The Good Gut Guide: Week Five blog
Our gut does so much more than just digest food and support our physical health –it also plays a major role in how we feel.
My Good Gut Guide testers have been practicing mindful eating, as what we eat, how and when we eat it can all make a real difference to our mood and emotions. On a practical note, looking after our beneficial gut bacteria also improves mental health, as our intestines are linked to the brain via the vagus nerve and eating gut-friendly foods has been clinically proven to make us feel happier!
Read on to find out how they go on in the penultimate week of my 6-week Good Gut Guide plan:
This week I swapped chicken for turkey and included more spinach and watercress in my meals to increase serotonin levels. I was very happy to read that strawberries and blueberries are excellent brain boosters, so ate plenty of them!
I cut down on cups of tea, as suggested, to reduce gut inflammation. It’s so easy to drink tea all day at work, but I switched to water and felt more refreshed.
I’m guilty of eating lunch at my desk while internet shopping, so I made sure to sit outside and eat more mindfully. It was so much more enjoyable and I felt more energised in the afternoon, rather than sleepy!
There were some great tips in the section about boosting fibre intake. There is so much information in each chapter, it really is well researched.
I can’t believe it has been a month, and what changes it has brought!
Reading up on Week 5 of The Good Gut Guide has been particularly important for me, as I have been an almost lifelong sufferer of anxiety. Just being reminded about what to do to reduce inflammation and its consequences, eating mindfully and balancing blood sugar has made me realise how far I have come with changing my attitude to eating.
Before coming across The Good Gut Guide, I had always considered myself a foodie and a healthy eater, but I used to gobble up my food, reading or watching TV at the same time. I now find myself really making an effort to sit down, calm my breathing and give thanks before my meals and I try to just eat, without distractions. It is not always possible and I have had the odd TV dinner with my family, but the intent and awareness are there now.
Without even trying very hard, I am finding myself calmer and my anxiety levels are dramatically reduced. I am drinking more lemon ginger hot water and only having one or two cups of tea per day and none in the late afternoon. Caffeine was a downfall for me in the past, as a good Italian I love an espresso after my meals but have come to accept that it does not love me back.
Reducing inflammation is very important for me for other reasons too, as I have painful joints. Eating more mindfully and incorporating more anti-inflammatory – and delicious – ingredients and spices in my diet is really making a difference and I am finding that I don’t ache quite as much first thing in the morning (when I used to feel the worst).
I have always tried to balance my blood sugar, eating more proteins and reducing refined carbs, but now I am paying extra attention to it and realising that I no longer have those debilitating hunger attacks. Just eating more mindfully and combining my food to maximise nutrition has given me amazing results.
I am consciously drinking more water and I love the idea of resistant starch being good for me. I used to avoid sushi because of not wanting to eat too many refined carbs, but am delighted to discover that cold rice is ok to eat. I am looking forward to the first crop of Jersey Royal potatoes to make a great cold potato salad with all my bits of fermented veg, Kalamata olives, fresh chopped herbs and some good quality tuna in olive oil mixed in. Look out for the Insta pic! Don’t expect any cold pasta dishes from me though, it just goes against my cultural grain (sorry for the pun).
Above all, what I realise is the most remarkable change in these five weeks is my dramatically improved level of energy.
What I find really useful in the book is that the information is all there, in an easy and accessible format. Taking it one step at a time and adding a good habit or two per week has resulted, for me, in a collection of good eating and lifestyle habits that I have incorporated effortlessly in my daily life and which have improved my health in tangible and measurable ways.
I enter Week 6 with excitement about the next steps.
I cannot believe that Week 5 is here!
This week I have eaten a lot of foods to help balance my body. I have had lots of spinach in smoothies, oats and milk for maximum tryptophan and blueberries for a snack.
I always eat my food in a rush, especially at lunch time when most days I would eat lunch at my desk. Taking time away to enjoy and concentrate on what I am eating this week has made me feel less bloated. I think that has been helped by chewing my food better, not just shovelling it in!
