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Toby Yo

Toby Yo, a personal trainer, entrepreneur, host of the Lifestyle Journey podcast and Australian biohacker, talks about how healthy dietary patterns have helped him not only improve digestion and gut health but also treat acne and relieve hay fever. He also shares multiple gut optimisation tips he learned along the way:

Good morning, my friends!

I've been meaning to record this podcast about gut health and digestion for such a long time. And I actually started two weeks ago. But then I came across too dry and it didn't capture the information that I really wanted to. So I put it off, and I procrastinated. But I woke up today and the first thing I'm doing is recording this podcast.

I want to make this as informational as possible, and very, very easy to understand. So I'm not going to use all the crazy terms, and all these long words. I'm going to put it as easy as possible so anyone can understand this.

The importance of gut health

I believe that gut health is one of the pillars to good health. And I'm pretty sure it was Hippocrates who said:

 “All disease begins in the gut”
- Hippocrates

And that's kind of true.

Think about this way: we have billions, probably trillions of bacteria living inside the gut and our digestive system and feeding off the food that we put into ourselves. It's a whole ecosystem. Probably a mini Planet Earth down there. And, of course, the good guys can sometimes be winning, sometimes the bad guys can be winning, it depends on which ones we' are feeding.

Sometimes there's a black swan event that wipes out a lot of the microflora a mycobiome. Something like a tsunami hit or an earthquake, and it takes them time to then rebuild and repopulate. So we have got to be really be taking care of them. They produce a lot of things and send messages to our brain. You may have read about the gut-brain highway? They're responsible for serotonin production and a lot of dopamine. They produce hormones for us too.

There's this fine balance going on inside our bodies. We don't really notice it, because a lot of the time we feel pretty good. We're in equilibrium, until something hits. Typical events are chronic stress and antibiotics. It's a build up. You can continue living, but eventually, because of the diet we live on, the lifestyles we live, a certain imbalance will happen. And then once it tips too far to one side, you've lost too many enzymes, too many probiotics and there's not enough acid in the stomach being produced to properly process meals and eliminate harmful elements. The scale is going to be tipped, and you're going to be out of balance, out of whack, and your body's not going to be working properly.

Gut bacteria main functions

Main functions of bacteria in the gut.
Image source: Brigitta Brinkman

I want to talk about the best ways to keep your digestive health in a good rhythm and just manage that balance within yourself, so you can be absorbing the nutrients you need from your food, you could be feeling good, filling your muscles with protein, actually being able to break down the protein, and build muscles or whatever your goals are. 

If your body is functioning great, you're going to be able to achieve your goals, you will generally be happier and more motivated in life because your hormones are being produced correctly. You’ll be able to sleep well at night. So if we can get this pillar right, gut health, then it sets us up to achieve more things, conquer the day, conquer our missions, whatever we want to do in life. It basically makes us able to function at a higher level as a human being and achieve our destiny.

Read more: Could Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Start in the Gut?

Foods to improve gut health

Let's start by talking about the foods that we put into ourselves. Unfortunately, today, in this day and age, a lot of foods are really heavily processed, there are a lot of packaged foods, and plastic wrappers on the shelves. 

Try, if you can, to cut out most of that from your diet. If you have to have it every now and then, it’s fine, it is not going to do anything. But try to cut out having to have highly processed foods in your diet with artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and colouring.

Because when we eat that, it's not natural for ourselves.


Our bodies are designed to process whole foods - whatever is going on trees, plants, animals (if you believe in that) - but it's not designed to process all these chemicals. 


When we eat things like, let's say, sucralose, which is an artificial sweetener, it tricks our body and it brings it out of whack, it destroys the good guys within ourselves. So be careful eating those kinds of foods, anything that's packaged, processed and been through too much treatment. It's not natural anymore.

We want to keep our diet as natural as possible, eating whole foods, plants, fruits, vegetables, ethical animals. I know there's probably some vegans listening, but the majority of people in this world will eat an omnivorous diet. If you are to eat animals, try to eat organic, grass-fed, wild caught, things that have been fed, right. 

You may have heard the saying: 

“You are what you eat”. 

