There is a whole world within us. Not only are we complex human beings in the way we think, feel, and interact – we contain a universe (of sorts) in our intestines. That’s right, the human microbiome contains an estimated 100 trillion microbes – most of which live in our gut (our largest organ, the skin, also contains a microbiome).
The microbiome influences our energy balance and metabolism (e.g. risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes), gut permeability (and whether one develops “leaky gut” syndrome and/or food sensitivities), immunity, and inflammation.
What influences the microbiome? Our diet, genetics, antibiotics, and probiotic foods being some of the most important aspects.
What to learn all about your digestive ‘galaxy’ and the common issues along the journey? Let’s start at the top and work our way down:
Day 2 and Day 3 are on the same YouTube channel. This is like a mini college course – Digestion 101 so feel free to take notes as you learn all about your digestive tract and ways to improve it #nerdoutwithme
In the quest for unending youth and beauty, legend has it that Countess Elizabeth Báthory would bathe in the blood of her human servant girls (over 600 are said to be victims of this female serial killer).
What have we done to the cherished Care Bears of your childhood? Worry not – Cheer Bear, Bedtime Bear, Good Luck Bear, and Love-a-lot Bear have not been mammocked or torn asunder. Their plush limbs have not been forced through our juicer; however, the color you see may belie that.
Thus, we have named this drink “The Blood of Care Bears” (though, as you’ll see, we much prefer the youth- and energy-enhancing properties of food). Your quest to become an enchantress can begin with your shopping cart.
Sidenote: juicing fruits and vegetables leftover at the end of the week is one of our favorite strategies to help prevent food waste, which is a major problem here in the U.S.
Have fun with it!
Prep time: 10 minutes for rinsing produce, chopping (if necessary) and set-up of juicer
Servings: about 2, 16 oz glasses
4 small beets
1 heart celery
1 whole cucumber
1/2 bunch of parsley (optional)
1-2 pears (depends on level of sweetness you desire)
1″ ginger root (it has some kick!)
Remove seeds from fruit. With juicer set up, follow manufacturer’s directions for inserting fruits and vegetables carefully. The order recommended is generally softer produce followed by harder produce (so ending with ginger and beets). Juice until your heart’s content or you run out of produce. Fresh juice is best consumed immediately after juicing, though it may last 24-48 hours in the fridge.
If you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, pressed for time, and stressed, join the club! Only a minority of people report feeling peaceful, equanimous, and blissed out these days. The good news is that you can take a step in that direction and reap a bunch of benefits. Here’s how:
1. Identify what’s important to you, your mindset, and what throws you off balance. Once you identify your values and your non-negotiables, you can simplify and cast off the unimportant to-dos. Maybe rainbow-organizing your pantry and linen closets are a “nice to have” but family time is more of a priority right now. In terms of mindset – have you noticed how some people seem relaxed and carefree as they go about their duties while others seem rattled with the same amount of work? Leading a calmer and more peaceful life often has to do with our personal experiences, belief systems, and coping mechanisms…all of which influence our mindset and our thoughts. By changing those, we can change our behaviors and results.
Consider what throws you off-balance. Is it a last-minute request to participate in your child’s extracurricular activity? The pressure you put on yourself every year to balance not just work but with making each holiday or birthday ‘perfect’ for your family? Or does getting inadequate sleep cause you to feel easily rattled the rest of the day? There is a well-established link between our emotional state and our physical one. By adopting a more peaceful mindset, we can avoid chronic diseases and live longer.
2. Know the signs of an imbalanced life and burnout. Symptoms include headache, sleep disorders, anxiety, tense and stiff muscles, and digestive woes. The stress we’re under can contribute to poor immune function, focus and memory. It can also be detrimental to fertility and sex drive and even accelerate the aging process. Noticing these symptoms early in your life can help prevent you form sliding into burnout or into chronic disease states.
3. Add + subtract. We’re going to let our inner nerd out a bit as we reveal how much we loved stoichiometry and balancing equations in high school. Without complex chemistry and math, just imagine playing with weights on a scale – add another stressor to one side and notice how the beam shifts, especially if there aren’t enough restorative activities in the other scale pan. Here are some ideas to find your own balanced equation:
Most people – whether younger or older, ill or well – benefit from knowing which foods their bodies react negatively to.
Here’s the kicker: the food you think is healthy, may not be healthy for you.
If you’re healthy and want to stay that way, the focus is on prevention; since food is central to any wellness plan, to eat in a precise and personalized way is best.
Dealing with health challenges?
Maybe you’ve given up some of the ‘big 8’ offenders (e.g. wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs) but are still having some symptoms. Perhaps you’ve done (ineffective) skin testing or IgG food sensitivity testing. In either case, you know you need to drill down further and find out if your everyday “healthy” foods (e.g. blueberry, turkey, or tumeric) are actually inflaming you. This has been the case for many of our clients, some visual examples of food sensitivity testing results are below.
Conditions associated with food sensitivities are:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s Disease
Heartburn / GERD
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Arthritis and fibromyalgia
Autism and ADD/ADHD
Symptoms associated with food sensitivities are:
Anxiety and depression
Constipation / diarrhea
Bloating and gas
Eczema, psoriasis, and acne
Fatigue and general malaise
Insomnia and poor sleep
Stomach and abdominal pain
Irritability and restlessness
Nasal and sinus congestion or post nasal drip
Muscle and joint pain or stiffness
Water retention and difficulty losing weight
Additionally, this is a test worth doing if you plan on having children (to help lower inflammation in the body and improve fertility) or if you have children who are ‘picky eaters’ (oftentimes, kids intuitively know that a certain food is ‘hurting’ them and they try to avoid it).
