Your MicroBiome Matters

The MicroBiome / Gut Flora / Composition of Bacteria in the Digestive System, is a relatively young field of research. Despite the science being relatively new and evolving ever so fast with new research being released every day, we already know it has massive implication for us. It’s been often theorized that we have more alien bacteria in our body than we do human cells. Our very human nature is highly connected to the make up of our gut bacteria and they indeed affect anything from your health, your weight, your hormones, your sleep, your mood and everything in between.

“Wait until you are 30, then it all goes bad.”

Even though most people blame it on age, it’s really no wonder that our body’s ability to stay healthy (and attractive) is massively depending on our gut. Modern lifestyle is so damaging to the gut that it’s just a question of time before all that damage adds up into what we call “poor gut health”.

For example, alcohol is acidic and inflammatory to the gut lining, so is Gluten (found in wheat / bread / pasta etc…), NSAIDs (like Aspirin or Advil) and of course… sugar. A little bit doesn’t hurt you but you do it for years, and before you know it you have a damaged gut lining, very little good bacteria and a lot of bad gut bacteria.

Some of the signs your gut has gone wild:

  • Fat Gaining and Difficulty in Losing Fat & Gaining Muscle. Yup, this is not necessarily you getting old, most likely your gut negative microbiome is to blame, and yourself for allowing to flourish until now.
  • Increased stress & anxiety. When your GI tract is chronically inflamed, your body increase the secretion of Cortisol in response. Not only this can result in you feeling more stressed than needed, it’s also a major cause of storing belly fat.
  • Digestive issues, bloating, gas or even IBS, Colitis etc..
  • Food allergies and sensitives you didn’t use to have. Suddenly Lactose intolerance, Gluten sensitivity and more severe allergies that pop through our adult-hood are put into question. Can we improve or even reverse them?
  • Sleep, Energy and Mood. It has been linked time and time again to your gut and the neurotransmitters it’s responsible to regulate. This is one of the first things you notice improve as you improve your gut. Vivid dreams and far more energy.
  • Skin Problems, Poor Circulation, Extreme Fatigue… should we continue?

Your Gut Bacteria is central to how your body regulates itself, breaks down and absorbs food, deals with threats and how it maintains its fat storage and muscle gain. Improving your gut health means better sleep, energy, mood, immunity and not to mention weight loss and muscle gain like you’re back in your early 20s. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

Low Carb Diets and your ProBiotics Response

Our first 20-30 years on this planet:

Here’s the usual story. We live our life “to the full”, drinking booze, eating junk food, drink carbonated sugar in shiny bottles and make sure we eat our brown bread that we were so convinced was healthy, once upon a time, just because it wasn’t simple white bread.

We may go through periods of eating better (more veggies, more protein, less crap), but it doesn’t change the fact that all of the above significantly damages our gut.

One day we decide we need to change stuff

There could be many triggers for self improvement, which is always a great thing. Whether it’s our high body fat, our digestive issues and being uncomfortable or being semi depressed and always tired. One day, most of us decide to take action and try and improve our lives.

This is a positive thing of course, which leads us to live healthier, happier lives – and that matters a lot! It usually involves nutritional changes and often low carb diets. Now it’s true that low carb diets are somewhat essential when it comes to weight lossIt’s also true that really low carb diets (such as keto / atkins) & intermittent fasting even help you adapt further to regulate your hormones, lower body fat and become fat adapted.

Here’s the interesting part

As good as those low carb diet / intermittent fasting protocols are, they also have a dark side. They starve our good gut bacteria by taking away the majority of PreBiotics (which are usually found in carby sources).

That means we now face a whole new situation

  • We have a damaged gut environment, and a host of bad bacteria (and as much as we hate to admit, we do have gut parasites). This is thanks to years of abuse of sugary foods, gluten rich foods, alcohol and more.
  • We may have lost weight and feel better due to going on low carb diets and better lifestyle but at the same time, we starve whatever is left of our good bacteria even further.
  • We get new issues (that are gut related) like poor sleep, poor “metabolism” of fats, poor hormonal balance etc..

