Can bloating be caused by gut bacteria

Can Bloating Be Caused By Gut Bacteria?

Can bloating be caused by gut bacteria?

Bloating is probably one of the most common issues that my clients talk to me about! There are lots of different reasons that we may get bloated after eating.

We often find improvements restricting foods and changing our diet.

However, this might be address your symptoms but ignore the cause which can be our gut flora!

Gut feelings

We are learning everyday about how the different species of microorganisms that live in our gut can impact our health.

We also see that the choices we make can change the gut flora we have. In fact the types of flora inhabiting our gut have been changing as a reaction to the consumption of processed foods, medications, chlorinated water, stress etc..

One of these changes is the rise of firmicutes living in our guts.  Firmicutes are a category (or phylum) of microbes that can create issues with digestion if we have too many of them.

In fact unhealthy, overweight people actually tend to have a dominance of firmicutes. However,  the healthier people tend to have more a different type of microbe called bacteroidetes hanging out in their gut.

What do firmicutes do?

Firmicutes LOVE sugar and need it to survive and thrive. In the process of living their best lives, firmicutes actually create a lot of inflammation and fermentation. The fermentation process is what causes fullness and bloating from the gassy by-products of the fermentation process.

But we want more bacteroidetes - these are the bacteria that fight inflammation and even fat! We often see benefits and relief from bloating when we start restricting the diet from the foods that firmicutes enjoy such as simple sugars found in sweets and refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta etc..)

But what can happen is that the firmicutes will realise they are being starved out and go into hibernation mode so as soon as you add these foods back in they will be back doing their thing with a vengeance!

How to fix those firmicutes!

What you really need to do is combine a restrictive diet with herbs! Plants are rich in polyphenols that are found in the peels and skins that resemble sugar. This therefore appeals to firmicutes who have not been fed for a while and are craving sugar!

So they start consuming the plant polyphenols but the trick is that the polyphenols actually help displace and eradicate them! Polyphenols are effectively poisoning them! But in a nice gentle way so that the amounts become manageable rather than antibiotics which eradicate all forms of life!

By combining herbs with diet then this means you don't need to be stuck on a restrictive diet for life and the results are a lot quicker! There are lots of herbs that can be added in but also everyday spices such as:

  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Cacao
  • Cardamon

Also don't forget the the culinary herbs such as:

  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Oregano and
  • Mint

You can even get benefit from drinking a cup of green tea or hibiscus tea. Finally, even the skins of nuts are rich in polyphenols!

So can bloating be caused by gut bacteria?

Yes which means perhaps you don't need to be on an unsustainable, restrictive diet for the rest of your life to ease digestive distress. Instead focus on getting in as many herbs and spices possible with every meal to help keep your gut flora in check!

Another option is of course try some Agni Tea specifically designed to relieve digestive distress!


watermelon health benefits

Watermelon Health Benefits

Watermelon Health Benefits

I love watermelon! Although it's sadly not fruit I can grow myself in London, I cannot resist its allure on a hot summer's day! There are lots of other reasons why we should be enjoying it too and there are so many watermelon health benefits.

The name watermelon is quite accurate as it is 92% water.  However, it still contains some amazing therapeutic compounds that will help our health!

It contains vitamin C, beta-carotene and lycopene, B1, B6, biotin, magnesium, potassium and dietary fibre.

Firstly, let's think about the energetics of a watermelon. It is very cooling. Therefore, it is great for removing excess heat. This is why its so refreshing in the summer!

If you are familiar with Ayurveda then the pitta dosha tends to suffer from excess heat and inflammation so watermelon could be really helpful for pitta types.

This cooling nature of watermelon can also be used topically to soothe the heat and inflammation on the skin. Therefore, you could try using the juice or rind for rashes particularly heat rashes.

