Good Gut Bacteria vs Bad Gut Bacteria

There exists around 100 trillion bacteria in our guts, adding around a kilo to our total body weight. They are located in the colon which is the long part of the large intestine. They are called gut flora - each cell is a teeny weeny living thing.  Mostly, they are good and benefit us. However, some are detrimental and cause disease.  We all need to keep the good bacteria in place, ensuring they are healthy and happy, and that they outnumber the bad bacteria. Here is a clever pic of some:-

We can sometimes ingest harmful bacteria through food or when we haphazardly place other things in our mouth. 

The good bacteria ferment dietary fibre from foods of plant origin. Our bodies can't digest fibre, so it travels through to the colon, where the bacteria are waiting for it.  They ferment the fibre  - this process of fermentation helps us to absorb minerals and fight cancer.

The most prominent good bacteria is lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.  The presence of the latter means there is less chance of us developing allergies. The lactobacillus produce lactic acid, helping to eradicate the bad bacteria. They also produce vitamin B12 and vitamin K.

When we feel unwell, tired, stressed out, or when taking antibiotics, our gut flora is suffering too and could be declining. When our good bacteria is in decline, the bad bacteria accelerates in growth, prohibiting the good bacteria from carrying out their due functions: when not much fermentation occurs in our gut, our faeces become watery. With an underpopulated gut flora, people notice they are more windy with irregular bowel movements.

This leads on to my next point; what do we need to do to keep our gut flora healthy and working well?

The best answer is to eat more fibre so you need to make sure you eat your fruit n veg. 

Consuming probiotics may be a good idea to boost healthy gut bacteria growth, however some research suggests that drinking probiotic drinks is slightly in vain as most of the bacteria in them are killed by our stomach acid. Also, the number of bacteria present in the yoghurt is so minute in comparison with the population already in our gut. 

Consuming prebiotics is an excellent solution too because they act as as food for the good bacteria. Prebiotics can be found in onion, garlic and bananas.

In order to increase your intake of fibre and prebiotics, I have developed a delicious barbecue recipe which encompasses healthy foods that your gut bacteria will love. This is the recipe video here:- .

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How to Lose Weight and Keep it Off - Being Slim for Life

Many of us seriously struggle with our weight - sometimes it feels like it is a constant battle in our minds with what we should and shouldn't allow ourselves to eat.  Even when we try to cut back on the calories, it still seems to make no difference, or indeed, sometimes it has the reverse effect where we actually put it on!!

This is me before and after my weight struggles:-
Even though we know that being overweight is unhealthy and it causes a higher risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease as well as other issues, why are more than a third of adults in the western world still classed as either overweight or obese??  I mean, women who have breast cancer are 75% more likely to die from it if they are obese when diagnosed.  Also, obesity can knock an average of 9 years of our life.
I can give you the only truthful and honest answer to that...because we consume more energy (calories) than we use. That's all it is. The energy we don't use up is stored as excess fat on our body, making us overweight. If we continually use less kcals than we take in, we will put on weight.

Soooo, this leads me on to my next point and the whole reason behind this article (yeah, I know I've taken a while to get here), the only way to lose weight and keep it down, is to lower your calorie intake and use up more calories - by being active. But obviously you need to continuously keep the intake of food down and output of energy higher almost constantly. How can this be done? The secret is by controlling your appetite.

Appetite and therefore how we feel during the day affect our well-being enough to control what and when we eat. Therefore appetite is a key factor in weight loss. Understanding how appetite and metabolism (our output of energy) work together is essential to fighting the flab.

So how do our metabolisms work? Thinner people have slower metabolisms than larger people. Eh? I hear you say, but, yes, you heard right. Someone with a bigger body uses more fuel just to stay alive, and the amout of energy we use is is our metabolic rate. So thinner people have a slower metabolism than fatter people and they burn their food slower.  
We use energy and burn calories just by staying alive; when our digestive system is active and processing our food, when our heart busily pumps blood around our veins and arteries, indeed every single cell in our bodies requires energy to keep us alive.

