Taste Success Wellbeing: Gut Health

In this month’s blog, we’re talking all about Gut Health which is a hot topic right now with so many people experiencing the often frustrating symptoms of poor digestion.

We can pay very little attention to our digestive system until it starts giving signs that something is wrong. There is also the question of “what is normal”? Have we perhaps adapted to sub-optimal digestion being the norm? Has bloating, constipation, reflux and bad breath become our everyday experience? It has for many, so in this blog we’re going to shed light on how and why things go wrong, and how you can fix them.  

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Your nervous system and digestion

Did you know the opposite of the “fight or flight” state of stress that we are all familiar with is called the “rest and digest”?

Your body does not easily manage stress and digesting food simultaneously. Here are some ways that stress affects your ability to digest your food:

  • SHUT DOWN: Stress can have varying effects on digestion. For the majority of people, it either fully or partially shuts the process down, leaving food sitting in your gut undigested for longer periods of time, often resulting in bloating and constipation. For some others, it can be a more acute response, whereby the body chooses to purge food while stressed and cause bowel looseness.
  • REFLUX: The physiologic stress response can cause the spincter that closes off the esophagus from the stomach to spasm, causing stomach acid to make it’s way back up into the esophagus, causing it to burn the esophageal lining - reflux. This can be a silent condition, that can cause great harm.
  • GUT BACTERIA: When your body is experiencing a stress response, the chemical reaction that is produced by the sympathetic nervous system wipes out a large proportion of your good gut bacteria. Over time, this can lead to a weakened immune system and systemic inflammation.
  • REDUCED BLOOD FLOW: Another way the stress response can affect your digestive system is by decreasing overall blood flow to the body. When you are stressed, your blood flow is redirected to the brain and to the limbs, as the body perceives you are under attack. You need the blood directed to those parts of your body for quick thinking and fighting or fleeing. If your body is stressed while you are eating, due to eating too fast, eating in a negative emotional state, or eating too much, then it can cause your metabolism to slow down.
  • CORTISOL AND INSULIN: Stress chemistry produces two hormones that are part of this whole process – cortisol and insulin. These hormones that are released when you are stressed tell the body to store weight, store fat and not build muscle.

What can you do to avoid this happening in your body?

Firstly, slow down and breathe! The best state for your body to metabolize food is when it’s present and relaxed.

We like to encourage our clients to create a calming ritual around their meal times, starting with just one meal a day and building up from there. Here are some ideas from our in-house Naturopath for creating a ritual of calm at your mealtimes:

  • Start with just one meal a day
  • Use a nice tablecloth
  • Light a candle
  • Bring out the ‘special-occasion’ cutlery
  • Play some music softly in the background
  • Dim or turn off the lights in the kitchen so you are not thinking about dishes before you’ve even started eating
  • Chew slowly and enjoy the flavours of your meal
  • Encourage conversation during a meal to slow things down, and try to avoid eating on the run.

Your gut microbiome

Did you know that the bacteria in your gut are largely unique to you, like a fingerprint?

In fact, you host tens of trillions of microorganisms – over 1000 species. There are over 2/3 of the amount of genes in your gut microbiome as there are in the rest of your body’s cells! Around 1/3 of these are common to all humans and the rest are unique to you.

You start life picking up your gut flora from the birth canal, and then breast milk, and then the environment. Your gut is one of the only organs exposed to the external environment - like the skin and lungs.

This super-important community (that some refer to as an organ in it’s own right) performs many functions. Here are just some of the roles that gut bacteria play:

  • They help digest certain foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to; and help produce B vitamins and vitamin K
  • They play an important barrier role in immunity
  • Diversity in gut bacteria can reduce the incidence of food intolerances
  • Some research is also showing that our gut bacteria combination may be linked to obesity
  • Gut bacteria produce an array of neurochemicals that the brain uses for the regulation of physiological and mental processes, including memory, learning and mood. Up to 95% of our serotonin (happy hormone) is produced by gut bacteria! Poor microbiome balance is associated with increased levels of anxiety and depression. 
  • Links are also drawn between poor gut microbiota and autism

Your gut microbiome continues to evolve over the course of your life, and with exposure to various challenges (antibiotics, invading pathogens, poor food choices etc) it can have a reducing effectiveness as we age. Getting tested is a great way to understand your gut better and our in-house Naturopath has a wide range of testing available in her clinic, with the CDSA being her most popular test utilised.

Here at Taste Success, our nutrition programmes provide excellent support for gut health and the microbiome with a wide range of gut-friendly recipes. Our programmes also include ongoing 1-to-1 support from our caring team, ensuring your health and wellness is a priority.

We are also excited about the upcoming release of our specialised 6-week Gut Programme which will be released very soon. Contact us today to get your name on the wait-list for this programme now!

Tracey Loughran