Other Ways to Use Watermelon

  • Watermelon is a diuretic and can help difficulty with peeing.
  • The seeds of the watermelon contain cucurbocitrin which helps lower blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels.
  • Watermelon is the richest source of the amino acid citrulline which converts to arginine and nitric oxide in the body that also improves blood flow and reduces blood pressure.
  • The seeds can also be chewed as a remedy for constipation.
  • The rind is rich in silicon and also can reduce high blood pressure.
  • Watermelon juice is also rich in alpha-hydroxy acids citric acid and malic acid. These are natural exfoliants used in skin care products so to make a DIY scrub then use watermelon juice to get rid of dead skin cells, brighten complexion and stimulate collagen production!
  • Watermelon is  an ally for the kidneys and just drinking watermelon juice and water for a day or two can be used as a kidney cleanse.
  • Watermelon rind can be juiced or you can dry the rind and make a tea, or pickle the rind in salt.

 

 


Should I cut out gluten?

Everything you need to know about gluten

Gluten sensitivity is such a hot topic the moment. I often get people asking me 'should I cut out gluten?'

What they want is a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

What they need is a greater understanding of the bigger picture.

Only by understanding how food works within our unique body, can we really discover what we need to keep in our diets, and what we should cut out.

So, unfortunately this post isn’t a prescription. Instead it’s a bare-essentials lowdown on gluten which explains what it is and why it may, or may not, be the culprit making you feel uncomfortable.

Hopefully by understanding gluten you can begin to make an informed choice about how much you’re eating and if it’s doing you any good.

What is gluten?

Did you know gluten is actually the Latin word for ‘glue’? That’s because it’s the magic ingredient that gives the chewy (and delicious) strength and elasticity to bread.

However, rather than being just one molecule, it’s actually a group of proteins that exist within grains like wheat.

Most of the proteins in the gluten group are called gliadin and glutenin.

You may already know protein is a macronutrient (like fat and carbohydrates) made-up of amino acids that are essential for life.

However, the proteins within gluten, particularly gliadin, can be very difficult for some people to digest and break down into smaller, more absorbable peptides (smaller chains of amino acids).

This can be where the trouble starts.

Understanding coeliac disease 

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition stimulated by gluten. It affects around 1 in 100 people and occurs when the body turns on gluten, attacking it like a virus.

After eating gluten, a coeliac sufferer is likely to experience severe abdominal pain, diarrhoea or constipation, gas and bloating.

If they are eating gluten on a regular basis and the body can no longer absorb nutrients often people will get very thin, anaemic, depressed, fatigued and deficiencies in vitamins and minerals.

Therefore, to avoid the condition coeliac sufferers should not have gluten in any form or any amount.

If you suspect you are suffering from coeliac symptoms and haven’t been diagnosed it’s important you go and see your Doctor.  If you are a coeliac the answer to should I cut out gluten will definitely be yes!

Understanding gluten sensitivity: The trouble with wheat and modern bread

It’s important to understand gluten sensitivity as a multi-faceted issue as people tend not to eat pure gluten, they eat wheat. Therefore, it can be unclear what is the trigger when people feel uncomfortable after a sandwich.

Wheat itself is problematic. It’s sprayed with pesticides, refined so much it loses its fibre and mineral content and stored for long periods of time, often exposed to moulds and fungi and then made into bread.

The bread baking processtakes this to another level.  Modern baking methods now mean a loaf of bread can be now be made, risen, baked and served in under 3.5 hours (google Chorleywood Bread Process). This bread contains enzymes, hydrogenated or fractionated fats, emulsifiers, preservatives and bleach.

The enzymes pose a particular problem because they are classified as processing aids and therefore do not have to be listed under ingredients. One enzyme transglutaminase speeds up the mechanisms in coeliac disease.Another enzyme fungal alpha-amylase is a known allergen that can cause ‘baker’s asthma’,detected in bread crust.

The success of sourdough is because it only has four ingredients- flour, water, some salt and a sourdough starter culture. It ferments over 24 hours to create a bread that is easier to digest and absorb by many people.

Therefore, many people may not be gluten sensitive and instead react badly to wheat or badly made bread. Therefore, the answer to should I cut out gluten? might be no! You might just need to cut out processed bread!

