If you want to be as healthy as possible and ensure that you maximize the nutrition that your body can extract from your food then start with your gut. Your Gut health literally affects your entire body.
It’s a scary fact that your gut houses around 500 different species of bacteria. There are 10 times as many bacterial cells as human cells in the human body. That means that microbes within us outnumber our own cells 10 to 1!
If you have too many bad gut flora or even too few of the good ones, then it can cause serious problems for both your health and waistline.
Gut bacteria thrive on what you feed them. Think of your gut like a garden that needs regular fertilising. You need to regularly feed your bacteria the right food so that they in turn can help you. If you give them whole, fresh, real foods then your good gut bacteria thrive. Feed them junk, and the nasty bad bugs flourish potentially resulting in leaky gut, toxic overload, and inflammation. In addition fat-regulating hormones like insulin become unbalanced resulting in you craving more junk food. The good news is that your bacteria population changes with every bite of food, so you can positively alter gut flora beginning with your very next meal.
Your gut works very hard, 24/7 breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, keeping out toxins and producing nutrients. And it does it all for free!
On our daily basis our gut has to cope with many challenges;
- Junk Food. This nutrient-poor diet makes all the wrong bacteria and yeast grow in the gut, leading to a damaged ecosystem.
- Medication overuse. Anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, acid blocking drugs and steroids damage the gut or block normal digestive function.
- Infections and gut imbalances. These include small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO), yeast overgrowth and parasites.
- Toxic overload. Including mercury and mold toxins from our food
- Inadequate digestive enzymes. Stress, acid-blocking medications and zinc deficiencies can all contribute to lack of adequate digestive enzyme function.
- Stress. Chronic stress alters your gut nervous system, creating a leaky gut and changing the normal bacteria in the gut.
Rebalancing Your Gut
The foundation of good gut health begins with what you eat. To optimise your gut health, make sure you eat fibre rich vegetables, low-sugar fruits, non-gluten grains and legumes.
You might also consider an elimination diet to address food sensitivities. Completely remove gluten, dairy, yeast, corn, soy and eggs for a week or two and see how your gut feels and what happens to any symptoms you might be experiencing for example bloating, wind and low energy.
As an endurance athlete, it is really important to optimise your gut health as it helps your immunity system which is challenged regularly with training and races. How often have you been ill after a race? I recommend a four-step strategy with clients to help reduce inflammation and heal the gut.
- Remove the bad foods, drugs and potential food allergens
- Increase your fibre intake gradually
- Reinoculate your gut with good bacteria using probiotics
- Repair the gut lining with supplements such as omega 3 fatty acids