Do you find yourself constantly thinking about "stuff"?
So often we get so caught up in our thoughts we miss the beauty and richness of the present moment. And thanks to all that frantic energy (AKA adrenaline), it's no surprise our stomach ends up in knots and we can feel really bloated, nauseous and anxious.
But it doesn't have to be this way!
I spoke to Katie Sheen, a mindfulness practitioner (and ex-nutritionist) recently on Instagram about how we can use mindfulness to ease our digestion and beat anxiety before we even get out of bed in the morning!
By adding mindfulness into our lives, we can help calm our nervous system down, switch off the fight or flight response, get out of chronic pain and feel happier in our mind, as well as in our gut!
Click here for the replay if you want to know more.
Smile at your digestive system and wish it well.
This may sound crazy but visualisation is an important part of your recovery from chronic ill health. It helps with neuroplasticity and laying down new neural pathways. Sounds totally madey-uppy but it’s actually supported by science. If you want to explore this further I’m a big fan of the app, Curable. Check it out.
Next time you go to “grab a cup of tea”…
Katie also shared this brilliant podcast episode about mindful tea drinking. Drinking tea is definitely ingrained in my life, a firm family ritual (although less Barry's and more Pukka herbals these days). Having a cup of tea can be a whole art and a great reminder to just STOP.
Be in the here and now.
Smell the aroma.
Feel the heat.
Watch the leaves swirl.
Be present (mindful) with your next cuppa.
Honestly we crammed so much great stuff into this 30 minutes. I’m so grateful to Katie for sharing her expert knowledge. Find out more about Katie and her mindfulness courses here.
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for more tips and interviews like this one.
As a nutritionist, I can help you choose the right foods and diet to:
Wave bye-bye to palpitations driven by too many stimulants and feel calmer and more relaxed in your body and mind.
If you're interested in finding out more about working with me 1-1, check out my 90-day programme here.
I’m off to make a mindful brew, see you soon!
Tired of misdiagnosed or dismissed tummy troubles?
Frustrated with endless nights searching the web for answers?
Sick of your digestive system dictating (and often ruining) your day?
Fed-up playing a guessing game with your gut health?
There’s no denying that gut health issues can be debilitating and frustrating.
Especially when your GP gives you the “all clear” or your test results come back “normal” despite ongoing symptoms.
Chances are, if you are reading this article, you can resonate with some or all the above. And, you are not alone. In fact, as a registered nutritional therapist, I work with individuals like you every day. Individuals who are seeking answers, who feel they have tried everything and are eager to regain control of their gut health once and for all!
In most cases, comprehensive stool testing is the next step.
What is stool testing?
When it comes to gut health, I’m a big advocate for testing and not guessing.
Why? Because blindly making changes to your nutrition or lifestyle could lead you in the wrong direction and sometimes do more harm than good.
Functional Stool testing is one of the best and most comprehensive gut health tests available and can give a snapshot of what’s going on inside your gut. By assessing key digestive markers, this test can provide an overview of all aspects of digestive function. It can offer much-needed clarity, demystify symptoms and help bring peace of mind.
A comprehensive stool test acts as an important tool, measuring (good and bad) bacteria levels, detecting markers for inflammation, immune or digestive issues, and gives a general overview of an individual’s gastrointestinal health.
Contrary to what you might think, taking a stool test is quick, mess-free and easy to do from the comfort of your home. Each test requires just three swabs from one sample, which is then posted back to the lab for analysis.
What can comprehensive stool testing show?
There are two main types of stool tests used in the UK: the kind doctors use to screen for certain diseases or conditions and the type registered nutritional therapists use to inform nutritional therapy recommendations.
If you head to your doctor with symptoms like diarrhoea, constipation or bloating, or if you’ve been passing mucus or blood in your bowel movements, they may ask you to do a stool sample. This test may rule out serious diseases like cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, or H. Pylori but often these tests fail to identify the root cause of what is causing your symptoms.
Instead of digging deeper, individuals get labelled with a diagnosis of "IBS" (irritable bowel syndrome) - a BS "umbrella term" which is not a real diagnosis. More on that here.
