Do I have IBS?

Do I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal problem, which leads to unusual sensitivity and muscle activity.

It is very common, afflicts mainly women and tends to develop ebfore the age of 35.

It is also often referred to as spastic colon, spastic colitis, mucous colitis or nervous stomach. However, IBS should not be mistaken for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBS is a functional problem, whereby the operation of the bowels may be abnormal, but no structural problems are present.

How the bowel works

It can be helpful to understand the role of the intestine (bowel), in better understanding IBS.

The intestine stretches from an opening in the stomach to the anus (rear end). It plays a major role in digestion, a process in which food is broken down and absorbed (together with water) into the bloodstream. The small intestine absorbs nutrients, whilst the large intestine assimilates moisture from the matter that is leftover and excretes the waste from the anus.

So, partly digested foodstuff normally leaves the stomach and passes into the small intestine and then into the large intestine. The large intestine helps food to flow through with light squeezing motions. However, with IBS, it is believed that the intestines squeeze too hard or not hard enough and cause food to move too quickly or too sluggishly through the gastrointestinal tract.

Types of IBS

As such, there are broadly two types of IBS:

1. In some instances, material inside the bowel doesn’t progress rapidly enough and an excess of fluid is absorbed, leading to constipation – this is called IBS-C.

2. In other cases, the material moves too quickly and the colon doesn’t take up enough liquid, which leads to diarrhoea – this is called IBS-D.  

Those that have problems with IBS seldom openly discuss it. However, studies suggest its likely prevalence in the United Kingdom to be around 17% of the population.

Unfortunately, doctors do not tend to understand why or how IBS comes about. Furthermore, quite a few doctors feel that the complaint doesn’t really exist and is psychosomatic in origin. Having said that, this opinion is now generally rejected by the natural health fraternity. Moreover, it is the most common condition diagnosed by gastroenterologists and one of the most common disorders seen by primary care physicians.

The specific cause, or causes, of IBS are uncertain, but the following factors are likely to contribute to the onset of this condition:

  • stress
  • depression
  • insufficient intake of dietary fibre
  • hypersensitivity to specific hormones
  • food allergies and sensitivities (e.g. to gluten)
  • problems with the way signals are sent between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract
  • poor diet (including diets high in sugar and/or fat)
  • micro-organisms in the gut (including bacteria and parasites)
  • yeasts
  • coeliac disease
  • and medications.

What is a syndrome?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not classified as a disease. The term “syndrome” may sound alarming, but it’s actually just a broad term used by doctors to describe a group of symptoms.

Although IBS certainly isn’t fatal, its symptoms can drastically impact on quality of life and may even be debilitating.

Certainly, symptoms and severity vary from one person to another (and might change over time). For some, IBS is a chronic (continuous) disorder that characterises daily living. For others, it is a periodic unwelcome visitor. Everybody suffers from an occasional bowel disturbance, but for anyone with IBS, the symptoms are more acute or arise more often.

Whether constant or intermittent, IBS is most often known to cause a mixture of any of the following symptoms: abdominal pain, acid reflux, wind, bloating, fullness, cramping pains, fatigue, severe headaches, passage of mucous, urgency or a a sense of unfinished bowel movements and a change in bowel habits (i.e. constipation and/or diarrhoea).

Clearly, a number of these symptoms are common in other conditions and are rather ambiguous. This explains the frequent difficulty in obtaining a certain diagnosis. More uncommon symptoms include a feeling of sickness and throwing up.

Living with IBS

Unfortunately, there isn’t any known cure for IBS, but it appears that its symptoms can be managed in many different ways. For instance, dietary and lifestyle changes and supporting health supplements. Many people find that high-strength, multi-strain probiotics help with symptoms, along with plant-derived digestive enzymes and high quality dietary fibre.

In contrast, having fatty, processed foods can lead to a tummy upset in virtually anybody. Nonetheless, particular foods and drinks (like greasy burgers, sugar, chocolate, milk products, caffeine and alcohol) are believed to especially aggravate the symptoms of IBS, by (amongst other things) increasing the body’s output of digestive gases and creating an acidic environment.
 
Tension is also believed to increase the motility (the rhythmic contractions) of the intestine that propels food through the gastrointestinal tract and causes abdominal pain and irregular bowel functions.

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Healthy weight management

What does weight management mean?

For many people, weight loss, slimming, dieting, shaping up (whatever you choose to call it) is a life-long struggle and involves a lot of disappointment, negative body image and, often, worry, feelings of hopelessness and damage to self-confidence.

Yet, being in control of your weight and managing it in a controlled, healthy and long-term way (weight management) is central to ensuring long-term health, fitness and even happiness and confidence. Contrast this with “yoyo dieting”, crash diets and seasonal dieting, which are bad for the body and much harder to both achieve and maintain.

Overweight people are at increased risk of numerous ailments, which range from heart disease and high blood pressure, to type-2 diabetes, gallstones, breathing difficulties and many more. Luckily, it is not actually as difficult or confusing as perhaps you might think to get your weight under control in a healthy way – so hang in there!

