Digestion Basics

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying “you are what you eat”. It’s a great way to motivate us to eat healthier. However, a more concise way of looking at this proves that you are not what you eat, you are what you digest, absorb and are able to utilize.

So no matter how perfect your diet is, if your digestion isn’t working properly, not only won’t you be able to absorb all the nutrients you think you’re feeding yourself but you’ll be setting yourself up for a host of digestive problems such as heartburn, dysbiosis (the proliferation of abnormal gut flora), IBS, etc. Gas, burping and bloating are not normal!

When Hippocrates said “all disease begins in the gut” he was really on the spot. Today, digestive disorders affect millions of Australians. That’s why digestion is foundational to Nutritional Therapy and is the first thing I address with pretty much every client I work with.

I’d like to leave you with a few facts about digestion and several simple tips to help you improve yours.

Did you know that digestion actually starts with your brain? It starts when you start to think about what you’re about to eat. Digestion is also parasympathetic process. This means you must be in a state of calm and relaxation for digestion to work. If you’re on the run, stressed out, in an argument, you are in sympathetic mode. If you eat in this state, you’re behind the eight ball. All the complex parts of digestion just won’t work. It puts you in a state of fight or flight. When you’re in this state, your body thinks it’s in danger (from our hunter gatherer days) and digestion takes a back seat to other bodily processes designed to get us out of dodge.

So do yourself a favour and chew well (when your food is physically broken down properly, it takes some of the pressure off of other parts of your digestive system so it doesn’t have to work so hard) and let your salivary juices start to flow. These juices in your mouth contain enzymes that start to digest carbohydrates. They also set into motion a chain of events in the rest of your digestive system to prepare for the food that is coming down the pike (they signal for the release of enzymes and hormones necessary to break down and absorb your food) . Here are few more simple tips for you try to help improve your digestion.

• Eat your meals sitting down. Take a few deep breaths to relax and calm your body and mind before you take your first bite. This helps you get into a parasympathetic state prior to eating.

• Try starting your meal with ½ tsp raw apple cider vinegar in ¼ to ½ cup warm water as another digestive tonic.

• Chew your food! It should actually liquify in your mouth before you swallow. A good rule of thumb is to chew your food 20-30 times as a goal.

• Include fermented foods with your meals. This could be a small glass kombucha or water kefir, 1-2 tablespoons of fermented vegetables or sauerkraut to boost your ability to digest your meal. Fermenting foods makes their nutrients more bioavailable (your body doesn’t have to work so hard to make the nutrients available as the fermentation process has done some of the digestion for you). Start slow and build up your tolerance. You can also start with a teaspoon of the brine or “juice” from the kraut if you can’t yet tolerate the vegetables at first.

• Digestive bitters can also help boost HCL (hydrochloric acid in your stomach that helps you digest proteins) levels. They also stimulate the digestive system to produce digestive enzymes and secrete bile which helps you digest your fats.

 Need some help with digestion and nutrition? Get in touch for a consultation.

Weekend Rest & Recovery Slice

For me, the weekends are for recharging and recovering from the demands of the week.

Many of us lead busy lives with fitting in exercise either before or after a day’s full of work, as well as running a busy household.

I am dedicating this slice to my fellow gym-going, inspirational superhumans who are consistently performing at their peak and living their best lives. Because sometimes, you just need a good cuppa and a slice of this gorgeous sweet potato, apple and blueberry cake to recover and recharge for the week ahead.

Raw Sweet Potato in the food processor

Ingredients

300 grams raw sweet potato

3 free range eggs

2 Tbs honey (3tbs if you prefer sweet)

2 Tbs peanut butter

1 Tbs Vanilla extract

2 Tbs ground cinnamon

1 Tsp baking powder

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup shredded cococnut

1/2 cup almond meal

1/2 cup blueberries (I used frozen)

1 large diced apple (I used Pink Lady)

Handful of chopped walnuts

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170Degrees. Line your baking tray with baking paper. I used a 16cm x 26cm slice tin
  2. In a food processor, process the sweet potato into fine pieces.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients (without the apple and blueberry) and combine well in the food processor. The mixture will be a bit runny and grainy. That’s fine.
  4. Dice the apple skin on and fold apple and blueberries and walnuts through the sweet potato mix.
  5. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until golden brown (depending on how hot your oven gets, check at 35mins). Test with a wooden skewer.
  6. Cool it down before slicing.

Enjoy your recovery slice!

Is Stress affecting your Health? Adrenal Dysfunction and what you need to know.

High levels of stress can affect and impair quality of life and health. We are all busy and disconnected, and it making time for rest and relaxation can be difficult. But it’s one of the best things that you can do because high levels of perceived stress that go unaddressed are one of the primary causes of adrenal dysfunction or HPA Axis Dysfunction.

Many people that I work with are high functioning individuals who have high expectations of themselves and long daily to-do lists. They are disciplined and strict with their daily regimes.

How does this affect the Adrenals? Let’s take a look.