So, if fatter people have a higher metabolic rates than thinner people, how come my skinny friend can eat loads but never get fat? Why do some thinner people eat more than some larger people? The answer is that they don't - that is only our perception of what people eat. Someone slim may have a day or two where they eat more than a larger person, but overall, during the month or the year, their overall calorie intake is less than their fatter friend. You can tell how much a person eats by the size of them, pure and simple.

I just thought it was important to, before returning to the subject of appetite, to put to bed the urban myth that thin people have a higher metabolism than their larger counterparts. It's all about perception - overweight people continually underestimate the amount they eat.

Of course exercise makes a difference to the amount of calories we burn and therefore our metabolic rate, but it is so much easier, quicker and requires less self control to eat a fatty meal or snack containing 2000 calories than it is to jog for one hour and burn around 700 calories, that I am focussing on food and appetite rather than exercise, as the delicious temptations of food are generally people's downfall. Not just that, but some people accidentally increase their food intake after they have exercised to compensate.

Appetite is so important because when we satisfy our appetites, we feel replenished and great, ready to get on with the rest of the day. When we leave our appetite wanting for more, and therefore feel hunger, this can put most of us into a stroppy mood! (Ring any bells?! ;-D ) So obviously this leads to diet failure.

Now, how about this: what if we can control our appetite and our hunger pangs, taking control of our desire to eat?

Scientific research has shown that our hypothalamus is where appetite is regulated (my GCSE biology is coming back to me!). Ghrelin is a hormone produced by our stomach wall which tells our brain (or rather our hypothalamus) that we are hungry and therefore it increases appetite. When our stomach is full, barely any ghrelin is produced. After and during weight loss, the amount of ghrelin in our blood is higher, explaining why it is so hard to maintain weight loss. 

So how do we keep ghrelin and therefore our appetite and hunger pangs at bay? By eating the right foods that suppress our appetite.

Fibre and protein are probably the best food types for this enigma. Fibre and protein, along with food with a high water content make us feel fuller for longer and suppress ghrelin.  The best foods that meet these 3 requirements are pulses, fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans and fish. Low cal soups are also a great appetite suppressant because of their high water content which does not pass straight through the stomach (unlike a drink of water).  Also, I find that whipping up a smoothie with fresh fruit fills me up much more than if I had just eaten the fruit.

Try this great nutty and fruity smoothie idea:-
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Obviously nuts do not have a high water content but they are a fantastic weapon in the hands of someone wanting to lose weight because they are supposed to help you boost your metabolic rate and the fact that we don't always chew them thoroughly suggests that not all their calories are absorbed by our bodies.

This brings me to another great appetite-reducing tip; taking your time over food; really enjoying it and savouring its taste and flavours means you will feel more satisfied after a meal or snack. Scientists have noted that it takes time for appetite signals to reach the hypothalamus, so eating slowly should also mean that we listen to our feelings of fullness.

To conclude, to control your appetite, you need to listen to your body as it tells you what it does and does not need. There's no use hiding under the guise that you have a slower metabolism than thinner people because that is just not true - the truth is that larger people consume more calories and do not burn them off. Be honest with yourself and do not underestimate how much you eat.

A slow and planned approach to weight loss with a reduction in highly calorific food and some exercise is the best way.  Start with small goals; initiatially set a goal of no more than 10% of your body weight to lose.

And most importantly, take control of your desire to eat. Do this but cutting out sugary snacks and fast food; fill up on fruit, have an extra portion of veg, and rediscover fish dinners and water based soups. Carry a bag of nuts around to curb any cravings. Swap white bread for wholemeal as this contains more fibre. Always have an extra helping of salad with your meals if possible, and always try to order the soup as a starter as this will fill you up.

Lastly, one of the strongest psychological motives to consume more calories is the nagging feeling that we have to empty our plate. Tell yourself this is a myth from the past and is no longer relevant. Also, we generally eat less when we are reminded how much we have already consumed, so keep a food diary and monitor your food intake.

