Month: November 2018
There’s A LOT of talk in the health world about gut health these days. You’ve probably even heard that the key to reversing a whole host of health issues, ranging from skin issues to serious autoimmune conditions, starts with healing your so-called leaky gut.
Afterall, Hippocrates is famously credited with stating that “all disease begins in the gut”.
Several factors are thought to disrupt the normal intestinal environment and contribute to a leaking gut.
But what the heck is a “leaky gut” – and how do I know if mine is actually leaking? (Eww!)
This refers to damage and/or thinning of the lining of the small intestine (aka, your gut). Your small intestine acts as the barrier between the outside world and the rest of your body – a pretty important job!
The small intestine is also where partially digested food from the stomach (and anything else you take in from the outside world, like medications and supplements) is further broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream, where it is then carried for use throughout the rest of the body.
If your intestinal wall is damaged, thinned, or has gaps in it – known as impaired intestinal permeability, the breakdown and absorption of the food you eat is also impaired.
Partially digested compounds, bacteria, and chemicals that shouldn’t be absorbed can quite literally “leak” across the intestinal membrane and into your bloodstream.
The immune system then kicks into action, reacting to these foreign substances that have crossed the intestine as dangerous intruders.
It is believed that this immune response (from leaky gut) may be the underlying cause of other diseases, like:
- Systemic inflammation
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Food allergies and intolerances
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Celiac disease
- Autoimmune disorders
- Mood disorders
- Skin conditions like eczema
Several factors are thought to disrupt the normal intestinal environment and contribute to a leaking gut.
Contributors to leaky gut include:
- Excessive intake of calories, unhealthy fats, refined grains, sugars, and alcohol, which promote inflammation and digestive trouble.
- The use of antibiotics and NSAIDs (i.e. ibuprofen). These can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut and cause damage to the lining of the gastrointestinal system, respectively, if used frequently.
- Disturbances in the gut microbiome. Overgrowth of bad bacteria in the small intestine in relation to the good, healthy bacteria (your gut flora) that help digest your food.
- Chronic stress, which can also cause inflammation throughout the body, including your gut.
Most healthcare professionals don’t recognize leaky gut as a real diagnosis and there isn’t a standard test to determine if you are suffering from it.
Whether the claims about leaky gut are true or not, gut health is something to consider when it comes to your overall health.
If you’re experiencing digestive woes, like bloating and irregularity, it’s possible your gut health and digestion may be impaired and that your gut is, in fact, in need of healing.
Good habits to support a healthy intestinal environment and properly functioning gut include:
- Eat whole, minimally processed foods with a focus on fibre-rich plant foods.
- Include fermented foods, like raw sauerkraut or kimchi, naturally cultured yogurt & kefir (unsweetened), or kombucha, which contain good-for-your-gut bacteria.
- Sip bone broth or take a collagen supplement. Collagen is thought to help rebuild and restore the gut lining.
- Take an omega-3 supplement or include 2-3 servings of fatty fish each week to help combat inflammation.
- Take a daily probiotic supplement to support your gut microbiome.
- Find natural alternatives to pain relief, like essential oils or meditation, instead of relying on over-the-counter NSAID’s which are known to damage the lining of the gut and cause digestive issues.
Gut Soothing Banana Berry Smoothie
- 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
- ½ cup kefir (or plain, unsweetened whole milk, naturally cultured yogurt)
- 1 banana
- 1 cup berries, any kind
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds or ground flax
- 1 scoop collagen powder
- Place all ingredients in blender and blend until desired consistency reached.
- Blend in a few ice cubes if you prefer a cold, frosty smoothie OR use frozen fruit.
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2009: Intestinal Barrier Function: Molecular Regulation and Disease Pathogenesis
BMC Gastroenterology 2014: Intestinal Permeability – A New Target For Disease Prevention & Therapy
When you’re completely exhausted, the last thing you want to do is lace up your shoes for a workout. But if you’re tired of being tired all the time, you may want to rethink the idea of regularly exercising.
Exercise is one of the most powerful tools we have for increasing our energy levels and you don’t need to do a lot to reap the benefits.
In fact, a University of Georgia study found that performing 20 minutes of low intensity exercise could decrease fatigue by up to 65%!
A physical activity as simple as walking, yoga or a leisurely bike ride (for only 20 minutes!) can do so much more for your energy than a cup of coffee or an energy drink ever could.
So how does exercise actually increase energy?
There’s a lot of amazing things going on in your body during a workout session. When you exercise, your body increases its production of serotonin, endorphins and dopamine — all of which are powerful mood boosters.
Dopamine, in particular, has been found to make us feel more alert and motivated. This is exactly why it pays to take that 20-minute walk during your lunch break instead of scrolling through your social feeds.
In addition to releasing these helpful neurotransmitters, exercise has been found to help us sleep better.
When your body gets the rest it needs on a regular basis, you’ll have the energy to get through your busy day — and maybe even some to spare!
But, can exercise actually works against you?
While a regular sweat session is typically a great thing for your body, there are some circumstances where a workout can actually affect your energy in a negative way.
Working out at night can make it very difficult to wind down and get a restful sleep. Experts recommend avoiding vigorous exercise up to 3 hours before bedtime.
For those with especially hectic schedules, this can be a challenge since it may be the only time of day they can fit in a workout.
