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by Lydia, our nutritionist
The role stomach acid plays in your digestion and how this is a key to balancing your hormones.
In my workshops and consultations I refer to our gastric juices as our “Hot Pot”, like a burning hot bubbling cauldron. I often daydream about how fabulous it would be to be a witch, mixing potions and creating tonics! I find solace in knowing I have a chemical concoction simmering away inside me (my stomach) at all times, turning my food into magic (or rather nutrients that determine my health). As you read through this blog I want you to imagine this bubbling cauldron when I refer to your gastric juices or stomach acid…
How your Hot Pot (bubbling cauldron) helps you?
We are told that broccoli is good for your liver, it contains indole-3-carbinol which helps the cytochrome p450 pathways to detoxify hormones we no longer need, like excess oestrogen. But HOW does the body access this indole-3-carbinol from the broccoli we just munched down on? We can get so excited by eating our raw greens or making sure we have enough fat and protein in our meals. But HOW does it go from a cuisine to various nutrients that fuel our entire being?!
The gastric juices in your stomach should be a pH of 1-2, this is death burning hot acid! The hot pot ingredients are loads of enzymes and hydrochloric acid released from your liver, pancreas and cells that line the stomach*. The release of acid into your stomach is activated by your vagus nerve, The Wanderer Nerve- seriously its goes everywhere and does SO much. This burning acid is told to release, by the vagus nerve, in response to the signal of foods’ soon arrival. Upon arrival the stomach seals the doors, well sphincters, either ends of your stomach and churns your food around like a washing machine on the final high speed spin. During this time your food is smooshed and denatured into nutrients that are then sent into the small intestine to be absorbed into your blood.
Let’s role play
Okay so mostly the Hot Pot works wonders, until we introduce a modern western diet and lifestyle. Let’s see how this plays out…Let’s set the scene: You’ve woken up early, gone for a run and have a 30 minute window to get ready and go to work/school/wherever (where you go is your business!). You have read that smoothies are a great way to access a lot of your key nutritional requirements, and they’re quick! You’re stressed, life is busy and you have things to do. You quickly tap about at your computer, take some phone calls all while downing this super duper rainbow smoothie filled with fat, protein and fibre.
Now let’s ask some questions: How quickly did you consume your smoothie? Did you chew it? Were you looking at your phone/computer while drinking it? Do you remember what it tasted like? Were you thinking about the smoothie or the trillion other things you have to do that day?
I’m not saying smoothies are bad, no way! They take up a pretty significant part of my diet. But downing a smoothie filled with complex nutrients in a rushed manner is not conducive to supporting your hot pot to break it down into nutrients. The vagus nerve wasn’t told you were about to eat nor did you tell it you were eating!! You didn’t chew or even THINK about your smoothie as food that needs stomach acid. You can definitely argue that the smoothie was blended it up so you didn’t have to chew, the blender is no stomach acid – lets get that clear! Taking time out to look at your food, smell your food and CHEW your food really helps the vagal nerve switch into gear. When we are stressed or in a hurry our vagus nerves supports us in that time, it takes our energy away from digesting and to our brain and muscles. So we can think quick and run from a tiger!
Another reason to breathe
We digest best in the parasympathetic nervous system state – ‘Rest and Digest’. Your vagus nerve listens to your heart is beating slowing, breathing nice and slow and your gentle thoughts. “No tiger can get us here, it’s safe to relax our skeletal muscles and eat”. Consequently blood is around your digestive system, gastric acid is being released into your stomach and upper small intestine. When you think about food you salivate, try it now – imagine eating a lemon, imagine it sour in your mouth activating your salivary glands. Go on, say lemon over and over. Feel that? Salivary glands opening and releasing? The Vagus nerve is cool huh!? So far breathing is the most successful tool to ease our body closer to rest and digest, SO BREATHE!
Symptoms/consequences of low stomach acid:
- Food intolerance
- Histamine intolerance
- Excess burping/farting
*I just want to say stomach acid, enzymes and how they are released is WAY more complex than what I could fit in this blog
By Dr. Annika
One of the fabulous things about going to conferences is that you pick up little nuggets of clinical wisdom here and there. Research catches up with common sense and traditional wisdom eventually. So here’s a little bit of research we learnt about at the Brisbane conference in March.
So what is the natural and free pain relief everyone has access to? Sleep!
There was a study conducted where volunteers were sleep deprived. They were then tested to see how sensitive to pain they were – about 10% more sensitive than they were before the sleep deprivation.
They then were allowed to sleep and re-tested – and they were 15% less pain sensitive than before they were sleep deprived. In fact, the effect of recovery sleep on pain was greater than level 1 analgesics (such as paracetamol)!
