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When I first began studying nutrition in 2009 there was pretty much no mention of gut health. I took the deep dive into nutrition to try and help my own health and in particular my mental health.

 

Since then a lot has changed and most of us now know that to maintain good health, the gut must properly absorb nutrients and eliminate waste and toxins on a daily basis. So, it’s not so much what you eat but rather what you absorb that counts. A few years ago, most of us didn’t even know what the word microbiome meant.

 

The microbiome is the genetic material of all the microbes – bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses – that live on and inside the human body. What we are interested though for this article is the gut microbiome.

The Real Control Center

Just think of where your gut is located – the center of your body – and this is also the hub or headquarters where your immunity, brain function, metabolism and weight are controlled from. Roughly 70% of our immune cells and more than 90% of your serotonin (which is your “feel good” or “happy” hormone) is stored in your gut as well.

So who do we want operating our headquarters?

Well the good guys of course! There are more bacteria in your digestive system than there are cells in your body approx. 4Lbs! This 4Lb strong community if left un-policed will go rouge and the bad guys will start to take over. These are the bad gut bacteria that cause various digestive health issues alongside contributing to a wide variety of other dis-eases’ within your body and mind. Repopulating with good bacteria (probiotics) is a vital way to keep inflammation under control. I have teamed up with www.precisionbiotics.com for this article, who make Alforex and Zenflore to help ensure a healthy gut whether stressed, recovering from illness or trying to cope with common problems like IBS Irritable bowel syndrome.

 

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for you, especially your digestive system.

 

First Lets Take A look At What harms Our Gut

Our modern lifestyle certainly has a lot to answer for including

 

  • A Bad Diet/Fast Food/Processed Food

 

  • Stress – The busyness epidemic

 

  • Hormone Problems

 

  • Medications

 

  • Alcohol

 

  • Autoimmune problems caused by Leaky Gut

 

Some Symptoms of Imbalance

  • Skin issues: Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, Rashes

 

  • Food allergies/sensitivities

 

  • Sleep problems

 

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

 

  • Leaky Gut Syndrome

 

  • Chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia

 

  • Mental fogginess

 

  • Depression

 

  • Mood changes

 

  • Autoimmune Diseases (lupus, MS, arthritis, etc.)

 

  • Food cravings

 

  • Bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea

 

  • Cramping after meals

 

So What Can We Do?

We need to ensure we hire the best to work in our headquarters. These generals include fermented foods which provide probiotics, vitamins and enzymes that help keep your digestive system healthy and free of illness and disease and drink like Kefir and Kombucha are great.

Kefir is a cultured/ fermented drink that you can make in both Milk and water varieties. Kombucha is fermented tea, both have been shown to be beneficial for the gut to promote good gut health with their bacteria strains.

LOTS OF FRESH WHOLEFOODS, FRUIT AND VEGETABLES INCREASE ESSENTIAL FIBRE TO HELP KEEP THE DIGESTIVE OPERATION WORKING WELL

Dan Gold

FRESH FOOD, HEALTH, GUT HEALTH, DIGESTION

You can also eat miso soup, sauerkraut and Kimchi. In countries like Korea and Japan they have fermented foods with every meal.  Tempeh (fermented tofu cake), Tofu (which is sometimes fermented), Naturally fermented soy sauce, apple cider vinegar and coconut yogurt are also great to add into your daily diet.

 

Choosing A Supplement

Sometimes though food is not enough. With modern life causing us to feel stressed and become ill at times calling in extra reinforcements in the form of a supplement can be necessary.

 

I was recently quite ill back in August and had to take antibiotics for a couple of weeks. Being acutely aware that most of my good bacteria were now pretty much wiped out, I knew I needed to repopulate. I was also quite stressed and feeling low so I was looking for a supplement to directly help with the gut/brain connection. I took Zenflore initially for a month and I am currently taking Alforex now to help deal with other digestive issues.

 

Zenflore is a food supplement developed to help tackle Ireland’s stress epidemic. Created by a group of scientists at Precision Biotics, based in Cork, it has been clinically proven to reduce stress. The new treatment was developed after scientists identified a key component in the gut-brain axis , showing that what happens in the stomach can have a direct effect on the human brain. The special 1714-Serenitas™ culture in Zenflore has been clinically studied in people with everyday stress. PrecisionBiotics have developed a unique formulation with this natural culture and specially selected B vitamins, to help support mind and body, and reduces fatigue.

 

1714-Serenitas was discovered and developed by PrecisionBiotics®, in partnership with scientists and clinicians from one of the world’s leading centers of research on the microbiome and the gut-brain axis. This unique culture is part of the Bifidobacteria family of bacteria given by mother to baby at birth. It’s a friendly bacteria, that is naturally at home in the human gut and has evolved with us over generations.

