How to keep your good gut bacteria balanced and healthy

Yellow stone is a national park in the united states. In the 1930’s the Gray wolf  was considered a pest, a problem. The solution to this problem was government predator control programmes that eliminated the wolf from the park. The gray wolf was the main predator of the yellow stone deer. When the wolf was removed the deer population exploded. The deers consumed all the vegetation such as aspen, cotton and willow plants. The trees and plants provided both food and shelter for other wild life in the park such as the song bird. The yellow stone beaver relied on willow as a food source to survive winter. The lack of willow reduced the beaver population. Less beavers resulted in less beaver dams. Beaver dams affect the flow of rivers. Beaver dams also provide habitats for other wildlife such as otters, birds and fish. The removal of one species, the wolf, affected the entire ecosystem. In the 1990’s the gray wolf was introduced back into the park. Balance was restored.

The message of the gray wolf and yellow stone park is that ecosystems are complex and sensitive to change. If we disrupt them it can cause an imbalance. This imbalance can seriously affect the health of the life in that ecosystem.

 Another name for ecosystem is a biome. A Biome is biological community of living organisms that coexist in a shared physical environment. For example, the animals and plants in yellow stone park. A micro-biome is an ecosystem but it is on a much smaller scale.

The micro-biome is a complex world of microbes that live in our gut. There are reported to be over 500 different species of bacteria, fungi and viruses that make up this micro-ecosystem. Two of the most dominant species of bacteria are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. The majority of microbes live in our large intestine. Smaller populations reside in the lower end of our small intestine. The micro-biome has 3 times more cells than human cells in your body.

What is the relationship between us, the host and our micro-biome?

  • Some microorganisms offer no benefit (free ride)
  • Some microorganisms offer mutual benefits (These are considered friendly or beneficial bacteria)

What are the mutual benefits of friendly bacteria in your gut?

  1. 70% of our immune system is reported reside in our gut. Good bacteria play a role in the development and regulation of the immune system within the gut. They help develop a healthy immune response.
  2. Good bacteria support our health: Friendly bacteria breakdown undigested food. This may result in the release of vitamins, minerals, calories and the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA are used by gut cells as a fuel source and are thought to play a key role in bowel health and anti-inflammatory
  3. Protection: In the womb we live in a sterile environment. Our first exposure to bacteria is our mother, usually the birth canal. In our gut we have  a layer of cells, mucus and bacteria. These bacteria like their home. Like any good home owner they protect it from outside invaders. The good bacteria protect us from external microbes that enter our body via our mouth. Secondly they suppress potential bad bacteria that may live in our gut. Good bacteria do this by physical exclusion of bad bacteria, competi­tion for food, regulation of gut pH and the production of anti-microbial compounds such as hydrogen peroxide. Good bacteria create an environment that is unsuitable for bacteria to flourish.

If one species of bacteria or yeast is allowed to over grow it can affect the balance of the micro-biome. An imbalanced micro-biome is reported to play a significant role in a number of health conditions. Such as chronic indigestion, bloating, IBS, heart burn/Reflux, Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, bowel cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune conditions. Scientists are currently exploring the relationship between our micro-biome and disease.

 What can disturb the balance of your gut micro-biome?

  • Medications such as broad antibiotics can disrupt your micro-biome.

My mother’s passion is gardening, she has green fingers. Her back garden is her little piece of Eden, filled with a variety of trees, flowers and plants. In one little section of the garden she has a vegetable garden. Where she grows lettuce, carrots, courgettes, herbs and some fruits. A few years ago a  weed, fools parsley started to overgrow in her vegetable garden. Her solution was to spray a weed killer/herbicide to kill this overgrowth. However, this weed killer also affected the vegetables. However, it did not affect another weed, creeping buttercup. This created an environment that allowed charlock to over grow.

