Gut Health, Mood and Your Goals

by Rick Brennan 2728 views Nutrition

Gut Health, Mood and Your Goals

Each year we hear the same old things from the media and people we speak to on a day to day basis. The ever loaded question “What’s your new year’s resolution?” I have never understood why it takes for a whole year to pass and a brand new year to begin for people to actually set goals. It is even crazier to see the splurging that people put their bodies through over the festive period telling themselves its ok, my New Year’s resolution is to start healthy eating and working out come the 1st of January!

The damage that we can do to our bodies in a very short period of time can take far longer to reverse and the number one area that receives punishment is our digestive system. We binge on far too much sugar, alcohol, dairy, gluten and processed rich foods all while our training and exercising takes a back seat to the endless parties and social events that seem to be never-ending.

There have been a number of different surveys over a number of years and by a range of sources which shows that the top 3 New Years resolutions are; to lose weight, get fit or eat healthily. It’s not surprising to find health is the priority for those committing to a change or a resolution for the new year with a large percentage looking at their over indulgence over the festive season as a motivator. If you simply set a goal that in itself can raise your chances of achieving a result!

What are some of the reasons why the hill becomes too high for some people to climb.

Why after only a few short weeks some of us throw in the towel and give up.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of the real percentages of people who are actually following through and actually achieving their goal. A new study in Australia has found that those of us who set fitness goals as their new year’s resolutions, that less than 73% of people actually reach their goal! I believe there are a number of reasons for this, but for me, the biggest reason I see people giving up is due to not seeing any short term results and therefore throwing their resolution in and simply giving up. Short term goals may not be movement on the scales or fitting into your favourite pants, it may come in the form of endless amounts of energy, a general feeling of wellbeing and a new found vigour towards life and new found belief in yourself.

Nutrition for me is the key ingredient to achieving any health and fitness goal.

healthy food

As the old saying goes we are what we eat. This is true, but what if the food we are eating is not being absorbed into our bodies, in turn, that means we are not receiving the required nutrients in our bodies to gain the positive impact from the changes we have made. Not only are we not getting the nutrients from our food but we can potentially negatively impact our blood stream by allowing proteins (gluten) and bad bacteria to enter in times where digestive health is not optimal.

This effect on our bodies can be a result of our stomach and small intestine not doing their required job and breaking down our micronutrients correctly before they enter the blood stream. This can cause inflammation and immune reactions like bloating, IBS and other food sensitivity related issues.

Not only does a healthy gut allow the body to maximise nutrient absorption, it allows the body to feel good.

This discovery has led to a surge in interest in potential gut based treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders and a new class of studies investigating how the gut and its microbiome affect both healthy and diseased brains. 

One key change we can all make is resetting our gut health (flora).

Without the correct gut flora, it’s difficult for our body to absorb the correct nutrients from our foods and to break them down to be absorbed through our small intestine walls (97% of all nutrients are absorbed before moving down the digestive tract to the large intestine). If we can’t absorb the nutrients from the healthy foods we are eating all of our healthy food choice changes can be in vain.

Remember, a healthy gut allows the body to maximise nutrient absorption and it allows the body to feel good.

Did I mention 95% of our body’s serotonin is found in the bowels (U.C.L.A Dr Mayer)? Often referred to as the body’s second brain, the gut has a massive bearing on the bodies 'feel good hormone' release.

Not convinced? Here are a couple of impacts our healthy gut can have on us daily:

  • Increased energy
  • Weight gain / Weight loss
  • Focus
  • Mood elevation
  • Better sleep patterns

Gut health plays a major role in almost every aspect of health including digestion, immunity, and fat storage. A healthy gut makes us less susceptible to stress, anxiety and depression. These are all feelings we will deal with at one time or another when trying to achieve our goals and in our daily life.

Our goals aren't always going to be easy and may create stress and anxiety, which can cause us to question whether what we are doing is right and that little voice appears telling you it may be too hard for you to achieve. These questions never leave us in life but it’s how we answer these questions and keep positive that enables us to move forward.

They help mould us as people to be strong enough to overcome obstacles.

Habits can be hard to change and research shows it can take 66 days in order to create new habits.  Our bodies take a sequence of actions and convert them to unconscious automatic routines. This can take time and we can all be different but one thing that doesn’t change is we all eventually can make decisions without consciously thinking about them. Let’s face it, if it wasn’t hard we wouldn’t be hearing all these people talk about trying to achieve the same goal which you have set out to do.

The “Gut” has earned the nickname the “Second Brain” for a good reason. 

Most of us can relate to an experience of having butterflies in our stomach or that gut wrenching feeling we may get in our gut when making difficult emotional decisions.

The one thing I am sure about is how symbolically connected our gut is to our emotions.

I recommend all my clients go through a 7-14 day protocol to reset their gut flora. During this period I eliminate all processed foods, alcohol, sugar (sweeteners), take away food, fatty fried food, hot spicy food, gluten, dairy and soft drinks from their diet. I limit the intake of red meat and chicken as livestock/poultry can be treated with antibiotics that then get passed onto us when we consume them.  

While I recommend eliminating sugar from our diet, I make sure fruit and vegetables are consumed as they are a great source of fibre and antioxidants. Needless to say, cigarettes should never be a part of our diet and for anyone who does smoke, this should be this first positive step to health and happiness by eliminating it from our lives. I introduce fermented foods into my client’s diets including sauerkraut, yoghurt and probiotic rich foods which can be great for our gut flora.


Bitter foods such as lemon juice and grapefruit help to break down foods and allow for better nutrient absorption.

Something as simple as starting the day with a glass of warm water and lemon juice also allows the body to gain the most energy and nutrients from our food as the bitter taste stimulates the secretion of digestive juices and stomach enzymes prior to your first meal.

Following on from that I also recommend apple cider vinegar to be consumed twice daily (15 ml each serve) before breakfast and your evening meal.

This has many benefits including improving insulin sensitivity and lowering blood glucose levels, improving metabolism, and reducing fat storage.

If you're wanting to consume protein powders I suggest plant based protein (pea protein) and supplementing with digestive enzymes.  And finally, the following supplements are also high beneficial as well:

  • Probiotic (50 million different bacteria)
  • 2000mgs of a quality fish oil
  • L-Glutamine (5 grams twice daily)

Gut health can mean the difference between achieving results and keeping you motivated working towards achieving your goals. Working smarter is the key to success so do your homework and find the right people with a proven track record and sound nutritional knowledge to help you stay on track and make 2017 the year you find your inner health and happiness. 

Rick Brennan

Health Club Owner and Personal Trainer

I have been in the fitness industry for over 20 years as a personal trainer and co-owner of My Fitness Club Broadbeach for the past ten years. I come from a professional football background and hold State, National and World bodybuilding titles. I specialize in rehabilitation, weight loss, competition prep and have clients based in the Gold Coast and from all around the world including New Zealand, Dubai, Ireland and London. I also work with clients all around the world who are unable to see me face to face through my online training packages.

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