Christmas gifts that keep giving: Gut Reaction’s top 5 wish list

The gift of Inner Balance with HeartMath (from £143)

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HeartMath Inner Balance is a fantastic option for those wanting to improve emotional and physical health. This clever device delivers instant heart rate variability feedback AND can be used to effectively re-train the nervous system, leading to less-stress and better moods.

Science has now shown us that the rhythm of our heart beat affects how we think and feel, and that learning to shift your heart rhythm through heart-centred breathing activities may increase your emotional composure, help you feel less-stressed or anxious and think clearer. And who doesn’t want that?

Find out more: www.heartmath.co.uk/

The gift of genetic insight with NutriQlu (from £280)

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Did you know that by tailoring your nutritional needs to your genetic profile, the benefits of nutrition on your health can be maximised? The NutriQlu test will unlock the secrets of your DNA to identify genetic predispositions for food intolerances, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, ideal exercise type and more.

This simple swab test essentially takes scientifically complex information and converts it into a custom actionable report - essentially a personalised prescription of dietary and exercise recommendations enabling you to train smarter, eat better and recover faster.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how genetic testing can help you better manage your health and habits, please contact me for a chat today and I’ll also be able to provide you with access to my discount code entitling you to 5% off Qlu’s own prices.

Find out more: www.gutreaction.co.uk/testing

The gift of essential oils with Doterra

This year I’ve started to learn about the power of essential oils in helping manage health naturally.

What I love is that they can be used in so many ways – whether that be misting to create an uplifting environment in the home, attending to family health complaints, or pampering one’s body or skin.

I’m a fan of the Doterra brand for the incredible quality of their oils and, if you’re not familiar with them already, I can connect you with an essential oils expert who will guide you in how to make best use of any oils you purchase for yourself or others.

View the Doterra Christmas Gift guide

Buy now: www.mydoterra.com/followgutreaction

The gift of water with Chilly Bottles (from £20)

I carry mine everywhere!

Single-use plastic bottles make me sad so I love the concept of reusable water bottles - and this stylist range is just the best when it comes keeping water cool when out and about or at the gym.

Find out more and buy now: www.chillysbottles.com

The gift of nourishment with Gut Reaction (£90)

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Helping people prioritise their nutrition and wellbeing is a great way to show you care and help them start 2019 feeling at their best.

I’ve created a special offer so you can give that opportunity to someone you love to help them identify any weak areas in their current nutritional status and lifestyle habits, and get inspired about making some small but positive changes that will get them great results.

It’s just £90 for a gift voucher for a one-hour Nutrition & Wellbieng Consultation plus a mini follow-up (value £150).

Find out more and buy now: www.gutreaction.co.uk/gift-vouchers



Seasonal health: three top tips for living well to stay well

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As the weather gets colder and the nights draw in, the season of coughs and colds begins. Now is the perfect opportunity to build up your body’s natural defences.

Read on to understand the immune system and my three favourite tips for living well to stay well this Autumn and Winter.


What’s the purpose of your immune system?

Protection!  It’s your body’s own natural defence system and it can protect you from getting the common cold and the flu.  And it can also protect you from developing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, and cancer.  

How does the immune system protect us?  

There are a variety of mechanisms through which your immune system keeps you healthy. The immune system is highly sophisticated when you start to delve into the layers, including the innate and the adaptive systems and their related defence mechanisms.

At a simple level, we can use the military analogy of an army protecting its territory. The immune system comprises an army of soldiers or specialist immune cells that exist in the white blood cells, and they identify enemies and effectively destroy them. The enemies could be a range of things, for example, foreign agents like bacteria and viruses and also defective body cells. 

For the last 100 years or so, western medicine has focussed on drugs designed to destroy invaders on our behalf. Think about antibiotics, antiviral agents, and chemotherapy. These clearly have a legitimate time and place, but only recently does it feel like our attention is turning ‘within’ and back towards the natural methods that strengthen our own defences.

This is really important to recovery from illness and to preventative healthcare, as our ability to react rapidly to a new invader makes all the difference between a minor 24-hour cold or stomach bug, and a week in bed with flu or food poisoning.


My top 3 top things you can do to support your immune system?

With just a little effort, you can integrate some relatively simple things straight away into your daily being to help you build your natural defences:

1. Eat a variety of red foods

There is a vast and wonderful array of foods, herbs, spices which all support the immune system thanks to their wonderful anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties and there are a range of specific nutrients in foods which may help enhance the immune system.

