As promised, here is part 2 of our blog from the Gut-Brain Connection workshop. As we all know, good nutrition feeds our bodies. This is also what feeds our gut and our gut health impacts our brains, so Nadia Rybalka, R.H.N. has her top tips for maintaining healthy gut flora.
Key Messages from Nadia
- Stress has a major impact on our gut health. In order to digest food properly we must be in a calm and relaxed state otherwise known as rest and digest mode. When we’re relaxed there is increased blood flow to the whole digestive tract, secretions are produced in the right amounts and peristalsis (the muscular contraction that moves food along) is carried out by our digestive muscles. When we are threatened or sense danger, we immediately switch from rest and digest to a fight or flight mode and the hormones triggered divert the body’s attention away from digestion. When we’re not digesting properly, we’re also not absorbing nutrients from our food properly. This is often when we begin seeing digestive disorders, poor absorption of nutrients, food sensitivities and systemic inflammation start to develop which can lead to imbalanced gut flora and leaky gut. This is why it is important to slow down and tap into a place of calm while eating and use mindfulness. Chew your food, eat slowly, put electronics away, eat at the table and enjoy your meal.
- Nutrient dense foods are key for gut health. Plenty of fiber rich plant based whole foods are important to feed the gut bacteria and keep your digestion regular along with focusing on an anti-inflammatory approach to eating. Emphasize omega 3 rich foods like flax, chia, walnuts, plenty of vegetables and fruit, cold water fish, fermented foods, and collagen and gelatin rich foods like bone broth and collagen powder. Avoiding processed foods, gluten, dairy, nightshades, corn, soy, citrus, conventional meats and processed sugar are all common components of an anti-inflammatory approach to eating and may be helpful to keep in mind when addressing gut health.
- Bone broth supports a healthy gut. It is anti-inflammatory, easy to digest and absorb, it’s full of collagen and gelatin and is a great food for supporting the gut lining. Ideally you would make your own bone broth by simmering the bones from an organic or pasture raised animal for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. The objective is to simmer it long enough to start pulling the nutrient power out from within the bones. However, you can also find bone broth in the frozen section of most health food stores or find dehydrated powdered bone broth powders or even collagen powders.
- Prebiotics, probiotics & fermented foods promote balance. Probiotics are the good guys for our digestive system; the bacteria we need in our gut that help to keep us healthy. They help maintain a balance with the naturally occurring bacteria and yeast in our digestive system and support healthy digestion, immunity and our brains. The bad bacteria are yeasts and pathogenic bacteria that make us feel unwell or cause what is known as dysbiosis/candida and/or leaky gut. Diet, lifestyle and stress can all affect gut health and contribute to bacterial imbalance. In order for probiotics to thrive we need prebiotics. Prebiotics are rich in the type of fiber that the bacteria in your gut feeds on. They are basically like ‘food’ for the bacteria (probiotics). You can find them in things like garlic, onion, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, artichoke, dandelion greens, parsnip, Brussels sprouts, kale, Jerusalem artichoke, etc. Probiotics are found in a variety of probiotic rich/fermented foods. They can be a great way to help support gut health and inoculate our digestive tract with good bacteria. Examples include: Fermented Sauerkraut; Kombucha; Kefir; Organic Whole Milk; Cow, Goat, Sheep or Coconut Yogurt; Fermented Veggies; Fermented Sour Pickles; Kimchee; Miso (read labels as miso that contains barley isn’t GF). You can get a variety of good quality fermented foods at the store but be sure to always check the label. There should not be much more than the vegetable of choice and sea salt.
- Consider an elimination diet to root out your food sensitivities. An elimination diet is an amazing tool to get to the bottom of potential food sensitivities. This protocol removes the most common allergens to reduce the potential for a reaction and then after a period of about 4 to 6 weeks slowly re-introduces foods one by one to determine which foods may be problematic for you. Foods that are removed include gluten, dairy, corn, red meat, egg, peanuts, soy, shellfish and all processed foods.
If you want to learn more about the Gut-Brain connection from a nutrition perspective, book your Initial Consultation with Nadia.