Understanding non-coeliac gluten sensitivity

However, there are also people that suffer from non-coeliac gluten sensitivity whereby their body also has an immune reaction the gluten protein, but it manifests differently to coeliac disease.

The tests may be negative for coeliac disease, yet the person still feels better when not eating gluten.

Why?

This is where it gets interesting. Gluten sensitivity is not always a disease of the small intestine and can manifest anywhere in the body.

The key difference is that the body does not produce the antibodies to gluten that coeliac disease sufferers do. However, they still have an immune reaction to gluten.

Therefore, the answer to should I cut out gluten if you have a sensitivity but are not coeliac would be yes....although there may be an underlying cause for this sensitivity that might need to be addressed...

Fact: gluten overload is a part of modern life

Gluten is so useful that you can find it not just in food but on stamps, makeup, supplements and chewing gum.

The abundance of gluten in our daily lives might be a reason why gluten sensitivity has increased so much.

Many people will have cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner and many processed foods will contain gluten without people realising it.

For example; potatoes are gluten-free but if you like your chips with vinegar then you have just added a source of gluten, same for soy sauce in your stir-fries.

It’s everywhere!  This daily gluten fest could be the reason for sensitivities developing in people without coeliac disease.

So should I cut out gluten?

Well we know that someone with coeliac disease definitely should! However, gluten sensitivity needs to be investigated further. What are people actually reacting to? Due to the amount of gluten found in everyday lives then it is a good idea to be more conscious of what you are eating.

The easiest way to do this is to eat fresh, unprocessed foods. Only buy food with one ingredient in! This way we reduce exposure to the potential toxicities of not just gluten but other ingredients that can confuse our bodies.

Going gluten free does not always solve this as the alternatives can become just as bad as gluten if you start reading the labels of many gluten-free substitutes.

Why not experiment at cutting out gluten for 3 months and see if you feel better. Keep a diary of mood and body changes to track how you feel. Then you can slowly add in lower gluten containing foods such as barley, spelt and rye and track how you feel with them. If they irritate you then take them out! You might find that you can tolerate these though and that opens up a world of possibilities of cooking with delicious grains! Experiment with making your own sourdough instead of shop bought bread.

As always it’s better to stick to unprocessed, whole foods whether embracing gluten or avoiding it but it is good to know that gluten-free brownies can be just as  delicious than the ones with flour in them!


health benefits of carrots

Curious about the Health Benefits of Carrots

Discover a bunch of crunchy health benefits of carrots

There are lots of health benefits of carrots! Wild carrots have been with us for millennia in all different shapes and sizes. However, 400 years ago orange carrots were bred and popularised to create the carrot we know and love today that you can find in a supermarket.

However, the heirloom varieties of carrots seem to be richer in nutrition than our orange friends. In fact purple carrots also have powerful health benefits due to their anthocyanin content (a compound that’s been shown to fight cancer) so try and find local vegetable growers so you can enjoy these  purple eye catching alternatives.

 

Besides their great taste, carrots come with a whole host of benefits, for example, the pigment in orange carrots, beta-carotenes get converted by our bodies into Vitamin A.

Hungry to find out more?

Here’s a little summary of the benefits of carrots:

  • As a rich source of beta-carotene carrots protect against cancer, heart disease and of course promote eye health so that we can see in the dark!
  • Beta-carotene is also great for the skin, to protect against acne. Carrots are also high in silicon, a mineral, that strengthens your hair, skin and nails.
  • Carrots have also been used to protect against heartburn, calm diarrhoea, dissolve stones and tumours and even kill worms!

 

So how do we use them?

  • Cook your carrots to release these amazing beta-carotenes! Ideally cooking them whole preserves these amazing benefits
  • Grated carrots have been used to kill worms and parasites and you can use them as a poultice (applied directly to the skin) to reduce skin growth and inflammation.
  • Juicing carrots and including the green tops is a great way to make a vegetable juice that is rich in minerals and also not as sweet as have the carrot root alone!
  • Finally, eat your carrots with some form of healthy fat (like aioli 🙂) to ensure you can absorb all the beta-carotene which is a fat-soluble nutrient.

