A healthy gut is the key to optimal health! In this episode, Sam and Natalia dive into the importance of gut health and a few tips you can start implementing now to support your gut so that you can feel your best.
“80% of your immune system is working in the gut.” – Natalia
Want to learn how you can optimize your gut health? Listen to the full episode here:
Vancouver, BC, July 27th, 2022 – UpMeals is pleased to share that it has been accepted into Durham College’s Hub for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence for Business Solutions (AI Hub), a centre of excellence that enables small- and medium-sized enterprises to develop and adopt complex AI solutions to improve productivity and efficiency. The AI Hub offers industry partners access to technical expertise, state-of-the-art facilities and platforms, and student talent.
“We’re thrilled to be one of only ten businesses accepted into the AI Hub program this year,” said Drew Munro, Co-founder and CEO of UpMeals. “This experience will provide us with invaluable research, data and modeling as to how we can expand the AI within our machines to better service our customers.”
The AI Hub will provide approximately 240 hours of service over 12 weeks from students and research associates to assist UpMeals with early-stage research and development to create an AI project prototype, accelerating the feasibility of a proposed AI solution, the quality of the datasets and development opportunities. This will result in a working prototype, supporting code and other materials to execute and scale the prototype for commercialization.
“We look forward to expanding the AI capabilities of our SmartVending machines, offering tailored recommendations on each of our machines depending on item popularity, time of date, consumption trends and more. Just as a streaming service recommends programming based on your history, soon our SmartVending machine interfaces will offer similar functionality to get the right product to the right user to drive sales and reduce waste,” continues Munro.
UpMeals had previously received advisory services and funding support from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) to develop and bring to market the UpMeals App.
UpMeals is a food accessibility platform on a mission to make healthy, nutritious meals available 24/7. Innovative SmartVending machines, direct to consumer eCommerce, and B2B solutions provide custom, healthy, sustainably packaged meals that meet the highest food safety standards. UpMeals uses proprietary AI-driven software to create their custom meal solutions and reduce food waste. Using the data collected from their platform, UpMeals uses their software to improve menu offerings based on user feedback and popularity.
About the AI Hub
Housed within Durham College’s Office of Research Services, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the AI Hub offers small and medium enterprises a much-needed access point to the rapidly growing field of AI. By offering industry partners access to technical expertise, state-of-the-art facilities and platforms, and student talent, businesses can uncover valuable insights while receiving intelligent and autonomous solutions that increase organizational productivity and growth. The AI Hub services are supported in part by funding from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP). Companies interested in how AI and digital transformation can enhance their businesses are encouraged to visit www.durhamcollege.ca/theAIHub or contact the AI Hub team directly via email or phone at 905.721.3223.
UpMeals currently has an open financing round and is inviting investors to participate in the opportunity.
To download the deck and terms, please visit the link below:
Multiple health issues, from stress to chronic disease, are associated in one way or another with sub-optimal gut health. So, tending to our digestion and maintaining a healthy gut can help us optimize our overall well-being and steer clear of unwanted disease.
When we talk about “the gut” we are referring to the GI tract and all the living microscopic entities that live within it known as gut flora or gut microbiome.
Here are 10 rules (five “do’s” and five “don’ts”) to support your gut microbiome to keep healthy levels of bacteria and other necessary agents that keep our guts functioning well.
What is the gut microbiome?
The terms gut microbiome, gut flora, or gut microbiota, all refer to the microscopic organisms that live within our bodies. Each one of us has billions if not trillions of live organisms that live symbiotically within us. The gut microbiome is specifically the lot of microorganisms that reside in the GI tract.
The digestive tract is all colonized by living organisms that support digestion as well as other processes in the body. These include bacteria, fungi, and archaea and are all referred to as “healthy bacteria” among other names.
Our bodies are colonized by these microorganisms through many natural processes including natural childbirth, breastfeeding, exposure to nature, and consuming probiotic-rich foods.
The gut microbiome plays a key role in many bodily processes from the proper metabolism of food, to immune defence and brain function.
The risks of a weak gut microbiome
A healthy gut microbiome will generally maintain the body’s processes and can keep us healthy and lively. However, when the gut flora is disturbed, decreased, or threatened, many health issues can arise.
When healthy, our gut microbiome keeps unhealthy bacteria at bay. But if threatened through factors like unhealthy diets, stress, medication, and other elements, it can be significantly reduced or weakened.
