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5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Gut Health

Until recently, nobody took any notice of their gut health, but when you think about the way we use the word ‘gut’ in everyday speech, it gives us a clue as to how important the workings of our gut really are. We’ve all had that ‘gut-feeling’ about things being right or wrong for us. We’ve all heard courageous people being described as ‘having guts’ or being ‘gutsy’ – but what’s so important about our gut that it crops up this way in our everyday speech?

Importance of Good Gut Health

The fact is that our gut health is linked to our overall health in numerous ways. A healthy gut is linked to a healthy immune system, to mood stability and therefore our mental health and also to hormonal health. Even the condition of our skin is linked to the health of our gut. So, it’s vitally important that we look after our gut health and feed it in the correct way. That means, feeding the ‘good’ bacteria and minimising the food and lifestyle habits that do the damage to our gut microbiome.

Did you know that more than half of your body isn’t actually human? Researchers have discovered that 57% of your body’s cells are made up of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Sounds pretty disgusting, right? But some of these microorganisms are important for your health.

If you suffer from IBS, bloating, wind, diarrhoea or constipation, these can all be symptoms of poor gut health. Believe it or not, poor gut health can also contribute to poor sleep, which in turn has been linked to mood swings and weight gain. Antibiotics, stress and poor diet are all known to impair gut health but there are ways to minimise the harm and even to improve gut health.

Five Ways to Improve Gut Health

  1. Eat a Wholefood Diet
    If your current diet contains too many fast-food lunches and evening takeaways, you’re likely to be suffering from poor gut health. But the good news is, it’s never too late to start making changes. Most people simply don’t eat enough fiber. Try including more fruit, vegetables and pulses into your diet. If your current diet is low in these foods, ease them into your diet gradually. Remember that meat, fish and dairy contain no fiber whatsoever, so you can really increase your fiber intake by cooking at least one or two meat-free meals a week.
  2. Probiotics and Prebiotics
    Supercharge your way to good gut health by adding these into your diet. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that can help restore balance in your gut. They can help to ease the symptoms of IBS and are especially helpful following antibiotics. Probiotics can be found in plant-based yoghurt, unpasteurised sauerkraut, and kombucha which is actually fermented tea. (My very good friend Colin Wynne makes Nutra Kombucha and it’s the best Kombucha I’ve ever tried and I would highly recommend it. He makes several flavours but the beautiful purple coloured Butterfly Pea Tea is my favourite. You can order it through his website Nutrakombucha.co.uk Prebiotics can also easily be added to your diet, they can be found in many foods including chicory root, beans, artichokes, onions, leeks and garlic.
  3. Manage Stress
    It’ll come as no surprise to you, that stress affects your gut. When you’re stressed, your body switches into ‘fight or flight’ mode which slows down your digestion and the absorbtion of vital nutrients. This not only leads to poor gut health, but can also be the cause of a compromised immune system. Practising specific breathing and relaxation techniques such as meditation can help lower stress and improve gut health.
  4. Exercise
    Exercise has many benefits of course, but you might be surpised to learn that it can increase the bacterial diversity in your gut. Research, published in the journal Experimental Physiology was carried out by Indiana University Bloomington and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The paper explains that better cardio fitness is linked to greater bacterial diversity in the gut and unsurprisingly, they believe that this is linked to your level of physical activity. So find a type of exercise you like and make it part of your routine, whether that’s walking, running, swimming or cycling, get your body moving and do your gut a big favour.
  5. Hydration
    Perhaps the simplest step of all is to drink more water. The body needs water to get rid of toxins and to act as a lubricant to help food move through the digestive system. Getting enough water is vital for gut health and dehydration can lead to constipation. Water makes up 60% of your body and you need water not only for you gut, but for your brain, muscles and heart to work efficiently. Try drinking a glass of water before your meals and eat more foods that contain water such as fruit and vegetables.

Another easy way to overhaul your gut health is to follow the Arbonne 30 Days to Healthy Living programme which is simple to follow, provides your body with balanced nutrition and supports gut health. There are plenty of delicious food options on this plan so you never feel deprived and the plan is vegan, gluten free and non-GMO. And as an added bonus, it can act as a great kick start to weight-loss.