However, what I wish to focus on here is red foods.  Red is not an arbitrary selection, but because in our health red can be seen to symbolically represent the immune system, and many red vegetables and fruits are fantastic sources of antioxidant nutrients which can boost the strength of the immune system and neutralise or disarm potentially harmful chemicals called free radicals in the body which are produced by invaders to fight off the troops of the immune system.

When the production of free radicals overwhelms the body’s need for, and capacity to neutralise them, then cellular damage, inflammation, and chronic disease can result. Antioxidants are molecules that safely interact with free radicals and neutralise them, preventing them from causing damage and reduce the risk of oxidative stress.

There are a variety of antioxidant nutrients your body requires to assist with this process, and they need to be obtained from your diet. Examples of the powerful antioxidant nutrients present in red foods include vitamins C, and E, beta-carotene (the precursor to vitamin A), and a variety of polyphenol compounds such as lycopene, a powerful carotenoid that gives some red fruits and veg their colour, and anthocyanins which are in the flavonoid family.

Think about the red vegetables and fruits you are eating on a regular basis. How many of these could you name off the top of your head?  

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  • Red Apples

  • Beetroot

  • Cranberries

  • Strawberries

  • Cherries

  • Pomegranate

  • Tomatoes

  • Red peppers

  • Raspberries

  • Red cabbage

  • Radishes

  • Red grapefruit

  • Red grapes

  • Rhubarb

  • Red onion

  • Watermelon

  • Goji berries

  • Red currants

  • Blood oranges                                                     


2. Support your Gut health with probiotic foods

If you think of your digestive tract of one of the main gateways into the body, the mucous membranes that line that tract are one of the first lines of defence against infectious agents or pathogens.

Because our intestines are inside our bodies, most people don't realise that it forms a protective barrier between our bloodstream and the external world. But in fact, your gut and your immune system are very closely linked, and 70 to 80 percent of immune tissue is situated in your digestive tract.  

The vast ecosystem of friendly bacteria that reside in your digestive tract are another key form of defence - they have a powerful, beneficial effect on the gut's immune system, aid in the production of antibodies, and help regulate other functions of the digestive system, for example, stomach acid levels, which is also important for defence.

One of a number of factors which impacts our gut flora is antibiotic usage. Antibiotics do not discriminate well between infectious bacteria and commensal bacteria and consequently lead to more problems.  So, to help ensure you don’t deplete your beneficial microflora, you may wish to try giving your body a chance to deploy its natural defences and do not pressure on your GP to prescribe antibiotics to you without adequate grounds to believe a persistent infection is present.

Overuse of antibiotics is also become a bigger problem for society at large as bacteria become resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics and we are seeing the emergence of super-bugs such as MRSA.

To strengthen your own gut flora defences, I recommend regularly eating one or more probtioic-rich foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, or natto.  And consider taking a multi-strain probiotic supplement. If you are unsure where to start with this, please contact me and I will happily point you in the right direction.
 

3. Maintain gentle movement daily

Physical exercise is important for lymphatic drainage. The immune systems utilises the lymphatic vessels to bring any ‘invaders’ into its ‘forts’ such as the lymph nodes, tonsils, the appendix, spleen, and specialist patches in the digestive tract, from which the invaders can be destroyed.  Since the lymphatic system has no pump, it relies on muscle movement to move lymphatic fluid.

Here are some key thoughts to consider when thinking about how your own activity levels are affecting your immune system:

  • Regular movement in natural daylight

  • Ensure calming forms of exercise form part of your activities

  • Be wary of over-exercising which can increase oxidative stress and create a burden on the immune system if it’s already taxed

Prone to being unwell when the cold weather hits and interested in what else you can do?

I have created an Autumn Reset eating plan which includes a super simple, mix-and-match, flavourful menu, perfect for those in need of seasonal inspiration and want to approach the winter months eating well, feeling well and looking well.
Find out more here >

Bun fat faster! Watch your fat disappear! Ketogenic (‘keto’) diets are in fashion...

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You’ve probably read the headlines over the summer and wondered whether you should take the plunge if the results are really that dramatic and that easy. But are they, though?

Here's the inside line on what the diet involves, whether it’s healthy and even sustainable for ‘normal’ people. Here goes…

WHAT IS THE KETO DIET AND WHY

The main objective of the ketogenic diet is to get the body to start relying primarily on fat for energy. It is the ultimate low carb diet. It is also moderate in terms of protein and very high in fat.

