Many of us can relate to the feeling that our gut has a mind of its own, often over-ruling the main processing unit above our shoulders. But, what would you say if I told you that our gut is often referred to as the “second brain?”
The gut is an extension of the brain connected through the enteric nervous system. The two work together to create a balance of hormones, bacteria, enzymes, and some 40 neurotransmitters. In fact, more than 90% of our bodyʼs serotonin, 50% of our bodyʼs dopamine, and 70%-90% of our immune system, is found in the gut. Simply stated, if the gutʼs not happy, our entire body is not happy (or healthy) and more prone to a variety of problems, conditions, and disease.
The root of all disease is inflammation. The immune system and gut flora have a symbiotic relationship. When our gut flora (microbiota) is imbalanced (more bad than good) we have Dysbiosis which disturbs waste removal in the GI track and leads to inflammation (increase in cytokines) and cancer.
This microbiota or gut flora is absolutely essential to our health. At birth, we are given vital bacteria through the birth canal that become the signal to activate the gut immune system. For babies delivered by C-section, they must depend on bacteria picked up from the skin and other surfaces, therefore having a completely different community of bacteria (in the body) sometimes leading to colic, increased risk of asthma, allergies and obesity. Frequently, those same children are prescribed antibiotics more often through life, compounding the root of the problem. But, they are not alone. Many of us suffer from imbalances in our gut bacteria. It is a battle of Good vs Bad.
Some Causes of Gut Microbiota Imbalance:
Use of antibiotics
Consumption of processed foods, genetically modified foods, and sugar
Stress* (See CRF below.)
Chlorine in water.
Drinking large quantities of coffee or alcohol (or both)
Taking H2 Inhibitors. These acid blockers can be devastating to the gut and can actually perpetuate the problem. Instead, talk to your doctor about treating GERD with high potency probiotics and take a digestive enzyme to restore balance. You should also cut processed foods and eat mostly dark green leafy vegetables.
What are the signs/gut feelings (no pun intended) that something is wrong?
Foggy memory, mood swings (an inflamed gut = inflamed brain)
Release of CRF (corticotropin releasing factor) — Often a result of chronic stress, the release of CRF can lead to changes in paracellular permeability, leaky gut / leaky brain (antigens leaking out into the bloodstream), toxic liver overload, irritable bowel syndrome, and systemic disease.
Now that we have a snapshot of what can go wrong when you have bad gut health, letʼs look at some things we can do to make it right.
Keys to Gut Brain Wellness:
Eat a diet rich in organic plants, vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, some whole organic grains, and eggs. Superstars include: avocados, freshly ground flaxseeds, and omega 3 rich foods.
Avoid food additives, artificial colors and dyes, preservatives, refined sugars, pesticides, genetically engineered foods, and MSG. They all alter gut microbiota and can damage the intestinal wall.
Decreases stress to aid in the release of beneficial hormones and weight loss (bonus!).
Get adequate sleep, ideally at least 8 hours of per night. Your ability to sleep well will increase with good gut health.
Reduce Stress! This is absolutely vital for gut health and whole wellness. Volunteering, meditation, yoga,exercise, massage therapy, journaling, support groups, and gardening are all great ways to reduce stress and nurture your soul.
While not a cure-all, you can also help improve gut health by taking a high-quality probiotic supplement every day. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a supplement:
Look for one that is encapsulated and extended release which allows the bacteria to pass through stomach acid.
Choose one with multiple strains- most contain 10-12. The more strains the better.
Look for numbers that reference how many cells at best by date (not manufacture date).
Do NOT take probiotic supplements within one hour of hot drinks or heated foods. The heat will kill the cells. This includes the popular suggestion to take probiotic with hot lemon water.
For anyone in a “gut wrenching state,” you may want to look into prebiotics and digestive enzymes. They are a tremendous help and support for gut health.
Including probiotic foods in your family’s daily diet is another way to help promote good gut health. Probiotic foods include: miso, oats, wheat bran, legumes, chicory, banana, dandelion greens,blue-green algae, kimchee, garlic, onions, pickles, tempeh, sauerkraut, beans, flax seeds, leeks, artichokes, Kefir (fermented dairy), and yogurt. I’ll dive into a few of these foods below.
