Optimise Your Gut, Optimise Your Life

This is a real important topic for me, as it is the reason why I got so interested in health and wellbeing in the first place. 


I’ve successfully dealt with intolerances to specific foods, bloating, and what is termed a “leaky gut”. 


As I soon found out when doing research on how to solve my problem I realised that I was by no means the only person dealing with this issue. Gut health problems are rife in society. And with our medical system not being in the business of gut rehabilitation, it’s made those wanting to solve their problems needing to do their own research and hire health practitioners to really get to the root of the issue.


A lot of what people complain about that contributes to low levels of vitality, wellbeing, and body composition is to do with the health and wellness of their digestive system.


Symptoms of poor digestion include:


  • Nausea or recurrent upset stomach
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Indigestion (Bloating and belching)
  • Food intolerances
  • Fungal and Parasite infections
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Burning or gnawing feeling in the stomach between meals or at night
  • Hiccups
  • Reflux
  • Gas
  • Fatigue After Eating
  • Abdominal Distension
  • Constant Hunger
  • Bowel Irregularity
  • Muscle Joint Pains
  • Neck, shoulder, middle, and lower back pain
  • Black tarry stools

If you experience any of the symptoms of poor digestion, have a close read of these 7 effective ways to improve your digestion and gut health. 

Remember, gastrointestinal issues often stem from a combination of physical, mental, and emotional stressors. Creating a gut healing action plan which incorporates your physical, mental, and emotional health is always going to be the most effective roadmap to a heightening your gut health. To speak to me directly, please fill in this form to book a consultation. 

1. Identify And Remove Inflammatory Foods

When it comes to healthy digestion, the game really begins by removing the agents that are creating inflammation in the gastro intestinal system. 


For the most part, inflammation is not a good thing, especially when it comes to the digestive system. Redness, swelling, heat, and discomfort are the words you’d use to describe the experience of an inflammatory response in the body. 


When inflammation is produced, your body is producing a cascade of chemicals to heal the inflamed site. In many ways, inflammation is a real good thing because it’s your body healing itself. On the other hand, it’s highly taxing to the body and over time can lead to diseases and dysfunction.


We have an incredible feedback mechanism design in our bodies… called symptoms. When we learn to listen to the symptoms, we can understand what is causing them. The longer you wait to address the root cause, the more intense your problems can get. 


Learning from the messages (symptoms) your body is telling you is absolutely key.


Take this analogy to visualise what’s happening inside your body. Imagine you see a fire breaking out in a house on your street: You phone the police and fire brigade. They arrive and start controlling the situation… tending to the fire and helping the neighbours and owners of the house.


If the fire isn’t too bad, and the fire brigade are well numbered and equipped, the situation is addressed without any serious harm.


This is what happens when you eat an inflammatory food, and your immune system addresses it without any problem. 


The problem is, the more inflammation you have in your gut, the harder it is for the fire brigade and police to control the situation.


If you don’t listen to your inflammatory symptoms, the police and fire brigade become overworked and can’t do their job properly. The more inflamed you are, the more resources you need on board to heal and rescue the body. After time, this becomes a real problem and leads to fatigue, disease, and dysfunction. 


As we want to avoid this at all costs, identifying and removing what causes the fire in the first place is the first impactful thing to do. 


Think about it, if someone kept on having fires in their house on your street, you’d start thinking this person might need some help getting to the bottom of it. 


Cutting out inflammatory foods gives your immune system a rest

Removing the inflammatory agents and cutting the problem at the source is the most effective way to improve digestion.


Common inflammatory foods we see that create inflammation in the gastro intestinal system:


  • Gluten containing grains (wheat, barley, etc)
  • Dairy
  • Alcohol
  • Histamine rich foods
  • Processed food (fast food, ready meals, cured meats, cakes, cookies, pastries, etc)


Whilst these are the most common sources of inflammatory foods, it’s important to note that you can become intolerant to anything. Usually our bodies start becoming intolerant to the foods we love and eat the most. Since overconsumption is rife nowadays, listing your 3 most favourite foods that you eat the most often is often a source of inflammation. Bread, eggs, milk, and pasta are common suspects. 


