Part 3: Nutrition in a Busy Life
In my last blog I talked about the reasons why you might want to eat breakfast, and also the kinds of breakfast to choose. So what about eating beyond brekkie?
We know from when we were speaking about breakfast that you want a combo of proteins, fats and carbohydrates to help maintain sustained energy. Awesome. But let’s think about something else … your gut brain.
‘Gut instinct’, ‘I feel it in my gut’, ‘gut wrenching’. We have known instinctively for centuries what science is now proving – there is a close connection between our gut and our brain. The Journal of Neuroscience – one of the top journals publishing research on the brain and nervous system – has called this new understanding a ‘paradigm shift’ of enormous magnitude that upsets hundreds of years of neuroscience.
In short, our guts house a whole ecosystem of microbes and it transpires we depend on these not only for digestion, but also for weight control, fighting disease, inflammation and stress and anxiety.
So, what do we mean by ‘a broken gut’? And how does a broken gut lead to a broken brain? The details and breadth are still being uncovered, but in broad terms what research appears to be showing us is:
A broken gut occurs when the mix of microbes in our gut gets out of balance. This appears to be driven typically by a combination of poor diet, lifestyle and medical reasons
We evolved over millions of years with our friendly bacteria … so it is unsurprising that they seem to function best on the whole foods that we have eaten for the majority of this time … as opposed to a bunch of chemicals thrown together in a food processing plant … i.e. the processed foods we have only really started eating in the last half century.
If we consistently give them the wrong food they make us pay, not because they have a grudge against us but because they’ll die back and be replaced by other – much less friendly – bacteria that seem to thrive on refined carbs, i.e. processed sugars.
Hey presto… our gut is broken and we feel like total crap!
The bad bacteria produce chemical by products that are toxic to us
Without enough friendly microbes, the food we eat isn’t broken down properly
The gut lining becomes inflamed and porous. So called ‘leaky gut’.
The nasty bacterial by products and undigested proteins from food pass into our bloodstream, where they don’t belong
From there, these unwanted chemicals can pass across the blood-brain barrier and mess up our brain’s delicate neurochemistry.
Furthermore, 90% of our body’s serotonin (the ‘happy hormone’) is made by the good bacteria … so when we lose these, we also lose a major source of our happy hormone.
Combined result: brain function is impaired, and conditions including anxiety / stress result.
And in a somewhat vicious cycle – stress and anxiety itself seems to play back to the gut and further disrupt the microbes. So if you are leasing a stressful life, have recently had a course of antibiotics, and have been consuming high levels of processed food, you are at risk from some degree of ‘broken gut’.
So, what can you do? We are still working it out, but research suggests …
Eat unprocessed food where possible; if you are buying on the go choose cafes where sandwiches, pasta and salads are made fresh, rather than the packaged supermarket variety.
Look at food labels – generally, the longer the list of ingredients, the greater the likelihood it is a chemical shit storm! Particularly where you don’t recognise half the ingredient names!
Eat bacteria – NOT food that is not meant to be mouldy!! But fermented foods that contain good bacteria. And eat them with fats. Because the challenge is how you get the good bacteria to the gut without destruction? When eaten within high fat it provides some protection from the gastric acid and bile salts. So – full fat Greek yoghurt, soft aged cheeses, miso with your sushi etc.
This doesn’t take all the fun out of eating and drinking. Go to nice restaurants, eat what you enjoy, have ice cream and drink wine. Just, for the sake of your health, training and your career, don’t live off sugar rich nutrient poor foods every day!!