An important part of my approach in working with my clients to help them to reduce their stress levels is teaching them about their mind-body connection. When you think about something stressful you get that feeling of butterflies in your stomach, or when you have to make a decision you are often asked “What is your gut feeling about it?”
Your gut and your mind are connected so they affect each other. Did you know that your gut is known as the second brain? This is because your gastro-intestinal tract makes over 90% of your body’s serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, anxiety, depression and more). We are 99% bacteria, so maintaining the ideal balance of good and bad bacteria forms the foundation for good health—physical, mental and emotional. If your microbiome – made up of a hundred trillion bacteria – is out of balance, you are likely to end up anxious and/or depressed, suffering from fatigue, poor memory and brain fog.
Your beneficial gut bacteria are easily disturbed and affected by stress. Medications (especially antibiotics and antacids), contraceptive pills, toxins and chemicals taken in through our food, drink, and other environmental influences all damage the composition of our gut flora. The proliferation of good bacteria in our microbiome helps us to restore good gut health and heal symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, depression, headaches, acne, eczema, colds, infections, joint and muscle pain. If you want better immunity, efficient digestion, improved clarity and balance, focus on rebuilding your gut health by making your own probiotic-rich fermented veggies (kimchi) and microbial-rich cultured milk (kefir) and incorporate them into your daily diet. Below is some more information on how you can easily do this.
Kimchi (cultured vegetables)
In Korea kimchi is the national dish. These cultured vegetables are loaded with beneficial bacteria that clean up your intestines, aid digestion, eliminate toxins, control sugar cravings and restore and maintain a healthy inner ecosystem.
It’s easy and cheap to make your own probiotic-rich fermented veggies at home in just three simple steps: chop, salt, and wait.
800 grams of Organic cabbage and carrots shredded
12 grams Himalayan pink salt and some chilli or mustard seeds (optional)
- In a large bowl combine the salt, shredded cabbage and carrot. Mix well with your hands.
- Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature until you begin to notice the salt drawing the liquid out of the veggies. Once you notice a layer of water in the bottom of the bowl, you can spoon this mixture into a jar. Use an airtight container that seals with a rubber or plastic ring and a clamp-down lid.
- Tightly pack the mixture into the jar, push it down with your fist or the back of a wooden spoon, so that it is just covered with its own brine and leave a 2 inch gap at the top of the jar. Top up with water if necessary.
- Seal the jar and allow it to ferment for 2 weeks. In the summer the veggies may culture faster so you can begin tasting after 4-6 days – it is done when it tastes sour like sauerkraut, rather than salty.
- Then refrigerate and it will last in the fridge for months.
Just a spoonful a day is more powerful than a whole bottle of probiotic supplements!
Kefir in Turkish means to “feel good”
Kefir is cultured milk that is a microbial-rich food that helps to restore your body’s inner ecology. It can be made from any type of fresh milk and once cultured, it has a more tart taste and the finished product is thicker like drinking yoghurt.
Kefir is an excellent source of vitamin B-12 and tryptophan (an essential amino acid) which combined with the calcium and magnesium calms your nervous system. The body converts tryptophan into serotonin (the brain chemical linked to mood) and balanced serotonin levels can induce sleep, prevent waking during the night, cure constipation and depression. Kefir is also rich in vitamin B-1 (thiamine) which is known as the “morale vitamin” because of its beneficial effects on the nervous system and on mental attitude.
To Make Kefir
- Buy the freeze dried starter cultures made from kefir grains from your local wholefoods or health shop. Each sachet makes 1 litre of kefir.
- You can use any choice of fresh milk – cows, goats, lacto-free or soya. You can also make fizzy kefir with coconut water or grape juice.
- Slowly add the milk to the sachet to form a smooth paste and gradually add the rest of the milk stirring very well for a few minutes (I prefer to use my electric mixer).
- Pour this mixture back into the milk bottle or any other 1 litre container.
- Let it sit at room temperature for around 12 hours or more until the mixture thickens like yoghurt. You’ll know the kefir is set when you can stand a toothpick up in it.
- Refrigerate for around 6 hours and drink chilled. Once you’ve poured yourself a glass stir it gently to give a smoother consistency.
- Consume within 4 days. Make a fresh batch every few days.
You can also buy kefir from your local health shop or order it from Abel and Cole in the UK.
Taking the time to commit to creating good health for yourself by rebuilding your gut health is a vital part of your self-care. The more you take care of yourself, the more you come back into balance.