If you want to lose weight or improve performance, this test provides you with the foundation for your personal diet strategy and may provide the missing link necessary to achieve your goals.
What makes MRT different? How does it work?
Some of the other tests you may have done, such as a skin prick or a food sensitivity test ONLY measuring IgG levels, often lack the accuracy in determining actual food sensitivities you may have.
Figuring out what our sensitivities are can be difficult; here’s why – the reactions can be delayed or dose-dependent. This means we may not immediately feel the effect of a food reaction; it may take many hours or days to appear. If it’s dose-dependent, we might feel okay with a little bit of the offending food, but stacking it gives us a reaction.
Mediator Release Testing (MRT) is a patented blood test that shows how strongly your immune cells react to the 170 foods and chemicals tested by measuring chemical mediators released from the cell. When released from immune cells, chemical mediators such as histamines, cytokines, and prostaglandins produce damaging effects on the body’s tissues, leading to the development of symptoms. Fortunately, MRT takes the guesswork out of identifying food sensitivities!
Here are some examples of ‘healthy’ foods that were showing up as inflammatory for clients, including: bananas, turkey, blueberries, coffee and more!
Test results are only part of the equation. With your functional medicine dietitian-nutritionist, you’ll put into play the LEAP (Lifestyle Eating and Performance) protocol to help get you the results you desire. Curious about finding out the foods and food chemicals causing inflammation and symptoms in YOUR body? Contact us and see if MRT testing is right for you.
If your bathroom visit has you feeling less-than-stellar, whether from incomplete bowel evacuation or runny rapid transit, you may wonder what’s going on with your gut. We will solve the mysteries of these #2 issues so that you can sit down and take action!
What’s your number?
If you’re looking at the stool chart feeling as through you run the gamut of each type, start to observe toilet clues and investigate reasons that may underlie issues of diarrhea and constipation. Like most changes, this starts with awareness. Track the number associated with the Bristol stool chart type that best matches your bowel movement.
Water makes all the difference. Diarrhea results when the intestine doesn’t have time to reabsorb all the water from the food waste before it exits. On the other hand, if too much water being reabsorbed, constipation occurs and results in hard, dry rabbit-poo-like stools.
When you can’t wait another second….diarrhea. Common causes of diarrhea include:
Food allergies or sensitivities
Lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance/Celiac disease, or malabsorption of fructose
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Sh*t happens….hopefully. Constipation involves the passing of hard, dry stools that resemble rabbit or deer excrement. Are you eating sugar, processed carbs, packaged foods? If so, you’re at higher risk for constipation. Or perhaps it’s one of these common issues:
Low fiber intake (or too much fiber and not enough water)
Food allergies (dairy and wheat can also lead to constipation issues for some)
Hypothyroidism & hormonal imbalance
Lack of physical activity
Issues with the nerves or muscles in the intestinal tract
Whoa! That stinks!
If you find that your flatulence clears a room or your BMs are so stinky they cause a plane to turn back, there’s a problem that needs to be addressed. For the deadly gas (silence optional), the problem has its roots in sulfur compounds. One reason why flatulence can flatten the mood: bacteria adds sulfates to trapped air bubbles in the gut, creating smelly farts. Food can lead to foul smells particularly when one is consuming foods high in sulfur (think Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, garlic, and onion).
Smelly poo can have its origins from food as well. Those who eat a lot of animal protein tend to have stinkier BMs. A weak digestive system will contribute to foods not breaking down well and putrefying in the gut. Poor diet and stress often have key roles to play as can food sensitivities and inflammatory bowel disorders.
Have the Perfect Poo
Though seemingly as mythical as unicorns, some people claim to have the perfect poos. You can too! First, you have to know what you’re aiming for. On the Bristol stool chart, a perfect poo would ideally be a 4, with 3 and 5 being strong contenders. Let your competitive side show as you try some of these tips to improve your digestive wellness.
Get more fiber (think fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains)
Drink enough water! Some people like to jazz it up with some lemon and/or mint.
Fermented foods (i.e. kimchi, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut) may be beneficial as they can support the colonization of healthy bacteria in the gut. Consider a probiotic supplement.
Incorporate stress management techniques
Get enough sleep
It is important to give your body the tools it needs to be healthy. Every piece of food eaten is broken down and nutrients are absorbed. If it passes too quickly in the digestive tract, important nutrients are missed. If it takes too long, damage may occur in the colon (think diverticulitis as an example). Remember that there are plenty of neurotransmitters in your gut and the brain-gut connection is real. Your thoughts, anxiety, depression, stress, and mood impact your gut. With all of the information and ideas presented, what step will you take to achieve gastrointestinal balance?
Think about the last meal you ate today. What did this meal consist of? How long did it take you to eat it? Did you actually chew your food or mindlessly stuff your face?
When you take the time to Be with the food you are eating and truly enjoy it, you will get more out of your mealtime experience. Chewing your food is a first, major part of digestion that helps you to absorb the nutrients of the food better. The saliva released in the mouth helps to break down carbohydrate components of your meal; the mechanical action of chewing breaks the food down before it enters your stomach and the rest of the digestive tract. Improper chewing can lead to over-eating as well as bloating, gas, and other digestive issues.
Chewing also helps you to enjoy your food more. By noting the texture and colors on your plate, while mindfully tasting your meals, you will have a greater appreciation for your food.
Next time you sit down for a meal, count how many times you chew eat bite you take. Try to increase that number by 10 and once that feels normal, keep increasing. The slower you eat, the more benefits you will see!