Posts

Why Potassium is Essential to Gut Health

Do you often experience bloating or constipation?

Today we are going to dig into the connection between electrolytes, particularly potassium and your gut.
 
Your gut health is the core of your overall health.
 
Your gut is where you take everything that you eat and drink and transform it into the many building blocks your body needs to function. From making energy, being able to think clearly, sleep well, maintain a healthy weight, build muscle, and clear out toxins that need clearing out daily, your gut is at the ROOT of your overall function. It’s also where 80% or more of your immune system lives.
 
It is my passion is to work with people like you whose health symptoms–like low energy, gut/digestive issues, excess weight, mood imbalance, chronic infections, and skin & sleep problems–are getting in the way of you living life fully and with a sense of freedom in your body. I help you to regain your health so you can feel great and free to enjoy life fully.
 
Let’s dig into how potassium and electrolytes play into this.

What Do Electrolytes Do?

 Electrolytes are minerals found in the body that conduct electricity in body fluids. Because of the very nature of electrolytes, they are an important part of the transmission of electrical messages from your brain and along your nerves. When in water, electrolytes dissolve in positive and negative ions. Aside from their important role in sending nerve signals, they help in the regulation of your body fluids and muscle contractions. Examples of electrolytes are sodium, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which are responsible for the normal tone of the muscles in your limbs, heart, arteries, and intestines. So, imbalance in the electrolyte levels of your body can affect any or all of your vital functions.
 
Interestingly, potassium is the third most abundant mineral in the body. Around 98% of it is found in your cells, 80% of which stays in your muscle cells and 20% in your bones, liver, and red blood cells. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, potassium is essential for muscle contraction and they recommend that adults have about 4,700 milligrams daily from dietary sources.

Potassium and Digestion

 Remember, digestion occurs through rhythmic intestinal contractions (known as peristalsis). The smooth muscle inside your digestive tract is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, the part of your nervous system that works automatically without your conscious effort and control. Peristalsis occurs through the alternating contraction and relaxation of the smooth muscle tissue in your intestinal wall, creating a wave-like effect that pushes the contents forward along your digestive tract. It is clear, then, that in order for digestion, absorption, and waste elimination to occur–processes that take place in the digestive system–there should be enough minerals and electrolytes to support peristalsis.
Potassium, being an electrolyte, is partly responsible for muscles contraction. So when there is a low level of potassium in your body, peristalsis slows down, and this leads to compromised digestion. If you find yourself frustrated waiting on the “throne” for longer periods of time (aka constipation), you may have an underlying electrolyte imbalance, particularly hypokalemia or potassium deficiency.

Sources of Potassium

 As cliche as it is, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case, it’s better to get sufficient potassium in your diet or via supplementation than to suffer the consequences of not having enough electrolytes in your body. Don’t worry, potassium sources are not hard to find. Foods high in potassium include avocados, spinach and leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, russet potatoes, beet greens, pistachios, Swiss chard, pomegranates, watermelon, and coconut water to name a few. If you are following a low-carb or keto eating plan, here are some additional sources. If you are following a moderate to high carb eating plan, here are some additional foods to consider.

If you don’t eat foods that are providing enough potassium, or if you sweat a lot, or if you exercise a lot and suspect you need more potassium, you may want to consider Seeking Health’s Optimal Potassium Powder (1 scoop provides 500 mg of potassium and it’s pretty tasty!) or one of my favorites is their Optimal Electrolyte Powderbecause it has potassium, magnesium and other electrolytes versus potassium alone. Those taking medications such as diuretics and antibiotics also lose potassium easily and are at high risk for potassium deficiency. As is advised with any supplements, it is best to consult your health care provider before starting it (especially if you are taking medications).
 
Until next time, I’m wishing you unstoppable health!

-Rebecca

Poo Matters: Things You Can Do to Support Constipation

In last week’s newsletter, I told you about some main causes of constipation. By now, you may have already made a few lifestyle changes that are having a positive impact on your bowel movements. So this week, let me give you more ideas on how to support constipation. These fixes are easily doable and can support you to have more healthy BM’s and take your gut health up a level.

Why is gut health so important?

Your gut is where you take all the good stuff you eat and drink and transform it into the many building blocks your body needs to make energy, think clearly, sleep well, maintain a healthy weight, build muscle, and clear out toxins that need clearing out daily so you can thrive. It’s also where 80% or more of your immune system lives.

