As we approach nearly a full year of change in our lives influenced by the global pandemic, I write this blog in hopes that you will take this message to heart. I believe in the benefits of improving your nutrition with such certitude that I ask you to accept this challenge today as there is no better time to improve your immunity and the course of your health.
“Cultivating Your Health,” is one of the pillars of the Sheila Hamilton Movement Garden and I’m committed to finding the keys for my clients to make changes that are realistic, beneficial and serve you.
I like to think of the value going into the body from the food I eat. No diets or restrictive thinking needed. Let's leave that mentality behind us and build our health by eating real food.
Founder of Movement Garden & Personal Trainer
Improving your nutrition by improving your plant diversity will positively influence your health. This means eating a larger variety of plants than you already consume. This idea and information came from the book: Fiber Fueled: The Plant-Based Gut Health Program for Losing Weight, Restoring Your Health, and Optimizing Your Microbiome, by Dr. Will Bulsiewicz MD. “Our modern lifestyle is destroying our gut and our health,” he states adding also that many diseases have been linked to imbalances in the gut microbiota.
Your gut is the home to 39 trillion microorganisms, collectively known as your microbiota: most of them bacteria, but also yeast, parasites, viruses. fungi and archaea. These living microorganisms in your gut form a “wondrous magical community with amazing healing power,” States Dr. Bulsiewicz. The food you eat, and your microbiome are intertwined. The plants have a microbiome of their own so when you diversify and eat a larger variety of plants you add to the health of your own microbiome and it’s a HUGE win for you.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to discuss plant diversification with Dr. Eleanor Boyle who is an educator and writer on food policy and health, based in Vancouver, Canada. Her work stands behind Sustainable Food and Attainable Health.
"Diversity is essential at a larger biological level, as well, for whole ecosystems. For example, farming is much better for local environments when the farms grow numerous different species of crops rather than vast acres of the same crop. The latter, so-called monocultures, are so unnatural that they need extra pesticides and other chemicals to keep bugs away, whereas biodiverse farms are much more likely to be able to operate organically with minimal chemicals. Nature loves diversity and operates best within it. So do our bodies.“
What's going on in our gut?
Many diseases, including the six leading causes of death are linked to the quality of your gut microbiota, so it would make sense to look at ways you can improve it. If the gut microbiota is not comprehensive and rich enough to filter and process good things for our body then it is possible that not so good things are leaking into our bloodstream and wreaking havoc there. This is a way of thinking about leaky gut in a very simplified sentence but technically it’s called Dysbiosis.
The permeability of your intestines (What gets through.) can be improved with a healthier microbiota. In fact, SCFA’s (Short Chain Fatty Acids) manufactured by your microbiome are something you want in your bloodstream. But if the microbiome is not healthy then many things including bacterial endotoxins leak though the intestine into the bloodstream. This results in a laundry list of issues such as inflammation, food sensitivities and intolerances, weight gain, hormone imbalances, digestive issues, skin problems, auto-immune issues, mental health, heart health, and the list goes on. We are real people dealing with very significant issues that risk our quality of life and life expectancy.
Taking a close look at your plant diversity doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming. In fact, once you get the idea it becomes easy to introduce something new, or swap out something slightly different to achieve the same goal. For example: Do you always buy the same foods? What is on your shopping list? Could you change the variety of apples you buy? Could you try a different nut? (Ok that’s funny.)
What’s going on in our world?
We are living in a time of hyper-sterility: hand sanitizers, isolation and restrictions from healthy touches and hugs that under pre - Covid circumstances would serve to build your immunity up.
Covid has brought challenges for many to meet the minimum amount of daily recommended exercise. The restrictions have brought on a degree of difficulty to exercise based on confidence to be safe in fitness centers and gyms that remain open, stress, lack of motivation, and mental health issues that arguably could be helped by exercise but make it difficult to lace up the runners.