Recent trends

Weight has been one of the leading health concerns of the Western world in recent years (not least because of COVID-19). Obesity in Britain, for example, is swiftly approaching the chart-topping statistics of the United States. And it is not just adults that have been getting larger – children’s weight is a broadening concern.

How to reduce body-weight in a healthy way

Healthy weight loss is certainly not about extreme dieting or weight loss fads.

Effective weight management is about much more than just focussing on the numbers, like your weight and calories. It is about shifting the way you think about food, starting with a healthy routine which involves permanent changes in daily eating and beneficial exercise habits.

Essentially, healthy weight management is a combination of:

  • optimum nutrition (a well-balanced diet) and
  • a realistic exercise routine.

This doesn’t mean having to live on greens, without treats. Nor does it mean having to go to the gym 7 days a week.

It could possibly mean eating and/or drinking certain things in moderation, while increasing the volume of health foods. And, in terms of physical acitivity, it could mean doing as little as 15 minutes of exercise (such as walking or jogging) every other day – whatever meets your needs, taking into account your own particular health issues and circumstances.

Why so many people give up

One of the hardest things about introducing any lifestyle change is the ability to make that change last for the long term. We have all had the experience – every year, we make promises to eat more healthily, to drink less alcohol, to do more exercise etc. We start off well and, even with the best of intentions, in the majority of cases we slowly revert back to our old easy and ingrained habits.

One of the key causes of this is that the change was either put in place too fast and in a drastic way, and/or it was an unrealistic aim for the long-term.

A very common example is that, nearly all people attempt to completely do away with all treats from their diet. It’s naive to think that you are not going to have, for instance, a chocolate bar or packet of crisps ever again – and the reality is, that is not even necessary for healthy weight management. This approach usually end in binging.

Similarly, very few people are going to be able to sustain going to the gym seven days a week. Again, this is not necessary and, in fact, is not even constructive. Your body needs rest in between exercise.

So, people set themselves up to fail and lose morale when they do.

How to lose weight successfully

To introduce long-term lifestyle change (which is the key to successful weight loss), it’s important to think of a range of physical exercises that you really enjoy and can pick from to keep your routine interesting.

Furthermore, one of the many common fallacies about losing weight is that the meals / foods you can eat are very restricted. That is simply not true. While you will certainly need to cap your consumption of certain foods (especially those high in saturated fats and sugar), you are not automatically barred from enjoying the treats you like every now and then.

A nutritionist or personal trainer can help you to better understand precisely what varieties of food you should eat on a regular basis for a healthy, well-balanced diet and healthy metabolism, and which you should view as treats, to have on the odd occasion. Meal plans can be helpful in the early stages, while you get used to the new regime and break old eating habits.

The key is to understand that no two people are identical and so their is no “one size fits all” diet that will magically make you lose weight. Instead of a diet, you need a meal plan and exercise programme that are specifically tailored to you and your body.

Variety and moderation are the keys to your success!

A little extra support – health supplements…

If you find that you want a little additional help, you may want to think about including weight management supplements in your programme.

Not only can these help you to top-up on additional vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients that will support your body through the weight management process (including support for energy levels, metabolism and immunity etc), they can also assist with resolving any underlying health issues that may be hampering your weight loss efforts. Common examples include digestive problems and hormonal imbalances. 

Plant-based protein powders and tasty light meal shakes can also provide a quick, easy and healthy snack substitute, that keep you feeling full and away from unhealthy treats in-between meals.

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Do I have a weak immune system?

In this new world that we find ourselves, it goes without saying that it is more important than ever to support our immune systems in any way we can, and to take active steps to stay healthy.

While we must all, of course, take the very necessary precautions of wearing our masks, washing our hands and practising social distancing, it is equally important to bolster our bodies’ natural defences, should those “invaders” still find a way in.

If you have noticed that you are prone to feeling tired without an obvious cause, or perhaps you regularly feel under the weather, it may mean that your immune system is under strain or has been weakened.

What are the signs of a weak immune system?

Everybody is different and, if you have concerns about your health you should always consult a qualified doctor. However, here are just a few of the main warning signs that your immune system may be compromised, as well as top tips on what you can do to give it a boost.

1. You regularly suffer from “colds” and infections

If it feels like you always have a cold, it is a good sign that your immune system is struggling. While it is completely normal for adults to have the sniffles from time to time throughout the year, the average is two or three infections. If you are experiencing cold symptoms more often than that, or it takes you longer than around a week to bounce back, your immune system could be described as weakened.

During an active cold, it usually takes a fully-functioning immune system approximately 3 to 4 days to develop the required antibodies to fight off the illness. However, if you are constantly catching colds (or have chronic colds that just won’t budge), that is a very clear sign that your immune system is struggling.

Similarly, if you seem to be beleaguered with other types of infections on a regular basis, such as Candida albicans, your immune system might be sending you signals that it needs help. A compromised immune system in the gut, specifically, can have consquences for our ability to fend off opporunitistic pathogens of this type, that are just waiting for a dip in gut flora to spread and take hold.

Other common infections that might flag a weakened immune system when experienced on a regular basis include:

  • ear infections
  • pneumonia
  • and chronic sinusitis.