Private gut health tests via nutritionists - like Stellar Health, provide a more comprehensive overview of the gut’s health. A comprehensive stool analysis test looks at the microbiology in your gut, and indicates where there are imbalances or even absences of particular bacteria.
It can also provide information on:
✔️ gases produced by bacteria (e.g. methane or sufidogenic) which may be contributing to SIBO, bloating, and/or constipation
✔️ inflammation, e.g. calprotectin
✔️ immune, e.g. secretory IgA
✔️ digestion, e.g. enzymes and bile acids
✔️ mucin degradation, e.g. leaky gut
✔️ yeasts including candida
Armed with this invaluable information, we can begin to paint a picture of what’s contributing to your symptoms and determine what dietary, lifestyle and supplemental interventions might be most effective.
While stool tests can be an important tool in assessing potential digestive imbalances, it’s important to remember that they are not a magic bullet. However, when used alongside a client’s case history, it can be a really helpful guide to inform next steps and a more targeted and personalised nutrition plan.
Why should I consider a comprehensive stool test?
The health of our gut is closely linked to the health of just about every organ in our body, including the brain, bladder, heart, skin, and even vaginas! With this in mind, I believe that anyone can benefit from comprehensive stool testing and that gut health testing should be a standard part of preventive care.
As already discussed, stool testing can vary depending on whether it is carried out by a doctor or a nutritionist. While both tests have a place in your journey to better gut health, it’s important to understand the difference between the two.
Doctors should be your first point of contact should you start to experience issues with your gut. When a doctor is examining your stool sample, they are looking to rule out specific diseases. However, frustratingly these tests do not uncover the root of the problem and can often come back “normal”, leaving the patient confused and without answers.
A typical result from a basic lab stool culture (from your doctor) might look something like this:
Not only does this result provide little information, but it can also lead you to believe your gut is healthy or balanced, even though your symptoms are telling you it isn’t.
I’ve had so many clients that have received “normal” basic stool culture results, only to do comprehensive stool testing and find that they have severe fungal or microbial imbalances.
Comprehensive stool testing differs because it allows us to cast a wider net, looking at chronic disease-related microbial (bacteria, fungal, parasites) markers and information regarding digestion efficiency. When you suffer from symptoms like bloating, foul wind or alternating bowel movements, the issue is functional and not visible to cameras, endoscopes or the naked eye.
Functional stool testing isn’t about “yes” or “no” results. It’s about looking at patterns in the entire gut ecosystem, your health history and current health and using this information to get to the bottom of the problem and inform personalised diet recommendations.
Ultimately, a comprehensive stool test can give you answers, clarity and the foundation for a gut health roadmap.
How much does stool testing cost?
Comprehensive stool tests are highly specialised and currently not offered through the NHS. At present, the only option is to pay for them privately.
There are many different stool tests on the market, and while cost can vary from test to test, there’s no denying that it can be an expensive procedure. However, when you suffer from persistent debilitating symptoms that affect your daily life, finding an answer can outweigh any cost and make it worth every penny.
Imagine; no longer stressing over food labels, worrying where the nearest loo is or choosing clothes based on what you want to wear, not how bloated you are.
Ready to reap the benefits of comprehensive stool testing? The good news is it is included in my 90 Days to Better Gut Health 1:1 nutrition programme.
90 days to a happier, healthier gut (yes, really!)
🎈 Bloating 🤢 acid reflux 😲 unpredictable bowel movements 🥴 indigestion
😞 constipation 💨 foul wind 🥱 fatigue 💩diarrhoea 😩 stomach cramps…
It’s time to break free from never-ending tummy troubles for good with my 90 Days to Better Gut Health 1:1 Programme!
For an investment of £1497 or 3 monthly payments of £499, this 90-day programme provides a window into the goings-on of your gut and is the only way to get a full scope of clinical tests carried out through the trusted labs I use.
By joining my programme, you’ll receive:
With my combined approach of comprehensive stool testing and personalised nutritional assessment, this programme can fine-tune any imbalances, address symptoms and get you on the path to a happy, healthier gut 🙌
Ready to get to the bottom of your gut health issues and FINALLY feel like yourself again?
