Re­store trust in gut feel­ing

● ‘The Man­dala Kitchen’ pro­motes di­ges­tive health, writes Louise Lieben­berg

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Weekend Life -

Gut health may not be some­thing we think about much, but ex­perts have re­alised it can have a pro­found ef­fect on our gen­eral health and that is why it is in­creas­ingly in the spot­light.

Nu­tri­tional ther­a­pist Mar­lien Wright, author of newly pub­lished The Man­dala Kitchen – 100 Recipes to Heal and Re­store Your Gut, be­lieves a health­ier gut will strengthen the im­mune sys­tem, im­prove mood and as­sist in weight loss.

In The Man­dala Kitchen the Cape Town mom, also a yoga prac­ti­tioner and food blog­ger, sheds light on which foods and life­style choices can ei­ther pro­mote or ham­per gut health.

The book also has easy, tasty, fam­ily-friendly recipes to help you on your jour­ney to­wards bet­ter di­ges­tive health.

“Ter­mi­nol­ogy such as the mi­cro­biome or mi­cro­biota may be un­fa­mil­iar to you, but they sim­ply re­fer to the com­mu­nity of in­ter­nal ‘bugs’ or good bac­te­ria in your di­ges­tive sys­tem, more specif­i­cally in the large in­tes­tine,” Wright ex­plains.

Mi­crobes, she says, are re­spon­si­ble for a host of es­sen­tial func­tions, not least con­vert­ing sug­ars to short-chain fatty acids for en­ergy; crowd­ing out pathogens; di­gest­ing food; and help­ing the body ab­sorb nu­tri­ents such as cal­cium and iron.

“In our mod­ern so­ci­ety where cancer, di­ges­tive and auto-im­mune dis­ease are rife, sci­ence is dis­cov­er­ing the con­nec­tion be­tween gut health and a strong or weak im­mune sys­tem.

“Our mi­crobes are in charge of the cor­rect gene ex­pres­sion, which means our mi­crobes can switch gene ex­pres­sion on or off, and have the abil­ity to crowd out the bad guys, mak­ing our gut health the most es­sen­tial com­po­nent in an im­mune sys­tem that wages war against dis­ease, not our own bod­ies.”

She says re­searchers’ find­ings sug­gest 70% of the im­mune sys­tem lives in the gut and that gut bac­te­ria as­sist the im­mune sys­tem’s T cells to de­velop – teach­ing them the dif­fer­ence be­tween a for­eign sub­stance and the body’s own tis­sues.

“This is an ex­tremely im­por­tant process that de­ter­mines what your im­mune sys­tem re­sponds to and how.

“When there’s a mis­take in the process, for in­stance if there is an over­growth of one spe­cific type of bac­te­ria, it can lead your body’s im­mune sys­tem to be­gin wag­ing war on your own cells, the hall­mark of auto-im­mune dis­or­ders.”

Re­search also sug­gests mi­crobes reg­u­late which par­ti­cles pass through the in­testi­nal lin­ing into the rest of the body. Healthy di­ges­tive tracts are de- signed with small gates that al­low di­gested foods to pass while keep­ing out larger food and other for­eign par­ti­cles that cause im­mune re­ac­tions.

How­ever, in a so-called “leaky gut”, the gates in the in­testi­nal lin­ing gets dam­aged by a west­ern diet rich in re­fined and gluten-rich foods. Th­ese per­fo­ra­tions then al­low large food par­ti­cles and un­wanted sub­stances to en­ter the rest of the body.

“Once in­side, they are rightly treated as for­eign in­vaders and cause im­mune re­ac­tions that trig­ger in­flam­ma­tion, which in turn trig­gers dis­ease,” Wright says.

Mes­sages from the gut to the brain don’t sim­ply say “feed me”; they also tell our brain which foods to choose.

“In other words, by restor­ing your gut health, your crav­ings can be con­trolled and changed from un­healthy to healthy foods, pro­mote feel­ings of sati­ety and ex­tract fewer calo­ries from food.”

In­ter­est­ingly, on­go­ing stud­ies also sug­gest a link be­tween in­testi­nal dys­func­tion, de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and sleep dis­or­ders. It turns out about 90% of sero­tonin – the neu­ro­trans­mit­ter re­spon­si­ble for reg­u­lat­ing mood, ap­petite and sleep – is lo­cated in the gut.

The fol­low­ing signs and symp­toms could in­di­cate an un­healthy gut, Wright says:

● low en­ergy;

● bloat­ing;

● ab­dom­i­nal pain;

● con­sti­pa­tion or di­ar­rhoea;

● brain fog and low mood;

● auto-im­mune dis­or­der;

● fre­quent in­fec­tions;

● food in­tol­er­ance and skin dis­or­ders;

● joint pain; and

● in­flam­ma­tion.

She ad­vo­cates a three-step process of “re­move, re­place and re­store” to get back on track.

“Re­move” means cut­ting out harm­ful foods, med­i­ca­tions and life­style prac­tices that are dam­ag­ing your mi­cro­biome. Think re­fined flours, gluten and sugar; an­tibi­otics and growth hor­mones; and even some dairy, un­less cul­tured.

Ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­isms, un­fer­mented soya prod­ucts, ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers and chlo­rine also sab­o­tage gut health.

Next you need to start pop­u­lat­ing your gut with good bac­te­ria. Fer­mented foods like sauer­kraut, kom­bucha, ke­fir, kim­chi and yo­ghurt are rich in pro­bi­otics, and Wright in­cludes sev­eral recipes to help you give cul­tur­ing at home a crack.

The fi­nal step is restor­ing your mi­cro­biome with foods that will en­able gut health to flour­ish – and fruit and veg­eta­bles top the list here.

“Our main ob­jec­tive should be to eat healthily 90% of the time, and al­low our­selves some naughty treats oc­ca­sion­ally.”

● The Man­dala Kitchen – 100 Recipes to Heal and Re­store Your Gut is pub­lished by Ja­cana and re­tails for R330. Wright’s first book, The Yoga Kitchen: 100 Easy Su­per­food Recipes, also re­tails for R330.

GUTSY AD­VICE: Nu­tri­tional ther­a­pist Mar­lien Wright, author of the newly pub­lished ‘The Man­dala Kitchen – 100 Recipes to Heal and Re­store Your Gut’

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