2. You have digestive issues

The gut comprises a major part of the body’s immune system (as much as 70%). If you find that you regularly experience digestive complaints (such as stomach pain, constipation, diarrhoea, wind or bloating), it could be a sign that your immune system is compromised.

This is because levels of friendly bacteria and microorganisms that naturally occur in the gut, which help to defend your body from viruses, bacteria and other pathogens, can be lowered during times of illness, use of medication, times of stress etc. If your microbiome is compromised, so too will be your immune system. And you experience the symptoms mentioned above, because lower numbers of good bacteria can directly impact other aspects such as digestion, inflammation and vulnerability to attack – thereby creating a viscious circle.

3. Your wounds are slow to heal

If your immune system is weakened, it can affect a number of other processes and systems around the body, as vital energy and nutrients are diverted to work harder to protect you. For example, your skin goes into damage control mode after you have a cut or scrape. Your body works to protect the wound by sending nutrient-rich blood to the injury to help regenerate new skin. This healing essential healing process depends on healthy immune cells, but if your immune system is weakened, your skin can’t regenerate as it should. Instead, it takes longer and (once again) leaves you more vulnerable to infection.

4. Your stress levels are high

You will no doubt be aware, and will have experienced first hand, that high levels of stress can run you down. Continuous stress then has the unfortunate effect of compromising your immune system further, creating a cycle of compromised immunity. You feel stressed, you get run down, which then leads to heightened stress as you find it harder to cope with your day, and so on.

Put simply, long-term stress weakens the natural responses of your immune system by lowering lymphocyte levels (the white blood cells that help fight off infection). The lower your lymphocyte levels, the more you are at risk of infection.

5. You feel tired all the time

If you feel chronically fatigued, without obvious cause, your body is definitely trying to tell you something. A compromised immune system can directly impact energy levels, as your body attempts to conserve energy to ensure it can fuel your defence against invaders.

So you’ve worked out that you have a weak immune system. Now what can you do about it?

How can I boost my immune system?

There are a number of simple steps that you can take to boost your immune system naturally and effectively:

  • Eat a nutrient-rich diet – eating a diet that is rich in a wide variety of natural, seasonal (preferably organic) whole foods, is a key way to protect and strengthen your immune system. This is because it will give your body all the nutrients that are essential for a optimally functioning immune system, such as vitamin C, vitamin D, essential fatty acids, antioxidants etc. Where necessary, perhaps supplement your diet with additional vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients that you may be concerned are lacking in your diet.
  • Get enough sleep – allowing your body to rest and repair is a very obvious, yet easy and effective, way to support a weakened immune system.
  • Exercise regularly – the other side of the coin is getting regular exercise. Not only does the strengthen the body, it also offers a highly effective means of body detoxification, through the movement of lymph around the body (the fluid that flows through the lymphatic system, that contains white blood cells).
  • Maintain a healthy weight – it seems very likely that obesity is a key factor in adverse response to COVID-19 infections. But aside from COVID, maintaining a healthy weight is a key aspect in maintaining a healthy body generally, with a strong immune system that is fit and able to fight off infections of all kinds.
  • Don’t smoke or over-indulge – try to make good choices on a daily basis and don’t make it harder for your body to function at it’s best. Indulging in smoking, drinking in excess, unhealthy foods etc is only going to compromise your immune system if done on a regular basis.
  • Try to minimise stress – perhaps easier said than done, try to avoid stressful situations wherever possible and increase activities that make you feel good. Exercise will help to release endorphins, and activities like yoga and Tai Chi have been shown to actively increase T-cell counts.

A strong immune system is the key to good health and longevity, so the more you can do to protect it, the better.

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How to eat a balanced diet

What is a balanced diet?

Everyone always talks about “eating a balanced diet”, but have you ever wondered what that actually means?

Firstly, it is important to note that a balanced diet is essential for general health and well-being, as well as for maintaining a healthy weight. How it is achieved in practice can be very different for different people – not least because every individual is different, taking into account factors such as lifestyle, level of activity and energy demands, metabolism, pre-existing medical conditions, age, gender, health goals etc.

For example, athletes, vegetarians, vegans and those suffering from food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances will all have very different dietary requirements.

Having said that, the broad meaning of a balanced diet is simply one that includes an appropriate amount of food from the various food groups, along with plenty of pure water. Moderation and variety are key.

The modern diet

Unfortunately, in this modern age (with growing time and financial constraints), more and more people are relying on “fast foods” / “junk foods”, ready-meals, frozen foods and highly refined and processed foods to make up the majority of their meals.

Although obviously time-savers, these types of foods tend to be high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, salt, saturated fats and chemicals (such as food additives and preservatives). Not only do they fail to supply the body with the nutrients that it needs, they actually contribute to toxin build-up, which can (for example) potentially lead to digestive problems, poor immunity, weight gain and all of the problems that come with it (including increased risk of diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure etc).

Another common phenomenon is that people will often skip meals in an attempt to lose weight, which in reality is counter-productive. Not only is this approach unhealthy (and has the potential to damage your digestion and internal organs), it can actually prevent weight loss and even contribute to weight gain. Although this sounds illogical, when you think about it, it does make sense.

