Episode 1 – Gut Health with Naomi Langford Archer
Welcome to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast where you can learn how to improve your diet, lose fat and get fitter in a sustainable and fun way without spending hours in the gym. Here is your host Darren Kirby.
Darren: This is season one, episode one of the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast and I’m very excited today to welcome my guest, Naomi Langford Archer from Gut Nutrition. Hi, Naomi. How are you doing today?
Naomi: Hi there, Darren. Yes, really well, thank you. How are you?
Darren: Very well, thank you, and very pleased that you can make the first episode of our podcast. For our listeners, the reason I’ve invited Naomi on today is that increasingly, in the media and on the internet, there’s been more things being put out about gut nutrition. Rather than trying to kind of search it out for myself and trying to understand it, I thought, what better than to get a gut nutrition expert on the podcast who can go over what gut nutrition is and why we should be paying attention to it and what we can do in our daily lives.
Before we do that, Naomi, can we get a little bit of insight into you and how you’ve ended up as a gut nutritionist?
Naomi: Yes, of course. I trained in nutritional therapy for three years and we covered the whole body, all those different systems within the body. I then decided to specialize in the gut–as you will find out as we go along–because if your gut isn’t in a good place and it’s not as healthy as it can be, then the rest of the body can suffer. But also, just through my own experience with helping myself. I struggled greatly with anxiety and depression throughout a lot of my life and I tried lots of different therapies: counselling, medications, etc. There was always a niggle there, there was always something that would always come back- the anxiety was always there or the depression would creep back in.
It was only really until I sought some help with nutritional therapy myself before doing the course that I actually managed to get over my anxiety and my depression. I did that mainly through my gut, so that’s kind of why as well for myself, I decided to go on- continue with the gut healing, the gut health path.
Darren: It’s very fascinating, to be honest, hence the reason I asked you to come on because I’ve recently heard people refer to the gut as our second brain. I think quite unconsciously, I guess as a human race or whatever, we’ve not really paid attention to it before unless there’s something that was going wrong in the gut. I certainly didn’t realize that it can affect everything else in our bodies.
For the benefit of our listeners, Naomi, why gut health? You’ve obviously outlined the benefits that you’ve got from focusing on your gut health but why gut health?
Naomi: Just to talk about it from the second brain, the mental aspect of it, your gut and your brain are actually made from the same tissue. When the body is developing in the embryo, when it’s actually developing into an infant, this tissue separates and you start to develop the brain and the gut, but they’re always connected. They’re connected via what we call this vagus nerve, this big nerve. What is going on in the brain has a massive impact on what is going on in the gut and vice versa. That is how it can help with mental health issues as well.
Darren: Sorry, what was that nerve you referred to there? I’ve never heard of that before.
Naomi: It’s called the vagus nerve. It’s sort of the motorway between the gut and the brain. Information is going either way all the time.
Darren: So the two are intertwined then in that case; they very much rely on each other.
Naomi: Absolutely. You can think about it, if you’re nervous about something maybe before an exam or before doing a presentation, you can get that sort of butterfly feeling in your tummy. That’s coming from the thoughts in your brain. And vice versa: what’s going on in our tummy, what’s going on in our guts, has an impact on what’s going on in the brain.
Darren: Interesting. That’s fascinating. Obviously, we talked a little bit about why gut health but what is it about gut health and why is it important? Obviously, you’ve mentioned there the nerve but what actually goes on in our guts that’s that important?
Naomi: The gut is actually quite a big area. It starts off at your mouth and then ends at your anus, so it goes all the way through the whole body. The gut is quite a big system; there’s lots of different organs which interact with it as well. It’s very important because it’s there to digest our food, it’s there to absorb the nutrients that we eat but it’s also there to keep out anything bad entering the rest of the circulation- the main circulation in the body which is the bloodstream.
It’s stopping anything nasty entering the insides of us if we think about it like that. Our gut is possibly the outside because it’s in touch with the outside world. It’s stopping anything nasty that’s coming in. Anything nasty such as like bacteria, toxins, all of these sorts of things. That’s one of its main jobs but it’s also there to reduce inflammation within the body as well. It’s digesting the food, it’s absorbing the food, the body is only taking in what it wants to, what it needs to so that then the body can function optimally. That’s if the gut’s working well.