There are similarities to the Atkins diet, but its fans like to describe it as a more modern version of it - now with a solid scientific basis and with moderate protein inclusion when Atkins prescribed a high amount of protein.

Recent research over the last decade or so has provided strong evidence of the therapeutic potential of ketogenic diets in many health conditions, including:

  • type 2 diabetes

  • polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

  • acne

  • neurological conditions such as epiliepsy

  • the management of respiratory and cardio-vascular risk factors.


Although dieters tend to lose weight, there is more of an emphasis of the ketogenic diet as a therapeutic diet, which may improve compliance for those that follow it for health reasons.

ABOUT KETOSIS

Like the Atkins diet, the ketogenic diet aims at keeping the body in permanent ketosis. Let’s take a look at what that actually is:

Glucose is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy so that it will be chosen over any other energy source. Insulin is produced to process the glucose in your bloodstream by taking it into the cells. Insulin, nicknamed the 'fat storage hormone' is produced in direct proportion to the type and quality of carbs consumed.

But when you lower the intake of carbs in your diet, you force the body into a state of ketosis. Ketosis is a natural process that helps you survive when food intake is low.

When in this state, you produce ketone bodies or ketones, which are produced from the breakdown of fats in the liver. They are an alternative source of energy, when glucose is not available.

Energy from ketones works just as well and feels no different – better, if anything, and the brain actually prefers ketones.

WHAT DO YOU EAT

IN...

  • Meat, fish, poultry, eggs.

  • Leafy Greens like spinach and kale.

  • Above-ground vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

  • High-fat dairy like hard cheeses, cream, butter, etc.

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Avocado

  • Berries – raspberries, strawberries, blueberries blackberries, and other low GL berries

  • Other fats – coconut oil, high-fat salad dressing, saturated fats, etc.

OUT...

  • All grains like wheat, corn, rice, barley

  • All sugars: honey, agave, maple syrup, and all sweet treats like chocolate, cookies

  • The majority of fruit including apples, bananas, oranges

  • Below ground starchy veg: Potato, yams, beetroot, carrots

  • Seeds and legumes such as quinoa, beans, lentils, peas are also hard to be part of the ketogenic diet

As you can see, the ketogenic diet is largely based on protein and fat, and is filling and satisfying. This means no hunger cravings and consistent energy levels.

The downside is the diet is very strict. Cutting out carbs means more than just avoiding the bread, pasta, rice and potatoes that we think of as carbohydrates, but also other foods including many fruits and a number of starchy vegetables and even some nuts, such as cashews.

I believe to do keto well, you still need to focus on the quality of foods and it isn't enough to purely focus on the macros. Just because something fits your macros (think sausages, bacon, and other processed meats in this instance) doesn’t mean it’s super healthful and providing a balance of nutrients. To reduce consumption of toxic fats, you need to choose foods with relatively lower toxin levels, such as organic cuts of meat, organic produce, and wild fish. However, note that just choosing organic foods doesn’t completely protect you from all contaminants, but it’s a relatively better choice.

Another thing you might not be prepared for is having to cut back on alcohol (it’s not cut it out entirely – spirits are OK but watch the sugary mixers, and champagne and wine are not so bad in moderation but it very much depends on your sensitivity to carbs).

GETTING INTO KETOSIS

Although the chart here gives you a rough indication, there are no fixed percentages for macronutrient distribution (ie not a specific ratio of fats, carbs, etc.) as not everyone is equally sensitive to carbohydrates. This means you’ll have to test where your carb threshold lies by measuring ketone bodies in the urine, blood or breath.

You might be reading this thinking, ‘I can do this’, but the reality can be very testing. One client was committed for 16 days and didn’t, during that time, ever reach ketosis. It can, in fact, take 4 weeks to get there and during the transition period many experience ‘keto flu’ – flu-like symptoms, headaches, tiredness, and weakness. This happens when the body runs out of glucose and has not yet learned to switch to using fat for energy – that’s because it hasn’t had to for such a long time.

Until you become ‘fat adapted’ (i.e. your body has re-learned to use fat) there is a period of low energy. It is this taxing time that can put people off.


A GUT HEALTH PERSPECTIVE

I love encouraging my clients to enjoy an abundance of colourful plant foods in their daily diets for their overall health and because the gut microbiome loves variety in our diets: a diverse diet means diverse flora and this is associated with better health outcomes.

