A properly functioning digestive system (a healthier gut) is critical to good health.
In fact, 60 -80% of our immune system is located in our gut, and 90% of our neurotransmitters (chemicals responsible for regulating mood) such as serotonin are made in our gut.
Problems in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract can cause more than just stomach pain, gas, bloating or diarrhea; they can be the root cause of many chronic health problems.
Gut imbalances have been linked to hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid issues, diabetes, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, eczema and rosacea… just to name a few.
Still, the most common way people notice a problem in their gut is when they start regularly experiencing digestive issue like bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea.
While taking probiotics and drinking more water are helpful to your gut health, they’re not a cure for digestive issues.
Rather, the biggest factors in digestive health are your diet and lifestyle.
Here are nine easy steps we recommend for a healthier, happier gut:
You may have heard that fiber helps with symptoms of constipation, but there are actually two types of fiber we should all be aware of: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fibers actually slow digestion, which prevents quick spikes in your blood sugar, whereas insoluble fibers help move food through your intestines, which can help prevent constipation.
Insoluble fibers are found in nuts, whole wheat, whole grains, seeds, and rice, while soluble fibers can naturally be found in oats, beans, peas, flaxseed, berries, and apples.
Make sure to avoid soluble fibers added to processed foods that add sugar substitutes made from dextrose, sorbitol, and citric acid, which can cause gas and bloating.
Certain fruits and vegetables have more molecules known as flavonoids, which make up their bright pigments.
Flavonoids are very beneficial for your digestion due to their anti-inflammatory properties and they assist in digestion of starch. A powerful antioxidant, flavonoids are found in romaine lettuce, onions, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and bell peppers. Incorporating more flavonoid-filled veggies can help you maintain healthier gut.
Stress not only affects your mental state but can also take a toll on your physical well-being. Stress negatively affects every part of your digestive system, causing your colon to spasm or even increases the acid in your stomach, causing indigestion.
If you’re not exercising regularly, we recommend finding a workout or active activity you can do at least three times per week for a healthier gut. It can relieve tension and release endorphins that improve your mood. Eating a healthy diet and deep breathing can also drastically relieve stress.
Many people who have GI problems also have issues falling asleep. Multiple studies have found a relationship between sleep disorders and GERD, IBS, IBD, and ulcers.
A solid eight hours of sleep is imperative to keep your digestive track healthy—and coincidentally keeps your mind and body healthy. So if you already suffer from a digestive issue, it’s important to work on your sleep schedule.
Artificial sweeteners can be extremely detrimental to your digestive health because they don’t get digested properly meaning bacteria will break them down and cause problems.
Occasional alcohol intake is fine for your digestive system. However, excessively drinking alcohol can lead to digestive issues such as heartburn and inflammation of the stomach, and it can even increase the risk of small intestine cancers and leaky gut.
Not only does alcohol create problems, it can also increase symptoms of IBS and can cause both diarrhea and constipation.
Bloating, gas, cramps, digestive irregularities, aches and pains are all symptoms of a leaky gut.
Leaky gut is just a term to describe the increased intestinal permeability that can happen if there’s inflammation in the intestines.
The gut is naturally permeable to very small molecules in order to absorb these vital nutrients.
In sensitive people, factors like gluten, toxins, stress and age can cause the gut cells to release a protein that can break apart tight junctions in the intestinal lining. Once these tight junctions get broken apart, you have a leaky gut.
When your gut is leaky, things like toxins, microbes, undigested food particles, and more can escape from your intestines and travel throughout your body via your bloodstream. Your immune system marks these “foreign invaders” as pathogens and attacks them. The immune response to these invaders can appear in the form of any of the nine signs you have a leaky gut, which are listed below.
9 signs you may have a leaky gut:
*NOTE: If you’re constantly experiencing digestive irregularities and diet changes are not making a difference, go to a medical professional, such as a gastroenterologist, who will help you diagnose your symptoms correctly and effectively.
If you’d like advice on getting a healthier gut, book a consultation with a Dietitian.
These delicious looking and enticing coconut dusted cakes are an Australian tradition but have steadily gained popularity in South Africa. Unfortunately, whether bought or made, they are high in processed sugar and flour without beneficial nutrients.
Daily Dietitian’s Lamington recipe uses xylitol for sweeteness and almond flour instead of refined white flour. The xylitol-sugar swop ensure stable blood sugar levels and the almonds add healthy fats and decrease carbohydrate content.