Despite what we like to believe – a healthy balanced diet low on carbs is clearly not enough. It may have benefits but it also have negative consequences we need to deal with.

Why can’t life go back to being simple? When we were young and were enjoying a better gut? Well… it can.

ProBiotics and PreBiotics

Honestly, it’s no secret. We’ve all heard our good bugs matter and we should add more. What a lot of us didn’t know is that regardless of how much we add, they are still “live bacteria”, and if we don’t feed them what they eat, they are going to die. If we are really trying to change the make up of our guts, surely we shouldn’t just add good bacteria and let it perish, we should nourish it and help it colonize our system with all the goodness they bring.

ProBiotics (The good bugs and how to add them)

Probiotics come in a few shapes and forms. There are still no clear guidelines about how much should we have as it’s still a young science but we are not talking 100s or 1000s, we are talking millions and billions of units per day.

  • There are a number of great fermented foods such as Kimchi, Temph or Sauerkraut. But these are hard to get every day and we do need consistency and constant supply of probiotics daily.
  • Probiotic supplements, although they don’t always deliver on the promise as it’s usually a limited amount of strains and not all of them survive the journey from the suspended form in the pill to the live gut environment.
  • Yogurt is a well known source of probiotics but in reality it does change from brand to brand. Not only some of them are very low in protein and high in sugar (some of them aren’t though), they usually don’t contain more than a few strains of live bacteria (even it if states “contains live bacteria” on the package). Most of them contains 4 strains of bacteria, with some of them claiming to contain up to 8-12 strains, 2-3x times better than a standard yogurt.
  • Other variants like Kombucha (tea) are available, but it’s not too high in probiotics.

Kefir is the king of probiotics!

  • Kefir can be either lacto (milk) based or for vegans, it can be based on water / coconut milk etc… The lacto-fermnted Kefir contains around 40 strains of friendly bacteria. It’s 10 times the amount of what’s in yogurt, average of 40 vs an average of 4. Water based Kefir includes around 30-35 strains, not as good as lacto-fermented but still miles better than yogurt.
  • It’s easy to get in the store. Even better, you can make it yourself at home and it’s not too hard to do. Home made versions can be more potent if done right.
  • It’s far more bio-available than a probiotic supplement. It also makes for a superb (and really tasty) smoothie.

With Kefir being superior (both on content and variety of probiotic strains and bio-availability) – we crown it as the king of probiotics. 

PreBiotics (because your ProBiotics need to eat something)

Researching this is a pain. As soon as you think you got the gist of it, you find research that says otherwise, you find positive experience and negative experience and it’s fair to say, this quickly turns into an endless can of worms. But there are so many great benefits to be gained, so based on a lot of reading, research and looking at what people experiment with, I can quote a few good rules of thumb:

As a good rule of thumb:

  • All PreBiotics are dietary fiber, but not all dietary fiber is PreBiotic
  • I estimate we need about 40-45g of PreBiotic fiber a day.
  • If you have too much PreBiotic too fast, this is going to end up in massive discomfort. Remember, we’re talking about indigestable food that end up staying behind in your gut and serve as food for the friendly bacteria. Give them enough to flourish and you’re good, give them too much and you’re stuck with undigested food in your stomach just sitting there.
  • Getting a lot of gut activity in the first few weeks is normal. Yeah, this include a bit of bloating and gas. If you’re getting too much discomfort or even pain / stomach cramps – you’re taking wayyy to much preBiotics. 
  • This is a process. You need to build your colony with probiotics and feed them with prebiotics, but don’t assume you have a fully grown colony to feed from day 1, it takes a bit of time.

If you eat a balanced, non-processed diet, which is full and varied, you are likely getting a small amount of PreBiotic fiber but likely not enough. We estimate most people who eat really well (if you follow the nutrition guidelines or a personalized meal plan for BellyProof, you are included), are probably getting about 5-10g of prebiotic fiber. Especially from stuff like vegetables, raw onion / garlic and more.

