The Business Times

Food as medicine

With gut health becoming more important, COMO Shambhala works with experts to help you keep your digestive system happy.

Published Fri, Jul 16, 2021 · 05:50 AM
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ARE YOU NOTICING MORE MOOD SWINGS, finding it hard to fall asleep or have that feeling that something isn't right? Your body, or rather more specifically, your gut, may be trying to tell you something.

Jeremy Lim, CEO of AMILI, Southeast Asia's first gut microbiome bank, is working with wellness centre COMO Shambhala to educate more people about the health of their gut.

For example, most people recognise symptoms such as bloatedness, constipation or diarrhoea, but often don't associate insomnia or low energy with gut problems.

''But it all starts with the gut microbiome,'' says Dr Lim.

The gut microbiome refers to the trillions of good and bad bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal tract, which digest food and help synthesise and absorb nutrients from food. We can't see it, but the human gut microbiome can weigh up to 2kg.

Studies have shown that gut microbiome affects our immune system, metabolism, and the gut-brain axis, where the two organs are connected biochemically and physically. The brain affects gut health, which in turn may affect brain health.

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In fact, the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates even claimed that ''all disease begins in the gut.''

Besides listening to the body and its reaction to certain foods, an easy way to gauge a person's gut health is to do a gut check on the AMILI website. The online test, which involves answering a series of lifestyle questions on diet, exercise and stress levels will show a person's risk level for poor gut health.

Dr Lim says, ''We know now that certain foods are good for the microbiome, and when we eat these foods, the good bacteria will proliferate and suppress the bad ones. The good bacteria produces chemical substances that are associated with a reduced risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.''

He adds that the microbiome profile is affected by diet and environment, and a diet that works for one person might not work for another.

''But generally, eating whole foods, plant-based foods over meat, and avoiding foods with additives are good for the microbiome,'' he says.

Meanwhile, COMO Shambhala members as well as the public can pick up Bio+Me, a gut microbiome test kit developed by AMILI, where a stool sample is used to determine the microbiome profile. The follow up includes personalised nutrition recommendations

AMILI also works with COMO Shambhala's various practitioners, providing them with insights on gut health.

''Our collaboration takes a holistic approach. For example, the gut influences mindfulness and sleep, and vice versa,'' says Dr Lim.


Tiffany Wee, COMO Shambhala's naturopath and nutritionist, has noticed an increase in the number of clients who come to seek her help for leaky gut. This is a digestive condition where there are gaps in the intestinal walls that allow bacteria and toxins to enter the bloodstream.

''Healing the gut is key, from the intestinal lining to balancing the gut microbiome floral,'' says Ms Wee.

Besides advocating a healthy diet, Ms Wee is the first in Asia to train in and offer the University of California San Diego's Mindful Eating course.

Mindful eating talks about the nine hungers, namely, eyes, nose, touch, ear, mouth, stomach, cellular, mind and heart hunger that commonly drive our eating. ''Perhaps you feel this emptiness and seek comfort in food,'' says Ms Wee, explaining heart hunger.

She advises clients to use food as a way to get to know themselves. One tip is to eat until you are 80 per cent full, and eat deliberately and slowly. ''By doing so, we make wiser choices for ourselves about how to nourish our bodies,'' she says.

She also suggests eating using the non-dominant hand, and to put cutlery down while chewing. ''These acts force us to become aware of automatic habits such as shoving our food into our mouths,'' she says.

''Also stop and look at the food, and feel gratitude for how it came to your plate,'' she says. ''When you do that, you don't feel the need to eat a lot to be content. You eat just enough but your heart feels full.''

To book services at COMO Shambhala, call their wellness concierge at +65 6304 3552 or email

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