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Leading Nutritionist and Author Jeannette Hyde is challenging the way we think about our health. Her book ‘The Gut Makeover’ has already become a best-seller, and its easy to see why – her sensible, straight-forward approach to revolutionising our gut health is easy to implement and follow.
Since writing the book, Jeannette Hyde has collaborated with luxury villa and estate Cugó Gran in Menorca to create a series of well-being retreats called ‘The Gut Makeover Retreat’ for 2016. These exclusive week-long retreats are designed to restore digestive health for optimal weight, as well as promote physical and emotional balance. We’ve asked Jeannette some questions regarding her book and the retreats:
1. Why did you choose to become a nutritionist? Did you want to make changes to your own diet?
Nutrition has always interested me, partly due to my Mother’s influence, since she was a big believer in eating plenty of vegetables and having natural, real food rather than processed or packet food. As an adult juggling a senior job as an editor on a national newspaper with two young children, I ran into health difficulties and realised I wasn’t looking after myself properly. I was living on stimulants – coffee and croissants in the morning, and endless white carbs the rest of the day. I started to look at what I was eating, and reviewed my whole life, and decided to retrain to be a nutritional therapist at Westminster University. I realised real food is fundamental to good health and key to sustaining health for the long term, but it often gets forgotten in the noise of busy life.
2. Why does the state of our guts effect our overall health so much?
It’s been established that the trillions of bacteria in our guts have an important impact on every aspect of our health. They used to be viewed as benign, but actually they’re very important, since the state of the gut is linked with our weight, immune system, mental health and skin. If we are lacking diversity of bacteria in the colon, then it is likely we will be overweight, have a poor immune system, suffer from low moods and bad skin.
In the 20th Century, too much emphasis was placed on counting calories but now nutritionists recognise it’s about the quality of the calories. In the last three years, it has been discovered that the landscape of our gut bacteria has an impact on how hungry we are, and consequently our weight.
I’ve been collaborating with the Psychology Department of St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London measuring people’s symptoms of health before and after a month of Gut Makeover eating. We’ve found that after just 4 weeks of eating for good gut health there has been a dramatic difference in the subjects’ mood and anxiety scores – so good gut health can impact our emotions as well as any physical problems we might have. If the Gut Makeover was a drug, it would be front page news, since it’s so beneficial!
3. Where did the idea for your book ‘The Gut Makeover’ come from?
The idea came to me from reading a series of articles about the microbiome [the name given to the bacteria in the gut] and gut restoration. I read a particular article in ‘Nature’ journal, where it occurred to me that I could heal my own gut, restore the healthy bacteria by having a more diverse diet. That led me to using many of the new principles with my clients and the idea for the book.
4. What are the main benefits of doing a Gut Retreat at Cugó Gran in Menorca?
Guests will eat food that is designed to support optimal gut health, which will be cooked by highly experienced chefs. Everything you eat on the retreat will be good for you and will taste delicious since for the most part it will be locally sourced, so you won’t feel deprived. The Gut Makeover Retreat is not about doing a quick fad diet, it’s not about starving the body. Rather it’s about providing the body with nutrient dense food so that the body can heal itself.
The aim of the retreat is to instil good habits for long-term health, and it is much easier to do this in a group – it helps people to focus and feel supported. The beauty about making dietary changes as a group is you get results beyond average, pushed higher by the group support and dynamic. It is very a powerful way of making changes, which is why I also focus on group work in London at Grace Belgravia, the women’s private members club, which complements and also integrates well with The Gut Retreat at Cugó Gran. It is also an enjoyable way of working in the company of and with support of others.
There is no alcohol on the retreat, which means that people’s digestive systems’ will have the chance to recover . The beautiful grounds and private setting of Cugó Gran help create a really relaxing environment, which is key to improving digestion.
5. Will people doing The Gut Makeover Retreat notice a difference straight away?
It will vary from person to person, everybody will react differently. Some individuals may find themselves experiencing withdrawal symptoms (e.g from going without caffeine, alcohol, sugar and gluten) for a few days or they may feel overly tired, but then they should start to feel more energized. It’s a healing process. Everyone’s different, on their own journey, which is why the retreat offers individual consultations, with strategies for guests to take away once the retreat is over.