How skipping meals can lead to weight gain…

It is important to activate your metabolism with the right foods at certain times of the day. Skipping meals (particularly breakfast) can lead to weight gain in a number of ways.

  • When you don’t eat for a prolonged period of time, your body can go into “starvation mode” and your metabolism then slows down to preserve energy. This means that your body will compensate for the inadequate calories by burning fewer calories than it normally would. When your body goes into starvation mode it does not draw from its fat reserves for energy, making it more difficult to lose weight.
  • It tends to result in extreme hunger later in the day, which can then lead to cravings, bingeing and weight gain.
  • It gives you an uneven distribution of calories throughout the day.
  • It means you are depriving your body of the energy it needs to properly function, exercise, burn calories etc.
  • It causes low blood sugar levels and delays insulin response, which can lead to diabetes.
  • It is a temporary measure and won’t solve your long-term weight problems.

Skipping meals is therefore clearly not the answer to healthy weight loss and a balanced diet. The most effective means of losing weight and keeping off is adopting a sensible weight management plan, i.e. making healthier eating choices, exercising, drinking pure water and keeping your metabolism active. Metabolism plays a key role in how quickly you burn fat and lose weight; therefore, it cannot be overlooked as part of your plan for weight management and optimum nutrition.

Why is a balanced diet important?

Exercise alone won’t make you “healthy” – it is just one piece of the puzzle. As the saying goes, you are what you eat. A balanced diet is arguably the most important factor because it gives you access to the broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, salts, oils and other nutrients required by your body to function in an optimal way, including the energy to exercise.

Learning how to maintain a balanced diet is important for long-term health and weight management.

Where do health supplements come into it?

As a person trying to achieve a truly balanced diet and manage your weight, you might choose to take health supplements for a number of reasons, e.g.:

  1. As a result of depleted soil, long-distance importation, long shelf-life, pasteurisation, cooking methods (such as microwaving) and chemicals in our food, it is often lacking in nutrients, including digestive enzymes. For example, the level of vitamin C in vegetables can decrease by half within 5 minutes of being cut and by up to 70% after just 20 minutes. Similarly, cooking food destroys around half of the protein content and approximately 60% of vitamins and renders about 60% of the minerals non-absorbable. Nutrient-dense, food form supplements can help you top-up on nutrients easily and conveniently, every day.
  2. Restricted food choice can often make it harder to ensure you are getting the full spectrum of nutrients that your body needs on a daily basis. Many slimmers, vegans, vegetarians and others with restricted diets (such as allergy or intolerance sufferers) therefore choose to supplement their diets with tailored health foods and products.
  3. Those suffering from long-standing digestive health problems will often find that it is harder for them to absorb nutrients and lose weight. Digestive system issues are a common side-effect of being over-weight, most likely due to poor diet over a number of years. Many slimmers and those with digestive disorders therefore find that they benefit from, for example, colon cleansers and cleanse and detox supplements as part of their wider weight management programme. Others use probiotics and digestive system supplements to support their inner health and help to restore balanced levels of gut flora.

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Meal shakes for weight loss

Healthy weight management – losing weight and keeping it off!

Protein powders and meal shakes are now two of the most popular and versatile types of dietary supplements available.

Meal shakes and protein powders

Support a balanced diet, appetite control and more…

Meal shakes and protein powders are used for a wide variety of reasons, by a broad spectrum of people, for various health goals. For example:

  • by slimmers seeking low-calorie, nutrients-fortified healthy snack alternatives
  • by those leading an active lifestyle, for support of high energy levels
  • by those with food allergies or intolerances (such as a dairy allergy or gluten intolerance)
  • by those who are health-conscious, as a quick and easy nutrients top-up everyday
  • by those on low-protein diets, such as vegetarians and vegans
  • by those with restricted food choice, such as slimmers, who wish to maintain optimum nutrient intake.

Weight management

A number of studies have suggested that a high-protein diet combined with regular exercise can support the natural weight loss process, enhance fat burning and improve muscle tone and blood fat levels. Most notably, protein can assist in the repair and growth of muscle. This, in turn, leads to more calories being burned each day.

Diets with higher levels of protein may also help people to gain better control over their appetites and calorie intake, as well as help to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce cravings.

Everyone knows that the slimming process can be a challenge. Most weight management programmes involve limited food choice and a reduction in calories. This can sometimes result in a nutrient-deficient diet, if the slimmer is not careful.

For those who want to reduce their calorie (and fat and sugar) intake, but nevertheless want to make sure that they are getting a good amount of quality lean protein, vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients daily, meal shakes and protein powders can provide ideal support, particularly if they are sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and fortified with nutrients.

Of course, nothing replaces a balanced diet, but meal shakes and protein powders can be helpful in terms of substituting unhealthy snacks and boosting nutrient intake.

An active lifestyle

While protein is an essential macro-nutrient for everyone, it is particularly important for those leading an active lifestyle. It plays a key role in keeping the immune system strong and keeping energy levels high. In fact, it is one of the main sources of energy for those following a low-carbohydrate diet.

