The Link between Gut and Mind

For me, these two things are always intrinsically linked mentally and physically. So when one is out of balance so is the other!

How do we restore balance to the gut and mind? Well there is actually something called the Gut-Brain Axis and there is evidence that both these areas communicate with each other continuously so the health of our gut influences the state of our mind. This means that what we put (or don’t put) in our bellies can affect how we feel! It can affect our focus, moods, concentration, clarity of thought and a whole host of other things. This was the single biggest realisation I had when changing my diet 3 years ago, just by reducing alcohol, cutting out refined carbohydrates and replacing them with whole foods I noticed a huge change in my mental clarity. I was less irritable, had better focus, better energy and most of all my brain fog was gone! I didn’t even know I had it until it was gone!!

OK so what next? Let’s say you do have the perfect diet (no one has the perfect diet all the time - including me) but you still have a gut issues, then what? For me, there was a certain point I couldn’t get past. I had found the right diet for me but any emotional upheaval sent my guts into turmoil - spams, frequent trips to the toilet etc etc. So I began to explore my emotional well-being and realised there was another level to gut health.

I now know that there is a psychological aspect to many chronic conditions and that by unconsciously suppressing thoughts and feelings (sometimes for very good reasons) long term, it can contribute to a whole host of physical symptoms manifesting such as bad skin, gut problems, poor resilience, anxiety, depression to name a few. By exploring this deeper level, it helped to improve my energy levels and stress resilience and stabilise my gut health further.

Self care is the key to nourish the mind and body. The more I allow my mind to rest, the more my gut relaxes. That makes sense doesn’t it? Returning from retreat last month, I realised how valuable rest is and how little quality rest our minds receive on a day to day basis.

If you are interested in learning more about the gut and how it affects moods, book onto one of my Gut Health Workshops in Bristol where I will be going into more depth and detail on how to support your gut health. Or you can check out my Functional Foods page for more information. In the meantime, here are a few recipes I’d like to share that helps to make happy bellies!!

Mung Bean & Chicken Dahl

Dry beans should be soaked prior to cooking to make them easier to digest and increase nutrient availability. If eating beans gives you wind, this a good way to reduce it! I like to soak batches overnight in 4 times their volume in water with half a teaspoon of sea salt then next morning, rinse and freeze them. They are then ready to use in soups and stews and cook much quicker.

Bone broth is very healing to the gut lining and also contains high levels of minerals in a highly absorbable form. Always having a batch ready in my freezer is one of my most important basic staples.

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Ingredients (serves 3-4)

250g soaked mung beans
2 chicken breasts diced 1 cm cubes
1 bunch of greens sliced (kale, spring greens) or 1 bag spinach
1 litre bone broth
8 crushed cardamom pods
2 onions thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves crushed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp coconut oil
4 slices peeled ginger chopped
1 celery stick chopped
1-2 fresh chillis chopped (to taste)
pepper to taste
large handful fresh coriander chopped
lemon

Method

  • In a large pan, lightly fry the onions and celery in the oil for few minutes until soft

  • Add the chicken and brown stirring to prevent sticking, then add all the spices, bay leaf, cardamom, ginger, garlic and chilli and fry for 30 secs until fragrant

  • Add bone broth and bring to the boil

  • Add mung beans and reduce to simmer. Cook for 15 mins until tender stirring occasionally to prevent burning on the bottom

  • Add salt, pepper and veg. Cook for few minutes until veg tender.

  • Serve with the chopped coriander and squeeze of lemon juice


Soba Vegetable Ramen

I love ramen! However when I started out on a no refined carbohydrate diet I quickly found ramen was not on my list of dishes I could easily eat out so I made my own which tasted just as good! Most instant noodles are made from egg, white flour or white rice which are highly refined and deep fried. But you can get black rice or soba noodles which are made from buckwheat flour or even wholewheat noodles which are better for your gut. Good quality miso paste is a fermented food which helps promote a healthy gut flora.

Ingredients (serves 2)

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2 portions soba noodles
500 ml bone broth or veg stock
1 tsp miso
1 tbsp organic dried ground seaweed
sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
salt & pepper
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 handfuls of any chopped veg from the fridge (here I’ve used courgette, beetroot, runner beans)
handful of chopped coriander
lime

Method

  • In a pan, boil the noodles until cooked following packet instructions.

  • In the meantime, in a separate pan heat the broth or stock until boiling then add the seaweed and heat for 5 minutes

  • When noodles are done, drain and divide into 2 serving bowls

  • In a dry pan, toast the sesame seeds until they start to pop or turn slightly brown then remove from the heat. Careful not to burn!

  • Add the vegetables and soy/tamari into the broth pan and cook until tender. In the meantime, mix the miso paste with a little bit of warm water until dissolved.

  • When vegetables are done, add the miso mixture, mix and turn off the heat. Season with salt and pepper

  • Ladle out the broth into the 2 bowls over the noodles. Drizzle each bowl with sesame oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds and coriander. Serve with a squeeze of lime juice.

    I also like to add some cold roast chicken, smoked mackerel or a boiled egg for protein