6. Does the state of the gut effect our emotional well-being as well as our physical well-being?
Yes! Whilst all the different mechanisms aren’t yet completely understood, there’s a nerve that goes from the brain to the gut called vagus nerve, which sends messages from the gut to the brain – if your gut is lacking in bacterial diversity, it is likely that you’ll be prone to bad moods. In contrast, when your gut flora is in balance, you’ll feel in a better mood.
7. Are there any foods that are detrimental to gut health?
Generally sugar, gluten and some other grains, alcohol and caffeine can be unhelpful. People can have intolerances to all kinds of foods, and that can be different from person to person. The best way to discover which ones is by keeping a food and symptoms diary.
8. How do you relax when you’re feeling stressed?
I like cooking and yoga. Coincidentally, I’ve always had a complete love affair with the Balearic Islands which goes back 35 years and going there always helps me to relax. One of my favourite sensations in life is walking through the countryside, and breathing in deeply the smells of wild lavender and rosemary on a warm summer’s day. There is no other smell like it outside the Balearics! I did a Spanish degree when I left school since I love Spain so much. Now I’m glad I have a reason to come back!
9. Does the Gut Makeover Retreat help with weight loss? If so, why?
When your gut bacteria is thriving and in good balance, this helps control hunger hormones so you don’t over eat and avoid aggressive calorie extraction from your food, meaning that you feel full more quickly.
10. What habits should we avoid if we want our guts to remain healthy?
No eating at desk, no eating on the run. Our biggest barrier to gut health is that we don’t chew our food properly. Train yourself to slow down, make food a ritual and enjoy it. Bloating is often caused by not chewing properly. How you eat is just as important as what you eat.
11. Why do you not like the terms ‘going on a diet?’ and ‘clean eating’?
Going on a diet has negative connotations since many diets end in failure. If you say you’re going on a ‘diet’ you’re setting yourself up to fail. A diet sounds like a very short-term way of thinking. I prefer to talk more about a certain style of eating. In the case of the Gut Makeover, the best style of eating is eating slowly. The term ‘Clean Eating’ is so evangelical! It’s such a loaded word, very judgemental. The simplest approach is to just eat natural real food, reading labels and cooking from scratch when you can. I want to encourage people to just do the best they can.
12. Why is it important to think about gut health in the long-term, and not just as a quick fix?
After taking care to improve your health by eating more diversely (lots of fibre and colour), there’s no point in going back to a western beige diet (like mine when I was an editor) otherwise you won’t feel the benefit. It is possible to give your gut a quick fix, but it won’t be a lasting fix unless you keep eating a rainbow of vegetables and eating good oils such as extra virgin olive oil, and meats, fish, and eggs from wild or sensitively-farmed sources, and nuts and seeds too if you can tolerate them. In fact the real Mediterranean diet. If you’ve abused your gut for years on end, your gut could be in bad shape, you may be suffering from leaky gut as well as your gut bacteria being out of balance (known as dysbiosis). You want to be able to keep on healing after you’ve started to improve your gut health for the better and support it with good eating for the long term.
13. What do you think is next for nutrition? Do you think we will be better attuned to our bodies in the future?
Actually it’s really simple, just eat more vegetables and get more diversity in your diet, eat natural and real foods. I hope we find a way back to that.
14. If you were to recommend we change just one thing in our diet or lifestyle what would it be in terms of promoting good gut health? What is your ‘don’t forget’ or ‘don’t cheat’ advice?
Make sure you chew every mouthful slowly! If you eat out with other people, don’t feel pressured to rush your meal – make sure you’re chewing slowly, it will improve your digestion no end! Try to eat mindfully.
Jeannette’s follow-up book, ‘The Gut Makeover Recipe Book’ will be published by Quercus Books on 16 June 2016.
For further information on Jeannette Hyde’s Gut Retreats at Cugó Gran, visit: www.cugogranmenorca.com.
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