Broad spectrum antibiotics can kill both good and bacteria. This can allow microbes who are not affected or are resistant to thrive

  • Your diet can influence what microbes thrive. This can affect the balance of your micro-biome. For example, a high sugar, processed food, low fibre. high protein, high fat. (Yellow stone park when the plants reduced, reduced species and others thrived)

I am going to give you 3 simple tools that will help you have a happy, healthy, balanced gut micro-biome

  1. Reduce your intake of sugary processed foods such as refined carbohy­drates as they may contribute to micro-biome imbalance in the bowel.
  2. Increase your intake of dietary fibre. Dietary fibre is a major food source for the friendly bacteria such as Bifidobacteria. Bifidobacteria are thought to play a significant role in gut health. This includes the production of the SCFA butrate. Your bowel cells loves butrate as a source of fuel. You can increase your fibre intake by consuming more fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods.
  3. Eat foods regularly that contain friendly bacteria such a live yoghurt. Live bacteria in yoghurt helps create an environment that will good bacteria to flourish. Remember when the gray wolf was reintroduced back into yellow stone park and they helped changed the ecosystem. The regular consumption of fermented foods that contain live bacteria is the same thing. Many cultures consume fermented foods.

In conclusion: The gut micro-biome is sensitive to change like yellow stone park and the gray wolf. You can help support a healthy biome by the regular consumption of high fibre foods and live food such as yoghurt

Protect yourself from the winter blues

Christmas is a time of laughter, happiness, and fun and celebration It is the merry season. However, can you imagine as the winter days get shorter and darker your mood becomes darker and darker?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that people experience during the winter season. Seasonal affective disorder is also called the winter blues. It can affect people in the winter months, when days are shorter and darker. It is a recognised medical condition and is reported to affect 2 million people in the UK and Ireland and over 12 Million people across Northern Europe.

Symptoms

  • Depression

  • Fatigue, low energy

  • Oversleeping (normal for some people),

  • Overeating,

  • Craving carbohydrate foods (for energy)

  • Weight gain

“It is like living in a black cloud. You struggle to cope with life, work and everyday tasks”.

So what is going on?

It appears that the shorter daylight hours of winter and a lack of exposure to sunlight appear to disrupt our biological clock. For example,

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our sleep patterns. Its production is stimulated by a lack of sunlight. When it’s dark, your melatonin levels increase.

Serotonin: Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite and our sleep patterns. Serotonin levels rise when you’re exposed to sunlight.

SAD can result from an overproduction of melatonin during the long winter nights and abnormally low levels of serotonin in winter due to a lack of sunlight exposure. Low levels of serotonin may be a significant cause of depression.

Vitamin D: The sunshine vitamin, studies suggest that a deficiency in vitamin D may contribute to winter depression.

4 simple lifestyle tools that will help you beat the winter blues

  • Spend as much time as possible outdoors. In the winter months we tend to go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. As a result we get very little exposure to natural sunlight. Outdoor exercise such as walking will expose you to sunlight. Walk your dog or with a friend to add a social aspect. Research suggests that moderate exercise can play a significant role in the management of depression; it improves general health and can improve the quality of your sleep. Exercise may also increase blood flow to the brain, further relieving depression. Exercise reduces stress and releases endorphin and exposes you to Vitamin D.

  • Relax more: Chronic stress releases stress hormones such as cortisol. Elevated cortisol secretion can affect serotonin production. Relax more, do thing that you enjoy (May go for a walk with a friend).

  • Eat less refined carbohydrates and sugar: A diet high in sugars and refined foods can cause a rapid rise in blood and a significant dip in blood sugar. Glucose is the primary source of fuel for our brains.Our brains are sensitive to blood glucose imbalances. Blood glucose imbalances can be associated with depression. Balanced blood sugar can help manage our energy levels, our mood, carbohydrate craving and prevent weight gain. Eat more wholegrain foods, fruits and vegetables. They are digested slowly and gradually increase blood sugar levels.

  • Eat plenty of turkey sandwiches: Turkey is rich in tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid used to make serotonin.

 

Natural solutions for migraine

Migraine is the most common neurological condition in the world. It affects approximately 2% of the world’s population. It is more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined. 12-15% of Irish people suffer from migraine – this means that roughly half a million people suffer from migraine in Ireland.

The World Health Organization classifies severe migraine attacks among the most disabling illnesses. The most common symptoms of a migraine attack include throbbing headache, sensitivity to light and noise, nausea (feeling sick), vomiting (being sick) and lethargy (lack of energy). It is a very individual condition. For example people can suffer from attacks daily or yearly.

Migraine/chronic headache were found to be the second most frequently identified cause of short-term absence (47%). In the UK Absenteeism from migraine alone costs £2.25 billion per year. It is estimated that migraine costs Irish businesses €252 million every year due to sick leave.