We need to feed it the right things for it to be able to do that. We come into problems if we’re not feeding it with the right things, we’re not looking after it and then these, sort of balances on our gut wall can’t operate as they should be and then things can enter the bloodstream, the main circulatory system, and wreak havoc on the rest of the body, really.
Darren: Is that relating to this term that I’ve come across as well, around leaky gut? Is that the thing that you’re talking about, when stuff comes from the guts and gets into our bloodstream?
Naomi: Absolutely. That would be leaky gut in a nutshell.
Darren: Am I right in thinking that a large majority of the population actually have a leaky gut and don’t realize it?
Naomi: I would think that’s a fair point to say. Yes.
Darren: Because some of the stuff that I’ve been researching and looking up on, there was this statistic–and obviously I take a lot of statistics with a pinch of salt–but it was in the excess of 50% of people have a leaky gut and they don’t realize it. But when we talk about the term leaky gut, it kind of conjures up images that you’ve got a burst pipe in your stomach, if you like, and stuff is leaking out of it, which is obviously not great. There are things that we can do around that, isn’t it? To kind of plug that leaky gut–hole if you like.
Naomi: Yeah. The small intestines, they’re very long and they’re very thin and the reason they’re very long and very thin is because their main job is to absorb food. But because they’re very thin, it means they’re also very delicate. The actual lining of the small intestine is only one cell thick, so it’s very, very thin and we can damage this quite easily. Yes, we can build the cell walls back up, we can build a lovely kind of squishy mucous membrane that surrounds the inside of our small intestines so it stops any sort of abrasion happening on the small intestine, but we have to do that through looking after our gut. We can go on to talk about that in a little bit.
To add on to your point of why so many people do suffer with a leaky gut and when we’re seeing so many more people with a leaky gut and, leading on from that, autoimmune conditions as well, it’s because of the modern-day lifestyle through stress, through processed foods and just having an unhealthy diet. It can cause a leaky gut; It’s as simple as that.
Darren: It’s quite incredible once you start to understand. Obviously, you understand this at great depths, but once you start to understand the little things that you can change in your diet which can make quite a big impact. We’ve talked about what it is and I guess we talked a little bit about how it can affect me, but can we go into a little bit more depth on really how a poor gut health can really affect us in our day to day lives? You’ve obviously touched on the fact that you had depression and anxiety and that’s just one kind of element of it, and that’s something that I didn’t realize, but how else in our existence can having poor gut health affect us?
Naomi: Gosh, where to start? I think, first of all, is the immune system. Our immune system is there to protect us. The majority of our immune system is actually located in the gut, the majority of our immune cells live in our gut, so we need to make sure the gut is healthy so that our immune cells can function as they should be. Immune support is absolutely key. If your immune system’s not working as it should be, maybe it’s too weak and you’re getting ill all the time or maybe it’s working on overdrive, and you’re developing an autoimmune condition. We want it very balanced, that’s really important with the immune system; we want it balanced.
The other thing is gut health reduces inflammation. A lot of diseases stem from inflammations in the body. If we want to reduce inflammation, we have to go back to healing the gut so that we’re not allowing anything nasty to enter the bloodstream because as soon as anything nasty enters the bloodstream, it creates this inflammatory process. There’s the mental health support as well. Making sure that we’ve got proper bowel movements and then looking at things like achy joints. A foggy brain, all of these things stem back to optimal gut health, really.
Darren: The foggy brain is quite an interesting one as well because I used to have this quite a few years ago until I started to understand and focus on my diet. It sounds a bit of a cliché, but once you do get on top of it, it does feel like a cloud has been lifted and you don’t wake up in the morning all groggy. You wake up with a much clearer head and much more focus but you don’t necessarily realize that until you actually do change your diet. The other massive thing is dehydration, right? There’s a lot of us that are walking around dehydrated because we don’t take on enough water. That also has an impact on this fogginess that you can get as well.
It’s quite comprehensive really, then, isn’t it? In terms of what we’re putting inside our bodies has a tremendous impact and we’re not necessarily talking about any kind of fitness or any kind of weight loss. We’re just talking about general daily living and stuff that we’re putting in our guts can affect that. One of the points you picked up on there was inflammation. I understand that through different foods that we can chew, that can add or detract from inflammation in the body? Can you just touch on that? I understand that plant-based proteins versus animal-based proteins can have an impact on inflammation, so can you touch on a little bit about that?
