What's the first thing that comes to mind when you read the words "Spring Cleaning"? Maybe it's a house without clutter, maybe is a reorganizing of folders and files on your laptop, or maybe is a Facebook friends list devoid of frenemies. But has it ever occurred to you that our bodies also need some spring cleaning from time to time?
Recently some of my clients seem to have fallen victim of the much dreaded seasonal viruses that brought them colds, flu and general misery. As a consequence, they missed work and missed out on their leisure activities. Whereas some other clients, despite escaping the germs, are feeling perpetually tired and demotivated and no amount of sleep seems to be able to recharge their batteries in full.
The thing is working long hours over a long period of time and illnesses are stressors for our bodies. Whereas some stress, like the one experienced during exercise, can be good for us in terms of muscle growth and fat loss, excessive or prolonged stress can be detrimental and cause our immune system to weaken. As this happens our cognitive abilities also take a hit and suddenly our creativity is no longer free flowing, we never feel up to making important decisions in our business and we generally tend to drag our heels thus negatively impacting our bottom lines.
Our immune system is intrinsically linked to the health of our guts and so before new clients embark on a fitness makeover journey I always recommend to spring clean their digestive system. If our intestines are overworked they may not be as efficient at extracting nutrients from the food we eat thus leading us to varying degrees of malnutrition that throw the metabolism out of balance. The tell-tale signs are in the form of fluctuating energy levels tending towards rock bottom, mood swings, erratic sleep patterns, excessive hunger and cravings for starchy foods.
Our intestines are populated by both good and bad bacteria. According to medical wisdom the ideal ratio between the two is 9 good to 1 bad, however most of us fall short of this.
The reason for this shortage is that the foods that we eat have a significant impact on the bacteria population of our intestine for good or for bad. SMART choices will ensure you nurture the good bacteria in your gut, but bad choices made at the table set the stage for malevolent bacteria and yeasts to proliferate in the gut making us more vulnerable to attack from bugs and viruses.
For example, if you suffer from an intolerance to something like gluten choosing to eat it anyway could result in your intestinal tract becoming damaged causing you varying degrees of bloating, joint pain, bleeding gums and so on. Taking antibiotics will also kill off a large proportion of the good guys in your intestine thus reducing its efficiency in absorbing nutrients.
There are "‹four simple steps you can take for"‹ an effective inner spring cleaning to support your health, your wellbeing and your brain power.
The first step won't come as a revelation: drink plenty of mineral water, eat fresh produce (organic is preferable if you can find it easily) and switch to a mostly vegetable based diet with adequate amounts of protein. Although it may seem like stating the obvious I can assure you that this is probably the hardest change to implement for the majority of people that I work with. The prospect of a "magic pill" to fix everything is more alluring than taking the necessary actions to look after our health. From experience great nutritional habits are the first to be abandoned when life gets too busy and we are always on the run. Although it only takes 5 minutes to prepare a salad it's easier to grab a pasty off the shelves at the garage and eat it while we drive.
Getting enough protein in your diet is even more important when we are "spring cleaning". Protein is broken down into amino acids which are our body building blocks. The most interesting for the purpose of inner spring cleaning is L-glutamine which is the most abundant essential amino acid in our bloodstream. As well as helping us build and retain muscle it's also very important for brain health and athletic performance, but most of all L-Glutamine contributes to intestinal function, health and repair. Glutamine is found naturally in both animal and vegetable protein, however if you are worried that you may not be getting enough you can always take a good quality whey protein supplement.
The second step is to give your digestive tract a hand by taking digestive enzymes with your meals. These will help you break down the protein, carbohydrates and fats in the food so that they are easier for your intestines to absorb into the bloodstream. I cannot emphasize enough how important this step is. Especially if you suffer from food intolerances causing you a degree of malabsorption. You will feel the benefits from taking digestive enzymes almost immediately with increased energy and vitality simply because you have given your body and your brain what they need to function optimally.
The third step is to start taking probiotics on a regular basis. There are many reasons why it's a good idea to do so: as well as making your immune system rock solid they work in synergy with the digestive enzymes ensuring that more nutrients from your food are absorbed into the bloodstream. This will also help you reduce hunger and bloating. You will find it easier to manage your food intolerances: sometimes these will get better and you might even be able to virtually eliminate some (since taking probiotics regularly I can eat dairy products safely without side effects). Allergies like hayfever will also improve because your body will carry less inflammation and therefore won't react so violently to allergens.
You might still catch a cold or a flu every now and then but these will typically manifest themselves as a couple of sneezes or feeling slightly under the weather for a day or two with no need to take medications other than a hot lemon drink for comfort.
Probiotics come in many varieties: for convenience you can buy them in capsule form from your local health shop. In my opinion these aren't great but are awesome when you travel, especially by air. You can also find many dairy based probiotics drinks at your local supermarket and although good they are not brilliant either.
The best probiotics are the ones that you make yourself starting with some live cultures and leaving them to ferment in either milk (Kefir), sugary water (water Kefir) or sugary tea (Kombucha)Milk Kefir. Typically they will have a much higher count of good bacteria than anything you can get from a shop and no added preservatives or thickeners. Making probiotics drinks at home is easy but do bear in mind that cultures tend to grow like triffids when they are happy so there is a good chance that your place will soon be overrun with them.
The fourth and"‹ final step for an effective spring clean is to make sure you sleep adequately without interruptions for as long as you need. I know that this is virtually impossible to achieve when you are super busy but it's really important to cut back on tv watching in favour of snoozing. Sleeping is the best form of detox available to you: it's the time of day when your body gets rid of toxins and repairs itself, plus it's also the time when your cortisol levels drop and reset.
It goes without saying that this kind of "intervention" can be done at any time of the year, however Spring always seems to be a great time to check in with ourselves and re-establish healthy habits if we discover that we have somehow been slacking during Winter. If you are willing to follow just a couple of these suggestions you will certainly experience increased energy and perhaps better clarity of mind. However if you follow all four steps you'll be amazed at how good you can actually feel.
Clients who follow this simple protocol consistently discover renewed inspiration for their work or businesses along the way leading them to an improvement in their careers. With the feel good factor comes increased confidence which in turn leads them to make more courageous choices and push well beyond the boundaries of their comfort zone. Having more energy means that they are better able to follow through with their new tasks thus often enjoying increased income too as a result.
Now you know the "trick" it's time for you to have a go at some inner spring cleaning and let me know in the comments how you get on. I am always happy to discuss cultures and metabolic reboots to help people get more out of life.