The Sparkle Coach: How to improve gut health
“How to improve Gut Health? Fermented Foods for Gut Health, FODMAP, probiotics, and Anti-inflammatory tips for your colon" are some of the most searched for tips at the moment but why is it so important?” Is it just a new trend or could these fibre fuelled tips help to change your life and health?
Gut health has never been so important as your gut microbiome directly impacts your immunity and I have experienced personally how our digestive system can impact our mind and body fitness.
Having been unable to physically eat until receiving treatment from a gastroenterologist as an in-patient, I couldn’t wait to devour some delicious food. Until I woke up in hospital, surrounded by other patients with a range of conditions who also awaited their next exciting step to recovery, grub!
Yet when faced with hospital food seasoned with lots of salt, fat, sugar, and lack of flavour not to mention the bland loss of colour and nutrients that earth-grown vegetables could have naturally offered to the plate. None of us could stomach it, our body’s not only physically were healing but all of our senses were rightly fighting this counterintuitive sludge.
Yes, we had to eat soft food to reintroduce our intensities to food but it seemed bizarre that we were in the hospital to heal our guts, yet our journey out of here began by eating a dangerous diet lacking protein and fibre-fueled vegetables, polluting our body from mouth to anus (the gut). Potentially triggering our immune system, causing inflammation and a range of health issues because “70 percent of our immune system is in our gut.”
Whilst my own ailments are thought to have been triggered by a variety of internal organs, such focus on my intestines inspired me to research more as I recover. I wanted to take care of my gut as I now know how dangerous it is when it fails to function. So for the general population, why is our gut health so important? And if so, how do we build a healthy digestive system?
The founder of modern western medicine Hippocrates stated: “All disease begins in your gut.”
Yet today Western medicine is largely about a cure rather than prevention. Or even cause, cure, and then little time for prevention.
“For every pill, there’s an ill.”
Here are some facts about our ‘second brain,’ the gut:
Our Gut-brain connection is so powerful that “Digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome commonly coincide with mood disorders and both may reflect a dysfunctional composition of gut bacteria, viruses, and fungi (the gut microbiota) and related chronic inflammation. As such, manipulating the gut microbiota and their functions via probiotics and health behaviours is a promising therapeutic strategy.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7213601/
Our digestive system, otherwise known as the Enteric Nervous system, if rolled out, could cover the size of a tennis court. This is our gut as many people just think it’s the large and small intestines.
You have more microbes than human cells, so you are less than 50 percent human.
There are numerous causes of inflammation but diet is thought to be the main factor, in particular consumption of sugar, legumes, corn-based products, pasteurised dairy, and a huge range of processed food.
When you consume these foods they cause inflammation of your organs and joints, with sugar being the worst.
As a result of this, your immune system becomes weak and your joints begin to ache. By simply removing these foods you can drastically reduce inflammation and joint pain.
Stress and depression can cause inflammation as it negatively impacts the bacteria in the gut preventing certain nutrients being absorbed. It can trigger us to overeat or undereat too.
Ultimately when we die, we often die of some form of Inflammation. “One of the most important medical discoveries of the past two decades has been that the immune system and inflammatory processes are involved in not just a few select disorders, but a wide variety of mental and physical health problems that dominate present-day morbidity and mortality worldwide.” Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-019-0675-0
Here are several ways to build and maintain a healthy gut:
Nutrition, movement, and eating a natural plant-based nutrient-rich diet can all promote a healthy gut, whilst our nutrition is a huge factor so is managing our mental health. When our mind and body are aligned we have more opportunities to maintain a healthy gut.
Eating more fibre through fresh vegetables (more than 90 per cent of us, turmeric, probiotic foods such as fermented vegetables, exercising and relaxation techniques can improve gut health.
Omega 3 can help alleviate inflammation, a fatty acid that can be found in oily fish, olive oil, walnuts, and garlic yet we tend to consume more Omega 6 or 9. If you struggle to have this try a supplement with a combined amount of EPA and DHA 1000mg is enough to help reduce inflammation. Yet we consume too many non-essential fats.
Another thing to avoid is alcohol, tobacco and chemical substances (cleaning products) these will trigger inflammation.
Try Qi Gong, a ‘life-force’ energy-flowing practice. Qi Gong is an ancient Chinese martial art form that “benefits our health through meditation, physical exercises and energy practices,” explains my Wakefield-based instructor Mark A Whitmore as he explained over Skype the correct stances, breathing techniques, internal alchemy, and movements to reduce stress levels, increase mobility and enhance personal energy levels by these movements which help to flow blocked energy, often in our gut, to be released.
Reiki is another energy healing practice that involves a practitioner utilising a hands-off approach that promotes a functioning digestive system.
Yoga and the Chakras: “When speaking of digestion in yoga, we refer automatically to the energy of 3rd chakra, the solar plexus, commonly known in yoga language as “Manipura”. This stomach chakra is the centre of will and power. This chakra is connected to the fire element.” Hence the term fire in your belly as these chakras need to be balanced in order to for the gut to function properly which incidentally runs throughout our body.
Chakras are energy centres that need to run in harmony, located on the body’s meridian (midline), Kundalini Yoga who works to do this can really help as does all Yoga for our mind and body wellbeing.
“There are seven of them (eight in Kundalini yoga) and they control our psychological and physiological properties. The chakras located on the lower part of our bodies are our instinctual side while those located on the upper part represent our mental side. In an ideal world, all our chakras should contribute to the proper functioning of our being as well as all our systems.
"However, this is not always the case. It happens that some chakras are not open enough (as-active), but to counter-balance this, other chakras are overactive. The ideal state is where the chakras are balanced.” https://biokplus.com/blogs/news/restoring-your-digestive-health-with-the-balance-of-the-3rd-chakra
The Manipura or Solar Plexus Chakra is thought to be the essential fire energy in our stomachs which is the gut. Or this fired is a coined Agni in Ayurvedic nutrition.
I attempted to start my own journey by eating the most nutritious microwave meal on the hospital menu of a Vegan Halal vegetable curry and rice. I spat it out as the thick layer of fat lacking flavour felt too heavy and bland. Then I noticed the expiry date, 18 months shelf life of this ‘healthy dish.’ The alternative? More inflammatory foods of Smash, gravy, processed protein, with one lonely floret of broccoli.
Luckily I live in a beautiful multi-cultural community online and offline, where plant-based food is a staple and they delivered me nutritious food to the ward.
I could only feel for several of the caring medical professionals, especially those who continued to research the gut and, of course, had signed the Hippocratic Oath on joining such a profession. It was Hippocrates too that warned: “All disease begins in your gut.”
Despite working endlessly to help cure some of our ailments which had piled up their already overloaded workload, they witnessed patients forced to sludge through such ingredients that may temporarily lead patients to be ‘released’ but such poison which could well land them back up in hospital, provided by outsourced catering contracts. Saving money in the short-term - but at what cost to our overall health?