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What better way to keep the workplace happy on Valentines day than to invest in the HAPPY HORMONE. Introducing SEROTONIN, the hormone and neurotransmitter known for making us feel happy. What we forget is, its primarily made in our digestive system, in fact approx 90% of our Serotonin is produced in the gut along with 70% of our immune system.

The gut is known as the core for good reason! Its the centre of your health and happiness and where all the magic happens. Its where food is broken down, nutrients are absorbed, hormones are regulated, immunity strengthened and waste and toxins eliminated - its very busy!

Happy digestive system = Happy hormones = Happy workplace!

So as optimal health begins in the gut, in order to achieve wellbeing we need to nourish ourselves on and off the plate and in and outside the office! This VALENTINES DAY here are a few tips to facilitate happy digestive systems and stimulate those Happy Hormones in the office and at home :

Tips for the office kitchen, morning tea, lunches and / or afternoon teas :

1. Keep it Fresh with Whole/ Real foods i.e. any food that comes from plant or animal that is ready to eat, raw, fermented, pickled or cooked. Please reduce processed foods that contain other ingredients / chemicals. Processed foods are a known link to gut irritation as they contain artificial chemicals to keep them fresher longer. While it may not be convenient to have food expire faster, remember food is supposed to go bad after its been taken from source - its normal! The key is to eat and drink fresh. Office examples - check out your tea, coffee, sugar, milk suppliers and choose organic / herbals, it may be more expensive but has less chemicals which means less gut irritation and one step closer to happy hormones. Unfortunately the contents of your regular instant coffee's and teas (tea bags) are laced with chemicals which interfere with your hormones.

2. Ready supply of fruit (bananas, apples, whatever is in season) and vegetables (easy to consume without much prep - carrots, celery, cucumber, spinach). Did you know that your gut relies on vegetables alone for fuel - its the only organ in the body that does not use oxygen so denying it daily healthy servings of vegetables makes it near impossible to function effectively! Certain fruits and vegetables are also known to be both pre and probiotics which are essential for healthy bacteria that contribute to healthy gut microbiome. The healthier your bacteria the easier it is to break down FOOD, stabilise MOOD and protect IMMUNITY.

3. Other helpful kitchen additions - Filtered water (again less chemicals = less stomach irritation), Homemade hummus or pesto to go with the veggies, Natural yogurts (no sugar) and / or Kefir. In case of celebration why not add some fizz with Kombucha instead of fizzy sugar / soft drinks or beers / alcohol.

Equally as important to keeping it fresh for the stomach, Happy Hormones also rely on keeping ourselves fresh emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. The two do not work in isolation and many of us are guilty of forgetting this myself included. I learnt the hard way - you can eat very well but if your stressed, tired and emotionally drained the food you eat cannot be absorbed.

Tips for the office environment :

1. Stress is directly related to gut health, it over activates the nervous system and in doing so shuts down and disrupts digestion. When we are stressed, our bodies go into fight / flight mode so digestion / hormone production stops as the body considers it a non essential process in this stressed mode. Priorities stress management, examples: Create a workspace that encourages time out for lunch, exercising (open discussion on gyms, facilities near you and suitable breaks to allow use during the day), meditation, deep breathing (dedicated space in the office for time out), creating healthy boundaries with relationships and / or having an open door policy for seeking counsel. Lead by example.

2. Gut Tension Release and eating at your desk are counterproductive. Your stomach cannot begin to break down what you are consuming if you are reviewing something on your screen, typing or on a call. How often have you finished your lunch and actually not remembered what you had eaten therefore, are wondering why you are still hungry! Lead by example and eat away from your desk, go out if you can or eat with your team but take the time to consciously acknowledge / remember your food. This time of year following your food with a warm herbal tea is a great way to sooth digestion/ tension. At home if you regularly struggle with bloating / irritation after food, applying a heat packs across your stomach will ease discomfort and tension. Other great gut tension releases include digestive friendly yoga stretches like happy baby and childs pose.

3. Sleep is essential for all your organs, nervous system and hormones as it allows us to reboot and heal. Speak openly on the importance of sleep and openly acknowledge the impact it has on your day to day. The food you eat, decisions you make and overall mood are greatly impacted by sleep patterns. How often have you made rash decisions at work because of lack or sleep and thus over consumption of caffeine. If sleep is being impacted by work stress, openly discuss this and how it can be eliminated. Your hormones will thank you and productivity & clear thinking are guaranteed.

So I hope you agree that gut health is the foundation of all health and happiness and as with all business and organisation structures, good foundations are key to success.

I know its not always possible to do everything but even implementing a few of the above Happy Gut and Hormone tips will go a long way to creating a Happy Workplace.



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