After cutting out all of your inflammatory foods and rehabilitating the gut, you can often start re-introducing foods that you were previously intolerant to and not get any reactions. 


The best way to get started with getting to know which foods cause an inflammatory response in you, is to take notes of what you’re eating and any symptoms that arrive.


Adding all the food you eat in a notepad or on your calendar app in your phone are easy ways to do this. Correlate symptoms to foods and get to the bottom of the inflammation! The most effective way I’ve found to do this is through the 4 Day Rotation Diet detailed below.


2. Chew Your Food Until It's Liquid

Not taking the time to sit down, relax, and eat in a peaceful state is a big reason why people don’t chew their food enough.


This is a simple and big-bang-for-your-buck method of improving your digestion. I’ve seen people spend thousands and thousands of pounds to go on retreats to improve their gut health, and the first thing they get lectured on… chew your food until it’s liquid. Yes, this means that you’re going to spend a minimum of 20mins chewing and eating your food… but that’s a small price to pay if that means living life without any digestive problems.


Chewing food is important first and foremost because of the enzymes contained in your saliva. Saliva contains an enzyme called salivary amylase that begins the process of converting starches in the food into a disaccharide called maltose. Another enzyme, lipase, is produced by the cells in the tongue.


If you’re throwing food down like mad wolf, you miss out on key digestion steps that can be troublesome for the organs further down that need to make up and work overtime for the lazy guys up top. 


I find that this issue is more of a mental game… People are not comfortable eating without any distractions and taking their time.


Practicing being really comfortable of sitting down, relaxing, and taking the time to eat like our ancestors did goes along way to improving health. Not in-front of TV, whilst working, or reading the news on your phone. 

chew food enzymes pierre higginson

As the Chinese Medical saying goes: "Drink your food, and eat your water"

3. Raw Foods Always Before Cooked

That brings us onto our next topic: Enzymes. The Enzymes in specific raw foods allow you to properly digest and metabolise the food in an efficient way. Enzymes greatly aid in digestion, energy levels, and health in general.


A great resource on the importance of live foods is Gabriel Cousens, M.D, who states “On the physical level, all of our life processes depend on the functioning of enzymes. They are the physical agents of life, important for digestion, for detoxification from internal pollution and external ecological pollution, and for maintaining our immune systems and all our metabolic and regenerative processes. Dr Howell, the pioneer of food enzyme work, says the quantity of enzymes we have in our systems is the equivalent to what we call life energy or vitality, and thinks our enzyme level as indicative of our health status.”


A famous 10 year study by Franics Pottenger, MD on four generations of 900 cats demonstrated some dramatically remarkable results: Half of the cats were fed raw meat and raw milk diet - the other cooked meat, and pasteurised milk.


Raw meat and raw milk contain an abundance of enzymes. When you cook food, or pasteurise it, you remove the enzymes.


The cats on the cooked meat and pasteurised milk diet developed degenerative diseases similar to those common among our society. Each generation’s health got worse and worse, showing an increase in congenital bone and other abnormalities - the third generation of cats were sterile and congenitally deformed.


The study illustrated the importance of enzymes and the negative aspects of only eating cooked food and pasteurised products.

A sign that you may not be eating enough raw foods or getting enough enzymes in your diet is if you feel really tired after eating a meal. When you eat foods high in enzymes you typically feel more energy and vitality wash over you… You feel like you have more bandwidth.

High enzyme foods are raw fruit and veg, and fermented foods. Pineapple, papaya, kimchi, and sauerkraut are examples of high enzyme foods.


Having a carrot salad, leafy greens, radishes, tomatoes, cucumber salad, are all examples of eating raw foods before a cooked meal.


Raw foods are rich in enzymes. Enzymes have been called "life energy" by western health and medical experts, and eastern spiritual practitioners alike.


Eating raw foods allow for better digestion of the cooked food. 

If you’re eating meat that can be eaten raw, the less it’s cooked the higher enzyme content it will have.  

