I think a lot about my poop. I look at my poop. I smell my poop. I pay attention to the frequency, ease of pooping, volume and consistency of my poop on a daily basis. Last week I took it to the next level and put my poop in the mail.
You may wondering if I have some weird poop fetish. Well I don’t. Similar to most people, I don’t particularly like poop. I’ve been paying attention to my poop because I am on a mission to fix my gut. In the strange world of optimal health and advanced nutrition strategies, the gut is the final frontier to understanding how to maximize health. According to the ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda the first place to look to heal any type of health issue is the gut. The gut is not well understood by western medicine compared to metabolism of carbohydrate. It can be tricky to establish science based decisions to address gut health. A lot of guess work is involved because the science is in it’s infancy. Whereas putting your body into ketosis for example, is a cut and dry topic. Understanding the human Microbiota is a relatively new area of discovery. It takes a leap of faith to embark on a specific regimen designed to augment the gut micro biome. This has prevented me from going near this topic. I’ve always had a high level of curiosity for the topic, but because of the many unknowns I chose to be a spectator.
I like to make decisions informed by well understood mechanisms. As far as I know, I don’t have a disease. I exhibit symptoms that may or may not preempt a “disease. Western medicine won’t have an answer for me. Sometimes you just have to go out on a limb and see what happens. I know my gut is off and I know there is a solution out there. This post is about my quest to try to figure out what the hell is going on down there. The successive posts will be a real time account of my experimentation and results (if there are any.)
If you have been following my blog posts since I started, you would realize that my primary focus has been manipulating macronutrients to illicit certain desired responses in my body. This is the typical approach most people take. Taking this approach is well understood in the literature. It’s relatively easy to understand (if you are into that kind of thing). It is not a far stretch to understand the impact of fat, protein and carbohydrate on the body. There are all sorts of arguments about the best way to augment your macros.
If you have been reading my posts skip past the next section to the section titled “The Gut and the Micro-biome a Moving Target”. The following is a down version of my nutrition journey:
My Broad Nutrition History
High school, eat whatever I can to gain weight. College, eat whatever was in front of me. After college, stop eating gluten. Age 31-32 carb backloading. Last 2 months: try to figure out what is going on in my gut. For more information on carb backloading or carb cycling check out this post.
In high school I was obsessed with gaining weight because of sports. My max weight was 148. You can ask my mom, I tried very hard to gain weight. It was all about maxing out calories and protein. This is probably the genesis of my odd and unhealthy relationship with food. In college I kept this up. By the time my track career ended I didn’t care about eating. Believe it or not, there was a time I was pretty normal…I think. My diet consisted mostly of cereal, beer, sandwiches, burgers and burritos. My goal was to eat as cheaply as possible, while still having money left over to buy beer and gamble. I was very successful at this endeavor. But this isn’t the story of a former college athlete who put on a ton of body fat and was barely recognizable. I would wither away. By the time I left Chico St, my body weight was down to 142. I don’t remember my body fat percentage at the time. Based on memory and how my “abs” looked, it was probably around 12 percent. Three years prior to that, at Moorpark college, I weighed 155 with 5 percent body fat. I was a slug when I left Chico compared to my prime at Moorpark.
My first several years working as a personal trainer, I largely preached the calories in and out philosophy to weight loss or gain. This is what I was taught in school, but I quickly realized this concept does not work in practice. Conceptually, caloric balance works and in terms of thermodynamic systems. It’s not a concept that can really be argued with. Some focus on the hormonal relationship with food. While others focus on the potential impact the gut micro-biome may have. Whether your weight goes up or down is dependent on total caloric balance. How that is best achieved is likely not by actually keeping track of total calories consumed. There are many critical factors that influence this equation. I have written about them at length in my previous posts. It is hard to stick with any kind of negative calorie balance if you do not pay attention to the composition of your meal. Also, if you are not closely paying attention to what type of calories you take in, your body weight loss (if you have any) might not be the most desired type. People want to lose fat. If fat loss is the goal specifically, a calorie is not a calorie. The macro composition and timing of meals is critical. Another driver for fat burning is enzyme signaling. Some studies indicate Fat burning enzymes are gut mediated.
