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.
My 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.
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. 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.
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.
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- Aragon G, Graham DB, Borum M, Doman DB. Probiotic Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2010;6(1):39-44.
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- 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.