Guest blog: How to heal your gut and mind

Diet detox super food selection in heart shaped porcelain bowls

Welcome to my first guest blog! I’m delighted that Sal Prothero, Nutritionist from Whole Food Nutrition, is teaming up with Experience Yoga at a weekend restorative session. The focus of her talk is on your gut…

Have you ever had a “gut-wrenching” experience? Do certain situations make you “feel nauseous”? Have you ever felt “butterflies” in your stomach? Most of us have and this is because our gut is sensitive to emotions.

So what’s going on inside our gut? Microbiome or gut microbiota seems to be the buzzword at the moment and for a good reason. There are approximately 100 trillion microorganisms within the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract. While most of the microbes are bacteria, the intestine can also harbor yeasts, viruses and small parasitic worms. If there is an imbalance of bacteria, in other words, if there are more bad bacteria than good, this can cause many health conditions.

What causes the microbiome to become imbalanced?

Environment – pesticides, herbicides, synthetic hormones, pollution
Foods – intolerances, processed foods, high sugar foods, high trans-fat foods
Under-active digestion (low stomach acid)
Chronic stress
Medication – contraceptive pill, painkillers, sleeping tablets, thrush treatments, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories e.g. Nurofen and Voltaren

The brain communicates with the gut via the parasympathetic (PNS), sympathetic (SNS) and enteric nervous systems (ENS). This is called the gut-brain axis. The ENS is sometimes called ‘the second brain’. In Irritable Bowel Syndrome, for example, stress often leads to over-stimulation of the SNS which interferes with the way food is digested, leading to pain, discomfort and altered bowel motility.

Did you know that 90% of our neurotransmitters, adrenaline and serotonin for example, the feel-good chemicals in our bodies, are formed in the gut? So if our digestive system is compromised in any way, our mental health will be suffering.

The effect of stress

Given how closely the gut and brain interact, it becomes easier to understand why you might feel nauseated before giving a presentation or feel intestinal pain during times of stress. Stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the gut, make inflammation worse, or perhaps make you more susceptible to infection.

There is strong evidence that exposure to stress may be responsible for the dysregulation of the brain-gut axis, thus leading to the different diseases of the gut.

What can you do about it?

Avoid inflammatory foods that can irritate/inflame the mucosal layer. These include gluten, refined carbohydrates and sugar, too much caffeine/alcohol.

Eat a whole food diet:

Anti-inflammatory foods – turmeric, ginger, onion, garlic, oily fish, green leafy vegetables
Tryptophan foods – chicken, turkey, bananas, oily fish, nuts, seeds, whole grains
Glutamine – Fish and meat such as beef, chicken, pork and turkey, beans, milk, yogurt, ricotta cheese and cottage cheese, raw spinach, cabbage and parsley.
Slippery elm – add to smoothies
Zinc – oysters, nuts, seeds, red meats
Vitamin A/Beta-carotene – egg yolks, orange vegetables, salmon
Fermented foods (probiotics) – kim chi, sauerkraut, kefir
Kombucha tea, bone broth

Reduce your stress with:

Mindful eating

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Caroline Giles Experience yoga studio melbourne

I’m Caroline Giles, a Yoga Therapist and Yoga Teacher, and the owner of Experience Yoga. I’m inspired to teach you practices of yoga for health, well-being and wholeness. My students are the everyday person like you and me. They come to create strength, vitality, inner peace and courage in their life through the practices of yoga.

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