Naomi: Yeah, of course. With inflammation, it’s about reducing the inflammation through what you’re eating. There’s inflammatory foods such as sugar, which we probably all know that sugars is no good for us. Sugar and processed foods are, I would say, the two main things to eliminate from your diet if you’re trying to reduce inflammation. You should eliminate them anyway. What happens with sugar is that it actually feeds any bad bacteria that are living in our gut and bad bacteria can produce inflammatory particles. Also, the sugar can have an impact on the gut wall. It can cause irritation, inflammation on the gut wall itself. It also feeds… I don’t know if you’ve heard of the term Candida? It’s a type of yeast.
Darren: I haven’t heard of that. No.
Naomi: Yeast is always at sort of low levels within the gut but we don’t want it to overpopulate the gut. Candida feeds off sugar and it can create gas and bloating and also endotoxins- endotoxins are toxins produced within the body. The body’s bacteria or Candida. What we’re looking at doing is reducing any bad bacteria and Candida. To do that, we have to stop feeding it and that will help with the reduction in inflammation. What we can also do is feed the body with healthy foods to increase anti-inflammatory particles. That basically means eating a range of different coloured vegetables and getting lots of different fibre. Because the healthy bacteria that live in our guts, they produce anti-inflammatory particles and they produce this as a by-product of feeding on the fibre that we eat. This fibre comes from the different vegetables. Increasing your vegetable intake and reducing your sugar intake would be my first step.
Darren: Okay. That’s quite basic, right? And that’s the other interesting thing: the fact that whilst the science behind it is very complex, the actual kind of remedy and remediation to it is quite straightforward, isn’t it, really?
Naomi: Yeah, exactly. It’s just about cleaning up your diet.
Darren: Obviously, the information that you’ve shared now, but if we were to ignore our gut and our diet, what are the ramifications of that? There are a lot of people that are walking around in society that are completely oblivious to basically paying attention to their gut, paying attention to their diet or just general health. They walk into a supermarket, they pick whatever it is on the shelf off and they go home and eat it and all the rest of it because they’re assuming it’s in a supermarket, we’re consumers we’re sold to, it must be okay, right? We can just eat whatever we like. What would be the ramifications or what kind of things have you seen in people that have just completely ignored their gut and their diet?
Naomi: I would say that people don’t actually realize how bad they feel until they feel good. Quite often I’ll see people with a certain symptom and we will address the symptom, get rid of the symptom but as a by-product of that, they also feel a lot better. They’re like, “I didn’t even realize I wasn’t feeling good before. This is what feeling good actually feels like!” Quite often people don’t actually know how good they could feel or how bad they are feeling until they feel good.
Gosh, but all sorts of things. Skin allergies, different autoimmune conditions, brain fog, achy joints, arthritis. It really is a whole host of different things, so if your gut’s not in a good place, the symptoms are endless. They really are.
Darren: One of the areas that is kind of a bugbear of mine and that is fast food and takeaways. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m a complete saint and I’ve never had all that kind of stuff. I used to eat that stuff regularly. I don’t now, just through out of choice but one of the things that I see often on a Friday night is you see all these cars queuing up in the KFC drive thru, and the McDonald’s drive thru, all that kind of stuff.
What kind of impact is eating that food having on us? For example, if you take KFC, people might eat there and say, “Well, it’s chicken. I’ve the boneless chicken and it’s fine.” But actually, there’s a whole raft of things, which means that it’s not great for your diet, isn’t there? Like where it comes from and then how it gets cooked or where you eat it. There’s a whole process that that goes through which is not great.
Naomi: Yeah, exactly. The protein itself isn’t going to be of the best quality, the actual chicken in. Then, like you say, what it’s actually cooked in. It’s probably going to be cooked in some horrible vegetable oil at a very high temperature and vegetable oil is hugely inflammatory to the body. That alone is going to be devastating for the gut.
Darren: What is it about vegetable oil that makes it bad? There is a lot of talk now about good oils and good fats. I have avocado oil and things like that, but why is vegetable oil that bad?
Naomi: Any sort of liquid at a room temperature, apart from avocado oil, when it’s heated above a certain temperature, so when it’s heated above 180 degrees, the molecular form of it changes. Vegetable oil is bad regardless, but say let’s look at olive oil. People think olive oil is a really good oil, it’s a really good fat. Yes, it is when it’s not cooked but as soon as you cook it at a high temperature, that molecular form changes and it turns into something that we call a trans-fat which is inflammatory for the body. Olive oil when it’s not cooked is excellent for you.