Vegetarians, vegans and raw food / living food fans

For vegetarians and vegans, a common issue is that they do not take in sufficient calories or protein to meet their body’s full nutritional needs.

Protein is a vital nutrient, which plays many roles in the functioning of our bodies, including building and repairing new cells and muscle tissue, and keeping the metabolism functioning efficiently.

Nutritional guidelines recommend that, as a broad rule of thumb, between 10-15% of total calories should be sourced from protein – ideally, lean protein.

However, a vegetarian or vegan diet does not have to mean a diet lacking in protein or healthy calories – there are a number of excellent plant-based sources out there, which offer high-quality, balanced and complete protein. What’s more, if you are a vegetarian or vegan trying to lose weight, your available protein sources are actually more conducive to your weight loss goals than traditional protein sources (which are high in saturated fat and calories). Plant protein tends to be high in fibre, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and healthy fats.

If you are a vegetarian or vegan who finds it hard to include these first class plant protein foods in your daily meals, vegan meal shakes and protein powders can play an incredibly helpful role in your diet, to address not only the problem of ensuring appropriate intake of protein and calories, but also to assist with daily nutrient supply.

Dietary supplementation

Anyone who lives with an allergy (whether that be to gluten or dairy or any other form of food allergy or intolerance), will know how hard it can be to find foods that suit their lifestyle and/or medical needs. This becomes even more challenging when you are trying to lose weight.

Food choice can often become very limited and, without variety in the diet, a person’s overall well-being can start to suffer. This is never ideal, but when you are in the process of slimming, you really need all the energy you can muster to support increased levels of physical activity.

It is important to bear this challenge in mind and take proactive steps to address it. For example, through careful meal planning and dietary supplementation.

Quite often, slimmers with allergies or intolerances find that meal shakes and protein powders that are dairy, wheat, gluten and sugar free (with no artificial ingredients) can help them to top-up on nutrients and healthy calories, while helping to keep them fuller for longer.

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How do I balance my gut flora?

Do I have dysbiosis?

Dysbiosis refers to a microbial imbalance on or within the body; in other words, an imbalance of good versus bad bacteria.

It most often occurs in the digestive tract (leading to unpleasant symptoms, such as bloating, excessive wind, IBS symptoms etc). However, it can also present on any exposed surface or mucous membrane, such as in the vagina, lungs, nose, sinuses, ears, nails or eyes.

For the purposes of this post, we will focus on intestinal dysbiosis, where digestion is compromised.

Toxic bowels and overall declining health can often be caused by diminishing levels of friendly bowel flora, coupled with and caused by the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and parasites, such as Candida albicans.

Bacterial enzymes can deactivate digestive enzymes in the gut (essential for the proper digestion of food and absorption of nutrients) and convert human bile or components of food into chemicals, which promote the development of diseases. Some by-products of bacterial enzyme activity, like ammonia, also hinder normal brain function and various other essential processes in the body. These by-products, when absorbed, need to be processed by the liver, placing it under additional strain.

What can cause this imbalance?

An imbalance in bowel flora can be caused by the proliferation of pathogenic parasites, yeast and/or bacteria and can have any number of specific causes. For example:

  • stress
  • illness
  • poor digestion (including low levels of digestive enzymes, constipation and other bowel disorders)
  • chemical exposure
  • poor diet
  • overuse of medication (including antibiotics and birth control pills)
  • mercury, for instance, in dental amalgams, may also have a role to play. It is thought that mercury can cause mutations in intestinal bacteria. These bacteria (either directly or indirectly) can then lead to the formation of small holes in the gut lining, which in turn has the potential to lead to dysbiosis and “leaky gut syndrome”.   

Dysbiosis is also often an underlying condition in people who are generally unwell, but is either misdiagnosed, not diagnosed at all or simply dismissed as a non-existent condition. However, natural health experts are generally in agreement that the health of your gut has a direct impact on your overall health. How can it not, when your digestive tract is where you take in nutrients and eliminate waste which, if left in the body too long, can become toxic and a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

As such, dysbiosis has been associated with a number of health conditions, such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) (e.g. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), chronic fatigue syndrome, yeast infections and rheumatoid arthritis.

How do you know if your intestines are healthy?

If you have intestinal dysbiosis, you are likely to experience one or more of the following signs:

  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • intestinal upsets
  • stomach ache
  • bloating
  • cramping
  • wind
  • heartburn
  • burping
  • constipation
  • and/or diarrhoea. 

One of the main reasons for mis- or non-diagnosis of this condition is that these symptoms fit with many other conditions. For example, Candida albicans (also known as “the yeast syndrome”). This is because Candida is actually a form of dysbiosis.

Dysbiosis is just an umbrealla term, which reflects the fact that yeast organisms aren’t the only intestinal parasites that can cause these symptoms. In fact, intestinal bacteria or viruses may be the primary cause of some of these illnesses, not yeast. However, the most serious dysbiosis cases are likely to involve both yeast and harmful bacteria in the intestines.

How do you reset your gut?