The condition of having a reduced or imbalanced gut microbiome is known as dysbiosis. A state of dysbiosis allows space for unhealthy or irritating agents to take over and colonize the GI tract. This disbalance of healthy and unhealthy gut microorganisms can lead to developing gut-related issues like SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), intestinal candidiasis (yeast overgrowth in the gut), leaky gut (the permeable gut lining that allows toxins to leak into the bloodstream), and other digestive system dysfunctions.
These digestive disorders at first glance could seem like not much of a threat, but if left unattended for enough time they can lead to major health issues.
Poor functioning of the gut microbiome has been linked to many conditions on a physical and mental level. Leaky gut syndrome for example is known to increase the risk of developing chronic diseases like autoimmune disease, metabolic syndrome, and even cancer.
On a cognitive level, poor microbiome health has been linked to conditions such as ADHD, ASD, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and even Tourette’s syndrome.
Mood disorders like anxiety and depression also seem to have a direct correlation with gut microbiome levels.
Needless to say, taking care of our gut health can bring great rewards to our overall physical and mental health. So let’s dive into what we can do to strengthen our gut.
Gut health “don’ts”
There are several things that can be aggressively detrimental to gut health and that you might want to avoid as much as possible. Let’s look into some of the biggest threats to gut health:
Although useful (and necessary) in acute cases, antibiotics should not be taken lightly, and in most cases should not be taken long term. Antibiotics kill all bacteria and microbial life (both good and bad) in your gut.
If you are prescribed antibiotics, talk to your healthcare provider to see whether there are any alternatives for treatment. Antibiotics are often over-prescribed and taken with less thought than they should, and unfortunately, many health care professionals won’t address the adverse effects that these can have on your health. Often, if the situation is not an urgent case, a second opinion might be insightful in this area.
Many people who have been on long-term antibiotic treatments pay the price heavily with all sorts of microbiome-related issues. In fact, the long-term use of antibiotics is a significant predisposing factor in the development of autoimmune diseases.
If an antibiotic regime is indeed necessary, a healthcare professional might suggest adding a probiotic supplement regime to counteract the damage. Sticking to this regime is crucial for proper damage control.
2. Sugary Foods:
Unhealthy gut bacteria thrive on simple sugars, and when unhealthy bacteria thrive, healthy bacteria start to lose territory. Limiting foods such as desserts, pastries, candy, sweet drinks, and added sugars can help starve some of these unhealthy bacteria so that they don’t overpower healthy organisms.
Alcohol also disturbs gut health by feeding unhealthy bacteria and hurting healthy bacteria. In excess it acts as an inflammatory agent, creating inflammation in the body by disrupting the gut barrier (leading to that dreaded leaky gut syndrome mentioned above).
4. Processed Foods:
Heavily processed foods like fast foods, artificially flavored foods, and many “diet” foods are full of added chemical ingredients that disturb microbiome balance and contribute to inflammation. Staying away from heavily processed products as much as possible is generally a good rule to support gut health.
The relationship between the gut and the nervous system is bilateral, so the gut affects the nervous system as much as the nervous system affects the gut. Chronic stress has been shown to contribute to gut dysbiosis and inflammation.
Taking time to rest and recover, and practicing healthy stress coping skills can help your gut flora stay strong amidst stressful moments.
Gut health “do’s”
1. Eat Real Foods:
Healthy bacteria is designed to thrive on healthy, real, and natural foods.
Diets with plenty of fresh vegetables, quality protein sources, healthy fats, and moderate whole grains and legumes are best to help support gut health.
The mediterranean diet for example is known for its anti inflammatory, and nutrient rich characteristics.
2. Supplement With Probiotics:
Probiotics are live bacteria you can consume through food or supplements. Taking probiotic supplements can help recolonize the gut with healthy bacteria after it has taken a toll. Taken regularly these supplements can also work as a preventative, maintenance regime.
Talk to a healthcare provider to see if this is a good option for you and what sorts of probiotics you would do best with; this is important because randomly taking probiotics can actually dysregulate gut microbiome balance.
3. Know Your Prebiotics:
Prebiotics are basically food for your gut bacteria. Prebiotic rich foods include garlic, onions, apples, fresh vegetables, chicory root, flax seeds, and more.
There are also prebiotic supplements in the market. Although these can be helpful and convenient at times, sticking to eating real, unprocessed foods is always the best call for overall health.
4. Fermented Foods:
Fermented foods are a powerful source of prebiotics and some of them like yogurt even contain live healthy bacteria. Eating fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha, can help support healthy gut organisms.
In the case of having known colonization of unhealthy bacteria (conditions like systemic candidiasis and others), these foods should be limited until the unhealthy agent has been eliminated or is under control, as many of these foods also feed and strengthen unhealthy bacteria.