And keep the skin on! It’s so good for you.

If you’d like to learn more about getting the most out of your food, I would recommend reading 'Eating on the Wild Side' by Jo Robinson which provides advice on how to buy, prepare and store fruits and veggies to get the highest nutritional content


natural remedies for period pain

Natural Remedies for Period Pain

What natural remedies can you use for period pain?

There are lots of natural remedies for period pain (dysmenorrhea) caused by intense menstrual cramps.  However, it is important to understand why these happen in the first place. Endometriosis, fibroids or pelvic inflammatory disease can cause pain during a period.

Also there is an emotional connection with our psyche and our womb. High levels of stress and anxiety can also trigger cramping and spasms during a period.

Why do we get period pain?

There are hormone like chemicals called prostaglandins which stimulate the uterus to contract to shed the lining of the uterus (endometrium). The shedding of the endometrium is the bleeding part of the period!  However, high levels of prostaglandins can cause cramping and pain during your period.

These prostaglandins are derived from arachidonic acid which is an omega 6 fatty acid. A lot of our diets are high in omega 6 and low in omega 3 which is anti-inflammatory and may reduce prostaglandin levels for an easier period. This is one of the reasons why we can ease period pain with diet!

Nutritional Support for Period Pain

  • Omega 3 fatty acids- these are found in oily fish, grass fed meat such as lamb, seaweed and nuts and seeds and are the anti-inflammatory heroes for period pain! As well as increasing omega 3- also try to lower omega 6 which is found in vegetable oils such as sunflower seed or rapeseed (canola).
  • Magnesium- this great mineral can also lower prostaglandins and relax the muscles to ease cramps. You can supplement or ensure you are eating lots of dark, green leafy vegetables like broccoli and kale which are also high in magnesium!
  • Ginger-adding this warming spice to your food or having a tea has also been found to relieve period pain.
  • Calcium- studies have shown calcium to be very successful at reducing period pain. This is high in nuts, oats, spinach, beans and dairy products.

Herbal Remedies for Period Pain

Even if we eat the best diet, we are human so can still get period pain! Therefore, its great to have some herbs on hand too to help you if you if a hot water bottle is not going to cut it! My favourite herbs are:

  • Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa)
    • Wild yam is anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. This means it reduces pain and inflammation associated with uterus and ovarian cramping. It relaxes the central nervous system and also may help with hormonal imbalances through promoting liver detoxification.
  • Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
    • I love Motherwort because relieves feelings of anxiety and nervousness. This can often cause tension and pain in the body. The botanical name Leonurus cardiaca means heart of a lion so it provides strength and courage! However, Motherwort also benefits and promotes blood flow to the uterus. This makes it the perfect herbal ally for period pain!
  • Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
    • Black cohosh is a well-known herb that relieves symptoms of the menopause. However, it also is used to treat period pain. It has pain killing actions and eases cramping of the uterus. It is effective for fibroids and also helps bring on periods if they are delayed.
  • Crampbark (Viburnum opulus)
    • The clue is in the name! This herb can be applied topically and also taken internally to relieve menstrual cramps. It relaxes the tissues and blood vessels to calm down spasms.
  • Jamaican Dogwood (Piscidia erythrina)
    • This is a powerful herb that should only be used in small amounts as directed by a herbalist.  However, it does have a profound effect on relieving uterine cramps and reducing pain quickly!

Want to know more....

If you want to learn more about managing your menstrual cycle then I have just the solution! I teamed up with the Empowerment Coach Ellen Million to share coaching and nutrition tips for a balanced body and mind during your period cycle in this webinar all about managing your moon cycle! You can buy it to watch today today here. It also comes with a free PDF summarising all the key points.

Natural remedies for Period


Healing Power of Magnesium

Are you craving chocolate or magnesium?

What does magnesium do?

Magnesium is an incredible mineral and like potassium and calcium is an electrolyte.  This means it is needed for our muscles, brains, nerves, heart, immune system to function.  In fact, magnesium is required for over 300 different functions in the body.  So magnesium deficiency can manifest in a wide range of symptoms that may surprise you. 

