Your gut health is extremely important for achieving your fitness goals. Its main components are your stomach and intestines. There are three particular functions of the gut that you need to optimise.
In a healthy gut, the food we eat is first sterilised by our stomach acid, and then broken down by different types of digestive enzymes, into nutrients to be circulated around the body and waste to be excreted.
Foods that are easy to break down are generally the type of foods that rot like fruits, vegetables and meat. These foods rot because they come with their own specific enzymes that help us to break them down, making it light work for the gut. This is one reason why preserved foods that we find commercially sold in the shops aren’t good for us, they don’t digest well.
If we don’t produce enough enzymes in our stomach, then that will also impair our ability to break down food, and more importantly, to absorb nutrients. If we can’t absorb nutrients, then all the good food we eat and supplemental vitamins we take go to waste!
You are what you eat – You are what you absorb
This can occur if we limit the variety of foods that we eat, which decreases the enzymes that we produce to only those few foods that we eat. Chronic stress is another factor that wreaks havoc on our gut function. Stress is typical in the modern world, especially if you live in a major city, but there are various ways to manage stress, which I’ll talk about in another post.
A few telling signs of digestive issues are gas, bloating and stomach cramps. I’m sure you’re thinking that everyone gets those symptoms and it’s normal, but just because it’s normal doesn’t make it right.
The gut is about three quarters of our immune system! If you get ill quite often, is likely to be the reason. As mentioned before, stress impacts the gut immensely, and learning to manage stress effectively through nutrition and lifestyle would be greatly beneficial.
Gut flora is also a leading factor. I’m sure you’ve heard of good and bad bacteria. You can think of this like a ratio of good plants and horrible weeds in your garden. Feed your plants with what they need, water and sunlight, and they’ll flourish. Otherwise they’ll dry up and go brown, and require a lot of work to bring them back to life.
Naturally occurring good bacteria, and nutrients in general, aren’t as abundant in food as they used to be due to modern food processing methods that drain these nutrients and/or block the absorption of them.
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that dictate how we feel mentally and emotionally. Many key neurotransmitters are produced in our gut, hence the term gut-feeling. These include:
Serotonin – happy, satisfied
GABA – relaxed, calm
Dopamine – driven, focused, alert
Acetylcholine – important for memory and brain function
These feelings can be influenced by the foods we eat. For example I’m sure you’ve noticed that after a large carbohydrate meal feeling quite happy, satisfied and sometimes lethargic. This is because carbs stimulate the release of serotonin. In this case it makes sense to eat more carbs with your dinner than with breakfast. On the other hand, protein and fat promote the production of dopamine and acetylcholine, which makes a protein plus fats meal a great way to start your day.
Top Tips for Optimal Gut Health:
- Eat organic single-ingredient foods that digest well
- Eliminate processed low quality food and drink
- Supplement with a digestive enzyme to optimise food breakdown and nutrient absorption
- Supplement with a quality probiotic to increase good bacteria in the gut
- Two more gut-friendly supplements
- Fish oil (minimum dose of 400mg EPA and 200mg DHA)
- Zinc (about 30mg daily)
- Manage stress effectively – learn to relax
Source : Guest Blog by Ajay Patel at Form Your Physique.