It is perfectly achievable to re-balance your bowel flora, with careful attention to your diet (including supplementation) and lifestyle.

However, it should be noted that after suffering intestinal diseases, the body may be vulnerable to other infections, both bacterial and viral. As such, treatment of dysbiosis would be sensible as part of any overarching treatment of intestinal infections.

One suggested approach is to remove all sources of carbohydrates from the diet, as the molecular structure of these foods is too large for direct entry into the bloodstream.

When diseased intestines are inflamed from the effects of dysbiosis, they cannot break down the molecules that are too large to be transported across the small intestinal surface into the bloodstream. Instead of entering the bloodstream, the undigested starch and sugar molecules serve as a continual source of food for bacteria and fungi. By removing starches and sugars, dysbiosis may possibly be corrected.

However, it is important not to make any drastic dietary changes (such as the complete elimination of a food group) without first consulting a nutritionist, dietitian or GP.

It is also recommended to “crowd out” bad bacteria and other pathogens, by taking in high amounts of friendly bacteria in the form of probiotic supplements. While probiotic foods can certainly be beneficial as part of the revised diet, these probiotics do not tend to colonise the digestive tract (unlike probiotic supplements, which do). It is important to increase numbers of healthy bowel flora for the long-term; not just during the process of digestion.

As such, high-strength multi-strain probiotics can offer support.

For more information, visit our main website

Beetroot nutrition

So you think you know all about the humble beetroot – the root vegetable so often found in pantries since World War II. But you might be surprised to learn that it is so much more than just a pickle. It is actually a nutritional powerhouse, now widely regarded as a “superfood”, and best friend to those who engage in high-intensity, stamina and endurance exercise.

Beetroot history

The beetroot is no stranger to the average household. Also known as “table beet”, it is one of the many cultivated varieties of Beta vulgaris and the most common variety found in Britain, North America and Central America today.

In the earliest days of its consumption, the leaves were most commonly eaten by people living in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. The Romans then began to make use of the root for various medicinal purposes. Over the years, it became popular in Central and Eastern Europe for culinary purposes too.

Beetroot, as we know it today, was only cultivated in the 16th century. Interestingly, modern varieties are derived from the sea beet, an inedible plant that grows wild along the coasts of Europe, North Africa and Asia.

An unlikely “super” hero

Unlike some of the other, better known superfoods, like wheatgrass, barley grass, spirulina or acai berry, beetroot is not particularly exotic. But don’t let that fool you.

What has traditionally been viewed as a boring, somewhat unappetising vegetable, is really a “super-root” in disguise.

It is a rich source of both carbohydrates and plant proteins, along with a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients.

At the same time, it has a very low caloric value and is almost entirely free of fat. It is also a low-GI food – the sugar conversion process is slow, which supports stable blood sugar levels.

Beetroot antioxidants

You can’t have failed to notice the vivid colour of beetroot – whether the deep purple, the bright yellow  or the lesser seen candy-stripes. Like so many other superfoods, these colours offer a visual clue as to the high level of antioxidants, carotenoids and flavonoids found in beetroot as a result of its pigment.

The notorious red colour compound is called betanin (or beetroot red), a pigment which is a well-known antioxidant and phyto-chemical. However, all beets contain betalain antioxidants – a class of red and yellow pigments found in plants.

Vitamins and minerals in beetroot

Beetroot is also rich in a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals, contributing to its classification as a superfood. For instance, it contains high levels of folate and vitamin C (another powerful antioxidant), as well as riboflavin, niacin and thiamin, vitamin K, calcium, silica, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and iron.

Dietary fibre

Beetroot is high in dietary fibre – both soluble and insoluble. A 100g portion – about two or three small beetroot – contains as much as 10% of the recommended daily allowance.

Fibre is an essential component of healthy digestion and supports everything from stable blood sugar levels to natural cleanse and detox processes in the body.

Dietary nitrate

More recently, a lot of research has been undertaken on beetroot’s capacity to absorb and store exceptionally high levels of nitrate – a nutrient involved in many of the processes that are essential for efficient exercise performance, including blood flow and oxygen usage.

In particular, a study conducted by Exeter University in the UK received a high level of media attention when it found that cyclists who drank a half-litre of beetroot juice several hours before setting off were able to ride up to 20% longer than those who drank a placebo blackcurrant juice.

Since that study, both beetroot and beetroot supplements have been of particular interest to athletes.

Supporting general health and vitality

The unique combination of nutrients found in beetroot mean that it can offer ideal support for general health and vitality, including:

  • a healthy heart and cholesterol levels
  • detoxification and liver function
  • a strong immune system
  • healthy homocysteine levels
  • normal tissue growth
  • musculo-skeletal health
  • healthy skin, hair and nails
  • stable blood sugar levels
  • stamina and energy levels
  • stable moods
  • and healthy digestion.

Belonging to the same family as two other nutritional titans, chard and spinach, both the leaves and roots of beetroot can be eaten. Incorporate it into your daily diet and your body will thank you.

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How antibiotics affect the gut

Good health begins in the gut

Many health experts agree that good health begins with balance in the body, particularly in the digestive system.