The benefits of consuming vegetables and fruit is one research point in nutritional science that can't be argued with. Numerous studies demonstrate a decreased risk of chronic disease and mortality in those who consume more fruits and vegetables, thanks to their high levels of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals. Studies have found that the health benefits rise with the more vegetables and fruits consumed.

However, fruits and vegetables also inherently have some amount of carbohydrates. When you consume a diet that is supposed to have only 25 to 50 grams of carbs per day as per keto, it becomes very difficult to consume the recommended 9 to 14 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

A ketogenic diet typically incorporates less fibre than I advocate which I believe could negatively impact the gut microbiome and lead to dysbiosis. It may be possible to reduce potential issues through consuming a prebiotic fibre, such as oligofructose-enriched inulin.

It is important to take care when creating your meal plans for this type of diet that you include quality fruits and vegetables as much as possible, especially those high in fibre, rich in nutrients, and lower in carbohydrates.

IS IT FOR YOU?

The people that do well on a ketogenic diet are those with a really compelling reason to do it, perhaps one of the chronic health conditions this diet can help.

I do believe the rest of us mere mortals will struggle to be committed enough to get into and stay in ketosis for long.

So, if your primary goal is weight loss, be assured there are other, more balanced approaches, to achieve the end results you seek.

When you are thinking about a plan like this, you might also want to consider your own nature! I believe there is a risk with some people that what starts as a healthy new dietary approach could develop into an unhealthy fear of carbs, even what I consider to be healthy ones. There can be a fine line between dietary vigilance and obsession - so that's one to watch depending on your personality type.

Finally, you also need to be aware of how your body might respond if you try a ketogenic plan for some time and then decide to come off it. If you want to help ensure you don't regain lost weight quickly, it may not be quite as a straight forward as adding carbs back in on top, but a process of rebalancing the whole 'macro picture'.

If you choose to embark on following a ketogenic diet, it is best to educate yourself as much as possible to determine the healthiest, best way to make sure it works for you.

And if you are keen to find out more about ketogenic diets or if you'd like to book a complimentary call to discuss which approach to weight loss would best suit you, please do get in touch.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? HAVE YOU TRIED KETO?

We'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences so feel free to post here :)

Why you might want to give your Gut a mini-break

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Are you struggling with chronic complaints such as a bloated tummy, cramping, irregular bowel movements or low energy, and suspect your daily diet is the main culprit?

There is no question in my mind that a healthier lifestyle is neither a diet and nor a race. It's a choice that you are going to care for yourself for the long-run, with nourishing habits that support your digestive system as the body's gateway to health and wellbeing.

However, I know that many people struggle to take the first step, or feel overwhelmed by the thought of addressing old behaviours. Sometimes people seek out pills, colon cleanses, hydrotherapy, enemas, and other quick fixes which aren't the answer. In some cases, they may do more harm than good.

The power is in your food and in your life choices.

That's why I have created a 3-Day Digestion Vacation - a simple plan to help you give your Gut a well-deserved break from processed foods and common gut irritants.

At just three days, it's a positive, manageable and enjoyable first step towards change. 

It will give you a taste for a new style of eating and as you, and your gut, start to feel the benefits, it gives you a basis to move forward with other ways to further boost and rebalance your digestion system and elevate your health and energy. 

If you'd like to get your free copy of the 3-Day Digestion Vacation now, please visit my website here > 
If you're already a member of Guzzle Guts, my private Facebook group, you can access the plan straight way in the Files section here >

It's all about the Gut - how fit is yours?

Whether or not you struggle with digestive issues, I believe gut health is something we should all pay attention to. I want to explain why, and share some simple steps you can take to get your own gut in shape. 

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The gut microbiome is one of the hottest health topics of late, and not without good reason. Inside the digestive tract of each and everyone of us resides a vast 'ecosystem' of organisms such as bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses and protozoans.

There is mounting research suggesting that the gut microbiome might potentially be as complex and influential as our genes when it comes to our health and happiness. And it is increasingly treated by scientists as an organ in its own right.

As well as being implicated in mental health issues, it is thought these microscopic gut bugs may influence our mood, weight, immune function, inflammation, allergies, skin health, metabolism, appetite and more. 

If you read my article from February, 10 Reasons Why you should Care about your Digestive System even if you don't have Gut issues, then you'll start to get an understanding of the far-reaching consequences of an imbalanced gut, and how certain health conditions such as poor skin, lethargy, Alzheimer’s are linked strongly to gut health. 