There are some great sources of PreBiotic fiber we can easily add. Here are a few examples:

  • Half the fiber content of an apple is Pectin which is considered prebiotic. That’s about 2.2g prebiotic fiber in an apple.
  • A green banana (unripe, the greener the better), has about 10-30g of prebiotic fiber depending on size. Green Plantains are even higher on fiber with as much as 50g – although not the most palatable.
  • Chia seeds are quite high in prebiotic fiber, 2 table spoons are roughly 8.4g
  • Unmodified potato starch is a really good source of prebiotic fiber, often quoted in the research. Although chucking a raw potato into your smoothie might not do the trick (raw potato is only about 20% prebiotic fiber).
  • While resistant starch (green bananas, unmodified potato starch etc..) is quite a good source to get your PreBiotic fiber in larger quantities, there are ways to get a smaller amount (RS3 vs RS2) by retrograding. This means heating and cooling rice and potatos before and eating. Although this is a more known way of getting prebiotics (in the form of RS3 / Retrograded), it’s not a very good one with a relatively low count so we won’t get into it.

There are other ways, as always, while we aim to give you the full science, those on the BellyProof program get the laser targeted way to do it right.

The Container: Gut Lining Explained

The gut lining sets the environment at which your good (or bad) bacteria will grow. When the gut lining is too weakened, we call it “leaky gut syndrome”. This is associated with a host of immunity and digestion problems. Food doesn’t get absorbed and we take a bit of a beating, from the inside out.

The first step is to obviously stop the processes that damages your gut lining:

  • Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners are the first thing you should reduce, they damage the gut lining.
  • Alcohol, even though it can be somewhat probiotic (at least red wine and tequila) is inflammatory to the gut lining.
  • White Bread, Brown Bread – just cut the bread. Wheat contains Gluten which is inflammatory to the gut lining. It doesn’t mean you have Celiac disease but just because you don’t have a massive “gluten sensitivity”, doesn’t mean it’s any good for you. You’re just less sensitive to it.
  • On the Gluten front, it’s worth mentioning that sourdough (the traditional dough used in Italy and left to ferment over night) is actually prebiotic and low on gluten. It doesn’t mean it’s super good for you, but if you must have a pizza, have a proper Italian one – it will be less harmful for you and your gut.

The second step is to re-build the gut lining:

  • Glutamine is a non essential amino acid, easily available as a supplement (needs to be taken in higher doses that what it says on the manufacturer’s label). Especially when taken on an empty stomach, it’s one of the best ways to recover the gut lining. The cells in your gut lining just love it and immediately absorb it as fuel.
  • Bone Broth (can be made at home easily) is great as well, partly because it’s a great source of glutamine.
Leaky gut syndrome and your Health

Taking the bad stuff out (the ugly reality)

So far we’ve covered the reasons as to why we need to re-build and nourish our gut flora. With so much good going in, we have to talk about taking out some of the bad stuff. Meet Diatomaceous Earth (Also known as D.E.)

Diatomaceous EarthFirst and foremost, make sure go for Food Grade only! 🙂 It’s worth saying as D.E. is also used an organic pesticide (it’s pretty good not just for us mere humans, but also for our pets and for our gardens).

What is it?

Diatomaceous Earth is made of fossilized shells of Diatoms. A protist organism similar to algae which has a filter like structure to it. Over a long period of time, diatoms accumulated in the sediment of rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans. Today it is mined from these areas. It’s primarily made of Silica (about 84% on average) with the rest being a great source of trace minerals that are essential for the body. Ion-ically speaking, It has a negative charge to it and microscopic sharp edges. Sounds scary? It really isn’t.

What does it do?

  • As it passes through the gut, the negative charge pulls in particles with positive charge to them. Which particles? Pathogens, Toxins and Heavy metals.
  • The microscopic sharp edges aren’t enough to damage the lining or the bacteria but they do damage and pierce through intestinal parasites, which…. we all have. I know this is not a sexy subject but it’s good to know the truth and how to handle it isn’t it?
  • It’s good for your skin, hair and teeth (it even strengthens the enamel which protects the tooth and promote its white color.
  • It maintains and repairs lung tissue and reduces or even prevent a host of discomforts. A few examples are kidney stones, the progression of Alzheimer (as it reduces how much aluminium the body absorbs), urinary tract infections and lymphatic inflammations.

