Beating the Dad bod takes intestinal fortitude

September 23, 2023

Can men get pregnant?

It started in Portugal in 2003 and I remember the humiliation as my wife pointed and giggled.. “Mark you’re pregnant?..hehehehe.” What was she on about? Men don’t get pregnant? As I gave a sideways glance to the hotel wardrobe mirror, I could see what she meant. There it was, this ridiculous swollen abdomen clinging tightly to my t-shirt. I was turning into my Dad, a man similarly afflicted with this unfortunate silhouette. Twenty years later and the battle against the belly rages, but each year I’m losing ground. Sometimes it lies dormant but other times it inflates like a raging hot-air balloon crushing my lungs from below.

I’ve coexisted complacently with the issue for 20 years and it is now time to get serious as part of my 6-month reboot. In my last post, I talked about this sense of a midlife crisis and posed the question, Is this it? Does it just get worse from here on in?

Inflationary decades

Clearly, something is up.. whether an intolerance, too much processed food, or maybe it is dehydration; I just can’t understand it. Each year I cut something else out of my diet. I have checked for sleep apnea and even eaten a Ketogenic diet for periods. The latter offering the most hope, but it is hard to live with and has other complications. Even as I write this tonight, I look like a ‘busted sofa’. I ate a healthy dinner of chicken, carrots and cous-cous, with no crap in the last 2 weeks but still I’m having a flare-ups. It is tiresome and uncomfortable.

Most of us look like 'Busted Sofas'

It isn’t reassuring, but I know that I’m not alone in this. I hear that the overwhelming percentage of people visiting a family physician’s surgery will raise gastro issues as a concern. In fact, if you go outside and look at the general shape of people in the street, it is impossible they won’t be suffering from dodgy guts. This is a one-way trajectory to more serious issues like bowel cancer and heaven knows what else. It is interests me that people are being diagnosed with this hideous disease at a younger age, as well as there being an exponential rise in Inflammatory bowel disease and Crohns. What is going on? I don’t know, but I have a hunch that it ties in with a chemically poisoned environment and an industry doing things to our food that it shouldn’t in the name of excessive profit. We then put this Frankenstein food inside us with barely a thought about its provenance or processing.

One of the few podcasts I still listen to from my ‘old life’ is the Delingpod by James Delingpole. James is a self-confessed hypochondriac and he has weekly guest interviews, many with an interest in food or nutrition. Even he as the host admits that the advice is contradictory or increasingly difficult to find a sure line to follow; Recently, however, he interviewed a lady who piqued my interest in fermented food called Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride. I’m wondering if this is a missing link for my issues. If it isn’t the complete answer, I think it may be part of the puzzle.

So over the next 6 months - I’m going to hit this area hard and see what happens and I’ll report back into the blog and maybe make a video about it. While the aesthetics of a bloated belly are none too pretty, there is a more serious reason for me getting on top of this. My father died at 57 with bowel cancer. It is in my genes, I suppose, but there must be things I can do. Time to get a grip.

So how am I going to take control?

Get fighting fit

I don’t need to say much about this topic. There are different ways to do it. I’m carrying a little more weight than I should, despite regular training my whole life. Let us see where we get to by next spring. I’m committing to at least 3 hours of gym time a week (weights, movement drills and aerobic) and staying more active during the day.


All this sitting by computers is killing us; as they say, “Sitting is the new smoking”. Yet, there we perch, hunched, rounded-shouldered with neck strained in rows like battery hens squinting at screens. The only way to repair the damage is through exercise: Pull-up bar dead hangs, thoracic stretches, weighted pulls and general postural mindfulness.

I’ve also noticed a further postural challenge with my pelvis being overly tilted backwards (anterior pelvic tilt). This emphasises the bloat and needs ironed out. Sorting out posture and standing tall brings many other benefits, not least increased testosterone. (so I’ve read) Jordan Peterson wrote an entire chapter on it. There is something to it.