What Are your Adrenal Glands & The HPA Axis

The adrenal glands are two small organs that are located above the kidneys. The adrenals are involved in hormonal balance, gastrointestinal function, brain health, blood sugar balance, the immune system, bone metabolism and more. They help regulate your response to stress and are able to protect you by activating the fight-or-flight response. It does this by increasing your blood sugar levels, elevating your heartbeat, and increasing your blood pressure by holding onto salt.

One of the primary ways that the adrenals do this is through their production of two hormones: DHEA and cortisol. DHEA is a hormone and a precursor to testosterone and estrogen. It’s also very important for development, thyroid health and the immune system. Cortisol is involved in regulating blood sugar and is the body’s stress hormone, as increased stress typically leads to more cortisol production. The adrenals also produce adrenaline (epinephrine) and other hormones. This process is ideal when you experience short periods of stress or adrenal stimulation, as it helps to keep you alive.

Stress & HPA Axis Dysfunction

Most people are exposed to acute stress topped with lots of chronic stress. The body doesn’t know the difference so it responds in the same way, leading to a higher secretion of cortisol. The HPA axis is a complex interaction that occurs between the adrenal glands and the hypothalamus and pituitary and controls the innate way that you react to stressors. This is the entire system that communicates and secretes cortisol and other hormones. In the context of chronic stress, the hypothalamus secretes corticotropin releasing hormone which signals the production of Adrencorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH travels through the body and acts on the adrenal glands to stimulate the release of cortisol. Other hormones and organs contribute to the stress response as well, activating the sympathetic nervous system and the body’s fight-or-flight response.

When you are constantly stressed, running from task to task all day long, and never saving time for a break, your cortisol levels can become a rollercoaster. Different people will develop different cortisol patterns. Cortisol levels could be higher at certain parts of the day that it’s not supposed to be or constantly elevated or even in some cases completely exhausted. Some people refer to this as a stage of ‘adrenal fatigue’. The problem with the term adrenal fatigue is that it’s not a medically accepted term, condition or diagnosis. A more accurate way of describing the situation would be HPA axis dysfunction.

Common symptoms include difficulty falling or staying asleep, fatigue, brain fog/memory issues, anxiousness, irritability, weakened immune system, difficulty handling stress, headaches, muscle weakness, dizziness, weight gain and digestive issues. And while there are plenty of supplements and adaptogens that are useful for helping with your stress response, they are worthless if you don’t identify the root cause of your stress.

Stress can also alter the composition, function and metabolic activity of the gut microbiome which may lead to the progression of disease.

Stress is the body’s way of reacting to a threat or challenge. Stress is also tricky to pinpoint for various reasons: 1) there are many different forms such as environmental, mental, emotional, & physiological 2) people normalize being stressed to the point that they don’t realize they are in fact stressed and 3) it’s not easy to measure. 

Stay tuned for my Top 10 Tips for Adrenal Dysfunction.

Orange and Almond Buckwheat Muffins

Buckwheat is a nutrient-rich, gluten-free plant source, which may boost heart health, reduce blood pressure, and help manage diabetes. It can also help improve digestion and strengthen the immune system. Its impressive range of proteins, minerals, and antioxidants help in skin and hair health, elimination of gallstones, protection from asthma attacks, and relief from constipation and other intestinal conditions.

Buckwheat, despite what its name suggests, is not a cereal or a wheat product. It is a fruit seed that comes from the buckwheat plant, also commonly called the beech wheat plant, and is related to rhubarb.

Buckwheat contains high-quality protein that delivers all of the eight essential amino acids, including lysine, which is usually lacking in grains. The gluten-free grain also contains two powerful flavonoids which act as antioxidants, rutin and quercetin. It is very rich in vitamins and minerals such as riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) copper, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc and manganese.

What’s with Gluten?

Did you know that oats and wheat have different glutens? Gluten is actually a family of proteins found in grains including wheat, oats, rye, spelt and barley.

The main gluten proteins are different according to the grain.

Interestingly, most people who react to “Gluten” actually react to gliadins in wheat and are ok to eat other types of grains such as oats or rye.

If you have trouble digesting gluten, it is important to test for Coeliac disease; an autoimmune condition where antibodies are produced in the presence of gluten and attack your digestive system. This is a true Gluten Allergy.

Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity is also a condition that affects a large percentage of people. Symptoms can include those of IBS, bloating, acid reflux, abdominal pain, chronic aneamia, joint pain, brain fog, fatigue and more.

ORANGE AND ALMOND BUCKWHEAT MUFFINS

Gluten Free Vegan Orange and Almond Buckwheat Muffins

Preheat oven to 160 Degrees

Ingredients (makes 18 small muffins)

2 cups buckwheat flour

1 cup almond meal

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp bicarb

1 tbs vanilla extract

3 tbs flaxseed meal (instead of egg)

1.5cups water

Rind of one orange

Juice of that one orange

1 cup of frozen organic blueberries (optional, but highly recommended!)

Method

Place all buckwheat flour, almond meal, sugar and bicarb, orange rind, in a large mixing bowl.

To make the flaxseed egg combine the flaxseed meal and water in a small bowl and stir and set aside. This should become thick as the flaxseeds expand and the water is absorbed.

Pour the juice, vanilla extract, flaxseed egg into the bowl and stir until combined well.

