You may have noticed over the last few years discussion and research about gut health in relation to overall health and weight loss has become more prevalent. If not, no worries we’re looking into it now. Your gut is a fantastic and fascinating part of your body, which is perhaps surprisingly key to your health and happiness! (It even affects your mood!)
Here’s a fun fact for you…it is now accepted amongst many, that the number of bacterial cells in our body outweighs that of our own human cells. And…did you know that these bacteria are in constant communication with our immune systems which really means that they are the key controller of our health?
Looking after our gut and our good bacteria, really starts with what goes down the “cake hole” which we all to some degree know about…but it also starts with HOW it goes down.
Let’s start with understanding how the way we eat affects our gut health. When I say how, I mean digestion.
Optimal digestion is extremely important to help maintain a healthy hormonal balance, overall body health, vitamin and mineral absorption. This, in turn will help keep our body functioning properly.
The vast majority of us do not chew our food properly or even recognise the fact that THIS (our digestive system) could be the weak link in our overall body health and weight loss puzzle. We have several stages of digestion most of which are overlooked due to today’s fast paced lifestyle.
- Stomach digestion
- Gut digestion
So, let’s go into them in a little bit more detail.
Every part of our body is there to do a job. The mouth is the first point of call to instigate the breakdown of food to release the essential vitamins and minerals that we need. Most of us chew around 8-10 times and then swallow the food in large chunks when we should ideally be chewing the food around 20 times. Food is made up of complex molecules which need to be broken down, and carbohydrates such as vegetables, potatoes, rice and pasta are all broken down in the mouth. The teeth are there to break food types into smaller chunks breaking down the molecules down into smaller and smaller sizes making it easier for the stomach acid to break them down and digest them. If you don’t chew your food properly, you send it to the stomach in a much more difficult form to break down.
The stomach is the next point of call for your food. Studies have shown that in recent times a large majority of us have decreased levels of stomach acid. We need this stomach acid to be at an optimal level to digest food and break the molecules down.
So, if we combine the fact that most of us don’t chew our food properly, sending it to the stomach in larger undigested chunks, to a stomach with lower than optimal levels of stomach acid, you can see how your digestive system may not be working as well as possible.
You can miss vital vitamins and minerals, losing out of all the hard work put in by your expensive, time consuming, ‘healthy nutritional plan’. So, all those healthy expensive foods are just being passed through your system with little to no effect.
Perhaps this is why we give up with the ‘healthy’ expensive foods because we never witness their magic pill effect. Perhaps we don’t need to reach for that expensive avocado because it’s organic from an organic health food shop. Perhaps we just buy the normal one and chew it properly.
Many well-known, successful nutritionists in the health and fitness world sell HCL tablets, which are basically sold as ‘stomach acid aids’ – to help those with low stomach acid levels increase their digestive ability.
However, I discussed this topic recently with a family member who actually designs the chemical makeup for tablets and pills. He laughed at the mention of these ‘HCL’ tablets. In his professional opinion as an industrial chemist it was near impossible to successfully put HCL (hydrochloric acid – which is what your stomach acid is) in tablet form. He also wanted me to give him one to test to see to what degree it contained any sort of acid – if any (his words not mine!). I was a little annoyed to be honest as I had been taking these for a while, and paid a lot for them. But, I had secretly noted that there wasn’t much of a change or reaction, and I know that I have slightly lower levels of stomach acid. His suggestion was ‘just take some apple cider vinegar that will have much higher levels in it than any tablet!’ Since then I’ve learned, and many people do know this, that apple cider vinegar is a great way to help stomach acid levels and digestion. I followed this advice and decided to give apple cider vinegar a try with every meal. It is a much cheaper option to the tablets, and I can honestly say that I saw a difference, I definitely felt less bloated.
I’m not going to say those nutritionists are wrong, but I am definitely 100% confident that an industrial chemist whose job is to apply chemical and physical processes in order to produce tablets for us, would be able to say it’s near impossible to produce HCL tablets with significant confidence. This is a person who is hugely successful and travels the world doing this work, so my answer is, you’re much better off just taking a little apple cider vinegar with each meal. This is only my opinion of course.
So…we went off on a little tangent there, but as we can see if we don’t chew properly the rest of our systems (some of which are running less than optimally) can be put under increased pressure. Your gut has a very delicate flora balance. It is where your 70% of the factors that influence your immune system is to be found.
If you put your gut under too much pressure, and stress (yes food stress!) then what happens?
- The flora balance is disrupted
- Your hormonal balance is disrupted
- Hormones depict your body’s functionality
- You become tired, have weight gain and/or toilet problems, feel emotional.
So, who agrees we need to look after our gut?!
One thing we cannot take for granted is our gut. So, with this week’s food focus here are a few tips and tricks:
- Have a little apple cider vinegar with your meals (with water) which can help digestion, or throw it over salads.
- Take longer to eat and chew your meals
- Try not to eat your meals on the run when you are in a stress state. The more ‘stressed’ you are the less our digestion is switched on
- Try putting your knife and fork down between bites and just take.your.time.
Now, you WILL forget to do this quite a lot of the time, simply because we have such a busy life, but if you can manage it 2-3 times you’ll be winning! Pick a certain time of the day you know easier, for example, dinner or breakfast when you’re not at work and then gradually work it into your lunch.