TL; DR: Eat whole, minimally processed foods to decrease inflammation in your gut so that you can move like you’ve never moved before!
So we’ve established that there is a gut-brain connection – we also recognize this is a 2-way communication system, but we’re only discussing the one direction from the gut to the brain – and that if your gut or digestive system is at all under stress of has any signs of inflammation, it can influence the brain via the enteric nervous system. Since your brain controls EVERYTHING, it is logical that if your brain’s output signals for movement are also affected by your gut. I want to clarify that when I bring up “gut inflammation” it’s not something that you can “test”. By the time it’s bad enough for it to show up on a test, there’s already damage. Dr. Perry Nickelston, DC once said “Lab tests don’t show function, they show damage”. Rather, we look for signs and symptoms of inflammation, things that you may have experienced but brushed off as “not a big deal” – I’m sure you’ve done that a few times!
This list is not exhaustive or all inclusive – there may be symptoms that aren’t listed here that can contribute to inflammation (Dysbiosis is the big word that refers to the negative or unnatural shifts in composition of gut bacteria), but it’s a start:
- Bad Breath (halitosis)
- Upset Stomach
- Foggy memory
- Difficulty concentrating/thinking
Long term gut inflammation can also be a driving force behind many diseases that we see commonly such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer etc…
So not only does what you eat affect your movement quality and ability (which, by the way, can make it hard to lose weight in the gym as well as make you more prone to injury) it can be detrimental to your overall health and wellbeing if you don’t take control and treat your body right.
What should you not be eating and what should you be eating to facilitate a healthier gut? Many modern diets are high in simple refined sugars as well as processed foods. To start, I’d say try to eat whole, real foods – foods that don’t come prepackaged, food that you buy in the produce or meat aisle. During this pandemic, try shopping for frozen or canned versions of the foods listed below for better availability! Here’s a brief (and not all inclusive) list of things you should eat to decrease gut inflammation:
- Dark Leafy Vegetables (I.e. kale, spinach, chard, collard greens etc…)
- These are high in vitamins B2, 9, A, E and K.
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries etc…) and/or grapes
- These contain anti-oxidants (anthocyanins) that can help with decreasing inflammation
- This spice is strong so a little goes a long way! It contains the compound curcumin which has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Lycopene is found in tomatoes and is a very powerful anti-oxidant that can decrease inflammation
- (Tart) Cherries
- Another fruit that has plenty of antioxidants and has been shown to decrease overall inflammation
The above list is not all inclusive because there’s an endless possibility of foods you can eat that would help keep your gut healthy. Improving movement ability and/or quality is a process, it takes time. Just because you start eating any of the foods above doesn’t meant it’ll instantly change how you move, but with additional training and exercise to build strength and implementing mobility drills, you CAN move better. Ultimately we know that movement is medicine, but continuing poor movement quality is not the answer. However, if you change your diet to decrease overall gut and digestive inflammation, decrease overall dysbiosis, you’ll start to benefit from all of the training you’re putting in. Your digestive health is important in being able to stay active and improving overall movement. So if you want to FEEL BETTER start with what you put into your body, because if you eat purely for pleasure, your overall health will inevitably suffer.