The 5 P’s of Gut Health
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The 5 P’s of Gut Health

When it comes to both long-term health span and a healthy immune response to the world around us, the healthier you are at a metabolic level, the more likely you are to minimize the impact and damage from everything from aging to ever-changing airborne viruses. Your gut is estimated to contain as much as 80% of your immune function and we’re finding that the state of bacteria of your microbiome can impact everything from memory and insulin resistance to mood and energy. 
There is no silver bullet when it comes to diet and in trying to manage and heal from the damage done by my Crohn’s Disease, I’ve tried every acronym—FODMAP, SCD, AIP, GAPS, LCHF—and a host of other approaches. Followed consistently, each of these diets can have powerful healing effects (and be necessary at times), but miss the wide-spectrum of foods that make our body robust and resilient. I’ve written a book on the Autoimmune Protocol Diet and owe much of my current health and remission to a ketogenic approach, but I also directly correlate my metabolic flexibility and health to being able to eat a wide spectrum of healthy foods. No matter the health state, I find optimizing for these 5 P’s goes a long way to covering all of the bases for a healthy gut, a clear mind, and the resiliency needed to navigate the stress of modern life and managing an auto-immune disease. The 5 P’s are: 
  • Protein 
  • Prebiotic Fiber 
  • Polyphenols 
  • Polysaccharides 
  • Practice


Everything starts with protein. Our bodies are amino acid factories, using them to build everything your body requires from brain cells to muscles and gut lining. There are hundreds of known amino acid recipes the body uses and the building blocks for these come from the proteins we eat. For example, L-Glutamine has been shown to help regulate the tight junctions in the intestinal wall, decreasing the amount of contaminants that pass through (leaky gut) and improving immune system response. If your body isn't getting enough food sources high in glutamic acid (chicken, turkey, beef, garbanzo beans, walnuts), or lack the ability to process the precursor into glutamine, it doesn't really matter what diet you're on.
In fact, your metabolic (cellular) health can be boiled down to, “how well can your cells synthesize protein?” You can find an opinion to support any position you have about protein consumption in our diet—too much, too little, bad sources, plant-based—but in the end it is likely that without testing, you really don't know how well your body is able to transform the protein you are eating into the building blocks of your entire body. An amino acids test, like those included in an organic acids test (urine based) can shed some light on your particuluar needs and deficiencies, but at a high level, you can count on the following,
1. Experts estimate that the RDA of .8g per kg (0.028 oz) of body weight, about 60g for the average male and 50g for women, is baseline before any activity is added. Active individuals (hint: we should all be active) could need as much as twice that amount daily, or 1.6g per kg or 0.7 grams per pound.
2. When in a state of healing, after injury, or pregnancy your body requires more protein, from 1.5 to 2g/kg. The inflammation response to injuries or surgeries starts utilizing protein at a rate up to double from your base requirement!
3. Most protein sources give you about 7g per ounce, so you can just divide your rough needs by 7 to figure out how many ounces of high quality protein you need and it may be advantageous to get it across a few meals rather than giant portions.
4. You may not be processing the protein you eat as efficiently as possible, and would likely benefit from taking an amino acid supplement. I use BodyHealth Perfect Aminos (the link offers a 20% discount) as they are a bit more affordable than other brands that I have used (MAP aminos, Kion Aminos) and are vegan. I also take collagen peptides and prefer a multi-collagen approach like Whole-body Collagen from Designs for Health. Quality is everything with protein. Don't buy cheap protein, whether in supplement or food. Bad protein may have glyphosate exposure in the feed they are finished on and have been exposed to antibiotics that can actually contribute to serious health challenges (like Crohn’s Disease).
Takeaways: You likely need more protein than you’re getting to generate all of the cells and tissues your body needs to be healthy. Most people aren't processing at optimal levels for a variety of reasons, and while testing can be beneficial, getting high-quality protein and supplements are key.

Prebiotic Fiber

While probiotics get all of the attention with yogurt, fermented foods and supplements, they are only as effective as your body's ability to grow and reproduce the bacteria in your gut. That ability comes from the prebiotic (soluble) fibers from the foods that you eat. After a long time of fat adapting, and five years of a ketogenic diet, I have a more nuanced view of eliminating carbs completely from my diet and look at my own eating these days as what I call "Slow Carb", with a focus on sources that are high in prebiotic fiber and polysaccharides which are a bit further down. I am in ketosis (measured as having ketones present in my blood above .5mmol) nearly every day, but I regularly consume rice that has been cooked with a bit of coconut oil or butter, and cooled overnight, cooked and cooled potatoes, cassava, plantains (and unripe green fruits like mango and papaya), avocado, artichokes, Brussels, asparagus, jicama, seaweed, and sweet potatoes. Many legumes are also a great source, like black beans, lentils, and garbanzo. Everyone's tolerances for these individual foods is different, but the short of it is you need prebiotic fiber in your diet to have a healthy gut lining and for growing and retaining a healthy microbiome. Even the Keto community is coming around to this as evidenced by the fact that nearly every product on the market these days includes prebiotic fiber, usually acacia or chicory. 
My #1 food hack for inflammation is to make applesauce from organic apples with the skin on, cooked down with a bit of Ceylon cinnamon for thirty minutes or more. The pectin (a complex polysaccharide and prebiotic fiber) is a powerful protectant for the health of your gut lining and a study showed that eating a 1/2 cup of applesauce with peels daily has been shown to have a similar anti-inflammatory effect as some steroid treatments.