If you like to learn more, give me a call or text and find out how my habit-change health coaching can help you to live a healthier, happier life. Sam Bentall 07939 235671

Braving the Cold with the Iceman

When I was a kid, we had no central heating. I can remember my hands and feet feeling like blocks of ice on winter mornings; trying to button up my shirt with numb fingers and pull my socks over chilblained toes. I can vividly remember shivering on the walk home from school, and then sitting cross legged on the rug, warming my hands and face in front of the fire. As an adult I have avoided the cold as much as possible. My house is positively tropical. My car has heated seats and a heated steering-wheel, and I never leave the house without multiple layers of clothing, even in the summer. So, having said all that, you might be surprised when I tell you that I have become a huge fan of the Wim Hof Method which mainly involves cold exposure. I first came across Wim Hof (also known as “The Iceman”) in a TV documentary several years ago. I could hardly believe the sight of this man swimming amongst icebergs, looking so serene and relaxed. How was that even possible? Fast forward to last spring and I see Wim Hof again, this time on a YouTube documentary, highlighting the incredible health benefits of his ‘method’ which involves breathing exercises, mental focus and cold exposure. The more I discovered about the Wim Hof Method, the more it made sense to me. The problem, it seems, is that we are creatures of comfort. We love warmth and ease, we avoid discomfort, but ironically, the avoidance of discomfort is frequently the cause of our dis-ease. We invent transport to save ourselves from walking but then become too sedentary, we invent processed food to save ourselves from cooking, but then clog up our arteries with unhealthy fats and we keep ourselves permanently warm, which also, it transpires has a negative impact on our health. We were made to withstand a variety of temperatures. Our bodies are made to adapt. Until recently, we had to tolerate the cold in order to survive, so this new switch to life inside our temperate comfort zone doesn’t allow the body to use its naturally adaptive ability. But the cold is a force to be reckoned with. Let’s not beat about the bush here; it can kill you. But Wim Hof has developed a breathing technique, which, when combined with mental focus and relaxation methods allow you to tolerate the cold for long enough to give your cardio-vascular system a much-needed work out. After all, we have roughly 125,000 km of blood vessels in our bodies and the cold exposure and breathing technique of the WHM help these blood vessels to constrict and dilate more efficiently. Scientific research into the Wim Hof Method has proved that it can:
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower heart rate
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Balance hormones
  • Lower inflammation
  • increase energy
  • Improve mental focus
  • Improve sports performance
  • Provide faster recovery
This all sounded so interesting to me, that I booked a week in Poland to meet the man himself and experience his teachings first-hand. And I have to say, the expedition did not disappoint. I was one of about a hundred people who ranged in age and fitness as much as they did in nationality. My fellow Hoffers had flown in from all over the world, Australia, Singapore, America, Russia, Iceland, oh, and a lovely couple from Cheltenham who had treated themselves to the week’s challenge as a 60th birthday present! From the moment we arrived the activities were full on. We started the first morning with breathing exercises and were led on a barefoot walk to the river for an ice-cold dip with Wim Hof himself. For a woman who never goes anywhere without slippers, this was a massive challenge. But off I went, into the forest, shoeless and filled with trepidation about my imminent leap from a cliff into the icy water below. Wim stood in the water with us until we were all breathing calmly and then led the way back to the sauna for a meditation session. It was an empowering experience. I had been so frightened of the cold all my life, and yet here I was walking barefoot in my swimming costume in frosty conditions and jumping into a river which was minus 2 degrees. And how did I feel afterwards? Cold, yes, but also more alive than I’d felt for years. Completely exhilarated and alert. I swear the colours of the forest looked brighter and the birds seemed to sing a little louder than before. And I felt invincible. During my five-day stay we were to repeat that ice-water dip twice more and on the fourth day, we also hiked 5 miles up Mount Sniezka wearing nothing but shorts and a sports bra! It was minus 6 degrees that day, but by breathing deeply and keeping our focus, we didn’t feel the cold. I usually suffer from Raynaud’s where my fingers turn white and numb and then turn blue and become very painful. I decided not to wear gloves on the walk and instead I visualised the warm blood travelling from my heart through to my fingertips and my hands were fine for the entire walk. Apart from anything else, the views on the walk were astonishing. A dazzling snow blanket covered the ground stretching out into the distance towards the border of the Czech Republic. The clear, blue sky and tracing-paper sun made it more than picture-perfect. It was like being on the inside of an unshaken snow-globe. We walked two-by-two in silence, concentrating on our breathe. It was an exercise in mindfulness. And talking of being in the moment, I realised from our first cold water dip that mindfulness comes easy when you connect with the cold. You don’t wonder what’s for tea or why your boss made that comment in the office last week. Your mind stays exactly where it should be, with your body, in the cold. I’ve been back a week now and inevitably, the sense of euphoria is beginning fade as every-day life begins to snatch me back. But no matter what, I am determined to keep up the routine of daily breathe-work and cold showers and hopefully reap the rewards of the Wim Hof Method for life. If you’d like help sticking to your health and wellness resolutions, why not give me a call on 07939 235671 for a no-obligation chat and find out how I can help you.