Tag: gut health

Stories I loved this week.

We’re squeezing the last bits out of summer and starting to think about school. I can’t believe my little boy is about to go into his first year of school. I predict quite a few tears on his first day! I’d love a few tips […]

How many portions of fruit and vegetables do you eat each day?

  This isn’t a trick question! The NHS recommend at least 5 portions of fruit and veg per day and a recent study by Imperial College London went all the way up to 10 portions per day.   Does that sound like a lot?   […]

Stories I loved this week.

Happy weekend! I can’t wait to hang out with my husband and son and relax this weekend.  And it’s Bonfire Night on Saturday! We’re going to check out our local Guy Fawkes fireworks display and let J have a few sparklers  – can’t wait!

What are you up to this weekend?

How it feels when your friends have babies. (Refinery 29)

What to eat when you have no idea what to cook. (The Pool)

I learned how to sharpen knives on Leiths knife skills course last year and it has been a revelation for my food prep. (Lucky Peach)

I love this idea of fine dining club for young children and their parents. I was a part of one when I was on maternity leave and it was incredible to be able to try some of the top restaurants in London with my son with me. (Bon Appetit)

The woman is incredible – doing so much, with a little toddler by her side. (Motherly)

How to choose a probiotic that will actually work. (Well + Good)

This is one of the best things I’ve read in a while. (Nplusone)

In case you missed it earlier on the blog…

I made chestnut pancakes and they were sooo good.

I’ve been wondering why we don’t talk about nutritious eating more.

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. […]

Stories I loved this week.

I got my exam results this week and I’m officially out of my funk! Without fully realising it, I’ve been really stressed out about getting my results back and it’s had a knock-on effect on other parts of my life. When I got my mark […]

You and your gut.

balanca

What is gut bacteria, the gut microbiome and why are people talking about it so much lately? There has been a huge surge of interest recently, off the back of a lot more research into this area.

Here are some of the key terms that are worth knowing:

1. Gut:  Your gut is your oesophagus, stomach, colon, appendix, large and small intestine. Basically, it’s one long tube that runs from your mouth to your anus.

Did you know that this is where 70% of your immune system is – yes, 70%! You have immune cells in your gut that communicate with other immune cells in your body to make sure things are running properly. If they aren’t, these immune cells will activate cytokines (inflammation markers) to tell the brain and other immune cells that there are suspicious microbes, toxins and food proteins that need to be removed so they don’t go into the blood or the lymph. So if you’re sensitive to gluten and you’ve had some food with gluten in it, the immune cells in your gut will let your brain’s immune cells know that everything isn’t copacetic and something has to be done immediately.

Your gut is also connected to your brain. You know that feeling of butterflies you get in your stomach? That’s your gut  communicating with your brain via the enteric nervous system and the vagus nerve.

2. Enteric Nervous System: Did you know that there is a communication pathway between your gut and your brain? And it’s completely separate to the central nervous system – it acts like a second brain. A second brain! It has a number of functions, including  controlling the signals of fullness that go from your stomach to your brain, how quickly you digest food and even certain emotional responses. Interestingly, the enteric nervous system is also connected to the autonomic nervous system – you know, fight or flight (sympathetic) and rest and relaxation (parasympathetic) – so the way you eat – rushed and on the go vs. relaxed and evenly – can have a real effect on how well you digest your food.

3. Gut Microbiome / Bacteria: This is important. In a nutshell, your gut microbiome is the balance between good and bad bacteria in your stomach, colon, large and small intestine. And not to worry, the good and bad bacteria in your gut are a good thing – there are billions of them and they are part of you! The key is to have a balance of the two, and that the bad don’t dominate the good.  For example, we all have the Streptococcus and H.Pylori bacterium in our guts. They become problematic when there are too many of them.

4. Gut Dysbiosis: This is very common, unfortunately. It’s an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut, in favour of the latter. This isn’t good and can lead to a number of problems, including food intolerances, frequent colds, flu and fatigue, skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis and a number of different autoimmune conditions. Gut dysbiosis is commonly caused by antibiotics (which can wipe out all of the good bacteria in the gut), c-sections, formula, artificial sweeteners, stress, too much processed food and a lack of insoluble fibre in the diet.

5. Prebiotics: These are foods that help support the growth of good bacteria in the gut, so   can boost your immune system. Food for your gut bacteria? This is a good thing. Onions, leeks, garlic, asparagus and bananas are all prebiotic foods. Eat them regularly, if you can.

