Nutrtion

Gut Health 101: Everything you need to know about a healthy gut

As some of you may have read on instagram, I have been having mysterious stomach problems for the past year and a half. After so much trial + error of cutting out certain foods, testing specific diets, and seeing no results, I finally went back to my doctor.

This is where I first learned about our gut health, the good + bad bacteria we all have, and how that might be the cause of my stomach issues. My doctor told me to start taking a pro- and prebiotic, and fiber.

This news sparked my interest. I never realized how much of an impact our gut has on our overall health + wellbeing.

So I started doing loads of research on gut health and all of the negative implications of having too much bad bacteria in your gut can have on our bodies, mood + energy levels.

Now I’m going to break it down for you, as simply as I can, what I learned about our gut.

Gut Health 101

Our “gut” consists of everything from our stomach + intestines to our colon — basically everything that helps us with digestion.

Inside of our gut we all have good and bad bacteria. Our gut and these bacteria receive information about our environment through the foods we eat. So our nutrients + food consumption help us regulate hormone production, balance mood + energy levels, and control our gene expression.

Have you ever heard that our gut is our second brain? Well that’s because it is. It sends signals to our glands and our brain about the world we are living in. In fact, 95% of our serotonin is produced in our gut! What?! (I would site this but I learned it at a yoga + gut health workshop so I’m not sure how, but look it up).   

Photo by Alexander Mils

Photo by Alexander Mils

If we are eating nutrient poor foods, processed foods, foods high in sugar, we are killing the good bacteria our gut, allowing the bad bacteria to flourish, and telling our bodies that we are living in an unhealthy environment.

These “bad” bacteria that begin to takeover can mess with our hormone production + mood especially. So you might see a lot of anxiety, depression, skin issues + inflammation problems on top of stomach issues.

How we can make sure we are eating a gut healthy diet?

Simply, just eat whole, real foods. This will help give your body the nourishment it needs without benefitting the bad bacteria.

Second, we can consume more pro- and prebiotic foods.

Okay, back up. What are pro and prebiotic's?

Probiotics

Probiotics are substances that allow for the growth of microorganisms (bacteria). We can consume probiotic foods that contain high amounts of the good bacteria our bodies need. We find these good bacterias in fermented foods, such as:

  • Yogurt

  • Kefir

  • Kimchi

  • Sauerkraut

  • Kombucha

When we eat these fermented foods, we start to feed our bodies with good bacteria and begin to heal our gut. Each of these probiotic foods contain different bacterias, so eating a variety of them helps us get a full spectrum of good bacteria.

Prebiotic's

Prebiotic's are sort of like fertilizer. They are very fibrous foods that feed the probiotics. So we can keep adding in good bacteria, but if we don’t create an environment in which they thrive, the good bacteria will die off. Adding prebiotic's to your diet help create that healthy environment for the good bacteria to grow + thrive.

Good sources of prebiotic fiber:

  • Steel Cut Oats

  • Green Vegetables

  • Onion

  • Garlic

  • Banana

  • Apple

  • Jicama

  • Legumes

What about taking a pro and prebiotic pill?

It is important to note that pro and prebiotics can be taken through a pill. However, it is more bioavailable when consumed through food (easier to digest, so we get more nutrients). Also, when we consume pre and probiotics through food, we get a larger variety.

However, if you are travelling or just starting this gut health journey, a pre and probiotic pill can be a great place to start.

Once we begin to heal our guts and create a flourishing environment within our bodies, we will see a lot of improvements in our health + well being outside of just the stomach. Some of the benefits of having a healthier gut are improved mood, better sleep, more energy, clearer skin, less brain fog, and the list goes.

5 Foods That Can Make Anxiety Worse

Photo by Wu Yi

Photo by Wu Yi

Let’s just clear this up right out of the gate, the foods listed below will not give you anxiety. However, the physical response these foods cause in your body can trigger anxiety or make anxiety worse.

First, let’s explore how this can happen. I’m sure most of you have heard of the fight or flight response we get when faced with a stressful situation. Anxiety can come from us being stuck in this fight-or-flight response and we are no longer able to relax. Symptoms can include a rapid or increased heart rate, excessive sweating, increased cortisol levels, rising blood pressure and muscle tension.

Now, let’s explore how food can affect this. Anxiety is a stress response. Food can act as stimulants that gives us a stress response. So if you experience or are prone to anxiety, foods that trigger a stress response may increase your stress levels.

5 Foods that may increase anxiety

Caffeine

Coffee, energy drinks, caffeinated drinks, pre-workout and chocolate (not too mention most chocolate contains sugar, which we’ll get to later), all contain caffeine. Caffeine can increase heart rate and give you that “jittery” feeling. So if you are prone to anxiety, caffeine can make it worse. Personally, I have found that drinking coffee with a meal reduces any anxious feelings I get from caffeine.    

Sugar

Sugar in all forms such as candy, sweets, drinks, even the “fake” sugars, create a huge spike in energy and then a crash. This can make your high’s high and your lows lower. So if you are trying to stabilize your mood + energy levels, staying away from sugar can help you even you out.   

Alcohol

Initially, alcohol can make you feel good, relaxed and social. However, alcohol affects neurotransmitters in your brain such as serotonin, which are your “feel good” chemicals. After the alcohol wears off, your body + brain has to adjust to the altered levels of neurotransmitter production, leaving you feeling anxious or depressed.

Refined flour

Refined flour is very similar to sugar when it comes to energy spikes + crashes. Refined flour — such as white breads, pastas, rice, pastries, etc. — is depleted of nutrients and fiber. This means there is nothing with it to offset the sugary effects of those foods. Again, combining refined flours with meat + veggies (protein + fiber), can help decrease the sugar effects. Or try switching to a whole grain dough.    

Juice

You may be somewhat surprised to see juice on this list of “not-so-healthy” foods. But the reality is, is that juice is just plain sugar — even if it is fresh + cold pressed. When you juice a fruit or vegetable you are removing all of the fiber which helps absorb some sugar. So you are left getting a buzz and then crashing later. So next time you want to go on that juice cleanse, think about eating a more balanced diet with lots of protein + fiber.

Again, these foods won’t give you anxiety, but they certainly won’t help it if you are an anxious person.

It is also important to notice that some people are more sensitive to foods than others. So there is no need to cut all of these foods out of your life, just try to be mindful of how these anxiety-triggering are affecting you.