Go with your gut!

Go with your gut!

Sam Mustafa, CEO of Charleston Hospitality Group shares his advice on how to be your best self whilst living a busy lifestyle and following your dream career path.”


Living Life Fast-Paced


Being the CEO and Founder of Charleston Hospitality Group comprising 15 restaurants and 6 restaurant brands, you could say I wear many hats. Each day I am presented with a new opportunity to better my business and myself. From getting up early in the morning (4-5am), working out, to the constant flow of communication and travel throughout the day and evening, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of what the body can endure. With that being said, there is a lot of adrenaline and burnout that comes with my line of work. Nonetheless, this lifestyle is rewarding and I take nothing for granted.

However, within the last few years, I was made aware of an important issue affecting my health and my overall mental wellbeing. My gut.

I had always considered myself to be fit, physically – I worked out and exercised on a regular basis. I tended to eat healthier, even when eating out, but I had trouble connecting this great physical consciousness with my emotional needs. Later down the road a few visits to the doctor revealed that all may not be well with my diet.

You see, mixed with the day to day life comes a lot of stress, at least in my line of work. My company Charleston Hospitality Group employs almost 500 people (as of this writing) and those relationships, like any, are filled with ups and downs. The food and beverage industry is not for the faint of heart.

That stress, coupled with my lack of getting enough sleep and having more processed sugars in my diet than I realized, were all affecting my gut and in turn affecting my mental health.

For years I had been “going with my gut” on business decisions, but it never occurred to me that my real gut needed nurturing as much as it does. This was when I decided to take action on my wellness journey.

Sam working out

Science Is Starting To Learn More About Our Gut Health

One recent study, by the Harvard Gazette shows that environment and not your genetics plays a major role in your gut biomes. It discusses that we are what we eat and as we experience shifts in the way food is produced and sourced, we are seeing serious implications on humans, such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and other health factors.

So how does this all affect mental health?

Interestingly enough, an article posted by California Institute of Technology states that almost 90% of the Serotonin produced by the body is produced in the gut. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. This hormone impacts your entire body. It enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other. Serotonin also helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion.(3)

So there it was the whole time. Bad sleep & poor eating habits were causing my gut problems and in turn my moods to fluctuate more.

What Is One To Do? Go With Your Gut

After speaking with my doctor and identifying my problem areas as it comes to my health, I was advised to take the following actions to lower my stress levels, cortisol and increase gut health.

Changing my lifestyle is something that I have grown to work on consistently. At the start of my wellness journey, helpful articles such as, “What’s An Unhealthy Gut? How Gut Health Affects You” by Healthline , along with doctor recommendations has assisted me in this learning and growing experience.
  1. Get enough sleep *8 hours is the recommended
  2. Eat slowly and consciously
  3. Take prebiotics and probiotics to build and maintain a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria
  4. Check annually for any food intolerances or allergies- a tell-tale sign of an intolerance is constant inflammation and bloated.
  5. Change your diet-reduce processed, high-sugar and high-fat foods
  6. Exercise and keep your body moving!

Superfoods That Improve Your Gut

With a balance of all these improvements made on your gut health, you’re probably wondering what foods serve your gut best? In my personal experience and Forbes- Health can attest- foods that I have found to beneficial to my healthy gut journey include the following:
  1. High fiber foods such as fruits and oats
  2. Probiotic foods such as yogurt
  3. Prebiotic foods such as garlic and bananas
  4. Anti-inflammatory foods such as fatty fish, vegetables and walnuts

Some of my favorite go-to healthy-gut dishes that are offered at my restaurant’s include the Atlantic Salmon from Toast! All Day and the Roasted Beet Salad from Eli’s Table.

Atlantic Salmon from Toast! All Day
Atlantic Salmon
Herb Marinated Salmon over Succotash
Beet Salad from Eli’s Table
Beet Salad Eli's Table
Sliced Beets, Basil Ricotta, Basil Oil and Arugula.
Sam Mustafa is the the CEO of Charleston Hospitality Group and Toast! All Day Franchise. Named one of the nation’s 100 most influential CEOs by Nation’s Restaurant News and frequent speaker on Joe Pardavila’s Podcast on ForbesBooks Radio. Sam is one of the leading voices in the Restaurant Industry.
  1. Dix, Megan. “7 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut and 7 Ways to Improve Gut Health.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 25 Aug. 2020, www.healthline.com/health/gut-health#treatment.
  2. Kelly, Alice Lesch. “Best Foods For Gut Health.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 8 July 2021, www.forbes.com/health/body/best-foods-for-gut-health/.
  3. “Serotonin.” Edited by Irina Bancos, Serotonin | Hormone Health Network, Hormone, 6 Aug. 2020, www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/glands-and-hormones-a-to-z/hormones/serotonin.
  4. Simon, Clea. “New Study Shows That Diet Has Major Impact on Gut Biomes.” Harvard Gazette, Harvard Gazette, 23 Mar. 2021, news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2021/03/new-study-shows-that-diet-has-major-impact-on-gut-biomes/.
  5. Stoller-Conrad, Jessica. “Microbes Help Produce Serotonin in Gut.” California Institute of Technology, www.caltech.edu/about/news/microbes-help-produce-serotonin-gut-46495.