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GUT HEALTH – CHECK YOUR POO?

I have been meaning to write an article on Gut Health since we started WLC, but just havent been able to get to it yet. Thankfully, my friends Ross and Joelle across the pond at B32 Athletics in Australia wrote an incredible article on the topic.

I met these two at an OPT Certification a few years back and they are awesome, check their website out and put their blog on your favorites cause it is definitely something you will want to come back to. http://b32athletics.com.au/

THE GUT: THE CENTRE OF YOUR UNIVERSE

Your gut is almost literally the centre of your universe. You can think of it as the doorway between your internal environment and the external world. It is the way your body gets and senses energy and the home of a delicate and intricate ecosystem of bacteria, nerve systems, immune function and endocrine signalling. The effective functioning of your gut is prime for survival, and as such, it’s treated as a near top priority in your body.

The moment something is up with your gut, mood depresses, energy decreases and a whole boatload of scarce resources are diverted from other bodily systems and requirements in order to fix the problem(s). These resources come at a cost, and if gut dysfunction escalates, we begin to see the breakdown of other systems.

Pressure is placed on the liver, adrenals, hormone regulation gets all messed up,symptoms begin to pop up in an attempt to get you to change your behaviour and help address the issue. Immune function decreases, bone and cell turnover are compromised, cell energetics, thyroid and the ability to perform are all impaired. We see an increase in mobility issues and tightness, and a reduction in your ability to recover from exercise appropriately. If the problem is not addressed, it’s a slippery slope toward severe adrenal fatigue.

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ASS-ESS IT… HAVE YOU GOT THE GUTS?

Stool composition: take a look at the stool chart below. Pick which type you most often see in the bowl.

As a guide, anything other than a consistent Type 3 or 4 can be an indicator that something’s up in there. While it may sound crude, your poo is one of the most immediate and direct feedback mechanisms you have for how healthy you are internally. Pay attention.

Stool frequency: bowel movements should be 1-2 x per day. Comfortable to pass, and ideally no toilet paper required.

Higher frequency bowel movements can indicate hyper-motility of the gut – meaning the body moves food through too quickly, not allowing adequate absorption of nutrients. This condition may be symptomatic of additional gut damage and adrenal stress, causing the bowels to evacuate.

Lower frequency indicates the body is having trouble moving food through the system. This can occur with the removal of ‘abrasive fibre’ from the diet (e.g. bread, pasta, and other gluten-containing foods.) A common misconception is that you should add an abrasive fibre supplement back into the diet (like psyillium husk or commercial products like metamucil.) Abrasive fibre works like a metal scourer through your insides, pushing and cleaning everything through. The problem with this is that it damages the GI tract, and can become addictive. The more work is done for your body via an abrasive fibre source, the less work it has to do to move food through the system. It gets lazy. So when we remove abrasive fibre, initially the gut has to try and remember how to do it’s job properly. Instead of an abrasive fibre supplement, you may want to look into why the gut is having issues moving food through properly, consider an appropriate gut healing protocol, or go for a non-abrasive fibre supplement like SuperFibre or SunFibre.

Food remnants in the bowl: do you often see the bits and pieces of stuff you ate last night, or even a couple of days ago end up in the toilet? Be wary. That means it’s not being digested by your body – it either doesn’t want it, or can’t actually break it down. In either case, ingesting an indigestible food is only going to irritate the lining of your gut and cause other foods to be malabsorbed. Take note of the specific foods that have this effect on you (hint: tomato skins, corn, too many nuts, even overload on greens can do it). It may not be that your inherently intolerant to a specific food, but it may mean you’ve simply overloaded on it or you have further gut damage preventing you from digesting it. Avoid those foods for a while, then re-test, one at a time later on.

Bloating, burping, wind and flatulence: do you experience any bloating or ‘airy’ feelings after meals? What about at other times of the day? Bloating, burping or wind in response to food generally represents an inability to break something down. When that happens, the undigested food moves through into the small, then large intestine where it putrefies and/or is attempted to be eaten by gut bacteria (mmm… yummy). These bacteria then produce by-products -effectively, bug poo, known as MUCs, or medically undesirable compounds. These are endotoxins, and must be processed and eradicated from the body via detoxification processes involving the liver and kidneys. An overload in indigestible foods leads to more bacteria, increased endotoxin, loading on the liver, often resulting in toxicity in the body. Build up of toxicity subsequently contributes to a whole boatload of hormonal imbalances down the chain.

Cramps: similar to above, stomach cramping can indicate an inability to breakdown a particular food. It can also indicate your body’s reaction to an irritant in the system.

Energy spikes or wake ups in the evening can represent an increase in immune activity, often in response to a food intolerance or irritation from earlier in the day (amongst other things). If you find yourself jazzed up in the evening, or having disturbed sleep, it may be a gut issue.

WHAT DOES A HEALTHY GUT LOOK LIKE?

A good start is to be asymptomatic. No gas, burping, flatulence, bloating. Type 3 or 4 stool composition combined with good energy levels, evenness in mood.

ADDRESS IT… GET THE GUTS.

There are many inputs to how you might arrive with a gut issue. It may be a problem in and of itself, or it may have arisen as a result of a more systemic imbalance or dysfunction.These can include parasitic or fungal infestation, hyper-demand for cortisol (stress on the system), over exposure to lactate via intensity and volume of training, over exposure to toxic substances and nutritional irritants.

Firstly, remove the irritants out of the diet:

  • Gluten is a big culprit for tearing up gut lining and causing autoimmune response, dysbiosis and malabsorption of nutrients. It’s a great place to start. (There’s a ton of info on the net about the mechanism of gluten on the gut, so I won’t get into it here.)
  • Refine the removal of potential irritants based on your individual responses to food. Track your daily food intake, along with sleep patterns, energy levels throughout the day, any GI symptoms (burping, flatulence etc) and stool composition. After you’ve tracked this stuff for a week or so, take a look for any patterns. Do you have any symptoms after specific foods, or types of foods (e.g. raw veg vs cooked veg, beef vs chicken, broccoli vs tomato). Take note, remove the food in question, then add it back in to retest if any symptoms pop up again.

Consider a decent, practitioner-grade probiotic and/or gut healing supplementation plan. See a health coach for a tailored approach to this one – one size doesn’t necessarily fit all depending on the kinds and severity of symptoms you have.

Next, consider your current training intensity and volume. If you have the symptoms of gut issues, consider dialling back your training – it could be doing you more harm than good. If you’ve just come off the back of a peak in performance (e.g. CrossFit Open or competition season for a specific sport) you might like to consider undertaking a nutritional cleanse to reset the entire system. Please get the advice of a good health coach if you’re considering going down this path, as timing, conditions around the cleanse and food re-entry need to be carefully considered.

If this approach doesn’t seem to clear up your gut issues and symptoms, there likely is something else underlying. Book an appointment with me to talk about your symptoms and see if we can get to the bottom of it (so to speak.)

Joelle Integrative Health Coach

Incredible how much your poo can tell you about whats going on.

WOD-

A. Take 15 mins to find a 1Rm Split Jerk

B. 3 Max L-Sit holds for time

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Widdowmaker

20 Back Squats @ Bodyweight

Run 1 Mile