Jason St Clair Newman
3 Top tips for an awesome August
Finally, a Summer worth shouting about!
Maybe it’s because I’m Aussie and have pretty high standards when it comes to Summer, but this one is actually turning out to be pretty bloody good.
I hope you’ve been enjoying the warmer weather and if you’re lucky enough to get away and not be affected by the flight cancellations, even better.
In the last few newsletters we have given you some tips on how to maximise health during the Spring/ Summer months, but I wanted to give you a few more that have a gut health component to them.
Obviously, hydration is a big one that comes to mind, but this was spoken about last month, so check out July’s blog for that along with some other great tips.
Ok, let’s dive in.
1. Get your vitamin D
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient needed to support properly bodily function. It plays a role in hundreds of processes in the body and is actually more of a pro-hormone than a vitamin.
It is involved in everything from boosting immunity and mood to defending cells against cancer! Though most of the nutrients our body needs are available via the food we eat, vitamin D is actually primarily obtained via sun exposure.
Unfortunately, for various reasons (including indoor lifestyles and the invention of sunscreen), vitamin D is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in modern society. Especially in higher latitude climates (where we live) that have less sun exposure in the winter, summertime sun exposure is an important way to “store” vitamin D for the less sunny wintery months. (Fortunately, the body can store vitamin D for months, so sufficient sun exposure during the summer can help get us through less sun exposure in the winter.)
Vitamin D and gut health.
There are several ways in which Vitamin D is important for gut health, and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) in particular;
1. Vitamin D has been shown to be essential for maintaining the integrity of the gut wall, which is crucial when it comes to IBD. It is also of vital importance when dealing with intestinal permeability, also known as ‘leaky gut syndrome (usually present in those suffering from autoimmunity), and in healing the gut overall.
2. Exposure to sunlight/UVB light can actually alter the human gut microbiome (particularly in people with a Vitamin D deficiency) and significantly increase gut microbial diversity. Studies also confirmed that - “Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to promote an inflammatory environment which leads to dysbiosis of the gut microbiota, even in clinically healthy individuals. Oral vitamin D supplementation is known to be beneficial for individuals who suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases.”
3. As an immunomodulator, and with its ability to reduce both inflammation and auto-immune responses, Vitamin D plays an important role in managing IBD. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of autoimmune diseases, and in the development and severity of IBD in particular. Epidemiological studies even suggest higher rates of both IBD and rheumatoid arthritis in countries further away from the equator (and therefore with less Vitamin D-creating sunlight).
Another study noted that 38.1% of Crohn’s patients and 31.6% of ulcerative colitis patients have a Vitamin D deficiency, and the immunoregulating properties of the vitamin play a significant role in the expression and severity of IBD by affecting the gut microbiome and the body’s inflammatory response.
All these findings make a strong argument for using Vitamin D to support and enhance gut health in general, and for managing IBD in particular.
So, get outside and get some sun. Aim to get a small amount - 20 mins approximately of exposed midday sun (less if you’re fairer skinned) and then cover up and enjoy the sun responsibly.
2. Eat your sunscreen
No, I’m not talking about the greasy, chemical-laden stuff in a tube! I’m talking about real food. Certain foods can actually be some of the best sunscreen going, that’s because sunburn is a kind of inflammation, and diet has been shown to have a massive impact on inflammation in the body.
Your diet can increase or decrease your skin’s sensitivity to UV rays, as well as its ability to repair itself when it does get damaged.
To reduce your sun sensitivity and risk of sun damage, make sure you’re eating enough anti-inflammatory foods like;
1. Foods high in healthy fats and rich in Omega-3s: Omega-3s reduce inflammation in your body and promote healing. Good sources include oily fish (like mackerel, sardines and salmon), pasture-raised hen eggs, flaxseed and walnuts. Omega-3s are also available in supplement form via fish oil and flaxseed oil (vegan).
2. Veggies: The vitamins and antioxidants in veggies help to protect cells from the effects of UV radiation. Leafy greens and cruciferous veg are particularly good (there are lots of those in our Kimchi and Sauerkraut)
3. Berries - One super simple and delicious tip is to have a handful of berries every day - mixed or just one variety at a time and rotate each day - go for blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and cherries, most of which are in season now (eating seasonally being a tip from a previous newsletter). They are high in antioxidants and polyphenols, which can help combat tissue damage and reduce the risk of age-related illnesses.
They also contain fibre, which acts as a prebiotic or food for your gut microbes. Great stuff.
3. Sleep Well
I know this can sometimes be trickier in the warmer months, especially when it’s still in the high 20 degrees throughout the night, but for optimal health, you have to sleep well.
Diet and lifestyle habits can have a huge impact on sleep quality. Recently, research has suggested a two-way connection between gut health and sleep health. The sleep-gut connection is an emerging new field in functional medicine.
Sleep is the main time the body gets a chance to rest, recover and repair. Any time we disrupt this, these essential processes are compromised. Also, whilst we sleep and through default, fast, the gut gets a chance to regulate and regenerate hormones and neurotransmitters, process food, eliminate waste and detoxify the body. All pretty important things.
We’re constantly bombarded with stimuli that contribute to poor sleep. Blue light from screens, sitting down for large chunks of the day, high-stress jobs, not getting enough sunlight and (more recently) pandemics, global unrest and financial pressures are all significant impairments to our sleep.
Millions of people suffer from sleep disorders and up to 80 per cent of these will go undiagnosed. If you don’t get proper sleep, you can experience chronic fatigue, poor immune system health, and teeth grinding. An estimated 31 per cent of people suffer from day or nighttime teeth grinding due to disordered sleep. Poor sleep and its consequences are mostly manifestations of poor lifestyle habits, including diet.
Implement these practices to help improve sleep quantity and quality;
• Resist the urge to stay up later during long summer days. Instead, pay attention to good sleep hygiene by keeping the same bedtime and wake-up schedule where possible.
• Try not to drink alcohol within three hours of bedtime. Booze is treated like a toxin in the body and will need to be detoxified. The liver will do this at night and can disrupt sleep patterns.
• Limit caffeine consumption past lunchtime. This is a bit of a no-brainer. Caffeine is a stimulant, stimulants stimulate, so don’t drink them before bed.
• Use a calming natural supplement before bed - magnesium is great, Ashwagandha seems to be effective, Inositol and CBD also have shown to be beneficial.
• Make your bedroom your bat cave. Get blackout blinds and either leave windows open, get a fan or maybe even stump up for aircon if necessary.
So there you have it. A few tips to help you feel great and still look after your get this Summer.