Intestinal Parasites

How much?

  • This is cheap and easy to get anywhere in the world. Make sure you get it Food Grade. It’s worth mentioning that D.E. is generally recognized as safe by the FDA (read here).
  • 1 tbsp, easily mixes into any drink. Some people do this twice a day for potentially better results.
  • Avoid inhaling this stuff.

The Gut-Brain Axis and the Connection to Deep Sleep

It’s an exciting time in biology science with more interest than ever diverted to the subject of how our microbiome affects us in different ways. The affects of gut flora on the brain has received the name “the gut-brain axis” and some of the primary ways we can see the effects are on depression, mood and as you may have guessed, stress & sleep.

Statistics show that we get less sleep than ever before with many progressed unhealthy guts waking more of us in the middle of the night, feeling wide awake. It’s quite interesting that the gut has it’s own circadian rhythm. Interestingly, research consistently shows that people who improve their gut health, almost immediately start reporting better sleep and oddly enough, vivid dreams. Could it be the happy gut microbes triggering all the neurotransmitters?

As you may have known, our sleep has it’s own cycle. Going from light sleep to R.E.M. to deep sleep, several times a night, these states are associated with ranges of brain activity, divided into frequencies. The Delta Brain wave, which is where deep sleep happens, is the most relevant to our subject.

There is more than just “feeling refreshed” to deep sleep:

  • This is when muscles and soft tissues heal. In fact, there is even research showing that people who don’t get enough deep sleep, heal slower from injuries. We all know recovery is as big as training and without sufficiant time under the deep delta waves, we don’t fully recover.
  • Deep sleep is important for hormonal balance. During this phase we also get growth hormone secretion which plays an important role in fat breaking (if you’re a bellyproofer, you may know this already), this is why good sleep is associated with weight loss.
  • Without deep sleep, not only do we not benefit from healing and weight loss, we get increased appetite and stress levels. This is in part responsible for higher blood sugar levels and as a result, higher insulin levels through out the day. If you are doing the BellyProof program, you will know high levels of Insulin & Cortisol, paired with low levels of Growth Hormone, are contributing to the abdominal tissue being resistant to weight loss efforts. Primarily, via increased activity of Cortisol and Alpha-2 receptors in the area. This is something we need to address better if we are hoping to lose belly fat.
  • Given all the above, it’s becoming ever more clear why sleep deficiencies are associated with increasing levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes. In other words, if you don’t get enough deep sleep (as defined by delta brain activity) you will struggle to lose weight and especially, belly fat.

Besides improving your gut health using the information available above (and in the full 5-weeks bellyproof program), there are a number of steps you can take to improve your sleep tremendously:

  • Avoid your night cap – Alcohol may make you sleepy as it promotes the brain frequency associated with light sleep and falling asleep. But alcohol does interfere biochemically with producing delta waves. If you drink before sleep, you might fall asleep faster, but you will get less deep sleep.
  • An hour before you go to sleep, avoid staring at your screen (computer, phone or TV). Not only this is similar to staring at a florescent light directly for sustained periods of time (which doesn’t help you fall asleep), the blue light emitted also messes up with your internal clock. This is one of the most common reasons we find it hard to benefit from deep sleep. The least damaging alternative is using a projector, as at least the light doesn’t shine directly at your eyes.
  • Melatonin & L-Tryptophan (found in turkey, peanuts, walnuts) – consumed before sleep, might help you fall into deeper sleep while you adjust to improving your patterns.
  • Hot bath / shower before sleep helps most people fall asleep faster. They become sleepier as the body cools off and if anything, it’s an extra 10-15 minutes where you don’t watch the luminous screen.

To summarize: gut health is important, deep sleep is important and the two are interconnected. We cannot talk about losing belly fat without diving into the primary causes of the hormonal imbalances that drive it. This is important for general health and it stands to reason that we should use this information to the max as we “BellyProof” ourselves, break down (and burn) existing fat and restore the good hormonal balance.