Busy pilot Daniel came to Ixcela looking to clear his brain fog. He had recently become concerned that his mind wasn’t as sharp as it used to be, and he was determined to boost his mental clarity by improving his habits. He knew that the gut microbiome was important, and he wanted to learn more. He was excited to see what Ixcela would uncover.
Maintaining a balanced diet and a regular exercise schedule helped Daniel keep up his energy, but this was not always possible due to his demanding and ever-changing work schedule. Through the years, Daniel had learned a variety of techniques to help him cope with long flights and limited food options. He often packed protein-dense foods like protein bars, beef jerky, and various meats and cheeses so he didn’t have to resort to buying salty, crunchy, processed foods at the airport. Instead of forcing himself to eat a meal before a flight, he would only eat if he was hungry, even if it meant he would go more than ten hours without eating. When cooking at home or eating at restaurants, Daniel chose meals that included a large serving of lean protein with several colorful vegetables on the side. He also included nuts and seeds, an occasional serving of fruit, a piece of bread, and/or sweet potatoes daily. On days he was feeling tired or he needed to maintain his energy for a long flight, he enjoyed coffee in the morning and a caffeinated energy drink in the afternoon. Because he knew they were not the best options for his health, he avoided caffeinated drinks on days off or when his schedule wasn’t as demanding.
Although his schedule was inconsistent, Daniel never had problems falling asleep or staying asleep, even when changing time zones. He considered this one of his “talents” as a pilot. He also did his best to balance physical activity with rest by adapting his workout intensity to the amount of sleep he was able to get the night before. To stay active and healthy without creating too much stress on his joints, Daniel enjoyed a combination of strength training, biking, elliptical, and yardwork.
Daniel’s Ixcela results revealed that his indole-3-propionic acid (IPA) and indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) were below optimal levels, which reflected an imbalance of bacteria in his gut. His Ixcela Expert explained that an imbalanced gut microbiome can lead to gaps in the gut lining. She described how these gaps cause nutrients to be less effective and may allow harmful substances to pass through the intestinal cell wall. IPA and IAA are both important for maintaining the intestinal cell wall and preventing leaky gut. The Ixcela Expert cautioned that low levels of IPA and IAA could lead to:
His results also showed that his tryptophan was below optimal levels. This meant that he would need to focus on dietary habits and regular exercise practices to support his demanding lifestyle. His Ixcela Expert explained that tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is used by the body for a wide variety of important processes. If tryptophan stays below optimal levels long term, it can lead to:
Finally, his results indicated that his xanthine, a stress marker metabolite, was slightly elevated. Xanthine becomes elevated due to physical, mental, and emotional stress, so this result did not surprise Daniel. He knew that his career put stress on his body, and he had learned over the years that adding intense exercise to his already demanding lifestyle increased inflammation and caused old injuries to flare up. His Ixcela Expert confirmed that low-impact exercise was best and she advised him to focus on healthy diet and lifestyle habits to prevent further problems.
When Daniel came to Ixcela, he already had a strong foundation of healthy habits to support his gut microbiome. However, a few of his habits were negatively affecting his microbiome and IPA levels. Energy drinks and occasional snacks from the airport, combined with his stressful career, added stress to his body and his gut.
Because he was eating plenty of protein, Daniel was shocked that his tryptophan was below optimal levels. His Ixcela Expert explained that although he was doing a great job of prioritizing protein-dense foods at every meal, going six or more hours without eating during the day can lead to below-optimal tryptophan, especially for someone who exercises.
This was an important finding because tryptophan is the precursor to a variety of other important metabolites that are essential for sleep, recovery from exercise, and the immune system. Even though Daniel’s sleep was rarely disrupted, if his tryptophan remained below optimal levels, he could start to struggle with sleep.
Daniel worked hard to balance exercise and sleep with his career, but his xanthine levels reflected that his current practices were putting him at risk for inflammation. This was a reminder of the importance of rest days. His Ixcela Expert reassured him that he did not need to force himself to exercise on days he knew he would benefit from more sleep.
Daniel’s Ixcela Expert asked him where he felt most motivated to start. Daniel was eager to learn more about how he could support his IPA and IAA levels. He was interested in the connection between the gut and mental clarity, and he was ready to change his habits to support these two important metabolites. Working together, Daniel and his Ixcela Expert decided on two simple habits he could start immediately to support his IPA and reduce brain fog:
Daniel’s Ixcela Expert reassured him that the protein-dense foods that he was including with meals and snacks would help to support his tryptophan, but that it was important to avoid long fasting windows. To support his tryptophan, Daniel would: