How to maintain a healthy body
As many of you know I am a functional medicine practitioner, health coach that looks for the root cause of your problem and solves it through diet and lifestyle changes. I have been studying functional medicine for several years now and I keep updating myself with the latest courses as new research comes along and attending seminars to help keep me up to date and help me understand the human body better.
The famous statement by Hippocrates “All disease begins in the Gut “ is very accurate. He was ahead of his time and was able to comprehend what caused disease a very long time ago before what we now have begun to understand. For the past two decades, research and papers are coming out explaining and talking about how the overall health of the gut plays a major role in preventing diseases such as diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid Arthritis, Autism, Psoriasis, Depression, Autoimmunity and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, etc….
From my studies, research and working with my clients the conclusion is that the root cause of these health issues stems from inflammation due to poor gut health, and this is dependent on two things:
- The Gut microbiome
- The Gut barrier which is known as the “Leaky gut”
I will talk about these two points because I think it is very important that everyone understands this concept. After all, if you want to get to the root of your problem then you must begin to make an effort to work on fixing these underlying issues to be able to heal and prevent dis-ease (which many of you hear me mention a lot) before it develops into Disease.
The Gut Microbiome
The gut hosts approximately 100 trillion micro-organisms. That is a huge amount of organisms living inside your gut. It contains 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the entire body, with over 400 known diverse bacterial species, the question is who controls who? Think about it, we are more bacteria than human cells!
The gut flora(bacteria) is responsible for:
- Normal gastrointestinal functioning
- Protection from infection
- Regulating metabolism
- Helping control our immune system
- Helping with brain health
- Regulating the central nervous system
Any dysregulation or imbalance in the gut flora/microbiome has been linked to diseases ranging from autism, depression, autoimmunity, Hashimoto, inflammatory bowel syndrome, diabetes and many more.
What contributes to this dysregulation
1. Chronic STRESS
Stress in my opinion is your no.1 killer. Because stress impacts the body in several ways – I would have to write a separate newsletter to talk about this – something I will do soon. For this conversation, stress lowers stomach acid, hence It opens the gateway to allow all kinds of pathogens from the outside world to pass through the body and set up base in the gut. The stomach acid’s role is to kill any of these pathogens as soon as they enter because it is highly acidic and can burn through anything. Therefore, the stomach lining contains a very thick layer to prevent any of this liquid from seeping out. Once the stomach acid is lowered, we end up allowing these pathogens which I will call gangsters into the protected neighborhood (our gut). These gangsters begin to impact the good bacteria, “the good neighbors“ become scared and feel unprotected, they can’t thrive in their beautiful community and they begin to leave the neighborhood, hence we end up with a bad neighborhood that no one feels safe living there anymore. Once this happens the health of the gut deteriorates and dis-ease begins to occur. We begin to have symptoms that eventually, if not handled properly, will develop into disease.
2. The Overuse of antibiotics, over-the-counter medications, birth control pills and NSAIDs.
Antibiotics as the name imply – are “Against life” and once taken kill everything in its pathway. Good or bad – they do not differentiate, and although we sometimes need to use them. Many times, they are overprescribed, and people self-medicate and pop them like candy without realizing the effect it has on the microbiome, there is nothing that can bring the diversity back without intervention and that would be a healthy clean diet rich in fiber and probiotics which means “for life“.
All the other medications listed above also have an impact on the health of the bacteria living on the lining of the gut that helps with the absorption of nutrients and keeping the integrity of the gut lining healthy.
3. Diets that are high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and processed foods.
We have an epidemic of chronic metabolic diseases ranging from obesity to cancer and type 2 diabetes because of the quality of food the world is eating, highly processed refined & sugar ladened. The human microbiome thrives on vegetables, protein, fruits, and complex carbs. For those who are not consuming a healthy diet that consists of these ingredients, it will be impacting their microbiome and causing a dysbiosis which means an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria favoring more the bullies, as mentioned above, because they thrive on these processed refined sugary foods. These types of foods impact the 6 points I mentioned above about what the good flora does to the body, hence overweight, obesity, depression, immune dysregulation, etc… begins to occur which are symptoms and a result of dysbiosis, along with other metabolic dysfunction occurring in the body.
