The Adaptability of our Guts
Updated: Apr 27, 2020
As more science emerges regarding our microbiome, we're becoming increasingly aware of how our gut health affects our mental health. Our microbiome is like an ecosystem, comprised of trillions and trillions of microorganisms that influence the way we digest, absorb, and active our immune response. Between our gut and the outside world exists this intestinal layer that monitors the food we ingest and breaks apart our foods to release bioactive compounds. These compounds either support our health, or increase our susceptibility to illness. When we consume processed, manufactured, or refined foods, this layer has a harder time of breaking apart these foods, thus allowing these larger protein fragments into our stomachs. As a result, this intestinal layer, which is meant to be tight, gets broken apart and allows more and more fragments to bleed through. Leaky gut, or increased intestinal permeability, occurs when the tight junctions of the intestinal walls loosen. This may allow harmful substances, such as bacteria, toxins, and undigested food particles, to pass into your bloodstream. When the body is permitting a greater amount of toxins and pathogens, our immune response drops dramatically.
Now that we have the science out of the way, I wanted to touch on the adaptability of the gut. Many years ago, I would avoid eating any form of food hours before a major training session. While my gut felt OK with this choice, I would feel lethargic and drained throughout the entirety of the workout. Because of my decision to fast hours before, I would run on little to no fuel. I realized later that this was a band-aid for an issue that needed to be addressed. I realized that sacrificing carbs and electrolytes interfered with my exercise intensity and performance.
From there, I started the process of training my gut, which really meant to get used to eating more food within hours before intense training sessions. For others, this may mean slowly increasing the amount of fluid while training. I learned that I could train my stomach to handle more food and fluid prior to and during workouts with less discomfort. I emphasize that I do not have a GI issue, nor IBS, so I was better able to make this change without serious ramifications. If you do have some GI condition, this type of adaptability would best be handled with the supervision of an RD or doctor.