Professor Green: Solving my bowel problems has done wonders for my mental health
PROFESSOR Green is so articulate and informed that you might think that the title of “Professor” was a true academic qualification, rather than just a stage name (his real name is Stephen Manderson). The rapper and musician actually left school without a degree, but he’s certainly familiar with life and health experiences.
Green – who just turned 37 and has sold over three million records – was raised by his grandmother and extended family on an estate in the East London Council. He spoke openly about the health issues he endured, including stomach issues, anxiety and depression.
He’s now in great shape, he says, which he attributes in large part to making the connection between his gut and his brain. And after years of trying various supplement combinations, he’s now created his own “companion formula” called Aguulp (aguulp.com), designed to support brain, gut, and immunity wellness.
Here, Green, who is also a patron of the male suicide prevention charity Calm (thecalmzone.net), tells us more …
:: What health problems have you had?
“I had IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) diagnosed at a very young age. It’s weird with IBS, all the research I’ve done suggests it can be a precursor to psychological disorders like anxiety and depression, but it can also be preceded by some really stressful life events – it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation.
“Much later, in 2017, I had a hiatus hernia. I tried to avoid having surgery and they made me take the highest dose of pretty horrible pills. I was only supposed to be on them for a month, but I was on them for two years. It was not a very pleasant time.
:: You finally opted for surgery – what happened?
“When I had the operation I was back home in 48 hours, but in less than 24 hours I was back in the hospital. I looked like I was pregnant with triplets, it was pretty scary. I had an ileus [when muscle or nerve problems stop things moving through the gut], pneumonia, and a partially collapsed lung, and my readings suggested I should have been dead.
“Two weeks later, after they drained just over four liters of inflammatory fluid, I was sent home with a nearly paralyzed stomach. I wasn’t getting any nutrients. It was pretty awful.
“The options were gastric bypass surgery, or wait and hope. But if I had had surgery and had the same complications again, I could have died. It was a terrible place. I decided not to operate.
:: How did you deal with your stomach problems after this?
“I started to learn about gut health and the link between gut health and mental health, which surprised me quite a bit. I’ve been a mental health advocate for years – it’s something that means a lot to me, especially with what I’ve been through and what happened with my dad [Green’s father died by suicide].
“I started using supplements, which was an incredibly confusing process. I wasn’t sure what was working and what was not, but I was trying to do whatever I could to improve my health. Gradually things started to improve, and I was quite shocked to find that the better I took care of myself and my gut, the better my head felt and the more my mental health improved. This continues to this day.
:: Then you created Aguulp – what was your goal there?
“If I had put my name on an alcohol brand, people would have understood that, but it would be quite irresponsible of me to put my name on an alcohol brand. I think people find it quite confusing that I put a product on the market that might have some health benefits! I wouldn’t want to relive what I’ve been through twice, and I think it’s important to pass on what I’ve learned on this trip.
“If I feel better, it makes it easier to make good decisions. I’m more likely to exercise, and if I exercise I’m more likely to eat better, if I eat better I’m more likely to sleep better – it just creates a positive cycle.
:: How is your gut health now?
“My guts are really good. Touch wood, I don’t suffer much from the issues that I have had on and off throughout my life. I feel a bit more resilient and a lot more robust.
“Things seem more cohesive. Being consistent allows us to live a more linear life. Everyone longs for happiness but, if anything, the constant should just be [to feel] content. And I feel pretty happy.
:: How was your journey with mental health?
“I had bouts of depression and took medication when I was in a better place than I had been in a long time. I had always rejected medications – I guess I felt a bit taboo – but I tried them and they weren’t for me. I find life choices to be the most important thing to me. If I take care of myself and make the right decisions, then I tend to stay pretty well. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a bad day – everyone gets a bad day every now and then.
:: What is your approach to having a healthy lifestyle now?
“There is a balance. I’m not afraid of a glass of red wine, and I still like to indulge myself sometimes with food. I would be lying if I said you would never find me in a chicken store at 3 a.m. – not right now because they’re all closed – but I’ve tried to cut down on the amount of meat I eat.
“I love salt and vinegar crisps, I don’t think that will ever change. But when I’m in a good position, I tend to be pretty healthy.
“I think education is the key and prevention is better than cure. I’m starting to have gray hair so I’m clearly aging. You start to want to take better care of yourself.
:: How did you experience the confinement?
“The same as everyone else – some people are obviously more comfortable and secure than others. I don’t like that I haven’t been able to hug my grandma since January.
“I try to spend as much time as possible outdoors. I have two really big dogs so I have enough reasons to be there – but even though I didn’t have the days when I feel the most bad, when I get up and go out. , I always feel better.
:: What is your exercise routine?
“I did my back about 10 weeks ago, so walking was the only exercise I did, but I just got back to it. I use a spinning bike and do some weight training – not as much as I would like but I don’t put too much pressure on myself. I loved going to the gym – I’m not a gym fan, it’s more about endorphins and how that makes me feel.
“The most important thing is just to get through it healthily, with my sanity. If you can find within yourself to sit down and focus on something then do it, but I don’t think giving yourself extra pressure during this time is very smart. There is already enough pressure on us.