Clean January

If you are well, everything is more beautiful!

The past few months I have mostly spent on the road... moving out of my London flat, living between homes, moving to Canada. Now we are settled in our cosy little flat, but it took a while and there was a period of discomfort, sitting on the floor with no furniture in sight.

I started noticing how this period of instability, lack of sleep, socialising, lack of rhythm and Christmas festivities began to affect my energy, mood, skin and resilience. I mean, I am sure you don't have to be moving continents to feel like this after Christmas - its one of my favourite times of year but it can leave you depleted.

January is the time to start repairing the damage. For me, food is everything for my mood. We are in constant symbiotic relationship with microbes. The earth has it's own microbiome, the soil is teeming with billions of microbes, and our skin and entire digestive and reproductive systems have their own microbiomes too. The microbes that live in your gut actually influence your feelings and behaviours, so no wonder if you don't eat mindfully, sooner or later you feel the repercussions. 

Everyone is different, and if there is one thing I've learnt over the years, is that what works for me, can have a totally different effect on another person. Or you might find that upon further investigation certain foods you thought are not good for you, actually are good depending on how they are made.

For example, several years ago I cut out gluten from my diet and saw immense changes to my energy levels, mood, body shape (my belly used to be bloated most of the time) and skin (especially the irritation around forehead and cheeks). Then walking around in some hipster Stoke Newington food market, I wanted to buy gluten free bread and enquired at a sourdough stand if he had any alternatives. He asked me if I had celiac disease and I said no, I just avoid it because bread makes me bloated.

At least half an hour later, after a very uncomfortable and loud lecture where I got more embarrassed by the second for asking the sourdough guy for gluten free bread, I understood I needed to investigate more. My blanket disregard for ALL bread was incorrect, especially because I love bread and have grown up eating lots of it, as its such a huge part of Azerbaijani diet. Something very similar happened with coffee where I realised the process of making coffee can make a difference to how it makes me feel.

This is when my partner Ravi and I decided to get even more geeky and investigate once and for all what is and isn't good for us. We signed up with DNAfit, which is a genetic diet and fitness report. This was an illuminating experience, and what it showed for me was low caffeine and carbohydrate sensitivity. So why does bread and coffee makes me feel ill? Because it most certainly depends on how it's made.

If you are interested in being more intentional with what you eat and how you can elevate your gut health, check out these two services which I have personally used over the years and learnt a lot from:

Although the road to better eating is an individual one there are a few things we can all do this January to feel better. Here are my top 3 tips:
  • Watch-out for processed food! Technically when we chop, mix and cook at home we are processing foods. The trouble is that so much of processed food in supermarkets is processed beyond the point of recognition. Keep an eye out for anything with lots of sugar and refined grains, super-long ingredient lists with foods you don't recognise. And while you can make salad dressings, pasta sauce, mayo and hummus at home, you can also find clean versions in shops you just have to look for it and maybe be willing to spend a bit more. Personally, I would rather eat less and eat well.
  • Increase your plant variety intake! You can feed your gut microbes optimally by eating more plants. And that doesn't only include vegetables such as broccoli, this includes every type of nut, seed, herb, grain and berry. Keeping your gut microbiome happy can reduce your risk of autoimmune diseases, fight off pathogens and infections and of course improve your mood.
  • Finally, reduce (or even better STOP) your refined sugar intake because its evil! When I first gave up sugar it genuinely was the hardest thing - I was angry one minute, crying the other - I couldn't recognise myself. I find this the hardest of the 3 tips to incorporate because refined sugar sneaks up on everything. It is almost impossible to buy dessert from supermarkets without refined sugar, that's when I started making my own cookies and banana bread - my baking skills are basic but at least I know what I am eating this way. But it's more than just desserts, keep an eye on sugars added to healthier foods like yogurt (choose plain and add your own agave syrup), tomato sauce and cereal.

Hope you find these tips helpful and if you have any stories of your own to share let me know, I love hearing from you!

The Yoke Wellness Ambassador,

Sabina Ahmadov

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