The reason why this is particularly important is that now days most people’s diets are mainly filled with enzymatically dead foods. If you eat anything pasteurised like milk, cheeses, yoghurts, fully cooked, or packaged like pasta, all of the enzymes have been removed out. 


This means that the food is enzymatically dead and it’s going to cost you in enzyme production to be able to digest them properly.


Tinned, canned, and jarred foods, are all enzymatically dead too.

New Vegetarians and Vegans often talk about the immense levels of energy they feel after changing diet… a reason for that is that they are eating a lot more raw fruit and veg! Which is more enzymes!

Balance is what we’re after. A general rule of thumb is to follow the seasons. Summer equals more raw vegetables… Winter equals more cooked meat and stews and soups. 


For the sake of digestion, enzymes are critical.

4. Balance Your Metabolism

Metabolism is a fascinating process in the human body. It’s influenced by so many things, from the foods we eat, beverages, the ratios of fats:proteins:carbs in our meals, mental/emotional stress, and more.


It’s important to note that we are as different on the inside as we are on the outside. This is something easily forgotten with our society’s one size fits all approach to pretty much everything. 


But the truth is that we have different metabolisms, different lengths of intestines, different stomachs, and a different capacity to detox, assimilate, and eliminate food.

This comes from the groundbreaking work of Roger Williams, Ph.D, who brought to the public through his research that every body has different sizes, shape, locations, and capacity for nearly all our internal organs. 


When things like intestine lengths are different, we see differences in what kind of ratios of carbs and proteins and fats we’re going to be able to function well on. 

This highlights just how ridiculous the idea that there is one diet that’s best for all people. There can’t be, because we’re so uniquely individual. It also supports the idea that in order to have a healthy and balanced metabolism, we need to eat to our unique needs. (which can be vastly different to family, friends, children, etc).


What this means is that when you eat to your unique needs, you have an optimal response to food. This translates to finishing your meal and being in a normal state of wellness. 



Symptoms of optimal response to food:

Having ideal blood pressure, a strong capacity to handle stress, an ability to last between meals with good energy, good mental focus and clarity of thought, no cravings as your body has all the nutrition it needs on board, and an optimal response to exercise, which is not to crash and feel exhausted afterwards…


Just to give you an idea, when you eat your next meal, if what I’ve just described to you doesn’t resonate, you might want to play around with your food choices and your ratios of protein, fats, and carbs. 


gut brain axis pierre higginson

The Gut and Brain are connected. It's called the Gut Brain Axis: meaning that ant negative response in the gut can be experienced in the brain and vice versa. Brain fog and poor concentration is a common symptom of gastro intestinal distress.


Symptoms of eating too many carbohydrates:

The short term responses to eating too many simple carbs or and high sugar foods are a headache, anxiety, the feeling of not being satisfied, you get hungry quickly, you may crave fat and or protein, you might experience a jumpy mind and ADHD like behaviour, you feel tired but wired, jittery, and have nervous energy like highs and lows. 


The long term responses, as in what happens if you eat this way for too long, are things like pimples, constipation, toxicity, insulin resistance, diabetes, neck/shoulder pain, low back pain, poor sleep quality, adrenal stress, immune suppression. 


You can see how vital making optimal food choices are for you. The thing to remember is, the same diet that could give you unwanted symptoms like anxiety and constipation, could actually be the ideal diet for someone else… 


Symptoms of eating too much fat and protein:

Now let’s look on the opposite side of the fence. The short term responses to eating too much fat and protein are feeling lethargic, sleepy, being in a dull or depressed mood. Feeling mentally sluggish or slow, having a heavy gut, feel full but hungry, crave sweets, crave coffee or tea. 


Long term responses include depression, obesity, toxicity and a foul body odor, low energy, crave sweets, poor response to exercise, particularly aerobic, rapid ageing, hormonal dysregulation, abnormal blood pressure, adrenal fatigue, ill health etc. 


So when it comes to healthy diet management, you need formulate the diet that will enhance your vitality every time you eat, that is going to support the inherent stress in your life, contribute to an ideal body weight. 