Inside our bodies there are twenty times more bacteria than living cells, and maintaining the correct balance of good bacteria versus bad bacteria is a crucial part of avoiding illness and supporting long-term health and vitality.

Having the right kind of bacteria (so-called “friendly bacteria”), in sufficient quantities, is essential for everything from healthy digestion and nutrient absorption, to immunity and defence against infections.

What can disrupt the balance of gut flora?

The delicate balance of healthy bowel flora can be disrupted by a number of things, including excess intake of alcohol, a diet high in sugar, poor digestion, stress, as well as exposure to toxins and environmental pollutants. For the purposes of this article, we will look in more detail at one of the most common causes of bowel flora imbalance – the long-term or frequent use of antibiotics.

How do antibiotics affect the gut?

It is now generally accepted that antibiotics have historically been prescribed and used far more than they should be. While this is in the process of slowly changing, the result has sadly been an upsurge in antibiotic resistance – a type of drug resistance where a microorganism is able to survive exposure to an antibiotic.

What’s more, one of the most notable effects of antibiotics is their adverse impact on the digestive system and the balance of gut flora – they indiscriminately destroy both good and bad bacteria in the body. They work by either killing bacteria or by preventing bacteria from growing – obviously good in terms of bad bacteria, but bad in terms of friendly bacteria.

This is somewhat ironic, when you consider that people are taking antibiotics in the first place because they are ill, but their medicine is destroying one of the body’s primary lines of natural defence. In fact, what is arguably the most important part of the immune system resides in the gut – Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (special antibody-producing cells) work hard to prevent unwanted micro-organisms (such as bacteria and viruses) from entering the body.  

Of course, antibiotics have their role to play and can certainly be highly effective in resolving bacterial infections. However, it is important to use them sensibly, in moderation and to support your levels of beneficial bacteria both during and after a course.

Too many bad bugs

If your levels of good bacteria fall, you provide opportunistic ‘nasties’ (like bacteria, parasites and yeasts) with an excellent environment in which to thrive and spread.

An overgrowth of harmful gut flora (called dysbiosis), for example, increases gut toxicity and can result in a number of unpleasant symptoms and conditions, including:

  • bloating
  • constipation
  • diarrhoea
  • abdominal pains after eating
  • wind
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Leaky Gut Syndrome
  • and Candida overgrowth.

This is one of the reasons why antibiotic courses often result in thrush (a fungal infection caused by Candida overgrowth).

How to support the good guys

Research has shown that the damage done to the digestive tract by antibiotics can last far longer than was previously thought.

Stanford University researchers in America analysed the levels of friendly bacteria in three healthy adult women both before and after each of two cycles on the antibiotic Cipro. Following the first cycle, they found that the drug had altered the population of the subjects’ friendly gut bacteria significantly, perhaps even permanently. Following the second cycle, six months later, they discovered that the effect was exponentially greater.

As such, antibiotics should never be used as a regular “quick fix” for minor ailments and, wherever possible, long courses should be avoided. Where a course of antibiotics is unavoidable, you can support your levels of friendly bacteria through diet and probiotic supplements.

For instance, many cultures have observed the health-supporting effects of fermented foods (often referred to as “probiotic foods”) and so include them as a regular part of their diet. These foods include kefir, sauerkraut, miso, tofu and tempeh to name just a few. Including these foods in your diet on a daily basis is a good way to promote healthy intestinal flora.

However, it is worth noting that most of these foods do not contain strains of bacteria that can actually colonise the digestive tract. Instead, they do good work for a week or two and then pass through.

Supplementing with strains of good bacteria that can colonise the digestive tract (such as L. acidophilus, L. salivarius, B. infantis, B. bifidum, B. brevis and B. longum) is arguably a more effective and powerful means of supporting healthy levels of gut flora for the long term.

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Carbohydrates and weight loss

Cut down on carbs to lose weight faster

You should eat fewer carbohydrates if you want to lose weight quickly.

Having said that, there is no need to cut out carbohydrates entirely if you are trying to lose weight and, in fact, that would not be a healthy step. Carbohydrates are an essential energy source for the body, but you should certainly cut back on the amount you are consuming – simple carbohydrates in particular.

In contrast, there are some healthy carbohydrates that you can eat that will actually give your body fuel to function, thereby facilitating exercise, a faster metabolism and weight loss.

The key is therefore controlling your carbohydrate intake, tailoring it to support weight loss instead of creating an obstacle to weight loss.

Which carbohydrates for weight loss?

Carbohydrates typically sit in the body and are very difficult to completely burn off. For best weight loss results, you therefore need to understand the difference between “good” and “bad” carbohydrates, finding those that are going to help (rather than hinder) your efforts.

There are some carbohydrates that offer you little or no nutritional value, and that can actually cause your blood sugar levels to spike and possibly create an insulin imbalance. It is important to consume a majority of healthy carbohydrates if you want to lose weight and keep it off.