6. Probiotics: Probiotics are another name for the good bacteria that line your gut and something that you want to have a lot of. Most probiotic food is fermented, which makes sense, right? Bacteria aids the fermentation process and you want good bacteria to make this happen. Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, greek yoghurt, kefir, natto (fermented soy beans), unpasteurised cheeses, kombucha and bone broth are all great probiotic foods.

There are also some fantastic probiotic supplements on the market. These can give your gut bacteria a little push if you been on a round of antibiotics or are feeling like your immune system needs some extra support. I really like BioCare and VSL (these are powerful!).

Take care of your gut and it will take care of you!

Photo by Chris Montgomery

Stories I loved this week.

What a week it’s been here in the UK. Huge divisions have been exposed that will take a long time to heal. It’s time to move forward. I love these types of articles – a 10 year oral history of The Devil Wears Prada, one of […]

Stories I loved this week.

It’s been a bit of daze of working and studying recently. I’ve managed to squeeze a few fun things like seeing Sarah Wilson speak last week and have some lovely dinners with my friends and my boys. Only a few more weeks of study and […]

I Tried It: The Specific Carbohydrate Diet

stew

As I go further into my Nutrition degree, we’ve been learning more nutrition theory and practical elements, like clinical practice with patients and specific dietary models. The third assignment this year is to trial one of the dietary models we could potentially recommend to a patient. Anything from paleo to raw vegan to GAPS to 5:2. The idea is that we won’t truly understand how our clients feel until we walk a mile in their shoes.

What is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?

With that in mind, I’ve just completed  a week and a half on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). This aim of this dietary model is to help heal the intestinal wall and rebalance the good and bad bacteria within the gut. More specifically, it is aimed at those with severe intestinal difficulties, such as those with Celiac, Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis. To quote the definitive SCD book / website, Breaking The Vicious Cycle:

The allowed carbohydrates are monosaccharides and have a single molecule structure that allow them to be easily absorbed by the intestine wall. Complex carbohydrates which are disaccharides (double molecules) and polysaccharides (chain molecules) are not allowed. Complex carbohydrates that are not easily digested feed harmful bacteria in our intestines causing them to overgrow, producing by products and inflaming the intestine wall. The diet works by starving out these bacteria and restoring the balance of bacteria in our gut.

On the diet, only monosaccharide carbohydrates are allowed to be eaten as all others require extra digestion steps to break the chemical bonds down to monosaccharide carbohydrates. In a nutshell, ‘no food should be ingested that contains carbohydrates other than those found in fruits, honey, properly-prepared yogurt, and those vegetables and nuts listed here.’

There is quite a lot of evidence supporting the efficacy of this dietary model, however because it is so intense, it can be considered a ‘last resort’.

How It Works

The diet is split into two parts; a 2-5 day introductory period to reduce severe intestinal complaints, such as pain, cramping and diarrhoea and then a reintroductory period to slowly introduce foods back into the diet to see how the body reacts. The 2 – 5 day introductory period focuses on plain foods that are known to help heal the intestinal lining, reduce bloating, gas, diarrhoea and pain and rebalance gut flora. Quite frankly, it is the blandest food known to man – foodies look away now!- which is why this dietary model is described as a last resort. Sample foods include dry cottage cheese, eggs (boiled, poached or scrambled), apple cider, homemade gelatine, homemade chicken soup including broth, chicken and pureed carrots, broiled plain beef patty, broiled fish, homemade cheesecake. All food must be homemade so you know exactly what ingredients are in each meal.

Once the intestinal complaints subside, cooked fruit, banana and additional vegetables may be tried. After this, the rest of the food in the dietary model may be introduced.

My Experience on the Diet 

I did one day on the introductory diet, so I could experience what a client might feel on this  part of the dietary model. I intentionally chose a day where I was at work, so I wouldn’t be tempted by anything on offer in my local cafes and restaurants. I’ve laid out my food and drinks throughout the day below.

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Drinks

Day 1

3 scrambled eggs, water

Two plain beef patties, water

Plain chicken legs and breast, nettle tea

2 cups of nettle tea

I am a coffee addict, so by 3pm, I was frantically Googling ‘herbal teas allowed on scd introductory diet’. Happily, nettle tea is allowed so I had a few cups to tide me through the rest of the afternoon. By the end of the day, I was utterly exhausted and went to bed at 8pm – no joke!

Day 2 – 9 were easier in some respects because I could have a wider variety of foods that weren’t too far off the paleo template that I normally choose.

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Drinks

Day 1

3 scrambled eggs, water

Two plain beef patties, water

Plain chicken legs and breast, nettle tea

2 cups of nettle tea

Day 2

Smoothie (almond milk, almond butter, kale, 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds, 1 handful blueberries, 2 tbsp collagen hydrolysate, 1 banana, 1/2 avocado, 1 handful kale), rasher of bacon

Chicken salad with mixed leaves, flaked almonds, walnuts, olive oil, s&p to dress

Red lentil and beef curry

1 cup of coffee, 2 L water, 1 cup ginger tea

Day 3

Smoothie 

Mixed salad with crab, tuna, string beans, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, rocket, 2 hard boiled eggs, 1 cashew & date Nakd bar

Courgetti bolognaise, 1 cashew & date Nakd bar

1 cup of coffee, 2.5L water, 1 cup ginger tea, 1 cup nettle tea

Day 4

Smoothie 

Leftover beef and red lentil curry, 1 cashew & date Nakd bar

Steak with sautéed mushrooms and kale, 3 strawberries

1 cup of coffee, 2.5L water, 1 cup nettle tea

Day 5

Smoothie, 1 rasher of bacon

n/a

Beef ragu with spiralised carrots

Lemon water, 1 cup of coffee, 1 L water

Day 6

Smoothie 

n/a

Red pepper, green pepper and double Gloucester frittata

Lemon water, 1 cup ginger tea, 1 cup of Dr. Stuart’s Skin Tonic, 1L water

Day 7

Smoothie 

Small wedge of double Gloucester cheese

Beef patty with mixed leaves

1L water, 1 cup of Dr Stuart’s Skin Tonic

Day 8

Smoothie, 1 rasher of bacon, small piece of leftover frittata, 1 scrambled egg

Chicken burrito bowl with guacamole

Apple, two pieces of blue cheese

2L water, 1 large glass of red wine, 1 nettle tea

Day 9

Smoothie, 1 rasher of bacon

Chicken salad with mixed leaves, flaked almonds, walnuts, olive oil, s&p to dress

Chicken cacciatore with spinach

2L water, 1 cup of Dr Stuart’s Skin Tonic

There were two slightly tricky points.

From days 5-7, I had terrible intestinal discomfort, including stomach pain, diarrhoea, bloating, gurgling, nausea and general fatigue and headaches. On the various SCD websites, there is much discussion of ‘bacterial die-off’ (also called herxheimer reactions), where the fuel for the harmful bacteria (polysaccharides and disaccharides) has been removed from the diet, leading to ‘die-off’ of the harmful bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine in large numbers and the release of too many toxins for the liver to be able to process and dispose of at one time.

To put it simply, I was in a bad place for three days, with no appetite, no energy and a lot of discomfort. Interestingly (from a scientific, not a personal perspective), both my husband and son became ill one after the other, with the same symptoms that I experienced, so what I originally thought was bacterial die-off, may have been stomach flu. I’m still not sure.

The other tricky point was eating enough to have enough energy for exercise. After I recovered from the bacterial ‘die-off’, I found that I had to be quite conscious of making sure I was eating enough food throughout the day and in particular, before any workouts. I struggled with a spin class towards the end of my time on SCD, getting through on sheer grit and endorphins.

Final Thoughts

After I recovered from the die-off, I felt great. Full of energy, with far less intestinal discomfort, bloating and gas. I’ve actually continued a modified version of this dietary model for the last two weeks, excluding potatoes and sweet potatoes from my meals.

I’ve lost 3 kgs, my skin is much clearer and I’m enjoying spending more time in the kitchen and taking time over the meals I prepare. The other benefit is the amount of money I’ve saved from eating out less – so many wins!

Photo by Yvonne Lee Harijanto

Stories I loved this week.

Happy weekend! I am so thankful to have the next two days to rest, relax, exercise and spent time with my guys. It’s been a hectic few weeks with two weekends in a row of all day lectures, on top of settling into a new […]

What happens after baby led weaning?

Photo by leonie wise When my son was three months old and I felt that we really had a handle on breastfeeding, I started to think about the next step – introducing him to solid food. My plan was to start giving him solids at […]