It is my passion is to work with people like you whose health symptoms–like low energy, gut/digestive issues, excess weight, mood imbalance, chronic infections, and skin & sleep problems–are getting in the way of you living life fully and with a sense of freedom in your body. I help you to regain your health so you can feel great and free to enjoy life fully.

So let’s get into how to support constipation.

 Learn to analyze your poo

Your stool tells you a lot about what’s going on inside your body. What’s yours saying about you? Check out this free infographic to learn why the color, consistency, and shape of your poo matters and what it say about your health.

For example, stool color varies from green to brown.  This depends on your diet and the amount of bile on your poo. Bile is the yellow-green pigment produced by your liver and stored and concentrated in your gall bladder. After eating, the stored bile is discharged to the duodenum (the first section of the small intestine) to digest fats. As the digestive contents travel along the bowel, enzymes alter bile, changing the pigments from green to brown. So the normal poo color is usually brown and alterations are indicative of changes inside your gut or digestive capacity. In her infographic, 50 Shades of Poo, Dr. Marisol elaborates on poo color and has a simple test you can do at home to assess your stomach acid output. You can check it out here.

Use castor oil packs

Castor oil has long been used dating back to ancient civilization in Egypt to treat various health conditions. The oil comes from the seeds of castor, Ricinus communis plant, known as castor beans.

If you don’t want to go through all the mess in making your own castor oil pack, you can actually use this kit. I’ve been doing castor oil packs for years for overall health benefits and this kit makes it SO much easier and less messy!

One of the best-known use of castor oil is as a natural laxative. It is classified as a stimulant laxative, which means it increases the movement of the muscles of the digestive tract to push through intestinal content and clear the bowels. In addition, castor oil helps relieve inflammation, balance your hormones, promote relaxation, and improve liver detoxification, which are all important to have a healthy poo (and healthy YOU!).

Making a castor oil pack involves soaking a piece of flannel in castor oil. After soaking, you have to cover the flannel with plastic and place a heating pad or hot water bottle on top of it. Place the flannel on the skin of your abdomen to relieve constipation or other digestive disorders like gas and bloating. When you are done, wipe clean with a paper towel or cloth (it does stain so don’t use a cloth that you don’t mind getting stained).

*If you’re pregnant or taking medications, don’t use castor oil packs and check with your doctor for advice.

Promote pressure and lubrication

Last time, I told you that pressure and lubrication are required to expel poo. So we have to meet these criteria adequately to ensure that we have a healthy and regular bowel movements.

Fiber from your diet, muscle tone, physical activity, adequate hydration, and a healthy nervous system create the pressure your gut needs to propel stool forward in your digestive tract. Lubrication, on the other hand, is achieved by drinking enough water and hydrating fluids (coffee doesn’t count as it is a diuretic) and eating healthy fats (like olive oil, flax, ghee, avocado, coconut, etc). 

I know that these 3 things plus your desire to lead a healthy lifestyle will help you overcome constipation and boost your overall gut health.

If you’re ready to discover where your best health has been hiding, I’d love to connect with you!
Apply for a complimentary Unstoppable Health Discovery Session. http://bit.ly/schedulinghealth (subject to availability).

Until next time, I’m wishing you unstoppable health!

-Rebecca

Dairy-free, gut-friendly, low-sugar smoothie bowl!

You’re in for a yummy and very healthy treat today! I’m about to share a quick and easy recipe with you that is gluten-free, grain-free, egg-free, soy-free, high in fiber, protein, and nutrients, low in starch, and gut friendly. Winner!

Taking good care of your gut is one of the wisest investments you can make.

Why?

Your gut is truly at the ROOT of your health.
 
Your gut is where you take all the good stuff you eat and drink and transform it into the many building blocks your body needs to make energy, think clearly, sleep well, maintain a healthy weight, build muscle, and clear out toxins that need clearing out daily so you can thrive. It’s also where 80% or more of your immune system lives.
 
It is my passion is to work with people like you whose health symptoms–like low energy, gut/digestive issues, excess weight, mood imbalance, chronic infections, and skin & sleep problems–are getting in the way of you living life fully and with a sense of freedom in your body. I help you to regain your health so you can feel great and free to enjoy life fully.
 

Raspberry Smoothie Bowl Benefits

Our recipe this week is a Raspberry Smoothie Bowl by Leanne Vogel. (You can customize it as needed! Use almond milk rather than coconut milk if you do better with less fat; add some extra berries if you need more carbs).

