Sunday, January 15, 2017

It's Not Your Willpower, It's Your Microbiome

Lately I've heard from a lot of disappointed fitness people lately. Everyone seems to know what they want - they want to workout +eat well + feel (and look) GOOD. But it seems when they start an eating plan or declare to remove sugar (or beer) from their life, they falter and blame themselves for surrendering to the temptations. Damn french fries and football.

First off. Don't beat up on yourself or blame the Broncos. Second off, relax a bit; it's winter, it's time for chubbing up a little and doing less stuff. Winter is good for reading my blogs and fantasizing on your vision for what is to come. When you beat up on yourself for behaviors you don't like, you only perpetuate the cycle. Drop the negative self talk about it. Relax in knowing there are biological processing happening in your body that should be respected, understood and obeyed. And just love the process, if you had a perfect life all the time, life wouldn't be as interesting.

I'm here to offer some reassurance that it's going to be OK (it is OK my friends!) and some explanation as to WHY things are playing out this way.

Do you believe that food can change our emotions? Do you believe food can change our thoughts? I believe it can. Have you ever watched the toddler mayhem after kids eat cake and ice cream during a birthday party? Have you ever felt peaceful and serene after you ate a dessert? Food can change our emotions, and our emotions are determined ONLY by our thoughts. Thus, food can change our thoughts. This means watch what you eat, because the food can alter you emotionally and physically.

It begins with our GUT
We have 40 trillion microbes and 30 trillion cells in the human body (mostly in the gut). FACT: We are more bacteria than we are human. Sorry to all the germa-phobes out there. There is bacteria - called your microbiome which lives in your intestines and on your skin, it's everywhere. These bacteria are the first line of immunity, which works to keep you from getting sick. We're also loaded with nerve cells in our gut which are in communication with the brain via the vagus nerve. They are also communicating with our internal and external environment, so the gut bacteria play a part of what give you the gut instinct and what give you butterflies in your stomach when you get nervous.  The vagus nerve is in communication with the gut microbiome, so our emotions can be hijacked by our gut bacteria. So, this proves my theory that food can change our thoughts. Boom.

You could be feeling impulsive and unmotivated because of what you're eating.  And you are very likely feeling depression and anxiety because of what you're eating and definitely because of what you're thinking. And if food can control your thoughts, then let your food be your medicine. We tend toward anxiety when we consume too much sugar, and it's because you've fed the "sugar bugs" so to speak which create inflammation. We all know too well, after you eat sugar, you crave more sugar, not only because the sugar is HIGHLY addictive (more so than cocaine), but also because the sugar bugs want more food! You are what you eat, and you crave what you eat. 

Do you know that your happy hormone - serotonin-  is created in your gut by your microbiome, like 60-90% of it. There are EC cells that produce the serotonin and this is something we studied in depth in nutrition school. What does serotonin do for you? When you are loaded up on serotonin, you feel "all is well" and you have willpower instead of impulsively tossing a cookie in your mouth. When serotonin is low you feel anxiety or depression and you are sometimes too debilitated to act on it.

When your digestion is off, so is your detoxification pathway. Your detox and digestion pathway is the same. That's why you feel lousy when your stomach is upset, because you neurotransmitters are imbalanced, you're not detoxing all the crap that you're exposed to, and your brain is getting confused.  All of this makes you a complete emotional wreck. Food that's "good" for you could be harmful, if you're not digesting properly. If you have an imbalance of your gut bacteria then your body is not absorbing nutrients and you are doing more harm than good by eating.Your gut and nervous system are like peas and carrots.  And if you're eating when you're under stress, your nervous system is freaking out and you're just adding lighter fluid to the fire.You won't digest what you eat and you'll usually end up with a belly ache. That's a fabulous trick to follow, don't eat under stress. This makes me SEEK OUT HAPPINESS, so I can eat more.

So...Do I have exciting news to share. Over the last year, I have had epiphany after epiphany regarding nutrition. Things that have had my wheels churning in a completely different direction than what I have been taught of what is healthy and what is not.

Did you ever see the movie "I Am"? In it they did a study where they hooked up yogurt to an magnetometer which measures energy. When a person would change their thoughts or mood, the yogurt would have a response to it. Stay with me here. This has happened before, remember when they did the studies on plants and found that plants thrive when they are placed near a TV or the plant was spoken to lovingly by you? The microbiome of the plant soil responds to our thoughts and words. There's living bacteria in there.

The consensus is that the microbes (bacteria) have a physical response to their environment. Soo... if it happens with plants, it also happens with us. Again, we are more bacteria than we are cells. So my point is that we should respect our microbiome, even if we don't completely understand it yet.

"Respect My Authority" Says your microbiome
1) Start eating with the seasons. This means eating foods that are harvested per the season you are in. This means a year-round diet will not do. This also gives you freedom from eating the same way day after day which bores me to no end. Maybe you once tried a diet that worked very well for you and now you can't seem to get back on board. Maybe that diet was perfect for a season, and as time went on, the seasons changed and your body's needs changed - and things stopped going so well. STOP beating up on yourself, blaming your willpower or your lack of motivation for the gym. You are perfectly normal for being unable to comply with your "diet"so just relax. Besides, no one is meant to stay on a diet. No one ever feels they can diet forever. So don't diet, just tweak the foods you eat.

The bacteria in the soil will benefit your gut bacteria if eaten during the proper season. This is because our bodies were designed to follow the circadian rhythm of the earth. We can follow it by giving our body the veggies pulled from the ground, during the proper season. There are only three harvesting seasons that you eat by, so your diet should shift three times a year. This releases the boredom of trying to eat the same foods your whole life, HOWL-A-LU-LA! In the winter, soups with cooked veggies makes sense and cold, raw salads, don't. In the spring, raw veggies and smoothies are excellent.  In the summer time, add in a butt-load of fresh veggies and fruits, foods that cool your body down during the heat of long days.

2) Say NO to processed foods (year round!) Fake food like chips, candy, french fries and food in a box are all dead foods. There are no microbes in them that can benefit your gut. These junk foods,
rather than nourishing you, kill the good bacteria and create a traffic jam, clogging up your lymph and blood systems with toxicity. And since you're not digesting or detoxing well, then you're body will store the toxins inside your liver and fat cells to protect you. With this, your liver becomes burdened and you become puffy, you get brain fog, headaches, rashes, depression and even anxiety. Your body is protecting you, it would rather keep you alive than let you fit into size 6 jeans only to have you kill over the next day. Otherwise we'd all be skinny inside coffins, dead from toxicity.  Stop eating dead food, it hurts you.

Just follow mama nature, she knows best.

Fermented Food Craze
A quick rant on fermented foods. Eating probiotic rich foods like cultured veggies is all the rage right now. I've even jumped on the train myself, or at least I tried. But honestly, I'm not fully convinced that it is for me. So my advise there is to just pay attention to YOUR body. And that goes for everything I ever post. Your body is yours and NO ONE knows it better than you. It's funny when people tell me to eat something because it's healthy. Healthy for who? The scientific studies they do on foods show the potential that food has, not what it does inside each person. Fermented foods might only be OK in very small doses. Or you body might not like them at all. Just because something is "healthy" now, doesn't mean it is what will help your body thrive. That's why we listen to our body cues, right?

So I learned most of what I learned about seasonal eating from an Ayurvedic-doctor in Boulder, Colorado. He designed what's called the 3-season diet and I am just pimping out his research as I devour it. You can get more info on him here. Everything I've read from him resonates with my whole being, you can trust his research to lead you to some peace with your "willpower" as it did for me.

Need help knowing what to eat that's in season: grocery lists for November through February