Erin Bosanquet is our beautiful in-house nutritionist at Nimbus Melbourne. Here she shares her wisdom and insights on gut health, managing stress and anxiety through nutrition, and how she is staying healthy during 2020.
What led you to become a qualified nutritionist and why are you so passionate about helping women with their health?
My path to nutrition came about through my own struggles with my health and my body. I find this to be a common trait amongst many natural health practitioners.
During my teens and early twenties I didn’t have a healthy relationship with food. I was constantly on a fad diet, or restricting my food, only for it to end in overeating and binging. I was constantly over-exercising and the goals I set for myself were superficially based around how I wanted to look. I rarely reached any of these unrealistic goals. All the while, I thought that is what it meant to be healthy.
In my early twenties I moved to London, I put on 10kg quite quickly. Known as the ‘Heathrow Injection’, it is apparently not unusual for someone to gain weight rapidly when they migrate to London due to the change in diet and lifestyle. Losing this weight is when my interest in health and nutrition was sparked. I saw first-hand how the food we consume has the power to change our body, and through the process I felt much happier and healthier.
At this point I was starting to think about a career change and began looking into universities for when I got home. Funnily enough, I was tossing up between two science degrees with totally different outcomes – nutritional medicine and veterinary science.
Fast forward to now, I’ve completed my Bachelor of Health Science for Nutritional Medicine at Endeavour College of Natural Health in Melbourne. I’m a qualified nutritionist with a passion for helping women take charge of their health. I approach health from a holistic perspective and I strive to be the practitioner I wish I had years ago.
What is the connection between our gut health and mental well-being?
You’ve probably experienced unpleasant gut symptoms when you’re feeling stressed, anxious or depressed. This is because of the gut-brain connection. Simply put, your brain has an effect on your digestive system, and vice versa. It is literally connected by your Vagus nerve, which runs from your brain, through your face and throat, and down to your abdomen.
An example of this connection in action is when you think about a certain food, your mouth begins to salivate, and digestive juices are released into your stomach. This happens purely from a thought.
Just as your gut can be affected in a positive way, it can also have a negative effect. This connection is seen when you are stressed or anxious and your body goes into its ‘fight or flight’ mode. This part of your nervous system is designed to protect you from danger. When your brain perceives a threat, a cascade of hormones occurs, and your body responds with actions such as sending blood away from your gut to your arms and legs (to be ready to run or fight). During this process, your digestion is not a priority. Survival is.
The thing is, our nervous system doesn’t know the difference between a real threat or a perceived threat. So, if we are constantly in a state of alertness from deadlines, running for public transport, juggling your workload, dealing with your kids etc., then we cannot expect our gut to be doing its job effectively.
What simple ways can we restore and optimise our gut health?
If you’ve seen a natural health practitioner, like a nutritionist or naturopath, then you’ve likely had an in-depth conversation about your gut health.
This is because having a healthy gut is one of the foundations to overall health. If your gut is not functioning optimally you may notice signs and symptoms in all areas of your body (not just the gut) such as skin issues, fatigue, stress, anxiety, depression, poor sleep, rapid weight loss or gain, an impaired immune system, cravings and so many others.
The process of returning your gut function back to a normal, healthy state is not always a simple or straightforward process. However, there are some simple ways you can restore and optimise your gut health.
Remove Potential Triggers - I work 1:1 with a lot of women to help them work out what foods are causing unwanted symptoms. You need to remove the aggravating foods to allow your gut to heal.
Incorporate Healing and Soothing Foods – Sometimes it’s the food that is causing the issues and sometimes it’s the gut environment. Some of the nutrients to focus on for gut healing and soothing include turmeric, magnesium, zinc, glutamine and slippery elm.
Naturally Support Stomach Acid Production – Apple cider vinegar, lemon and bitter foods such as rocket before or during meals can help stimulate digestive juices.
Add in Probiotic-Rich Foods – Yogurt, kefir or fermented veggies include live microorganisms to aid our gut bacteria.
Don’t Forget about Prebiotics – These fibres are the fuel for our gut bacteria; Jerusalem artichoke, leeks, asparagus, onions, green bananas and chicory (dandelion).
For those suffering from stress and anxiety, what remedies would you suggest?
There are so many things you can do to induce calmness using diet, lifestyle and nutritional supplements. Here are four simple ways you can reduce your stress and anxiety, starting today.
Practice Deep Belly Breathing
Make deep belly breathing a part of your daily routine to help reduce your stress or anxiety, while also improving concentration and focus. Deep belly breathing sends more oxygen to your brain and activates your parasympathetic nervous system – the part of your nervous system responsible for relaxation. Download the Insight Timer app or try this simple 'Box Breathing Technique':
Breathe in for a count of 4 seconds
Hold for a count of 4 seconds
Breathe out for a count of 4 seconds
Hold for a count of 4 seconds
Repeat until you feel calm.
Reduce or Remove Caffeine Intake
Have you ever felt jittery or ‘flighty’ after a coffee?
The caffeine in your coffee doesn't actually give you energy. Instead, it causes your body to produce stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. It can trigger your body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. Caffeine also triggers your body to produce dopamine, which is where the addictive element comes in.
Did you know, caffeine is also a bowel stimulant. So, if your stress/anxiety already has you running to the toilet, you might want to rethink your daily coffee. It also spikes your blood pressure and heart rate.
So, is coffee the devil? No. Is too much coffee contributing to your stress and anxiety? Most likely. If you’re feeling exhausted, stressed, overwhelmed or anxious, coffee is not the answer.
Create an Evening Journaling Practice
Before bed each night, grab a notebook and pen, and do a brain dump of everything that’s on your mind. Write down anything, big or small. This can be in the form of full sentence or purely dot points. When you are done, close the notebook, put it down, and give yourself permission to stop thinking about those things. You won’t forget them, since they are written down, and you don’t need them bouncing around in your brain while you are trying to sleep.
Incorporate Stress-Busting Nutrients
And of course, being a nutritionist, I couldn’t finish without mentioning the nutrients to focus on; B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, omega 3, tryptophan, l-theanine and l-glutamine.
Definitely get professional help before self-prescribing though. A practitioner can help you choose the best quality supplements, the right doses and help you prioritise which ones to focus on first.
How have you been looking after your own health during 2020?
What a rollercoaster of a year it has been! During 2020 I’ve brought my focus back to a few simple principles.
Strengthening my Relationship with Food – I’m spending time to notice how food makes me feel and this has helped me make better food decisions. I’ve taken the pressure off myself to get it right 100% of the time and I’m enjoying cooking the majority of my meals at home.
Moving my Body Daily – Sometimes this is purely a walk to the beach with my Frenchies, Luna and Frankie. Other days I’m loving home workouts doing weights or an online Pilates, yoga or HIIT class. The focus is on consistency and enjoying the process.
Gratitude – This one is a game changer. It‘s amazing how you can shift your perspective and begin appreciating the little things in life. I started with a daily practice morning and night and now I feel gratitude throughout my entire day.
Erin Bosanquet, nutritionist ~ @erin_bosanquet_nutritionist
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