5. Get Good Sleep:
The quality, efficiency, and duration of our sleep can affect our gut microbiome. Studies have shown that significant changes to sleep-wake cycles can affect the balance of the gut microbiome.
Gut flora is sensitive to circadian rhythms, so a sleep routine with a steady bedtime and wake-up time can help maintain the balance of our gut microbiome.
Gut health has become a large concern among health and wellness experts in all areas, and the importance of a healthy gut seems to be more and more significant for overall health.
As research in this area evolves it is clear that gut health has more diverse functions in the body than simply digestion, and that it may be one of the most important factors in many health aspects from proper energy metabolism to brain function and immunity.
Let’s take a look into what the gut is and why it matters to our health
What exactly is the gut?
When we talk about the gut we are referring to a complex ecosystem that works synergistically to carry out functions that are essential to the body’s survival.
What we call “the gut” is basically the entire gastrointestinal tract (GI tract for short) and the living organisms that reside in it.
GI tract: The GI tract encompasses all of the moving parts from the moment we ingest food to the moment we eliminate waste. This includes key organs like the mouth, esophagus, stomach, liver, pancreas, small and large intestines, and rectum.
Gut Microbiota: The entire system of organs and cavities in the GI tract is colonized by billions of microscopic creatures known as the gut flora or gut microbiome. These include bacteria, fungi, and archaea.
Our bodies are inoculated with these microscopic organisms from birth, and they play a large role not only in digestive processes, but also in immunity, brain function, and mood changes.
The gut’s main functions
The role that our guts play in our overall health is quite significant, and modern medicine is paying more and more attention to gut health as a crucial source of preventative care and health-oriented goals.
To understand how the state of our guts can affect different aspects of health, it is important to first look at some of its main functions: Digestion, immunity, and brain function. (It is important to state that this is by no means an exhaustive list of the gut’s functions. The nuance and complexity of this system extends further than this article.)
Digestion and nutrient absorption
In each step along the GI tract, food gets broken down into smaller pieces, metabolized by enzymes, and reduced to a form that allows our body to use it for energy. Micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are released and absorbed into the bloodstream, and any waste material is separated to be eliminated.
The physical lining of the gut ensures that food travels through the appropriate channels and moves along in a timely manner. Some parts of the digestive system (like the esophagus and intestines) even support this movement by autonomic contractions of the gut lining known as peristalsis.
This gut lining, especially in the small intestine, is also responsible for allowing necessary nutrients and compounds to be absorbed into the blood stream so that our bodies can use them for energy, tissue building, and other metabolic processes.
The gut microbiota also plays a key role in digestion through fermentation of carbohydrates into useful sources of energy, synthesis of vitamins (mostly vitamin K and B), and supporting the metabolism of lipids (fats and oils). 
The gut works as a main source of immune protection against foreign elements. It does this through both mechanical and biochemical processes.
The tissue lining in the GI tract is known as the gut barrier. When healthy, the gut barrier creates a mechanical barrier that keeps all toxins and undigested food from leaking into the bloodstream.
Any leakage of unwanted material outside of the gut lining can cause the immune system to respond and attack any foreign compounds, and if untreated it can cause severe immune reactions that can lead to many chronic conditions. This dysfunction in the gut lining is known as leaky gut syndrome.
The gut microbiome also plays a role in immune defence by producing antimicrobial components that can help fight the spread and growth of unhealthy bacteria.  An overgrowth of bacteria or yeast in the gut can also contribute to a leaky gut.
Brain function and mood
Recent research has observed a direct connection between gut microbiome activity and nervous system processes including emotional regulation, stress and pain responses, and neurotransmitter movement.
This mutual interaction between brain and gut is known as the brain-gut connection or gut-brain axis.
This brain-gut connection is a bilateral relationship, meaning that any changes in the gut will affect the CNS and vice versa. This is why stress-related issues can have such a significant effect on gut functioning, and why a poor gut environment can lead to mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
Multiple studies done on lab rats have shown a direct relation between gut microbiome changes and psychological activity including emotional behaviour, learning and memory retention, and social interactions. 
Experts have also observed a connection between gut microbiome states and disorders of the nervous system and cognitive functioning like ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder), ASD (autism spectrum disorder), Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
Common gut health issues
There are plenty of things that can go wrong with our gut and all lifestyle aspects from nutrition to stress management can play a role in our gut health.
There are however two main issues regarding the gut that can significantly affect our overall health: Leaky gut and dysbiosis.
Leaky gut refers to a gut lining — specifically that of the small intestine — become permeable due to constant irritation. When this lining is damaged, the barrier between the gut and the bloodstream is no longer fully functional. The walls that separate the two develop leaks that allow undigested food compounds seep into the bloodstream.