The good news is that by re-balancing and re-nourishing your gut, it is possible to enjoy a wide range of health and wellbeing benefits, including: 

  • less digestive discomfort such as bloating, cramping 
  • normalised bowel movements
  • a clearer head
  • improved immunity
  • better mood
  • weight loss
  • reduced cravings for sugar 
  • more energy
  • improved skin
  • reduced symptoms of eczema, asthma, hayfever

What can negatively impact gut health?  

  • Antibiotics - these tend to kill-off the beneficial strains along with the bad strains so can upset the natural balance of bacteria
  • Frequent or chronic use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which may cause damage to the gut lining
  • Gastrointestinal infection
  • Excessive alcohol or binge drinking
  • Low-fibre, refined and highly processed food based diets
  • Not chewing your food well – food that is not broken down properly can challenge digestion 
  • Overeating can overwhelm the digestive system

How many of these may have affected your own gut? 

And what does the gut love? 

  • Lots of plant-based food in the diet - the gut bacteria thrives on a diversity of vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds 
  • Prebiotic foods that provide a certain type of fibre that gut microbia ferment or feed-off. Foods with these properties include flax seed, leeks, asparagus, and jerusalem artichokes 
  • Probiotic foods such as kefir, kimchee, yoghurt, kombucha, sauerkraut. These foods are prepared using traditional fermentation methods which results in them being loaded with beneficial bacteria
  • Good hydration
  • Exercise – this can be very effective at raising levels of butyrate, the bacteria that helps protect against colon cancer. Exercise may also help general gut motility and help you feel less bloated.

How many of these can you say apply to you, regularly? 

What steps can you take to nurture a fitter gut? 

If you're ready to experience the benefits of a thriving gut, you may be able to identify from the lists above some areas where you have room for improvement. 

If you're feeling overwhelmed about where to start, I recommend you pick just one thing to apply your focus to, and make an effort to work on that area consistently.

The good news is the gut is very responsive to positive diet and lifestyle changes - and you may soon be reaping the rewards.

Low-sugar Summer Sips everyone will love

Summer parties are often filled with sweet, alcoholic drinks that can unbalance your blood sugar levels and lead to weight gain.

Yet I know many clients wince at the idea of only having water on such occasions, and it’s not always easy to know what to drink instead without feeling deprived.

That's why I’ve put together some truly delicious and refreshing alternatives to see you through the Summer... Cheers!

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Strawberry lemonade 

Serves 8

  • 2 litres water
  • 8 lemons, squeezed (around 280 ml)
  • 1/2 -3/4 tsp liquid stevia (try NuNaturals)
  • 250g strawberries, sliced  

In a large jug combine water, lemon juice and stevia. Simply stir in sliced strawberries and serve over ice.


Cucumber, mint + lemon fizz

Serves 6

  • 1.5ltr sparkling water
  • half a cucumber, sliced
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • Put all the ingredients in a large jug, chill and serve. 


Sparkling kombucha

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Kombucha is an elegant, healthy alternative to sparkling soft drinks and is known for being full of naturally occurring vitamins, acids, and beneficial bacteria (yes, it's great for gut health too).

Making it is a real labour of love. Learn how here:  https://happykombucha.co.uk/pages/how-to-make-kombucha.

Alternatively, you can buy it ready-made. (And no, I don't blame you!) I love PJ Kombucha (www.pjkombucha.com) for the purist approach to production they take to ensure a nutrient-rich, flavour-full drink which knocks the socks off other brands. 


Sparkling cherries

Serves 2

  • 4tbsp Cherry Active
  • 500ml sparkling water

Add sparkling water to the Cherry Active and serve with ice.


Sparkling lime water

Exactly as it sounds… Sparkling water with a good squeeze of fresh lime juice over ice. Simple and refreshing – and you can guarantee a pub will have the ingredients (but likely you’ll need to remind them about using fresh lime and not cordial). 


Garden Sour

  • Seedlip Garden (a distilled, non-alcoholic drink*), 50ml 
  • Cloudy apple juice, 35ml
  • Lemon Juice, 15ml
  • Cider vinegar, 5ml  
  • Sprig of rosemary & thyme 

Seedlip is premium distilled non-alcoholic drink. The price may make you wince (it’s no cheaper than buying alcoholic spirits) but it’s hot news this year and making an appearance in all the best bars. Find it at www.seedlipdrinks.com