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Gut Feeling:  Why Your Intestinal Health Matters

By USA Hockey, 05/03/17, 6:00AM MDT

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Studies suggest changes to our microbiome can influence an array of health conditions

Your gut isn’t just your stomach and it isn't just another word use for "instinct." Your gut is also your digestive tract and a complex mix of organs, microbes, hormones, and enzymes. How this complex mix interacts dictates how well you will absorb the food you consume.  And what happens or doesn’t happen in your gut will impact your daily lifestyle.

Your digestive tract delivers all of the nutrients you eat to your body, and there are many steps you can take to make sure you’re reaping the full reward from the nutrients you consume in terms of absorption, especially if you’re prone to gas, bloating, acid reflux, constipation, or other distress after eating. 

For years the adage has been, “you are what you eat,” but science has now amended that narrative to “you are what you eat – and can absorb.” In recent years, there has been a focus on the trillions of microbes that make up our digestive tract – collectively known as the microbiome – and the impact they have on everything from your digestion to your immune system. Studies suggest that changes to our microbiome can influence an array of health conditions, both for good and for bad.

As we learn more about the role of the microbiome – the collection of bacteria living in the digestive tract – the more we understand the impact of our gut health on a multitude of systems in the body.

Gut flora consists of trillions of living microbes in your digestive system. Gut microbiome compositions will vary based on geographic origins, what a person eats, medications being taken, and numerous environmental factors. A healthy microbiome is important in keeping the lining of the intestines healthy, which in turn impacts our ability to digest and absorb food, as well as playing a large role in regulating our immune response.

How does your microbiome affect your daily life? Consider how a person gets “butterflies” in the stomach when they’re nervous. This is because the vagus nerve connects the brain to the stomach. Microbiome health plays a big role in regulating what messages the brain receives from the gut. This is known as the gut-brain axis and researchers are investigating its role in multiple health conditions.

The microbiome connection is also important when we consider stress. Stress has a negative impact on the microbiome. Although stress can be caused by environmental, social, and emotional factors, it also can be caused by heavy performance training. During strenuous training, the body shuttles blood from the gut to the muscles, leaving less blood flow to the digestive tract, which in turn raises core temperature. These are sources of stress to the gut and can lead to an inflammatory state. Repeated or sustained digestive inflammation can lead to what is known as a “leaky gut,” which can impact the ability to fully absorb the nutrients in food.

Adding fermented foods to your diet will improve gut health and immunity, and can help prevent and manage inflammation in the gut. Examples of fermented foods are sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, Greek and regular yogurt, kombucha, miso, soy sauce, and tempeh.

The use of a probiotic supplement can be an effective way to promote the growth of “friendly” microorganisms within the digestive tract.

To learn more about Thorne Nutritional products and our partnership please click here

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Mythbusters (Part 2)

By USA Hockey 03/20/2018, 5:00pm MDT

Breaking down 5 common officiating misconceptions

Let’s be honest: Officiating is far from easy. The fact that special skills (skating) are required to simply do our job, especially as the speed of hockey changes, it can make it downright hard.

 

Toss in the criticisms and “myths” that influence the world of hockey officiating and one can see how the environment can be difficult for the next wave of officials.

 

We tackled a few different officiating myths a few years back. In this second installment, we’ll take a look at some of the other more common misconceptions about officiating and the game.

 

Myth 1: “The best officials ‘manage’ the game and recognize some rules don’t need to be enforced.”

This is actually a repeat from the first edition, but it bears repeating. Considering an official’s primary role is to enforce the rules of the game to the best of their ability, this is one myth that becomes fairly easy to bust.

 

Nowhere in the rulebook, or any other education materials, does it suggest that a particular rule should not be enforced – ever. Yet, some officials feel it is their job to pick and choose what infractions they want to call or they simply ignore certain rules all together.

 

The problem is it’s impossible to pick and choose which rules to enforce on a consistent basis. Player safety is a MUST and is a critical part of the official’s job. Every official needs to set a tight standard as it relates to dangerous actions.  However, in some cases we have officials who do a good job enforcing dangerous fouls but are lax when it comes to other infractions where injury potential is not as great.