However, consider moving your workout to the morning to increase your energy for the whole day. But if you simply can’t, try sticking to a lower intensity nighttime exercise routine so you can wind down when it’s time to sleep.
Too much of a good thing
Yes, you can get too much of a good thing. Exercising too much can actually have the opposite effect on your energy levels.
One study looked at the effects of over-exercising. Participants were put through a rigorous physical training regime for 10 days followed by 5 days of active recovery.
Not only did participants notice a decrease in performance, they also complained of extreme fatigue and difficulty sleeping.
So how much exercise is enough?
It is recommended by many healthy lifestyle experts to get approximately 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous exercise each week to maintain good health. You’ll know you’re getting the right amount of exercise if you notice your energy levels are increasing.
If, after upleveling your exercise efforts you’re (still) feeling lethargic or are having difficulty sleeping, there’s a good chance you may be overtraining.
One last point about Exercise & Energy — the food you eat also plays a huge role in your energy levels! In addition to getting regular exercise, be sure to fuel your body with whole foods throughout the day to keep your energy levels up and maintained.
Energizing Power Balls
This Energizing Power Ball recipe is a great way to fuel your body pre-workout or to give you a mid afternoon energy boost.
1 cup of rolled oats
½ cup of nut butter (use sunflower, pumpkin seed or hemp butter for a nut-free option)
¼ cup of unpasteurized honey or pure maple syrup
½ cup of hemp hearts or chia seeds
Optional additions: add a handful of chopped dried fruit and/or unsweetened shredded coconut
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
- Roll dough into balls, approximately the size of 1 Tbsp.
- Chill and enjoy; place a few in the freezer and enjoy them frozen for a slightly different taste experience!
Think living a long and healthy life well into your nineties or even one hundred years old is only for those lucky few who hit the genetic lottery? Think again.
Lifestyle factors, i.e. the things you do everyday over the long-term – can add up to increase the number of quality years in your lifespan.
Look no further than the people of Blue Zones for proof of how powerful everyday habits are when it comes to staying healthy for the long haul.
The Blue Zones are regions around the world where people have very low rates of chronic disease and live longer compared to other populations.
They are located in regions of Greece, Sardinia, Costa Rica, Japan, and California, where a large number of Seventh Day Adventists reside.
Because these communities are home to the greatest number of people who live healthfully into their nineties and even hundreds, researchers have studied them to determine just how they age so healthfully.
Do you have to live in an actual Blue Zone to guarantee longevity? Nope! You can adopt some of the well-studied lifestyle traits of these folks to promote health and longevity right where you are.
Here’s the top 5 life “hacks” of the world’s longest living people:
Eat a Plant-rich Diet
Blue Zone residents eat a mostly plant-based diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Animal foods aren’t avoided – they eat smaller portions of meat a handful of times per month.
You don’t have to become a strict vegetarian or vegan, but it’s important to eat a variety of plant foods daily – they contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants that help decrease inflammation and protect you from chronic disease, like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
A simple rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables at every meal. Yep, every meal!
Include Healthy Fats
Eat heart healthy unsaturated and omega-3 fats in the form of olive oil, nuts, and fish.
Getting enough omega-3’s helps decrease disease-causing inflammation and keeps your heart and brain healthy.
Eating enough fat also keeps you feeling fuller longer, which can help prevent overeating that leads to weight gain – bonus!
Stop Eating Before You Feel 100% Full
Avoid the clean plate club. Eating slowly chewing your food thoroughly gives your brain and stomach time to register that it’s had enough to eat.
Blue Zone communities avoid overeating and eating beyond feelings of fullness, which again, can help prevent weight gain.
Drink Red Wine
Enjoying a glass of red wine a day increases your antioxidant intake, which is thought to decrease inflammation and help prevent heart disease.
Of course, moderation is key. Four ounces of wine is considered a glass and drinking more than that is associated with negative health effects.
Move Your Body Throughout the Day
Have you heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”? As in, it’s not good for your health to sit for extended periods of time.
Lack of physical activity and prolonged sitting is linked to weight gain, obesity, and increased mortality. Be sure to look for opportunities to add movement into your regular routines.
You might try:
- Stretching while you watch tv
- Take an after dinner evening walk
- Park farther away from your destination
- Choose stairs over elevators
- Take standing and stretching breaks at work
- Use a stand-up workstation, and fidget while you work (or dance!)
The world’s longest living people live active lives that include daily physical activities, like gardening, walking, and manual tasks.
Mediterranean Bean Salad
- 2 15-oz cans of beans, drained and rinsed (use black beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans or chickpeas/garbanzo beans)
- 1 english cucumber, chopped with skin on
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1 cup cherry tomato, halved
- 1 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup virgin olive oil (= longevity oil!)
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 whole cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp fresh herb
- salt and pepper to taste
1. Combine beans, cucumber, pepper, onion, tomatoes, and olives in a large bowl.
2. In a small bowl or sealed jar with a lid, whisk or shake together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper.
3. Toss salad with dressing and enjoy at room temperature or refrigerate unused portions.
Power 9: Reverse Engineering Longevity
Why People in “Blue Zones” Live Longer Than the Rest of the World
13 Habits Linked to a Long Life (Backed by Science)