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How to Improve Gut Health

Posted on January 6, 2020 at 2:00 PM


Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

 

And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many diseases than we used to think. And we're not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc. We're talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.

 

There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It's here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body. We're just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (have you heard of "the gut-brain axis"). Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.

 

So, let's talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I'll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.

 

Our gut’s role in our overall health

 

Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through and out.

 

This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places.

 

For one thing, our guts can "leak." Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins). You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it's not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can "leak." When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don't seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there.

 

FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.

 

A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health.

 

The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.

 

So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health!

 

How to improve gut health

 

There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.

 

You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.

 

By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colourful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish.

 

The second pillar of gut health is our microbes. By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Make these a part of your daily diet.

 

Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber. Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed our friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.

 

And don’t forget the uber-important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.

 

Conclusion

 

The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes.

 

The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fiber. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.

 

Recipe (Probiotic-rich): Fermented Carrots

 

Serves 12

 

1 L warm water

4 tsp salt

4 carrots, medium, peeled, sliced

1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)

 

Instructions

 

 

Make a brine by dissolving the salt in water.

 

Place carrots into a clean canning jar, packing them in tight. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of head space at the top.

Fill the jar with brine, making sure to cover the carrots completely. Weigh the carrots down to make sure they don't float (you can use a "fermenting weight").

 

Close the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 days. The longer it sits, the more the flavor will develop. Feel free to open and taste.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: Use this as a side dish, or even a snack.

 

References:

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/does-all-disease-begin-in-the-gut/

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-gut-health

 

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

 

Fitness Fuel: What to Eat Before, During & After Your Workout

Posted on December 12, 2019 at 6:30 PM



You’ve just finished your workout and you know you need to eat something. But what?

Workout nutrition may seem rather complicated but it doesn’t have to be.

Here’s the latest on how to fuel your body before, during and after your workout so you can improve your performance, maximize recovery - and feel better!

Fuel your machine

You’d never head out on a long road trip without filling your tank with gas, right?!

Skipping your pre- workout fuel is the equivalent of hitting the road with an empty gas tank. You may get off to a good start, but you’ll likely be running on fumes in no time.

When you feed your body with the right nutrients before your workout, you’ll be able to lift more, run longer & faster, and speed up your gains. Plus you’ll feel so much better doing it!

So, what should you be eating Pre-workout?

Since our body’s preferred energy source is carbohydrates, your pre-workout fuel should be higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein and fat.

 

Protein and fat are harder for our body to digest, and this uses up extra energy that we could be putting toward our workout.

 

Aim to eat about an hour before your workout to give your body time to digest and absorb the nutrients.

 

Here are a few Pre-Workout options that work well for pre-strength or pre-cardio workouts:

 

● Wholegrain rice cake with 1 Tbsp nut butter

● Small apple and a handful of raw nuts (or nut butter)

● ½ cup of plain oatmeal with berries

Sports Drinks or Water?

Just plain water will do the trick during your workout. Experts recommend drinking between 3-8 oz of water every 15 minutes during your sweat session.

 

Also, you can hold off on the sports drinks unless you’re exercising for 90 minutes or longer, or are exercising in extreme heat.

 

Sports drinks help to replace carbohydrates and electrolytes but are not necessary for the average gym goer.

 

Why not skip the sugary, neon-blue commercial sports drink all together and just whip up your own for longer, sweatier workouts?

 

Just grab a ½ cup pure orange juice, top with filtered water and add a pinch of sea salt or pink salt. You’ve got a DIY electrolyte replacement drink for a fraction of the cost and infinitely healthier ;-)

What to Eat after a Cardio Session

It is still recommended that you eat your post-cardio snack 30-60 minutes after finishing up.

 

However, you’ll be using more carbohydrate stores during a sweaty cardio workout (think running or spinning) than you would during your lifting session.

 

This is why you’ll need to eat a snack or meal that is 3:1 or 4:1 carb to protein ratio - similar to your pre-workout ratio.

 

Try one of these snacks after your next cardio workout to replenish your carbohydrate stores (glycogen) used and to help you recover faster:

 

● Sprouted grain toast and nut butter

● 5-10 whole grain crackers & 2 Tbsp hummus or bean dip

● Small banana and a small handful of raw nuts or seeds

What to Eat After Strength Training or Lifting Weights

Once you finish that last rep, pat yourself on the back and then fuel up on the protein!

 

Aim to eat within 30-60 minutes post workout to help your body recovery and to build those muscles you’ve been working so hard for. This meal should be approximately a 2:1 ratio of protein to carbohydrates.

 

Here are a few examples of a balanced “post-lifting” meal:

 

● Grilled chicken breast with roasted vegetables

● 2 hard boiled eggs and whole grain crackers

 

You’ll also love this delicious smoothie - packed with protein, fibre and the anti-inflammatory benefits of tart cherries!

 

RECIPE

 

Very Cherry Recovery Smoothie

 

1 cup of non-dairy milk of choice

1 scoop vanilla protein powder of choice (unsweetened, less processed)

1 handful of fresh or frozen tart cherries (frozen will have a thicker consistency)

1-2 tbsp of chia seeds or hemp hearts

1 handful of greens (spinach or baby kale work well here)

2-3 ice cubes (more if you’ve used fresh cherries)

 

Blend, enjoy and watch those muscles grow!

