Visiting Thailand for the first time was an incredible journey, but one wrought with health-related minefields.
Within 48 hours of arriving, my girlfriend was unable to leave the bed (except to go to the bathroom). By the end of the trip, I was fasting or eating food I brought with me to avoid digestive issues.
But the most surprising noticeable difference wasn’t my gastrointestinal distress… it was my terrible mental performance. My brain was a wreck.
After returning home I went through a protocol to fix my gut (more on how to do that later), but first I dove head-first into the research.
There are few things worse for your brain, mental energy, and focus than a digestive tract with harmful bacteria or parasites. If you’re not careful, this will (literally) kill you.
- A longevity study published in Scientific Reports found that healthy guts (in fruit flies) extended lifespan by 60% (reference).
- Another study emphasized that changes in the microbiome was associated with neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease) (ref).
Lifespan and neurodegenerative diseases may not seem all that problematic. After all, for healthy adults, it is rare to worry about yourself 20 – 40 years from now…
But there are major problems with focus, concentration, and learning NOW as well.
One Nature Neuroscience study found that poor gut health created a cascade of chemical signals that reduced blood flow to the cortex and hippocampus, which are both crucial for memory formation and learning (ref).
Dr. Rhonda Patrick (a well-known physical and mental health expert) was part of a study showing that vitamin D gets converted into serotonin in a healthy gut, which can reduce anxiety and rates of depression (ref).
That’s a lot of science… but I hope you now recognize how valuable it is to ensure adequate gut health (and the consequences when you don’t).
One of the first things I did upon returning from Thailand was to find a stool test to provide a snapshot of my digestive tract.
Unfortunately, the cheap Viome or uBiome tests are NOT very good, accurate, or descriptive. You will have to pay a bit more for a comprehensive test, but use this:
GI Effects Comprehensive Profile – Stool (Three Day Collection) Genova Kit (link here).
It costs $549, but the data is far more robust (if this is too expensive, keep reading as I have some suggestions).
Once I had the data from the test, the next step was to actually fix my gut. I spoke with “Fix Your Gut” author, John Brisson and he helped me realize a huge misconception…
(Here is a picture of a portion of my digestive test)
The biggest misconception is that probiotics will solve gut problems.
It would be awesome if probiotics fixed the gut (you could skip the $550 gut test!), but this isn’t the case. Probiotic supplements often simply feed BAD bacteria in the gut so they grow stronger…
According to expert John Brisson, the value typically comes from PRE-biotics rather than PRO-biotics.
Prebiotics are non-digestible starchy plant fibers that healthy gut bacteria feed on to produce a healthy digestive system.
Some research shows prebiotics are successful in improving markers of cognitive performance. One study found prebiotic supplementation could support increased levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), an important molecule for learning ability.
The problem is that most prebiotics taste horrid and the supplements aren’t that great either (due to dosages).
After all the problems I had in Thailand and the challenges finding a good tasting supplement, I decided to create something for myself (and you all).
It took many iterations, tweaks, and changes from my friend Tim, but digestive health is a major focus of the coconut matcha latte nootropic called NECTAR. Each serving has 12 grams of prebiotic fiber and I consume this about 2-3 times per week. Besides the nootropic and cognitive enhancing effect, the prebiotic fiber keeps my gut more healthy than it has ever been.
One great hack I use is to add grass-fed butter to the latte to add some butyrate (a helpful molecule for gut health). This usually means I need 2 scoops vs 3 scoops, which makes a single bag of NECTAR last longer.
I also take NECTAR 2 – 3 times per week maximum so even though it’s a 10 serving product, I usually make it last a month at least.
By sharing that you can use 2 scoops vs 3 and use it fewer times per week, that directly reduces the product’s revenue, but I hope you realize that my goal is to be as objective as possible and help you with your performance.
The nootropic effects, the gut health effects, and the delicious taste are all things I appreciate myself and want to share with you.