Yogurt: We’re firmly in the midst of a yogurt craze with food giants eagerly jumping on the bandwagon in the name of “health.” Any yogurt containing excessive sugar, artificial flavors, colors, toppings/mix ins should be considered a dessert or junk food, as any benefit received from the small amount of bacteria it may contain is voided by harmful additives. I prefer Stonyfield Greek Plain Yogurt for my family.
Fermented Drinks: My husband gags when he sees me take a swig of Eden Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar . I admit, it takes some getting used to, but being a long time Kombucha Tea drinker prepared me for the intense flavor. The list of health benefits of fermented drinks like vinegar is vast, including: aiding in alkalinity/ ph balance, improving digestion, encouraging skin health, possessing anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties, aiding in weight loss, and helping to reduce blood sugar levels. It can even be used as a mouth wash! The Kombucha story is a bit more complicated, as each maker touts their brew to be best, but remember the integrity of fermentation (raw culture) is what creates the good bacteria. Look for lines that clearly state specific strains contained and all ingredients. Also beware of high sugar content (double check the servings per container). A brand I enjoy is High Country. I love the ginger, and my son fittingly adores Wild Root. For moms out there wanting to create their own “mothers,” there is an easy starter kit.
Fermented Foods: Fermented foods have been a staple in ancient cultures often being referenced as the root of good health and survival. Miso, sauerkraut, kimchee, tempeh are examples of some of those foods. Try them out!
At the end of the day, I think momʼs advice to “listen to your gut” has taken on a deeper meaning on our ongoing journey to wellness, donʼt you?
Holly was recently a guest on, "Beautiful You" TV and chatted with host, LeeAnne Locken about truly having a "clean" home, free of toxic household chemicals and cleaning agents.
By: Holly Pellham Davis
Just saying the word, “Spring” fills my mind with thoughts of marching through every room in the house and doing a complete clean out. By the time the dust settles, I have to confess, there is not much left on the shelves, counter tops, or in the drawers. It all has morphed into a sea of bags labeled “donations” and “re-sell” which makes me feel so much lighter, refreshed and cleansed... almost as good as I imagine I would feel after a “We Care Spa” retreat. (Okay, maybe that’s a stretch.)
I love downsizing, detoxing, reducing, reusing, repurposing, simplifying “things” in life. One of my favorite places to “clean out” is the cleaning bucket. Seems kinda strange doesn’t it? ... cleaning out the cleaning bucket... but it makes me nuts to have 5,000 products to clean the bath tub! Do we really need all that? And, should we be in cardiac or respiratory distress, from the toxic fumes all in the name of a streak free mirror?
The fact that over half of all cleaning products contain chemicals that harm the lungs (what about the brain and liver?) and another 22% cause asthma in healthy adults leaves me even more breathless. Add the stats of increased respiratory allergies almost tripling in 2008-2010 and findings that people who used spray cleaners to clean their homes at least once per week has a 30-50% increased risk of asthma. Air fresheners, glass cleaners and furniture spray were frequently used products.
Some Health issues linked to Cleaning Products/Chemicals include:
Skin irritations, allergies Cancer. (especially blood cancer ie: Asthma Burns and Poisoning.
Recently, I penned an article on the “Air we Breathe” and the importance of clean air indoors and our overall health. Products that mask, fragrance and/or chemically disinfect our air, products that clean, polish and wax surfaces, products that retard bacteria, remove mold or bleach surfaces in wet areas. These cleaning products gas off or evaporate into the air we breathe effecting our health both, short and long term. Exposures can leave chemicals lingering in our bodies for decades with devastating effects.
Let’s put on some gloves, a white mask (if needed), a cute apron, and get to work!
First, we need to grab a container that will hold “toxic” products (we must dispose of them properly- you do not want to be drinking it down the road. It all goes somewhere, right? Visit Dallas County website for locations and directions.
Review products you have on hand: The majority of cleaning products do not list the complete ingredients on the label. It’s a dastardly, devious thing to do. Luckily, we can usually discern for ourselves if a product has a high probability of containing toxic substances. If in question, toss it. (properly)
Most people have 1)house cleaning products, 2)kitchen cleaning products, 3) laundry products and then 4)garage type (lawn and auto) products. Hit all areas separately.
Refer online to Environmental Working Group’s Product database if you have a question.