Polyphenols are naturally-occurring compounds found in deeply colored plants, including fruits and berries, vegetables, coffee, tea, and cocoa. As much as 90% of the polyphenols we get from food are broken down by our gut bacteria in the colon, activating their powerful components. Recent research has shown polyphenols having a profound effect on large bowel inflammation and gut microbiota, not unlike prebiotic fiber. It is believed that the immunomodulatory properties of polyphenols modulate cytokine production and the activation of immune cells for a healthy response. The "cytokine storm" that is observed with people who are sick with COVID-19, is similar to the storm that people with autoimmune diseases are dealing with every day and healthy modulation of these signaling molecules is vital.
Polyphenols increase the amount beneficial bacteria strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria and many contain flavonoids that inhibit the growth of potentially pathogenic bacteria. For maximum polyphenols, think dark berries (blue and black), olives, pomegranates, teas (like green, oolong, and pu erh), 80% or higher dark chocolate, apples (an apple a day is making more sense, right?). Another good source for a high-polyphenol boost is fresh, locally produced cold-pressed juice. The potency of fresh juice drops dramatically each day after it is produced, but if you have a shop near you using organic ingredients like greens, ginger, turmeric, and apples go in for a regular boost! 
Red wine is often touted for the benefits of polyphenols, but newer research shows that the downsides of the amounts you have to drink likely outweighs the benefits. Resveratrol, a powerful supplement often derived from the skin of grapes, offers benefits without the drawbacks including the potential to lower blood pressure, normalize blood sugar levels, ease joint pain and more!


Less talked about than polyphenols, upping your polysaccharide game can not only ensure that you have a healthy immune system and a healthy gut, but also a clearer head and better sleep. Polysaccharides are complex molecules and if you are adding prebiotic foods from the first “P”, you are also increasing your polysaccharide count. But not all prebiotic fibers are polysaccharides and these special molecules are metabolized by microbes which generate short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), like butyrate, that protect the gut, modulate immune response, and can keep our minds sharp and our sleep restorative. To add some polysaccharides beyond the prebiotic foods from above, consider adding seaweed, mushrooms, aloe, or marine algae to your list of foods or supplements. I often add a mushroom blend to my coffee mix (I like the Stamets 7 or Laird’s blend) and have long been taking Aquamin powder (the star of my Miraculous Healing Mode), which is derived from algae and is high in calcium, copper and lots of trace minerals.
My favorite condiment right now is a portobello mushroom pâté that is portobellos cooked down in olive oil with herbs and shallots and then blended with soaked walnuts. I spread it on bread, add it to soup or anything that needs an umami boost!


Your daily practices (and habits) can go a long way to shaping how well your body processes nutrients, creates resiliency and modulates your mental and emotional well being. Subconscious habits cultivated throughout a lifetime are driving much of our daily lives, but practices are habits you intentionally nurture. Morning practices such as journaling, meditation, and movement are all great examples. There are three factors that I contribute to putting my Crohn's in remission: a ketogenic diet, meditation, and physical training. We talked about the first already. I wrote about the meditating for a year straight (here) and continued that daily practice for 5 years before I missed a day. I still try to meditate daily as I have found it to be the most instructive and impactful technology to directly impact every day and how I meet any situation. I use the Insight Timer app, which has a ton of great free meditation content and the best timer out there and there are an endless number of books and resources you can look into. I wrote about some on Medium(membership required).
I don’t think anyone would dispute that the number one thing you could do for your health right now is physical activity. At a minimum having about 30 minutes per day of activity from walking to cycling or working out seems like the baseline (like our RDA for protein), but I think there is strong evidence that strength exercises (even with just bodyweight or bands) can protect everything from our bones to our brains from decline. Here are a couple of books that are great starting points with different approaches, 
Built to Move: The Ten Essential Habits to Help You Move Freely and Live Fully - This is one of my favorite books to use as a guidepost to just daily movement and mobility so we can do everything we want to do. Super practical and descriptive.
The Joy of Movement: How exercise helps us find happiness, hope, connection, and courage - Probably the best book on why moving is so good for us.
Incorporating the 5 P's Of Gut Health into your daily life can have a profound impact on your overall well-being. By prioritizing protein, prebiotic fiber, polyphenols, polysaccharides, and practicing healthy habits, you can support your body's immune system, improve gut function, and enhance your mental and physical resilience. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to health, but by focusing these key areas, there is no upper limit to the benefits of a healthy gut, including a clear mind and a thriving life.