There has been much talk in the media recently about gut health. With 80% of our immune system contained in the cells on the outside of our gut and 90% of decisions made in the body by our gut (truly bestowing on the gut the title of the second brain) our physical and mental health rests pretty heavily on the health of our gut.
So how do we know if we have good gut health and what do we do if we think we don’t have good gut health?
We know we have inflammation in our body when we experience things such as sore joints, pain in parts of our body, migraine, a blocked or runny nose, itchy throat, ears, eyes and the list is endless. Your body will show inflammation in a variety of ways. And the truth is that most of us have inflammation to some degree. Living in the 21st century bestows upon us that gift. The chemicals in our food and food supply chain, in our homes (chemicals in furniture, carpet and paint as well as the cleaning products we use), our skin care products, our gardens (roundup contains glyphosate which is an endocrine disruptor meaning it damages our immune system), local parks (ask your Council if they use roundup when spraying weeds in your local park), clothing (particularly children’s clothing that is inflammable) and the air we breathe, all put our gut under pressure. But it’s not all bad news! Our bodies are actually really capable of dealing with toxins because they also exist naturally in us, the environment and the food we eat. The difference today is the heavy load we are exposed to, the lack of nutrients in our food and the poor way we prepare food that means we struggle to deal with that toxic load in a healthy and functional way.
It may startle you to know that as humans, only 10% of cells in our body are human cells, the remaining 90% of cells are bacteria. So the craze of antibacterial hand washes, household cleaners, medicines (antibiotics) and the mass hysteria surrounding sterilizing ourselves and our homes, is actually harming the very cells that our ourselves.
Fortunately there are some really simple healthier habits you can adopt to get your gut health back and enable you to avoid inflammation and illness. Here are our top twelve tips (we had too many for the standard top ten!) of small changes you can make to your life to create healthier habits for you and your family!
Nose to Tail eating – historically we ate every part of an animal and left nothing to waste. This meant that we had the benefit of the vitamins and minerals in the organ meats, bones and cartilage. Buy cheaper cuts of meat and use your slow cooker to allow all the wonderful flavours and nutrients to be released from your food. Cook with the bones in the meat too!
Bone Broth – our grandmothers (a personal message from Louise: it was my Taita - my mum's mum who taught me everything I know about food) would have a pot of bones on the go most days of the week. Bone broth was a staple in our food and has been for thousands of years. As the bones and cartilage are slowly cooked, they release gelatin and other essential vitamins and minerals that heal the gut. Many of us grew up being fed chicken soup when we were sick. Well there’s more to that than a delicious food that warmed our souls, the gelatin in the stock was literally healing your body. Amazing. We also love using gelatin to make healthy lollies and we will be bringing you some recipes soon. You can purchase a beautiful gelatin in our online shop that can be added to soups and stews to thicken them and give you those wonderful minerals.
Probiotics – the bacteria in our gut is damaged in lots of ways. It takes two years for example for the good bacteria in your gut to re-establish after one round of antibiotics. Taking a probiotic will give you a head start. At Healthier Habits, we use an organic vegetable based probiotic and you can buy it in our online shop.
Green Vegetables – we grew up being told to eat our greens. What great advice! Green vegetables contain antioxidants that reverse the effects of oxidization of foods in our diet. Protein oxidises as it cooks, that’s a natural process. So when we couple protein with greens, we are giving our body the benefit of the protein and the anti-oxidant properties of the green vegetables. This can be as simple as throwing some baby spinach leaves onto a plate of bacon and eggs, having a green smoothie in the mornings (we will soon be releasing our three week green smoothie inspiration #so excited!) or using a great quality green smoothie powder. Although we eat well, it can be hard to get green veggies in every day, particularly to our children, so here at Healthier Habits we use a green supplement. The one we use is available in our online shop.
Alkalinity – the body needs to maintain a really careful balance between acidity and alkalinity. Acidity causes disease in our bodies and many of us are too acidic because we don’t get enough of the good things in each day and we are eating too much of the wrong things. Many foods are acidic, particularly processed foods. An easy habit that you can change for great health is to have a glass of warm water in the morning with the juice of half a lemon squeezed into it. Although the lemon is acidic, in your body it becomes alkaline and helps to restore the acidity/alkalinity balance. This is particularly important if you want to lose weight, your body will not let go of unwanted kilos if you are in a state of acidity.
Natural Products – when it comes to your home, your body and your clothing, use natural products whenever you can. It terms of cleaning, Eucalyptus Oil, white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda are your best friends. These three items with hot water will clean every surface in your home. Stubborn stains can be treated with a mixture of vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, Eucalyptus Oil can be used straight on benches (great for getting grease off of stove tops) or mixed with water to clean bathroom surfaces and floors. Not only will you save a lot of money on cleaning products, you are reducing the chemical exposure in your home and have less cleaning too. Have you noticed that bench top sprays or window cleaners leave a sticky residue? Dust clings to that meaning you have to clean more often! Skin care products often contain many chemicals. Your skin is your largest organ so it pays to treat it with care. Chemicals such as parabens are endocrine disruptors meaning they harm your immune system. Choosing products that do not contain parabens, SLS's and other nasty chemicals will help your body, mind and environment.
SLOW – we are all so rushed these days but when it comes to our food, slow is best. Slowly cooking our foods allows it release amazing flavours and retain essential vitamins and minerals. Your slow cooker can become your next best friend. A little prep time in the morning cutting some vegetables and meat and you have dinner made for you that night. You will love the impact that small change to your habits will bring to your life. And these days there are a so many wonderful recipes you could make a year’s worth of meals and never make the same one twice! Even on the stove top, allow your vegetables to braise at a low temperature for longer rather than cooking them quickly at a high temperature. Lower temperatures ensures we do not overheat cooking oils and we retain and release the goodness in our food.
Salt – our body needs the 80+ essential minerals contained in really great quality salt. Forget table salt or iodised salt, our favourite is pink Himalayan Rock Salt. It is sourced from the purest storage of sea salt on the earth and will give your body such wonderful minerals. Salt that is contained in processed foods is not good for your health, but the salt from the earth is critical to your health. The balance between water and salt in your diet is important. To give you an idea, you need 1/8 of a teaspoon of salt for every 250ml glass of water you drink. So go ahead and add flavor and nutrient to your foods with great quality salt. You can read more about salt in our blog post on salt.
Fermented Foods – our ancestors used to use fermentation as a method of preserving foods for when food was scarce. And in many parts of the world fermented foods are still a part of everyday eating. The process of fermenting introduces into our gut a host of beautiful bacteria that are essential for great gut health. You can make fermented vegetables easily at home and we will be bringing to you a ‘how to’ on that. You can also buy fermented vegetables. Start with a little each day (we think even a tablespoon a day is a good place to start) and you will have created a wonderful healthier habit! You will then look to add small amounts to other meals as the flavours fermented foods add to meals is wonderful.
Avoid Processed Foods – sorry to go on about it but jump on the anti-processed foods bandwagon with us because processed foods aren’t really food. When we talk about processed foods, we are not only talking about the obvious foods that our parents would call ‘junk food’, we are also talking about jars of sauces, breads, cakes and biscuits, flavour sachets such as taco seasoning and slow cooker bases and products such as dips and crackers that have preservatives, colourings and flavourings. Read the labels. If it contains numbers or words you don't understand, it's highly processed. Sugar is also hidden in many processed foods under different names. Our blogpost on sugar explains more.
Supplementation – here at Healthier Habits, we are not really into supplementation with chemically produced vitamins and minerals. The Vitamin C for example that is available on your chemist shelf is Ascorbic Acid which is a chemical concoction. You are better off getting your vitamin C from nature through organic citrus (the spraying of citrus destroys the fruit’s natural Vitamin C) and using products such as the camu camu berry which is 460 times more potent than the Vitamin C found in an orange. Because we realise that buying organic vegetables is not always affordable or practical, we like to supplement with a Colloidal Minerals which adds back to our daily diet some of the essential vitamins and minerals that are missing from our food. The Colloidal Minerals we use can be purchased in our online shop.
Read labels – an easy healthier habit that you can adopt is to read the labels on everything you pick up off the supermarket shelf. If it contains numbers, words you don’t understand or preservatives, you know it has been processed and need to make a choice as to whether to seek out an alternative brand that may be better or avoid that product all together. That doesn’t mean you have to make everything from scratch or cut out foods that you enjoy eating, just be aware and make an educated choice about what you want. We all rely on packaged foods to some degree in our lives for a number of reasons. And this is the world that we live in and our children will need to navigate. By giving ourselves the tools to understand food, how we feel when we eat certain foods and being clear about what we are and are not prepared to accept for ourselves and our families, we know we are best placed to lead healthy, happy lives!
As always, we'd love to hear your feedback, stories, comments or questions. Email us at email@example.com.