Migraine is managed with numerous medications with varying degrees of success

Simple lifestyle interventions to manage migraine

Skipping meals: Fasting or skipping breakfast is a known migraine trigger. Glucose is the main source of fuel for your brain. Not eating for long periods can result in hypoglycemia or low blood glucose. The solution is to eat regularly

Dehydration: Our body is made up of 60% water. Our brains are reported to consist of 70-80% water. When we become dehydrated it can affect how the brain functions and trigger pain receptors. This can result in migraine. The solution is to make sure you drink adequate water.        

Adequate sleep: Lack of sleep is reported to affect brain function and be a trigger factor. The solution is to get adequate sleep.

Dietary factors: There are a number of dietary compounds that can trigger migraine such as excessive caffeine consumption, chocolate and alcohol. For example chocolate, beer and wine contain histamine and other compounds that can cause blood vessels to dilate or expand. Dilation of blood in the brain is one reported trigger of migraine. The solution is to use a food trigger diary and remove common food triggers   

 

 

World digestive health day

Today is world digestive health day http://www.worldgastroenterology.org/wgo-foundation/wdhd

At the Natural Path Clinic we have a special interest in digestive well being. Digestive issues such as IBS, IBD and GERD are all too common in today’s society. Consumption of over the counter digestive medications is booming. So here is our 3 top tips to support digestive well being.

Reduce you intake of processed foods high in added sugar and food additives Instead consume a whole grain food diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and quality protein foods such as oily fish, free range chicken or legumes. Drink plenty of fresh clean water.

Learn to relax: stress can contribute to digestive upset. So learn to relax via relaxation exercises, medication, yoga, walking, swimming or other activities that help you distress. Deep belly breathing is particular helpful for digestive issues.

Consume a quality probiotic for 6-8weeks. This will help re-balance your gut micro-flora. An unbalanced gut micro-flora can be the root cause of numerous digestive issues.     .

Fasting and detoxification

We are in the Christian period of lent. We are told in the Bible that Jesus went to the desert and fasted for 40 days and nights. According to tradition, Christians were encouraged to fast, eat less and remove various foods from their diet, for example meat. A fasting period is not unique to Christianity as every major world religion such as Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism have fasting traditions. We can even go back further in time to the indigenous peoples. Spiritual traditions such as the American Indians or Australian aboriginals all encouraged periods of fasting. In fact nearly every human culture or society had some form of fasting in it. Fasting was used to cleanse and purify the body in spiritual traditions.Spiritual fasting was a period to feed the spirit not the animal body.

Natural medicine emerged from religious/spiritual traditions and fully agrees with various forms of fasting as a time to rejuvenate, detoxify and heal the body. There are numerous methods of fasting, for example eating a limited diet such as fruit and vegetables for a period of 7 to 10 days. The removal of processed foods and a simplification of your diet will allow your body to focus on house cleaning. Juice fasting is another level up and even gives a greater rest to your digestive system as you are not consuming the fiber in fruits and vegetables. Water fasting is when a person only consumes water for a number of days. Water fasting is a really powerful way to detoxify your body.

Fasting can either be elected, for example you pick a time to fast or it can occur naturally during times of illness or a healing crisis. Natural medicine encourages fasting during times of sickness, simply observe a dog when it is sick and it refuses its food. People are the only animals who continue to stuff food into the digestion system when sick. So when you are sick reduce your food intake or water fast and it will allow your body to fully focus its energies on healing rather than healing and digestion. The digestive process requires a lot of energy. This energy is better focus on overcoming your illness than digesting last night’s pizza.

If you have any questions in relation to fasting and detoxification please contact The Natural Path Clinic.

Winter protection

Winter is coming!

In Winter your immune system is more susceptible to colds, flues and infections. Here are my top tips to help prevent infection during the winter months.

Winter Diet: It is essential to maintain or even increase your intake of a variety of nutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamin C as they play key role in a healthy immune system. Foods rich in these nutrients include dark, leafy greens; red and yellow fruits and vegetables; lean red meats and pumpkin seeds.

Garlic is a fantastic winter food. The sulfur-containing compounds in garlic help to gave your immune system that extra boost to help battle infection. Use it in soups, salads or roasts.

Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C, all boost your immunity. Frozen berries are cheap and can be used in breakfast smoothies.

Breakfast smoothie: frozen berries, organic yogurt, banana, manuka honey, orange juice. Blend and enjoy.

Exercise: Make sure to exercise in the winter months. Research has shown that exercise has a positive effect on mental health and immunity. Walk, run, swim, do whatever you enjoy.