When I work with clients who are feeling highly sensitive to foods and aren't ready for supplements, (certain) teas are a perfect place to start. It means we can start slowly and gradually increase the strength and dose, at a pace that suits you.
Once we've calmed the nervous system and soothed any acid irritation in the gut we can move onto more therapeutic supplement protocols. This is another reason why I love working with clients for three months because these improvements take time.
Below I've listed my top three teas to avoid if you have IBS or gut issues, including gastritis and acid reflux.
If you suffer with gastritis, acid reflux or GERD don't make these really common mistakes when it comes to sipping your favourite brew!!!!
PLUS if you scroll down further I've also listed my FAVOURITE teas for better digestion, including tea to help IBS-D and an anxious or nervous tummy.
3 teas to AVOID for better digestion especially if you have gastritis, GERD or acid reflux
Here are three teas to AVOID if you struggle with acid reflux, GERD or gastritis.
If you have gastritis or acid reflux this is likely to intensify the heat 🔥🔥 Otherwise it can be great for nausea!
Mint tea is terrible advice for anyone with dyspepsia, acid reflux or heartburn. Peppermint relaxes the sphincter muscle between your stomach and food pipe and if you're prone to any of these symptoms you're likely to feel worse. Mint tea can be helpful for bloating and wind though (and tastes delicious)
Good quality black tea (breakfast tea/builder's tea) can be a rich source of antioxidants but it's very acidic on the stomach. So if you struggle with a sensitive stomach, heartburn or acid reflux this is definitely one to park until symptoms improve.
Also due to the caffeine content black tea speeds up motility so it's likely to send you rushing to the loo (for a number 1 and number 2).
Lastly, please don't be tempted to waste money on heavily marketed "de-bloat teas" and "skinny teas" out there. If you're dealing with serious digestive issues, these bandaid fixes aren't going to cut it.
What kind of tea helps digestion?
Here are three of my favourite tummy friendly teas that I think anyone with digestive issues, including constipation and diarrhoea should have on standby.
Lemon balm tea
To me this is like nature's valium. I feel instantly calmer and more balanced. It's soothing on the nervous system and perfect for anxious tummies or during periods of stress.
Love it or hate it, this aniseedy tea is soothing on the digestive tract, provides a source of mucilage and helps after over-indulging. Due to its natural sweetness it also helps curb a sweet tooth. (Choose cinnamon tea instead if you've high blood pressure).
Technically not a tea but slippery elm powder can be added to hot water and sipped between meals or 20 mins. before each meal. It's an amazing mucilage that will quickly quench any burning or irritation in your stomach as well as bring relief from both constipation and diarrhoea (or IBS-D). I always keep some slippery elm in the cupboard for occasions where I've over-indulged, or my stomach feels unsettled.
If you’re looking for deeper support, you may need to consider these powerful herbs in the form of capsules combined with other balancing nutrients along with tailored dietary changes. But if you’re looking for some gentle daily relief, or just something warm and nutrient dense to sip on, these teas are perfect.
If you're interested in finding out more about working with me 1-2-1 check out my 90-days to Better Gut Health or book a quick chat here.
Do you have food sensitivities? Are you avoiding any foods at the moment? If so, perhaps it’s because you think you’re intolerant to them or believe that your tummy is over-sensitive. I’ve written this blog post to help you feel more hopeful about your future with food!
What are food sensitivities?
Some people experience unpleasant reactions caused by particular foods. Figuring out which foods might be causing your symptoms can be simple for some people and difficult for others. It can depend on a few things: what their symptoms are, how quickly their symptoms appear after eating the food and which food(s) is causing the issue. This is very different from an allergy. Find out more about the difference between food intolerance and food allergies here.
Is it actually an intolerance?
You start to produce digestive enzymes in your saliva when you start cooking your food, smelling the foods and then when you start eating. But when you start to eat on the move, you don’t produce the levels you need. There is a lack of digestive enzymes due to our faster busy lifestyles.