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in our body and it is estimated that over 50% of us do not have optimal levels of magnesium in our body! 

Magnesium can be found in high concentrations in the heart tissue because it regulates the hearts ability to beat. It acts as a calcium channel blocker, helping the heart pump more effectively.  Magnesium relaxes smooth muscle tissue and so can is often used to reduce cramping or pain. Increasing magnesium levels may lessen menstrual cramps by relaxing the uterus. Magnesium is also vital for energy production and required for transmission of nerve impulses.

What is magnesium good for?

Magneisum has been used therapeutically for relieving symptoms of or preventing

Alcoholism, angina, anxiety, asthma, hypertension, constipation, chronic fatigue syndrome depression, headaches, insulin resistance, insomnia, insecurity, lower back pain, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, premenstrual tension, restless legs syndrome, vertigo, stroke prevention, kidney stones, irregular heartbeat, vertigo.

How much magnesium do I need?

RDA is 400mg/day for men and350 m/g day for women.

How do I know I need magnesium?

Do you get cold hands and feet?  Magnesium deficiency may cause or be associated with poor circulation!

Reduce magnesium can be associated with psychological symptoms such as confusion, depression, poor concentration, irritability, vertigo and even IQ loss!

Magnesium deficiency can be a hidden cause of insomnia and chronic fatigue.

Chocolate is high in magnesium so is often recommended for PMS as it can help reduce symptoms and might be why many women crave it round their period!

More indications for low magnesium include palpitations, poor growth, cramps, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. If you want to stay young- magnesium can help reduce premature ageing! 

Magnesium deficiency is characterized by mental confusion, irritability, weakness, heart disorders, muscle contraction, nerve conduction. Muscle cramps, headaches, loss of appetite, insomnia and predisposition to stress. 

Things you need to know about magnesium

Unfortunately all the favourite activities such drinking alcohol and coffee or eating high fat and sugary foods can decrease your magnesium levels.

Food processing refines out a lot of magnesium many Westerners do not meet the RDA. 

Magnesium is also used up during exercise and emotional stress.Many people may not be aware that medications such as corticosteroids and the contraceptive pill can also reduce magnesium 

Where can I find magnesium?

  • Almonds, peanuts and cashews 
  • Barley, rice and wheat
  • Cod, salmon, mackerel and eggs
  • Cocoa and molasses
  • Figs, avocadoes, raspberries and bananas
  • Kelp, leafy greens, broccoli and parsnips 
  • Lima beans, kidney beans, chick peas and black beans
  • It is absorbed well through the skin so would also recommend having magnesium chloride salt baths or using a magnesium spray.

Healing Power of Calcium

Everyone's favourite source of calcium?

What does calcium do?

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our bodies! 

In fact 2% of our total bodyweight is calcium which is predominantly found in our bones and teeth.

However, calcium does not just keep our bones strong. It is required for blood clotting, release of neurotransmitters, energy production, immune function, muscle contraction and regulation of heartbeat.

Calcium is present in every cell where it regulates reproduction and the manufacture of proteins. 

What is calcium good for?

Calcium has been used therapeutically for relieving symptoms of or preventing:

Anxiety, arthritis, backache, cramps, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, muscle cramps, hypertension and bone pain.

How much calcium do I need?

The RDA is 800-1400 mg per day.

How do I know I need calcium?

Deficiency in calcium can cause pica which is a craving for non-food things like clay, dirt, paint and paste. 

Low calcium can also cause muscle spasms and leg cramps and hypertension as it constricts blood vessels.Calcium deficiency in children may lead to rickets or osteomalcia in adults.

Things you need to know about calcium

Too much phosphorus found in processed food and soft drinks can cause the body to leach calcium from bones leading to osteoporosis. 

High stomach acid is required to ensure absorption of calcium but this is decreased by antacids, age and stress.

Oxalates found in dark green vegetables and phytates found in grains, nuts and seeds also hinder calcium absorption. 

If you are looking at supplementing then calcium carbonate (chalk) is poorly absorbed- look for calcium citrate which is better tolerated.

