Learning about my Second Brain, the Gut, with Zoe


I’m going through a phase of total focus on the gut.  Part of that learning process has me participating in a study through Zoe.  Backed by top scientists in the UK and USA, Zoe is working to advance our understanding of how the health of our gut affects our health and our lives.  The part of the study I am most interested in is my body’s response to the things I eat and drink.

The study involves an unprecedented level of tracking and monitoring.  It started with a blue-dye laced muffin, which I timed on its passage through my digestive system.  A joy which I was able to share with my whole family!  Perhaps unsurprisingly, for someone as focussed on health and exercise as I am, and who eats daily quantities of hot pepper, my gut transit time is on the faster side, just overnight.  The normal range, however, can be same day to several days, and knowing how long it is can give you insights into nutrient absorption, digestive health, and so on.

The study kicks in in earnest with blood tests, sending poop samples off to their lab, an inserted glucose monitor, controlled experiments on a range of meals, exercises, drinks, etc, and requires obsessive calorie counting, food weight counting and so on.  The calorie and recipe counting is a pain, and thankfully only lasts for 14 days as part of the experiment, so it is manageable.

I love it, though, and to learn from it.  Already from my main fitness app, I use the myfitnesspal app, I get tons of meal and exercise suggestions.  Since I don’t like the somewhat weird things they propose to eat—meals that seem put together just to get me to eat some faddish health food like quinoa or sweet potato, I much prefer to come at it from a gourmet angle and create first for flavour, texture, colour and then understand the health.  And this is one of the empowering things of Zoe.  

The Zoe philosophy is not about faddish diets, but about helping you to discover how your body actually responds to certain foods.  Since identical twins will respond differently to an identical meal, getting to know your body means you cannot follow a cookie-cutter diet approach.  You need to know your own system.

My S.O. teases me mercilessly about how in touch I am with my body and how I feel in my guts about the world around me, how I feel on eating certain foods, or when I feel bloated or lethargic, or anything.  But I am, and I can feel myself responding to whatever I put in me.  The irony is that she was the one who introduced me to Zoe in the first place.

We call brain science this vast and unknown landscape.  We have recently added the limbic system, our hormones, to that world of mystery.  DNA has been the focus of the last two decades and we have not even begun to scratch the surface.  The gut has now just entered the ring.  For a biologist, we are entering a golden age.  For a lover of wellness, mindfulness, centredness, and spirituality, we are finally getting to a point where Eastern spirituality and Western science can converse.

I look forward to getting to know my gut and how my mind and body are influenced by what is going on in there.

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