Aside from the fact that raspberries are one of the world’s most consumed berries, you’ll be amazed by how much nutritional value this sweet and juicy fruit brings to the table. So, before we head on to the recipe, let me lay down the two main interesting health benefits raspberries can provide you.
 
1) Raspberries are powerful antioxidants.
 
According to Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission, red raspberries in particular contain strong antioxidants such as Vitamin C, quercetin, and gallic acid that fight against cancer, heart and circulatory diseases, as well as age-related illnesses. They also contain high content of ellagic acid which prevents inflammation and is known to prevent cancer.
 
How do antioxidants work?
 
During metabolism, your body constantly forms free radicals. A free radical is an atom that lacks electrons in its outer shell and has the ability to bind with another atom to complete it. Free radicals highly react with other substances in an effort to complete the electrons in their outer shell.  In the absence of antioxidants, free radicals would destroy your body in the process of oxidative stress, damaging important molecules in your body and even causing cell death. This now leads to a number of illnesses, namely diabetes, heart disease, atherosclerosis, etc.
 
Free radicals are not at all bad. In fact, your body’s immune system uses them to fight against bacteria that cause diseases. But without antioxidants, free radicals would quickly harm you. Antioxidants give free radicals their needed electrons so that they become neutralized and won’t cause harm to your body. Antioxidants do this without destabilizing themselves.
 
2) Raspberries are good for digestion
 
Raspberries are rich in fiber and water, two things that can help prevent constipation and consequently keep a healthy-functioning digestive tract. According to the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program at the University of Kentucky, high fiber intake is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases.

A cup of raspberries contains 8 grams of fiber (and 5 net carbs)!

Fiber is very important to your well-being, and even though there is a lot of variation from person to person as to how much is ideal and which food forms are ideal, your gut bugs need some fiber to thrive.

A 2017 study shows that fiber is vital in keeping the gut microbes healthy and functioning well. Fiber feeds your intestinal bacteria, which makes them grow in number and kind (*please note that some gut conditions like SIBO will require special considerations). When this happens, intestinal mucus wall thickens, preventing leaky gut and improving digestion.

As an added benefit, a strong mucosal barrier reduces  inflammation throughout your entire body, not just in your gut.

To learn more about leaky gut and inflammation, you can check out this article I wrote on it.

Until next time, I’m wishing you unstoppable health!

-Rebecca

Poo Matters: What You Need to Know about Constipation

Yep. Today we are going to be talking about poop and what some underlying causes of constipation are.

The truth is, we often think imbalance in the diet is to blame when we’re suffering from constipation. It’s true in most circumstances, but we should not forget that there are other factors that play a role.

Let’s understand first why the gut is so important and then how the gut works to have a bowel movement.

Your gut is where you take all the good stuff you eat and drink and transform it into the many building blocks your body needs to make energy, think clearly, sleep well, maintain a healthy weight, build muscle, and clear out toxins that need clearing out daily so you can thrive. It’s also where 80% or more of your immune system lives.

It is my passion is to work with people like you whose health symptoms–like low energy, gut/digestive issues, excess weight, mood imbalance, chronic infections, and skin & sleep problems–are getting in the way of you living life fully and with a sense of freedom in your body. I help you to regain your health so you can feel great and free to enjoy life fully.

Nothing will spoil your day like being “backed up” and holding onto waste in your intestines. You don’t feel well physically or mentally when you’re constipated. Let’s take a closer look at what is going in in there.

After you eat, food travels from your stomach to the small intestines or small bowel. After nutrients are absorbed in your small bowel, your body needs to expel the leftover waste. So the small bowel delivers this leftover waste to the colon or large bowel. The colon is a 5- to 6-foot muscular tube that delivers stool to the rectum, and while stool passes along this tube, fluids are removed and absorbed into your body. Your gut needs two important things to carry on this function: pressure and lubrication. Fiber from your diet, muscle tone, physical activity, and a healthy nervous system create the pressure your gut needs to propel stool forward in your digestive tract. The pressure also relaxes the lower sphincter so that stool can pass. Lubrication, on the other hand, is achieved by drinking enough water and hydrating fluids (coffee doesn’t count as it is a diuretic) and eating healthy fats (like olive oil, flax, ghee, avocado, coconut, etc). By the way, having enough hydration is also important for creating pressure.

In addition to considering your intake of fiber, fluids, and healthy fats, remember that transit time– how long the stool sits in your colon–and the amount of water absorbed from the waste also affect the consistency of your stool. These factors are affected by a number of mechanisms.
Let’s explore some of them:

Hormones

Did you know that an adequate progesterone level is required to have a healthy bowel movement? Low progesterone levels can cause your colon to slow down..and the longer the stool stays in the colon, the drier it gets and the more difficult it is to pass through.

