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Heal Your Gut, Heal Your Brain

At Be Well Consulting, we spend a lot of time advocating for the gut’s role in overall health and wellness. We’ve written previously about its influence on bloating, inflammation, and autoimmune disease. Today we’ll be exploring the gut’s vital role in supporting a balanced brain.

Go with Your Gut.

Going with your gut is a common idiom for a reason. On an innate level, people have understood the gut’s vital role in decision-making instincts for decades. Often called the body’s second brain, experts call this little brain the enteric nervous system or ENS. Made up of two layers of over 100 million nerve cells lining the gastrointestinal tract, the ENS helps regulate emotional shifts.

ENS’ Depression Connection.

New research in the fields of neuro and gastrointestinal medicine points towards the connection between depression, anxiety, and gut or bowel problems. According to Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology, “For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around.”

Improved Treatment.

Armed with this information, medical practitioners and nutritionists can explore new and more effective methods for treating digestive or cognitive issues. For example, antidepressants might be prescribed to treat IBS to calm overactive nerve cells in the gut instead of the brain. On the other hand, dietary changes may be a safe and effective way to improve mental health concerns. Because the brain is made up almost entirely of fat, the fat you consume in your diet can have a significant impact on the fat available to nourish your brain. You are what you eat! Every person is different, so what works for one person may not work for another, but as research in this area expands we will continue to have new opportunities available to help heal your brain.

Your Healing Path.

As with any health innovation, new information never trumps the signals of your body. If you’re battling gastrointestinal or mental health challenges, we recommend assembling a health team that honors your individual body and needs. However, If you believe exploring gut issues is part of your healing path, please get in touch with us today; we’d love to help you take control of your health!

Bloating, IBS, and Trigger Foods

Bloating, cramps and stomach irritability can feel like minimal concerns, however, if you’re struggling with issues daily then it may be time to consider making lifestyle changes. Digestive problems are one of the most common reasons why people seek medical help; they can hamper everyday activities and routines.

While there are many methods for treating intestinal discomfort, the medical community is increasingly seeking solutions outside of traditional medications and treatment plans. Constant bloating and related stomach issues are diagnosed more and more as symptoms of poor digestion.

As we’ve written about extensively in previous blog posts, the overall health of our gut and digestion is reliant upon whether or not we’re cultivating rich microbiome. Our microbiome is the good bacteria that make-up a large part of our gastrointestinal system and determine the effectiveness of our immune system. When the delicate balance of this bacteria is compromised, it can have a massive impact on our wellbeing.

The good news? There are dietary changes that we can make that will drastically reduce the instances of bloating, IBS, and discomfort. With the careful diagnosis and guidance of a nutritional expert, your trigger foods can be determined and eliminated from your diet. One incredibly common trigger food for many adults is dairy; others might be alcohol, caffeine, gluten, or sugar. I have seen individuals react to many foods you might never expect like chicken, apples or avocados.  Every person is different, so finding the foods that you react to is an important first step to eliminating bloating and IBS.

Beginning with an elimination diet may be helpful, though for some individuals food sensitivity testing will provide information to get results much more quickly and effectively. These diets aren’t just about reducing or weight loss; they help figure out how your system reacts to different nutrients and functions at its best.

In addition to an elimination plan, adding foods rich in good bacteria to your diet, lowering or addressing everyday stressors, or exploring potential stomach acid or enzyme deficiency issues may be recommended. While it’s often a process to get at the root of what’s triggering your individual bloating or IBS issues, rest assured, there is light at the end of the tunnel. With a good nutritional plan in your corner, you can overcome your chronic gut problems! Contact the experts at Be Well Nutrition Consulting to get your gut back on track!

Keto Diet 101

What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate, moderate protein diet. Therapeutic use of the ketogenic diet dates back to the early 20th century for controlling seizures in people with epilepsy. There are theories, however it is still unclear how it helps manage seizures.

When severely limiting intake of carbohydrates, the body relies on fat for fuel by way of ketones and enters a state of ketosis.