 

Does It Reach The Gut Intact?

This is one of the most common questions people ask. Zenflore’s special formulation is stable at room temperature and does not need to be refrigerated and this ensures that this natural culture reaches your gut with its properties intact.

When I first began studying nutrition in 2009 there was pretty much no mention of gut health. I took the deep dive into nutrition to try and help my own health and in particular my mental health.

Zenflore is available in pharmacies and health food shops nationwide for €32.95 for a month supply.

 

Alforex

Another supplement that PrecisionBiotics manufacture is Alflorex, which is a gut health-boosting probiotic supplement  that has been shown to help with IBS. First discovered in Cork, this culture has been demonstrated to be safe and effective in several published studies in patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); which is a condition estimated to affect between 10 – 15% of Irish adults. Females are twice as likely to be affected as males.

 

IBS is a complex and debilitating condition for which there is no known cause. However, many doctors now agree that symptoms can be triggered by psychological as well as physical factors. Conventional management of IBS is often suboptimal often addressing only one of the several symptoms that comprise the syndrome.

 

In studies in IBS patients, B. infantis 35624 has been shown to improve all of the cardinal symptoms of the condition. This is one of the few probiotic products which has been truly developed on a scientific basis and tested in high quality clinical studies.

 

Containing its 35624 culture, it’s been clinically tested in people with bloating and gas, abdominal pain and unpredictable bowel movements. Improvements can be seen in as little as four weeks and those who suffer from non-IBS bloating could also reap rewards too.

“IBS affects 20,000 people in Ireland.”

It was awarded Best Gastrointestinal Product at the Irish Pharmacy News Awards 2016 and 2017

 

Alflorex is available over the counter from pharmacies nationwide at €32.95 for one month’s supply of the daily capsule.

Conclusion

When it comes to good health its now more important than ever to look at gut health. If science and studies now show us that our gut is the headquarters we need to go straight there and work from the top down.

By changing different aspects of how you live, you and your gut can become lifelong friends. If you treat your gut well then it will repay you with great health, energy and vitality for life.

Start your day with a deep inhalation and set an intention to nourish yourself with great food, kind words, fresh air, exercise and great people. That’s the key to a more fulfilled life and your will also thank you.

 

Further reading:

https://www.precisionbiotics.com/ie/what-is-zenflore

https://www.precisionbiotics.com/ie/natural

https://www.precisionbiotics.com/ie/psychobiotics

Christmas can take its toll on our immune system as a lot of us eat more and move less.

If you are tired of cooking and entertaining I have the perfect recipe using shitake mushroom that’s not only quick and easy but nutritious and delicious too.

Shitake Mushroom’s are known not only for their great taste but they’re packed with B vitamins and have the power to fight cancer cells, cardiovascular disease and infections. They have anti bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. During the winter months they are one of the few foods that provide vitamin D and they also help to boost energy and brain function.

As we move into January our food becomes even more important as many of us struggle with low mood and feel a bit of a crash post Christmas. It’s important to remember that January is a month for selfcare and not crazy resolutions. It’s still the middle of winter, which is the gestation period for both nature and us. It’s a month for inward reflection as we prepare for the year ahead.

To do this we need nourishing food, nourishing thoughts and nourishing rest. Pop in some movement and air and you will be ready for Spring where you will emerge stronger ready for the year ahead.

Try this simple recipe, which is great for all the family and it will help you to ease into the new-year with comfort and calm.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

3 Cloves garlic

Large handful of shitake mushroom’s (see video)

1 Lemon

Handful of Basil

Fresh Parmesan

Salt/Black pepper

Barilla Spaghetti

DIRECTIONS

Boil water and put in pasta with some salt

  • Heat the pan and add oil and garlic
  • Add chopped shitake mushrooms and cook until softened (5-8 mins depending on mushrooms)
  • Add in ½ a lemon zest
  • Squeeze in ½ juice of lemon
  • Save a cup of water from the pasta
  • Add pasta and then parmesan and stir through
  • If it’s a little dry add some of the water
  • Plate and serve with fresh black pepper and parmesan shavings

Barilla calling on students to unlock their inner TriHero

triheroes, shitake mushroom, barilla, recipes, schools, exercise, selfcare, shitake mushrooms, sport, pastaPrimary and secondary schools are being encouraged to register for TriHeroes, a schools triathlon programme which brings together the lifelong activities of swimming, cycling and running to inspire, motivate and challenge children to participate in a healthy and active lifestyle.

The TriHeroes programme, delivered by Triathlon Ireland and supported by Barilla, a family owned Italian food company and advocate for a healthy lifestyle, helps teachers introduce triathlon activities in a safe and positive environment.