Through eating the right foods and in the right proportions of fats:protein:carbs you can balance your metabolism for optimal health and digestion. 

5. Go On A 4 Day Rotation Diet

If you’ve ever done a food intolerance test, you may have been surprised by the amount of foods you’ve come out as “intolerant” to. In fact, for most people, what they eat the most is often on the list - creating confusion and panic. “What am I going to eat???” 


The truth is that for most people, we eat the same things day in and day out. We’re creatures of habit, and find comfort in certain foods that we love. The problem with this, is that when you overexpose yourself to a particular protein, for example the protein in chicken, and are eating chicken for lunch and dinner every day… your body will start struggling to assimilate it and you will then suffer with various symptoms. This is what is called an intolerance.


Another problem with eating the same foods day in and day out, is that we miss out on the nutrient variety of other plants, vegetables, and flesh foods that come with their own unique sets of nutrients. Nutrient variability is a key pillar to a healthy diet. And unfortunately, for most people who do not enjoy cooking, or have never been taught all the different food choices we have available (there are literally hundreds and hundreds), they miss out on the incredibly healthy variety of nutrients.


A simple thing to remember is to eat the rainbow. Get foods from all colours in your diet! This guarantees exposure to a wide variety of nutrients.


This is where a 4 day rotation diet comes in. And there’s no simpler or better place to get more info on this than Paul Chek’s incredible lifestyle guide: How To Eat, Move, and Be Healthy.


A rotation diet follows the principle of separating your food choices into 4 separate days. Once you’ve eaten a specific food during a day, you have to wait 3 full days to be able to eat it again. This gives the immune system a 24 hour window of not being exposed to that food’s protein, which calms down any immune response you may be having to it.


It also gives you the chance to identify exactly which foods you are having problems with. You may notice that your skin itches when you eat bread, or that you have phlegm when you eat yoghurt or dairy products. 


When you follow a 4 day rotation diet, you will notice inflammatory symptoms in the gastro intestinal system decrease, and see that it’s an incredibly effective way to overcome leaky gut syndrome.


This also offers incredibly valuable insight into what’s going on inside your gut, and creates a relationship between your mind, your body, and your food choices.


6. Manage Your Stress Levels

When it comes to healthy digestion, managing stress levels is a must. For this, one of the most critical things to understand is how your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) works. This is the part of your nervous system that controls all the things that you don’t have to think about. Things like digestion or your heart beating… you don’t have to actively think, “ok I need to digest my food now…” your body does that in the background without you having to consciously think about it. 


There are two sides to the ANS. The sympathetic branch and the parasympathetic. They both work together and functionally interplay. 


Sympathetic: commonly referred to as the Fight, Flight, Freeze Branch… Activates catabolic hormones. Too much stress = too much cortisol. Which leads to fatigue, tissue breakdown, depressed immune system, decreased growth and repair.


You may notice when you’re under excess stress that your hands get sweaty, your mouth starts drying out, your heart beat elevates, and you feel energetic. These are all tell tell signs that you’re strongly activating the sympathetic branch of the ANS.


Remember, it’s natural to activate this system… when you’re exercising, running across moving traffic, playing sports, etc. These are all normal sympathetic responses. The problem is when you’re chronically activating this system to a degree that it’s overriding the times when you should be activating your parasympathetic system.


Parasympathetic: commonly referred to as the Rest & Digest Branch… Anabolic hormones: growth, repair, digestion. 


Sleeping, winding down in the evening, eating, reading a book, are all parasympathetic activities. 


When you’re chronically activating the sympathetic branch of the ANS, your body can’t effectively digest, assimilate, and metabolise the food you’re bringing in. 


There’s a reason we sit down to eat, we want to be in a relaxing environment to properly digest our food. Think about how unpleasant it would be to try and eat whilst being chased down by a lion… your body’s going to favour the chemical reactions needed to survive the lion chase, and not favour the process of digestion. In this case, survival is more important than digestion.


