Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Gut Destruction and Rebuilding

Gut Destruction and Rebuilding

     There is much discussion and research being done today in the realm of "gut health". To be able to intelligently discuss how to obtain a healthy gut one has to first understand what compromises the gut and what its role is in the body. The gut, also coined as the GI (gastrointestinal) tract, or digestive tract is an organ system. This system has an immensely important job because it not only takes in food, digest it and then excretes waste products but it also is responsible for helping the body to absorb essential nutrients that are necessary for energy and that help to promote wellness of the body.
     It is a massive organ system that on autopsy is about 30 feet long. It consists of the esophagus, a muscular tube, which connects the throat to the stomach and the stomach then receives the chewed food from the esophagus  and then it travels to the small and large intestines. Once the food is partially digested in the stomach and broken down with gastric secretions like pepsin (gastric enzyme) and other enzymes it moves on to the duodenum in the small intestines. This part of the GI tract plays a vital role in breaking down the food further and prepares it for absorption. The absorption of key nutrients in the small intestine is aided by the villi. As seen in this picture are healthy villi in a healthy gut.
      The villi are small finger like projections of tissue and contain specialized cells that help digest, absorb and transport substances into the blood stream to be used for energy and that provide organs like the ones that make up the nervous system their proper nutrients. These nutrients then create optimal bodily functioning.  Proper nutrients aid with things like attention, decreased anxiety, muscle function, mood stability, etc.
     Once the nutrients are absorbed from the digested food the remains pass on to the large intestine which draws water into the colon and converts the food into feces. It also absorbs essential vitamins produced by gut bacteria. If the villi are damaged and inflamed then they cannot perform their job of aiding the gut in absorbing much needed nutrients that promote bodily health. Damaged and inflamed villi look like the picture to the right. When there exist so much inflammation the gut cannot break down and absorb key nutrients and instead is mostly just pushing toxins outside the gut. This is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) which is almost at epidemic proportions and I believe is driving not only the autoimmune type of diseases that are rampant in our society but also causing much of the septicemia which we are now seeing. Septicemia used to be seen at a much rarer rate than the rate at which we are seeing it today.  I could not understand why it is so prevalent today until I began to research this topic more in depth. Besides the septicemia, the mechanism behind this gut damage is often the primary cause for the following other common but chronic illnesses such as: asthma, food allergies, chronic sinusitis, eczema, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), urticaria, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, inflammatory joint disorders including RA (rheumatoid arthritis), along with conditions like PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Historically, we use to only see bowel toxins enter into the blood stream by way of trauma.
     So how did we destroy a population of healthy guts? The answer is 1.) First and foremost from the overuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy beneficial bacteria. The small and large intestines host over 500 healthy bacteria that perform hundreds of jobs that are required for a healthy metabolism and immune system. Antibiotics also foster the overgrowth of candida albicans and other pathogenic fungi and yeast.  This event more than any other precipitates leaky gut. 2.) The use of NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Motrin, Aleve, and Advil. 3.) Chemo,  4.) Alcohol, and 5.) Food allergies. Food allergies pose a problem because with leaky gut foods are unable to be digested properly and absorbed and so the undigested food that does manage to get absorbed triggers the body's immune response, through specific antigen-antibody markers (like a memory card) some are then tagged and labeled as foreign irritants. Then every time that particular food touches the villi it triggers an inflammatory immune response which further damages the gut. So now we have a chronically inflamed gut every time particular foods are eaten.
     In order to repair the gut and produce a healthy immune system and optimal bodily functioning we must eliminate the gut irritants. This means that we have to stop the use of antibiotics unless in the case of an emergent situation, stop using NSAIDs (which wreak havoc on much more than just our guts), limit alcohol consumption and identify and eliminate food allergens.
     The best way to identify food allergens is through IgG testing. I recommend IgG food testing with candida to determine if there is an overgrowth of candida. Many people confuse food allergy testing  which is the test that is performed at the asthma allergist's office as the same as food sensitivity testing. So what is the difference?
There are 5 different types of Immunoglobulins.  Immunoglobulins are antibodies and antibodies  hang out in the blood and are proteins made by the immune system to fight off bodily invaders like unwanted bacteria, viruses and toxins.   The two that pertain to responding to allergens such as certain foods are IgE and IgG. IgE allergies are immediate responses to a foreign substance that has entered the body and they can come from food or inhalation. The symptoms from these allergies cause serious symptoms like difficulty breathing, swelling, and hives. This type of response can lead to anaphylaxis. This is what we think of with bee stings, peanut allergies, etc. and these are the tests given by the asthma/allergists. IgG, on the other hand are the antibodies that provide long-term resistance to infections. Their response to the allergen last about 28 days where as the "traditional" IgE allergy is immediate. IgG is where the food "sensitivities" come in because they are more subtle and people can live with them for years without ever identifying the cause of their underlying irritation or discomfort. The symptoms are not always immediate and can occur hours or even days after the offending food has been ingested.  The symptoms can include anything from headaches to nausea to depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, fatigue, bloating, mood changes, etc. The complete elimination of IgG positive foods may bring about real improvements in symptoms such as IBS, autism, ADHD, RA, and epilepsy.
     Once you identify the food allergies and remove them the next steps are to replace, reinoculate, repair and re-balance. It is crucial to replace the food allergens that are eliminated with healthy whole foods like vegetables, lean meats and healthy fats.  The whole foods provide real nutrition for the gut unlike processed and refined foods that contain a lot of sugar and other ingredients which are inflammatory. Drinking alkaline water is also another great way to help decrease inflammation. After the inflammation calms down and the leaky places in the gut are healed it is essential to reinoculate the gut with a layer of good and healthy bacteria. Many people will take probiotics to help calm down the inflammation and add back some healthy bacteria but the goal is to ultimately aid your own body in reestablishing its own healthy bacteria so that it is not having to be obtained through constantly taking probiotics.  Eating fermented foods can also help with this process. The healthy bacteria strengthen the immune system (eliminating the need for things like flu shots), improves metabolism, and aids in the absorption of key minerals.
     Once the gut is on the road to wellness, re-balancing by focusing on lifestyle changes must happen. Revisiting old habits that caused the leaky gut in the first place will only invite a recurrence of problems and health issues. Always eat mindfully and calm the central nervous system. Under stress the body's nervous system kicks into fight or flight mode and this causes inflammation. It is important to create a calmer more centered state.

Happy and healthy gut rebuilding. Until next time, remember, "Let thy food be thy medicine."

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