Gut Girl

Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce for the Holidays

If you’re preparing a holiday meal with all the trimmings, don’t forget the cranberry sauce. My Gut Girl-approved recipe is sweet, tart and sugar free. Wondering how I manage all that? My culinary secret is Swerve!

Swerve is an alternative sweetener made from erythritol, oligosaccharides and natural flavors. It’s a no-calorie, non-glycemic substitute that can replace regular sugar cup-for-cup! (You can learn more about Swerve and where to source it here.

As you might know, refined sugars and carbohydrates can wreak havoc on your digestive system and create a breeding ground for bad bacteria to grow. It can also disturb your blood sugar, causing an energy spike followed by a crash. This can make you feel temporarily hyper and then really tired. If you get sleepy after meals, keep a food journal to see if refined sugars are the culprit. 

Now, I understand that cleaning up your diet can be extra difficult around the holidays. I keep my gut happy and enjoy the season by preparing healthier versions of my festive favorites, like this sugar-free cranberry sauce. I also make sure that I’m still eating sauerkraut and taking a probiotic daily, even if I’m travelling or visiting family. These little tricks can help you stay on track during winter, Christmas or any busy time of year. 

Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients
1 cup Swerve
1 cup organic orange juice
1 ½ cups cranberries
Pinch cinnamon

Directions

  1. Bring Swerve and orange juice to a boil to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Add the cranberries, and heat for about 10 minutes, until the cranberries pop open. Stir in the cinnamon.
  3. Allow to cool and thicken. Store in a glass jar.

Gut Girl Note: I like to use fresh cranberries, but frozen cranberries will also work.

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Balance Your Gut Bacteria (At Any Age)

Last week, I shared the surprising connection between your gut and your age. I also shared the adverse affects we experience when our gut flora is compromised. This happens because the balance of good and bad bacteria is crucial to every system in your body—not just your digestive system. From weight management to stress management to thyroid function, promoting our microbiome may be the most important thing we do for our health. Of course, you’re not in this alone. I have plenty of simple tips and recipes to help you balance your gut at any age.

First, let’s understand what the gut does:

  • Affects how we store fat
  • Balances blood sugar
  • Regulates our appetite by responding to hormones 
  • Affects our ability to handle stress
  • Supports liver function
  • Assists in thyroid function and metabolism
  • Aids in digestion, nutrient assimilation and elimination 

If our guts are not running optimally, any of these functions can be disrupted. This could lead a host of minor to serious health issues, including weight gain. 

In fact, one twin mouse study found that transferred gut bacteria from lean mice into obese mice allowed them to lose weight. In other words, when your healthy bacteria are flourishing, it’s easier to lose weight and feel good in your body.

If you’ve been curious about some seemingly random systems, your gut might be the root cause. So what do you do? 

5 Ways To Balance Your Gut

  1. Improve Your Diet. Whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes can seriously improve your health. 
  2. Crowd Out Sugar. By filling your body with healthy, wholesome foods, you will naturally start to “crowd out” unsavory foods that help bad bacteria grow, such as sugar and refined carbohydrates.
  3. Introduce Ferments. I love fermented foods, and I eat them every day. Start by incorporating one ferment into your diet and increase the frequency and variety as your body adjusts. I recommend kimchi, sauerkraut and beet kvass
  4. Exercise (and Have Fun). Moving your body should be fun…and the more fun it is, the more you’ll be inclined to do it. Take a dance or yoga class, go for a jog or do some gentle stretching. Movement helps your body detox and eliminate efficiently. 
  5. Mediate Daily. A consistent meditation practice has been proven to greatly reduce stress—which we all know is one of the main contributors to gut dysbiosis. If you struggle to mediate, try closing your eyes for 3-5 minutes. Or, engage in any activity that makes you feel light and happy. 

Take one action step. We can all stand to increase our self-care and ramp up our nutrition, especially during the holiday season. Choose one of the 5 action steps from above, and then tell me about it in the comments below. 

