“All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, was a wise man.
Much of his wisdom, which is now over 2000 years old, has stood the test of time.
The quote above is one of them.
The bodily process of digestion and absorption is one of the most important to our health. Hippocrates made this statement over two thousand years ago and it is truer today than ever.
When the Gut Is Healthy
Approximately 500 species of bacteria, as well as many species of yeast and other organisms, live in the human gastrointestinal tract and make up the “gut flora.” These “friendly” bacteria are vital for good digestion and the health of the intestines in general, and mostly have names beginning with “Lactobacillus” or “Bifidobacteria,” which denotes the class of bacteria they belong to. You may have noticed food products like yogurt and acidophilus milk that contain these bacteria. It is becoming more common for them to be added, just as vitamins and minerals are frequently added to breakfast cereals, for example.
When the gut flora is in a healthy balance it is called “orthobiosis,” which is a term introduced in the early 1900s by the great microbiologist Elie Metchnikoff. When our gut is out of balance we are said to have “dysbiosis.” Metchnikoff thought dysbiosis so concerning that he coined the expression “Death begins in the GUT!”
A gut feeling
Actually, we don’t really feel our guts. Specifically, we don’t often feel gut pain or any other sensations. That’s because our guts lack pain sensing receptors (known as nociceptors).
Nocioceptors sense noxious stimuli and send signals to our brain to let it know. These signals are registered as “pain.”
For example, the next time you accidentally step on a nail or sharp object, thank your nociceptors. They’re responsible for forcing you to remove your foot to prevent further damage.
However, as indicated above, our gastrointestinal systems do not have this sort of pain sensing system. As a result, we typically don’t know when our gastrointestinal systems have a problem. Instead we have to wait until things get bad enough to present symptoms to us.
What are the signs of unhealthy digestion?
If you have any symptoms such as…
- burping after meals
- inadequate digestion (feeling like you have a brick in your stomach after you eat)
- undigested food in your stools
- foul smelling stools
- burning in the stomach
- bad breath
Yet, oddly enough, many other symptoms typically aren’t experienced in our GI systems. Often, things like hormonal imbalances, migraines, allergies, eczema, and autoimmune disease all can be traced back to GI system problems. Interesting, isn’t it?
Our bodies rely on proper enzymes and healthy microbes to work with pathogenic bacteria and to produce anti-bacterial cultures in order to strengthen the intestinal walls and to support our immune system.
Today we are challenged on many fronts: lifestyle and diet, deficient intestinal flora, stress, toxic chemicals in our food/water/environment, consumption of alcohol, and frequent use of antibiotics all deplete our healthy supply of beneficial enzymes and bacteria. This allows disease to take hold beginning with yeast strains. Supplementing with friendly bacteria help keep harmful bacteria from multiplying in our intestines.
A properly functioning gastrointestinal system is critical for overall health and well-being, yet it is often treated as the red-headed stepchild of the body – underappreciated, ill-treated and otherwise ignored unless it starts making a lot of commotion.
Consider the following about the gastrointestinal system:
- The gastrointestinal system comprises 75% of the body’s immune system.
- There are more neurons in the small intestine than in the entire spinal cord.
- It is the only system in the body that has its own, independently operating nervous system, called the enteric nervous system.
- If you stretched out the gastrointestinal system in its entirety, it would have the surface area of a regulation sized singles tennis court.
- There are over 400 species of microbes living in your gut, totaling over 15 pounds of mass and containing more bacteria than there are known stars in the sky.
- Suffice it to say, if the body allocates this many resources to one particular system, it must be important.
Poor digestion will eventually cause one’s health to break down. Some examples of this breakdown are listed below:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Food and general allergies
- Chronic viral infections
- Genital infections
- Liver cirrhosis and biliary disease
- Mental illness
- Clinical infections
The trend of mental illness is particularly disturbing and related to enzyme deficiencies.
One study found that enzyme loss is connected to a specific familiar neurological disease.
Another study examined the effects of lifestyle–including diet–on mental health, and found that diet is a crucial factor in synaptic plasticity and overall mental health.
In fact, we should start treating our gut with care if we are interested in weight loss, muscle gain or overall health in general.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
The lining of the intestines is a barrier that normally only allows properly digested fats, proteins, and starches to pass through and enter the bloodstream. When this lining gets battered by things like aspirin, bacterial toxins, or even the pesticides sprayed on our food, the lining loses its integrity. This is when the door is open to let in the bacteria, viruses, parasites—and even undigested food molecules! These will activate the immune system and often hyperstimulate it so that it squirts out inflammatory substances called cytokines and act to weaken the intestinal wall. We refer to this loss of integrity as “the leaky gut syndrome.” The agitated immune system may also become so unstable as to attack your own body, producing autoimmune diseases.
Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome / Intestinal Permeability
Symptoms include abdominal pain, asthma, chronic joint pain, chronic muscle pain, confusion, fuzzy or foggy thinking, gas, indigestion, mood swings, nervousness, poor immunity, recurrent vaginal infections, skin rashes, diarrhea, bed-wetting, recurrent bladder infections, poor memory, shortness of breath, constipation, bloating, aggressive behavior, anxiety, poor libido, fatigue, and just feeling “toxic”.
Leaky gut syndrome is associated with the following conditions:
- Bloating and weight gain
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Environmental illness
- Inflammatory joint disease / arthritis
- Intestinal infections
- Pancreatic insufficiency
- Ulcerative colitis
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Liver dysfunction
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Irritable bowel syndrome
When the natural yeast or fungi found in the body grows out of control, it can result in a condition called Candidiasis, an infection caused by a species of Candida fungi, especially Candida albicans. These fungi are found almost everywhere in the environment, and some may live harmlessly along with the abundant “native” species of bacteria that normally colonize the mouth, gastrointestinal tract and vagina. The growth of Candida is usually controlled by the presence of the native bacteria and by the body’s immune defenses. If the population of native bacteria is decreased, especially by antibiotics, or if the immune defenses are weakened by illness malnutrition, or certain medications (corticosteroids or anticancer drugs), Candida fungi can multiply enough to cause symptoms by spewing many toxins into the bloodstream and liver. It can affect many different parts of the body, causing either localized infections or overwhelming illness, depending on the patient and his or her underlying health.
Candidiasis can usually be found in exposed and most part of the body, such as the mouth and throat (called thrush), the vagina (usually called a yeast infection), and in the case of children, as diaper rash. Candidiasis can overwhelm the whole body, and in some people can result in not only stomach distress such as bloating and gas, but also in fatigue, depression, anxiety, skin eruptions, and immune system malfunction.
HOW DO YOU IMPROVE YOUR GUT HEALTH?
1. Clean up your diet. Remove gluten, refined sugars, seed oils and trans fats from your diet.
- Replace inflammatory foods with healing foods:
– Fermented vegetables (i.e sauerkraut, kimchi) – contains organic acids that balance pH and probiotics to support the gut
– Fermentable fibres (sweet potato, yam, yucca etc.)
– Bone broth – a mineral-rich drink or stock. It is packed full of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, collagen and amino acids (proline and glycine) that can help heal your damaged cell walls
– Kefir – a probiotic drink made from yoghurt. It can also be made from water for a dairy free option
– Kombucha – fermented tea drink that contains a number of different probiotic strains, organic enzymes, amino acids and vitamins
Treat any intestinal pathogens (such as parasites) that may be present.
Take steps to manage your stress. Try meditation.
– Probiotics: At least 100 billion units of probiotics daily from a high quality brand.
– Omega-3 fish oil: Improve gut inflammation, balances hormones and supports the integrity of the intestinal lining.
– L-Glutamine: An essential amino-acid that is anti-inflammatory and necessary for the growth and repair of intestinal lining.
– Vitamin D3: Vital for the immune system and the integrity of tight junctions in the gut. Vitamin D deficiency increases inflammation and “leaky gut.”
– Soothing Herbs: Liquorice root, slippery elm, peppermint and ginger are all useful herbs to sooth and repair the intestinal lining
– Digestive Enzymes: Ensure that foods are fully digested, decreasing the chance that partially digested food particles and proteins from damaging your gut wall.
So make sure that you are not wasting all your hard work, in and out of the gym. With a bit of time and dedication to improving your gut health, you will see and feel incredible results, in all aspects of your health.
To restore your health and enable your gut to function properly again, you need to first cleanse your colon. Several consecutive colonics, along with a nutritionally sound cleanse will do wonders for your colon and your overall health. You might not have heard of Thomas Parr before, but he is arguably the oldest person who ever lived. He died at the age of 152. When he was examined posthumously, the doctor established that his organs were “in a perfect state” and his colon was as clean and healthy as that of a child.
Cleaning your colon might not guarantee you to become a centenarian, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
Heal your gut and be well.
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This article is not intended to take the place of a competent nutritionist or doctor. It is solely intended to educate people on the vital and perhaps underestimated importance of this nutritional element.
The information in this site is presented for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or prescribe.
In the event the reader uses the information for his own health, he is in fact prescribing for himself, which is his own constitutional right, and for which the author assumes no responsibility.
If you suffer from a medical condition, consult your doctor. If you have questions as to the application of this information to your own health, you are advised to consult a qualified health professional.