Learn to listen to your body

Start listening to your body, chances are it’s trying to tell you something, says Good‘s nutrition and holistic health expert Ben Warren

Words Ben Warren, illustration Janelle Barone, Makers MGMT

Science is beginning to come to grips with just how complex the human body is – from feedback loops involving multiple hormones for appetite control, to how the bacteria in our gut modulates our immune response and contributes to how we think and feel. The really exciting part is that most of this information can now be gathered through various laboratories (and sometimes wearables) throughout the world – the problem being it’s very expensive! 

The great news is you don’t necessarily have to spend thousands of dollars on testing, as often there are lots of clues if we tune in to our bodies. 

Take maintaining your weight, for example. You can certainly get tested to see how many copies of the AMY1 gene you may hold (low copies are associated with an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes from starchy carbohydrate consumption – think potatoes, or cereal). I generally class these individuals as “carbohydrate sensitive” meaning they gain weight very readily from eating these kinds of foods. But, you don’t necessarily need to test your genetics to find out if this is you… Do you get a short burst of energy from this food and then crash? Or, are you hungry within a couple of hours of eating this food? Do you find you gain weight easily when eating this kind of food? If you answered “yes” to any of these, you may well be getting unstable blood sugar levels and you’ll most likely do better avoiding starchy and simple carbohydrates, such as processed grains and potatoes.

Food intolerances are low-level immune responses to the foods we are eating. They can cause digestive system problems, immune issues as well as a host of other issues.  

The number one thing you want to be looking out for is bloating. Bloating can occur when our digestive system shuts down for any reason, which most often leads to fermentation of the carbohydrates, causing increased gas production and bloating. Another indicator your immune system doesn’t like the food would be if it causes you acid reflux, or heartburn. Obviously there are a number of things that can drive this, but if you find you keep getting heartburn after eating a particular food, then it may be beneficial to eliminate it. The number one food (which is actually a type of protein) we find people struggle with is gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye. Secondly, we find many people have issues with dairy and, in third place, eggs.

For women another way to listen to what’s going on in your body is through your menstrual cycle. The research is clear that diet and lifestyle factors can have a significant impact on hormonal balance. So, the menstrual cycle should be used more as an overall gauge of hormonal balance. 

The BePure lab does a lot of testing of women’s hormones and we generally see one of three issues: if the client is putting more weight on hips and thighs and generally has a heavier flow, most often their test results come back oestrogen-dominant; I’d recommend eating more cruciferous vegetables (think broccoli, cabbage, kale) and rosemary, as there are molecules in these foods that help the liver metabolise oestrogens. The second issue we see is pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). We often find this associated with lower progesterone in the later stages of the cycle and this could be an indicator of too much stress, as your body steals the precursor of progesterone to build your body’s stress hormones. The third issue we see is excess testosterone; this often expresses as no menstruation or increased body fat around the middle from insulin resistance. Plenty of exercise and a low-carb diet can help.

Of course, if you have a serious concern, you should always seek expert medical advice. But the take-home message is start listening to your body, chances are it’s trying to tell you something.

Ben Warren is a nutrition and holistic health expert. Visit bepure.co.nz

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