Let's say you're eating a cow, beef. And the cow is being fed soybeans, pellets and antibiotics. Then it’s going to pass it on to you. And that is going to be wiping out your bacteria because of antibiotics. Soy is going to mess up your hormones, make your estrogen levels super high, lower testosterone, and all those unwanted effects. So make sure that you know where your meat is coming from, if you can afford it. 

Obviously, just do the best you can in your situation, but try to be really conscious of what you're feeding your body. At the end of the day, I'm a really, really big believer that if we are treating our bodies right, and we're only putting in the very best into ourselves, then we're going to be getting out so much more as well.

For every $1 you invest into your health, you're going to get $100 back.

It will pay dividends in the future, whether you don't have to pay for medical bills, whether you have more energy, so you need to sleep less so you can do more work, or you just feel overall better.

This is the key, taking care of your body, building your vitality and energy vibrating high so you can feel good and fully participate in this existence in this world and take control of your life.

Everything starts in a gut

Let's also talk about feeding the good guys what they need. 

A lot of the bacteria need to have high amounts of fibre, a good mix of foods to be getting the right nutrients to thrive. So everything just goes back to eating that balanced diet. Being careful what you put into your body. 

I remember when I was younger, I used to think I could eat whatever I wanted and stay healthy, stay in shape, have a six pack all that stuff. I used to eat fried foods, hot chips, chocolates, deep fried chicken, desserts and all this sugary stuff non stop. And then I was wondering why I was having chronic hay fever. Literally every day I'd take pills, so I wouldn't be sneezing. That chronic hay fever burnished my entire life until I started living the lifestyle and getting healthy. 

And I'll tell you why.


If I let myself slip for even three or four days with my lifestyle on the diet, the hay fever comes back because it begins in the gut (histamine levels).


I'm already predisposed to having hay fever, because it runs in my family and genetics. But it doesn't mean that I'm doomed to live a life of misery because of sneezing, hay fever, itchy eyes and feeling foggy.

If you have hay fever, you can relate. You know how terrible it feels. Taking those pills everyday can mask the symptoms, but underlying you still have that imbalance. With hay fever, your body is producing an allergic reaction to the environment, such as dust, pollen, etc. and it’s actually a sign. You don’t have to live with this, it’s a sign that something is out of balance within your body. That's why you're having this reaction.

While you can for a while, you can’t just take pills to fix everything, because you are not treating the underlying cause, the root problem. Your body is not going to like it, because if you keep taking pills to fix this, something else will have to give. Something always has to give, until you go down right to the cause and fix it from the inside out, which is fixing what you put in your body, how you’re treating your body. 

So I had hay fever when I was a kid, but I also had chronic acne. Pimples everywhere: my face, my back, chest. It was the worst. There were days in my life when I actually wanted to die because of this. You can’t look at yourself, you have no confidence, you don’t want to talk to anyone. You look in the mirror and you think you’re ugly. And no matter what creams, no matter what things you bought in the shop to put on your skin, nothing works. It’s like a bandaid, as I was saying before. But in fact, they don’t even work.

I went to doctors, dermatologists and they put me on all these kinds of medications. I was on antibiotics for many cycles. And back then I was a kid, so I did not know. I would get anything, I would do anything to fix it. 


No one told me that it was diet related, no one told me that it was lifestyle related.


They said: “It's your hormones”. And as I said before, hormones are produced in the gut. It’s not your hormones! So here are the antibiotics. I don’t know what that would do, but I took them. It probably wiped up some of my good bacteria, as well as my gut. 

Then they put me on Roaccutane* and I took that for a little bit. But then it made me so sad and it messed up my internal chemistry. It caused me to have lots of nosebleeds, really dry eyes, very dry lips, depression, for sure. It made me extremely randomly emotional. All of a sudden, sometimes I would just feel really down and want to cry. Other times I would feel very angry. So it was messing my body and I stopped that.

*Adverse events from isotretinoin causing participant withdrawal from trials (12 patients) included Stevens-Johnson syndrome, cheilitis, xerosis, acne flare, photophobia, elevated liver enzymes, decreased appetite, headaches and depressed mood. This review suggests that isotretinoin is effective in reducing acne lesion counts, but adverse events are common. (Source). 

And that is when I started the healthy lifestyle. I didn't know much because I didn't have people to speak to me about this when I was a kid. I wish that when I was 16 or 14, I had someone to tell me to take care of my body, try to live a more natural lifestyle. If I had like a mentor who could do that for me it would have saved me a lot of suffering and pain. But it's okay. That's my story.