Fermented food

This is the piece that I really want to talk about and I’m wondering if it might be a silver bullet, although it won’t be quick. This is how our ancestors ate before refrigeration and other modern technology changed our approach to eating. If you have been paying attention, you notice that talk of gut microbiome is widespread. Microbiome is the diverse community of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, living in the digestive tract which play a crucial role in digestion, immune system function, and overall health.

We must remember the body is a system. Nothing operates in isolation. When one function is out of kilter, it has impacts in other areas. In our modern way of thinking, we break everything down into its smallest component parts or categories. This is helpful for specialist knowledge, but often the consideration of the whole is lost. This is why I think functional medicine is an interesting approach, as it attempts to treat root causes rather than just treating symptoms. How many family physicians actually see their patients get healed? How many are just treating the next symptom caused by the last drug prescription?

So back to the theme of healthy microbiome. Studies show that gut health and mental health are linked, and a poor microbiome could lead to Alzheimer's disease. The research focuses on the area called the Gut / brain axis. This is new and interesting research - more here. While in the fullness of time it may be a dead end, it highlights that something important is going on in our bowels.

Could this be why we talk about a “gut feeling” or having “intestinal fortitude”? There is wisdom and courage in those entrails!

So fermented food, what can we do? Well, I’ve started my own mini Kefir production facility making about a pint a day (568ml). It can be shop bought, but why not do it yourself? There is little point in me discussing the making of it, as there are fantastic websites and YouTubes dedicated to only this. Here is a good one. Suffice to say, you need a large glass jar, a small sieve, some active kefir grains and good dose of fresh full fat milk (not UHT). You make it over 24 hours. It is easy to do but not an exact science. Kefir has the consistency of single cream and tastes like unsweetened yoghurt. It is positively brimming with dozens of strains of probiotics.

I’m told it will take a month or two to see improved gut health as the bowels are repopulated with beneficial microorganisms. So far, I have noticed nothing more than mild constipation. My sinus’s though, have sparked into life, working more consistently without the need for steroid spray.

Could this be why we talk about a “gut feeling” or having “intestinal fortitude”? There is wisdom and courage in those entrails!

Other Diet aspects

Fermented food alone is not going to fix my long standing issues. Diet will be an important cornerstone. So 3 weeks into my new regime and I’m glad to say that I have been strict and feeling better for it. It took 2 weeks for the energy levels to bounce back. I’m focused on a lower carbohydrate diet with no Ultra high processed foods (UHPFs), lots of fibrous veg, meat and eggs and the occasional bit of fish. I’m buying organic where I can. There has been virtually no weight loss after 3 weeks. I might need to adjust down my fat content but my belly circumference is getting tiny fractions smaller day by day.


I know this is a contested area, but I’m giving this a go for the next 6 months. I’m taking Tumeric, Omega-3 fish oil, D3+K2 and Rhodiola. Then in the evening before bed, taking ZMA to boost my sleep quality. The magnesium knocks me straight out. I expect with my training, some supplementation will be helpful. In addition, I’m eating 3 x Brazil nuts a day to boost that antioxidant selenium protection.

So what does it all mean

Some may know the motto of the British Army Physical Training Corps is “Mens sana in corpore sano” which translates as a healthy mind in a healthy body. This is taken from a line in the poet Juvenal’s Satire X it and it reminds us we need both physical and mental wellbeing as essential components for a full and balanced life.

Our body is not just a necessity to bring our mind to church (as the Calvinists believe) but is a gift and a vehicle to be used to take dominion over the earth as we extend Christ’s kingdom. The Bible teaches us in 1 Cor Ch 6 vs 19-20 that our bodies are the residence of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies belong to God and, as divine instruments, should be treated well and used accordingly. Let us take care to look after our bodies. As far as health allows, let us them move them, explore with them and feel the limits of our physical world through them all day long and all to the Glory of God.