Serves: 24 squares
Each serving is 1 square
— of which are sugars (g): 0g
— of which is trans fat: 0g
Each serving is 1 square
— of which are sugars (g): 17.6g
— of which is trans fat: 0g
(Information taken from www.woolworths.co.za (Lamington Cake Slices 5pk))
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When I found myself in my third week of skipping lunch and filling up on bowls of seeds, nuts, date bars and coffees due to workload and time constraints, I was eager for help. A personal chef would have been ideal, but unfortunately that wasn’t possible (damn), so when I came across Daily Dietitian, I was sold! Affordable meals containing fresh seasonal ingredients that are prepped to your personal requirements and literally dropped on your desk without lifting a finger… ok, some meals require a walk to the microwave.
As a result of going through a stressful time at work whilst increasing my running training, I had no energy to focus on my daily food intake and lake of nutrients causing me to be very lethargic, slow and demotivated. After my first week receiving Daily Dietitian lunches and snacks, I instantly felt a shift in energy and was a much nicer person to be around!
Overall I was very impressed with the service and the meals. I have a hefty apetite and on days that I was raviness I was worried that some of the meals wouldn’t touch sides, but the tasty dishes definetly satisfied the hunger and the snacks came in handy when the daily 4pm cravings kicked in. Not only did it save me time, improve my productivity and mood, it motivated me to get back to meal prepping and get creative in the kitchen again!
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This ridiculously delicious salad can be served without lentils to make it low carb, without chicken to make it vegetarian or as is if you are following a balanced diet.
It’s one of the favourites on our menu so if you have some free time, give it a try. If not, sign up to Daily Dietitian healthy meal delivery and we will be sure to feed you this delicious creation!
For the Salad:
For the harissa tahini dressing:
There are so many conflicting reports about if meat is good or bad for you. Some say it can be part of a healthy diet. Others declare it is the root cause of disease – including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. I have friends who completely avoid it and other friends who embrace meat as an everyday staple.
Whether meat is good or bad depends on with whom you are talking. Paleo enthusiasts say meat is essential to longevity. Vegans will tell you to avoid it at all costs. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently stated processed meat and bacon are carcinogenic and red meat is most likely, as well.
There are very real concerns involving meat, including the ethical treatment of animals and their impact on the environment, as well as medical and health issues. For some, there are very real ethical concerns about eating meat. For example, if you are a Buddhist and believe that any creature could be your mother from your past life or in your next life, then we can fully support being a vegetarian.
It’s not hard to see why the average person, or even doctor or nutritionist is confused. However, at the end of the day, the whole carnivore-vegan debate misses the real point – the root of chronic disease and obesity is actually sugar and refined carbs.
Studies that take a pro- or anti-meat stance often miss the bigger picture. They overlook the fact that most meat eaters who participate in the studies that show harm from eating meat are also eating a lot of sugar and refined carbs alongside a highly processed, inflammatory diet. They certainly aren’t eating small to moderate amounts of grass-fed or organic meat along with a pile of colourful fruits and veggies.
Admittedly, it would be almost impossible to perform an accurate study about meat. You would have to randomize people into a whole foods, low-glycemic, plant-rich diet with grass-fed or organic animal protein and compare them to those on a high-quality vegan diet. That study has never been done.
Many of the studies demonizing meat use subjects who are smokers, drink too much, eat way too much sugar and processed foods, eat very little fruits and veggies, and do not exercise. It’s no wonder that these meat eaters with bad habits and horrible diets are sicker and fatter…
Some groups rally against the saturated fat and cholesterol found in meat, or say that meat is inflammatory, or that it contributes to cancer or type 2 diabetes.
The story is not as simple as meat is bad, veggies are good, however. The real question to ask is: do grass-fed meat eaters, who also eat lots of healthy food, don’t smoke, exercise, and take vitamins have heart disease?
Thankfully, some researchers have asked this question. In one cohort study, scientists studied 11,000 people, 57% of whom were omnivores (meat eaters) and the other 43% were vegetarians. Both groups were health conscious.
Interestingly enough, researchers found the overall death rates were cut in half for both health-conscious meat eaters and for vegetarians, as compared to the average person eating a western-style, processed food diet. The study concluded that for the vegetarians, there was no benefit found; and for the meat eaters, there was no increased risk for heart disease, cancer or death.
Another problem with most meat eater vs. non meat eater studies is that the type of meat consumed is industrially raised, factory farmed meat. This industrial grain-fed meat is often full of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, with more inflammatory omega–6 fats from corn and fewer anti-inflammatory omega–3 fats. These population studies don’t include people who eat only grass-fed meat without hormones, pesticides or antibiotics.