Where can I find calcium?

  • Kelp
  • Cheese, yoghurt, milk
  • Salmon and sardines (canned with bones)
  • Spinach, broccoli, mustard greens, collard greens, 
  • Oatmeal, almonds, rhubarb

Healing Power of Potassium

You can have too many bananas!

What does potasssium do?

Potassium, like sodium and chloride, has an electrical charge making it capable of conducting electricity so is also known as an electrolyte.

Electrolytes control  osmosis, the movement of water from outside into the cell. They also maintain the acid-alkaline balance which is required for cellular activity and carry electrical currents travel down nerves allowing muscles to contract and release hormones and neurotransmitters along the way. 

When stressed (in fight or flight mode) potassium is excreted and sodium spared to maintain blood pressure and volume so if injured we don’t collapse in shock. Therefore, chronic stress can deplete potassium.

What is potassium good for?

Potassium has been used therapeutically for relieving symptoms of or preventing:

Adrenal hypertrophy, adrenal exhaustion, diabetes, diarrhoea, cramps, heart disease, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, premenstrual tension, stroke prevention.

How much  potassium do I need?

RDA is 2-5mg per day.

How do I know I need potassium

Potassium deficiency is very severe and can interfere with heart function triggering a heart attack. 

The early warning signs are muscle weakness and cramping.

However, too high potassium can also affect the heart rhythm. 

Chronic stress depletes our nutrients and potassium is particularly at risk.

Things you need to know about potassium

High sodium increases excretion of potassium and vice versa. Many people have far higher sodium than potassium levels due to increased consumption of processesd foods.

Caffeine, diuretics and laxatives also increase the loss of potassium.

Where can I find potassium?

  • Avocados, apricots, cantaloupe, lima beans, raisins, bananas, peaches
  • Parsnips, potatoes, artichokes, broccoli, tomatoes, pinto beans, sweet potatoes, parsley
  • Sardines, flounder, milk, liver

Healing Power of Selenium

Brazil nuts, a super source of selenium!

What does selenium do?

Selenium is key component of the enzyme glutathione which is one of the body’s most powerful antioxidant. Glutathione will break down toxins and bind to heavy metals thereby protecting cells from free radical damage.

Selenium protects against damage that leads to heart disease and stroke. It also strengthens immunity and may enhance longevity.  

A study showed when used in synergy with Vitamin E, selenium helped elderly subjects  improve mental alertness, emotional wellbeing, poor appetite and fatigue.

Selenium is also required for the conversion of the thyroid hormone T4 into the more active T3 so selenium deficiency implicated in hypothyroidism.

What is selenium good for?

Selenium has been used therapeutically for relieving symptoms of or preventing:

Arthritis, atherosclerosis prevention, cancer prevention, heart attack prevention, immunodeficiency, cataract prevention, muscular dystrophy prevention, male infertility, heavy metal toxicity.

How much selenium do I need?

RDA is 50-200 mcg per day.

How do I know I need selenium?

Selenium deficiency is becoming more prevalent. This could be due to agricultural methods leaching the soil or sulphur from acid rain competing with selenium for uptake in plants.

There was an interesting finding where a form of heart disease called Keshan disease was eradicated in an area of China after finding that the soil was deficient in selenium.

After supplementing the local population with selenium, Keshan disease virtually disappeared. Selenium deficiency can also cause infertility, SAD syndrome, CFS, muscular dystrophy, liver cirrhosis and cystic fibrosis.

Things you need to know about selenium

L-selenimethionine is the form found in food and most easily absorbed as a supplement.

However, selenium is toxic in minute doses so supplementing must be done in small doses (not exceeding 200 micrograms). Selenium toxicity symptoms include nausea, vomiting, emotional instability, garlic breath odour, loss of hair and fingernails. 

Excess selenium is carcinogenic and can cause liver, bone and heart damage.

Where can I find selenium?

  • Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, blackstrap molasses
  • Garlic, turnips, swiss chard, oats
  • Snapper, halibut, salmon, scallops, oysters
  • Brown rice, wheat, barley