Dispose of any product that contains the following:
Formaldehyde (carcinogen) Releasing Chemicals list via EWG:
Remove & Discard all products containing toxic chemicals listed above and/or products you have deemed toxic.
Please include: Laundry dryer sheets, Petroleum based and scented candles, air refreshers, deodorizers, and “Fabreeze type” products.
“Clean” DIY Alternatives:
Vinegar & Water. Vinegar is my very favorite cleaning product. I mix 1 part vinegar to about 3 parts water, in a spray bottle to clean bathtubs & showers. (mix with baking soda and Bronner’s soap for a mild abrasive and tile, porcelain cleaner) For mold removal, spray hydrogen peroxide after the vinegar spray to do the trick! Add a spray of peroxide anytime you need antibacterial or extra germ fighting action, perfect for the toilet bowl!
Add vinegar to the rinse cycle of the laundry for extra brightening, softening and freshness! Clean your countertops, granite, marble, sinks. Just spray and wipe with clean re-usable cleaning towels! For a true air refresher, room oder remover, place a small bowl of white vinegar on the counter top!
Hydrogen Peroxide in a spray bottle: Use hydrogen peroxide for mold and anti bacterial uses in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry. Spot testing is always recommended. Peroxide in a spray bottle application is a great alternative to cleaning fruits and vegetables as well as disinfecting cutting boards. Be sure to rinse and let the food dry prior to consumption. Gloves are strongly suggested, as the peroxide can burn your hands.
Baking soda is fantastic for deodorizing carpets and pet areas. Just sprinkle prior to vacuuming designated areas. Baking soda can be easily mixed with an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice to increase cleaning power. It can also be mixed with water and liquid dish soap, to create a nice cleanser for tile or other non- porous surfaces including sinks and ovens. Hot Water: Nothing can take the place of good ole hot water. One of the best perks for under the counter instant hot water is the ability to put it on a dry clean cloth and clean plus naturally kill germs in an instant. Hot water cuts grease and gets the shine on!
Plant Oils: Olive Oil, Lemon Oil: One of the worst violators commonly comes in the form of furniture polish. Skip the exposure and danger with a non-toxic do it yourself concoction of Olive Oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and lemon oil. Spot test first. Apply to clean dry cloth, then furniture. For best results, use microfiber cleaning towels to remove toxic dust prior to oil.
Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent (Although its noted for Borax, it is the BEST laundry detergent I have tried and when you have kiddos, you need something strong, right? This does the trick and the bit of Borax is okay with me.)
Seventh Generation Liquid dish soap
Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes
Method Glass Cleaner
Method Almond Wood Cleaner
Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner
Other Clean Fresh Living Cleaning Tips include:
Protect Yourself:Dust particles can contain highly toxic, very dangerous contaminants such as formaldehyde, lead, mercury, arsenic, pesticides and flame retardants. Please use gloves and a white mask while dusting.
Pre-Clean: I recommend going over furniture, blinds and other dust collecting objects with a microfiber cloth prior to using a furniture cleaner or oil. Conserve: Use washable cleaning or automotive towels to replace paper towel waste. Lint free linen drying towels are great for glass and mirrors. Bare feet rule: Have people remove their shoes prior to entering your home. This greatly reduces the dirt and dust accumulations.
Frequently vacuum using HEPA filter the carpeted areas of your home. Replace air filters often.
Keep it movin’: Keep air circulating in your house at all times. This is absolutely essential. Open doors and windows when possible and get the flow going. Add fans if necessary.
Give a Green 411 to the housekeeper: If you have a house keeper on the scene, make sure you teach then how to and what goes where.
Label with a list of applications. ie: Bathtub.
Remember, even if you aren’t home while your house is being cleaned, its in the air, in the dust and in you..
Now that we have cleared the air with clean fresh cleaning products for our home... whatta ya say we use some of our left over house cleaning ingredients for a refreshing glass of water... squeeze the lemon, hold the olive oil.
Take a deep breath through your nose, slowly filling up your lungs. Then slowly push the air out through your mouth. Think about your nose, which acts as a filter and humidifier of the air you breathe into the lungs, processing that healing, life-giving oxygen. Then focus on expelling the by-product, carbon dioxide, out of your mouth, into the air around you.
