My interview w/Nylon Magazine:
– How does our gut health affect our bodies as a whole (skin, weight, mood, etc.)?
Our immune system is primarily run by out gut or our enteric nervous system. The microbes or beneficial bacteria in our gut are in charge of many tasks like sending chemical messages to the brain to activate immune responses. Letting our brain know that the broccoli that we just ate is coming down the hatch and to get ready for some great nutrition to be dispersed around the body for various functions. OR, letting our brain know that a nasty bag of processed chips and a large soda are coming down the hatch so get ready to defend itself and clear it out of the body safely. Sounds simple enough right? Well over time, those healthy options continue to give your good bacteria, your organs and glands, your bones and skin the tools they need to repair, grow, heal and age with grace and the converse is, over time those unhealthy options continue to tax our detox organs as they are burdened with the task of elimination. And those unhealthy options degrade, not just our skin and livers and colons, but they exhaust and begin to kill off the good bacteria, they kill our cells, they make us collect unwanted weight because after a while the body cannot handle all the garbage and it gets stored as fat. And worst of all, when our micro biome or gut health has begun to degrade, those chemical messages being sent to the brain begin to effect our emotions, our moods and our energy levels. And we all know how hard it is to be happy and positive when we are down in the dumps.
– What are ways we can promote a healthy gut?
The most important thing we can do is make sure that we are digesting what we are eating, so it doesn’t end up rotting in our gut and killing our good bacteria. There are a few things we can easily do to assure this happens:
Eat & drink things that are easy on the gut and easy to digest like green leafy vegetables, green smoothies, fresh made vegetables juices, fermented vegetables and cultured foods like Kefir and Coconut Kefir or Kombucha (minus the sugar)
We can take digestive enzymes to encourage digestion especially with cooked food (cooking food removes the natural enzymes from the food making it harder to digest)
Eating small simple meals
Eating your last meal of the day before 630pm as frequently as possible (later in the day our bodies slow down and have no interest in digesting a big meal late at night)
Eating home cooked meals (restaurant food is made in large quantities with saving money in mind which translates to mystery ingredients, and low quality product. Save your nights out for special occasions)
– What are signs of our gut health being out of whack?
Our bodies are miraculous and they are ALWAYS giving us signs that they need a tune up. The gut is no exception. Where do you think the expression, “that gut feeling” comes from! The most common signs that your gut is out of whack; any digestive distress whatsoever, bloating, gas, tightness, pain, bowel difficulties, to name a few and then there are more mysterious signs like, skin issues, bone loss, chronic fatigue and hormone imbalance. I really could write pages and pages on the signs of a gut being out of whack. I once read something during my studies many years ago that has stuck in my mind like it’s etched in stone, “if you die before the age of 85 from anything other than a tragic accident, it is related to poor gut health.” It’s a hard statement to swallow but it’s never been proven wrong. The health of our gut even determines how quickly and smoothly you will heal from a broken bone, or how quickly you will recover from a bee sting and shockingly, the health of our gut will determine how long you will live.
– Does stress effect gut health?
I’ve given gut health lectures all over the US and one thing that never changes and I repeat over and over and over is; The number one enemy of gut health, is STRESS. And simply put, stress requires us to be in a ‘fight or flight’ mode and in this mode the human body is not designed to optimally rest or digest. If you are not digesting properly, then your food and everything else you consume is left undigested in your gut, making it an inflamed, acidic, unfriendly hot mess, AND making it the ‘best spring break ever’ for the nasty bacteria that wreak havoc and degrade our health.
– What benefits to probiotics have, and what are the best ways to consume them (vegan/non-vegan options)?
Probiotic is latin for For-Life! And high quality probiotics are incredibly beneficial to help restore & maintain gut health. The operative words being, “high quality. And “high quality” usually translates to ‘EXPENSIVE’. As a practitioner I only recommend store bought or prescription probiotics when a person is suffering from severe gut imbalances, in which case I usually recommend Premier Research Labs Probiotic, otherwise I believe acquiring your beneficial bacteria from fermented and cultured foods is far superior. Especially if you make them yourself. However, these days there are store bought options that are quite good, like Farmhouse Cultures & Tonix coconut kefir and both are vegan friendly. You can have these foods alone or with other foods to help pre-digest the meal you are eating and make digestion much easier. If you are taking a supplement, I recommend taking it on an empty stomach and when waking and/or right before bed.
– Are there any foods that should be avoided?
The other enemies of our gut health are, processed foods, fried foods, refined sugar, alcohol, caffeine, many medications, chemicals like pesticides, especially Glyphosate used in the spraying of almost all non-organic produce and NOW studies are also showing that GMO foods might play a role in the disruption of our gut health.
– What benefits does following an Ayurvedic diet have?
Ayurveda is wonderful because you can basically customized your diet based on what type of body you have. Once you know what your body type is, or Dosha, you can know what foods to avoid or what foods you should eat in abundance and what foods to eat in moderation. This style of eating is optimum for your unique digestive requirements which in turn will help your micro biome to thrive.
– I know following it closely requires a lot of discipline and adjustment, but is there a way to “loosely” follow it for health purposes? Can you offer any tips
There are many diets out there and I personally don’t subscribe to just one, not just for myself but for my clients. I change with the seasons and with how I feel and my programs fluctuate depending on what a person may be suffering from. Some people require very strict diets and they have an ‘all or nothing’ out look on life and that’s great. Those people will see change quickly. And there are others who need to make changes incrementally or they will burn out, THAT’S ME! So I always say, incremental choices can make monumental changes. Sometimes it’s easier to add things into your diet before taking things out. i.e.; adding a 1/4 cup of cultured vegetables and a digestive enzyme to every meal and then in one week you try having your last meal at 630pm and then adding a green smoothie with coconut kefir to your morning and having one coffee that day instead of 2 and so on and so forth. And after a month you’ll realize you’ve made monumental changes with these incremental choices.
– If there’s anything else you’d like to add, feel free to include!
My passion for gut health began with my own journey of suffering throughout my life with illness after illness only to be left on multiple medications with a poor quality of life. It wasn’t until my discovery of the microbiome and the profound role it plays in our emotional & physical health that I truly understood how to be healthy. I learned that we are comprised of more bacteria than we are of human cells! I knew that in order to thrive, I had to make my microbiome a more habitable place for the residents that keep me thriving.
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