Love Your Gut!
What? Are you serious? Love yourself, love others, but your gut?
Bloating, gas, cramping, fatigue, weight gain, digestive upset, sleep issues, and depression are all signs that your gut is not being nourished optimally.
Our gut is an amazing little ecosystem and is responsible for 80% of our immune system. We know our gut is meant to digest, absorb and assimilate the food we ingest and get rid of the waste, right? But did you also know that our gut is known as our “second brain” – or enteric nervous system – as it houses over 100 million neurons and 95% of our serotonin. It makes sense then why we feel butterflies in our stomach when we’re nervous.
When our gut is not nourished with fibre-rich, nutrient-dense foods, it cannot maintain the level of good bacteria needed to scrub down the intestinal walls and make elimination more efficient; produce 75% of our Vitamin K2 which aids in blood coagulation, cardiovascular health and bone mineralization; absorb our nutrients properly; detoxify; support our immune system; and moderate our mood. Phew! That is a lot of work! And this is only a tiny glimpse of the importance of our gut.
Fast, refined and processed food, medication, chlorinated drinking water, infections, dietary chemicals, food intolerances, formula feeding, sugar and stress are some of the ways our good bacteria dwindles in our gut and the nasty ones prevail, sparking and spreading the fires of inflammation.
Inflammation works hand-in-hand with acidity, erupting more havoc throughout your body. Keeping a check on your pH (measured from 0-14) is an important piece of the puzzle. A pH of between 0 and 7 is considered acidic and over 7 is alkaline. This is easy to test with pH strips you can pick up at your local health food store. Keeping a record over a couple weeks (ensuring you check 1–2 times a day) will give you a better indication of your average pH.
Just like a river cuts through a rock by persistence not power, the same imagery can apply to acidity and inflammation, eating away at your body over time. You don’t always notice the effects until years later.
Aiming for an alkaline body through foods that support your mind, body and soul is the way to a healthy gut and optimal health.
There are several foods that provide prebiotics and probiotics to nourish the gut, increasing alkalinity and giving it love to support optimal function.
It is important to include fermented foods as part of your regular meals because they contain lactic acid producing bacteria. These little bacteria are responsible for breaking down carbohydrates and the by-products are beneficial in keeping the healthy bacteria happy and multiplying.
You don’t need to go crazy eating large portions of fermented foods …. A little goes a long way! These foods are potent detoxifiers so it is important to get your body accustomed to these new foods slowly.
Kefir, fermented veggies, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh (fermented soy beans), and natto are great fermented foods to try.
Nourishing Traditions is a wonderful book filled with knowledge, inspiration and recipes (including how to make fermented veggies) that will become a staple in your home!
Starting your day with a glass of lemon water (and a little added baking soda if you choose – just ¼ tsp), can help detoxify, alkalinize and support the digestive system as well.
Deep breathing and meditation can also help to reduce stress and change the pH within your body. We often work so hard, sprinting from one activity to the next, that we tend to operate on autopilot and do not even stop to acknowledge what our body is actually feeling and communicating with us. Taking 5–10 minutes in the morning or night can help to reduce stress (and cortisol), and mentally prepare us for the day ahead or decompress from the day we have had – all changing our pH (or acidity level), ultimately affecting our gut health.
Photo credit: Filip Bunkens on Flickr.