Fibre, The Gut & Modern Disease

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The old approach of using a single source fibre supplement (i.e. bran, psyllium) is no longer recommended / considered optimal to improve gut health.

The reason is that – we (in our large intestine) carry many different types / strains of fibre-loving bacteria, & they all have different food preferences. Relying heavily on one type of fibre will encourage an imbalanced population as you overfeed one / some types of microbes, but neglect the rest – so you end up with proliferation of the ‘few’ who love & thrive on all-bran, or psyllium, or inulin, & these crowd out / take over leaving little room for the rest.

It is now believed that diversity of gut bugs plays a key role in preventing diabetes, obesity, & many of the common health issues of today – & that the best way to regain diversity of bowel organisms is to eat a really diverse range of fruit & vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, & other plant fibre sources with diverse polysaccharides (parts of the plant that we cannot digest in the upper GI tract, but that will become food for our microbes in the bowel).

Sadly, the average westerner eats a lot of refined carbs, a lot of sugars & fats, & very little fermentable fibre, with only a few different types of unrefined plants (a token apple or lettuce & tomato on their burger).

This means we are providing copious amounts of simple carbs / sugars to feed the ‘bad guys’, & very little roughage for the good guys in the bowel. As a result, there is precious little fermentation happening in the large intestine, which is one of the absolutely vital keys to good health – fibre is the fermentation material needed by our bowel bugs – they convert complex carbs into SCFA’s (short chain fatty acids), which are potent anti-inflammatory substances & key nutrients for maintaining the health & integrity of the gut lining – among many other things (worth reading up on). 

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When you think about inflammation as the cause / key contributor to almost all modern disease states – it makes really good sense to be feeding our own ‘anti-inflammatory generators’ with diverse fibre, every day, as a priority. It has even been questioned whether just adding a heap of plant fibre to a junk food diet can somewhat mitigate the damage / inflammation caused by the junk in this way…

The less processed the food is, the more likely that it will make it through our stomach & small intestine undigested, which may sound like a bad thing… BUT, it is these undigested foods that become food for our helper-bugs! I.e. raw veg are better for the bugs than cooked, whole grains better than refined flour… we seem to do best on a combination of really unrefined foods & some more refined / easier to digest stuff, but I believe the modern diet is waayy too far towards the ‘easy to digest’ processed end of the spectrum.

If your gut is not super-sensitive / out of whack, do an experiment on yourself by increasing your intake of unprocessed plant foods (making sure to focus on diversity), & see what happens. Go slowly to transition comfortably – increase your intake gradually over time rather than all at once, or you may become bloated, gassy, uncomfortable & possibly constipated as your unprepared gut struggles to deal with the sudden influx of fibre. Over a few days / weeks though, your population of bacterial fibre-munchers should increase hugely & become much more healthy & diverse. Take note of how this effects you – look for changes in regularity / gut symptoms, body composition, mood, brain function, skin, immunity, aches & pains…it’s such an easy experiment with massive potential gains! If there is no way you can tolerate fibrous foods due to severe gut symptoms – look into the SCD (specific carbohydrate diet), as it helps many to get back to a state of gut health where fibre becomes more tolerable.

Where do goodMix products fit in here? 

12705672_954665004602041_4415308818380507873_nBlend11 / NeoBlend- diverse, complex, largely unprocessed & mostly organic plant fibre (in a super-easy, palatable delivery to ensure frequent / daily consumption). Seed microbes (we know less about the microbes carried by seeds / plants than we do about our own gut bugs – but there is a definite possibility that there’s another benefit here – interesting research is happening around seed microbes).

PondWater – more polysaccharides & other goodies found in the grass, algae & aloe vera. Once again easy to use in a green smoothie or just with fresh juices / water / lemon water – no excuses for not getting your daily dose of greens!

BallBags – humans will always want & seek out sweet treats, these balls allow a treat but are full of goodness, providing plenty of good bacteria fodder & a slow release of natural sugars into the blood stream, rather than the typical sugar hit from refined type sweet treats. A great transition for those wishing to cut down on sugar addiction comfortably with minimal stress, & for those who wish to replace a daily vice with a healthier alternative. 

*people following a FODMAP diet may need to exercise a little caution (consume in moderation) with the BallBags & NeoBlend, as the dried fruit can cause issues for some with bloating etc. Blend11 & PondWater should be fine. 

