Monthly Archives: October 2016

Don’t forget about your gut.

Remember what Hipprocrates said so long ago: All disease begins in the gut.

In our modern world, we’ve forgotten a lot of this and rely on band-aid solutions to get us through whatever ails us.

Our gut and the bacteria within in are so important.  Our gastrointestinal tract has to both absorb nutrients and act as a barrier against foreign organisms and molecules like microbes and allergens, from the day we are born. We need to take care of it!

Did you know?

  • 70% of our immune system is in our digestive tract, so when the gut is unhappy, the rest of the body is unhappy
  • The digestive tract / gut is one long tube that runs from the mouth and runs all the way to the anus
  • Stretched out, the gut would cover a surface of 400 square metres
  • We have over 100 hundred billion bacteria in our gut – more cells than in our body!
  • There are approximately 400 – 500 species of bacteria in the large intestine and 200 species in the oral cavity
  • Bacteria form the basis of our immune system
  • Infants have a special need for stimulation of their gut microbiota because they are born with a sterile intestine – babies that are vaginally born are inoculated with bacteria from their mother’s vagina, whereas c-section babies are inoculated with bacteria from their mother’s skin and the operating room

There are two categories of gut bacteria:

  1. Innate gut bacteria: This is the gut bacteria that we are born with. They help protect us from the time we come out of our mother’s womb. Certain practices such as Caesarean sections, formula feeding and early antibiotic deplete this innate gut bacteria and can lead to some problems in the future, such as frequent illness, skin conditions like eczema and obesity.
  2. Acquired gut bacteria: This is the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT) that we start to acquire when we are six months old. GALT is made up of several types of lymphoid tissue that contain immune cells that protect us and are fundamental to our immune system.

Building your child’s gut bacteria with breastfeeding

Breastfeeding and skin to skin contact is the most immediate way of providing your baby with the immune components that help establish and build their gut bacteria, as well as providing protection for their respiratory system and other mucus tissues.

Breastfeeding promotes the growth of beneficial lactic acid bacteria in the baby’s gut flora, which are beneficial to the development of the child’s immune system. The antibodies that are transmitted from the mother through the colostrum have been educated by maternal gut microbes and provide a broad range of immediate protection to the baby.

The friendly bacteria in the gut play multiple roles, including secreting natural antibiotics and competitively inhibiting pathogenic microbes. The more varied the species of bacteria in your gut flora, the more protection you and your baby will receive from them. This protection stays with the baby throughout their life.

If you’re formula feeding, you can give your child’s digestive system an extra boost with probiotic powders or drops, that can be added to their formula. This gives your baby’s gut bacteria the support it needs to develop effectively.

Building your child’s gut bacteria with food 

Once you introduce solid food to your child, it’s important to feed them a nutritious diet, not only to ensure they are receiving the necessary vitamins and minerals to help them grow, but to ensure they continue to be exposed prebiotic and probiotic food that build their gut flora.

Prebiotics are a non-digestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines.  Probiotics are the good bacteria that come from food and supplements that can support your immune system.

Building your gut bacteria as an adult

Even if you’ve been on loads of course of antibiotics, were born via caesarean section and have been eating a poor quality diet, you can still rebuild your gut bacteria and get your immune and digestive system back in order.

It will take a lot of effort with high strain probiotics and a good quality diet with lots of prebiotic and probiotic foods, but it can be done. And the benefits will be seen very quickly!

What are good prebiotic and probiotic foods? 

Prebiotics: Onions, garlic, bananas, leeks and asparagus are prebiotic foods that you can add to your diet or give to your child, once you’ve established that they are not allergic to any of them.

Probiotics: Fermented foods & drinks like kimchi, sauerkraut & kombucha, coconut kefir and pickles are good options to add into your family’s diet a few times a week. If you’re using store-bought versions of these food and drinks, make sure to read the labels to check for unnecessary extra ingredients like added sugars and preservatives.

Have you taken probiotics or eaten probiotic foods? Have you seen an effect on your gut?

Stories I loved this week.

I’m back in student clinic this weekend and I’m really looking forward to getting hands with clients and turning all of my theoretical knowledge into practice.

What are you up to this weekend?

Yes, there really is something so comforting about great cookery writing. I’m finding myself reading cookbooks before bed more often and tend to return to the ones that tell great stories around each recipe. (The Pool)

Too much social media perfection can definitely affect a new mother’s sanity. I remember more than a few nights of feeling down after scrolling through the Instagram feeds of those ‘perfect’ mothers. Sometimes the only answer is to log out and put the phone away 🙂 (The Guardian)

A great primer on adaptogens. I love maca, cordyceps and ashwaghanda.  (goop)

I (really) want these leggings.