 

A Surprising Cause of Gut Dysbiosis

We know that a high-sugar, high-stress lifestyle can lead to an imbalance in our microbial community, otherwise known as gut dysbiosis. This condition causes the good bacteria to decrease and the bad bacteria to increase. When this happens, we’re susceptible to inflammation, illness and disease… not to mention depression, anxiety and weight gain. Not fun for any of us!

While diet and stress are the primary factors, they aren’t the only ones that can lead to a gut imbalance. Another surprising cause? AGE. Aging is, of course, a biological process. However, if we don’t support our bodies throughout our lives, we’re increasingly prone to infections and illnesses the older we get. Here’s why…

Age & Gut Dysbiosis

The type of bacteria we have in our gut and the levels of bacteria in our bodies both change as we age. As we get older, we produce more E. coli (proteobacteria) and Staphylococcus (firmicute), and less Bifidobacteria (actinobacteria).

A recent study, The Healthy Gut for Aging Well, provides a few reasons for this bacterial shift: 

  • Decreased salivary function
  • Neuron degeneration 
  • Decreased gut motility

If you'd like to learn more about this study you can read the full abstract here. 

Gut dysbiosis is also more prevalent as we age, because elderly individuals are often prescribed more antibiotics than younger adults. “A study looking at 187 elderly people prescribed antibiotics found that there were alterations to their microbiota and concluded that this affects long-term health.”

So what does this all mean? Promoting a healthy gut microbiome is essential now and as you age. It’s also important to continue to replenish your body with pre and probiotics every day, and especially after a course of medication or antibiotics.  

In fact, a healthy gut balance may be the best “anti-aging” trick available. The more you populate your body with good bacteria, the younger you look and feel. Ferments and a healthy lifestyle could actually save you hundreds of dollars on makeup and eye creams! 

What else can you do to support your body as you age?

Be sure to check back next week to get tips and recipes that will positively affect your whole body—at any age!

 

Natural Tea Tree Cleaning Spray

Here at Gut Girl, I talk a lot about food. What goes into our body is so important to our health; it’s the largest part of what I do. But the health of our environment is just as important in keeping our own microbiome balanced. Our endocrine system is sensitive, so even the smallest amount of synthetic chemicals can negatively affect us. And they’re everywhere: cleaning supplies, makeup, even our food supply. There are about 80,000 toxic chemicals and more being created everyday, so I make sure to use safe products in my home and on my skin. 

I was lucky to have an excellent cleaner named Mollie when my babies were small. She would only use natural cleaning products at our house—vinegar, baking soda, lemon, and some other natural concoctions. When she left, I started making my own. To help, my dear childhood friend and roommate, Anna, who battled cancer for 13 years, left me a written note listing all the chemicals I should look out for on labels and avoid before she died. And I see these chemicals everywhere now. The cleaning supply aisle is full of them, and they’re more damaging than we think.

Research has shown that not all bacteria is a problem. In fact, over-sterilization is making us sicker—not healthier. We really need to make peace with dirt, and use natural cleaners to make sure our homes are as healthy as our bodies. For my cleaning mix, I just add a few drops of essential oils into spray bottles filled with vinegar. Below is the quick recipe I use. You can make in a couple of minutes, and I promise it does a great job.

Natural All-Purpose Tea Tree Cleaning Spray

Ingredients
½ cup white vinegar
2 cups warm water, boiled and slightly cooled
½ lemon, juiced
4 drops Tea Tree Oil  

Equipment
1 spray bottle

Directions

  1. Pour the vinegar into the spray bottle. 
  2. Add the water, lemon and oil. 
  3. Put the lid on and shake to mix the ingredients together. 

Gut Girl Note: Tea Tree Oil is antimicrobial, which is why it makes a good cleanser. And it kills mold, making it all-purpose, too!

What are your cleaning concerns or secrets? Let me know in the comments below, or share your own natural cleaning mixes! For more information on how I can help make your home and body healthier than ever, contact me here.