Monthly Archives: August 2019

The Gut-Brain Connection

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How To Feed Your Brain

 If there was ever a call for “digestive health,” this is it!

Yes, it’s true. Your gut is considered your “second brain.”

There is no denying it anymore.

And since my presentation on gut health, The Good Gut, Unraveling the mystery of the Microbiome, so much more information has come to light!    

With the new scientific discoveries about the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system (ENS) or intrinsic nervous system, and the amazing influence your gut microbes can have, it’s no wonder what you eat feeds not only your body but can directly affect your brain.

What exactly is the “gut-brain connection.”

Well, it’s very complex, and to be honest, we’re still learning lots about it!

There seem to be multiple things working together.  Things like:

  • The vagus nerve that links the gut directly to the brain
  • The “enteric nervous system” (A.K.A. “second brain”) that helps the complex intricacies of digestion flow with little to no involvement from the actual brain;
  • The massive amount of neurotransmitters produced by the gut;
  • The huge part of the immune system that is in the gut, but can travel throughout the body; and,
  • The interactions and messages sent by the gut microbes.

This is complex. And pretty amazing, if you ask me.

I’ll briefly touch on these areas, and end off with a delicious recipe (of course!)

Vagus nerve

There is a nerve that runs directly from the gut to the brain.

And after reading this so far, you’ll probably get a sense of which direction 90% of the transmission is…

Not from your brain to your gut (which is what we used to think), but from your gut up to your brain!

The enteric nervous system and neurotransmitters

The gut lining has over 100 million nerve cells.  That’s more than the spinal cord!

 And that’s why it’s referred to as the “second brain.”

So, when you think about it, controlling the complex process of digestion (i.e. digestive enzymes, absorption of nutrients, the flow of food, etc.) should probably be done pretty “smartly”…don’t you think?

These nerves speak to each other, and to other cells via chemical messengers called “neurotransmitters.”

 In fact, many of the neurotransmitters that have a strong effect on our mood are made in the gut! e.g. a whopping 95% of serotonin is made in your gut, not in your brain!

And Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter that is responsible for regulating mood and cognition.

The immune system of the gut

Because eating and drinking is a huge portal where disease-causing critters can get into your body, it makes total sense that much of our defense system would be located there too, right? Seventy-five percent of our immune system is in our gut!

And you know that the immune cells can move throughout the entire body and cause inflammation just about anywhere, right?

Well, if they’re “activated” by something in the gut, they can potentially wreak havoc anywhere in the body. This includes the potential to cause inflammation in the brain.

Gut microbes

Your friendly neighbourhood gut residents. You have billions of those little guys happily living in your gut. And they do amazing things like help you digest certain foods, make certain vitamins, and even help regulate inflammation!

But more and more evidence is showing that changes in your gut microbiota can impact your mood, and even other, more serious, mental health issues.

How do these all work together for brain health?

The honest answer to how these things all work together is that we really don’t know just yet. More and more studies are being done to learn more.

But one thing is becoming clear. A healthy gut goes hand-in-hand with a healthy brain!

So, how do you feed your brain?

Of course, a variety of minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods is required, because no nutrients work alone.

But two things that you may consider eating more of are fiber and omega-3 fats. Fiber in fruits, veggies, nuts & seeds, in particular prebiotic fibre containing foods, help to feed your awesome gut microbes.

And omega-3 fats (in fatty fish, walnuts, algae, and seeds like flax, chia, and hemp) are well-known inflammation-lowering brain boosters.

Here is one of my favourite overnight oat recipes, with Good Gut fibre, brain food omega-3

Blueberry Hemp Overnight Oats

Serves 2

1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1 cup oats (gluten-free)

1 cup almond milk

1 tablespoon chia seeds

2 tablespoons hemp seeds

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 banana, sliced

¼ cup chopped walnuts

  1. Blend blueberries in the food processor until smooth, or leave them whole if prefferred
  2. Mix blueberries, oats, almond milk, chia seeds, hemp seeds in a bowl with a lid. Let set in fridge overnight.
  3. Split into two bowls and top with cinnamon, banana, and walnuts.

Serve & enjoy!

As an alternative, leave the blueberries whole, (no blender required or to clean!) and mix with the other ingredients.  Let set in fridge overnight.

Tip: Your gut microbes love to eat the fiber in the blueberries, oats, seeds, and nuts. Meanwhile, your brain loves the omega-3 fats in the seeds and nuts.

References:

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-probiotics

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/fix-gut-fix-health

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

Three Must Eat Breakfast Foods

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Are you a breakfast eater?  Or dare I ask are you a “healthy” breakfast eater? 

Maybe you need some inspiration for a few great breakfast foods.  Maybe you don’t have time and you need some healthy ideas for “grab and go” mornings – who doesn’t ever run short on time in the mornings?

Maybe you’re ready to ditch the “desserts” that are marketed as being “part of a complete breakfast”.

Don’t worry, I have you covered!

