How to: Be Good to Your Gut
In recent years, it has become apparent that the human gut is far more complex than we had previously realised, and that its health can have a profound effect on the wellbeing of the whole body. A well-functioning gut doesn’t just aid effective digestion but it also supports the brain, the heart, the immune system, how we sleep, and how we feel.
And it’s not just what we eat that makes the difference – it’s also what we do. Tools such as breathing, meditation and mindfulness, therapy and yoga can all contribute to a flourishing gut. This is because the gut has a direct neural connection with the brain through the vagus nerve that sends signals between the two, as well as being connected through chemical neurotransmiters such as serotonin, which is responsible for how we feel and think. Additionally, the gut is made up of billions of microbes which, when imbalanced, cause inflammation in the body via the immune system.
The brain-gut connection is complex and fascinating, and there is a wealth of information out there to delve into should you wish to understand it more deeply. At Gazelli House, we work with both Alice Mackintosh and Sue Camp who are experts on the gut, nutrition and the body. In this article though, we look at some simple ways alongside simple actions that can help you to get started in improving the overall health of your gut.
How many times have we been told to eat less sugar? It can be easier said than done though, right? When writing this article, we asked around the team at Gazelli for how they like to reduce their sugar intake, and here were their suggestions:
- Porridge in the morning
Complex carbs and protein are both shown to balance your blood sugar and reduce cravings, which is why porridge is a great way to start the day and there are so many ways to enjoy it without added sugar. Our favourite way is to infuse the milk we’ll be using for the porridge with an earl grey tea bag to add flavour and natural sweetness. Or by adding a big scoop of Mira Manek’s family chai (recipe here).
- Switching milk chocolate for dark chocolate
If you can’t get by without a square of chocolate a day, make it a dark chocolate and savour it slowly. We recommend Cosmic Dealer’s adaptogenic chocolate that has been only slightly sweetened with dates rather than sugar, making it a healthier option in terms of sugar content, with the added benefit of Ayurvedic ingredients.
- Try baby food
Quite often, baby food will have been carefully compiled to have only natural ingredients and no nasties. We’re not suggesting the liquid kind, but there are lots of wonderful snack bars and treats on the market that can be enjoyed, such as oat and fruit bars, rice cakes sweetened with a little fruit juice, or savoury puffs. These are great to pop in your handbag too so that you can reach for them on-the-go rather than junk food.
Eat More Fibre
There’s nothing new about this one. Fibre contributes to a healthy gut and regular bowel movements, but have you mastered ways to introduce more into your diet? Morning smoothies with a handful of greens are a great way to approach this, as well as adding grain and seed mixes to your breakfast. For dinner, try to aim for a grain-based meal using wonderful, alternative grains such as Freekeh, Pearl Barley and Buckwheat. Always make extra so that you have plenty in the fridge for grain-based salads at lunch the next day. Here’s a recipe for Lentil Dhal that’s wonderful for playing with as a base – add sweet potato and coconut milk, or pack it out with tomatoes and spinach.
Drink More Water
Aim for around two litres a day. If you’re working from home, fill up a large water filter and keep it by your side all day, and set alarms on your phone for regular herbal tea breaks (it’s no secret that we love whole rosebud infusions here at Gazelli as well as our natural botanical infusions from Lab Tonica). If you’re on-the-go, always leave a filled, reusable water bottle next to your shoes or keys so you can’t forget it when you leave the house. If you find the taste of water a bit dull, throw in a small handful of green tea leaves or, during the spring season, a few blooms of carefully rinsed wild flowers such as lilac or elderflower. In the summer, think big chunks of pineapple or watermelon, with ice and mint.
There are lots of different ways to approach this, though it’s important to find the method that resonates and works for you. We explore some ideas in this article on our blog (written by our resident Acupuncturist Phoebus Tian) about how to balance your QI through Qi Gong, Vipassana Mindfulness, and Sound Healing. If you need a guiding hand, our curation of Referring Practitioners, such as breathing expert Melike Hussein or stress counsellor Suzy Reading may be able to help. Suzy also has some wonderful books that explore topics in and around self-care during tough times that shouldn’t be missed. In our treatment room at Gazelli, we also offer our unique Hypnomind Massage which has been created specifically to deal with releasing emotional blockages via a simultaneous sound and body experience that holistically improves the flow of energy around your body. This service also includes an abdominal massage which helps to release any emotion or tension stored in the gut, too.
Nurture Your Immune System
Considering that up to 70% of your gut is your immune system, it’s important to keep it nourished, particularly in these times where immunity is one of our best defences against disease and illness. Everything within this article will be helpful in facilitating a healthier gut, though you might also want to consider immune-balancing remedies such as tinctures and tonics. Anima Mundi has a beautiful, functional range that includes Black Elderberry Syrup. Studies around Elderberry recently revealed that it is a powerhouse of vitamins (A, C and E), as well as having benefits for cardiovascular health, and it has even shown to help fight against COVID infection. In the autumn, you might even want to try making your own by googling a simple recipe. EQUI also offers some incredible supplements packed with important ingredients such as magnesium, zinc and iron that can be lacking in the modern diet but make a world of difference to your body.
We all know it’s important to get at least 10 portions of fruit and veg into our diet every day. This can be daunting, though some forward-planning can help, such as stocking up the freezer with frozen fruit and veg, and the cupboards with tins of tomatoes and fruit (in juice rather than syrup). Don’t forget that herbs and spices are your greatest item here in terms of making fresh produce more exciting on a daily basis – add chopped chives to salads, dill to soups, tarragon to potatoes, and coriander to curries. Turmeric is also a wonderful ingredient that is shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Where possible, try your best to eat as locally and seasonally as possible. Yes, this is great for the environment and local economy, but it also tastes better and is often cheaper. Save up all your veg scraps to make bone broth if/when you’re roasting a chicken. Leave this to simmer overnight in a slow cooker so that it extracts all of the extra goodness from the bones, such as collagen which is a healing agent in the gut and for the skin. Follow our own Gazelli recipe here.
Chew Your Food
Always thoroughly chew your food to help activate enzymes in the saliva that help break food down before it’s even reached your gut. You can count to ten in your head with each mouthful, or have fun creating a slow, mindful playlist that you can listen to while you eat. Here’s one we made earlier.
Science and medicine around the gut is always evolving, and there’s always a new book to be read. We have lots of colourful, accessible cook books in our Gazelli Book Category from experts such as Eve Kalinik, Alice Mackintosh, and more, that can help you understand your body and its needs better.
Speak to an Expert
There’s plenty here that we have refrained from mentioning as each person is so unique and different approaches will work for each. Probiotics, for example, may work wonders for one person, but trigger something in another. To understand your unique body, consider speaking with an expert. We can recommend Alice Mackintosh or Sue Camp at Gazelli.
So there we have it. A wealth of suggestions for ways to be good to your gut. Have we missed anything? Is there anything you’ve discovered that you’d like to share? Head to our instagram and pop us a DM. We’d love to hear from you.