Delivered by Triathlon Ireland’s development team, the programme is typically run over six 90-minute training sessions with students taking part in a mini triathlon at the end of the programme giving students a taste of this hugely popular sport and exposing them to three sports that could see them excel in the Leaving Cert and later life.

Primary and secondary schools can find out more about the TriHeroes programme at www.triathlonireland.com and register their interest at schools@triathlonireland.com.

A gourmet selection of recipes, perfect for budding triathletes and prepared with seasonal ingredients for vegetarians, as well as meat and fish lovers is available at www.barilla.co.uk.

There’s a lot of talk these days about healthy eating, but some things I hear make me question if we really understand what eating healthily means

 

I have teamed up with the butlers pantry to explore the area of healthy food on the go. I have been given some of their winter menu to sample for this series of articles.

The idea of excluding whole food groups from your diet does not seem to me to be a sustainable or healthy way of eating, and I enjoy my food too much ever to be able to give up bread, butter, or good dark chocolate. That said, I love my fruit and vegetables too, and cram as many of them into my daily diet as possible.

What’s clear to me is that it’s important to eat good quality food, and to keep processed food to an absolute minimum, and that includes the so-called ‘healthy’ foods in the supermarkets.

The Butler’s Pantry, which is celebrating 30 years in business this year was ahead of its time when it started out, because it focused on making wholesome fresh food from the very best of ingredients, always putting flavor to the fore. Over the years, some of the dishes have changed to keep up with changing tastes, but The Butler’s Pantry has stayed true to its core values, and its team of chefs and bakers make the food for its shops from scratch each day in its own kitchen in Bray.

Why eat healthily?

It may seem obvious, but to me it makes sense that if you eat good, fresh and nutritious food, you are making the best choice for your mind and body. And freshly-prepared food is far more nutritious than anything made with additives and preservatives to prolong its shelf-life.

Here are some top tips for eating more healthily:

Replace salt with alternatives

Although we all need salt in our diet, the ideal amount is just a teaspoon a day and some processed meals can contain that much in a single serving! If you have elevated blood pressure, restricting the amount of salt in your diet can help lower your blood pressure.

Some great substitutes for salt are pepper, fresh herbs and spices, all of which add flavour to your food. At The Butler’s Pantry, they use dillisk (powdered seaweed) in some of their delicious meals – it’s particularly suited to fish dishes. 

Make sure you are eating real bread, like proper sourdough

Sourdough bread is everywhere these days, but how much of the bread that’s labelled ‘sourdough’ is the real deal? True sourdough bread contains only flour, water and salt, is fermented slowly and has great flavour. The Butler’s Pantry’s bakers make fresh sourdough bread each day, using a ‘mother’ or ‘starter’ that they have nurtured carefully for several years. The slow fermentation using naturally-occurring lactobacilli and yeast that produces real sourdough bread breaks down hard-to-digest gluten into more easily absorbed nutrients, and adds B-vitamins. When you eat proper sourdough, you ingest lots of the good bacteria that are important for maintaining and promoting a healthy gut microbiome.

Commercial sourdough brings none of the healthy benefits of authentic sourdough because neither the process nor the time allowed for fermentation permit the breakdown of gluten or the growth of good bacteria.

How do you spot a good sourdough from an imposter? Cut open a good sourdough and inhale – it’s slightly sour, tangy, and very comforting.

At the end of the day, choose real food 

After dinner once a week have a small piece of a delicious seasonal dessert such as the Winter Fruit Crumble from The Butler’s Pantry. The recipe is below if you fancy making it yourself at home. 

 

THE BUTLER’S PANTRY WINTER FRUIT CRUMBLE

 

Healthy Apple Crumble

Serves 4 – 6


Ingredients:

Plums                          4

Apples                         4

Blackberries                2 punnets

Sugar                         100g

Vanilla                         1 pod

Butter                          50g


Almond crumble
:

Ground almonds                     100g

Butter                                    100g

Sugar                                     100g

Plain Flour                               100g

Method

  1. Cut the plums into quarters and remove the stones.
  2. Core the apples and cut into eighths
  3. Heat a large frying pan, add the butter and split vanilla pod and, when the butter starts to foam, add in the fruit and sugar.
  4. Toss in the pan and cook for a couple of minutes before transferring to a an 8 inch pie dish.
  5. For the topping, mix all the ingredients together until it becomes a crumb.
  6. Sprinkle on top of the fruit and bake in a preheated oven at 160c/ fan 140c / gas mark 3 until golden brown.
  7. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

The Sun is shining, bees are buzzing, we are dining outdoors and every young lad in the country has a big aul farmers tan. This can only mean one thing. Summer is here and while it seems to last for just one day rather than a full season, it is still the perfect excuse to whip up a cool treat to beat the heat.

