Tag Archives: probiotics

Inner Spring cleaning: why probiotics are your friends

During the past couple of weeks the buzzword on social media has been “Spring Cleaning”. This expression seems to be incredibly versatile and it can be applied to almost any field of interest: from decluttering around the house, to reorganizing files and directories, removing Facebook frenemies… but Spring cleaning can also be applied to our thoughts and habits.

Spring in the UK can be a funny time of the year. Actually, for someone like me who still remembers being too warm most of the year in Italy, Spring in the UK can be a source of tears because there are more hours of daylight but brighter doesn’t necessarily equal warmer. And so I cry whenever I have to wear three jumpers in April.

I am not the only one who’s been suffering though. Recently some of my clients seem to  have fallen victim to the Spring germs that brought them colds, flu and general misery. And that’s how I know that they haven’t really paid any attention to the advice I gave them when we first met…  😛

The impact of stress on the health of your gut

The thing is when you work long hours for long periods of time you are inadvertently placing your body under a lot of stress. This tends to weaken your immune system leaving you open to the attach of the many seasonal viruses. As the immune system is intrinsically linked to the health of your gut I like to start there when addressing the nutritional habits of my clients.

Intestine and bacteriaMy favourite recommendation is to consider adding probiotics to your diet in order to ensure that your digestive tract is in tip-top shape as you start your fitness makeover journey. When the digestive system is overworked it won’t be able to extract the nutrients from the food and drinks efficiently. This could result in varying degrees of malnutrition and a metabolism that is out of balance.

Our intestines are responsible for the absorption of nutrients from the food and drinks that we consume every day and they are populated by both good and bad bacteria. According to medical wisdom the ideal ratio between good and bad bacteria is 9 to 1, however most of us fall short of this.

Why is that I hear you ask? The foods that we eat have a significant impact on the bacteria population in our intestine for good or for bad. SMART choices will ensure you nurture the good bacteria in your gut, but bad choices made at the table could have a negative effect on your health and wellbeing.

For example, if you suffer from an intolerance to something like gluten should you choose to eat it anyway could result in your intestinal tract becoming damaged resulting in bloating, joint pain, bleeding gums and so on. Also, be aware that taking antibiotics to get rid of a stubborn and brutal cold will kill off a large proportion of the good guys in your intestine.

pablo

Pay attention to your diet

It might seem like I am stating the obvious but ensuring that you drink plenty of mineral water, eat mostly fresh organic produce with adequate amounts of protein can go a long way to improve your gut health. For some reason for many people this seems to be the hardest habit to change. They resist the idea of giving up convenience food and are in love with the illusion of a “magic pill” that will fix everything. Whereas a little bit of effort and willpower in the beginning will result in not needing any pills in the future.

When you are spring cleaning your nutritional habits protein has a major role in your diet. It is broken down into amino acids aka the body’s very own building blocks. In this context the most important one is L-Glutamine because of its ability to assist with intestinal function, health and repair. It also helps us build muscle and contributes to the health of our brain. L-Glutamine occurs naturally in both animal and vegetable protein, however it can also be taken as a supplement if you suspect that your gut lining may be damaged and you need extra help.

Give your digestion a boost

Digestive enzymes are often overlooked as a powerful digestion aid. Their task is to break down the macronutrients in your food so that they are easily absorbed into the bloodstream. They are especially useful if you suffer from food intolerances as these can cause varying degrees of malabsorption. You can feel the benefits almost straight away in terms of more energy and less hunger.

Take probiotics on a regular basis

There are many reasons why it’s a good idea to do so: as well as making your immune system rock solid they work in tandem with the digestive enzymes in transforming food into energy producing nutrients. Probiotics will also help you reduce hunger and bloating (hello flat belly!). You will find it easier to manage your food intolerances: sometimes these will get better and you might even be able to virtually eliminate some (since taking probiotics regularly I can eat dairy products safely without side effects). Allergies like hayfever will also improve because your body will carry less inflammation and therefore won’t react so violently to allergens.

You might still catch a cold or a flu every now and then, especially if the virus responsible is a new strain that you are not yet immune to, but these will typically manifest themselves as a couple of sneezes or feeling slightly under the weather for a day or two with no need to take medications other than for comfort (hot lemon… yum!).

Probiotics come in many varieties: for convenience you can buy probiotic tablets from your local health shop. In my opinion these aren’t great but are awesome when you travel, especially by air. You can also find many dairy based probiotics drinks at your local supermarket and although good they are not brilliant either. The best probiotics are the ones that you make yourself starting with some live cultures and leaving them to ferment in either milk (Kefir), sugary water (water Kefir), sugary tea (Kombucha) or vegetables (e.g.Milk Kefir sauerkrauts). Typically probiotic in kefir will have a much higher count of good bacteria than any dairy probiotic drinks you can get from a shop and no added preservatives, thickeners, fats, etc.