 

________________________________________

REFERENCES

 

LiveStrong: Post Workout Carb-Protein Ratio

 

The Washington Post: The Best Way To Eat Before & After Exercise

 

CBC.ca: Sports Drinks Unnecessary, Counterproductive For Most People

 

Essential Oils 101: All the Basics You Need to Know!

Posted on November 13, 2019 at 11:05 AM

The power of essential oils (EO’s) is real - have YOU made them part of your everyday life yet?

 

We’re going to lay out all of the basics so you can get on this one bandwagon that’s here for the long haul. And when you learn about the history of EO’s, you’ll know that they’re not even new. In fact, EO’s have been around for centuries!

 

Some essential oils come from seeds while many others are extracted from the leaves of the plant. Because EO’s are so highly concentrated, it takes a tremendous amount of plant to produce just one ounce of oil.

 

Due to this level of concentration, essential oils are incredibly powerful, so a little bit goes a long way!

Some “essential” terms you should know:

AROMATIC

Essential oils are basically the natural aromatic compounds extracted from seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plants. Diffusion is one of the most popular ways to enjoy the aromatic benefits of essential oils.

 

CARRIER OIL

This refers to a lipid- or fat-based liquid used to dilute EO’s. Olive, coconut, almond, jojoba and argan oils are the most common ones.

 

DISTILLATION

The process of extracting essential oil from plant material.

 

Steam distillation is the most common distillation method that uses low-heat pressurized steam to circulate through plant parts and extract oils.

 

Cold press distillation uses a mechanical press to squeeze essential oils from plant parts, and is the most commonly used method for obtaining citrus oils - a classic ingredient in DIY household cleaning products. This is to preserve their aromatic bounty!

Historic Essential Oils

Despite being suddenly catapulted into popularity, essential oils are not a new thing.

 

The ancient Egyptians were among the first to use aromatic essential oils for daily life, and pure EO’s were prized and saved for priests and royals. Other ancient societies, such as those in China, Greece and Rome used EO’s for aromatherapy, illness, and personal hygiene.

Essential oil starter kit:

Are you a newbie to EO’s?

 

Here are 4 of the most popular ones to try first, and a few suggested uses. They make great staples in your medicine cabinet too!

 

TEA TREE OIL (Melaleuca): Soothing, cleansing & healing

 

● Combine 1–2 drops with your preferred facial cleanser (or moisturizer) for added cleansing properties

● Mix 1-2 drops with pure aloe vera gel and apply to skin after shaving

● Use diluted with water and/or vinegar as a surface cleaner - see recipe!

● Add a few drops to shampoo and massage into the scalp - use in your conditioner too

● Add a drop to toothpaste or swish with water for a quick and easy mouth rinse - but do not swallow or ingest

 

LAVENDER: Soothing & calming

 

● Add a few drops to your pillow or bottoms of your feet for a restful night’s sleep - or use in a diffuser near your bed

● Apply topically to help heal pimples, skin inflammation and irritation - be sure to test a drop on your skin to test for sensitivity; dilution may be required

● Soak away stress! Add a few drops to a warm bath

 

LEMON: Cleansing, revitalizing & uplifting

 

● Use to remove gum, glue, or any other sticky residues from surfaces

● Use in a diffuser to purify the air, creating an uplifting & refreshing aroma

● Add to a spray bottle full of water to clean tables, countertops, and other surfaces - recipe!

 

PEPPERMINT: Cooling & energizing

 

● Apply a few drops directly to the skin of the back of your neck to cool off

● For a refreshing aroma, diffuse at night by your bedside

● Feeling tense? Rub on head and neck for a soothing, calming sensation

● Add to shampoo or conditioner for a stimulating & invigorating scalp massage

● Use as a natural bug repellent

 

Other popular ones for beginners are essentials oils of frankincense, clove, eucalyptus, clary sage, sweet orange, grapefruit, and rosemary.

Applications, skin sensitivity & ingestion

Essential oils can be used topically, which means you can apply them directly on the skin, mix them with carrier oils or mix with other personal care products. Remember to consult with your healthcare provider before utlizing essential oils!

 

DILUTE — A category of essential oils that should be mixed with a carrier oil. The carrier oil will help transport the EO’s onto the skin.

 

NEAT — A category of essential oils that can be applied topically without dilution because of a chemistry that is considered mild.

 

Essential oils are incredibly powerful and serve many purposes for the home, and in daily health routines. With some basic knowledge, and having a few high-quality oils on hand, you can DIY dozens of homemade products, and enjoy many therapeutic benefits.

 

RECIPE

 

Natural All-Purpose Household Cleaner

 

Ingredients:

● ½ cup plain white vinegar

● 2 Tb baking soda

● 10-15 drops tea tree, lavender, lemon, eucalyptus &/or rosemary essential oil (or any combo of these) for their disinfectant properties

 

Preparation:

 

In a clean 12-ounce spray bottle (glass is best), mix the vinegar, essential oils and a splash of water before adding baking soda *important*.

 

Then fill to top of bottle with water, and gently shake to mix ingredients. Then spray area, wipe with a clean cloth, and allow it to dry. Dirty areas are now clean and disinfected!

 

 


 


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