Your Microbiome is for life, not just for Christmas – Help it, help you, during this stressful festive season, writes Navita Doshi (Nutritional Therapist in training) & one of our wonderful clinic assistants!
Stress today is ubiquitous and takes many forms such as work stress, relationships, social media, blue light from electronic devices, COVID and of course Christmas. However, did you realise that your diet could also be contributing to the activation of the stress response.(1-4)
Under conditions of acute stress, the stress hormone cortisol is produced. However, once the initial stress is removed, cortisol build-up in the blood inhibits further cortisol production. The problem arises under conditions of chronic stress (continuous/repeated stress) when the cortisol production is no longer inhibited but continually secreted. This can have multiple physical effects, resulting in disrupted body clock, inflammation, disrupted sleep, depletion of vitamins and minerals and, an altered gut microbiome (consisting of approximately 2-6 lb of bacteria, and other microbes)!(5)
-A gut microbiome with low diversity and quantity can further stimulate the stress response and has been shown to affect sleep by communicating with the sleep-regulatory sensors in the brain.
-Your Microbiome is for life and needs good diversity and quantity. This has been shown to decrease cortisol levels and reduce stress!(4, 6)
Studies have shown that diets which are high in ultra-processed foods, low quality carbohydrates, fats, and sugar (basically everything you want to eat at Christmas) stimulate the stress response.(7, 8) Unlike many stresses, our diet is something we can control. Over the festive period the idea of dieting is not going to work. However, focusing on a few key points might help us fight the additional stress from within.
Prebiotic foods feed the good bacteria, see Figure 1 for examples. If you can achieve the recommended dietary fibre intake for adults of 30 g/day,(9) this should contain enough prebiotics to have a beneficial effect. Think of swapping white rice for brown rice, white pasta for brown pasta, bagels for wholemeal bread.
These overnight oats will provide prebiotics, probiotics, and polyphenols all in one!
1/2 cup Jumbo rolled oats
120 g Kefir yoghurt
120 g Milk
1/2 cup Any brightly coloured fruits you like
1 tsp Hazelnuts/pecans/flaxseeds/
Method: Mix the oats, with the kefir and milk and refrigerate overnight. The next morning top with the fruits and nuts.
This Christmas, help yourself by helping your friendly microbiome. If you haven’t made your Christmas pudding yet (Stir up Sunday was November 21st), why not try making homemade kefir or kimchi. Your gut and Christmas stress levels will thank you.
Your Microbiome is for life: Contraindications/Cautions:
Navita Doshi (Nutritional Therapist in training)
2. https://www.pnas.org/content/116/38/18888 doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1908369116
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