Improve Performance with Better Gut Health

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Gut health is rarely considered as an obstacle when trying to improve performance or when overcoming an injury. Yet, gut health has a massive impact on how fast you recover from training, illness, and/or trauma. Without a healthy gut, your immune function will be compromised and you will not extract all the vital nutrients from food or supplements. This can lead to an inability to fight infection and create nutritional inadequacies that will exacerbate the problem.

Important functions of the gut

 

  • Immune function; 70% of the immune system is clustered within the gut.
  • Detoxification is a multi-step process that occurs primarily in the liver and the gut. After toxins are captured in the liver and/or gut, they are excreted through urine and stool. Without proper gut function this process is compromised which can lead to an unhealthy accumulation of toxins.
  • Toxicity, due to poor gut function, can cause water retention which can elevate blood pressure and decrease performance due to increased bodyweight and stress on all metabolic systems.
  • When tissue trauma or injury is created by intense training, the immune system is responsible for starting the repair process by sending inflammatory cells called macrophages (1) to the affected tissues. Macrophages release a hormone called insulin-like-growth-factor (2) (IGF-1) into the damaged tissue which starts the repair process. A compromised gut will impede the overall functional capacity of the immune system and delay the recovery process.
  • Thorough digestion and efficient elimination are vital for healthy skin.

 Now that you know a few of the important jobs of the gut, here are a few tips to improve gut function.

 

Eight steps to improving gut health

  1. Eliminate allergy-inducing foods that may irritate your stomach and gut lining. The primary culprits are wheat, gluten-containing grains, dairy, soy, simple sugars, yeast, and refined carbohydrates.
  2. Reduce your sugar intake; excess simple sugar increases inflammation in the gut and body.
  3. Chew your food thoroughly.
  4. Don't consume too much liquid with your meals, just enough to wash down your food, supplements, and/or medication.
  5. Add digestive supplements if necessary. Take a full spectrum digestive enzyme that contains both HCL and digestive enzymes with each large meal.
  6. Consume nutrients that repair the gut. A good starting point would be to take 6-10 grams of powdered L-glutamine (in water) on an empty stomach upon rising. Do this for at least 10 consecutive days.
  7. Supply all the nutrients for a healthy gut flora. Probiotics (Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, etc...) will populate the gut, and prebiotics (soluble fiber, potato starch) will feed the good bacteria of the gut. For best results, use a high potency probiotic formulation that contains at least 5 billion live organisms per capsule.
  8. Consume an adequate amount of high quality animal protein. Grass-fed whey protein has immune boosting nutrients.

Take care of your gut and it will take care of you.

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References:

(1)American Physiological Society. "Macrophages: The 'defense' cells that help throughout the body." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100826141232.htm>.

(2)FASEB J. 2011 Jan;25(1):358-69. doi: 10.1096/fj.10-171579. Epub 2010 Oct 1. Macrophages recruited via CCR2 produce insulin-like growth factor-1 to repair acute skeletal muscle injury. Lu H1, Huang D, Saederup N, Charo IF, Ransohoff RM,Zhou L.