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THE LINK BETWEEN GUT HEALTH AND MENTAL HEALTH
Gut health, two words that seem to be on everybody’s lips these days. From #guttok to #guthack it can be hard to distinguish fact from fiction.
I have suffered from gut and digestive issues for many years. As a young man I visited doctors and had countless examinations, but no one could find anything medically wrong with me. When a craniosacral therapist suggested I see a gastroenterologist and the physical tests yet again revealed nothing, I was advised that it must be psychosomatic. I embarked on a journey of self-discovery and realised that my digestive issues were in fact triggered by certain emotional events. The connection between mind and body became clear and indisputable to me, I had lived it.
This symbiotic relationship between our mental health and our gut health is now understood more deeply. It may vary from one human to another, but the connection is acknowledged across specialisms and grounded in research and experience. So just like our mental health, we need to support and manage our gut health too.
Consuming excessive amounts of the things our bodies were never designed to consume can lead to an unhealthy gut. Processed foods, refined sugars, artificial and synthetic ingredients create imbalance and dysregulation. They inhibit the production, diversity and function of “good” gut bacteria and often result in negative physical symptoms. Fatigue, skin irritations and digestive issues like bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, and indigestion are all now known to have strong associations with an unhealthy microbiome. An unhealthy microbiome is also associated with inflammation in the body, which has been linked to a wide variety of diseases.
Too many sugary, starchy foods lead to sugar spikes, which as the name suggests spike glucose levels in our blood. Spikes end in a blood glucose crash which prompts us to crave more sugary, starchy food and the eat, snack, eat, snack, repeat cycle continues.
Essential in counteracting this sickly cycle is the consumption of fibre, which helps to regulate blood glucose levels and avoid wild fluctuations.
Gut friendly fibre comes in two forms, insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and is found in vegetables and breakfast cereals, like Weetabix. This type of fibre helps us poop better and more regularly. Soluble fibre does dissolve in water and merely passes through our system in a gel like form, helping to regulate blood sugar and aid digestion. It can be found in fruit pectins and specific varieties of plants and is prebiotic in nature.
A healthy digestive system creates an environment in which good bacteria can thrive. This along with our digestive enzymes aids proper absorption of nutrients and vitamins and keeps our immune system, bodies and minds strong and resilient.
Unfortunately, the food industry is rife with things that inhibit and even damage our gut health. Having personal experience of digestive issues and working within food manufacturing, I decided to create a range of chocolate products that taste amazing without causing gut distress or glucose levels to rocket. So together with my wife Neena, we founded Prodigy.
Our products only contain natural unrefined sugars, natural minimally processed plant based ingredients, and high amounts of soluble fibre. They are nutritionally beneficial and delicious. Through Prodigy we aim to solve a legacy problem created by the previous generation food industry. We want to show the next generation that it can be done by challenging and changing the tools and incumbent system.
It seems that sometimes in life our struggles lead us to our strengths. Today my gut and my mind are happy.