Sleep: Adequate sleep is essential for health. Sleep will help keep those winter blues at bay. A healthy sleep routine will help prevent infection or will encourage a faster recovery if you do become sick.

Stress: Excess stress dampens your immune system. So watch your stress levels, relax when possible and maintain a positive mental attitude.    

Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy is an excellent way to build resilience, vitality and your immunity. Hot/cold shower: During your normal shower turn the temperature to cold (the colder the better) for 1-2 minutes than back to hot, Repeat this cycle 3 times and finish on the cold. Follow shower with a brisk towel rub.  

 

 

Roast pumpkin, walnut and blood orange salad

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Roast pumpkin, walnut and blood orange salad

This salad is a fantastic way to use up any pumpkin left overs. Delicious, simply to make and packed full of nutrients. It is rich in vitamin C and a variety of antioxidants which will give your immune that extra added boost. It also contains essential omega 3 fats (the good fats).

Recipe: pumpkin, blood orange, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, feta cheese, mixed salad leaves, olive oil.

Chop pumpkin into cubes and roast for 20 minutes with a little olive oil and sea salt. When done allow to cool. Mix washed salad leaves, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, roast pumpkin, segmented blood orange (keep juice for dressing) into a mixing bowl. Serve salad and dress will a little olive oil, orange juice, feta and a little sea salt.

Nutritional highlights: Pumpkins are an excellent source of carotenes. Carotenes give pumpkins their rich orange colour. Carotenes are antioxidants that are known to have a strong anti-cancer effect. Pumpkins are also rich in vitamin C, B1, folic acid, potassium and fibre.

Pumpkin seeds are a good source of magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3 and essential fats.

Walnuts are an excellent source of antioxidants, protein, fibre, Vitamin E, copper, magnesium and monounsaturated fats. Walnuts are one of the few nuts that contain omega 3 fats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trick or Treat?

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Halloween is just around the corner. These days Halloween seems to be about how much rubbish (sweets) your child can fit into their bag before it breaks. However, it is a perfect time to introduce healthy foods into your child’s diet in a fun way.

Fruits and nuts were used for a variety of traditional Halloween games. Nuts such as Brazil nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts are rich in goods fats, protein and variety nutrients such as zinc, selenium and vitamin E. All play an essential role in having an optimum function immune system.

Fruits such as apples, oranges, bananas, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are rich in nutrients, fibre and wide variety of phyto-chemicals. Phyto-chemicals are responsible for the colour’s we see in fruits and vegetables plants such as purple, red and the orange pumpkins we see at Halloween. Phyto-chemicals are rich in antioxidants and really give your immune that extra boost.

So get creative with your fruits and nuts. Encourage your child child to try some at home, play and have fun!

banans

Trick-free veggie treat

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When you think about Halloween you always think about sugary things that have no nutritional value. All right, but Halloween can be a good time to get your children to enjoy some vegetables too! Check out this recipe for a delicious pumpkin compote that can be eaten straight from the pot or be topped up onto healthy carrot’s cupcakes. It is very simple, looks nice and taste as a real treat!

Compotes are excellent way to preserve food. So instead of throwing out any left over pumpkin simply preserve it and it will last for weeks in the fridge. It does contain sugar but it is still an excellent way to get the most out of your pumpkin. It is also fantastic way to encourage your children to try this nutrient rich vegetable.

Pumpkin and coconut compote: 500g chopped pumpkin, 80g granulated brown sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, 30g desiccated coconut.

Put all the ingredients into a medium pot and cover with water. Let it cook until the pumpkin get soft. Take it out the heat and blend. Bring back to the heat and bring it to the boil. Let it cool and enjoy. You can also use a bit of ground cinnamon on top.

Nutritional highlights: Pumpkins are rich in antioxidants, that lovely orange skin is rich in carotenoids and vitamin C. These nutrients will give your child immune system that extra needed boost.

Carrot cupcake: 125g butter, 125g sugar, 2 eggs, 200g plain flour, 60g finely grated carrot, 1 pinch salt, 2 tbsp baking powder, 4 tbsp milk.

Cream the butter, sugar, salt. Gradually beat in the eggs. Mix in the flour, baking powder and grated carrot alternating with the milk. Put in in cake molds and bake for 15-20 minutes. Let them cool down before you top them up with the pumpkin compote.

 

 

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