The implications are obvious, but I have been known to state the obvious in the past, so here goes:
Most of us need 8 – 9 hours of sleep per day.
Let me say that again: Most of us need 8 – 9 hours of sleep per day.
If you don’t get that much, you will be more sensitive to pain (as well as grumpy and unfocused). And often pain disrupts sleep, so you can potentially end up in a vicious cycle of pain and sleep deprivation.
The wonderful, amazing hormone and antioxidant melatonin goes to work at night. As an antioxidant it repairs our brain tissue. This is kind of important!! As a hormone it regulates our day and night cycles.
It is released from the pineal gland, which is this tiny little gland right in the middle of our brains behind our eyes that reacts to light. So if there is light around, melatonin secretion is suppressed; if it’s dark, melatonin starts secreting and makes you sleepy.
This is a crucial point: it needs to be dark for melatonin to do its best work. REALLY dark.
That means that you should not be able to make out the fixtures in the room you sleep in at night. If you do, get block-out curtains, and remove any bright shining dots attached to devices from your bedroom.
Have you ever noticed you felt sleepy much earlier when you didn’t watch TV before bed? If you are using screens at night, or if you have LED lights illuminating your house, you are exposed to the blue part of the light spectrum, which is stimulating – and possibly the reason why people don’t think they need 8 hours of sleep at night. So switch off any screens at least 30 minutes before bed (try reading or doing craft or playing a board game or – oh my, this is revolutionary! – just talking to the people you spend your evenings with), and if possible use candles or a fire to light up the room you are in at night, as fire has lots of red light in it which has as soothing effect on the brain.
Sleep truly is the master healer and will allow you to be at your best. Enjoy it!
By Kelly Horne, naturopath
What is better than a hot shower on a cold winter morning? It’s a great feeling but those few minutes can lead to dry skin for the rest of the day. You can also end up more dehydrated. I talk to people so regularly who experience dry skin during winter. One man even told me he went to the doctors with a rash on his back. The doctor had one look at his back and said “that’s not a rash, you just stand under the hot water in your shower for too long!” Sure enough, he reduced the temperature of his shower and the ‘rash’ went away.
Here is a way to shower which helps to avoid dry winter skin
- Turn on your shower as hot as you like until the shower cubicle, floor, the tiles and the air is lovely and warm – this is the secret! It doesn’t take long if you have it high enough.
- Step into the shower and rinse in the hot water for a few seconds if you wish – this is optional. I will occasionally do this on a particularly cold morning after my walk.
- Turn the shower down to the coolest temperature you can that is still comfortable. I have a mixer tap so mine I have just slightly warmer/left from half way.
- Shower as usual but use a soap free/low foaming product. I am currently using EnviroCare sensitive liquid hair and body cleanser which has been wonderful and great for the whole family. Try not to linger in the shower for too long for the benefit of your skin, your water bill and for the environment.
- Here comes the hardest part – Turn the water down to it is quite cold and have a quick rinse under it. I know this sounds awful in the middle of winter but it really isn’t terrible if you are already nice and warm. I rinse off for around 30 seconds but less is fine too. This helps to close up the pores of the skin that have opened with the heat and steam. Added bonus – less frizz if you rinse your hair too!
- Dry off gently with a towel. If you feel the need to use a body moisturiser then go for it. By using this method I no longer feel the need for a body moisturiser. If I do use one I like Vegesorb. It is like the old classic sorbolene and glycerine but it is made from plant-based oils rather than petrochemicals.
- Bonus step – Eat healthy fats – Fat helps to moisturise the skin from the inside out because the cells of our body are made from fat. Fat is important for the strength, hydration and integrity of our skin. Some great sources of dietary fat are gently cooked fish, nuts, seeds, coconut, olive oil and avocado.
Did you know that cold showers offer health benefits beyond just caring for your skin? It can activate the ‘disease fighting’ white immune cells. It can also stimulate the lymphatic system to cleanse the body of waste, bacteria, and microbes by causing the vessels of the lymphatic system to pump the lymph fluid around the body. It also stimulates blood flow, forcing blood to vital organs and oxygenating your whole body. Amazingly it increases what is known as “brown fat”. This type of fat is metabolically active which uses energy rather than storing it! Brown fat, unlike white fat, has been linked to an increased metabolism and lower risk of obesity.
Including cold water in your shower to some degree is also great for its stimulating benefits and will help to increase the feel-good hormones. I have been having mostly cold showers for years and I love the benefit it provides. If you think about it, we were never meant to have hot showers. Our prehistorical cave men ancestors would never have had access to large amounts of hot water so I think it’s a good idea to keep it to a minimum.