Good day to everyone!! How has your stress and anxiety level been doing? Are you finding ways to de-stress and find some simple life enjoyments during the day? How is your food diary going? Have you been able to start your diary yet?
I’d like to start today with a short breathing exercise: Everyone find a comfortable place to sit or stand. Now, I want you to take a deep breath in for a count of 6. Concentrate on taking the deepest, slowest breath that you can, allowing your abdomen to distend out and your chest wall expanding as far as it can. At the end of the 6 count, hold your breath for a count of two. Then exhale completely and slowly over a count of 6. Hold your breath for a 2 count at the end of exhalation. Let’s repeat that for 4 breaths – if you’re able to, close your eyes while you are doing this and concentrate only on taking that breath.
How did that make you feel? If you were able to do that breathing exercise well, that was an approximately 1 minute ‘reset’ for your brain. Simply concentrating on slow, deep breaths will help bring more oxygen into your body, refreshing and rejuvenating your brain – and will help you focus better for your next activity. And, bonus, it is a great way to reduce your stress levels. The nice thing is, it’s a de-stressor you can take with you everywhere – and use whenever you need it multiple times a day.
My challenge to you today is: try adding this deep breathing exercise into your daily morning and pre-bed time routine for added anxiety reduction and immune system protection.
Yesterday, I told you that I would continue talking about our weight gain conundrum and strained immune system during times of stress – which is exactly what this period of pandemic ‘social distancing’ requirement is causing – with a focus on Probiotics. I will start simply by talking about why they are important, what they are, where you get them, and what is important to consider when thinking about using Probiotics.
Your Gut and You:
You may have heard about the ‘gut-brain’ connection as it’s been touched upon on many media sources out there. It IS a real thing. Your gut (or gastrointestinal/GI system) health affects every part of your body including digestion, immune system, brain, hormones, adrenals. It has a big impact on your mood, mental health and brain function. Our ‘gut’ has close to 1000 different types of microorganisms living in it – often referred to as our ‘micro flora’ – with a mixture of normal or healthy bacteria types being the most common microorganism present. The healthy bacteria in your gut are involved in creating neuropeptides that directly impact your brain. The healthy bacteria also are involved in processing various hormones as well as protecting your intestinal wall (gut mucosa). Protecting your gut wall helps keep unwanted substances from entering your body and provoking an immune response. Remember I mentioned before that 70-80% of your immune system is located in your gut…so the health of your gut or GI tract is hugely important for your immunity!!
Your gut microflora is highly sensitive to your diet. Your goal is to feed the healthy bacteria that support your body’s health, and avoid eating foods that ‘feed’ the potentially pathogenic (bad) bacteria that are constantly trying to make a home in your gut. Probably the easiest way to think about this while choosing your food is to remember that ‘bad’ bacteria LOVE simple sugars. So if you eat a lot of processed foods or foods with added sugars, it will do the opposite of what you want: these foods nourish the bad bacteria in your gut: bad ‘guys’ (bacteria, cancer cells) love simple sugars… Research has shown that an unbalanced gut flora (more bad bacteria than good) is linked to numerous chronic diseases – including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, colorectal cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression.
Prebiotics and Probiotics: we need them both!
Prebiotics are dietary (indigestible) fibers that help feed your GOOD gut bacteria…your gut needs them to thrive. It’s the ‘food’ for your gut microflora.
You can get your prebiotics from FOODS!! Think fiber when picking your food – and prebiotics will be part of those choices. Some prebiotic foods include: apples, asparagus, bananas, dandelion greens, raw garlic, leeks, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root, onions, jicama root, barley, oats, cocoa beans, flaxseeds, yacon root (similar to sweet potatoes), wheat bran, seaweed. In general, you want to try to get 30-50 grams of fiber (including from nuts and vegetables) into your diet daily.
Today, for lunch, I actually did a pretty good job feeding my gut with healthy probiotics as I had a hard boiled egg (not a prebiotic, but good for protein, cholesterol and other nutrients), a banana (prebiotic food with lots of other nutrients), unsweetened plain yogurt (a probiotic food) with honey (great for anti-viral/anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties!) and a tablespoon of chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp hearts. I might have to repeat those choices tomorrow!!
Probiotics are live microorganisms that keep your gut microflora balanced. Probiotics have become a top ‘go-to-source’ for immune system support lately because they support your immune health at the level of the gut where 70-80% of the immune system is located.
You can get probiotics from your food. Natural probiotic foods help to ‘reseed’ your gut with healthy bacteria. Think ‘fermented’ foods when thinking about probiotic foods. Super healthy probiotic foods include: fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, lassi, yogurt, kefir, natto, miso soup, tempeh.
A link to making fermented vegetables at home.
Personally, I don’t particularly like too many probiotic foods…but I DO like sauerkraut (grew up with it culturally!) and my daughter loves to make her own pickles! An important thing to remember is that pasteurization destroys the beneficial probiotics in these foods – so not all pickles are equal. Often the popular brands of fermented foods are pasteurized, so the benefits may be lost.
You may be aware that many people take a probiotic supplement. If you are eating plenty of prebiotic and probiotic foods, your diet is healthy (low on inflammatory products like sugar, processed food, trans-fats), and your overall health is good (with minimal stressors or chronic medical issues), you are likely doing all you need to keep your gut healthy. However, you may want to consider taking a probiotic supplement if the following applies to you:
- If you can’t eat probiotic foods due to allergy, intolerance or concerns about interactions with medications like blood thinners (many have high Vitamin K levels).
- If you are on antibiotics, recently have been on antibiotics, or have had many courses of antibiotics over the years and have not taken probiotics or probiotic food to replace your ‘good bacteria’ after the antibiotic treatment. Remember, antibiotics are given to kill off bad bacteria (that cause infection). But most antibiotics also harm our good bacteria in the process.
- To help stop antibiotic associated diarrhea (after or during the course of antibiotics).
- If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – probiotics can reduce gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and other symptoms and help with healing the gut wall.
Probiotics may also be helpful with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Helicobacer pylori infections (peptic ulcer disease/stomach cancer). And there are some studies that suggest probiotics may be helpful with weight loss and obesity prevention.
Some benefits of prebiotics and probiotics include:
- Support digestive functions
- Reduce the risk of gut infections (bad bacterial overgrowth)
- Reduce the risk of autoimmune disease
- Support your immune function
- Impact allergy and eczema symptoms (by improving gut wall health)
- Supporting a healthy inflammatory response (huge issue during this virus pandemic!)
- Impacts cholesterol levels by improving cholesterol metabolism (can decrease total and LDL levels)
- Balancing your hormones (cholesterol metabolism effect) which improves mood and decreases stress
- Helpful in depression and anxiety (Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum)
- May help decrease blood pressure (through impact on neurotransmitters and stress hormones, too)
- Supports bone health
- Impacts weight loss
Gut health, movement, stress relievers, good nutrition (food and supplements as needed), good sleep and a positive outlook on life are all part of creating the best and healthiest YOU there can possibly be. Keep moving everyone – take care of your legs AND your health. We can and will make it through these crazy stressful days – together. Please let us know if there is anything else we can do to help!
Dr. Stiller, Stacy, Nicole and Chris