Former SClub7 member Hannah Spearitt is joining Eastenders and has spent the last few years turning to fitness to overcome a number of difficulties. Here, she shares some of the things she’s learned with BESTFIT readers:
Welcome to my new wellness column! I’m excited about sharing some of the personal tips on healthy living and exercise that I’ve learnt along my fitness journey and I hope you find them useful.
I’m going to kick off with digestive health, a topic that is trending currently in the fitness industry. I’m going to try and approach it from a more simplistic angle so that if you are reading this you don’t ignore it for as I did for a long time, far too long frustratingly!
The first thing I want to touch on is the role it plays in our mental health. There’s a lot more media coverage on mental health now and although medication is one way to manage symptoms, the stomach dictates how you feel, i.e emotions, anxiety, stress or alternatively positivity and happiness! All this is down to the condition of your stomach and the balance of good and bad bacteria. If it’s all hunky dory then you’ll feel great and if it’s out of sync you can guess what happens… depression, anxiety, IBS and so on.
The problem we have in keeping our stomachs healthy is in the fact that the modern diet lacks the tools for the stomach to heal itself and for good bacteria to flourish. So much so in fact that you can be eating a typical ‘clean’ diet, exercising regularly and still be suffering from poor digestion, so everyone is susceptible. Similarly, if you’ve been eating poorly for some time and have recently changed your diet but it hasn’t quite had the positive impact you were hoping for, this may well be your issue.
And as the condition of your stomach gets worse you start to develop new allergies as your stomach becomes less effective at digesting certain foods, which start to wreak havoc in your body. And, of course, I’m going to tell you that all this is avoidable… with a huge smile on my face! By giving your stomach the tools it needs you can see huge improvements in digestion, health and mental wellbeing in a relatively short time, when considering you may have been eating the wrong foods for some years now.
So this month I’m going to leave you with a few steps you can take in order to give your gut a helping hand and reap the benefits of good digestive health:
1. Get regular exercise, no surprises here! Exercise will help improve the balance of bacteria in your gut and has a host of other health benefits. High intensity exercise in particular also have a favourable effect on hormone balance in the body.
2. Eat fermented foods, these foods are the ultimate superfood as they are quite literally alive. Organic Sauerkraut is probably the easiest to obtain as most health food shops now stock it. The drink kefir is another option increasingly available in an increasing number of flavours now, which are becoming a lot more palatable! BUT If you’re not quite ready for the tastes of those weird and wonderful foods yet, you can invest in a good probiotic to start with.
3. Reduce or completely eliminate refined sugar and processed foods, processed foods and refined sugar are nutritionally dead foods and feed the bad pathogenic bacteria in your gut. On top of this, they are terrible for blood sugar levels and your overall health.
4. Reduce your intake of artificial sweeteners and preservatives, these have all been shown to have a negative impact on bacterial balance for the days following ingestion. The most common sources of these are diet drinks and tinned or bottled foods that sit on the shelves unrefrigerated in the supermarket for extended periods.
5. Get your five-a-day and take a good quality multivitamin, of course there is no replacement for healthy nutritious food but we don’t always manage our five a day and taking a good quality multivitamin certainly helps us to pick up slack from too few veggies. Ideally you want one extracted from food, as the nutrients are much more complete and therefore higher quality and more useable by the body.
6. Restrict antibiotics, occasionally there is no way of avoiding their use but take a strong probiotic alongside them, they kill both the bad bacteria causing infection and the good bacteria that make up your immune system. It can take the body a year to recover good bacteria levels from just one course of antibiotics.
7. Supplement with Glutamine and Glycine, these are the two amino acids that the body uses primarily to repair the stomach lining for better absorption of nutrients and fewer food allergies due to stomach damage.
8. Take digestive enzymes and chew your food properly, chewing your food reduces the likelihood of undigested food
reaching the intestines (bad!) and low stomach acid is also very common and the most likely cause of heartburn, contrary to popular belief that acid reflux is too much acid it is not, it’s a sign your stomach is struggling!
9. Cut out foods that you are allergic to. If a food causes you to experience symptoms of poor digestion and discomfort then every time you eat it, you are doing damage and causing inflammation in your stomach. Avoid these.
10. Reduce stress levels, now of course this is much easier said than done! BUT if you follow all the steps above you will find stress levels reducing anyway as the body gets a helping hand and begins to function much more efficiently. Setting aside an hour or so a day to completely switch will also help this process along nicely. Whatever floats your boat, so TV, gym, yoga, swimming… you name it.
These are the things I did to get my health back on track, fix my poor digestion and start feeling high energy and younger again. They are not rocket science, but they do cover every angle of digestive health and are relatively easy changes to implement should you want to try it. Thank you for reading and I look forward to next month’s column!