On a recent podcast I listened to, gastroenterologist Dr. Will Bulsiewicz MD (Dr. B) was interviewed to discuss gut health. His interview was well received within the Ultimate Portion Fix community I’m apart of, with many ordering his book Fiber Fueled: The Plant-Based Gut Health Program for Losing Weight, Restoring Your Health, and Optimizing Your Microbiome.
The science behind gut health interests me, but I went back and forth on whether to buy the book or not. The term “plant-based” in the subtitle concerned me; I wasn’t looking to read a book telling me to go vegan. I had also read mixed reviews. The first half of the book seemed to be well-received, but the second half, which is a 4-week meal plan, was critiqued to be unrealistic (spoiler alert, I agree).
Curiosity got the best of me, and I ended up purchasing the e-book ($13.99), which was half the price of the hardcover.
This is not a blog post reviewing the book though. In short, I found the book to be educational and worth the read. That being said, below are my key takeaways on gut health after reading Fiber Fueled.
1. You are what your gut eats.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat, so don’t be fast, cheap, or fake.” Well according to Fiber Fueled:
You’re not what you eat but what your gut microbiota eats.
Through diet and lifestyle, you ultimately control your microbiome’s health destiny.
You’re most likely wondering what “microbiota” and “microbiome” are. In the best way I can translate, every person has a trillion microscopic organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and more inside them called microbes. These microbes are collectively known as the microbiome. The gut microbiota describes the different microbe populations present in your large intestine, including bacteria, archaea, and viruses.
2. The microbiota is deeply connected with your endocrine system. The gut is the largest endocrine organ in the body, deeply involved in securing hormonal balance.
This resonated with me because of my Hashimoto’s / hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s disease is a condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid. The thyroid gland is part of your endocrine system, which produces hormones that coordinate many of your body’s functions.
Ideally I’d love to think that if I can improve my gut microbiota, maybe one day I can stop taking Levothyroxine (a synthetic thyroid hormone replacement pill). The author actually says multiple times throughout the book that Western medicine is all too commonly prescribing medication instead of finding the root cause.
3. The answer isn’t cutting out gluten.
(Unless of course you have celiac disease.) By depriving ourselves of gluten, we actually lose part of our carbohydrate-processing mechanism. So now our gut is weaker and less adapted to processing and unpacking complex carbs; as a result, when you try to reintroduce complex carbs in the future, you struggle.
If you cut gluten out, you are increasing your risk of ischemic heart disease (reduced blood supply to the heart), our number one killer. It’s worth noting that this is the complete opposite of people who have celiac disease, where the consumption of gluten sets off an inflammatory cascade that may increase their risk of heart disease.
According to Dr. B, when healthy people eat wheat or other gluten-containing foods, its found that their gut actually appears more healthy.
4. Alcohol causes dysbiosis.
Dysbiosis is an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. Alcohol kills bacteria, and in the case of our guts, this can mean it attacks our “good” bugs. If we’re going to responsibly enjoy alcohol, the occasional glass of red wine would be the way to do it.
5. Anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics have adverse effects on our gut.
Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve, Midol) alter the gut microbiota, destroying the stomach lining, which can result in ulcers, and predispose you to IBS (inflammatory bowel disease) and microscopic colitis (inflammation of the large intestine).
And antibiotics? Just five days of the bacteria infection fighting antibiotic ciprofloxacin wipes out about one-third of gut bacteria. Your gut microbiota are never quite the same.
6. Where there’s dysbiosis, you’ll also find food sensitivities.
In Fiber Fueled Dr. B talks about if you eliminate a food group, your ability to consume that food dwindles. Elimination diets will only heighten food sensitivities. Your gut is adaptable, and it will adjust to your choices.
In summary, eat more plants!
Essentially food is fuel, and the concept behind Fiber Fueled is simple… eat more plants! Though I’m going to alter that and just say eat more whole foods! Dr. B recommends striving for 30 different plants a week. Like a muscle, we can exercise our gut to adapt and improve.