein.
  • Stock is typically made with bones and can contain a small amount of meat (think of the meat that adheres to a beef neck bone). Often the bones are roasted before simmering them as this simple technique greatly improves the flavour. Beef stocks, for example, can present a faint acrid flavour if the bones aren’t first roasted. Stock is typically simmered for a moderate amount of time (3 to 4 hours). Stock is rich in minerals and gelatin.
  • Bone Broth is typically made with bones and can contain a small amount of meat adhering to the bones. As with stock, bones are typically roasted first to improve the flavour of the bone broth. Bone broths are typically simmered for a very long period of time (often in excess of 24 hours). This long cooking time helps to remove as many minerals and nutrients as possible from the bones. At the end of cooking, so many minerals have leached from the bones and into the broth that the bones crumble when pressed lightly between your thumb and forefinger.

How to use broth

Broth is extremely versatile and many chefs use it as a base for soups, gravies, sauces and more. Here are some great ways to use broth:

  • As a base for soups and stews
  • In a mug by itself as a warm drink
  • As a base for gravy and sauce
  • Use it to cook veggies in for extra nutrients
  • Dehydrate to make your own bouillon powder

Bone broth the Easy Way

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken (organic or free range if possible. You can also use the leftover frame from a roast chook) or beef, lamb, fish bones. I like to go to the local butcher and let them know that I am making a broth so they select for me bones that have a high cartilage content or marrow.
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • Any vegetable scraps you have on hand
  • Filtered water

Instructions:

  1. Place bones into your slow cooker with bay leaves, black peppercorns and any vegetable scraps you have on hand. Cover with filtered water and cook on low for any length of time from 24 hours up till one week!
  2. After twenty-four hours, you may begin using the broth. As you need broth or stock, simply dip a ladle or measuring cup into the slow cooker to remove the amount of stock you need. Pour it through a fine-mesh sieve or, preferably, a reusable coffee filter which will help to clarify the broth. Replace the broth you remove from the slow cooker with an equivalent amount of filtered water. If you’re using a whole, fresh chicken, you may also remove chicken meat from the slow cooker as desired for stir-fries, in soups or in any other meal.
  3. Once you have finished, strain off any remaining broth and discard or compost the bones. The bones should crumble when pressed between your thumb and forefinger. Their softness is an indication that much of the nourishment from the bones – minerals, amino acids – have leached from the bones and into the broth.

 

Nourishing Chicken Soup

Who doesn’t like chicken soup…anyone?

I am absolutely in love with this recipe that I have adapted from the amazing Henry Osiecki. Henry is a revered Naturopath in Brisbane who developed the company and brand Bioconcepts. His recipe comes from his grandmother so you know its going to be full of good stuff!

It calls for a whole chicken to be cooked with all the other ingredients and quite frankly this is the most exciting part for me because it contains all the nutrients needed to feed, repair and calm the mucus lining in the small intestine.

This inner lining is the beginning or ending of the nervous system which can be easily damaged by ingesting a highly processed diet, taking too many medications, parasites and of course stress!

So, not only does chicken soup taste good, it calms the nerves, improves digestion, reduces allergies and gives strength to the individual who is eating it. What better choice is there to eat when we are not feeling well or just need a little boost.

It would have to be one of the easiest and most versatile soups to make which makes it even more desirable and you have so much leftover!

Ingredients:

1 whole organic or free range chicken, approx 1.5 kg

0.5 celery, chopped (I like to include the leaves)

2 carrots, chopped

2 sweet potatoes, chopped

1 brown onion, peeled and chopped

4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

0.25 cabbage or a bunch of kale, roughly chopped

1 can diced tomato (I prefer to use BioNature organic brand)

3 or so sprigs of thyme

2 bay leaves

Salt & Pepper if required

50 cent piece size of noodles of your choice (I love Soba noodles at the moment)

Method:

Put all ingredients, except noodles in a large pot

Cover with water

Bring to the boil

Then lower  to simmer point

Cover pot and allow to simmer for 1 to 2 hours. By this time the chicken will be thoroughly cooked and falling off the bone.

Remove chicken and shred off meat. I then add the meat back into the soup and add the noodles to cook for about 10 to 15 minutes.

 

 

 

Nourished By Nature

Nourished By Nature

Hello and Welcome…

I am a Brisbane based Naturoapth who is currently in the process of building a fun, educational and tasty website for you. It will be a great resource for all things well being, health, diet, herbs and naturoapth related. So…hold on to your hats it’s going to be a good one!

I’ll see you back here real soon.