This leak of compounds into the bloodstream can generate an immune response to fight the undigested food that the system does not recognize in the bloodstream. The more compounds leak out of the gut, the heavier the response, not to mention toxicity levels in the body.
These immune responses generate high levels of systemic inflammation, which is a root cause of many chronic conditions.
Dysbiosis refers to the lack of healthy levels of gut flora or a disbalance in gut bacteria.
This can happen due to many different reasons including antibiotic use, overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria or yeast (often caused by lack of healthy bacteria), and lifestyle issues such as poor diet, excessive stress, and alcohol abuse.
The lack of healthy levels of gut bacteria can lead to multiple issues from digestive difficulties all the way up to chronic conditions. As mentioned earlier, dysbiosis can be a factor in developing a leaky gut, which is when our gut health can really start to get us into trouble in other aspects of our health, especially our immune health.
How to care for your gut?
After this brief introduction to your gut, you might be wondering what are some ways to support and take care of it.
The rules to a healthy gut can be summarized in a few key points:
Eating real, healthy foods
Healthy gut bacteria thrives on real, fresh food. Varied vegetables, legumes, and fruit are great sources of food for our gut flora.
Fermented products like sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, and kombucha often have healthy live probiotics that can strengthen your gut flora population, as well as nutrients that also help them thrive.
Unhealthy gut bacteria thrive on refined sugar, and simple carbohydrates (added sugars, sweets, desserts, syrups, etc.). Limiting the amount of sugar you consume can support your gut microbiome and keep it balanced.
Processed and refined foods can affect our microbiome and irritate our gut lining when consumed often. Limiting processed foods (even those under the “health food” section) is often a good idea.
Add greens to your meals.
Avoiding antibiotics if possible
Antibiotics are powerful agents and can really get us out of trouble in acute situations. But when over-prescribed (which happens often) or taken for extended periods of time they can really wreak havoc on our gut microbiome.
Antibiotics kill all microbes, good or bad, so they inevitably lead to some level of dysbiosis. Avoiding any unnecessary use of antibiotics when more natural remedies are feasible can save your gut microbiome from a lot of harm.
However, sometimes antibiotic use is necessary. In this case having a supplement regime with probiotics is important in order to minimize damage.
In either one of these cases always consult a healthcare professional to decide what your best option is and how to support your gut through any treatment.
As mentioned above, the brain and gut are directly related. Chronic stress has been shown to affect our gut flora levels for the worse which can leave us prone to unhealthy bacteria colonizing our systems.
Practicing stress reduction techniques can train our systems into better regulation paths which can save us from unbalancing our gut microbiome (as well as many other stress induced ailments).
Be sure to read our article on chronic stress to learn what you can do to mitigate it.
The bottom line
We might at first glance think of the gut and digestive system as just the structure that processes what we eat, but the truth is that our guts are at the very center of our overall health and have a huge impact on our physical and mental wellbeing.
Taking care of our gut and keeping it in good shape can help us prevent and even reverse a plethora of ailments and debilitating conditions.
Overall, a healthy gut makes a healthy body, so paying attention to our gut health should be a top priority in our self-care practices.
What does a productive day at work look like for you? Is it getting all your tasks done in the morning and having time to spare? Or maybe finding a state of flow where work seems to just get done effortlessly? Now think of your least productive day. A day when it’s hard to focus, short tasks seem to take forever and you feel drowsy and unmotivated. We all have these days, but what if we told you that you can hack your days to be as productive as possible just through your eating habits and choices? We’ve put together a few quick, science-backed tips to help you boost productivity and make the most out of your days .
What does food have to do with productivity?
Our bodies are constantly reacting to what we consume. Think of it this way: When you’re feeling tired and need to wake up and get some work done, you make yourself an espresso and 10 minutes later you’re already feeling the effects. You know the coffee will give you a boost of energy. On the other hand, think of your last five-course thanksgiving dinner, how were you feeling after your feast? Most likely sleepy and ready for a nap right? Probably not the best time to sit and write a novel or pound out all of those emails you still need to send.
Here are 4 tips to help you get through your workdays with max productivity and minor energy crashes:
1. Ditch the sugar!
I know, this is always a tough one to hear. However, reducing your sugar intake is one of the best ways to avoid that dreaded energy crash throughout the day. Consuming simple sugars will quickly spike your blood sugar levels which can give you a temporary boost of energy, but the short-term effect will quickly fade away, and after the sugar high comes the crash.
What exactly are simple sugars?