The result? Foods aren’t being broken down enough by the time they reach the small intestine. You feel bloated, gassy, a bit rubbish – and it’s often mistaken for a food intolerance. And that assumption means that we tend to cut out certain foods from our diet altogether.
It’s important to understand that, usually, food intolerance is simply a symptom of a very unhappy gut. So instead of cutting out loads of foods, it really is a case of rebalancing the gut alongside dietary changes. Putting in enzyme support and supporting digestive juices and stomach acid, calming our nervous system and supporting a healthy balance of bacteria in our gut.
It’s important that we check whether you’re eating mindfully, chewing every mouthful, and breaking food down before it reaches your small intestine.
Chewing leaves food small enough for the gastric juices in your stomach to further mulch it down and eventually reduce it to microscopic size. Once it’s broken down enough, the nutrients and fluids are then absorbed into your gastrointestinal tract.
But if you don’t chew properly, you are less likely to be getting nutritional value from your meals and therefore more likely to overeat, leading to further tummy problems and weight gain.
Take a moment to reflect on how you’ve been eating recently. Have you been sitting down and focusing on your food, or have you been shovelling food in at your desk in between Zoom calls? Or do you tend to eat while commuting? Perhaps this is impacting on your tummy…
Are you stressed out?
We need to think about whether you’re feeling stressed, because stress shuts down your digestion – you won’t be making acids and enzymes as you should. Instead you’ll be making stress hormones, like adrenalin and cortisol. Together with signals from the autonomic nerves, this causes a change in your digestive process and can mean that your body thinks it should be running to safety. The stomach and food pipe (oesophagus) can spasm as blood is diverted away from the gut to power your muscles in a bid to deal with the stressful situation.
Digestion can slow down (constipation) or lead to sudden evacuations (diarrhoea) meaning you may not absorb nutrients from your food effectively. You may also start to feel uncomfortable in your stomach because stress decreases prostaglandins which protect your stomach from acid so you may feel more sensitive (in severe cases this could lead to gastritis and acid reflux).
So is it an intolerance, or have you been super stressed recently and your gut is knocked off balance?
How to heal your gut
You’ll be pleased to hear that the cells of the intestinal lining replace themselves every few days. If it is food intolerance, you might not have to avoid those trigger foods forever. You could eliminate them temporarily—for a couple of months—but during that time, you want to be building in support to optimise your digestive enzymes, stomach acids, mindful eating, lifestyle and cleaning up the diet in general. Prolonged stress can alter your gut bacteria. You want to be supporting the lining of the gut and balancing the bacteria in the gut, so you can reintroduce those foods.
Most people completely eliminate the food they believe they have an intolerance to but neglect to take care of their gut health. They continue as they were before — eating on the go, rushing meals, and not producing enough digestive enzymes. Therefore, they don’t see a reduction in bloating or gas and become more and more reactive to multiple foods.
The time is now
Left untreated, this can then result in leaky gut – where the lining of the gut becomes permeable (leaky) and the food molecules that aren’t digested properly are filtering through into the blood stream and that sets off an inflammatory cascade. Our body’s immune system is expecting to see fully digested foods (like proteins broken down into amino acids) but suddenly it sees foreign, (partially digested) molecules. So it does what it is designed to do – attack and defend.
This is when we may start to see joint pain or brain fog – because the inflammation becomes systemic. And that means it takes longer to heal and sort out. As a result we can feel unwell, inflamed and anxious.
What to do next...
With my trusted 5 R process, we temporarily remove the trigger foods, then begin to replace the enzymes, we work to repair the gut lining, start to replenish the bacteria, and rebalance the gut.
So if you’re really sensitive to certain foods, then 3 months working together is exactly what you need. We figure out what works for you, all while healing your gut in the process. Don’t assume you have an intolerance, it could be that your cortisol levels are high and that is causing you to be gassy and bloated. Working with a qualified nutritional therapist will allow you to discover what’s really going on in your tummy and help you to feel better without giving up the enjoyment of food!
Read more about how I can support you to heal your gut and start to live a happier and healthier life with less tummy troubles. Find out more here.
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