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How Good and Bad Gut Bacteria Can Influence Our Diet Choice

imageThe article below was passed on to me by a colleague that works in the Neuroscience field. It is a fascinating article about how bacteria can send chemicals to our brain via the Vagus Nerve, in order tot get us to give the bacteria the food that it wants. For instance a bacteria that wants sugar might release chemicals that make us feel good when we eat sugar or chemicals that make us feel bad when we don’t.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/neuronarrative/201409/gut-feeling-how-baccteria-manipulates-your-brain-0

The implications of this study are tremendous. We have a vast and complicated microbial world living inside of us, creating symbiotic and parasitic relationships with our body. Some of the bacteria have similar dietary goals and needs as we do, but others don’t.

The next time you’re stuffed from dinner, but than get your “second stomach” for desert, remember it may not be you that is actually hungry. Tiny microbial hitch hikers living in your stomach might be the one’s that are hungry for the sugar, and they could be releasing chemical messages to your brain making you think that you’re body needs sugar, and thus creating a craving.

Mindfulness is a useful trait to have in all aspects of life, and it is essential when it comes to diet and nutrition. Ask yourself, am I really hungry, or am I craving something? Often times when I have cravings Ill just drink water and they’ll go away. Or maybe Ill have celery sticks with humus or peanut butter to address my cravings. Fresh fruit like an apple or orange work well too. Usually I try not to cave into my craving, especially if it involves sugar.

A down side to eating for the parasitic bacteria living in your gut is that you have to process all of the waste and byproducts of the food you take in. This is going to slow down your digestive system, which is the most energy consuming process in the body. All this extra material is being ingested, digested, and processed through your body, just to feed a few little microbes.

The process to combat food cravings is slow and gradual, but very possible. I have a hard time eating sugar or sugary things these days because my palette has been shifted and things that taste good to most people taste unbearably sweet to me. Simply cutting sugar out of my diet for a few months created this shift, and I never really went back. Granted I do get my sugar cravings once in awhile, and I do cave into them as well. But once I start to notice a trend that Im eating a lot of sugar, and when I start to crave sugar in the middle of the day, that’s when I know I have a problem. I simply scale my sugar intake back and my palette corrects itself. The same goes for “comfort foods” such as potatoes, french fries, wheat and bread, pasta and other refined carbohydrates.

Nutrition and diet is not rocket science, it is simple and straight forward, which is what makes it so difficult. Being mindful of your actions, and being consistent with your actions are all that is needed to have a healthy diet and to stop feeding those pesky bacteria hitch-hikers!

Wanderlust Yoga Festival on the North Shore of Oahu

At the beginning of the year, I attended the 2014 Wanderlust Yoga Festival on the North Shore of Oahu. I had casually heard about the event and looked into it with tepid interest, Yoga “festivals” aren’t necessarily my way of practicing yoga. But after looking more closely, I saw that there were a lot of options for classes and courses outside of the world of yoga.

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There were numerous classes on Hawaiian culture, hiking, mountain biking, surfing, paddle boarding, even slack line and hula hooping. It was a very eclectic selection of classes to choose from.

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My interest grew; than I noticed the festival was being held minutes away from the fabled North Shore of Oahu, and we were allowed to camp on the beach! Being an avid surfer, this pretty much sealed the deal for me, but than I saw Gerry Lopez would be teaching a yoga class everyday. I HAD to go at this point.

For those of you who don’t know, Gerry Lopez is like the Joe Montana of surfing, to use an analogy. He is a champion surfer, he is humble, polite, and just and all around nice guy that everyone loves. He is famous for mastering Pipeline, a surf break on the north shore known for it’s deadly waves that can create the most amazing rides in the world.

The first thing I would like to mention about my trip to hawaii is not the surf, the sun, or the yoga, but the food. The food in Hawaii is amazing. You’ve never had fruit this good, or vegetables this fresh, or raw ahi this delicious. I haven’t been back to Hawaii in awhile, so I had forgotten the difference in quality between the Islands and “the Mainland”.

Here are pictures of the best ahi poke I have ever tested or even dreamed of. The fish is so rare it almost melts in your mouth.

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Is it from a famous Japanese restaurant you ask? Does it have a Zagat rating? Nope, you’re in Hawaii, where an old supermarket called “Kahuku Superette” serves the most delicious sushi grade ahi you’ve ever tasted.

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There were numerous vendors selling food throughout the day at the Yoga festival as well. Delicious vegan options, macrobiotic, and local fare were all present. I enjoyed this particular meal very much: wild elk skewers from Molokai, with Taro root hash, and sea vegetable salad. This was my go to meal after a big surf session.

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I tried to maintain a paleo diet while I was in Hawaii. Being “paleo” is relatively easy in Hawaii because there are so many options to choose from to support this diet. In it’s basic sense, ‘paleo diet’ means no grains or flour, no dairy and refined products such as sugar. Only foods that a hunter-gatherer would eat in the paleolithic age is allowable. Impractical? Yes. Effective? Yes. Being in Hawai’i makes this diet not only easy, but enjoyable. The one thing I had that was not paleo was rice. I have to admit it, I love rice.

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Here are some local provision that I picked up:a papaya and bananas from a roadside fruit stand, fresh made poi from a local superette, and local smoked ahi and marlin from the same superette.