Ketosis 101
This is a very simplistic overview for those interested in how ketosis works.

Nearly 100 percent of carbohydrates break down to glucose—the body’s efficient and immediate fuel source. All cells need glucose for energy and when glucose needs are met, excess glucose is stored as glycogen—about a day’s worth. (If there is more glucose, it is converted and stored as fat.)

When carb intake is severely limited and replaced by fat (or protein), the body uses its stored glycogen to get the glucose it needs. (By the way this is what happens in starvation also.) Once depleted of glycogen, the body relies on protein (food protein or body protein, like muscle) for glucose but for a short time, a few days.

Protein has many important functions and to save it and not ‘waste’ it on creating energy/glucose, ketones come to the rescue. This varies from person to person but usually about three to four days after low carb intake (less than 50 grams, even less than 20g for some people). The liver converts fat to ketones where the body utilizes them as an alternate fuel source. Over time, the body is efficient at metabolizing fat for energy (by way of ketones versus glucose from carbohydrate). This metabolic state is ketosis.

Ketosis forces the body to burn fat for energy rather than carbohydrate. This might seem appealing and you may be wondering—why not?

Short term side effects of ketogenic diet:

    • Fatigue
    • Fruity smelling urine
    • Bad breath
    • Constipation
    • Low-grade acidosis

These effects tend to improve when the diet is continued, as the body adapts to the new diet and adjust the ways in which it sources energy, however there are long term complications that could result.

Long term complications that could result from the ketogenic diet:

    • Kidney stones
    • Constipation
    • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
    • Increased cholesterol
    • Decrease in muscle mass
    • Loss of bone density

Why do people lose weight?

People lose weight for a few reasons on the keto diet.

    • Water weight: The immediate weight loss is water. When depleting the body of glycogen, fluid is lost. For every gram of glycogen we have, we store three to four grams water. Lose glycogen…lose weight! But it’s just water.
    • Loss of appetite: The state of ketosis is actually a survival mechanism for those having no access to food, people who are starving. Do you want people to be hungry if they have no access to food? No. Because then they would be foraging for food, increasing metabolism. So ketosis may actually slow metabolism in addition to suppressing appetite.
    • Limited food choices: Like the heyday of the Atkins diet people lost a lot of weight! Was it the magic of Atkins? Weight loss was partly due to numbers 1 and 2 above but also fewer choices. If a restaurant meal may include a steak, baked potato with cheese, sour cream, butter, and bacon, plus dessert and you take away the loaded baked potato and dessert (because they’re carbohydrates), of course weight will be lost. Similarly the ketogenic diet works by eliminating entire food groups. Limited food groups, limited choices may lead to weight loss.

Is it sustainable?

It’s a diet. Some people do okay with the limitations, others not so well. In one meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials, there was a nearly 40 percent dropout rate.  Remember, each person is different. The ketogenic diet may be useful for a small percentage of individuals with specific health needs.  But with any nutrition plan the plan needs to be created for each individual to get the best results.

Article References:

Bueno, NB et al. British Journal of Nutrition (2013), 110, 1178–1187 Very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet versus low fat diet for long term weight loss: a meta-analysis

Veech, Richard L. “The therapeutic implications of ketone bodies: the effects of ketone bodies in pathological conditions: ketosis, ketogenic diet, redox states, insulin resistance, and mitochondrial metabolism.” Prostaglandins, leukotrienes and essential fatty acids 70.3 (2004): 309-31.