And the chocolate avocado milk drink was a dream!
I find the emerging link between gut health and anxiety fascinating. On colder mornings, I’ve been having porridge to boost my tryptophan levels, or otherwise I’ve been tucking into berries, seeds and Greek yoghurt in the sunshine. During the day, I’m now snacking on a few brazil nuts, and I’m attempting to use my juicer most days, always adding in fresh turmeric and ginger to whatever other ingredients I have available.
At work, I’m trying to stop having my daily a coffee and instead I’ve got a selection of herbal teas. I’m really sensitive to caffeine and even one coffee usually makes me feel a little jittery for a while – which definitely isn’t enjoyable. I think it’s really easy to reach for a quick fix energy-boost when I’m busy on the wards (be it caffeine or carbs) but it’s no good me looking after my patients all day if I’m not looking also looking after myself.
Rather than grabbing a sandwich on the go I’m now taking in a salad and giving myself a break to actually sit down and be mindful as I eat. I’ve also loved the excuse to buy fresh crab for dinner and I’ve been serving it with a watercress salad for a double hit of tryptophan (and hopefully happy hormones).
Overall I’m feeling much lighter and less tired. Personally, I don’t normally suffer from bloating or IBS-type symptoms so I’ve not noticed any particular gut changes. However, I’m hooked on achieving optimum gut health due to the impact it has on both wellbeing and the immune system.
I’ve reached the end of Week 5 and I feel fabulous. I feel calmer, more energetic and awake. I started this programme with lots of hope and determination, but never did I think that the results would be this good.
For my fifth week, I think I managed to find the balance that this chapter was all about. I upped my tryptophan by choosing lean protein sources and kept adding organic spinach to everything (I have always loved spinach!). Berries became my new best friends as I ate them fresh and mixed in with homemade smoothies. I’ve always loved nuts so restocked my cupboard with a variety of different ones and took them to work in small containers for brain-boosting snacks on the go.
I wasn’t able to reduce my caffeine intake by much (I typically only have one cup of coffee a day) but did opt for decaf on some of those days and have stopped drinking coffee on an empty stomach – a difficult habit for me to break!
The other major change for me this week was swapping the time of day when I eat fruit. It used to be my after-dinner ritual, but Week 5 helped me to understand that it may be the cause of that bloating feeling I sometimes get, so I now snack on fruits more regularly throughout the day rather than all in one go after my evening meal.
My organic vegetable garden is going strong and I will soon have plentiful amounts of home-grown potatoes and strawberries to enjoy with my abundant herbs. A little more patience and my other crops will begin to produce.
Liz adds: It’s wonderful to read just how much happiness can come about with better gut health! Improving sleep, reducing anxiety – as well as practical digestive improvements such as reduced bloating and weight-loss – have been such beneficial (if perhaps unexpected) side effects for all of my 6-week testers.
My go-to breakfast is porridge, so I was pleased to learn that this is an excellent combination to strengthen serotonin. I am now constantly looking for ways to add gut-healing properties to each meal, so will add to the porridge a banana, ground nuts, raw honey and chia seeds.
I’ve lost around half a stone now, which is a great benefit. I have struggled in parts with this week because I have been on holiday and drinking sangria and eating white bread which is so hard to resist when they automatically give with each meal!
Aside from that, I have been relaxing this week, and eating a lot of fresh fish and salads, and plenty of water. Away from my busy life, one thing I have noticed that I had not really thought about is that I am going to the toilet twice a day now and am never as bloated as I used to be. My body seems to be working better, and I know that I can get back on track next week (Just before starting The Good Gut Guide a kind man had stood up for me mistaking me for a heavily pregnant lady!)
To get started with Liz’s ultimate wellbeing plan for a healthy gut, order your copy of The Good Gut Guide today!