I'm here now, because of what happened. If I didn't have hay fever, acne and all these health problems and asthma when I was a kid, hindering me from living life, I wouldn't have embarked on this healthy lifestyle. I wouldn’t have been where I am today: learning everyday about health, trying to upgrade everything, taking the body seriously and having the passion to help people get out of holes.

If you're like me, when I was younger, I want to help you. Anyone who wants to listen, I want to help you. Because I've been there in the trenches, suffering from many illnesses and things  without even knowing. 

And all it took was just changing a few things in life.I didn't do anything crazy back then: I just cut out dairy, cut out lots of sugars and processed foods. And boom! A lot of hay fever went away and pimples healed very, very quickly.


Since then I was thinking: “Wow, these results come fast!”.


It was a more of an intuitive move for me back then, because I didn’t want to take those drugs anymore. I wanted to do it naturally, so I did a couple Google searches. Cutting out dairy was one the big things for me back then. 

I’m in peak health at the moment. I wake up, I feel amazing. I also feel like I look pretty good at the moment as well, compared to what I used to look like. I wish I had photos but I don’t because back then I didn't want to be in any photos. I deleted them all. 

I would hide from the camera, because when you look that bad and you have no self confidence, you don't want to be a part of anything. I’ve held myself in my room for years. I would go to school, play my sports, come back and then just hide in my room watching movies.

I had no social life. It was the dark time in life. And I was just wishing to get out of it. And when I did it was a blessing.

Also, stay away from all those artificial products that are sold on the market. These are just a bandaid. This is advice that I would have given myself back then. That would have saved me a lot of pain.

How to improve digestion and gut health naturally

That was just a bit of a bit off topic. But no, actually wasn't off topic because what we're talking about is what we put into our bodies and the way we treat ourselves, our digestion and our health. 


What we eat affects our gut health.


This has internal effects on our overall health and it’s going to come up with different symptoms for different people. For me, it was acne, hay fever, asthma, and I was always very congested, having my nose blocked a lot when I was a kid. It's gonna show up differently to everyone.

If you have any recurring symptoms, an illness, maybe think about what could be the cause of it. Do a little bit of research or even flick me a message and I can see if I can help you out with your lifestyle.

But don’t be like “Hey, I have hay fever, but I’m going to take Claritin every single day for the rest of my life”. Because our bodies are so powerful and so strong that we can naturally adapt to anything, we can actually heal ourselves. So you shouldn’t need to rely on taking things every single day to fix it.

If it’s unbearable symptoms, yes, take Claritin or do a nasal spray and fix it for the time being. But that's just to buy you more time until you can get down to the root problem and fix that. And I believe a lot of the time the root problem for almost all illnesses begins in the gut, that imbalance, your digestive health.

Healthy morning habits

Now I want to give you some tips. I've already given you a few tips, but want to give you as much as I can right now of what I personally do to try to keep my digestion good. 

So in the mornings, I wake up and I have warm water straightaway. And this is just a really nice way to gently wake up your digestive system, as opposed to cold water. 

Then I would stand in the sun. Sun is really good, as it regulates yourself. Getting that morning sun on your chest and your belly, in your face, eyes - it’s great for you.

Then I will have warm lemon water, sometimes with a little bit of raw honey. That has some good enzymes for you.

lemon water digestion

Lemon water can help ensure your digestive system runs smoothly.

I used to do fasting but at the moment I haven't been doing as much fasting. What I do is when I have my first meal of the day, it is usually something very gentle and nice. Recently I’ve been loving acai smoothie bowls with activated nuts and activated granola. I actually started bulk buying this stuff because I love nuts and granola. 

Make sure your nuts are activated if you eat a lot of nuts. If you are eating large quantities of it like I do, eating it not activated can cause problems, as it irritates the gut lining because of the phytonutrients and the defensive mechanism. 

Activating basically means that it's been soaked for 24 hours in kombucha or spring water, and then dehydrated. This process also makes nuts very, very crispy and nice. And it’s healthy too. So it’s always great when you know that whatever you put in your body is healthy.