Carbohydrates, such as fruit, vegetables, grains and other plant-based sources are healthy options that will support all-round nutrition, fibre intake, a fast metabolism and a feeling of satiety, at the same time as carbohydrate intake for energy levels. Examples include:

  • barley or barley grass
  • quinoa
  • chickpeas
  • wholegrains
  • sweet potatoes
  • oats
  • bananas
  • beetroot
  • grapefruit
  • and many more.

But one word of caution… While fruit is, of course, highly nutritious, beware not to over-indulge given the high levels of sugar. Even though these are healthy fruit sugars, they can still contribute to weight gain. Balance your diet carefully.

Eat smart, plan well

Changing the way you eat will most likely be one of the key factors that will help you achieve your weight-loss goals. Almost certainly, years of poor eating habits have led to the excess weight in the first place. It is those habits that need to be reversed.

Instead of eating your big meal in the evening, try changing it to lunch. Try not to eat starchy carbohydrates after 3pm; instead make your final meal of the day no more than three hours before bedtime. That meal should be a light meal high in lean protein and nutrients, but low in calories.

Sugary drinks, refined sugar and other processed foods are all things to avoid at all costs. Carbonated beverages, in particular, are full of sugar and unhealthy carbohydrates, and can also add to any cravings that you experience. Instead, choose a bottle of water to reduce the thirst that you have and help you to feel fuller, if you want to stay as healthy and slim as possible.

Also try to ensure that you have a little bit of lean protein in all of your meals, even breakfast. Protein tends to fill you up more than carbohydrates or fats would.

To help you lose weight, plan on eating a substantial healthy breakfast each morning. This strategy will help you avoid overeating at lunch time or craving snacks between the meals. Egg whites are a good choice.

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Meal shakes and protein powders

Shakes – can they help with weight loss?

Tricky meal planning

Meal planning, as part of a slimming or ongoing weight management programme, which ensures that you are receiving optimal nutrition and a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients every day, can be difficult for a number of reasons:

  • you may be limited to a certain number of calories per day, making it problematic to eat high amounts of even fruits and vegetables
  • you may not be entirely clear on what nutrients you need, in which quantities and/or where to find them
  • you may not have the time to plan and prepare all meals in advance, particularly if you are eating up to 6 times a day
  • you may not have the budget to purchase the required amounts of fresh, organic produce every day, needed for optimum nutrient intake
  • you may not have the time to, for example, prepare fresh juices every day, which can help with the digestion of large quantities of fresh, raw produce and can be a good source of nutrients
  • you may have a medical condition, digestive complaint, food allergy or intolerance, which means that your choice of foods is limited
  • you may be a vegetarian or vegan, making it more difficult to eat a high protein diet which can support weight loss.

Making life easier

If one or more of the above applies to you, don’t worry! There are ways to ensure that you still get the nutrients you need to secure healthy weight loss for the long-term.

High quality meal shakes and protein powders can be an invaluable slimming tool because, not only are they quick and easy to prepare and drink, if you pick the right product they are also packed with nutrients (such as vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre) and are naturally low in fat.

They provide a convenient and reliable way for you to access high levels of nutrients every day, without having to worry about the calories.

Organic superfood shakes (or “green shakes”), for example, allow you to take in nutrient-dense, fibre-rich fruits and vegetables in quantities that would otherwise be unrealistic on a daily basis.

Vegan-friendly, gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free light meal shakes can provide a healthy breakfast or snack on the go, even for those people with specific dietary requirements. These types of healthy snacks can help to keep you fuller for longer, staving off cravings and bingeing.

Protein shakes, made from complete, natural and balanced plant-based protein sources (such as hemp, pea or rice) can make it far easier to implement a high-protein diet that supports slimming, because you do not have the high fat content of meat and other animal products.

The convenience offered by these daily food supplements means that there is no longer any excuse to skip meals. It couldn’t be easier for you to meet your optimal nutrient intake on a daily basis, while still sticking to your healthy weight management programme.

Ensuring your weight loss success

When it comes to healthy slimming, finding the best approach can be often be daunting and can sometimes lead to “information overload”. There are so many, often conflicting, information resources on weight loss and the weight management process.

But slimming needn’t be complicated – there are some basic rules that you need to follow. However, always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health practitioner before changing your diet, implementing a new exercise regime or taking health supplements.

Firstly, knowledge is power.

Losing weight in a healthy way and for the long-term involves you taking proactive steps to better understand:

  • your own body and how it works
  • how your body reacts to what you put in it
  • the ways in which existing medical conditions and/or allergies or intolerances can affect the weight management process
  • your metabolism
  • your daily nutritional requirements
  • how health supplements, including meal shakes and protein powders, can support the slimming process.

Nobody is going to lose weight for you and nobody knows your body and how it feels and works better than you. While the above may sound daunting, it really isn’t. The more information you have, the better placed you will be to achieve your health and weight goals. The fact that you have the power to make the desired changes yourself should be empowering!

Take it slowly – you won’t learn everything you need to know in one week. Start by finding a product you like, carry out additional research on the ingredients yourself through reliable online resources. It can also be useful to use high quality meal plans in the early stages, to guide you while you are still learning about how to eat a balanced diet.

Here’s to your long-term weight loss success.

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