The delectable scent of barbequed meat fills the air and tantalizes my nostrils. So I cruise over to inspect said bbq, ravenous from my day of sightseeing. It looks pretty clean, the skewers of marinated chicken and beef look fresh…I’m in. Come at me street meat!! It’s bloody delicious, I’m a new woman. Completely rejuvenated by this carnivorous feast I quietly congratulate myself on the ballsiness of eating street meat in Quito. Not an hour later though I feel a sensation in my stomach, a low grumbling, a vibration even. I am starting to sweat. I have goose bumps. This is an emergency!! Bathroom, where the hell is a bathroom…I run into a café “el baño por favor?”. Holy Shit…the meat was no good. Gut health can get destroyed on a vacation, not just by food, but lack of sleep, training and a change in lifestyle. Here’s how I keep gut health on track and recover from holiday extravagances.
First of all what is gut health and how does it affect us. The gut micro biome refers to the organisms living in our intestines. A person has 300-500 different species of bacteria living in the digestive tract and while some are harmful to health many are beneficial and necessary for a healthy gut. For the last 10 years the gut has been recognized as the backbone to human performance and health and is one of the control centers of the body. In fact the gut can weigh up to 2 kilos, nearly twice the weight of the brain and there are nearly 10 times more cells of bacteria in the gut than the whole body put together. Gut health has been linked to regulating metabolism, managing blood pressure, skin conditions, autoimmune diseases, influencing genetic expression and brain chemistry. It is the main pillar to optimize well-being and performance and also to increase fat loss and training performance.
So how do I know if my gut health is poor and what do I do about it?
Signs the gut is unhealthy:
- Upset stomach-gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea or heartburn. In other words stool consistency. Shouldn’t be rock hard, shouldn’t be watery and should be consistent, 1-3 movements per day.
- Diet- A high sugar, high carb diet can decrease the amount of good bacteria in the gut and impair the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, absorb nutrients and store fat.
- Sleep disturbances- serotonin, the hormone that affects mood and sleep is produced in the gut and an unhealthy gut can cause sleep disturbances and insomnia.
- Skin Conditions and autoimmune function- an inflamed gut or systemic inflammation may cause certain skin conditions and affect proper functioning of the immune system.
- Skin folds-increase in skin fold measurements on glutes, hamstrings and stomach can be an indicator of poor gut health.
What do I do about it:
- Eliminate external stressors- In other words food. Eliminate sugar, dairy and gluten until gut health is restored. Eating food that the body cannot digest properly increases inflammation in the intestines, which will reduce the good bacteria and facilitate the growth of bad bacteria and yeast. I eat lots of clean foods, healthy proteins, lots of colorful veggies and small amounts of fruit, nuts and healthy fats to restore gut health.
- Eliminate internal stressors- Detox the body and remove parasites, metals and candida. The way I do this is with a daily multi vitamin and chlorella. The multi helps to restore any vitamin or mineral deficiencies, aid sleep, detox the body and enhance wellbeing especially if travelling. The chlorella binds to heavy metals and other toxins and helps eliminate them. It has also been shown to enhance the immune system and act as an antioxidant.
- Rebuild the intestinal wall. I take the supplements glutamine and chlorella. Chlorella promotes the growth of friendly aerobic bacteria, particularly lactobacillus. The beneficial bacteria produced by the body multiply at 4 times the normal rate in the presence of chlorella. L-Glutamine is an amino acid and is a vital nutrient for the intestines to rebuild and repair, it enhances gut barrier function and influences gut immune response.
- Reduce daily stress- Meditation, reading, yoga, walking, podcasts, spending time with friends and family, having a laugh, playing with your pet, getting a massage or listening to Baroque classical music. I like a bit of everything here but whatever works for you really.
- Sleep. Get plenty of quality sleep. Sleep and energy affect wellness. I aim for 6-8 hours per night of uninterrupted sleep with the aim to be in bed before 11pm where possible. I also try to reduce caffeine intake during the day. I take magnesium always and if I’m struggling to sleep inositol also. Magnesium regulates the hormone melatonin, which guides your sleep wake cycle. It also binds to you GABA receptors. Gaba is the neurotransmitter responsible for quieting down nerve activity. Inositol also helps quiet the mind and prepares the body for falling asleep. If I’m dealing with large time zone changes I may opt for some melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone found naturally in the body and can be used to help adjust the body’s internal clock. It helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. Lastly…and I am terrible at this but turning your phone off at night can also have a large impact on sleep quality.
- Stay hydrated- Drink plenty of water each day. Dehydration affects energy levels. I aim for no less than 1 liter and no more than 5 depending on the conditions.
Once the gut is healthy again I return to my normal diet of flexible dieting but keep the vitamin and mineral supplements going on rotation to maintain a healthy gut year round.
Peace, love and gut health!!