Stomach control: The holidays are over, nutritionist Magali Brecke reminds us how food and wellness intersect

Stomach control: The holidays are over, nutritionist Magali Brecke reminds us how food and wellness intersect

When I can, I try to cook like MagalĂ­ Brecke. The recipes in her two “Eat and have fun” e-books, which she co-created with photographer Liz Birnbaum, is vibrant and vibrant, with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients, healthy fats, high-quality proteins and large handfuls of aromatics.

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I have cooked them from lid to lid and they are not only delicious but also deeply nutritious and satisfying. You would never guess that each recipe was designed around nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods, without sugar, gluten, soy or other allergens.

Brecke is not just a phenomenal chef. She is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist and a functional nutritionist. She works with clients to identify the root causes of diseases, autoimmune disorders and intestinal dysfunction and uses food as part of the package of medications to relieve illness and discomfort.

It was while working as a postpartum doula that the idea to Kitchen Witch Bone Bouillon, which she co-founded with Rhiannon Henry and Missy Woolstenhulme, was born. Brecke cooked for his clients to encourage healing and build their strength and often gave them bone broth, a protein and collagen-packed superfood that is easily digestible.

Nutritionist Magali Brecke

Nutritionist Magali Brecke recommends focusing on well-prepared, easily digestible whole foods to tame digestive problems after the holidays.

(Provided by Magali Brecke.)

Terrified of the thin, salty, tetrapacked options in the grocery store at the time, she began making large batches and selling it herself. In 2015, Kitchen Witch began distributing its high-end bone broth in glass jars in grocery stores across the West Coast.

A few years later, the company launched its popular Gut Reset, a five-day cleansing that focuses on solid, satiating soups and bone broth to help soothe inflammation, encourage healing of the intestinal mucosa and give the body a break from the norm.

In an attempt to refocus on physical health after a joyful and indulgent holiday season, I sat down with Brecke via Zoom. She shared her advice on what to eat, how to cook and what to do to feel your best as we enter the new year.

Why is it important to take care of his gut?

The human gut is so receptive to nourishment, change and healing. Our gut is this incredibly permeable, juicy, very vibrant part of our body. We call it the “donut” because it is open to the outside world from the mouth to the other end. I like to think of it as this place of deep discernment where we decide what comes in or what goes out, what we need and what we do not need.

I like to tell it to people because it gives you hope and insight that the way you feel right now does not have to be the way you need to feel, otherwise you will always feel. Your body likes to feel good. Your gut likes to assimilate and digest and break down and be efficient. There is so much we can do to change the way we feel in our body. Eating gives you this opportunity, not only once a day, but several times a day, to change how you feel and therefore change the way your body exists and is in the world. It can change your whole outlook on life, quite literally.

Many of the neurotransmitters in our brain health come from function and signaling from the gut. Hormones, neurotransmitters and mental and emotional health – all this is like an orchestra that can get going. There are many parts that contribute to a manageable and functional way of being.

What are some physical signs that may indicate that special attention is needed?

Some of the most common nuisances that people here in the Western world experience are things like chronic bloating. It’s the feeling of having to unbutton your pants after eating, or you’re just not feeling well after eating. Dysfunction or discomfort when passing stools is a really big one. Pain is another big one. If you have pain after eating, or you get chronic heartburn, it is another sign that something is not being digested or assimilated in the way it should.

Another common one is brain fog, or what we call postprandial somnolence. This is when, after eating, you get this afternoon drop or feel exhausted. You do not really have the same kind of mental capacity or mental focus that you might have in the morning.

Not everyone attributes brain fog to problems with their gut, but it can almost always be bound. Your gut is another brain in your body. If you eat and all your blood and physical resources are directed at your gut, it’s really hard to be sharp, focused and creative with your upper brain.

If you generally feel low, tired and sore, it can sometimes be a sign that you are not digesting and assimilating as your body should and you may be malnourished. We are overfed and malnourished in the Western world. We have a wealth of food that is of poor quality, so we are full, but we are not actually cellularly nourished. It can manifest itself as low energy, fatigue and lack of motivation.

During the holidays, when we tend to indulge in rich foods, sugar and alcohol, the body really gets a hit. Not only do you ask the body to digest lots of fat and protein, but the pancreas is asked to digest all the excess sugar. It is difficult for your body to break down, bind and move through.

What can we do to improve?

Remember that our bodies are hot. Our internal temperature is around 98.6 degrees, and in winter it becomes more of an effort for our body to maintain that temperature. We are constantly temperature regulating and therefore it can get even more confusing to eat cold food at this time of year. It is a philosophy that comes from Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.

Focus on hot food. That’s why we love broth and soup. Drink hot tea or even just hot water with lemon all day instead of reaching out for an ice cold drink or a smoothie first thing in the morning. Even drinking your smoothie at room temperature makes a huge difference. Drink your water at room temperature or hot to promote the release of enzymes and bile. It’s my free, easy, literal “hot tip” that I have for people at this time of year, especially when you feel yucky.

What foods should we eat? Any special preparations?

Simple things like a big plate of steamed, seasonal vegetables with lemon and olive oil with a pure protein are pure nutrition and a beautiful meal to soothe digestion.

Humans have a shorter digestive tract that gets along well with cooked foods. Having soup made with collagen-rich bone broth skips a few digestive steps towards your body and makes it easier to assimilate protein, fiber and other nutrients. That’s what this’s really about – it’s not just what you put in, but how your body is able to work with what you put in.

What about fermented foods?

Fermented foods are wonderful because they are essentially digested and really able to be assimilated into the body. And if you can add a little bit of it to everything you eat, it’s going to be a wonderful way to use food as medicine. My favorite way to do it is sauerkraut. Make sure it is in glass – it is acidic and acidic and it can be washed out of plastic. Always drink all sauerkraut juice!

I tend to lead people away from kombucha at this time of year. It is cold and tends to be really sugary. I think kombucha is a wonderful alternative to alcohol in a social environment, even harsh kombucha because you still get probiotics.

Kitchen Witch Gut Reset is a five-day cleansing consisting of bone broth-based soups.

Kitchen Witch Gut Reset is a five-day cleansing consisting of bone broth-based soups.

(Photo by Liz Birnbaum.)

If you could only recommend one thing to improve bowel health, what would it be?

The morning picture is something I have almost everyone to do. The very first thing you put in your mouth and in your body in the morning can really help you set the stage for digestion that day. During the night, our liver filters all the things we do not need that end up in our bloodstream and lymph nodes, and it creates bile. Bile is essential for digesting fat and protein, but many people who overeat do not excrete all the bile they should. This is how we end up with gallstones. There is an epidemic of gallbladder inflammation and gallbladder removal in the western countries because we are not moving our bile. If you can only move your bile in the morning after your liver has done all its hard work overnight, you set the stage for digestion for the day.

Our gallbladder is stimulated by the taste of bitter or sour things. The morning shot, as I recommended it, is the juice of half to a whole lemon or an ounce of apple cider vinegar and a little sea salt and four to five ounces of hot water. Drink it first thing in the morning and make sure you really taste it. Bonus points if you add three to five drops of milk tea tincture, an ancient remedy for liver health, gallbladder health and digestion. It will stimulate the bile and set the stage for digestion that day. Just that can make a huge difference.

Registration for January Gut Reset ends Tuesday. Visit kitchenwitchbroth.com for more info.

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