I invited the amazing Misty from @Mistys_gut_instinct to the blog to talk all things ‘gut health’ and to help explain how we should all be looking after our tummies to help our overall health. She outlines how gut healthy can improve your skin too – Something I’m really keen to hear (going through TSW myself.) Read on to find out how…
Meet the Guest Blogger:
Mistys skin journey
“For as long as I can remember, my life has revolved around my skin. I can’t do this, I best not go there, I must not eat this or that, I should avoid x, y & z… My life has been full of restrictions, and all because of a skin condition called eczema.
Over the years it was treated with tons of emollients and steroid creams. When one stopped working, I would be prescribed another, receiving stronger, more potent ones each time. Little did I know at the time it was causing more harm than good. You see, steroid use really messes with the skins natural function. It encourages your skin to become weak and lazy because the steroids suppress the natural immune response, and this then stops the process of natural skin cell regeneration.
Roll on to my late 30’s
By the time I hit my 30’s my skin was a mess. It just didn’t know how to function anymore, and I developed other health issues too. Nothing major but little things like bloating, not sleeping well, anxiety and my self-esteem understandably was at an all time low.
Then one day, quite a few years ago now I heard the fantastic Liz Earl talking about Gut Health on This Morning…..and that was it. A switch flicked in me and I began to research. I have not stopped to this day. A fire was lit in my belly, literally!
What is Gut Health?
Well quite frankly, it is the centre of our overall health and well being. The science shows us more and more what impact the health and function of our gut microbes have on us. 70% of our immune system resides in the gut, so that alone should spark something in us all, especially now with Covid-19 saga. I could write lists pages long about our gut functions but that’s for another time! Back to my story…
The List – my list
If your immune system is not functioning currently, it can be the factor that causes the allergic responses like itching, redness and hives. Inflammation of the gut can lead to red inflamed skin, as can a sluggish gut function. There are many causes of gut inflammation, these could be diet related, stress, trauma, antibiotics, food poisoning, parasites…..the list goes on!
Some symptoms of an unhealthy gut include:
- Food sensitivities,
- Incessant itching,
- Weight gain,
- Mood imbalance,
- Anxiousness and yes you got it,
- Skin break outs.
If one or more of these symptoms rings a bell, then you most definitely should begin to delve deeper into the function of your gut.
Did you know that our skin is our third elimination organ after poops and wees? No wonder our skin flares if our gut is feeling somewhat under the weather!
Another critical area of our gut in particular is our small intestine. This is where we absorb our nutrients. So, it is vital that this is functioning correctly too.
How and where to start looking after your gut health
If you are still with me and are wondering how you can start looking after your gut health, hopefully this should help! I appreciate that the whole gut health thing can be a mine field, especially when getting started as there is so much information out there. This is why I set up my page @mistys_gut_instinct.
- To share my passion for gut health.
- To make gut health more accessible to all and bring health back into our family homes. With the aim of covering all aspects of gut health in relatable and easily achievable terms.
Firstly, gut health isn’t all about the food you eat. Whilst it IS a lot about it, there are other aspects that we can look at to bring an overall harmony to the body to help the gut function to it’s best ability.
Plant based diversity is key to good gut health
In the words of Dr Bulsiewicz , author of the incredible book ‘Fiber Fueled’,
“The number one predictor of a healthy gut is in the diversity of the plant based food that we eat.”
What is meant by this is the more variety of the plant based foods that we eat, the better. This doesn’t necessarily mean a vegan diet, it just means that the majority of the foods you eat should be plants. When I say plants, I mean fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses, legumes, wholegrains, and fresh herbs.
A great place to start is to try and reach thirty plant based items per week as a minimum. Don’t worry if you’re not there yet, it’s a marker to aim for. You’ll be amazed once you start writing down your plants, how addictive it can be. Just focus on improving your number each week. When we started, we were at approximately fifteen to twenty plants per week. Now we are easily at seventy plus per week and that includes the little ones too.
Side note: Only count your whole foods, not processed items.
Why are plant so important for gut health?
Plants contain fibre. And more importantly, each plant contains different fibre. You can count red, yellow and green peppers as different plants on your list. Each of these fibres feed different microbes in our gut. Not one is more important than another. Each gut microbe has a job to do and they work away busily behind the scenes through the final parts of digestion, helping us to synthesize our B vitamins and helping our immune system. So, if you never eat broccoli for instance, the broccoli loving microbes will not only fail to do their jobs properly, they will actually die!