 

Bite Size Bowls

This week we are thrilling and chilling that sweet tooth with gluten and dairy free ice cream. This recipe is perfect for those of us who (like myself) are currently staring into a fruit bowl full of almost over ripe bananas. So chop them all up and pop them into the freezer. What you don’t use now for ice cream you can always use later for a smoothie.

Bananas are full of potassium and vitamin B6 but aside from their health benefits they also provide the perfect texture for our vegan ice cream.

This heavenly dessert tastes so good that it must be a sin, but it’s really a saint as we are adding sweet zinc filled strawberries, anti oxidant packed blueberries and magnesium rich cacao nibs (which deserve and entire blog of their own).

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 Bananas
  • 2 Tbsp Raw Cacao Nibs
  • 2 Tbsp Crunchy Organic Peanut Butter
  • Handful of Blueberries
  • Handful of Strawberries
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract (optional)

Ice cream


Method:

  1. Slice and freeze the bananas.
  2. Once frozen add them to a food processor and blend.
  3. Chop the strawberries and add them to the blender along with the blue berries, cacao nibs, sea salt, peanut butter and vanilla extract.
  4. Whiz it all up until the texture is similar to ice cream.
  5. Drizzle with maple syrup and serve in a wafer, cone, bowl or any way you like. 

All the ingredients mentioned above can be found at The Green Door Market. Like us on Facebook and follow me on Instagram as I continue my culinary adventures.      

Now I know what you’re thinking “Alex are you hopping onto the hipster band wagon? will you grow a trendy beard? tie your hair up into a man bun? or ride a vintage bicycle made entirely out of recycled drain pipes?”

 

Well thankfully the answer to all those questions is no. However I will continue to treat myself to the increasingly popular nutrient packed, and crunchy nutty flavoured delight that is avocado toast.

Avocados are bursting with heart healthy fatty acids plus 20 different vitamins and minerals. They contain more potassium than bananas and are free from sodium and cholesterol. It isn’t surprising that people are beginning to consider the avocado a super food as they are loaded with antioxidants plus vitamins K, C, B5, B6 and E.

Today I am going to share with you two of my favourite quick and snappy avocado toast recipes that are so delicious they’ll make you want to ditch the plain old bread and butter.

 

  1. Honey Drizzled Apple and Cashew Avocado Toast.

avocado, apple, basil, healthy recipes,sweet and spicy avocado toast, nutrition, health, wellbeing, the green door, alex hayes, alison canavan, becomplete, organic food,

The bread that you use is one of the most important elements to both of these recipes so be sure to grab your favourite fresh baked loaf. My preferred bread has to be a crisp country loaf but you can use anything from sourdough to Rye just as long as it toasts well.

 

What you’ll need:

  • Bread
  • Avocado
  • Apple
  • Cashew Nuts
  • Honey
  • Fresh Basil

 

The subtle peppery flavour of fresh basil sets this recipe apart. The combination of sweet honey and apple on top of the nuttiness of the cashews and avocado creates a divinely unique summery sensation.

Method:

  • Slice the avocado in half and remove the seed before placing it (without it’s skin) into a bowl.
  • Mash the avocado until it is spreadable.
  • Pop your bread in the toaster or under the grill until it is golden brown.
  • Spread the avocado onto the toast.
  • Next add some chopped apple and cashew nuts.
  • Lightly drizzle your honey over the toast.
  • Garnish with some fresh basil leaves.

 

  1. Spicy Peanut Rayu and Lime Avocado Toast.

avocado, apple, basil, healthy recipes,sweet and spicy avocado toast, nutrition, health, wellbeing, the green door, alex hayes, alison canavan, becomplete, organic food,

Peanut Rayu has become one of my all time favourite toast toppers. It is a delicious blend of sunflower oil, peanuts, sesame seeds, tamari, honey, salt, chilli flakes and crispy garlic. Luckily “White Mausu – Peanut Rayu” produced by the amazingly talented chef Katie Sanderson is always at hand in The Green Door Pantry. However I have good news for those of you without access to that jar of heaven. Subbing in your favourite hot sauce works as a great alternative when paired with the fresh kick of lime.

 

What you’ll need:

  • Bread
  • Avocado
  • Peanut Rayu (or hot sauce)
  • Lime

 

Method: 

  • Slice the avocado in half and remove the seed before placing it (without it’s skin) into a bowl.
  • Mash the avocado until it is spreadable.
  • Pop your bread in the toaster or under the grill until it is golden brown.
  • Spread the avocado onto the toast.
  • Next spread some peanut rayu/hot sauce on top.
  • Finally finish by squeezing a little lime juice over the top.

 

All the ingredients mentioned above can be found at The Green Door Market. Like us on Facebook and follow me on Instagram as I continue my culinary adventures.