I want to talk about your GUT. I love to talk about guts. We all have guts and I don’t mean outrageous behavior kind of ‘guts’ but rather the kind of stuff you can’t see. I’m talking about your digestive tract.
There are exciting discoveries being made on the importance of the health of our digestive tracts and prevention of disease. Within our guts we have very individual “microbiomes.” Our personal microbiomes are made up of good bugs and bad bugs. Besides helping with digestion, a healthy gut will contribute to 70% of your immune health. All athletes know the importance of having a well-functioning immune system. It is now obvious that poor levels of healthy bacteria in our body are associated with the risk of disease. Studies are showing a strong connection of a healthy gut and protection from insulin resistance, obesity, heart disease, asthma, certain cancers and inflammatory bowel disease
What are the things that wipe out our friendly bacteria?
- Antibiotics (anti-bacteria)
- Ibuprofen such as Advil and Motrin
- A low fiber diet
- Constipation, which allows harmful bacteria to remain in the gut too long and multiply
- Fast Food
- Radiation and chemotherapy
In a recent study reported in the journal, GUT – yes there is a journal called the GUT – it was reported that athletes had a greater diversity of healthy bacteria. The athletes had less inflammation and better metabolism than the controls. Good news for staying active.
Let’s take an honest look at the SAD diet – Standard American Diet; low fiber, processed foods, sugar and refined carbohydrates; it often spells disaster.
How can we assess the health of our guts? One way is to take a look at your poo. Yup, your stool – it’s characteristics can provide clues as to the health of your gut. The following chart outlines some of the common types and indicates the condition behind those types. The goal is to shoot for types 3 and 4.
(click chart to enlarge)
But what can we do to improve our guts with food?
– Every day eat vegetables that are high in fiber – leafy greens, artichokes, garlic, beans, onions and asparagus. These contain pre-biotics that allows your gut to make probiotics the healthy bugs.
– Increased consumption of fermented foods such as plain whole milk yogurt with active cultures and sauerkraut (bottled not canned).
– If needed try taking a broad spectrum Probiotic that contains a combination of different strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. Start slow. Some suggestions are:
- Metagenics Ultra Flora
- ReNew Life Ultimate Flora
- Swanson Genetic Designed Nutrition Ultimate Probiotic
- Nature Made Digestive Health
So pay attention to your poo as it can speak volumes regarding the health of your gut and the subsequent health of your immune system and overall function.
Sheila Leard, RD, CSSD, CPT
Board Certified Sports Dietitian
Functional Medicine Nutritionist
My Nutrition Zone