The Gut and the Micro-biome a Moving Target
Every person is essentially two beings. One is the muscles, fat, bones, tissue. The “you” that you think of when you think of “me”. The second part of every person is their gut micro-biome. Those two parts work together. What you eat effects your micro biome. The specific strains of bacteria your micro-biome consists of effects what you eat. To increase the likelihood of eating foods which favor fat loss you need to feed the bacteria in there the right things. In turn that will impact the population of the micro-biome. Potentially in favor of bacteria that mediate fat burning. Obviously, this goes beyond simply calories in and calories out.
Another important consideration is managing inflammation. Which takes me to my penultimate stage in my nutrition consideration, which is the gluten free era. Many factors contributed to me deciding to drop Gluten. What’s funny is now my primary goal is to bring gluten or wheat back in. Without any problems. I believe that can be achieved with the proper manipulation of my gut micro-biome. Read my post on Gluten to get more background on this. In my free time I have been researching how to impact the micro biome. In seems that gut permeability leads to all sorts of problems.
When I say “gut” I am referring to, for the most part, the colon or large intestine. The desire to clear up my skin has directed my journey to improve my health. Physical performance, behavioral addiction, general energy levels and mental acuity are also driving factors that influence my eating decisions and research. I think if you chronically exhibiting some symptom that is not ideal, there is an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. If not, you will get more and more sick. The food you eat and supplements you take have a huge influence on that process. For me it is my skin. For others it may be sleep issues. For others still, it may be acid reflux or indigestion, even allergies. For many its irritable bowel syndrome. As the research on the Gut and how it interacts with it’s host starts to surface, those signs can point to gut dysfunction. Intestinal permeability can be the root of most of these symptoms.
Intestinal permeability refers to when the lining of the large intestine is compromised. For one reason or another molecules and other “stuff” that are not supposed to be in the blood stream, end up in the blood stream. This leads to your body launching a protective immune response, thus inflammation. This happens in many people, but is often not considered as the source of their symptoms. For me it shows up as red sores on my back and some blemishes on my face. At least that is what I think. I am going to either prove that or rule that out over the coming months.
My Poop is in The Mail
Last week I sent my “specimen” into Ubiome to have my gut micro-biome sequenced. I do not have the technical expertise needed to interpret that data. I have enlisted the help of my friend Grace Liu to help me make sense of all of this stuff. She is affectionately know around the internet as the “Gut Goddess“. Here is a link to her awesome blog. She will help me make sense of the data from Ubiome. The plan is to implement a specific probiotic and prebiotic strategies protocol to manipulate my bacteria. After one month I’ll retest see the changes. If my bacterial looks good and she deems it ok, I will reintroduce some of the items that tend to be problematic for me. Then we will retest to see if there have been any adverse changes.
Going beyond mechanism and into cause is where things get very murky very fast. Gluten is an element of certain wheat based products that may lead to intestinal permeability. It might not be gluten, but it appears that something in wheat messes with people’s guts. Or it’s having a messed up gut that does not allow you to digest gluten. Ironically, most people who give gluten up have no idea what that means or how to fix it. Here is a news flash: you don’t fix permeability by removing the cause of the permeability. You stop causing it. Without proper intervention the gut will not heal itself or will be perpetually sensitive. This is the first of a series of posts dedicated to my gut experiment. Primarily, I will be discussing my personal experience so far with experimenting with various prebiotics and probiotics. As I do this, I will to the best of my knowledge, explain why all these things matter. By reading you may start to understand why this stuff is important to health and performance.
Thank you for reading. Please leave comments, questions and concerns in the comment section on my website.
Check out this great video to get a better understanding of the Human Gut Micro-biome and impact of prebiotics.