What makes you feel good?
There are so many factors that make us feel happy…content…healthy. Some will be unique to us as individuals; special moments, people, activities and rituals that make us feel rebalanced, centred and upbeat; others are more universally important for biological wellbeing.
Trust your gut
Serotonin - one of the body’s feel-good chemicals, is a neurotransmitter or “messenger” that helps regulate our mood, alleviate anxiety, stimulate healthy sleep patterns between REM and non-REM sleep and optimise healing.
But, did you know though, that 95% of your total body serotonin is produced in the gut?
Recent research has shown that our gut microbiome influences our brain chemistry and behavioural tendencies, while the brain has also shown the ability to destabilise healthy gut bacteria through stress in return. Known as the Gut-Brain Axis this two-way communication network affects our total wellbeing – mental, emotional and physical.
So maybe we really are what we eat after all?
Our gut is one of our bodies defence systems. It is a complex, dynamic structure that, as well as processing the nutrients we need for optimal health, helps defend against the stress reactivity of external aggressors.
Today’s western diet is a dichotomy of “clean” eating and processed meals which are loaded with inflammatory triggers that destabilise our biological equilibrium. Our routines for eating are erratic; we rush, we don’t sit correctly or chew sufficiently and we are losing rituals to honour food; all against a backdrop of an unhealthy diet culture and body image dialogue.
We are continually caught in a vortex of conflicting motivations; societal pressure to be mindful, take time, be grateful versus the perceived expectation of appearing constantly busy and the guilt that we often feel when taking time for ourselves.
Nourish your body to ultimate wellness
However, modern interpretations of this word, have a broader meaning, often used in the context of investing time in self-care; we “nourish” our wellbeing.
Understanding that the brain and gut have a symbiotic relationship and communication system, spotlights the positive impact of looking after our physical and emotional wellbeing in a more considered way.
Holistic self-care truly is an inside-out process of nourishment that does not only relate to our diet, but our systems of wellbeing; from hydration, to exercise, mindfulness and sleep. But it is undeniable, that our bodies benefit from a more mindful relationship with food and eating.
Respect, Ritual and Routine
Holistic wellbeing is centred on the principle of treating our physical, mental and emotional needs in a connected way. Amelia Freer, a well-respected gut-health authority, has developed simple steps to establishing a more connected approach to gut-health on the basis that no one area of our biology exists in isolation when we consider our health.
We have distilled the wealth of information on gut-health into some key insights to help structure healthful habits:
Curate a diet that is naturally rich in key nutrients.
Fruit, veg, nuts, pulses - get those phytonutrient rich, colourful natural ingredients on your plate! Packed with essential vitamins, minerals, serotonin boosting, microbiota balancing, polyphenol-rich nourishment to support your gut and help protect you from external stress that causes a destabilising of your internal balance.
Pre and probiotics – to cultivate and maintain the diversity and balance of your natural gut microbiome.
Hydrate. We all know we need to drink more water. Get it done.
The ritual of appreciation of food is often overlooked, we are all too often skipping or rushing a meal and not fully embracing the process of feeding ourselves and those we love.
Gather. Chew. Savour. Digest. Take time. Be mindful of your posture, try to limit sofa dining.
You will be more comfortable and satisfied from the food you take on board.
Be consistent with your schedules of eating, exercising, hydration and rest. As Amelia says;
“Often, we may find that when these basics are in place, consistently (not perfectly – that’s not a realistic goal), much of the rest takes care of itself.”
Life is a juggle and not every day is going to be social media perfect when it comes to your lifestyle choices…but we can do more to better our gut-health relationship for our mind, body and wellbeing, especially as we face our own futures.
Lifestyle habits are often the catalyst to define how the years make their mark and take their toll on our bodies, inside and out. As we age, the diversity of gut microbiota naturally declines, so good habits will help support our bodies through the natural biological changes of passing years.
Remember, this is not about weight loss, this is not about calorie counting or depriving yourself. By shifting our focus to establishing healthy habits, we are creating viable, sustainable rituals of self-nourishment to allow health to flourish.
It’s also not as hard as you might think to introduce gut-balancing nutrition into your daily life. Here are some recipes to inspire your taste buds.
Vegan consommé soup with miso paste – Serves 4
Perfect for a delicious lunch or dinner or portion out for 4 easy meals ready for the week ahead, so when you would otherwise grab something less nourishing, you have a soup to feed your busy body.
1 medium Onion, sliced
1 Carrots, 2cm diced
½ stalks Celery, sliced
½ cup Broccoli florets
3 Radish, sliced (optional)
1 small Potatoes, 1cm diced (optional)
1 tbsp Whole Grains (barley, bulgur, farro, freekeh - optional)
1 cloves garlic, sliced (optional)
3 cups Water
Black Pepper – for bioavailability
1 tbsp Miso Paste
30ml Soy milk (optional – adjust the amount of water)
Step 1. In a non-stick sauté pan add 1 tbsp cooking olive oil over medium-low heat
Step 2. Add onions, carrots, celery sauté over medium heat
Step 3. Add broccoli and optionals if you wish then add water, bring it to boil, then remove from heat
Step 4. Add salt and black pepper
Step 5. Once it’s cooled down a bit, add miso paste and stir well. Soy milk can be added in this step
Kimchi fried rice - Serves 2
Spicy, sour, umami…definitely moreish. Quick and easy, especially if you have left over rice to use up!
180g Firm or Extra Firm Tofu, 3cm diced
60g Shiitake Mushroom, sliced
1 Egg (can be removed for vegan option), stirred
1 cup worth cooked Rice, cold and can be from left over – for higher resistant starch (prebiotic)
1 stalk spring onion, minced
1 – 2 tbsp Soy sauce
1 tbsp Sesame Seeds
1-2 tbsp sesame seed oil
Step 1. In a non-stick sauté pan add 2 tbsp cooking oil over medium-low heat
Step 2. Add tofu and brown it over medium-high heat
Step 3. Add shiitake and stir for 1 minute
Step 4. Add egg and when it’s half (or 2/3) cooked add cold rice and stir for 4-5 minutes
Step 5. Add spring onion, soy sauce and sesame seeds, stir and cook for less than a minute over medium-low heat
Step 6. Add kimchi and sesame seed oil and remove from heat, serve right away
Kombucha Mojito - Serves 2
Yes, you can have a delicious, refreshing glass of feel-good and still feel good! We are aiming for better, goodness not perfection or abstinence. Enjoy a little of what you fancy…
2 Lime juice
2 tsp White sugar
Handful fresh mint leaves
120ml White rum
Step 1. Add the lime juice, sugar and mint leaves in a jug and crush them
Step 2. Pour the rum
Step 3. Pour into a glass with ice cubes, and top up with kombucha, garnish with mint leaves and serve
Kafir Chia Seed Pudding contributed by Carrie Walder - Serves 3
Is it breakfast? Is it dessert? Is it a snack?
Yes. This creamy treat is just what you want it to be. Simple and easy to prep the night before to chill in the fridge.
3 cups plain Kefir
9 tbsp Chia seeds
1 tbsp Maple syrup to taste
1 tsp ground Cinnamon to taste
Toppings such as blueberries, strawberries, mangos, peaches, granolas and nuts (optional)
Step 1. Pre-mix chia seeds and cinnamon into a large bowl
Step 2. Pre-mix kefir and maple syrup
Step 3. Combine these premixes together, cover them and place in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight.
Step 4. Remove chia pudding mix from the fridge. Stir and portion it out into the little jars.
Step 5. Add toppings of your choice and serve
Resources and References:
- The Gut-Brain Axis: Influence of Microbiota on Mood and Mental Health