We are all taught from our earliest primary education that our brain is the command center for our body, but did you know your gut is too? Your gut is responsible for much of your body’s overall health and wellness. Our digestive system is inhabited by trillions of microorganisms. Together we refer to them as our gut microbiome. It is this microbiome that makes up the health of our gut. This concept was lost on me until about 15 years ago. How could I have lived in this modern world, received a degree in Kinesiology, been in the health and wellness field for 3 decades, and not have known about the critical role of the gut in our daily life?…The same way that you may feel you’ve been kept in the dark. Doctors and scientists clearly are aware of these organisms and their vital role, yet it seems we don’t hear enough about them. I grew up being an advocate of Western medicine and all its’ glory. Afterall, modern science can fix anything right? Whether it’s a surgeon or a physician, we trust them to fix us when something goes wrong. I have learned over my life and experience though, that there is a glaring deficiency in what is taught to our graduates of medical school, when it comes to the area of nutrition. As it turns out, the entire medical field doesn’t actually have a complete understanding of it either. I have trained dozens of doctors over 2 decades in my career, and have found it is not uncommon among them to still have their own misunderstandings or questions regarding nutrition. Physicians typically just provide a medication for most every ailment. To make it worse, the pharmaceutical companies only make money when we take their drugs, and the food manufactures only make money when we buy their packaged processed food. Unfortunately, it seems everyone is more interested in making money from us rather than trying to do what is best for our bodies. I have been an athlete all my life. As a division 1 collegiate football player, I was instructed to eat as much as possible to gain weight and strength. I lifted weights and was conditioned by a professional strength and conditioning coach. I trusted him, and our team of coaches, to have my best interests at heart. I was having difficulty keeping weight on with all the hours of exercise training entailed, so they literally made me eat with my coaches at each meal. After being told to eat until I felt I was going to pop, I was then directed to load myself with fuel from the soda and soft ice cream machines to “add in extra calories.” I remember a coach saying, “Calories are calories. Just drink Mountain Dew and eat ice cream to put on weight.” Good grief…In reflection now, I am shocked at this “expert” advice.
I look back over my life, exposures, and personal experiences, and realize just where all my misconceptions began. I thought sugar was just an energy source. I was under the impression that the foods we eat are merely just calories. Now, let’s look at the modern era of fast food, “energy” drinks, and protein bars. Companies like Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Gatorade, Red Bull, and Power bar promise to fill us quickly with energy and give us a healthy boost. However, just like I mentioned above, as in the medical field, it turns out that these companies are more interested in making money from us and hooking us on their products, than they are in promoting the health of our bodies. My first wake-up call came to me from my wife Rebecca. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest in a family that was very aware of the importance of healthy and natural foods. Her family made real whole food and recipes from cultures around the world–foods to be enjoyed and celebrated. She was the first one to challenge me about the concept that added sugar, or its man-made counterparts (corn-syrup, etc.), were harmful to our health, especially our gut. Your gut is directly connected to your digestive health. It is also connected to so much more, including your immune system, skeletal muscular system, skin, hormone regulation, and brain function. Our gut is comprised of 100 million neurons, which is more than our spinal cord. The enteric nervous system (ENS) is a mesh-like network of millions of neurons that weave along our entire digestive track. This ENS not only sends information to the brain, which effects mood and is part of our stress response, but it communicates with the microbiome living inside of us. The ENS uses more than 30 neurotransmitters, which are identical to our central nervous system (CNS) found in the brain. Our gut is where 90% of serotonin and 50% of dopamine are found. There’s an entire ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites that are foreign to our bodies, and found in our large intestine. We now know that the more diverse our gut microbiome is, the healthier our individual health is. To say that we have lost our way in understanding what our gut does for us in modern medicine is an understatement! As you may know, Hippocrates is known as “the father of modern medicine”. He lived in ancient Greece in 460-370 BC. This is where the term Hippocratic Oath, “do no harm, non-maleficence,” came from. This is the motto that MD’s are sworn in by when they become newly recognized practitioners. Hippocrates wrote that all disease begins in the gut! This illustrates that 2,000 years ago they actually understood how the gut played a vital role in our overall health.
Our gut bacteria, and it’s lining, have a strong effect on the quality of our health. All modern metabolic diseases start with an imbalance within the gut and its’ microbiome. Leaky gut is a term for when toxins leak through our gut lining and enter our bloodstream, a term most of us our familiar with. Our immune system is forced to react to this to prevent further issues and thus causes increased inflammation throughout the body. When we have this type of inflammation caused by too much sugar and a poor diet, it can trigger insulin and leptin resistance, which are driving factors for type 2 diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease. Let’s conclude with a solution to repair and help your second brain and gut biome perform at its best. Remember my story above about my college coaches saying, “Calories are calories and it doesn’t make a difference what type they are”? This sounds a lot like some diets out there that want you to focus on calories, not the quality and content of food. Diets that use point systems based on the caloric impact versus the nutrient density of food are innately flawed. Fast Eat Live celebrates food and doesn’t demonize it. Focus on quality nutrition, versus numbers and points. Avoid excess sugar and processed foods. Eat real whole foods versus those that are man-made in a lab, and watch your body thrive. You can begin by integrating more probiotic foods like cultured vegetables, sauerkraut, and quality full-fat or Greek yogurts (without added sugar) into your diet, as these foods contain healthy bacteria that rebuild your gut biome and help it to flourish. Also, focus on eating quality prebiotic foods. These are the foods that provide the nutrients the bacteria in your gut require to flourish. This is why we discuss with our clients the importance of Phase 3 (the live days) of our Fast Eat Live system. We suggest you lead with organic vegetables and fruits during this phase, that provide fiber for your body, and fuel for the good bacteria. If you adhere to the plan of my weekly food system, Phase 1 and Phase 3 are specifically designed to improve your gut health. This boosts your energy and mood, helps hormone regulation, improves sleep, and helps you stay connected with how your gut feels and the information it is communicating to you. With a deeper understanding of the role your food plays in your overall health, through your gut, you can make wiser choices. As you put emphasis on the quality of food you’re fueling your body with, you are redirecting your command centers for optimal physical and mental health and well-being. Treat your body, your individual home, in such a way that it not only lives, but it truly thrives! We are here to help educate and guide you on this invaluable journey.