Has your gut health changed now that you are in mid-life or older? If so, then you aren’t alone.
When my own gut health changed as I was transitioning through menopause, I went to a conference in Australia about the Gut Microbiome. I learnt there that our microbiome has changed so much over the past few decades as it has been not only subjected to a modern western diet, but there are also changes that occur as we age. These changes arrive in our menopause transition – the biological gateway to the next phase of our life-course, our ageing. As we lose oestrogen (I talk about these changes in the brand new GUT MODULE), this means that many of us experience changes in our digestive system that confuse and frustrate us because we haven’t done anything differently!
From bloating, to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, to constipation, diarrhoea, dysbiosis (a dysfunction to our gut bacteria) and gluten intolerance, it all becomes a time of un-necessary annoyance for many.
But the good news is that our gut just needs the right foods and it will continue to do a great job of looking after us! For example, in our gut we carry a unique population of bacteria – called our ‘microbiome’. This microbiome is made up of some very impressive numbers:
• we carry around 2kg of bacteria;
• that 2kg is made up of trillions of bacteria;
• they outnumber the cells in our bodies by about 10 to 1;
• more than 1000 different species have been identified.
When women come into the MyMT™ programmes, I encourage them to make my Organic Brown Rice salad (scroll down for the receipe below). Not only is brown rice rich in insoluble fibre, which increases feacal bulk and keeps our gastro-intestinal tract healthy as we age, but for busy, active women, brown rice gives us the energy we need to get through our day. It is also higher in Niacin (Vitamin B3) than white rice. Niacin is a major component of NAD and NADP, two coenzymes (helper enzymes) involved in cellular metabolism. Furthermore, it plays a role in cell signaling and making and repairing DNA. This is important for those of you who are doing a lot of exercise.
The best thing about cooked and cooled brown rice, is that it helps to keep our gut microbiome healthy. With a powerful connection between the gut and our mental health, for women transitioning menopause experiencing depression or who are already on Anti-depressants, then adding my Organic Brown Rice Salad to your day is a winner.
Cooked and cooled Brown Rice supplies your colon with resistant-starch.
Any starch that escapes the normal small bowel digestive processes is called ‘resistant starch’. Recent research on the gut microbiome shows that resistant starch stays around in the large bowel for longer and is fermented by the bacteria that live there. This process helps to maintain a healthy gut microbiome which I talk about in the brand new ‘Restore your Grateful Gut’ module, which is an optional, bonus learning module in the MyMT™ programmes and for those not wanting to come on board into my 12 week programme, this module is now available as a stand-alone module.
Our microbiome carries out some crucial functions in our body. It is also on a 24 hr Circadian rhythm and for women not sleeping during their menopause transition, it’s no surprise that we can experience some gut health dysfunction in mid-life. From ensuring proper digestion and helping with the production of some vitamins; through to playing an important role in our immune system, protecting us from ‘bad’ bacteria, you need great gut health as you age!
If, for some reason, our microbiome has been compromised – such as with food poisoning, antibiotics, chemotherapy, or genetic predispositions such as Coeliac or Crohn’s Diseases – you must help boost the population of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut by including both prebiotic and probiotic foods in your daily diet. There’s mounting evidence that probiotics improve resistance to disease and infection by enhancing immune response in the intestine.
Hence, it makes sense to increase the amount of probiotics we consume. Probiotics are live bacteria in yogurt, other dairy products, and there are relevant supplements as well. They are usually recommended after antibiotics. However, we also need to know about the role of PREBIOTICS and this is where my Brown Rice Salad comes in.
To me, prebiotics are more important at first, than probiotics. This is because prebiotics are a specialized plant fibre that beneficially nourishes the good bacteria already in the large bowel or colon. While probiotics introduce good bacteria into the gut, prebiotics act as a fertilizer for the good bacteria that’s already there. They help your good bacteria grow, improving the good-to-bad bacteria ratio. This ratio has been shown to have a direct correlation to your health and overall wellbeing, from your stomach to your brain.
For women going through menopause, this is important – the number of women who are prescribed anti-depressants at this time of their lives has never been higher. I wonder how many of you understand that as part of your depression management, your gut health and how you are exercising matters too.
But back to my rice salad. Part of the issue is that our ageing gut does not digest plant fibres well. Many are also not broken down by heat and cooking. But plant fibres help to promote the growth of many of the good bacteria in the gut and to help alleviate constipation. This is because they contain amylose. They are therefore called RESISTANT STARCHES.
Starch becomes ‘resistant’ because the plant fibres don’t get digested in the stomach and small intestine.
Hence, resistant starches travel further down your gut into your large bowel. Resistant Starches are critical to your on-going health as you age, which is why I am so passionate about knowing the role of resistant starch as a pre-biotic during menopause and post-menopause. These years are the ‘biological gateway’ to our ageing. In fact, consuming prebiotics on a daily basis decreases anxiety, depression, stress and enhances lower levels of cortisol.
As a summary, the best plant fibres for prebiotic health are:
– skin of apples
– onions and garlic
– jerusalem artichoke
– cooked and cooled kumara
– cooked and cooled brown rice
– cabbage (cooked slightly for better digestion)
That’s why making my Organic Brown Rice Salad is your starting point to better health as you age.
Wendy’s Favourite MyMT™ Brown Rice Salad
- Cooked Organic Brown Rice (I generally make 2 cups worth)
- 2 stalks chopped spring onions
- 2 stalks chopped celery
- 1 chopped apple (with skin on)
- 1 chopped red pepper
- 1/4 cup of lightly steamed leek
- andful of baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup of raisins (preferably organic)
- 1/2 cup of walnuts
- 1/4 cup of chopped dates
- 1/4 cup of olives (optional)
- 1/2 can of drained chickpeas (optional, but great for additional protein)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil / 1 freshly squeezed lemon
Rinse and boil the rice and allow to cool in the pot. When cold, place the amount you need into a salad bowl and add all the other ingredients. Mix through with the dressing.
I’m Dr Wendy Sweet (PhD), a healthy ageing researcher from New Zealand and Founder of My Menopause Transformation, which are 12 week online programmes (these differ depending if women are overweight or not) I’ve developed from my doctoral studies, that step women through how to turn around symptoms and/or weight in mid-life.
I can’t wait for you to join me. Please use the promo code ATHOME21 on any Buy Now button in the programme which best suits you.