When it comes to cooking with fats, it’s really best to use fats that are solid at room temperature to cook with. Like coconut oil, butter, lard, goose fat, duck fat; all of these fats are excellent to cook with and just leave olive oil for dressings and dripping on things instead.
Darren: That’s interesting because when you use the terms there–lard, butter–history states that we should just stay away from these things. They’re terrible; they’re bad, but that’s not the case, is it?
Naomi: It’s absolutely not the case. No. Good fats are good for you. The body needs fats. We’re just feeding it with the wrong sorts of fats. Every single cell membrane within the body is made of fats but if that’s containing unhealthy fats, what happens is when that cell gets triggered, it releases inflammatory particles. We’re getting a bit detailed now but going back to fats in the gut, eating healthy fats are really important for your gut because they help to protect the gut lining. They build up that barrier that we talked about at the beginning; it’s stopping anything nasty entering the main circulation. Healthy fats are really important for a healthy gut and also really important for a healthy brain because about 60% of your brain is actually made of fat. You preferably want it to contain the fats that are going to be giving off anti-inflammatory molecules rather than fats giving off inflammatory molecules.
Darren: That makes sense. Like you said, we’ve gone slightly off on a tangent there and I could talk about this stuff for ages, but that’s really fascinating.
We talked about, in summary, if we ignore our gut and we ignore our diet, the kind of ramifications of that. They’re quite profound. Obviously, we talked a little bit about specific foods like fast food, takeaways, and how that can impact us and how they’re produced and what they’re cooked in. We talked obviously about fat. I’m sitting here today, I feel fine, but what action could I take today to improve my gut health? What are the, kind of, four or five things that you could maybe recommend that people do?
Naomi: Avoiding processed foods where possible.
Darren: When you say processed foods, do you mean stuff that is in a microwave packet that we stick in the microwave or do we mean food that’s just gone through a food processing plant, if you like?
Naomi: Basically, anything that’s made in a factory is processed. It’s difficult to get away from that completely, obviously, but if you can just buy real food. Buy your fresh vegetables, buy your fresh meat, fish, nuts and seeds, buy everything fresh and make things from scratch; that is the best way to go. Obviously, that’s not always possible. So yes, absolutely trying to avoid microwave meals. Even processed sandwiches, things like that you pick up in a garage, they’re not going to have any nutrients and much nutritious value to them.
Just trying to avoid those processed foods as much as possible. Not eating crisps, not having super noodles, microwave meals, pizzas, all of those sorts of things and just trying to eat real food as much as possible. Food that looks like food, I would just increase that if you can. Reducing sugar in your diet as much as possible as well. Obviously not having sugar in your tea and coffee, not having sugary snacks or going for more healthy snacks. There may be some fruit and some nuts like at the chocolate bar. Making simple switches like that. Then I would say definitely increasing the amount of fibre and vegetables you’re having. You could definitely kill two birds with one stone. Vegetables contain a lot of fibre, so just by increasing your vegetables, you’re increasing your nutrients and your fibre. And going for an array of different coloured vegetables.
Darren: Now, this is really cool what you said and I think it’s very, very easy to remember. We’ve spoken previously but you said to me about the rainbow and I think this is a really good way of making sure that you’ve got the right stuff on your plate.
Naomi: Yeah. We’ve all heard of the 5 A Day. Try and make the 5 A Day of different colours. If we’re looking at the rainbow, we’re thinking okay, let’s get some greens in there. We’ve got broccoli or spinach or kale. Let’s get some purples: blueberry, beetroot, red cabbage. Reds: tomatoes, peppers, etc. Oranges: you’ve got your squash, your carrots. Yellow: bananas, sweet corn.
It’s looking at all the different colours and the reason why that’s important is because for a healthy gut, we want to be feeding all the different types of healthy bacteria living in there. To feed all those different healthy types of bacteria, they all eat on different sorts of fibre. All of these different coloured fruits and vegetables contain different fruits and fibre. There’s lots and lots of different fibre out there and each colour contains a different sort. That’s why it’s important to have the different coloured fruits and vegetables. Then you’re further reproducing different healthy bacteria within the gut.
