How To Fix Your Gut HealthPosted by Josh Gape on
Gut Health; Why it's important and how to improve it through diet and lifestyle...
Over the last couple of months Izzi and I have been on a gut healing journey and this blog post is all about what we've learnt along the way.
To give some background, just before we left Bali, we went to the North of the island where it’s much more rural to do some free diving. Food options are very limited in these areas so we were mainly eating at Warungs (local restaurants) and both of us got a serious bout of food poisoning. Following this, we started experiencing quite bad bloating, which is a classic symptom of gut health issues.
Other common symptoms of gut health problems are; skin issues (psoriasis, etc), food sensitivities, anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts, waking up multiple times in the night, teeth grinding, white tongue coating, bad breath, dandruff, sugar cravings, excess thirst, constipation, loose stools, gas and brain fog.
On arriving in Australia we worked with our friend and gut health specialist AJ to get our blood taken and analysed to find out what exactly was going on. It turned out we were both suffering from leaky gut and SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), which was leading to some downstream issues such as nutrient deficiencies and immune dysregulation.
AJ set us out a plan to restore our gut health and after six weeks, we’ve seen some big improvements. Fixing gut issues needs to be very individualised. Your blood work highlights what issues you specifically have and depending on; how bad your leaky gut is, what type of bacterial overgrowth you have, if you have parasites, what your training is like, etc, this will influence the plan that’s set out. Therefore I’m not going to list the specifics of our plans below as I highly recommend that if you believe you have gut issues, you work with a practitioner and get a personalised plan. However, what I do lay out is why looking after your gut is so important and some general guidelines that you can implement to bolster your gut health regardless of if you have symptoms or not.
Why Gut Health is so Important
When it comes to overall well-being, the importance of gut health can’t be overlooked. Science is only just starting to scratch the surface of how vital gut health is, but here are a few things that we know already and this should be plenty for you to understand why it needs to be a priority:
1️⃣ You aren’t what you eat, you’re what you digest and absorb // this statement refers to the fact that you can be eating X, Y or Z gold standard food, but if your digestive system isn’t operating properly, you won’t be able to absorb the nutrients from it. Nutrients dictate the language of our cells and optimal amounts are needed to run every bodily process effectively and therefore ultimately enable maximal your health and performance. If you have intestinal permeability (AKA leaky gut), you aren’t going to be absorbing all the nutrients you’re eating.
2️⃣ Autoimmune response to food // the foods that you’re eating may be causing you to have an autoimmune response. Our gut lining is made up of intestinal villi, which are finger like structures pointing inwards within the gut. When our bodies are relaxed and we’re in a parasympathetic state, these villi are tightly compact together. In this state, they only let food through them and into the blood stream when it’s been sufficiently broken down into a single molecule form. This is how the process should operate. However, when we’re in a sympathetic (fight or flight) state, the villi spread apart. If we eat in this state, food particles have the potential of not being broken down properly and entering our blood stream in a bigger form than they should. When this happens, our bodies don’t recognise the particles as food and instead see them as a foreign invader like a virus or bacteria and therefore attack them. This is an autoimmune response and can lead to a variety of negative downstream symptoms, such as; skin issues, bloating, gas and brain fog.
3️⃣ Neurotransmitters // these are the molecules used by the nervous system to transmit messages between neurons, or from neurons to muscles. A large amount of these are produced in the gut, including over 90% of serotonin, which is involved in mood (it’s often referred to as the happiness neurotransmitter), sleep and bowel function (amongst others). If your gut health isn't in order, you won't be producing neurotransmitters optimally.
It’s thought that over 90% of people today have some level of leaky gut. As stated above, to determine whether you’re one of these people or not, it’s best to get blood work done. Alternatively it’s a solid indication that you may have some form of gut issue if you suffer from any of the symptoms listed above.
Eating Practises to Aid Gut Health
When people talk about nutrition, 99% of the time they talk about what to eat, not how to eat. In the modern world people are experiencing issues with digestion and food intolerances that were rare or non-existent up until recently. This is because in the past, we would have generally been in a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state and present with our food. Fast forward to today, and people are eating in a sympathetic (fight or flight) and distracted state often, which is leading to the autoimmune response detailed above.
To prevent this from happening it’s really important to make sure our bodies are in the right state to eat. Some simple tips for this are:
🧘 Take 10 box breaths before you eat // close your eyes and breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath in your lungs for 4, exhale out of your mouth for 4 and hold your breath on the exhale for 4. Repeating this 10 times before you eat will drop your body into a parasympathetic state.
🙏 Be present when you eat // so many people today eat distracted. This often leads to food not being chewed properly, which gives your gut a lot more work to do to get the food down to the appropriate size to be absorbed. Also, if you’re eating watching a screen, this has the potential to knock you into a sympathetic state. As humans we mirror what we see, even if it’s on an unconscious level. Therefore if you’re watching an action movie, the football or even reality tv, it’s fairly likely that your bodies not going to be in a truly relaxed state and ready to properly digest food.
😀 Chew your food // digestion doesn’t start in the gut, it starts the moment we begin thinking about the meal we’re about to eat. Our mouths start salivating, releasing enzymes through our saliva. When we eat, we should be chewing our food until it’s in a paste-like form before we swallow. How many meals have you eaten where you don’t even think about the food beforehand and you just wolf it down as quick as possible? In this scenario, neither of these processes will be taking place and you’ll likely also be in a sympathetic state. So slow down, relax, be present and chew your food thoroughly.
🚶 Bonus - 10 minute walk // one of my favourite practises for improving digestion is going for a 10 minute walk after meals. This has the added benefit of balancing blood sugar, increasing daily energy expenditure and exposing yourself to different spectrums of sunlight throughout the day.
Foods & Supplements for Gut Health
✅ Digestive enzymes // in an ideal world, these wouldn’t be required as our digestive system would be working perfectly. However, the reality is, we live in a far from ideal world. Gut issues are becoming more and more prevalent daily and most of us need some help fixing our digestion whilst we embed the practises above and get back to baseline. Taking digestive enzymes before you eat can help with this, aiding you to properly digest food. At APE we have an animal based Digestive Organ Complex for just this purpose.
✅ ACV & bitter vegetables // if you have a particular issue digesting protein, this may be indicative of low stomach acid. To help increase stomach acid and therefore protein digestion, take a teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) before meals. On the other hand, if you have issues digesting fat, eating bitter vegetables like rocket or radish before or with meals helps increase our internal production of bile, which is used to break down fat.
✅ Colostrum and bone broth // these are hands down the two best foods for repairing our gut lining. If you suspect you have leaky gut, I recommend having a cup of bone broth and 5 grams of colostrum first thing in the morning before consuming any other food. I would then also include one more cup of bone broth and another 5 gram serving of colostrum at some point throughout your day. You can pick up our grass-fed and regeneratively farmed Colostrum powder here.
✅ Another reason to eat organic food // glyphosate is one of the world’s most used herbicides and the key ingredient in the weed killer Round Up. This chemical has been shown to wreak havoc on the gut lining, causing intestinal permeability. Zach Bush is one of the world experts on this topic and has spoken / written about it extensively if you want to find out more.
I really hope that's given you some insight into how important gut health is and provided some easy to implement strategies to boost yours, whether you have an issue or not.
Also, if you’re interested in working with AJ on your gut health or to combat any other health issues / achieve some goals then drop him a message on Instagram @aj_superhumanhealth or via email on email@example.com
Here’s to More Life,
Josh & Izzi