My personal experience and the reason I always recommend them to my clients is that since I started making my own probiotics in July 2013 I had a nasty cold once in September 2014 after spending 10 days on a road trip around Europe eating gluten (which I am intolerant to) and drinking alcohol destroying my intestines in the process. I got back on track immediately on my return and haven’t had anything major apart from a few sneezes in Winter every now and then.

Pretty good going, huh?

If you would like to have a go at making probiotics drinks yourself you can check out this post for Milk Kefir and this post for Kombucha. Do bear in mind that cultures tend to grow like triffids when they are happy so there is a good chance that your place will soon be overrun with them (if only my bank account behaved in the same way!).

Get plenty of restful and uninterrupted sleep

I know that this is very hard to achieve when you are super busy but remember that sleeping is the best form of detox available to you. It’s the time of the day when your body eliminates toxins and repairs itself as well as the time when cortisol levels drop and reset.

Sleep is the best form of detox ever

Find time for some “me time”

Spending some time alone in peace and quiet is a great way to relax and explore habits that are outdated and no longer serving you. This is another important aspect of an effective Spring cleaning mission. Sometime we get caught up in perpetual ruminating of thoughts going over and over the same scenarios in our heads. Putting an end to this will greatly reduce our chances of feeling drained and becoming emotionally stressed.

A technique that I love using when I catch myself ruminating is to visualize myself freezing that thought and face it head on. I allow myself to feel the feelings that it evokes and then I imagine it thawing and melting away.

Inner Spring cleaning is an all year round thing

Although Spring is the time of the year most associated with fresh starts it goes without saying that this type of reset can be done at any time of the year, month, week, day. Look at it as having a break from the life you got used to with a view of re-prioritising your health and well-being over everything else.

The rewards will come in terms of that feel good factor that will see your confidence soar leading you to make brave choices in your work or business helping you push the boundaries of your comfort zone. This is often where success is waiting for you.

Need help with your inner Spring cleaning? Get in touch now and book a complimentary 30 minutes breakthrough call to explore the best strategy for you. 


References:
  • Verna EC, Lucak S. Use of probiotics in gastrointestinal disorders: what to recommend? Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology. 2010;3(5):307-319. doi:10.1177/1756283X10373814.
  • Aragon G, Graham DB, Borum M, Doman DB. Probiotic Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2010;6(1):39-44.
  • Özdemir Ö. Various effects of different probiotic strains in allergic disorders: an update from laboratory and clinical data. Clinical and Experimental Immunology. 2010;160(3):295-304. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2249.2010.04109.x.
  • De Oliveira Leite AM, Miguel MAL, Peixoto RS, Rosado AS, Silva JT, Paschoalin VMF. Microbiological, technological and therapeutic properties of kefir: a natural probiotic beverage. Brazilian Journal of Microbiology. 2013;44(2):341-349. doi:10.1590/S1517-83822013000200001.

Kombucha: the elixir of life

When I first realised that I was suffering from chronic fatigue a few years ago, I spent an awful lot of time trying to understand my problem and looking for a solution. After putting Dr. Google through his paces I discovered that one of the many causes of chronic fatigue was malabsorption of nutrients from my food due to damages to the intestinal wall courtesy of my gluten intolerance. Even with the best intentions it’s not always possible to be 100% gluten free, especially when traveling or sharing the place with people who don’t suffer from the same intolerance or don’t understand it.

glass of kombuchaOne of the remedies that was mentioned in one of the many documents I read was a drink called Kombucha, made out of sugary tea that had been left to ferment with some yeast and probiotic cultures for 7 to 14 days. It sounded intriguing so I did some further research into it. What I discovered was nothing short than amazing.

Apparently Kombucha as a drink has been around for over 2000 years. Originally from East Asia it became “famous” in the West after WWII when the Stalin administration decided to investigate anomalies in the rates of death from cancer across the former USSR. It appeared that there were two distinct areas in the whole of Russia where the locals didn’t have cancer and the only few deaths from the disease were from people who had only recently moved there. So two separate groups of scientists were dispatched to each location to conduct a thorough research of the lifestyles of the locals.

They quickly discovered that the environmental pollution was exactly the same as that of other areas with higher death tolls and that the locals were also consuming large quantities of alcohol and tobacco but the number of drink driving accidents or even misdemeanor from being drunk were negligible. It was only by chance that they discovered the reason why: during a home visit an old lady offered the scientists a slightly fizzy drink, a bit sharp, ever so slightly sweet that she referred to as “tea kvass”. She went on to explain that the drink was made from sweetened tea that had been fermented by means of a “tea fungus” that was large, round, translucent, flat and jelly like. By pure coincidence the other team of scientists in the other location came across exactly the same scenario. And so the research into the fungus started.

The science bit

Analysis of the fermented product revealed that it contained some of the building blocks of glucuronic acid, folic acid, lactic acid and trace quantities of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12. Glucuronic acid is thought to be responsible for the main health benefits of Kombucha: this has the ability to bind to toxins in the bloodstream and then expel them via the urinary system. This was document by clinical tests carried out on patients that had never previously drunk Kombucha.

