As I met with a client recently and and we discussed the benefits of moving toward a whole food, plant-based diet including the weight loss he desired, reduced cholesterol, decreased blood pressure, and optimal gut health, he asked,
“Does gut health affect anything other than your stomach not feeling bad?”
What a great question! It’s easy for me to excitedly ramble on about gut health without really laying the foundation for what occurs in our gut and how it affects nearly every other aspect of our health.
As Hippocrates said “All disease begins in the gut.” But what did he mean by that? Let’s break it down to find out!
What is gut health?
Simply stated, the health of your gastrointestinal (GI) system is determined by the levels and types of bacteria in your digestive tract. Ideally there is a balance of bacteria, however, an imbalance between beneficial and harmful bacteria results in gut dysbiosis (a medical term for an imbalance in the microbes living there).
Most often, dysbiosis is the result of too many bad “bugs,” including bacteria, yeast, and sometimes parasites, and not enough good ones. This imbalance causes damage to the mucosal layer of your digestive tract. The normally smooth intact mucosal layer becomes permeable, which allows food proteins to enter into the bloods stream (think of your intestines changing from a water hose to a strainer). The food proteins entering your blood stream initiates your immune system to attack since the food particles are seen as foreign invaders. This results in inflammation, food sensitivities, and a variety of symptoms both in the digestive system and throughout the entire body.
Why is it important?
The health of your gastrointestinal system is extremely important to your overall well-being. You may not even experience GI discomfort and it will still have an impact on your overall health. I’ve heard people proudly proclaim they have a “gut of steel” and that nothing they eat bothers them. It can be a blessing to not be negatively affected by various foods, but it can also be a curse by allowing you to eat whatever you want without experiencing the negative health implications until they have made quite an impact on various other systems in your body without your realizing it is starting in your gut.
What areas of health are impacted by your gut?
- Digestion – Including gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux. An obvious area to note first, but your digestion is more than whether you get abdominal cramping after meals. Digestive health impacts our overall health since this is where nutrient absorption takes place. If our bacterial balance is off, then our GI system is not able to absorb nutrients from our food properly in order to nourish the rest of our organs.
- Immune strength
- Skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and rosacea. Scientific studies show that more than half of all acne sufferers have significant alterations in the microorganisms living in the their gut.
- Mental health – This includes depression, anxiety, and various other mood disorders. The gut is also known as your “second brain”. Our Enteric Nervous System (ENS) is what scientists call the 100 million or so nerve cells that line our digestive tracts. The main role of our ENS is to allow digestion to function properly but it is also responsible in communicating back and forth with the brain in regards to our overall health.
These are only a few key areas of health impacted by gut health, however research continues in various areas.
What should I do now?
- Avoid & Embrace – Avoid that which leads to an imbalance of healthy gut bacteria and embrace that which will allow your gut to flourish. I share details on how to do that in this blog post.
- Consider a high quality probiotic. – I have taken Dr. Chutkan’s probiotic for over a year and have seen wonderful improvements in my own gut health.
- Educate Yourself – I believe its best to learn and read quality material to fully educate yourself and lay a good foundation for making lasting changes. Gutbliss and The Microbiome Solution are two of the best resources for you to get started on your journey toward better gut health!
**As always, the recommendations made in this post, whether dietary or regarding supplements are provided for informational purposes only. They should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your professional healthcare providers before beginning any new treatment.
Apparently my disinterest in salads didn’t last long and how could it when you stumble upon this Epic Plant-Powered Chopped Salad by Ashley at Blissful Basil. The Creamy Basil Ranch Dressing was absolutely delicious! Next time I’ll definitely make a double batch and enjoy it on salads all week long.
We loved this Easy Teriyaki Rice Bowl with Roasted Vegetables with the homemade Korean Teriyaki Sauce by none other than the queen of sauces, Sophia at Veggies Don’t Bite. I didn’t have mirin so I used 1/4 cup of white balsamic vinegar with 1/2 tablespoon of raw cane sugar.
My husband enjoys these Sweet Potato Pecan Tacos in a warm tortilla and I love making mine into a big salad.
This Sprouted Quinoa Pizza Crust made the most delicious, crispy crust that we enjoyed with all of our favorite toppings multiple times this month. Our toppings typically include mushrooms, sliced bell peppers, black olives, finely chopped spinach, basil, and broccoli florets.
My husband love, love, loved these Thai Noodle Bowls with Almond Butter Tofu and reminded me multiple times that I could plan this meal any time I wanted. We split up the tofu and he made his according to the recipe (fried in sesame oil) and I lightly baked mine in a skillet.
Have you cooked or created a great recipe recently that you’d like me to share? I love trying new recipes, so please send your favorite plant-powered to Stacy@thenourishinghealth.com for a chance to be featured in the months to come!
I love helping parents find creative ways to get their kids eating healthy. The easiest way is to start from their very first bite! When it is time for solids to be introduced into a little ones diet, there is no need for fancy or expensive baby foods, but rather providing them with foods such as avocados, sweet potatoes, steamed vegetables, and bananas is the most nutritious and simplest way to form their palate to crave these foods. Actually, research shows that our palates begin forming in the womb. What a momma eats tends to be what the little one later enjoys as well!