It’s squash and pumpkin season and I’m really hoping not to cut my hands up this year opening them. (Bon Appetit)

What knitting can teach us about parenting. (New York Times)

How great is this macrame plant holder? It’s a bit 70s without being too kitschy.

Clean eating? Healthy eating? What about nutritious eating?

hampstead heath

There’s been a lot of chatter in the media this week about the end of ‘clean eating’, with many disavowing this term, saying that it has led to a rise in disordered eating and anorexia.

The denouement of the majority of these pieces tend to call for moderation and for more healthy eating.

I will always applaud anything that helps people get to grips with what and how they eat.

BUT.

It seems to me as health professionals, that we’re suffering from terrible reductionism when it comes to advocating for better quality eating. On one side, there are those that are demonising whole food groups  (i.e. ‘all wheat/sugar/dairy/etc/etc is bad’) and the other side, proclaiming the answer is to simply eat a healthy, balanced diet. Both extremes are very reductionist and don’t offer the nuance that people need. But nuance doesn’t sell newspapers / magazines / books, doesn’t it?

What if you don’t know what eating healthy actually is and what it means for you? What if you’ve picked up the first Deliciously Ella book because everyone was talking about it and you thought it might teach you a few healthy eating tips and tricks? Are you now a part of the clean eating brigade (how I hate that term)?

I’ve discussed this topic before on the blog. The rise of the concept of clean eating isn’t a bad thing. Becoming more aware of what you put into and onto your body is good – we could all benefit from mindfulness when it comes to the way we eat. And with everything, there will always be individuals who have no brakes and take advice and concepts to their limit.

Equally, there will always be charlatans who peddle bad advice. Rather than blame the clean eating bloggers and instagrammers, surely asking people to take some agency around what they put into their bodies isn’t a big ask? Just as we ask people to educate themselves in other areas of their lives (finance is an area that comes to mind), it is not outrageous to expect people to give themselves a broad education into the benefits and drawbacks of the food they feed themselves and their families and to look at what they see on TV and in newspapers and magazines with a critical eye.

I firmly believe that we need to start thinking about food in terms of how nutritious it is. ‘Healthy’ is such a empty, almost meaningless term. Nutritious – the vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats in food – is more meaningful and has tangibles that can be referenced.

And what about flavour? Nutritious and flavourful aren’t mutually exclusive. Just as there’s pleasure in eating rich, indulgent foods, there’s also a lot of pleasure in eating nutritious, flavourful foods. The pleasure of eating these foods should ideally last from the moment of anticipation when you first put it in your mouth through to the lovely feeling of satiety when you’ve finished the meal.

Oh, one last thing. Get rid of the guilt. Enjoy the food you do eat and find pleasure in the making and eating of nutritious, flavourful meals.

Stories I loved this week.

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How has your week been? It’s starting to feel like Autumn in London and we’re starting to pull out our jumpers and fall coats and laying up. I like the crisp weather and the smell of fires being lit. It reminds me of starting a new year of university in Montreal and all the lovely fall foliage and coziness.

The weekend we’re going to try to catch this bee exhibit at Kew Gardens. What are you up to?

Are mothers the most efficient workers? (Motherly)

I want this coat. (ASOS)

This is really worrying, given the huge problem of antibiotic resistance and the effect antibiotics in the food supply can have our gut microbiome. (The Guardian)

Are you the type of cook that keeps bones in the freezer? Yep – the more bones you have, the more gelatinous the stock. (The Kitchn)

Wow – 100% of the mothers at this company return to work. (Quartz)

I’m starting to get fed up with using cling film and have been looking for sustainable alternatives. I love the look of these reusable silicone lids. (Food 52)

It’s so important for women to talk about miscarriages and for this be normalised. (Stylist)

This cheered me up on a gloomy afternoon at work. (Glamour)

Have you tried seed cycling?

sunflower

I first heard about seed cycling a couple years ago on a natural health podcast and found it very intriguing.

The basic principle of seed cycling is that it is possible to use the primary micronutrients in a few seeds to help balance female sex hormones.

Infertility, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, PMS, acne, fatigue and other problems that have links with the menstrual cycle and female sex hormones are becoming more common.  Some of this is due to lifestyle and diet choices, which for some women can cause sub-clinical deficiencies in zinc, selenium and B vitamins –  some of the key micronutrients that help build female sex hormones.  Adding these micronutrients back in systematically can help restore balance.

What are the female sex hormones and why are they important?

If you think back to your biology classes in high school, there are four phases to a woman’s monthly reproductive cycle. At each phase in her cycle, a woman’s body produces different hormones to support the different activities that are happening in her uterus and ovaries.

  1. Menstrual phase: Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  2. Pre-ovulatory phase: Estrogen and Luteinising Hormone
  3. Ovulation: Luteining Hormone
  4. Post-ovulatory phase: Progesterone

Good, balanced hormone production is important not only for regular menstrual cycles, but only for stress management. Too much estrogen (known as estrogen dominance) and too little estrogen can both be problematic in their own way.

