Remember Gillian McKeith? She said “you are what you eat” and had a successful TV show in the noughties examining peoples poo and telling them what to eat and what not to eat. And while I wasn’t a fan of her or the show it turns out she was probably ahead of the curve and was onto something!
Research has taken this idea of what we eat somehow influencing who we are and shown that what we eat, and more specifically how healthy our gut biome is, effects our emotions and therefore, because our emotions effect how we think, how we feel psychologically.
Your brain and gut are directly connected (along with all other major organs) by the vagus nerve. In fact, in her wonderful book ‘Gut’ Giulia Enders (link at the end of the blog) suggests the self is constructed by the brain drawing on information and feelings from every part of the body. This overturns somewhat the idea that ‘I think therefore I am’ bringing the impact of physical ‘feelings’ into the creation of self. Surely you’ve spotted when your toilet habits are not good, or you’ve overindulged, you feel lousy, sluggish, not motivated? This, it is increasingly being argued, is because your gut has a significant impact on your brain and therefore how you feel emotionally.
In their brilliant and entertaining podcast for Audible, ‘It Takes Guts’, Tim Anderson and Giles Yeo explore the impact of your gut biome on your emotions and find there are significant connections. (It’s free to listener to if you are an audible member…. and if you’re not… why not! It’s a great way to ‘read’ – and you get lots of free material… I’m not on commission – honest). They explore the science and offer some solutions – which I’m going to cover in future blogs. But, it is clear that how you feel in your guts has an impact on how you feel mentally and, in terms of your productivity, how you feel mentally has a huge impact. If you feel low in mood, unmotivated, lacking drive, you are not going to get the best out of each and every day – whether you’re in the office or at home.
I was already on a journey of starting to change my nutritional intake. I avoid the word diet at all costs as it has connotations for me and for other people that are about waist loss and are generally negative. What I’m talking about here is not losing weight to be a size 10 or have a 32 inch waist but rather to eat in such a way that it supports your body’s physical and mental function and therefore makes you more productive in life.
I stopped eating meat nearly 3 months ago now and I feel much better for it! But hang on! I don’t really feel it’s not eating meat that’s done this as I know lots of people who eat meat and do great. I feel, for me, that it has meant that I have started eating more vegetables and pulses to replace the meat and what we do know is that those things create a healthier gut biome.
I have also started experimenting with fermented foods. Fermented foods have lots of good bacteria in them that promote good health. I have started to make and drink Kombucha… and I’m going to stick my neck out here, only 7 days into drinking it and say, it definitely has had a positive effect on me overall as well as my guts and bowels improving! I’ve also been eating fermented beetroot and fermented courgette… and I’ll post how I’ve done that soon. They are essentially a sauerkraut which is traditionally made with cabbage. There some great advice about fermenting and more on the benefits of it on the City Homesteads website! Definitely worth a look!
So, nutrition is the third element of my self care triangle. The other being exercise and sleep. I feel we need these three elements all working effectively in order to improve our well being and our productivity. We will all have a balance of how much of each we need to be getting right to be functioning at our max but we will need some of all of these things. Good quality sleep and the right amount is crucial. Throw in some exercise and some good food and we should be on the road to winning the productivity battle so that wether we’re at work, out for the night, chilling in front of the TV, doing jobs around the house, or playing with the children, we’ll be on top form while we do it, full of energy and enthusiasm to get the most out of each and every thing we do!
Stay tuned! More coming! I’m excited and hope you are!