Besides water, air is the only way to feed the human body oxygen. That makes it absolutely essential, fundamental, and critical for good health. Major air pollutants: carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, lead, and particle pollution are proven to increase the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) , even after short-term exposures. Other health risks linked to air pollution include: asthma, stroke, decline in cognitive function, dementia, autism, inflammation, high blood pressure, acceleration of atherosclerosis, and overall cardiovascular health and brain health. Researchers estimate about an 18% increase in the life span for people living in rural or metropolitan counties and attributed it to lower air pollution. Kind of makes you want to stay indoors, right? Sadly, the air inside your home, office, school (even our car!) is about seven times more polluted than the outdoor air.
Major contributors are the things you can’t see, including:
Air fragrances: Candles (heavily fragranced, petroleum-based are the worst culprits), incense, “air re-fresheners” (huge oxymoron), and air deodorizers and disinfectants (i.e. Lysol and Fabreeze). The air in your lungs does not need to smell good. It needs to be clear of chemicals, phthalates, and harmful additives.
Volatile Organic Compound’s (VOC’s): Gas-off from dry cleaning, paint, carpet, deadly formaldehyde, particle and pressed boards, furniture, PVC Shower Curtains, household mattresses and other furniture containing flame resistant chemicals PBDEs & PBBs –
Pesticides, tobacco smoke, gas and other fuels, paint strippers, cosmetics (hairsprays and perfume), cleaning products containing ammonia, chlorine, benzene, floor wax, wood or other cleaners with petroleum (mineral) ingredients, wood burning stoves or fireplaces, and gas appliances.
So how do we “clear” the air?
1. Increase Flow. The most important thing is to increase the air flow in the building. That means, open the windows and doors and get good air movement going. This step is absolutely essential. You must move the air to clean it. Install small fans in hard to ventilate places such as the laundry room and bathroom. Air flow also decreases mold as it reduces moisture, which is important as mold can have a profound effect on health.
2. Implement A No Idle Policy. Never “idle” your car inside the garage. Do not even start the engine without making sure you can pull out quickly and safely. A swift exit is key. In carpool, turn off the engine. This policy should be in force at every school across the country. Not only does this deadly pollution make its way into the buildings, but into the lungs of our precious children. Same with buses- make sure the school has a no idle policy in place. If your child takes the bus, educate them on the dangers of vehicle emissions. Vehicle exhaust is deadly.
3. Identify And Eliminate Air Violators. Use the above list as a guide to “air violators” and discontinue their use immediately. Clean air violators out of your home and office. Be sure and properly dispose of all chemicals, cleaners, fuels, etc or the problem will only mutate to the local water source.
4. Test Your Air. Have your air tested if high allergies, migraines, or unexplained health problems plague anyone in your family. Make sure your house meets airPlus standards.
5. Filter, Filter, Filter. Use a HEPA filter on vacuum cleaners and HVAC air filters. Research the EPA’s Guide for Residential Air Filters and make sure you are taking necessary steps to ensure air health in your home.
6. Let In The Light. Get as much natural sunlight into your home as possible. The sun is a natural disinfectant and also kills most mold spores.
7. Dust. Use Microfiber cleaning towels to frequently remove dust, allergens and pet dander from furniture, floors, counter tops, and blinds.
8. Go Green. Channel your green thumb and grow lots of indoor plants to naturally filter the air. NASA research confirms the use of household plants improves air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and eliminating benzene and formaldehyde. Here is a full list of air-purifying plants.
Taking these small steps will ensure you and your family can breathe deeply and be closer to complete health. Wherever you can, through daily choices, writing elected officials, contacting school officials to initiate a no-idle policy, be an advocate for clean air, as it will give us a healthier earth for generations to come. Then enjoy a nice, long, deep breath of clean fresh… air!
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Disclaimer: The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Holly Pellham Davis / Clean Fresh Living, Inc. unless otherwise noted. Information and articles are based upon personal experience, preference, analyzing research, research data and knowledge of Holly Pellham Davis or respective author, who retains copyright. The information on the website, or social media, is not intended to replace the advise or relationship with a qualified health care professional, is not intended as medical advice and should not be construed as an attempt to offer or render a medical opinion or otherwise engage in the practice of medicine.
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