The same building blocks for glucuronic acid have also been found to be important components of hyaluronic acid from which connective tissue develops as well as chondroitin which is essential for healthy cartilage. It also contributes to healthy stomach lining and healthy eyes. Most importantly Kombucha has strong antibacterial and antivirus properties. Because of all this Kombucha has been successfully used in the treatment of many disorders: from joints degeneration, to eyes issues, to repairing damages to the lining of the digestive tract, fatigue, wrinkles reduction, relief of painful menstruation, psoriasis, adult acne, constipation and a weak  immune system.

The stories

There are many anecdotes relating how Kombucha has saved many people from cancer, the most notorious ones are relating to Nobel Prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitzyn who was said to have been experimented on with Kombucha when he was dying from cancer and made a “miraculous” recovery. Another extraordinary tale relates to the late Ronald Regan who, after finding out about Solzhenitzyn’s recovery, was prescribed Kombucha at the time when he developed stomach cancer from which he also made a complete recovery and eventually died from old age several years later.

But of course it’s not all down to story telling evidence, there has been plenty of scientific research carried out on this subject both in the former Soviet Union and Germany that substantiate and explains the reasons behind many of the anecdotal claims.

How to make Kombucha at home

Kombucha home making kitKombucha is very easy to make at home. All that’s needed are a few glass jars, ordinary black or green tea bags, white sugar and a SCOBY (the fungus) consisting of a symbiotic culture of different types of bacteria and yeasts forming a jelly like substance. The main bacterium, Aceterbacter xylinum, is activated by the caffeine in the black tea and through the complex process of fermentation converts the sugary tea into Kombucha. This is typically slightly fizzy and can have an alcohol content of 0.3%.

The first step is to prepare a sugary tea by using a couple of ordinary tea bags and approx. 85g of white sugar for each litre of boiling water. The tea bags need to be infused for 30 minutes or so and then removed. Once the tea has cooled down to room temperature it can be poured in the glass jar and the SCOBY added with a bit of previously made Kombucha. Cover the top of the jar with a muslin cloth and tie in place. Store at constant temperature away from direct sunlight for 7 to 14 days.

After the first 5 days the bevarage will taste a bit peachy and can be drunk already, however to get the full benefit from the drink it’s best to allow it to ferment for an extra 2 to 3 days when it will start to have a sharp taste. At this point it will have become a strong antibacterial and antiviral drink too. When it’s ready carefully remove the SCOBY and place in a separate jar with a bit of the fermented product to be used to regulate the acidity of the next batch. Strain the beverage through a plastic sieve (no metal), bottle up and refrigerate. Be careful if you decide to store the bottles at room temperature as the fermentation process will continue and they have been known to explode. You can check the acidity levels with a litmus strip: ideally the pH will be between 3 and 4.

Litmus strips

It’s very important that the glass jar used is very clean and that the SCOBY is always handled carefully and with clean hands. Some people say the cultures don’t like direct sunlight, others say they want to be in the dark. Personally I found that they like temperatures of around 20+ ºC which can be tricky in winter if the heating isn’t on all the time. I worked around this problem by keeping mine on the top shelf in the spare room which is South facing and has a heating vent in the ceiling. It’s also important that the cloth used to seal the glass jar is thick enough to prevent bugs ending up in it but not so thick to prevent air flow. I use kitchen towel and it works a treat.

In the Summer when there is plenty of fresh fruit available I tend to play with different flavours and I substitute some of the sugar with organic fruit (berries, mango, cherries, peaches) that I chuck in the glass jar and leave to ferment. When the drink is ready the fruit will be reduced to a mush and can only be thrown on the compost bin as it has no flavour left. Be careful never to use honey as it has antifungal and antibacteria properties and will destroy the cultures. Also, analysis have revealed that in order to get the full benefit from the fermentation process it’s best to use white refined sugar instead of raw cane sugar and other natural sweeteners.

Just like when making milk Kefir the Kombucha cultures grow like triffids in the right conditions. These can either be used to make more batches, donated to friends and family (always good to spread the love and health too), dumped on the compost heap and even blitzed and turned into moisturiser to get rid of wrinkles and crow feet.

My story

I personally swear by Kombucha and I cannot bear the thought of not having some nearby. Since I started drinking it I seem to have been able to resolve many nagging health issues that annoyed me for most of my life, I can keep the chronic fatigue under control and can take liberties with the occasional pizza or pastry knowing that I won’t suffer afterwards. The dry eyes from having Lasek many years ago are a thing of the past, my skin is fresh, my joints are healthy (x-rays taken last Summer after a fall show no signs of arthritis whatsoever) and my immune system is strong.

The best part? The detox effect of Kombucha means that when I drink a glass of wine the alcohol is metabolised and eliminated quickly and as a result I no longer wake up with a hangover!!

Want to try some too? If we know each other personally ask me to bring you a SCOBY next time we meet, otherwise you can find them easily and inexpensively online.