7 ESSENTIAL NATURAL SKINCARE TIPS!

Your skin is an organ of your body – just like your heart, brain, liver, kidneys etc.
It is also the organ you can see from the outside, so can sometimes provide insight into what is going on internally. When you go to the Dr with a skin problem, often the treatment approach is external only – but from a naturopathic point of view, this is only one side of the story. We will investigate & attack from all angles – looking at the systems involved in supporting skin health from below, as well as what’s going on at surface level. Below are some of the best natural tips to support healthy, radiant skin at any age:

1) Circulation is paramount – both blood & lymphatic.

Get that blood pumping through all the teeny tiny vessels that supply your skin with oxygen, nutrients, immune cells etc – & remember that your lymphatic system (which is like your body’s garbage disposal system) cannot pump anything without exercise to help it along. Expecting to have healthy skin without exercising is like expecting to have great skin whilst going to sleep in your makeup each night – you need to be cleansing the ‘gunk’ away from the inside as well as from the outside!

2) Remember your skin microbes!

Just like your gut, your skin is absolutely crawling with microbes (don’t be grossed out – they are mostly good guys) who are there helping us clean up / keep out invaders / maintain a balanced, protective ‘ecosystem’ to surround ourselves with. Just keep your microbes in mind next time you’re in the pharmacy reaching for the ‘antibacterial-kill-everything-type-cleanser’. The aim isn’t hospital-like sterile skin, but to have a happily balanced layer of natural bugs – that’s the way we’re designed. Obviously, this system can be interfered with when we use copious amounts of chemical product on our skin, so keep in mind you’ll be healthier with balanced bugs than sterile skin – get outside into nature regularly, hug some trees, roll in the fields, swim in the ocean, play in the mud, dig in the garden, pat the dog, visit a farm…studies show that more bug exposure = healthier humans. Get dirtier :)

3) Support the gut & liver.

Most of us who take notice of how our bodies’ react to food, will know that our skin can totally reflect what is going on in the gut & the liver. Supporting the digestive system & liver means we’ll have more efficient elimination of toxins, better hormonal balance, less inflammation & an immune system that behaves as it should (not too reactive, just reactive enough). Gut again is home to our helpful microbes – these are crucial to our digestion & absorption of nutrients, to maintaining a functional gut-lining, & to keep up the correct communication with our immune system. These microbes need a diverse range of fibre to eat – so keep sending it down to them! Gut & liver hate antibiotics, medications, processed foods, sugar, alcohol, excess animal products, gluten…steer clear of these as much as possible, & go for loads of fibrous fresh veg, nuts, seeds, fermented foods, oily fish, gelatinous bodrinking-water-filter-singapore-1235578_960_720ne broths, & green smoothies). Gut & liver working well = healthy blood, less toxicity, less inflammation, healthy immunity. Skin thrives when the supporting systems are strong.

4) Hydrate!

Goes without saying – but so often we forget! Our skin will look very sad if we are all dried-up on the inside from lack of fluid! Best skin beverages are water &  herb teas.

5) Sunshine – (in moderation)!

We need sunshine on our skin to make vitayoung-fit-woman-on-morning-jogging-run-picjumbo-commin D – obviously don’t overdo it & get fried, but getting some sunshine (in  moderation) is very skin-healthy.

6) Nutrition – good food builds good skin!

Protein, good fats, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants…your skin needs them, & you can’t cover up a junk food diet with make-up (well not for long anyway!) Our skin cells are constantly renewing themselves, always rebuilding (which requires many nutrients for it to work well). Anyone who ismixed_fruits_hires malnourished will show it in their skin – just look at the skin of those battling with anorexia, alcohol & drug addiction – & how it can change so rapidly with recovery. Nourishment from within = radiance from the outside! Avoid or test yourself with the common skin triggers like wheat / gluten, dairy, soy, poor quality oils, fried foods, sugar, alcohol etc).

7) Nourish from the outside too!

A certain amount of whatever you rub into your skin will end up inside of you. Not ideal then to be using products made from chemicals…many of the ingredients found in our daily skin routine are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors (they mess with our hormones) or just plain toxic. There are many natural products available now, without the toxicity – & full of nourishing & cleansing botanicals – like aloe vera, herbs, good oils, minerals from clays etc…you can even make your own products from inexpensive ingredients like oats, honey, clay, avocado, lemon juice, etc etc – there are many recipes to be found online – look for those formulated by either a beauty therapist, aromatherapist or naturopath for best results! Or experiment yourself if game – just remember to patch test first!

Here’s one of my latest skin experiments – with PondWater!

FOR A 15 MINUTE, SUPER SKIN TREAT…try this circulation-boosting, nourishing, cleansing, softening SKIN MASK made with only 2 ingredients – super easy to make at home! All you need is PondWater  & some clay! 