Providing our children with foods that will nourish their bodies, specifically whole plant foods, gives them vibrancy, health, and strength now and aids in preventing long-term diseases and disorders as they age. Many of my clients explain to me that “something happened” when they turned 35 for 40 and their health really began to suffer. In reality we all know that these things don’t occur overnight, but it’s the accumulation of our choices over months and years. Future heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and auto-immune disorders (just to name a few) can be prevented in our little ones as we start them young on foods that will nourish their bodies for long-term health.
But no need to be discouraged if your kids are a bit older and you’re just now introducing nourishing foods into their diet. There is still time! Let these five fun snack ideas guide the way!
- Veggie Faces – Arrange vegetables and fruit like a funny face and serve with hummus or guacamole. I created the above platter for an event focused on helping kids eat healthy and they loved it! Even the “picky” eaters were giggling and ready to try something new!
- PB&J Art – Use one piece of toast and allow your kids to create their own masterpiece! Consider using other nut butters to allow them to explore new tastes and diversify the nutrients they’re receiving. Almond and cashew butter are delicious and sunflower seed butter is a great alterative for nut allergies.
- Ants on a Log Revised– Allow celery or carrots to serve as your log but mix up the toppings with hummus, guacamole, and nut butters. The “ants” could be your typical raisins or try something new like nuts, seeds, diced dates, or halved cherry tomatoes with the hummus or guacamole.
- I love Ezekiel brand bread because its sprouted and loaded with nutrients. You could also use a rice cake.
- You can make your own nut butters to save on cost. Simply add the nut of your choice to a food processor and blend until smooth & creamy! (This can take 10+ minutes and you’ll need to stop the food processor occasionally to scrape down the sides.)
- Fresh Fruitsicles – Place cut up fruit to a popsicle mold, add coconut water, and freeze for a fun, refreshing, no-junk-added treat!
- Tasty Prep-Ahead Bites – Make a double, triple, or quadruple batch of Protein Power Bites or Lemon-Kissed Blondie Bites and store them in the fridge or freezer for quick and easy snacks your kids (and you!) will love!
With our little girl’s due date just 7 weeks away (feels like it will be an eternity and the blink of an eye at the same time!) I’m doing some serious planning ahead. I’ve never been the master of transitions and with this being our first child I know its going to be a big one. While I can’t prepare for everything, there are simple things I can have planned to make the transition a bit easier, including nourishing meals stocked in the freezer and a list of recipes that are manageable once we get the hang of things.
I’ve been compiling this list for months. Every time we have a meal that requires only a few ingredients and can be made quickly I add it to my spreadsheet. I plan to create a few weeks worth of meal plans using these recipes and corresponding grocery lists so that after family has left and we settle into our new life its one less thing I need to think about for a few weeks.
However, you don’t need to be having a baby to benefit. You may have children buzzing around you and need inspiration for healthy meals that take no time or maybe your work schedule has you walking in the door too exhausted to give much thought to cooking. These quick and easy meals are for you! Even the freezer meal ideas. I have enjoyed having meals ready in the freezer long before pregnancy since we all have those crazy busy weeks.
Quick & Easy Meals
- Mexican Quinoa Salad with Orange Lime Dressing
- BBQ Cauliflower Salad with Zesty Ranch Dressing
- Spicy Red Lentil Curry
- Eggplant, Tomato, and Chickpea Curry
- Spicy Taco Quinoa Bowl
- Black Bean & Quinoa Taco Wraps
- Taco Chili with Nacho Cheeze Sauce
- Enlightened Miso Power Bowl from Oh She Glows, page 177
- Energizing Broccoli Dal from the Oh She Glows app
- Creamy Broccoli & Red Pepper Macaroni from Yum Universe, page 236
- Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potatoes – Sometimes I make this recipe, but most of the time I put the sweet potatoes in the crockpot (no need to poke with a fork or add water, just toss them in!) and we add whatever toppings are on hand – black beans, diced tomato, salsa, green onions, avocado or guacamole.
- Engine2 Pizza Crust topped with all our favorite veggies (spinach, mushrooms, olives, broccoli, diced cherry tomatoes). I’m currently on the hunt for a gluten-free crust without all the junk that can either be purchased or made ahead and frozen, so I’d love to know if anyone has recommendations!
Stock Your Freezer
- Toasted Super Seed Bread – Bake, allow to cool completely, slice, and store in small resealable bags. I love having this as a side to any dish or toasting and topping with smashed avocado, tomato slices, and a touch of salt and pepper.
- Maple Pecan Granola from Everyday Detox, page 54.
- Cinnamon Raisin Snack Bars from Everyday Detox, page 67.
- Chocolate Banana Power Bars were a freezer staple for my sister when her children were born. She made them without the chocolate frosting and I plan to whip these up using coconut butter in place of coconut oil.
- Peanut Butter Cacao Energy Balls
Do you have meals that were a lifesaver during exceptionally busy seasons? I’d love to hear from you!