The gut is something else that works very hard and is taken for granted. It plays tricks to try and get your attention. It makes noises when we’d rather it didn’t – when did you last apologise for your gurgling tummy? It can be rather slow to respond to evacuation and there’s that clogged feeling that also leads to unregulated noises. It makes us burp and worse still – fart! Sometimes it can be very sensitive and there’s the dash to the toilet. All in all the gut is not something usually talked about in the fondest of terms.
However, it really isn’t the gut’s fault that these problems occur. The question is, do we really consider what we are eating and when? The gut is the unsung hero of our body, the root of our emotional being, so let’s give a shout out for the gut, and start to love that part of us that is heard but not seen.
The average adult has approximately 5 meters of gut. It is full of microbes and enzymes. These have the job of clearing, collecting, sorting and filtering everything that passes through in an effort to keep the surfaces of the gut healthy.
Waste products produced while the gut is working so hard can take the form of gas, which can be smelly or not, depending entirely upon the chemical reactions within the gut.
So, in brief, the stomach churns mechanically and introduces chemicals, acids, and enzymes to mix everything up so that it can pass through all the other parts of the digestive tract in a form best suited for it.
Nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine, with the large intestine picking up on undigested food. At the end…well, you know the end! It really is amazing, even more so when I have simply skimmed the surface.
The vegus nerve connects the brain and the gut. Salivating while thinking of food or flicking through a cookbook occurs because the vegus nerve has picked up on potential pleasure and sent the message along for the gut to be prepared for intake. This is called cephalic digestion as not a morsel of food has yet been placed in the mouth. This is why hypnotherapy for dieting is such an excellent tool.
Where is all this leading, I hear you yawn…let me ask, do you have the shape you’d like? Are you comfortable with your weight? Is the menopause or middle age the go-to reason that things have started to wobble, sag, dimple and ripple?
Hormones and heredity do play a part in our shape, but our attitude to food and exercise are major contributors.
The gut needs a good mix of things to work well. When it does, we have more energy, better hair, skin and nails, and all the tissues and organs we rarely think about are working optimally.
A varied diet requires planning. Sitting down once a week and thinking about the week ahead saves both time and money.
This is all wrapped in being mindful. This does not always involve sitting quietly with your own thoughts. I believe that being mindful means focus and attention on everyday life, planning ahead and in this way elasticising time and acquiring a relaxed mind and body.
Planning meals in advance is also a great way to create pockets of time, as whole meals or parts of meals can be pre-prepared and frozen.
Think about the days where food really has to be the fuel and the days where things can be lighter. This simple way of varying things is refreshing both physically and emotionally and the kitchen becomes a relaxing place.
There are so many ways to ‘up the anti’ with regard to cooking for health rather than cooking to eat. You can find resources via cookbooks, YouTube videos, courses, blogs and more.
Years ago I became very bored with cooking. I actually got to the stage where the thought of preparing a meal again made me want to run for the hills. My husband suggested that I started opening the cookery books I’d acquired over the years that looked so pretty on the bookcases, (brave man). I did, and a whole new world opened up. However, it was not so much the recipes that created interest, it was the need to plan in order to perform them. I got into the habit every Sunday, of sitting and planning ahead. The weeks became and remain varied and interesting and gone are the afternoons where I used to panic about what on earth to ‘feed them’.
The gut needs: herbs, spices, beans, chickpeas, lentils, noodles, seeds, whole grain rice, couscous, oats, barley, and nuts. Fruit is fabulous plus fresh or frozen vegetables. Pickles and fermented foods are also extremely good for the gut. I plan to go on a course for pickling and will give the details when I do.
We are emotional beings and have a primal instinct to help keep us safe known as ‘fight or flight’. Nature has wired us to know that when we are eating we are safe, resting the constantly vigilant fight or flight reflex. Eating in a rush does not do the digestion any favours, it prevents active nutrition and absorption. The whole process of eating should be taken seriously to help the gut to do its job successfully.
When you find yourself reaching for a snack, STOP. First drink a glass of water (not sips from a bottle – pour a glass). The glass is a visual aid and part of habit forming. Wait for fifteen minutes. If you remain hungry, have some fruit or your usual snack, if you are not, you were thirsty, drink some more.
When eating, sit at a table if possible. Savour each mouthful and chew consciously. Think about the textures, flavours and aromas of your food. Each mouthful should be an experience. When you swallow, be aware of how the food is travelling to your stomach, give it a little time. Tip – leave your knife and fork on the side of the plate between each mouthful, this will become a natural way to slow down your eating.
If you’d like to try some healthy recipes for yourself, head to our blog page where there will be a post called ‘Gut Friendly Recipes’.