 

mudpack1) mix 1tsp of natural clay mask – green, pink or white will work (available from any good health food store) with 1 flat tsp of PondWater  & add a little water if required to turn it into a nice paste.

2) Massage gently onto the skin, & leave on until it begins to dry & crack, then remove with warm water, pat dry & feel the silky-smooth fresh skin!

3) Follow with a natural moisturiser, pure aloe gel, or coconut oil. This makes enough mask for 2 faces…so grab your mum / sister / besty / partner…& get green-faced together :)

WARNING: Those with sensitive skin should always patch test a small area first, to check for tolerance. Even those with normal skin can expect some warmth & skin redness (like after a workout) after removing this mask, but there should be no irritation or discomfort – it’s just the blood circulation coming to the surface. This mask is best done at night, before bed to give the rosiness time to settle – you’ll wake up next day with radiant soft skin!! :)

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Why You Should Be Eating More Chocolate

It’s all about the Quality

At this time of year we tend to go a bit overboard guzzling chocolates of dubious quality & end up feeling crappy as a result. Sugary supermarket chocolates do absolutely nothing good for your health, but don’t forget the massive health benefits to be found in ‘the good stuff’ – raw cacao – these can make you feel amazing!

 

Balance The Bugs With Cacao

Cacao provides some truly awesome antioxidants, called polyphenols. They were once thought to be indigestible & poorly absorbed in our digestive systems, but really – all we need to utilise them is for our trusty good gut bacteria to break the choccy polyphenols down into useable bits. Cacao is an awesome prebiotic food, which means it actually provides food for & promotes the growth of some all important friendly bacteria – namely the Lactobacillus & Bifidobacteria that are found to increase in number when we eat / drink it. We also see a decrease in some of the nastier gut bugs when eating cacao regularly (well rats do anyway, & that’s good enough for me to justify my regular dark choccy / cacao habit)!

 

Feed the Microbes, and Reap the Rewards

So basically – (quality) dark, raw chocolate or raw cacao is good for your gut bacterial balance, which results in many other good things happening as a result. Things like improved metabolism, weight loss, decreased inflammation, healthier blood vessels & heart, more youthful looking skin…..the list goes on. So if the gut bugs want chocolate, don’t deprive them!! Just make sure it’s quality, & not full of sugar (excess sugar will destroy your bacterial balance, and cause many other issues)! As a guilt-free treat you can have ready to go in the freezer – try making these Dark Chewy Choc-Top Fruity Bars  They are high in fibre, & will give you a dark chocolate prebiotic fix! (They can also be made into eggs for Easter, or balls, logs, or any other shapes you like).

Not All Fibre is Created Equal

Blend11 fibre

Over the many years I spent working in health food stores, I noticed that the most commonly (& religiously) purchased products were the fibre & gut health supplements – whether it be psyllium, bran, prunes, a particular breakfast or a capsule / tablet / powder to help with regularity. The three most commonly purchased ‘foods’ to help improve bowel function are:

  1. psyllium
  2. bran
  3. prunes or other dried fruit

All of these will have the desired effect, but also have their own associated problems.

1. Psyllium

Pysllium

Psyllium is basically just fibre & nothing else. It contains no other nutrients whatsoever, so regular users would be much better off eating something which also supplies some nutrients as well. It is also not great to be relying on one food source foe the majority of your fibre needs – users of all fibre supplements need to be wary of this, as fibrous variety is the spice of life for our gut bacteria! Diverse fibre encourages diverse gut bugs.

 

2. Bran

Wheat bran

Bran is worse as it is very high in phytic acid, which can bind to minerals (like calcium, zinc & magnesium) in our body and end up depleting these crucial building blocks of health.

 

3. Dried fruits

dried fruits

Dried fruits do provide some nutrients, but unfortunately also deliver a concentrated hit of sugar, and often high levels of sulphur dioxide as a preservative. If you use them, combine them with some good fats & protein – to slow the release of sugars.

 

4. A modern solution…

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A better fibre solution may be Blend11

  • low carbs / sugars (no energy spikes & crashes)
  • protein & good fats (super-filling & satisfying)
  • diversity of fibre (encourages a diverse gut microbial population)
  • soaked overnight to activate seeds & maximise absorption of nutrients.

Fibre diversity is important to encourage a balanced gut bacterial population.

Blend11 is also quick & easy to prepare & suitable to take to work / school / college / the gym / travelling etc…happy poo = happy you ;)

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