Overeating, especially of processed high sugar and fatty food. (And heavy on the meat and dairy.) is a problem that is not new to the last year but perhaps compounded by the layers of issues that are affecting us all. People have more time and more reason to overeat and overdrink this year.
The reliance on prescription medications and supplements to deal with the symptoms we are navigating individually is concerning on many levels. There are times when we need these medications, but they do not treat the root cause(s) of our issues and diseases. All of the substances taken, whether legal or not, physician prescribed or self prescribed only numb or keep things at bay for so long. The pills for the blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol are mitigating risks for your life outcome and expectancy. With all due respect the retired RN in me knows medications do save lives and are needed but I’m talking about the mainstream issue here - one that I feel is a compounding issue.
The compounding issues need to stop. Something needs to change in you to improve your health. Trust you can change the progression of existing disease and protect yourself against many cancers, heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure - through food!
With a plant diverse diet, you will feed and empower your microbiome with something that will heal and even prevent diseases you didn't know you had. You will feel energized and light with no food hangovers!
What can you do to improve your gut microbiota?
I’m suggesting a lifestyle change here. One that’s simple and will add loads of value to your health. Why do we ignore lifestyle when it comes to treatment options? Is it really too hard to adopt change that will move us in the right direction? 80% of our health is influenced by our lifestyle (20% genetic) according to David Sinclair, PhD, one of the world’s leading scientific authorities on longevity, aging and how to slow its effects. David is a professor in the Department of Genetics and co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School. So, I propose we keep looking at ways to improve our lifestyle that realistically can be sustained, and are not restrictive in nature like the diet culture as we know it.
What's the easiest thing you can change?
Eat more plants.
What I’m suggesting is easy and adds value into your body on many levels. It’s not restrictive and controlling and takes no will power to adhere to long term. In fact, I have found the more diversity the more change I feel. Personally, I have experienced less bloating and cravings. Trust me on this. Giving into a craving is not simply a lack of willpower: there is a lot more to it and the more you invest in your nutrition the easier it will become.
Eat more plants.
Start here: List how many plants you eat every week.
Are you eating the same things over and over? Even if they are superfoods, diversity rules!
Find your starting point: 20 -30 - 40 - 50? Then aim to increase your diversity (# of plants) over a set period of time. (Day, Week, Month, and Year) Aim high! Maximize diversity at every meal. The number of plants you eat can easily be increased with some creativity!
The food list: There are 300,000 plant varieties in the world.
FGOALS (Acronym) From the book: Fiber Fueled: The Plant-Based Gut Health Program
Fruit: Berries and all whole fruits.
Fermented: Aim to add a little to every meal: pickles, sauerkraut, vinegar, miso, kefir
Greens: So many varieties! All veggies!
Grains: Whole Grains, unprocessed
Omega Super Seeds : Flax, Chia , Hemp, other nuts
Aromatics: Leeks, Onions, Garlic, Shallot. Fresh herbs
Legumes - Foundation Foods for the gut: Peas, Beans, Lentil, Nuts
Sulforaphanes: Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Sprouts
Shrooms like as in Mushrooms and seaweed
Creative Examples of increasing your plant diversity:
Remember the big picture is why this works
The big picture summed up nicely from Dr. Eleanor Boyle: “That we as individuals are part of nature, and interconnected to ecosystems both large and small, so that ecological principles that apply to whole wetlands and rainforests also apply to our individual bodies.”
Support your aging process by cultivating your health through plant diversity. Get your shopping list out and get on your plan to diversify your own microbiome today. Please drop me a line in the comments section below. Share your progress with our community!
Written by: Sheila Hamilton
Copyright February 2021
Fiber Fueled: The Plant-Based Gut Health Program for Losing Weight, Restoring Your Health, and Optimizing Your Microbiome
Author: Will Bulsiewicz, MD, MSCI
I highly suggest buying this book if this blog has caught your interest!
The Rich Roll Podcast
My favorite podcaster! Rich Roll brings guests that I find interesting to listen to.
Check out a couple of podcasts that inspired this blog post: