Bloated? Sluggish? 5 key ways to restoring your gut post-silly season

Have you ever wondered why your body feels like this following a season of indulgence? Turns out there are LOTS of reasons. Let renowned holistic health coach Jake Carter explain why, and how you can restore your gut.

As we enjoy the Christmas and New Year celebrations, we celebrate with food. Maybe a few crafty chocolates or an extra slice of cake, all while enjoying a few drinks … well, maybe more than a few. Unfortunately, now we are left paying for it.

The reason is that our microbial cells are reacting and throwing our bodies out of balance. Microbial cells are opportunistic organisms that want to design an environment fit for their growth and development. In the same way we’ve built houses, tunnels and car parks, microbial cells use our body to build a comfortable environment. And, with recent research demonstrating that with 30 trillion human cells in our bodies, we have between 39 and 300 trillion microbial cells, we are basically outnumbered.

Microbial cells are responsible for producing:

• More than 90 percent of serotonin (key player for feeling good) within the gut.

• Around 50 percent of the dopamine in our bodies (key player for drive and motivation).

• Certain nutrients such as vitamin B9, B12, and K2.

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They also assist in helping us to eliminate used hormones, such as oestrogen. So, what happens when we give microbial cells an excess of carbohydrates or alcohol? They react and start to behave like a child who has indulged in too much sugar past their bedtime, and start shooting out signals saying eat more, more and MORE! Digestion tends to become a little skew-iff, food is more likely to be mal-absorbed, fermentation takes place and bacteria start to multiply.

Welcome to bloat city

To resolve these problems, we have to create a level of inner balance to support the symbiotic environment as an equal relationship. Below are five key secrets to help create inner-balance and restore your gut health.

1. Remove triggers

The first step to getting back is to stop getting worse. Removing triggers is paramount, and triggers can include foods that appear perfectly healthy from the outside.

The more obvious foods range from gluten, wheat, and dairy but there are a couple of additional ones that often overlook. Adding in prebiotics and probiotics right now can be a catastrophe.

It’s like sending in supplies into a warzone, currently being dominated by the “bad guys”. Chances are this will feed their growth, create bloating and possibly discomfort.

This also includes removing FODMAP-based foods, however, this is a short-term approach, as long-term removal can deplete key bacteria such as bifidobacterium.

2. Chew your food more

Yes, yes, Mum was right. Chances are that we chomp, chomp, swallow. Chewing, which is a basic step of digestion, is the only element we have full control over.

The increased release of saliva not only lubricates the food but supplies additional digestive enzymes to break the food down further. Studies have found that the more we chew, the more cholecystokinin we release. This hormone communicates with the other digestive glands and primes them ready to release stomach acid, bile, and pancreatic enzymes.

It has also been shown that chewing food 40 times, in contrast to 10 or 25, leads to increased feelings of fullness.

3. Mindful eating

Eating is such a beautiful event. From dinner dates through to religious practices, food brings us together. These days, this sacred time is almost taken for granted with the sheer availability of 24/7 access to food and constant distractions from TV, social media, and emails.

Switch off the TV, put your phone on silent and leave it in another room. This practice not only helps to overcome mindless overeating, but the conscious awareness of the food stimulates the cephalic stage (where your stomach responds to the mere sight, smell, taste, or thought of food) of digestion (similar to Pavlov’s dogs drooling at the conditioned sound of the bell and the thoughts of food entering their mind).

This conscious and sensory response to food contributes up to 25 percent of pancreatic enzyme release and 30-50 percent of postprandial acid production.

4. Embrace the bitter

Bitter foods such as rocket, radish, and chicory stimulate the release of bile from the liver. This gut hormone assists with the breakdown of fat, elicits anti-microbial properties within the digestive system and binds onto toxins for removal.

5. Diaphragmatic breathing

Breathing. The most important thing we do each day, yet often done so poorly. Due to working at a desk, poor posture, and stress, we have adopted inverted breathing patterns, where we breathe through our mouth and chest.

Practice breathing through the belly, outwards, and forwards. This will help divert blood flow to the digestive organs for better digestion. To really make the most of this, breathing through the nose will help the body relax into a parasympathetic mode of ‘rest and digest’, rather than being stuck in ‘flight or fight’ mode.

Bonus tip:

Check your resting heart rate before each meal to make sure it is within 10 percent of your normal heart rate. Our body has a hard time digesting food when stressed — this is the very last thing our body wants to do in a perceived life or death situation.

Jake Carter is a global coach who specialises in educating people about functional medicine and nutrition.