Gut Health & Mental Strength
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Gut Health & Mental Strength

Gut-Brain-Connection

I have been a ‘serious’ gardener (inside and out) since my teens. When I teach my Internal Gardening Workshop, I do not talk about house plants, I am referring to gut maintenance. I have been using seaweeds and miso in my diet since my teens and even had the good sense to use seaweed as mulch for my vegetable patch when I used to grow vegetables at my farm. Let’s therefore take a look at the similarities of growing healthy vegetation and growing healthy good bacteria. In these times of covid19 it's important to protect and strengthen your immune system and a reminder that our gut health is of huge importance to our mental strength.

Growing Healthy Good Bacteria

The natural and beneficial flora in a healthy gut keeps the pathogens at bay, antibiotics wipe out the gut’s beneficial bacteria, causing pathogens such as candida, the contraceptive pill and other drugs prescribed on a long-term basis also have an effect.  Many women on the contraceptive pills for many years unfortunately finish up with quite abnormal gut flora.

Junk food and diets full of processed carbohydrates feed pathogens at the expense of the beneficial flora, so pathogens proliferate and cause nutritional deficiencies. This is why we now have generations of adults, children and older people who have abnormal gut flora.

Our Immune System

When the immune system is not fed properly, it becomes compromised. The malnourished gut lining becomes damaged, leaky and porous. Foods are processed in a partially digested form and on finding the food in the bloodstream when it is absorbed, the immune system considers it as a foreign body and starts to attack. People then develop allergies, food intolerances and various reactions to food. The problem is due to the gut lining being damaged, not the food itself. IBS is the most common gut problem that I see with clients.  The abnormalities in the gut flora are usually caused by a combination of medication, stress and an unhealthy diet, which all present themselves together in the same person; such is our modern life.

The bacteria in your body outnumber the cells in your body by ten to one. There are 100 trillion bacteria and only 10 trillion of your cells. Because the bacteria are so much smaller than our cells they don’t take up as much volume or space and are mostly in your intestinal system.

Digestion

Your digestive system is responsible for about 80% of the function of your immune system. It’s not only the immune system, your mind and your mood are controlled by the functioning of a healthy gut because the serotonin cruising your body is primarily produced in your gut and not in your brain that’s why there is some credence to the term ‘gut feeling’ because your gut truly is your second brain.

What are the ways you can ensure you have good bacteria in your gut?  Remember, they outnumber you 10 to 1 so it’s important to make sure you are growing good healthy bacteria. It’s like growing a garden. In the garden you are going to have weed killer and fertilizer. The fertilizer will nourish the good bacteria and diminish the growth of the bad bacteria.

One of the most potent and powerful things you can do is to eliminate sugar and foods that convert to sugars very rapidly. Fruit juices and artificial sweeteners need eliminated. What they tend to do is act as nourishment or fertilizer for the bad bacteria, the yeast, the bacteria that should not belong there and in normal concentrations will definitely cause you problems. This will diminish your body’s response to produce a proper neurotransmitter and to optimize your immune system so you want to stay away from sugar, it’s probably the single most important strategy that you can do right now.

Prebiotics

The other component is that you want to have plenty of good vegetables because they serve as fibre which are literally prebiotic. These are sources of nutrients that will feed the good bacteria. As they are broken down and metabolized, they have breakdown metabolic products that actually serve as weed killers for the bad bacteria. The foods that you eat, therefore, are the most profound tools you can use to modify that ratio between good and bad bacteria. It’s a very powerful predictor of how healthy you are going to be.

You can eat foods that are influenced with large numbers of good bacteria; foods that have been cultured with different bacteria and grown. When you eat these foods, they tend to grow and reproduce in your system. Your best choice is to choose from the following fermented foods.

Miso soup

Umeboshi Plums

Natto Mixed With Shoyu

Sauerkraut

Pressed Salads/Pickles

Avoid antibiotics unless completely vital and make sure you are drinking plenty clean pure water. I use a filtration system called Pi Water from Nikken. Tap water is treated with chlorine which kills off good bacteria in your system. Use organic produce because the pesticides on other foods are there to kill the organisms so purchasing organic food is another key element.

Fermented Foods:

Definition - Foods can encourage the growth of healthy bacteria, known as probiotics, in the human intestines. This is thought to improve the function of our immune system and aid in digestion. The definition of a probiotic is - A live microbial feed supplement, which beneficially affects the host animal by improving its intestinal microbial balance.

Health Benefits

The human digestive system is ideally suited to a healthy vegan wholefoods plant-based diet centred on whole grains. A high meat diet causes many problems, especially in the lower colon. Ulcerative colitis, or UC, often begins in the lower colon and is associated with a high meat diet. Crohn's disease can begin anywhere in the digestive tract and often starts in the ascending colon and small intestine. Animal foods such as chicken and cheese can trigger this condition. Aside from a shift to a grain-based diet with a corresponding removal of all animal food, macrobiotics recommends drinking Ume-Sho-Kuzu and applying a hot salt pack to the abdomen to reduce inflammation and the incidence of diarrhoea.

Research suggests that fermented foods help prevent or aid recovery from diarrhoea, colon cancer, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and infectious illnesses, the ill effects of stress on intestinal flora, IBS and colitis.

Examples

The MACROBIOTIC DIET is very high in fermented foods and potentially high in healthy bacteria. Fermented foods have long been part of human food consumption. Examples of fermented foods include miso, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, shoyu, umeboshi plums, yogurt, kimchi, gherkins and natto. In addition to foods that have been fermented, many raw vegetables will grow healthy bacteria on their skins. If we leave a salad exposed to the air, spores in the air will attach to the skins of the leaves and start to breed, forming healthy bacteria.

Encouraging the Growth of Healthy Bacteria in Foods

One way to speed up the growth of bacteria in vegetables is to mix them with salt and press them between two plates with a weight on top for an hour or more. This is known as a PRESSED SALAD  or use a pickle press as I do. I make delicious tasting pickles and use a small portion daily. I encourage the use of pressed radishes, a wonderful tonic for the thyroid.

Helping Healthy Bacteria through Our Stomachs

Our stomach acids reduce the number of healthy bacteria that get through to our intestines. It therefore helps to keep ourselves more ALKALINE. This would imply that eating fermented foods with alkaline forming foods helps enrich our intestinal bacteria. So, for example acid forming foods like coffee, alcohol, sugar, meats and shellfish reduce the beneficial effects of the healthy bacteria.The range of home remedies that Macrobiotics offers create a healthy equilibrium. Follow the seasonal guidelines of home remedies in my book ‘Macrobiotics for all Seasons’ for a strong immune system.  Strengthening one’s immunity is key and the first lesson in our workshops.

In good health

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