When we talk about simple sugars we are referring to the foods that consist of mostly added sugars with minimal or no other nutrients. The molecules in simple sugars like sucrose (common table sugar) have simple bonds that are very easily broken down in the body in order to turn it into glucose (blood sugar), which can be used as an immediate source of energy.
A surge in these simple sugars will create that blood sugar spike that we commonly refer to as a sugar high. Once this dramatic spike is over our energy levels nosedive. When foods have other nutrients (like fats, proteins, or fiber-rich carbohydrates) the breakdown process is slowed down. This results in a much slower rise in blood sugar, and energy levels are sustained for longer.
Sources of simple sugars include fruit juices, desserts, soft drinks, candy, and other sugar-filled treats. Simple sugars, especially those that are refined and processed, have a range of negative effects on the body. But we understand that sometimes you just have to treat yourself (it’s all about balance after all right?). So in order to avoid the crash and to keep your blood sugar levels healthy, follow this rule: If you must have a sugary treat, don’t eat it alone. Accompany your treat with a balanced meal or at the very least some healthy fats, a fibre-rich bite, or a source of protein to help control the rise and fall of blood sugar levels and maintain a steady source of energy for longer.
2. Eat lighter, balanced meals
A big reason why we crash after a heavy meal is that digestion takes a lot of energy. Let’s go back to the Thanksgiving meal example: After three servings of turkey casserole and sides, and a few slices of pie you probably feel ready to hibernate for at least a couple of hours right? This is the normal reaction to a heavy meal.
When we are digesting a big meal our bodies are sending most of the blood to our digestive system in order to take in the nutrients we just ate.
This is when our metabolism is working at full capacity to break down and digest the food. As such, many cultures have a post-lunch nap time scheduled in their daily endeavours.
Having lighter meals is a good way to minimize that killer post-lunch crash. Sticking to balanced meals with quality protein, healthy fats, and complex, fibre-rich carbohydrates is the best way to provide the nutrients your body needs to keep moving. As much as possible try to stay away from processed foods, and refined carbohydrates.
What makes a balanced meal?
A balanced meal is one that has a proper amount of proteins, fats, and quality carbohydrates. A properly balanced meal will also be full of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that support your body.
Create a balanced meal in 4 steps
Choose a good variety of vegetables. The more the merrier! Leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, peppers, tomatoes, beets… you name it!
If you want more carbs in your meal add some whole grains, starchy vegetables (potatoes, squash, etc) or some beans or legumes. The key here: Keep the foods real and limit processed products. Feel free to skip this step if you thrive on lower-carb diets.
Always add protein! Whether you eat meat or not your body needs protein. Choose a high-quality protein source whether it is fresh fish or meat, some tofu or beans. Avoid processed meats such as lunch meats, and overly processed vegan meat replacements (these may be in the health food section of your grocery store, but a lot of them have plenty of additives and are highly processed). For more on healthy vegan protein sources check out this post.
Don’t forget healthy fats! Drizzle your dish with olive oil, add some avocado, or top it with nuts and seeds for an extra crunch. Whatever floats your boat!
3. Make your lunch break a break
Having a designated lunch break is one of the best things you can do to keep your productivity and your health in check at work. If you often find yourself having lunch while still typing away you may be actually hindering your productivity. Schedule your lunch breaks so that you have the time to sit, disconnect from work and enjoy your meal.
This will allow you to recharge, focus on one thing at a time, and come back to work with much greater productivity. Studies have shown that creating separation from work and lunchtimes can support productivity and improve work satisfaction. By mentally taking a break from work and allowing the space to eat, socialize, and recharge, you can come back refreshed and work more efficiently. This study from the British Psychological Society states that a deliberate lunch break can “reduce afternoon exhaustion and enhance afternoon work engagement” (Bosch, C., Et al).
4. Stay Hydrated
You probably know that proper hydration is key for physical endurance and performance. But you don’t need to be sweating in the heat or running a marathon to keep your water intake up.
Dehydration can impair basic cognitive functions like memory and focus. A 2005 study observed the effects of mild dehydration in a group of adult volunteers. At the end of the study, the participants reported feeling less alert, more tired, and having difficulty concentrating. Carrying a water bottle with you is a good habit to keep your brain sharp and your body healthy.
A quick note for the coffee drinkers out there: Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it quickly flushes water out of your body and therefore contributes to mild dehydration. The general recommendation is to simply drink a cup of water for every cup of coffee you have. This should offset the slight dehydrating effect of caffeine and keep your body hydrated throughout the day.
So bottom line: next time you are feeling a little drowsy or out of sorts at work try having a glass of water or two.