Some doctors will prescribe the OCP as a means of hormone balancing. Before going down that route, there are some natural methods, like seed cycling, to consider.

The nitty gritty of seed cycling

You’ll be using flax, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, all of which have different micronutrients that support hormone production at different phases of the menstrual cycle.

Flaxseeds and sesame seeds: Both seeds contain lignans, a polyphenol phytonutrient which can block excess estrogen production in the body.

Pumpkin seeds: The zinc in this seed supports progesterone release, which is important for having normal, low pain periods. Zinc also ensures that excess estrogen doesn’t convert to testosterone, which can be very problematic, particularly in PCOS sufferers.

Sunflower seeds: The selenium in this seed supports phase 1 liver detoxification (where your liver begins to clear excess estrogen from the body).  Selenium also helps produce glutathione peroxidase, a very powerful antioxidant.

How to do it

This can take between 1 and 4 cycles to see an effect, so bear with it. If your cycle is longer or shorter than 28 days, just start the second phase the day you ovulate. Day 1 starts the first day of your period. If you aren’t tracking your cycles already with an app or notebook, I strongly urge you to do so. It’s interesting to look back and see how different events can affect the length and strength of your cycle.

Day 1 – 14 (follicular phase): 1 tbsp flax seeds, 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds – these seeds help your liver clear the extra estrogen that can occur during this time of your cycle and the zinc in pumpkin seeds prevent excess testosterone production.

Day 15 – 28 (luteal phase): 1 tbsp sunflower seeds, 1 tbsp sesame seeds – these seeds are rich in zinc and selenium which help progesterone production during this phase of your cycle. They are also high in essential fatty acids, which help balance progesterone and estrogen and support the cell membrane (outer layer) of your eggs.

Take the seeds in the morning if possible, try to get organic seeds and with the flax, try to grind them fresh because the oils in the seeds can go rancid if they’re ground and kept out for too long.

There are so many different ways to have the seeds in the morning.

  • Add them to a morning smoothie
  • Mix them up with some organic full fat Greek yoghurt
  • Make an omelette and then sprinkle them over the top
  • Mix them into a morning salad
  • Date balls! Try this recipe and add in the relevant seeds for the respective time in your cycle
  • Or simply take them with some water

Have you tried seed cycling? Did it work for you?

Photo by Unsplash

An ode to self-care, rest and reflection.

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I talk a lot about food on this blog, a bit about fitness and a smidgen about love. The eat, the love and the move.

What I’ve been realising this summer is how important rest and a sense of peace are to your own self-love, self-care and ability to love others.

calo-in-mallorca
By September this year, I was feeling a bit done. Burnt-out on all of the demands on me, my time and my spirit. I felt like I was giving a lot and not getting a lot back.

I’ve come through to the other side of this feeling with a reminder that there are lots of seasons in our lives. There will be seasons of unrelenting busyness and there will be seasons of peace and reflection. There will be times that you give a lot and you don’t get a lot back.

sunset-in-cala-dor

great-door-knocker-in-palma

We need to give ourselves permission to go with this, knowing that these are the ebbs and flows of life. Living at an unrelenting pace is just not sustainable.

Our trip to Mallorca a few weeks ago gave me a enough distance not only from the UK, but from my everyday life to remind me of all of this. It gave me a chance to take a deep breathe, get away from the rush of London and listen to my own rhythm for a while. It also reminded me that I love taking photographs with my DSLR and that I should do more of this!

What is your self-care routine? What do you do when the rush of the city, of life gets a bit too much?

Stories I loved this week.

I’ve had a little hiatus from the blog. Things were getting on top of me and I needed to stop, have a breather and take stock. It’s important to do that once in a while, don’t you think?

We’ve also been on holiday to Mallorca (one of my favourite places on earth!) and although I came back with a cold, I feel mentally rested and ready to start my final year of my Nutrition degree (this weekend!).

Could you be a fruitarian? I personally couldn’t, but it’s interesting to get a peek into how they rationalise their choice. (Broadly)

How much do celebrities spend on fitness? (Well + Good)

How the sugar industry shifted the blame to fat. (NY Times)

Ketchup chips – any good Canuck will love these. (AV Club)

Great exercise rule – try not to skip two days in a row. (Summer Tomato)

I’ve just bought this cookbook and I’m really enjoying working my way through it. The chickpea pancakes on page 92 are great.

Feeding babies peanuts and eggs can reduce their risk of allergies later in life. This is an update to the previous advice that said that parents should wait to introduce allergenic food. Makes sense, especially based on what we know about the immune system and the role gut bacteria play in digesting food. (JAMA)