Well, Week 1 of the Stop Leaky Gut Challenge is officially finished and we already have some pretty impressive changes going on. While some people waited for January 1st to begin their voyage to optimal gut health, I did release the information 2 weeks early so people could get acclimated to what they’d be doing. Some people took advantage and have been doing the challenge tasks since then, and who could blame them?
Many people in the challenge have the advantage of having gone through the Circadian Retraining Program modules over the last year or 2. The challenge actually just takes the factors from the Circadian Retraining Program that I believe most important for gut health and condenses them in to a checklist and performance measures. That’s why the challenge is strictly for members of that group.
It’simportant for me to point out that aside from avoiding foods they know cause them problems, I didn’t recommend any dietary restrictions. There is a module in the Circadian Retraining Program that covers nutrients people need to get in sufficient quantities in order to optimize circadian rhythms. Other than that, no specific diet recommendations are given other than to use heart rate variability as a guide to reintroducing problematic foods.
Improvements in autonomic nervous system function and weight loss
As I mentioned in the podcasts, one of the things I thought would change first is weight. That isn’t to say that I believe being overweight per se leads to poor gut health, it’s actually the behaviors that tend to come with it. Truth be told, as long as a person’s excess weight isn’t visceral, I don’t know that being overweight specifically is a problem. For most, it’s what people do to get there.
But typically coupled with increased weight is an imbalance in the function of the autonomic nervous system. The same autonomic nervous system that regulates digestion. When you begin correcting this imbalance, weight typically begins coming off and gut function improves. As one participant noted:
“My total score for last week: 205, my RHR(Resting Heart Rate) lowered 2 points and my HRV(Heart Rate Variability) is increasing, so the program is definitely working… I’m also down 4 lbs… in one week, which I did not expect, and I definitely needed to lose… very happy with first week’s results, especially since I feel I can do much better than this once I get my sleep dialed in and start weight training.”
-M.O., Female CRP member & challenge participant
In my opinion, this is quite indicative of what I’ve seen with most people. The body wants to function optimally, but it needs to be under the proper operating conditions to do so.
Better dreams and thermoregualtion
To me, one glaring indication of a problem for a lot of people is poor body temperature regulation. That’s not to say that each of us doesn’t have our own individual temperature sensitivity, we do. But you shouldn’t feel freezing wearing clothes in a room set to 70 degrees. Since body temperature is another one of those pesky factors regulated by the autonomic nervous system, it seems logical that circadian rhythms are important.
Another typical change seen by improving circadian rhythms is vivid or lucid dreaming. In my opinion, this is indicative of better REM sleep, which is something I recommend people measure. REM sleep is important for memory consolidation, mod regulation, and brain function. As a long term member of the Program and Stop Leaky Gut Challenge participant notes in 2 posts:
“One thing I didn’t expect from the CRP, I’m way more cold adapted this year. Thermostat set to 66 and I feel warm with just a long-sleeve shirt. Last year I was bundling up with super thick wool sweaters and sometimes even a coat in the house and I think I had it set to 69 lol”
“Anyone experiencing more vivid dreams? For a long time (a couple years?) I don’t really remember having many dreams at all. Lately I’ve been having really vivid dreams every single night. Not sure if it’s just Circadian stuff in general…”
-A.C, long-time IBS-D sufferer & CRP member
It’s important to point out, this has more to do with his continual efforts of working on circadian rhythms over the last couple of years and not just the past week in the challenge.
Improvements in digestion, mood, and food sensitivity
As anyone who has had a gut problem for any considerable amount of time knows, improvements take time. Most approaches can be helpful to some extent, but solid long term improvements are hard to come by. And even then, sometimes there’s a substantial relapse that leaves people stumped for a cause.
I absolutely wholeheartedly feel that addressing lifestyle is currently the best approach to addressing gut problems. That’s not to say that we’ll never see a solid pharmaceutical approach come down the pipeline, but in the next 10 years I think the odds of that happening are quite low. Too much of our digestion is dictated by our behavior, people just don’t realize it yet.
But when they do realize it, real progress can be made. Not only that, when you’re in the midst of a flare or knowingly entering a situation where you’ll eat stuff that will cause one, there are things you can do to minimize the damage. As one program participant notes after implementing the program 3 weeks ago:
“Digestion is slowly changing (I’m assuming for the better) baseline HRV isn’t as sporadic as it was, and my mood and motivation to get things done has been amplified a ton.
I’ve been having chronic “IBS-D” problems for about a year and a half, and I’ve been able to add in a ton more foods without making my problems any worse. Just by implementing everything in the circadian retraining program and the leaky gut challenge. My girlfriend and I even went out to eat for the first time in 9 months last night, also without making things worse.
I’m not anywhere close to being symptom free, but it’s liberating to know that I’m making real progress when diets, doctors, and supplements didn’t help.
There are a lot of reasons why I decided to start the Leaky Gut Challenge at the start of the year. I’ve seen the Circadian Program completely change people’s lives for the better, whether it be by losing weight, improving gut health and sleep, or helping to deal with stress. So helping people is definitely one of the main reasons.
But an even more important reason for why I wanted to roll this out is that I don’t believe people are aware that lifestyle outside of diet makes all that much of a difference for gut health. This often leads people down one of 2 unfortunate paths: restrictive dieting or a cabinet full of supplements.
Validating the lifestyle component of gut health and identifying the factors that regulate it are important to me as I’ve seen it make a huge difference in people’s lives. And in 11 more weeks I’ll have some data in quite a few people to back that claim up.