In the fitness profession many individuals associate results with diet and exercise alone. If the person is not seeing adequate progress we instantly look at the meal plan and add more exercise to the agenda. Unfortunately the gut is often times overlooked and never included in the discussion of prescription. The gut is one of the most important attributes to examine when it comes to performance and weight loss. It is also known as the second brain because of its important role in the body. Without a properly working gut, many things can go arise, one being the absorption of adequate nutrients and another being inadequate production of neurotransmitters. Sexy meal plans will not matter unless the digestion process is working properly. Signs of inadequate Gut Health Gas and Bloating Stomach distention Constipation Diarrhea Low energy Trouble Focusing Skin rashes Others Causes Gluten Sugar Artificial Coloring Processed Foods / Standard American Diet Antibiotics, Tylenol Low food hygiene Lifestyle Stress Other Fixes Food Hygiene Eliminating sensitivity foods Probiotics Managing Stress Other Depending on how extreme the case may be, poor digestion can be fixed through mindful eating habits and eliminating hard to digest foods that cause sensitivities in the body. If you are already eating clean; grass fed animal protein, leafy vegetables, starchy carbs while also eliminating sugar, processed foods or foods that cause sensitivities, then basic food hygiene protocols may be all you need if you are experiencing a few of the above symptoms. Avoid drinking liquids 10 minutes before and after consuming your meal - this forces your body to use saliva to break down food in the mouth versus using copious amounts of liquid to get the chunks of food your throat. Cook your food - this begins the digestion process which starts in your mouth by the signals of aroma to start secreting saliva during the cooking process . Sit down to eat - eating in a sympathetic, stressful, on-the-go environment slows down and sometimes inhibits the digestion process entirely. We want to give our body time to get into the “rest and digest” phase to increase adequate absorption of nutrients and proper digestion. Chew your food adequately - 20 to 35 chews should be enough to turn your meal into a baby-food like consistency before swallowing. If you are currently eating like the standard American, the first step is to eliminate foods that will aggravate the gut. Mainly processed foods that contain high amounts of gluten, sugar, and artificial coloring. Ideally, you want to get rid of everything that is packaged and has a big ingredient list. Eliminating these foods for 4-6 weeks will give your gut a break. You can even go as far as doing a 6 week autoimmune paleo diet that eliminates all things processed as well as rice, beans, nuts and seeds, eggs, coffee, nightshades, alcohol etc. We want to completely eliminate any type of food that may cause negative effects on the body. After 6 weeks of strict eating, it is time to move into the reintroduction phase. This is the exciting part because you will start to see which foods cause sensitivities in the body and which foods do not. By adding in 1 type of food every 3 days you will start to understand the foods you should continue to be avoided and the types of food you can allow back into your diet. Look for obvious signs such as gas and bloating but be aware of symptoms that can take up to 72 hours to arise such as trouble sleeping, respiration problems, bowl issues, skin rashes, etc. For those who live in high stress environments, dialing in ways to control stress while doing the protocols listed above will also be advantageous. Again, if the body is constantly in the “fight or flight” mode, digestion will not improve no matter how clean the meal plan and food hygiene may be. Meditation is a great way to help teach the body how to get into a more relaxed state. Start with 5-10 minutes each day using headspace or heart-math and build as you feel fit. Adequate digestion is a big proponent of increase performance, weight loss and increased energy and can even help clear up skin issues, autoimmune disorders, and more! For more questions on digestion and how we can health you reach your health and fitness goals, contact a central athlete coach for a complimentary consultation.