Another concern that is raised is that saturated fat in meat causes heart disease. Yet interestingly, the types of saturated fats that cause heart disease – stearic and palmitic acid – don’t come from meat. Your liver produces these two fatty acids when you eat sugar and carbs. In other words, your liver produces saturated fat from sugar and carbs and that causes heart disease.
In one interventional trial, researchers showed even on a low-carb diet that is higher in saturated fats, blood levels of saturated fats remained lower because of the carb effect.
Simply put: In the absence of sugar and refined carbs and adequate amounts of omega–3 fats in your diet, saturated fat is really not a problem. Again, quality matters: The saturated fat in a fast food cheeseburger is completely different than what you get in coconut butter or a grass-fed steak.
These same limitations apply for studies that show meat causes diabetes and cancer: Most focused on generally unhealthy people eating a highly processed diet.
I hope you can see how eating meat can become healthy or unhealthy when you consider the many factors. If you opt to eat meat, follow these 5 rules to help you make the best choices.
At the end of the day, the message on meat is pretty simple. About half the studies show it’s a problem; half of them don’t. For those studies that show meat eaters, as a whole, aren’t a healthy bunch, the reason is most likely not the meat, but rather the smoking, sugar-filled, and sedentary lifestyle that creates heart disease and other problems.
A diet filled with lots of high-fiber fruits and veggies that rejects sugar and refined carbs, welcomes grass-fed meat as a health food, lowering inflammation and improving all of the cardiovascular risk factors like cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.
Still unsure of how to eat well for optimal health? Let us feed you! Daily Dietitian uses on the highest quality ingredients when freshly preparing your daily meals which are tailored to your unique needs.
For more info go to our website.
We all know that shopping during the festive season is a nightmare, so to make things easier for you we are offering the perfect solution… Daily Dietitian gift vouchers.
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It’s a common scenario: You’re out to lunch with co-workers, and you say no to the bread basket that’s passed around. Then an annoying co-worker across the table from you pipes up with, “Are you not eating carbs anymore? Are you on a diet?”
Au contraire, mon frère. You’re actually still eating carbs (carbohydrates, that is).
While you have an inquisitive co-worker, it’s easy to understand if their comments are guided under a common misunderstanding: “All carbs are bad!”
With so much information flying around from many emphatic sources, carbs are often relegated to doomed, definitive statements like:
First of all, there’s no need to use so many exclamation points. Second of all, this is only half the story… and a good opportunity to help you keep making healthy choices .
Slow digesting carbs = Causes blood sugar/insulin to rise
Fast to digest carbs = Causes blood sugar/insulin to spike
In general, slower blood sugar/insulin rises are healthier than frequent blood sugar/insulin spikes.
Fast digesting carbs are typically processed carbs, such as starches, liquid carbohydrates, and foods made of refined flours. Think breads, pastas, muffins, cereals, cake, chips, cookies, beer, wine, fruit juice, soda, corn, potatoes, and rice.
These refined, processed foods are not as nutrient dense and are known to increase inflammation, diabetes, and insulin resistance because of the insulin and blood sugar impact we talked about above. Less fiber in your food means you might not feel as full or satiated when you eat, causing you to overeat which can lead to weight gain.
When your body has fiber to digest, you benefit in multiple ways, such as gut protection, through your body’s creation of its own butyric acid. Fiber lowers blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels and improves glycemia and insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic and diabetic individuals. Increased fiber intake also benefits a number of gastrointestinal disorders including the following: gastroesophageal reflux disease, duodenal ulcer, diverticulitis, constipation, and hemorrhoids.
Slower digesting carbs are called complex carbs and, when consumed in healthy moderation, have the fiber to keep your gut healthy and you satiated. Think sweet potatoes, veggies (such as kale, spinach, asparagus, and broccoli), fruits in their whole form (berries and citrus fruits) and beans.
The micronutrients found in these foods also give you necessary vitamins and minerals that play an important role in keeping your body healthy and functioning.
If we revisit our lunch salad from earlier: A salad of mixed greens, some bell peppers, cucumber slices, kidney beans, and avocado, would contain carbs that give the necessary glucose and energy you need, but won’t make your blood sugar fly off the charts as it would if you ate the influx of carbs that processed foods bring.
Being mindful to have a daily diet comprised mainly of the beneficial kinds of carbs will help move you toward optimal health, maintain a healthy weight, and control your blood sugar.
For those of you who don’t want to think about carbs, which ones you should be eating and how much of them, let us help you.