This is exactly the same process that happens with our modern day stressors: like reading terrible news from around the world on your phone 10 times a day, stress from work, relationship issues, having an overwhelming amount of commitments etc…


stress management pierre higginson

stress can be mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. It is known as the number one cause of disease around the world.

Our chemical reactions are the same as they were 10,000 years ago. 


Things like work stress, relationship stress, financial stress, physical stressors like overtraining, or pain, can all produce the chemical reactions in your body that are the same as being chased down by a lion.


This is why managing stress levels, and using techniques to push you into a more parasympathetic state before eating are absolutely essential if you want to overcome poor digestion. 


Getting to the root of this, enables you to live with greater balance in your ANS. Which sets the stage to optimal living, health, and high energy.

7. Promote A Balanced Gut Flora Environment

Now onto the battle between the good bacteria and the bad bacteria.


Including foods in your diet that promote the living of good bacteria in your gut, and fight away the bad bacteria is a great thing to do for better digestive health and wellness.

There’s so much information already out in terms of probiotics that I’m not going to dwell on it too long. It’s important to note however that most probiotic supplements are cheap and ineffective and are a waste of money. 


The only surefire way to make sure you’re getting adequate good bacteria through your diet is to make probiotic rich foods a staple in your weekly food choices.


Try and include foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and live yoghurt to your weekly food choices. These are great for the gut and promote a healthy immune system, support your digestion, and heighten your skin health.  

The things that promote bad bacteria are things like processed foods, a high sugar diet, deep fried foods, excess alcohol, and things like that. 


In Dr Jensen’s Guide To Better Bowel Care, he identifies an inverted ratio of good to bad bacteria being a key problem in his patient’s digestive health. 


“I wanted to find out about the intestinal flora - the various bacteria, both friendly and unfriendly, that populate the bowel - of my patients. I sent feral samples from five hundred patients to a medical laboratory to find out the relative amounts of friendly and unfriendly bacteria. The lab results averaged 85 percent unfriendly bacteria and 15 percent friendly bacteria, just the opposite of what they should have been! This taught me that the bowels of most people are not what they should be from the standpoint of having a healthy balance of intestinal flora. Is it any wonder that we have so much trouble with bowel gas?”


If you have loads of gas, bloating, really smelly stools, a regular upset stomach, and food intolerances, you might be living with too many bad guys in your stomach!


To Conclude

1. Inflammatory foods must be identified and removed from the diet in order to let the gut heal. They may be re-introduced at a later date if symptoms are no longer present.

2. Chewing food until it has become liquified is an essential digestive process which allows salivary enzymes to work on the food prior it to entering the stomach.

3. Raw foods are an essential component to any healthy diet. They provide a source of enzymes and help breakdown cooked food.

4. A healthy digestive system is supported by eating a unique ratio of macronutrients (proteins:fats:carbs). Ones metabolism requires a unique ratio of macronutrients for it to work at peak performance. Fine tuning this ratio is essential dietary practice to work on.

5. A 4 Day rotation diet is a great tool for identifying inflammatory foods, healing the gut, and supporting the immune system.

6. Stress levels need to be managed in order for digestion to work well.

7. A healthy balance of 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria is needed in the gut. Priobiotic rich foods help in supporting this balance.

Resources

Gabriel Cousens, M.D, Spiritual Nutrition And The Rainbow Diet, Cassandra Press, 1986.

Olli Sovijarvi, Teemu Arina, Jaako Halmetoja, The Biohacker’s Handbook, 2nd Edition, 2019.

Paul Chek, How To Eat Move and Be Healthy, 2004.

Dr Bernard Jensen, Dr Jensens Guide To Better Bowel Care, 1999.

William Walcott & Trish Fahey, The Metabolic Typing Diet.

Weston A. Price, Nutrition And Physical Degeneration.

Roger J. Williams, Ph.D, Biochemical Individuality, 2nd Edition, 1956.


pierre
pierre

Pierre is a Holistic Health Practitioner based in London, UK. He helps people increase vitality, decrease stress, achieve optimal posture, and more.

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