Darren: That’s a great way of kind of just very quickly and simply looking at your plate and thinking, “Am I eating the right stuff? Yeah, I’ve got the full colours of the rainbow on my plate, or I’ve got most of them.” Then you can be assured that what’s going on in your gut is maybe 80% okay. But it’s a very long way in making sure that you’re having a good balance.
Okay. We talked some simple things there about staying away from processed foods, being more aware of what you’re eating, where your food comes from, snacking. I think snacking is a big one and garages are the worst for this because they just have a massive array of sugar and chocolate and very rarely do you actually ever get anything in a garage that you can pick up that’s healthy. So maybe having something; I carry around with me like a little pot of almonds and seeds that I can just snack on. One other thing, Naomi, is what about water? Water in our diets and things like that. How does that impact the gut?
Naomi: It’s equally very important to take in enough water. If you’re not hydrated enough, then you can suffer with constipation. By constipation, that’s really just defined as not opening your bowels daily. If you’re not opening your bowels daily then you need to think about increasing your fibre intake and increasing your hydration. Again, with water, it’s important really as well not to have it around the meal time though. That’s simply because we don’t want to dilute stomach acid. Your stomach acid should be really acidic but if you’re having a drink of water before you eat or whilst you’re eating or just after, you’re going to be diluting that stomach acid and therefore, you’re not going to be able to digest your food as effectively and then you can end up with bloating and just not taking the right nutrients. So drinking enough but just be mindful of not having too much around mealtimes.
Darren: That’s very interesting. That’s something that I didn’t realize. I generally have a bottle of water with me when I eat so that’s something that I will change today. Before we wrap it up, because I’m just conscious of time, is there anything that I didn’t ask you, which you would feel I should have asked you and would benefit the listeners?
Naomi: I suppose we haven’t spoken about the gut bacteria, which is quite key to gut health. We’ve spoken about how to feed these gut bacteria through increasing the fibre through vegetables, but if you’ve been on a course of antibiotics in the last, say, three years at all, and also you just want to help promote a healthy bacteria colony within the gut, then I suggest incorporating more fermented foods and drinks into your diet.
Gut bacteria live in the large intestine and they are there to protect us, to support our immune system etc., and everything else that I’ve mentioned earlier. By eating or drinking fermented foods or drinks which contain these healthy bacteria, you can help to repopulate the gut back to good health. These would be things such as sauerkraut which is a fermented cabbage, kimchi, which is a fermented spicy cabbage and other vegetables, kombucha, which is a fizzy fermented tea and kefir, which is a fermented yogurt. There needs to be a dairy for your dairy option, depending on what you go for. Maybe have a look in the supermarket or in your local health shop for these different foods or drinks and just try them. Try eating, see how you feel with them. They don’t suit everybody, they have got quite an acquired taste, but give them a go and increase your fibre intake, and your gut will thank you for it.
Darren: Excellent. That’s fantastic, Naomi. Thank you very much for your time today. It’s been very interesting. I hope the listeners also found it very interesting. There is some very simple but effective advice that you’ve given that they can act upon today to balance or just generally help their overall health and their gut health. How can people connect with you, Naomi?
Naomi: If you want to visit my website, then I’m offering a free half-hour consultation. Just go to my website, it’s www.gutnutrition.co.uk. On the homepage there, just click on “free session,” and I will get in touch with you either via Skype or phone call for a 30-minute consultation.
Darren: That’s brilliant. I highly recommend any of the listeners listening, if they’ve got any queries about their gut health, to contact Naomi but please be mindful and respectful of her time and don’t waste her time. Any information that she gives you, I’m sure will help you.
I’m actually going to do a gut health test, which is taking stool samples and that’s going to go away to a lab. Then Naomi is going to analyse that and give me obviously some feedback and information on what’s going on in my gut. I’m going to ask Naomi to come back on another episode, so we can go through that report and just let you guys know what’s going on with my gut and what I need to do to improve it and then maybe you guys will feel compelled to do the same.
One other thing is, I would highly recommend that you check out Naomi @gutnutrition on Instagram. She put some fantastic posts up and infographics which are really short but full of information and very, very helpful. Thanks once again, Naomi for being on the show today. I highly appreciate it and look forward to speaking to you on another episode.
Naomi: Thanks Darren, it’s been great. Thank you for having me. Bye.
Darren: Thanks for listening to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please hit subscribe and I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes. All the links mentioned in the episode will be in the show notes and a full transcription is over at Fitterhealthierdad.com