E. F. Hobdell and L. Tonyes, “Diets for epilepsy,” Touch Briefings: US Pediatric Review, vol. 2, pp. 45–46, 2007 “Short-term adverse effects include dehydration, mild metabolic acidosis. Long-term adverse effects include nephrolithiasis, constipation, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, increased cholesterol, retarded growth in young children, and decreased bone mineral density”

6 Ways to Celebrate No-Diet Day… Everyday

    1. Remove the labels. Remove the “shoulds”, “shouldn’ts”, “cheat foods”, “clean foods”, “diet foods”, “healthy foods” from your vocabulary. Give yourself permission to eat what you want, but also slow down and take notice of how food makes you feel. Do you enjoy the taste? Do you feel energized after eating it? Are you enjoying the experience? Remember, you are not ‘good’ because you drank a kale smoothie today and you’re not ‘bad’ because you ate cake. Becoming aware of how food is making you feel is more empowering than any label. 
    2. Slow down and savor your food. Engage your senses when eating and become present with meals. Make eating an experience you enjoy that brings pleasure by nourishing your body, mind, and soul.
    3. Embrace spontaneity. Call a friend and grab a bite to eat. Avoid over-planning or over- thinking about details. Ask yourself, “What am I in the mood for?” Don’t order the salad just because you think you should…and don’t order the burger because others are ordering it. Ask yourself what do YOU want and what will feel good for your body. Maybe it is the salad….maybe it is the burger.
    4. Remove diet clutter in your life. Go through your bookshelf and magazine stacks, ditch the ones that promise quick fix diet solutions. Purge your social media accounts and unfollow anyone promoting quick fix diets and weight loss solutions.
    5. Participate in movement that feels fun and joyful. If you enjoy group exercise classes, pay attention to the environment. Is the instructor or trainer positive and uplifting or do they practice motivation through body shaming? Exercise should make you feel good both on the inside and out! What words are you filling your mind with as you move your body.
    6. Write a breakup letter to your diet. Seriously. This might sound silly, but trust me—it’s empowering! Tell your diet why you won’t let it control your life. Thank it for what it’s taught you but let it know it’s no longer working. It likely stopped working long ago. Explain how you want to be your best and it’s not helping at all. Be bold. Tell your old dieting self you love and respect your body, mind, and health too much and it (or he or she) has got to go.

The Connection Between Gut Health and Inflammation

Some pass it off as aging; others suffer from ongoing health issues; however, there’s a chance your chronic inflammation means something else entirely: poor gut health. It might sound like we’re a broken record, but we’ll never stop repeating it, your gut has an enormous impact on your overall wellbeing.

Your stomach is filled with trillions of living bacteria and yeast which is called your microbiome. In fact, your gut houses eighty percent of your immune system and is often called the body’s second brain. Everything from moods to hormones to weight to genetics falls under the gut’s control.

We all know what we eat impacts our health, but many vastly underestimate the connection between diet and inflammation. Whether you’ve cut your finger or manage an autoimmune disease, no matter what form it takes, inflammation is your body trying to heal itself.

Inflammation in Overdrive.

However, while it’s your body’s natural response to injury or disease, inflammation can go into overdrive and become chronic when fighting an ongoing imbalance or deficient lifestyle. There are many changes you can make to start cultivating better gut health, read through our top solutions below.

Leaky Gut.

One possible cause of excess inflammation can be damaged intestinal lining. When your gut starts leaking, undigested food particles can pass through and lead to inflammation throughout the body. Eating clean and cutting out some foods we know to be inflammatory for many people like gluten, sugar, and alcohol may be a good place to start. If that doesn’t work, an elimination diet could be the next step toward figuring out what’s triggering your system.

Stress.

No matter how exemplary your eating habits are, the healthiest diet cannot overcome excess stress. Chronic stress sabotages your immune system and hampers your body’s ability to heal itself. To combat everyday stressors try taking up practices like yoga, meditation, nature walks or mindfulness.

Foods that Fight Inflammation.

Above all, focus on eating as many whole foods as possible. Real, nutrient-packed food is powerful medicine. Cut out processed junk and fast food, and add more plants, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, and fermented foods into your daily meals. You are what you eat, so make sure you’re eating things that enrich your body.

"Lynda has been terrific! One on One coaching has been the answer for me. She has taught me how to eat better and live healthier in a lifestyle of much travel and eating out! She has given me a great ideas and has challenged me to be my best in a very realistic sustainable way. I am so happy to have found her!"

– Julie B.