Whēkau- Gut Health

Anybody who knows me or follows my instagram knows that health is a huge priority of mine. Health to me comes in many aspects, the food I eat, the amount I move and the thoughts I have. Of late from listening to podcasts, reading a wide variety of articles and attending seminars with Ben Warren and Dr Libby, the importance of gut health and what affects the gut have moved further and further to the top of my consciousness.

A little back ground on my personal health adventures; I’m from the wheetbix/cornflakes/rice bubbles generation, growing up with two brothers, all of us ravenous, as they were busy rowing and I was busy swimming, playing soccer, waterpolo and volleyball, meant options for our parents were sandwiches, toast or more cereals.

Thankfully as a child I was sick probably once a year some times less and so my antibiotics load as a child and teenager were relatively low. Argue all you like around vaccines and associations with various things, but I was vaccinated as a child, teenager, and again as part of my requirements to see patients as an optometrist, and no I did not have adverse events thank you for your concern, more on this later.

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University was where my health began to take a turn, a few clear associations were excessive binge drinking, often multiple times a week, high levels of sleep deprivation (cue often falling asleep in lectures or at my desk studying), high levels of stress, and a poor diet of high carbohydrates, packets and packets of mi goreng noodles and a severe lack of green leafy vegetables.

Killer Bs 2009 Sean Connor Mike Me Marcus Jay

The result of poor habits for 5 of the 7 years of university lead to glandular fever, severe tonsillitis and bronchitis from strep throat (cue antibiotics), excruciating gut cramps when exercising, myochemia (uncontrollable eye twitching) for the last 6 months of my degree, an inability to get to sleep at nights despite being exhausted and looking back on things despite making my way through my dream career, training and enjoying a great time in my flat and in my sport I was borderline depressed. I am very thankful for having purpose, exercise and a great group of mates at this point in my life or else who knows what could have happened.

So where does that leave me today…? Since finishing my uni days and working, I have consistently been working on myself and tying to identify who I am. This has lead me to explore psychotherapy, floating and reading a number of books and blogs. My training has changed a lot from training to be big and aesthetic to training for longevity (this still means training for muscle mass and to be lean but also mobile and dynamic), a lot of my training is based around the ability to go hunting; this requires you to be able to walk long distances often up still hills and mountains with a pack on your back, be able to control your heart rate should you come across an animal and be able to lift and carry the animal out again. I changed my diet from a grain based carbohydrate diet, to a low carbohydrate, nutrient dense healthy fat based diet, exploring periods of ketogenic eating and fasting.

Despite all this, a few factors weighed on my mind; what was the damage those university years had done? I would still get periods of exhaustion and myochemia, what was causing this? I would have periods of lethargy, loss of grip strength and power. I had general anaesthetic for my hip surgery and when I would get sick, I was very sick- Man Flu is real. Finally at the end of this years rugby season I suffered a severe concussion that was a massive concern for me, I wanted to make sure my energy was back to normal and that the head nock hadn’t literally shaken up my hormonal function.

So after Alex had had such great success at removing endometriosis with her work with Dr Steve, with a baby on the way I thought it was my time to clear things up.

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Dr Steve is a trained General Practitioner, with a masters in obstetrics, he uses applied kinesiology to explore and diagnose areas of concern by exploring how your bodies energy reacts to different stimuli.

So what did I find out?

  • That I was lacking protein in my diet. Yes I know, me, someone who often eats steak for breakfast was lacking in protein, but when you take into account the amount of physical activity I do and what my body is trying to maintain it is not surprising. Also when I am battling along with high cortisol levels and a leaky gut, my body is constantly trying to repair, make immune cells and support my hormones.
  •  My Hormones were out of balance, specifically due to adrenal fatigue, my thyroid hormones were being down regulated: If your adrenals are under stress, then you change from fat to sugar as a fuel source at lower intensities of exercise. This makes it harder for you to get fit- this is something I noticed when training for the Round The Bridges run, after about 30-45minutes my heart rate would begin to rise and I would lose control, my body temperature would also begin to rise, this was even more evident on the run itself where after the 6km mark my body went into a shut down mode and I began to get the symptoms of heat stress.
  • I had leaky gut: this is a bit of a chicken and egg situation as increased cortisol can be a course of leaky gut, but also leaky gut ramps up your immune system and creates a chronic stress on the body, in turn resulting in adrenal fatigue. Contributing factors to my leaky gut were; dairy and gluten sensitivity (all those cereals for breakfast, and snacks, all those sandwiches for lunch and bits of toast after school/uni/before bed), Toxins: in-particular mould (you should have seen the roof of the bathroom in my final year flat, Dunedin days weren’t too much better, thank fully it was often too cold for mould down there), and finally possibly related to my adrenal fatigue, my bodies preference for metabolising sugar despite my low carbohydrate diet was associated with candida over growth: a long history of athletes foot and ring worm meant I was not surprised by this diagnosis and was another one of my motivating factors for seeing Steve.
  • All of the above meant that my aerobic capacity had become greatly reduced, which may seem as a surprise to many as that is when I’m in my element in training, however as the years have passed that has been more about grit and determination and confidence that I can do it than feeling effortless like I once was.

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So what did we do about it?

  • Steve and his nutritionist Kate Moffat put me onto a dairy and gluten free diet, with some leeway over the xmas period, which I might add I was proud of my self for not over indulging, however this was probably out weighed by an increase in alcohol intake over xmas and new year.
  • A candida control diet: this actually was quite similar to what I try focus on however some minor changes were needed, I had to stop having peanut butter all the time as well as avoiding cashews, pistachios and peanuts themselves. Mushrooms were out which has been something I have really missed, but otherwise this was mostly how I normally eat, some slightly higher sugar foods over xmas and the as mentioned alcohol would have held up my progress, but I hope the one month prior would have had me well on my way to recovery.
  • Exercise was to be very heart rate based, any time I felt my heart rate begin to get away from me I had to stop, this meant limiting runs, keeping swimming long and slow and making sure I had ample rest and warmed up appropriately before resistance training.
  • Meditation: Steve recommended the headspace app and even gave me a 25% off discount code. I use my shatki mat to ground me and focus on Ujjayi Breath, also with Alex getting close to her due date, we have been using her hypnobirthing, Rainbow Relaxation meditation for falling asleep (man is it effective, some nights Im out to it before she even gets to the first colour).
  • Supplements: Nanopro vegan protein: boost protein, clear toxins (mould), boost mitochondrial function and aerobic capacity. Brahmitone: Rebalance hormones, boost mitochondrial function and aerobic capacity. Bactrex: Leaky gut and Candida. Ultra Probioplex: Leaky Gut and Candida. Phytopro: Toxins (mould). And Activated Charcoal: Toxins (mould)

My original appointment was the 22nd of November and I am due to revisit Dr Steve on the 24th of Jan. Its been a great two months and I have definitely noticed an improve in my energy and function, I am excited to see how things have gone and I will be sure to fill you all in in my next blog post.

What are some areas of your health that are bothering you currently? I would love to hear from you as well as answer any deeper questions on the above article.

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