Heal your gut, reduce your stress

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April was Stress Awareness Month, but stress is a part of our everyday life!

If left unchecked, stress can be deadly. In fact, stress is often referred to as the silent killer because although its effects are not immediately apparent, it can lead to several serious health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

The biochemical changes that occur during times of stress have significant and immediate impact on gut and gut function.

Stress “kills” the good bacteria that is essential to your body—it keeps your immune system strong, helps you digest your food and absorb the nutrients, regulates your hormones, and prevents inflammation. Inflammation is the worst enemy of all as it is the precursor to all diseases.

All of us have experienced stress at some point in our lives, which means out guts have been compromised. And an unhealthy gut only exacerbates your stress.

I have three tips that can help you restore your gut flora and help you reduce stress.

  1. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners and Added Sugars

Several studies have shown that artificial sweeteners (such as those in diet soda or those little pink or blue packets you pour into your coffee can literally destroy your good bacteria.

Added sugar literally feeds the bad bacteria lurking in your gut. Not to mention more and more studies are linking added sugar to heart disease. Food brands will be required to list the added sugars in their products by July 2018.

I suggest honey or stevia as good alternative sweeteners.

In terms of honey, I especially love using Wedderspoon Raw Manuka Honey. Manuka honey has antimicrobial and ant inflammatory properties—basically the opposite of artificial sweeteners. This honey can strengthen your immune system and improve your gut flora.

Stevia is an awesome sugar alternative—it is not an artificial sweetener and it has no added sugar. I turn to Sweetleaf Stevia; this brand is the authority when it comes to stevia. Stevia comes from a plant and a little bit goes along way as it is 30 times sweeter than sugar. For example, a typical soda contains 9 teaspoons of sugar. To achieve the same sweetness with stevia, you would only need one teaspoon and wouldn’t have the harmful effects that added sugar causes!

Stevia contains dozens of nutrients as well. Stevia is a great choice for diabetics because it has a non-glycemic response. Visit Sweetleaf.com to find delicious recipes using stevia

  1. Take Probiotics

Probiotics are live, good bacteria. Taking probiotic supplements actually replenish good bacteria in your gut.

My favorite probiotic is Just Thrive. Many of the probiotics on the market not survive in your intestinal system so they aren’t all that helpful. With Thrive, 100% of the healthy flora, in their capsules, survives and hence, you thrive quite literally.

  1. Fill up on fiber.

Most people do not get nearly enough fiber in their diet. A healthy gut depends on fiber to move food along!

Be sure your diet has plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Make sure your snacks are fiber-ful too. Grab a piece of fruit or a 100-calorie pack of Setton Farms pistachios. Pistachios are not only loaded with fiber, but also have been proven to reduce stress. A recent Penn State study showed that the healthy fat and fiber combo in pistachios can reduce vascular stress, keeping your blood vessels open and relaxed during stressful moments.

Keep your gut in check—keep your stress in check! Your gut is often referred to as your second brain.

Treat your gut well and you will feel well.

 

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Five Stress-Defeating Food Choices

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Dark Chocolate and other products

Life sure can deliver us some stressful times. Sometimes you need a little pick-me-up and other times you need some massive comfort. Don’t turn to poor food choices during periods of stress, because, honestly, those foods will make you feel worse! There are dozens of foods out there that have been researched and found to be stress-beating and mood-boosting. Here are five of my favorites!

  • Avocados

We need B vitamins for healthy nerves and brain cells, and feelings of anxiety may be rooted in a B-vitamin deficiency. Avocados are rich in stress-relieving B vitamins. They’re also high in mono-unsaturated fat, which feeds the brain, and can help boost mood. So make up your best batch of guacamole, or simply have some sliced avocado on a salad or on a piece of whole-grain toast.

  • Blueberries, Raspberries and Strawberries

I know, I cheated, these are actually three separate foods, but they fight stress the same way! These little fruits are excellent choices because they are big on antioxidants that have stress-relieving properties.  Berries are also an excellent source of vitamin C, which can keep our cortisol (a stress hormone) levels in check

  • Pistachios

Pistachios are packed with amazing nutrients, such as B-complex, healthy mono-unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, vitamin E, copper, potassium, and other minerals. All of these nutrients put together make for one amazing stress-busting team!

  • Oatmeal

Oatmeal doesn’t have to be a breakfast-only food choice; it’s a super healthy snack to have, especially during stressful times. Oatmeal helps get the calm-inducing hormone serotonin flowing. Go with thick-cut, old fashioned oats that require cooking instead of instant oatmeal. Why? Coarse oats are higher in fiber and so they take longer to digest (meaning their calming effect actually lasts longer).

  • Dark Chocolate

Last, but not least, grab a couple of squares of dark chocolate! Chocolate has an undeniable link to mood; we eat more chocolate if we are depressed to make ourselves feel better. And it works. Just be sure to stick with dark chocolate, which not only has healthy antioxidants, but can also lower blood pressure, making us feel calmer and more relaxed. Now who’s going to argue with that?

Next time you are feeling depressed or stressed, apply these nutritional food choices into your daily routine, and you will feel a whole lot better!

Fix your Gut Health and Thrive

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probioticsChances are, at some point in your life, you have experienced digestive discomfort (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation). And you are not alone! Over 100 million Americans have intestinal health problems, ranging from chronic constipation to Irritable Bowel syndrome (IBS). These discomforts are signals that you need to improve your gut health and get this? If you mend your gut (intestinal) health, you are doing way more than aiding your digestion—you are improving your overall health! How?

Your gut is actually responsible for 70-90% of your immune system. You need your gut to be healthy in order to assimilate the nutrients you need to be healthy overall. And do you realize that a healthy gut can improve your mood? Consider your gut as your “second” brain; its nervous system actually has more neurotransmitters (mood boosters) than your brain!

Your intestinal tract is home to 100 trillion microorganisms—there are 10 times more bacteria in your gut than there are cells in your entire body! In order to establish a healthy gut, you need to make sure that the healthy bacteria in your intestines are thriving and the unhealthy bacteria are not. Sadly, many factors in today’s lifestyle contribute to the production of unhealthy bacteria, including: antibiotics, stress, processed food (particularly refined grains and sugars devoid of fiber).

So the first step to improving your gut health is to improve your diet. Try the 90/10 rule, making sure that 90% of your food is wholesome and nutritious and allowing yourself some not-so healthy treats from time to time. A diet comprised of plenty of vegetables, lean proteins, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fruit will make your digestive flora happy. Fermented foods will even further boost your healthy gut flora; try kefir, miso, tempeh, kimchi (a delicious Korean delight), or sauerkraut. Also, keep your stress levels in check; consider yoga, tai chi, or meditation. And the best way to assure that your healthy gut flora thrive is to take a probiotic along with your healthy, wholesome food plan.

My favorite probiotic is Just Thrive. Many of the probiotics on the market do not survive in your intestinal system so they aren’t all that helpful. With Thrive, 100% of the healthy flora, in their capsules, survives and hence, you thrive quite literally. Since I have been taking Just Thrive probiotics, I feel more energetic and ready to take on any challenge! I have also noticed that I rarely catch colds, even when I am surrounded by people who have nasty bugs that are swarming around.

Get your gut health in order and you will thrive!