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Gut Health

Posted Oct 27 2010 7:35am
"All diseases begin in the gut." —Hippocrates

"The germ is nothing, the terrain is everything." —Louis Pasteur

The focus of our recovery continues to be the lining of the digestive tract. This necessitates the careful selection and intake of foods due to the complexity of the gut flora. The gut flora is designed to protect and fight against harmful pathogens. When too many pathogens are ingested, like those in a toxic mold exposure, the flora is often damaged. When the "bad gut bugs" outnumber the "good gut bugs," the digestive lining is weakened--which means the whole immune system is weakened, since nearly 70% of the immune system resides in the gut.

Leaky Gut Syndrome often arises as undigested proteins and other undesirable materials "leak" through the compromised gut lining and travel throughout the body. A myriad of symptoms can occur from LGS, such as food allergies, migraines, bloating, constipation, mood swings, and much more.

In an article titled Leaky Gut Syndrome: The Hidden Root Cause to Many Digestive Disorders , Dr. Scott Olson explains
The gut is made up of millions of cells that allow only these small macronutrient molecules to pass into the blood. Usually, only broken down nutrients such as glucose and amino acids are let into the blood. Larger macronutrients, particularly larger proteins, tend to cause problems when they enter the blood stream. The body thinks that they are foreign invaders, causing the immune system to release white blood cells to attack the invaders. These white blood cells have chemicals within them that, when leaked, induce swelling and inflammation.

The cells of the gut are normally packed tightly together in order to allow only the broken down proteins into the blood. Inflammation causes these tightly packed cells to swell and loosen. Much like block walls that have lost their grout, spaces open between these cells and larger undigested proteins escape into the blood stream. This is leaky gut: undigested proteins and other unwanted material leaking through the intestinal wall directly into the blood.

The gut can become leaky when we eat foods we shouldn’t, are exposed to chemicals, have the wrong kind of bacteria in our guts, or are under stress. Any of these conditions can cause the gut to become inflamed.

As the article states, millions of cells line the digestive tract. Microbiologist Dr. Jeffrey Gordon of the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis says our digestive tracts are an entire "other planet." Furthermore, according to Dr. Gordon, "Our bodies carry ten times more microbial cells than human cells, and these microbes collectively contain at least a hundred times the number of genes in the human genome."

According to Gordon's study (featured in this National Geographic article ), the good microbes help out by fermenting our food and producing vitamins for us, as well as breaking down toxic chemicals. The breakdown of toxic chemicals occurs through a process called "bioremediation."

This is why proper understanding of environmental medicine and food selection is critical. If we continually breathe in contaminants and ingest chemical-ridden foods, we open the door to serious health issues. The intake of sugar inherently leads to trouble, since fungal pathogens feed on sugar. This is why most anti-fungal diets suggest the reduction or elimination of grains, fruits, and sugars.

If foods are allowed to sit, undigested, in the digestive tract, pathogens are free to multiply. So as we reduce our intake of the "bad guys," we must also increase our intake of "good" yeasts and bacteria. This is where probiotic foods and probiotic supplements become our greatest allies. Sauerkraut, beet kvass, gingered carrots, and a host of other fermented vegetables are produced through an age-old process called lacto-fermentation. The Weston A. Price Foundation has an excellent introductory article here .

There are numerous probiotic supplements. Here are three websites I've found to be helpful
Custom Probiotics
GI ProHealth
The Finchley Clinic (in the UK)

It makes sense to focus on the gut when trying to heal from a chronic illness. It also makes sense that recovery takes time, is unique to each individual, and often requires a radical change in lifestyle.

Something I'm learning to embrace, one batch of sauerkraut at a time.
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