Low estrogen also slows down the digestive process. How so? Estrogen keeps cortisol, your primary stress hormone, in check. When cortisol levels rise, your body’s digestive process is impaired and slows down. Similar to low progesterone, this lengthens the time it takes to break down food and slows down evacuation of stool.

I’ve worked with a lot of people who have low thyroid function. In people with low thyroid, metabolism slows down (sometimes significantly!), resulting in the same effects low levels of estrogen and progesterone have on the bowel.

Nervous System

Butterflies in the stomach when you’re nervous happens for an obvious reason: your gut and nervous system are very much in sync. Stress affects the gut and vice versa. As I mentioned earlier, the stress hormone cortisol delays the digestive process. Adding insult to injury, the key nutrients that help you with relaxation and laxation (aka good BM’s), magnesium, potassium, and vitamin C, decrease when stress is high. Not a good combo! You need more nutrients to handle your stress, not less.
By disrupting your nutrients, imbalancing your stress hormones, and nervous system, it comes as no surprise that stress can also cause inflammation in your gut.

Lifestyle

Your body was designed for regular physical activity. That’s why a sedentary lifestyle is precursor to a variety of conditions, including constipation. In order for the muscles of your bowel to contract properly, your body must get the exercise it needs every day. This can be as simple as walking.

Emotions

This goes hand in hand with what we’ve talked about already with your nervous system and stress hormones.  When you experience emotional imbalance, it can cause you stress and/or be caused by stress.  Your body tends to freeze and slow down to protect you. That’s why, in traditional Chinese medicine, constipation is associated with being unable to let things go. With clients who’ve struggled with chronic constipation, exploring emotional holding patterns is an important key.

Now that you know more about what can contribute to constipation, how can you apply this to improving your digestion? What’s a baby step you can take? As they say, progress, no matter how small, is still progress! And I am rooting for you.

In the next newsletter, I will be giving you some tips and actions to fix and support constipation.

Until next time, I’m wishing you unstoppable health!

-Rebecca

Soaked Nuts & Seeds

People often ask me if it’s healthy to eat nuts and seeds. My answer?

It depends.

When nuts and seeds are raw or roasted, they are less digestible and absorbable. I’ll explain why.

Nuts and seeds have high amounts of enzyme inhibitors–enzymes are what your body uses to digest foods. When you soak nuts in warm salt water, there are digestive and health benefits. The water helps neutralize many of the enzyme inhibitors that interfere with digestion as well as increase the bioavailability of many nutrients, especially b-vitamins and protein. The salt helps activate enzymes that deactivate the enzyme inhibitors present in nuts.

Within 7-24 hours (depending on the seed or nut), many of the enzyme inhibitors are broken down. Then you can use the oven or dehydrator to make the nuts or seeds nice and crispy (and shelf stable).

The harder the nut or seed, the longer it needs to soak. Here are some good guidelines:

Long-soak nuts (almonds, pistachios, and hazelnuts) need at least 8 hours.

Medium-soak nuts and seeds (pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds), 6-7 hours

Short-soak nuts (cashews, macadamias, and pine nuts) have the highest fat content and require only 2 to 4 hours soaking. I recommend not soaking these nuts for longer than 4 hours as it breaks down their healthy oils.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of raw, organic nuts or seeds (it is better to soak one kind per container, not mixed nuts, for example in case of varying soaking time)
  • 3-4 cups of warm filtered water (to cover nuts)
  • 1 tablespoon of salt

What to Do:

  • Place the warm water in a large bowl or jar (half gallon or larger). Add the salt and let dissolve.
  • Add the nuts or seeds, making sure they are completely submerged in the water.
  • Leave uncovered on the counter or other warm place (not the refrigerator) for at least 7 hours, preferably overnight.
  • Rinse in a colander and spread on a baking sheet or dehydrator sheet and add some sea salt if desired. Bake in the oven at the lowest temperature (150-170 F if your oven goes that low) or dehydrate until completely dry. This step is important, as any remaining moisture in the nuts or seeds can cause them to mold. Dehydrating time can often be up to 24 hours. You’ll know they are done when you eat one and it’s nice and crispy (no chewiness).
  • NOTE: If you plan to use nuts or seeds to make homemade almond milk or any other variety, this is the best time, as they are already softened.