Feel free to check out my vlogs here, and also check me out on YoutubeTwitterInstagram and Facebook.


Tomatoes and Your Skin

We all love a bit of sunbathing - it can be absolutely delightful to sit out in the sun and relax.  I personally am not a sun worshipper of any sort, but I recognise it can be delightful to chill outside in warm weather. Also, as I'm sure you are aware, the sun triggers the synthesis of vitamin D - important in preventing osteoporosis and rickets, incl other diseases. 

This is me enjoying the sun's rays in Portugal, dosing up on some vit D:-As you know, the ultraviolet rays in the sunlight cause our skin to age faster. But even regular everyday exposure causes skin damage.  It causes our skin to become increasingly dry, wrinkled, saggy and blemished with pigments, also increasing our risk to skin cancers and other diseases. This is because the sun's rays damage the collagen in our skin. Collagen is a fibrous and strong substance which makes our skin firm and tight.

Cue my plug on tomatoes...Tomatoes are a beautiful and eye-catching bright red colour. (Duh!) This lovely colour comes from its lycopene pigment. Lycopene is an important element in keeping our skin young and healthy looking, as well as protecting it from the sun's ultraviolet rays.The lycopene in tomatoes acts as a built-in sun screen in our skin; it absorbs ultraviolet radiation. It also acts as a barrier and prevents damage to our collagen and our skin's DNA.  Lycopene is also an antioxidant which mops up free radicals. Free radicals are baaaad because they interfere with how our cells work, damaging the DNA in our skin and breaking down the cell membrane.

Our bodies cannot produce lycopene; the only way to obtain lycopene is to eat lots of tomatoes (pink grapefruit and papaya are also great sources).When tomatoes are cooked, their cell walls are broken down, releasing the lycopene. Therefore tomato sauces and pastes are a fantastic source, including tomato ketchup.Here is a popular idea to boost your intake:-

Heat some tomatoes on the hob in a little olive oil, until they start to break up and become soft. Add some basil or oregano and serve on some Ryvita or wholemeal toast. Absolutely gorgeous.

Check out my idea to barbecue tomatoes:-

Here is my video on how to make tomato-bread:-

And this is my baked stuffed tomato recipe:-
4 large tomatoes
a third of a pepper
1 small red onion
1 slice of granary seeded bread
fresh basil
30g mozarella cheese
salt and pepper
To conclude, just like most things in this life, protecting our skin from sun damage is a question of balance. Too much sun protection, and we are at a danger of vitamin D deficiency. Too little, and there's a certain consequence of premature ageing. To manage our intake of sunlight, it is well worth dosing up on tomatoes.


Red Peppers Chargrilled plus Health Benefits

Red peppers (called ‘bell peppers’ in the USA) are green peppers that are riper and more mature than green ones, allowing for a sweeter, milder flavour. They are rich in vitamins and can supplement your diet with essential minerals. One medium red pepper provides 1.18g of protein, 2.5g of fibre and 5g of natural sugar, containing only 37 calories. A medium red pepper provides nearly twice your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and about 25 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin A.
There are so many ways of eating peppers; adding them to an omelette, adding strips to a salad, or you can try chargrilling them to give them a barbeque flavour.  However, you do not need a barbeque for this!
Check out this video to find out how to chargrill a pepper for that delicious roasted flavour.  All you need is a gas hob:-
 A red pepper contains B vitamins that are essential for our growth and development. They contain thiamin, riboflavin and 1.16mg of niacin, as well as 1.17mg of vitamin B-6. An adequate intake of vitamin B-6 (such as 1.15mg or more) helps your body make neurotransmitters and may reduce breast cancer risk factors, according to a 2012 study published in "Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention."

One red pepper also provides 1.3mg of manganese, a mineral that helps develop strong bones and connective tissues. The Institute of Medicine recommends that women should consume 1.8mg of manganese per day, while men need 2.3mg; a red pepper gives you 55 to 75 percent of your daily value, which may help prevent osteoporosis.


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