Three Must Eat Breakfast Foods

Do you love your breakfast?  Do you have a short list of “go-to” recipes?  Do you need a bit of inspiration to start eating breakfast again?

Getting some protein at each meal can help with blood sugar management, metabolism and weight loss.  This is because protein helps you feel fuller longer and uses up a bunch of calories to absorb and metabolize it. 

The Metabolic Balance ® nutrition plan is based on 3 Meals per day, with breakfast as a careful balance of the macro nutrients, Protein as the most important.

Why? This is what will keep you full and your blood sugar balanced throughout the day so you can avoid cravings and constant snacking that leads to weight gain and blood sugar imbalances. You can learn more about the Metabolic Balance ® nutrition concept right here.

The plan also helps to balance hormones and if you want a strategy to balance hormones (because hormones happen to be involved in every, and I mean everything that goes on in our body,) I have a 7 day, self directed quick start program just for you. Step by step instructions plus some delicious recipes! Find out more here.

So I’m going to show you how to get the protein, as well as some veggies and healthy fats for your soon-to-be favourite new “go-to” breakfasts.

Breakfast Food #1: Eggs

Yes, eggs are the “quintessential” breakfast food.  And for good reason!

No, I’m not talking about processed egg whites in a carton.  I mean actual whole “eggs”. 

Egg whites are mostly protein while the yolks are the real nutritional powerhouses.  Those yolks contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

Eggs have been shown to help you feel full, keep you feeling fuller longer, and help to stabilize blood sugar and insulin.

Not to mention how easy it is to boil a bunch of eggs and keep them in the fridge for a “grab and go” breakfast when you’re running short on time.

One thing to consider is to try to prevent cooking the yolks at too high of a temperature because that can cause some of the cholesterol to become oxidized.  It’s the oxidized cholesterol that’s heart unhealthy.

There have been many studies on the cholesterol in eggs and it’s association with an increased risk of arterial or heart disease. For the most part, the cholesterol in eggs is not associated with an increased risk of arterial or heart diseases. 

But wait for it, there is a recent study that advises caution with eggs, more specifically, the cholesterol in eggs!

Here we go again. You can be forgiven for being confused.

My suggestion is to do what works for you. If you choose not to eat eggs, that’s okay too.

I still eat eggs and I’m not going to change that any time soon. However, I generally only eat about 2-3 per week. Though according to the study that can increase risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Marion Nestle, PhD, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University says:

“While scientists are sorting all of this out, an egg now and then does not seem to be unreasonable . As with everything else in nutrition, variety, unprocessed and moderation are strategies that work pretty well.”

Oh good, I won’t have to give up my delicious frittata any time soon. Besides its loaded with fresh unprocessed veggies! (see breakfast food #3)

Breakfast Food #2: Nuts and/or Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  Nuts and/or seeds would make a great contribution to breakfast.

You won’t be fooled by “candied” nuts, sweetened nut/seed butters, or chia “cereals” with added sugars – you know I’m talking about the real, whole, unsweetened food here.

Nuts and seeds are also the ultimate fast food if you’re running late in the mornings.  Grab a small handful of almonds, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds as you’re running out the door; you can nosh on them while you’re commuting.

Not to mention how easy it is to add a spoonful of nut/seed butter into your morning breakfast smoothie.

Hint: If you like a creamy latte in the mornings try making one with nut or seed butter.  Just add your regular hot tea and a tablespoon or two of a creamy nut or seed butter into your blender & blend until frothy. 

Breakfast Food #3: Veggies

Yes, you already know you really should get protein at every meal including breakfast; but this also applies to veggies.  You know I would be remiss to not recommend veggies at every meal, right? 

Veggies are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and water.  You can’t go wrong adding them into every single meal of the day so if you don’t already you should definitely try them for breakfast! 

And no, you don’t need to have a salad or roasted veggies for breakfast if you don’t want to but you totally can!  You wouldn’t be breaking any “official” breakfast rules or anything like that.

Adding some protein to leftover veggies is a great combination for any meal.  Including breakfast.

I’ve included a delicious recipe below for you to try (and customize) for your next breakfast.

Recipe (Eggs & Veggies): Veggie Omelet

Serves 1

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1 or 2 eggs (how hungry are you?)

¼ cup veggies (grated zucchini and/or sliced mushrooms and/or diced peppers)

dash salt, pepper and/or turmeric

Add coconut oil to a frying pan and melt on low-medium heat (cast-iron pans are preferred).

In the meantime grab a bowl and beat the egg(s) with your vegetables of choice and the spices.

Tilt pan to ensure the bottom is covered with the melted oil.  Pour egg mixture into pan and lightly fry the eggs without stirring.

When the bottom is lightly done flip over in one side and cook until white is no longer runny.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip:  Substitute grated, sliced, or diced portion of your favourite vegetable.  Try grated carrots, chopped broccoli or diced tomato. Leftover veggies also work great in this recipe.

References available upon request

Yep, you gotta read the small print, its important:

Disclaimer

The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.