 

In addition, what these officials are missing is the missed hook, hold or interference may have an even greater impact on the outcome of the game, as it often involves a scoring opportunity.  After all, the object of the game is to score more goals then your opponent. The reality is an illegal act that takes away a scoring opportunity is no less important to the outcome of the game than an aggressive foul.

 

Myth 2: “Faceoffs don’t really matter as long as they are fair and even.”

Obviously, having a “fair” faceoff is important, and most people would agree that a faceoff is fair if both players cheating are even (i.e., as long as both forwards are encroaching the same distance, it is even and not a big deal, or both centers are turned slightly and don’t have their sticks in contact with the white portion of the faceoff spot – but they are even, so get the puck down).

 

However, the rules are there for a reason and, quite simply, are designed to improve the possibility that every faceoff is a fair faceoff.

 

Hockey takes a tremendous amount of skill, but there is one skill that every single player can do equally well and that is to stand behind a line; that is all that we are asking them to do during a faceoff. So why would we not expect them to do it for every single faceoff and instead settle for less? 

 

If you really want fair faceoffs, establish the expectation from the opening faceoff of every game. Clearly communicate expectations and then hold the players accountable for meeting them. It won’t take players long to adjust, and if you do this at the start of the season and stick with it, no bad habits are formed and after the first few games faceoffs are not a problem.

 

Myth 3: “As long as the faceoff is fair, the location does not matter.”

Sticking with the faceoff theme, establishing the proper faceoff location is important in every instance, especially now that USA Hockey has gone with the nine-spot faceoff locations. The territorial difference between an end-zone faceoff and a neutral-zone faceoff is significant and can result in an immediate scoring opportunity. The official’s job when play stops is to have an awareness of where play stopped and then understand the rules to determine the proper location. Getting it right does matter to the integrity of the game and the best officials take pride in this area and earn respect as a result.

 

Myth 4: “The use of electronic scoresheets means officials are not responsible for making sure they are accurate.”

More and more leagues and rinks are using electronic scoring instead of the old hard-copy four-part scoresheet. In addition, more and more instances are occurring where penalties (mainly those involving potential suspensions) are recorded improperly and it creates confusion as to what was actually assessed and what, if any, discipline is required. This creates considerably more work for volunteer team managers and affiliate disciplinary personnel who now have to track the correct information down. To make matters worse, in many cases, the officials are not entered into the electronic scoring either.

 

The fact is, the use of electronic scoring is still an official document, and the referee has an obligation to ensure its accuracy at the end of every game. Part of that responsibility is to make sure the officials’ names are entered properly. Sure, it may take an extra minute or two to check versus the old hard-copy, but laziness is not a valid excuse for not completing your work. 

 

Myth 5: “There is no avenue to hold officials accountable for misbehavior, so they are allowed to do anything they want.”

We all know that this is not true, but based on some of the stories submitted from the field, sometimes one has to wonder. There are situations where officials do act unprofessionally or inappropriately and there has to be accountability in those instances. Local officials groups or affiliates do have the authority and the responsibility to sanction officials who fall into these categories. We are not talking about missing a call or simply making a mistake. We are talking about situations where the integrity of the game is clearly compromised, such as the use of inappropriate language or using excessive force on a player. 

 

Officials have to be above reproach to effectively do their jobs, and when one fails in this area, action needs to be taken by the proper authority. Turning a blind eye and not addressing it only feeds the misconception and makes all of our jobs more difficult.

 

So, there you have it. The takeaways from this go-around are pretty clear.

  1. Enforce all of the rules of the game at all times with confidence and you will earn instant respect.
  2. Communicate established expectations and then hold players accountable and you will have fair faceoffs.
  3. Determining the proper faceoff location does matter.
  4. Electronic scoresheets do not absolve the officials from their responsibility to ensure accuracy.
  5. Officials who behave improperly must be held accountable for their actions by the proper authority for the betterment of the game.

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