This week, our trainer India shares her knowledge on gut health and seasonal issues that may have an effect on it. To train with India, please contact us or reach out via our socials, or find her on our app.
Now it’s mid November we are officially in winter, which means colder days and darker nights. The seasonal effect on people’s moods and motivational levels is well documented, but this can also have a knock on effect on our all-important gut health.
The gut is essentially the whole of the digestive system involving the intake and expenditure of food. It is so important to our overall health that is also known as the ‘second brain’.
Not only is the gut essential for a strong immune system but it aids in regulating hormones, eliminating toxins from the body and contributing to positive mental wellbeing.
You will know if you need to pay more attention to your gut if you suffer from abdominal pain, bloating after meals, reflux, or flatulence, but also less obvious symptoms like headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and immune system weakness.
Things that we don’t tend to associate with bad gut health are emotions. When people become stressed, fatigued, ill and anxious, it impacts our gut more than we realise.
The brain and the gastrointestinal system are strongly connected to the point where psychological factors can actually influence the physiology of the gut. For mental health, a 2015 Cell Journal study found that, although serotonin is well known as a brain neurotransmitter, approximately 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract. A lack of this serotonin (cultivated by bacteria in the gut) has been linked to IBS and leaky gut.
Unfortunately many of us suffer loss of motivation to make “healthy” choices in winter. Swimwear is out and baggy jumpers are in, plus the cold weather makes us crave the comforts of bread, pasta, chocolate and more. To make matters worse, this constant hammering of refined flour can aggravate our digestion and cause inflammation, bloating and severe pains, all making it even harder to get to the gym when it’s dark outside.
But don’t forget exercise has a profound effect on our gut health too. Working out can change your gut microbiome composition promoting certain gut microbes that reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Here are a few easy tips to help keep your gut health under control this winter:
- Sate your appetite by drinking filtered water – modern water systems are full of chlorine which has been known to kill our beneficial gut bacteria.
- Limit your intake of white carbohydrates such as bread and pasta and swap them for quinoa, buckwheat or brown rice.
- Add lots of vegetables to your winter dishes to strengthen your immune system. Your plate should look colourful!
- A few healthy winter meal suggestions – bean stew, aubergine lasagne, casserole, chicken soup.
- Don’t let the dark evenings stop you from being active, schedule in your workouts to ensure that you complete them. If a personal trainer isn’t an option right now, try teaming up with a friend to help keep you accountable and make sessions worth looking forward to. Alternatively many people find switching to morning workouts to be beneficial for regulating their circadian rhythms at this darker time of year.