Digestive enzymes and probiotics

Even though fruits have a lot of enzymes, they don't have as much as they used to because a lot of things aren't organically grown. And sometimes I can't get organic, because it's expensive. So usually with my first meal, I take these pills that I got from OptimOZ called MassZymes. This is a really, really powerful enzyme formula.

Bioptimizers MassZymes

By taking enzymes with your meal, it gives your body the adequate amount of enzymes to be able to break down the food, get the nutrients and actually be able to absorb the nutrients. When we’re eating food, our body doesn't have the amount of enzymes to break it down, because, unfortunately, a lot of our enzyme stores in our gut have been depleted from the processed food, or the lifestyle we live, or antibiotics.

So I've been experimenting with this supplement for the last month or so. And I can only say it's good. I used to have a bit of trouble with digestion, because I like to eat big, big meals. Overeating is probably not the best thing, but if there is something I really enjoy, the food is good, I’m going to eat lots. So I take three capsules of these enzymes with my meals and help break down the food.

Something else I've been incorporating is a probiotic with my meals as well. That seems to be something really good because it helps restore the balance within your gut. 

Read more: How Probiotics Benefit Human Health

I've experimented with a lot of other products. And to be honest, a lot of them don’t work.

For example, I was taking this thing called GutRight by ATP Science. I did the whole thing and it did not taste good. Maybe it was working for a bit as a placebo, but I didn’t really feel like it did anything. And it was quite expensive. 

So I prefer just to take things that I actually know that are working for myself. But you’ll have to experiment with that. 

Simple steps to keep your gut healthy and happy

After I eat a meal, I'll try to go for a walk. Just 10 to 15 minutes, stroll around the block or go for a little hike. It helps your body to digest. As opposed to eating a big meal and then lying flat on your back or sitting down, it’s nice to walk, get that blood flowing. This is especially helpful after big meals like lunch or dinner. Breakfast doesn't really matter so much because I usually just eat fruits and something small, but it's a good habit to get into. I especially like the sunset walk after dinner.

Something else that I really like is to have a bit of digestive tea at nighttime. So having some peppermint tea, liquorice, if you like, or liquorice with ginger - all of this calms down your gut and it feels good.

You know that feeling when, let’s say, you’ve eaten something that shouldn’t have, like ice cream, and you are feeling bloated? It is very uncomfortable. I used to get that feeling a lot because I was living a destructive lifestyle and I thought it was normal. I thought that after a big meal this is how I’m going to be feeling for the next few hours. 

But since I’ve started implementing more of a healthy lifestyle and actually following what I preach, for the last few months my digestion has been spot on. 

I’ve been regular in the toilet as well, and that is something that you should be. If you are having lots of fibre, eating the right foods and moving enough, you'll be able to be doing really good poos, which is really good for you. It is healthy because it's the body's way of clearing waste, keeping your body clean and running smoothly. 

What I also like to do is not having any water or drinks while I’m eating my meals. This is ayurvedic medicine. If you're having water when you're eating a big meal, it dilutes your digestive juices. The acid in your stomach is good. If you are diluting it, your body can't actually break down the food when it needs to. So I try to avoid having water and liquids 30 minutes before I eat (sip or two is ok) and half an hour after. That has helped me a lot. 

I really want to help people, because all of these things are so simple. Just invest a little bit extra into your health, whether it's trying to buy organic foods or wild caught meat. Or you can even get a microbiome test. I haven't done that yet. But I do plan to do one sometime, once a little bit more money comes in.

If you can afford it, I recommend trying out the MassZymes and maybe a good quality probiotic too, because it can only help. If you can’t afford it, just stick to having whole foods and eating consciously.

Here’s another odd thing: I used to eat in front of a TV all the time or eat on the run. But I realised that I’m depriving myself from enjoying my food. My body isn’t focusing on food and being able to chew, taste and digest. I was rushing the whole process of eating, I was multitasking. 

So just sit down by yourself or with other people and enjoy the meal, be present. Have your phone switched off or the TV switched off, eat outside in the sun, it’s even better. This is an awesome tip as well.

Love you lots, guys. I wish you all a great week ahead. Peace and Love. 

Listen to The Lifestyle Journey Podcast by Toby Yo on Spotify

Guest Author
Guest Author

This article was contributed by a guest author with expert knowledge in their field.

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