Do you feel as though your gut runs your life?
Do you feel as though you are either always eating, wanting to eat, prepping meals or researching foods to avoid and include?
When not putting more stuff in, you are dealing with the symptoms of the stuff already in there with bloating, distension, rumbling, gurgling, farting or pooping or wishing you could poop.
And then there are those other people that can eat whatever they want and not react, the same people seem to be able change their diet and watch their body shape change or energy change.
So what is the go?
Genetics, hormones, trainers, coaches, stress, financial status…?
Probably all of the above plus your guts.
There is a reason why most of us obsess over our guts. It is a very busy place and very important and our intuition or signs and symptoms are telling us that we need to address the gut before, during and after any campaign.
So let me put things into perspective.
We are born sterile with no microbial coating and a leaky gut wall. Head first through the birth canal and we get a mouth full of our mum’s microbial coating on the way out. We then carry a mirror image of mum’s colonies with the same species and ratios between the various strains. The breast milk feeds the bugs so by the age of 2 we have a nice coating of bugs that will closely resemble a typical mix (proprietary blend) of our gut flora (microbiome) that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. As an adult we will have 10x as many microbial cells in our guts as we will have total human body cells. Our gut wall will house these microbes and it has a surface area of about 400m2 (size of tennis court). 80% of our immune system is located in the gut. The enterohepatic circulation that circulates between the far reaches of the gut and the liver gets every drop of blood every hour. Everything macro and micronutrient we consume will be delivered to our gut and gut flora first.
So yeah it is kind of a big deal.
If you look back at your personal history for things like c-section birth? breast fed or bottle fed? Antiobiotics? Contraceptive pills? Candida? Allergies? Food poisoning? Mum’s gut flora? You can find a cause or multiple factors that can cause dysfunctional gut flora.
Now here is the big point.
You carry these bugs around for years, they are very stubborn and resistant to change.
If you eat a certain way for long enough, you can change your gut flora. Your gut flora population is directly proportional to the food sources you give it. When you eat sugar, you create large colonies of sugar eating bacteria. Therefore, in the process of becoming obese for example we may overeat carbohydrates and sugars creating too many sugar eating bugs. We cut out these sugars to correct the obesity on a 3-month plan (12-week challenge) for example and we lose body fat but it can take 6 months of the new diet to change the gut flora. The gut flora fight back and make you crave their favourite foods.
The fact that our gut flora can take years to develop a particular colony by consistently eating a certain way. It also takes a long time to change in response to the new diet. This can be a major cause of rebound weight gain, yoyo dieting, post comp “metabolic damage”.
Using prebiotics, probiotics (the combination is called a symbiotic), and fermented foods to constantly increase our gut load of bugs can often make things worse. It is more important to change the ratios between the strains to change the way you crave, eat and use macro and micronutrients.
Obese people have an imbalance in their gut flora. They can struggle to maintain the weight loss until the gut flora changes to the new diet. Typically, low bacteroidetes and elevated firmicutes. This may be a cause or consequence of obesity and obesogenic diets. Regardless it must be changed to get results.
Interestingly a lot of polyphenols may be the answer. Polyphenols add colour, smell, fragrance to plants and often give that astringent sensation when we eat them. They can help to change the gut flora quickly to modulate the balance. Green tea (not EGCG but the high tannin extracts or cups of tea), nut skins like hazelnut, schisandra berries (Cort Rx), cranberries, quercetin and a few other crackers I am trying to find now.
Another good source of polyphenols is fermented foods. The relevance of this finding is massive as we have been trying to work out why fermented foods are so good for us. Research shows that fermented foods aren’t actually a good source of probiotics, they do not have many alive bugs in them. When consumed, if there are any alive bugs they usually go straight through and do not adhere or colonize the gut. The prebiotic part is all used up in the fermentation process so that is not giving the benefit, yet after thousands of years of trial and error we know they work. This new finding suggests that fermented foods may in fact be as much antibiotic as probiotic. The food can keep the populations of microbes under control and prevent overgrowth of certain strains and create the correct intestinal and mucosal environment to let the gut flora exist in harmony.
So we are seeing a lot of the historical and traditional foods and strategies for gut health that have a long track record of working may in fact be working by regulating ratios and stopping microbial overgrowth that can lead to gut, immune, inflammatory and metabolic dysfunction