Line the cup cake try with muffin papers and fill.

Bake for about 12-15mins or until the tops spring back and the muffins are golden. Can check with a wooden skewer.

Winter Berry Crumble

This gluten-free gut loving tray of wholesome goodness is the perfect winter treat to enjoy on a cool evening with a cup of tea and a blanket. The essential winter comfort treat.

You can use your favourite mix of berries. I’ve used a combination of fresh strawberries and frozen organic berries.

Fresh Strawberries and frozen Blueberries

The crumble has the perfect crunch, a mixture of almonds, walnuts, seeds and coconut.

Crumble mixture

While most crumble recipes include the usual refined white sugar, this recipe uses rice malt syrup. Never let crumble leave you feeling guilty and bloated again. This healthy version is full of gut loving good fats and berries full of antioxidants and phytonutrients which have antiinflammatory properties and can help support a healthy body.

Rice malt syrup and extra virgin coconut oil

Ingredients

Topping

  • 1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds or a mix of both
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice malt syrup
  • 1 tsp of the best vanilla essence

Filling

  • 3 tablespoons rice malt syrup
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot (tapioca flour)
  • 700 g mixed berries

Method

Preheat the oven to 160C.

Place all the topping ingredients in a bowl and combine well, ensuring all the ingredients are well coated.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove and set aside to cool – it will get crunchy once it cools down.

Place the berries in a saucepan with the rice malt syrup and tapioca flour. Mix gently to combine. Simmer over low heat for 10mins.

Transfer to a 20 cm dish and break the cooled crumble into pieces and sprinkle over the top of the berry mixture. Serve warm or cold.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this recipe. I hope you enjoy making and eating this beautiful crumble like we all did!

Christine X

Eggplant and Chickpea Curry

This mildly spiced, easy, eggplant spinach & chickpea curry is on the menu on repeat in autumn.

It’s a one pot dinner so no fussing about with more pans. It is mildly spiced for the sake of my daughter but you can add more heat if you wish. A finely chopped green chilli added when you add the garlic and ginger will do the job nicely. My daughter loved this but I guarantee you she wouldn’t love it so much if there was more heat involved.

This eggplant spinach and chickpea curry can be made a day ahead if you like.

Ingredients

Continue reading “Eggplant and Chickpea Curry”

Vegetarian Chilli

Ahhh Autumn. The colour of the landscape starts to change as the leaves get ready to fall. The duration of daylight becomes noticeably shorter and the temperature cools considerably. And, in the kitchen I start to look for more comforting warm and satisfying meals.

One of our favourites for the cooler weather is Vegetarian Chilli.

It might look like a mighty long list of ingredients but this chilli is really 14 minutes of prep and you can sit back and relax while waiting for the magic to happen and the flavours to develop in the pot.

I’ve served this on it’s own (it is a complete meal!) or with steamed vegetables, or as a filler for tacos and nachos, or in a bowl with brown rice and avocado….. once you master this chilli there is no going back.

Ingredients

Continue reading “Vegetarian Chilli”

Are Fortified foods and Vitamin supplements enough in a world of fake food?

We live in an era of convenience foods which are highly processed.

Nature has provided us with all the food we need to stay healthy, active and full of energy. However when we start tampering with natural foods we lose the chemical and biological structure of these foods.

The more food is processed, the more nutrient depleted and chemically altered it becomes.

Apart from losing its nutritional value, processed foods also lose their taste, flavour and colour. So, to compensate for that, manufacturers add additives, preservatives, colours, flavour enhancers other chemicals.

Many of these chemicals have been shown to contribute to poor health.

Natural foods get changed into various chemical concoctions which are then packaged and presented to us as food.

I want to talk about the most basic ingredient – Flour.

Continue reading “Are Fortified foods and Vitamin supplements enough in a world of fake food?”

What is Intuitive Eating?

What is INTUITIVE EATING?

Any weight loss plan can achieve short term benefits, but over time the weight creeps back, and it’s not unusual to end up weighing more than you did before you started dieting. 

Research shows us that intuitive eating can help you get off the diet roller coaster for good. 

One of the principles of intuitive eating is to make peace with food and to abandon the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food. 

If you’re interested in working with me check out my ‘Beautiful You’ program link in bio. We all deserve health and to be able to enjoy life a little more without stressing about diets and food. 

I even have a new shirt that says ‘You are Beautiful’ because you ARE!

https://eatinginmind.com.au/beautiful-you-5-week-program/

What is coaching anyway?

Let’s play a game. Can you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions?

There’s a gap between where I am now and where I want to be

I can make and keep appointments to work on my goal(s)

I’m committed to do the work required and take action to get to where I want to be

I’m willing to change any self-defeating behaviours and beliefs that limit my success

I am willing to try new things, even if I’m not yet 100% convinced they will work

More than three yes’s? Then coaching is what you need.

So what is coaching anyway?

Essentially, coaching is a future-focused conversation with a trained professional. A conversation that’s 100% about you and helping you think differently about things you’ve previously felt stuck or unclear about. It’s action-oriented. Coaching gets you results.

Why do I need a coach?

Continue reading “What is coaching anyway?”