Okay, enough about food, now more about the Wanderlust Festival. There were a wide range of classes offered for the yoga novice to the yoga nazi. I was more interested in restorative yoga since my trip was already extremely active due to my important surf schedule, which was a major part of the equation for me. But there were numerous alternative activity classes that involved history, hiking, mountain biking, surfing, kayaking, even hula and music.

One of the classes that I enjoyed the most at Wanderlust was the Slack Key Guitar class. The teacher was extremely knowledge about the music but also the history and culture of Hawaii. It was a very rare opportunity to get some hands on experience with Hawaiian culture.

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There was also live music every night at Wanderlust. Moby of all people played Friday night, and Donovan Frankenfurter, a famous surfer, played with his band Saturday night.

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Donovan Frankenfurter

One of the many highlights at the festival was getting to work with the non-profit organization Sustainable Coastlines. They are dedicated to the health and sustainability of our coastlines, specifically through cleaning up and reducing the use of single use plastics.

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Loading up the bus at Turtle Bay Resort to take a trek a do a beach clean up in a remote beach that has a lot of plastic washed up on shore.

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A few hundred people from wanderlust participated in the beach clean up. It was very uplifting to see so many people demonstrate their support for the environment, especially while they are on vacation.

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After the beach cleanup I finally got to take my Yoga class with Gerry Lopez. I took two classes with Gerry, and I was very surprised to hear that he has been a Yogi since the 70′s. I’ve been to a lot of yoga classes, and I have to say that I was very impressed by Gerry’s knowledge and approach to yoga.

On the first day, I settled in and found my place on the floor, I looked up and saw another famous pro surfer, Dan Malloy, sitting right in front of me. Dan is well known for his alternative approach to surfing lifestyle, and his support of conservation efforts for natural resources. Fittingly, he is a surf ambassador for Patagonia. Dan is one of my favorite “free surfers”, and I was very excited to get to meet him.

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Here is a picture of me with Gerry Lopez. He said something interesting which I found very relevant to yoga practice today. He said that when he started Yoga back in the 70′s, it was taught as a complete lifestyle within itself, but nowadays Yoga has been broken up into “specialty yoga”: yin yoga, flow yoga, hot yoga, etc. I think it’s important to remember what Yoga was originally created for, finding calm and balance within yourself, not getting tone and lean.

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Gerry’s Yoga class, over 200 people strong.

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My humble abode, after getting drenched in an afternoon storm.

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I would say the trip was a raging success for me. I surfed in Hawaii, did Yoga with Gerry Lopez and Dan Malloy, met so many wonderful people, ate amazing food, and had a one of a kind experience. Wanderlust has Yoga festivals all over the US and they’re starting to go International as well. Although I have reservations about the commercialization of Yoga, I thoroughly enjoyed myself at Wanderlust North Shore 2014, and I will almost definitely be heading back there again.

Nutrition: Mindfulness

I adhere to the philosophy “It’s not what you eat that’s important, it’s what you DON’T eat that matters.” Through my quest to maximize my athletic ability in martial arts and in my career, I quickly realized the direct correlation between my athletic performance and abstaining from certain foods.

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I discovered five foods that severely DECREASE my physical, as well as overall, performance: DAIRY, WHEAT, PROCESSED MEATS, SUGAR, and ALCOHOL. You may or may not agree with my diet decisions, but the lesson is still the same: mindfulness is the key to good nutrition.

You must always be mindful of what you’re putting into your body. ALWAYS READ INGREDIENTS! Most times you have no idea what you’re putting into your body when you pick up a box of crackers, bread, or heaven forbid, a soda!

It’s important to make your own discoveries as to how your body reacts to certain foods. Once you do figure out what foods your body does and doesn’t like, stick to it. Don’t just give into hunger pangs and eat whatever is available. ABSTAIN! The ability to say no is a very powerful decision in the land of plenty.

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As an exercise in mindfulness, write down everything you eat and drink during the course of the week and weekend. Write down every single thing from glasses of water to vitamins to candy bars. For everything that you eat or drink, also write down the ingredients. This could take quite some time if you eat processed and pre-packaged foods, but do it anyway.

This will give you a great understanding how many chemicals, preservatives and things you’ve never heard of you put into your body on a weekly basis. Now the power of abstinence becomes apparent.

The first step in following a nutrition plan is to be mindful of everything that you put into your body. Whatever your nutrition or diet plan is, mindfulness and abstinence are key ingredients to success.

Vegan lunch

Recreation: Greens eggs and waves…

Today started off with farm fresh eggs, as in straight from an 11-acre-ranch-that-has-25-chickens kind of eggs. Each egg had a different color and size, they even had different shapes. Some shells were tougher to crack than others, and they obviously came from different breeds of chickens as well.

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I fried them on the skillet at a medium temp with non-soy Earth Balance. Now the flavor, texture, and color of these can’t be over exaggerated. The health benefits of free range eggs aside, they make a fine tasty breakfast! There are however documented studies that prove farm eggs are more nutritious than store bought eggs. So if you have the ability, find a rancher or farmer in your area and ask them if you can buy some eggs. Usually $5 a dozen is a fair price. And don’t forget you don’t need to refrigerate them.

After the amazing breakfast I got to paddle out into the ocean and catch some of the North-West Swell that came through California this MLK Jr. Weekend. The waves were very big for LA standards, a foot or two overhead at times, but they weren’t breaking too well and were mostly big close-outs. It was great fun and exercise getting out into the ocean though, and the cold water is invigorating. Being in cold conditions is good for your circulatory system.