It’s a ‘if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it’ situation. Put it his way, if you had more than one child, you wouldn’t just feed one of them, now would you? No! of course not!
From now on, imagine all your microbes as children each and every single one has a place, use, importance and individual characteristic as each other, more than we even know about. They all deserve the same amount of love, attention and food… the right kind.
What else effects the microbiome in our gut?
Before I give you the last four areas to look at, it is important to know that 90% of serotonin, the feel good hormone, is produced in the gut. It is also important to know, that outside stresses and busy lives, equally effect our gut microbiome and it’s ability to do it’s job properly. This is where the areas below come in to play to help your gut.
Sleep is more important than you will ever know, in particular, the quality of sleep that you get. Whilst sleeping, we heal, we rest, and we fast, meaning our gut rests too.
Top tips for a good nights sleep:
- Switch off any gadgets at least one hour before bedtime
- On dark nights during the time leading up to that, wear blue light glasses
- Avoid caffeine after midday
- Routine; try and make bedtime a regular time each day
- A personal favorite of mine is to write down any things going on in your head. The last thing you want is your to do list for the next day whizzing around in your head. If its on paper, it is out of your mind but not lost.
- Maybe wear a sleep mask on lighter evenings
Movement releases endorphins as we know and helps us to feel good. It also helps to balance our blood sugar levels and is the key to our ‘garbage removal system’….also known as our lymphatic system.
As we know, our heart pumps our blood around our body, but our lymphatic system does not have its own pump, it relies on movement to do that. My favourite nugget of information about movement is that it is thought we can increase our healthy gut microbes by up to 40% by moving our bodies more. So just fifteen to thirty minutes walk each day is doing you the world of good.
There is a lot of mixed information out there with regards to fasting. Embarking on a longer fast is a very individual thing, and if starting out, is probably not advisable. What is clear, when looking at the gut, it is most definitely beneficial to eat during a smaller window throughout the day and giving your gut the rest it needs overnight without having to digest food. Ideally a fasting window should be between twelve to fourteen hours. For instance, if your last meal is at 6pm, then eat nothing else while 6am the next morning. Once you have mastered the twelve hours, try increasing the fasting window.
I personally feel that this has been one of my biggest ‘ta-da’ moments with regards to my relationship with food. I feel so much better for having done it and it is most definitely one of my none-negotiable standards. Holidays, parties, late nights, I always wait twelve to fourteen hours after the event before I eat.
Finally….self love / care
I must start this section by saying, that any act of self-love or care is not selfish. In fact I believe it will not only serve you well, it will enable all of your friends and loved ones to experience you at your best too. Just like they deserve.
When it comes to self-love or care, it gives us the opportunity to switch off, to be ourselves and to be in the moment of what ever it is you choose to do.
Self-love or care doesn’t have to be a trip to a fancy spa, it can be simple things like painting your toe nails, reading a book, tuning into a podcast, having a soak in the bath, trying that new hobby you’ve always wanted to do, baking……the list goes on and it can be what ever you want it to be. One of my favorite acts of self-love is grounding and getting out with nature.
How making my gut healthy has helped me
I’m 42 years of age and quite honestly at the best health of my life. My skin is behaving the majority of the time, although it is still a work in progress. This is mainly due to the damage caused by TSW (Topical Steroid Withdrawal). If I do have a blip, it is less severe each time and much more short lived.
My mental health and self esteem are the best they have ever been. I’ve lost over three stone in weight; I sleep well and have next to zero bloating. I’d say that’s a win.
I appreciate that it can look like a massive leap from where you may be at now to where you want to be, but we all have a different starting point and that’s ok!
You could pop to my page and see ALL the things that I am doing and be put off and perhaps think ‘I can’t do all of that.’ Well, I’m telling you my lovelies that you can! I didn’t suddenly wake up one day and do it all, I still don’t.
Here’s the key to my success
- Take it one step & one day at a time.
- Don’t focus on the end goal, have one by all means, but I believe focusing hard on the final destination will only set you up for a fall….it can be way too overwhelming. Starting small is at least a start.
- Be kind to yourself via your thought processes.
- Push yourself! You won’t get anywhere by standing still!
Lastly, I’d like to start by saying thank you to the lovely Jem for asking me to write this guest post and allowing me to share my story. It’s something I am so very passionate about, not just for eczema sufferers, but for everyone.
Wishing you all happy gut health,
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