4. Not eating enough foods high in fiber.
Fiber is a great source of nutrient to the microbiome because it feeds the good bacteria in the lining of the gut and keeps it healthy by producing a substance that feeds other bacteria that live in the lining of the intestines that work on keeping that lining strong and healthy which I will talk more about below.
5. Being exposed to Toxins like pesticides and industrial seed oils.
These substances as the name implies are toxins that kill the good microbiome and suffocate them impacting the health of the gut lining and the quality and diversity of the ecosystem that exists in the gut, hence lowering the diversity.
6. Chronic infections.
We need a good microbiome to help reinforce the immune system to help it attack any pathogens that come into the body. Lowering the diversity will lower the immune response, therefore increasing infections in the body by increasing inflammation, which gets the immune system overworked. Instead of focusing its effort on serious issues, such as pathogens, it has to deal with trivial things. The body will then exhaust itself and not have enough ammunition to fight serious illness, hence we end up with a revolving door that weakens the immune system.
Now that I have explained the importance of the gut bacteria, let me talk about the second most important point The gut barrier “Leaky gut“
I would like to use the analogy of a balloon to help explain this. Imagine for a moment your body. There is a long hollow tube that begins from your mouth and goes straight down to your anus. Anything that the body does not digest or use, it gets rid of and excretes out of your body through your anus. Halfway through the tube, I want you to imagine a balloon that is inflated, and this is where all the digestion and absorption takes place. This hollow tube has a skin layer (cell membrane) like the balloon that separates everything inside from what is outside of that membrane. In the inner membrane, where food is digested and broken down completely and ready to be passed onto the cells. It will pass through this membrane and enter the bloodstream where our beautiful immune system is working nonstop checking to make sure that no pathogens or foreign substances are passing through and entering our bloodstream that will be sent off to all our body parts.
Now imagine if we poked this membrane and made holes in it. Can you imagine what will happen? Food particles or substances that were once inside that membrane and were prevented from passing through are now seeping through these holes and entering our bloodstream. This will cause the immune system to flare up and begin an immediate attack on these foreign substances causing inflammation because it does not recognize them. This is what is called Leaky gut.
These attacks sometimes are also defined as an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto, where the protein particles of the thyroid gland are similar to the food(protein particles) that have penetrated the membrane and the body mistakenly attacks itself thinking it is attacking that protein particle it saw before and mounts an attack on itself. This is what is called molecular mimicry, which is due to a leaky gut.
A brilliant Italian scientist Dr. Fasano discovered that this membrane acted like doors and would open and close under the orders of a protein particle called Zonulin, found in the gut lining. It is the gatekeeper between the gut and the rest of the body. Fasano later discovered with his research that Arthritis, autoimmune diseases and type 1 diabetes all had three things in common and that was inflammation, Zonulin and leaky gut.
They also discovered that the one type of food that increases Zonulin and is not digestible by humans is “gluten” which is found in Wheat, Rye and Barley. This is the reason why we try to avoid or eliminate these grains from our diets as much as possible especially if you do have issues with your gut and have any form of autoimmunity.
Fasano said, “I am now convinced that our immune system mistakenly interprets gluten as a component of a dangerous bacterium or bacteria“ and he believes that a leaky gut is a precondition to developing autoimmunity.
In today’s time, it has become very important to understand that you don’t have to have gut symptoms to have a leaky gut. It can occur due to a diet and lifestyle we follow and as a result, the immune system reacts and can manifest as skin problems like eczema or psoriasis, heart failure, autoimmune conditions affecting the thyroid as mentioned previously, joints (Rheumatoid Arthritis), mental illness, autism spectrum disorder, depression and more.
What causes leaky gut
Similar points as I mentioned above
- Poor diet
- NSAIDs- over the counter medications
- Steroids- inflammatory blockers
- Antacids- to lower heartburn
And how many people do we know are on some if not a concoction of these?
How to fix your gut
- Take steps to reduce stress
- Avoid gluten as much as possible
- Exercise moderately to reduce stress on your body
- Remove exposure to toxins from your diet and lifestyle
- Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods to feed the good bacteria
- Eat fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and bone broth
- Take a multi mix of species of probiotics (lacto+Bifido)
- Remove any intestinal pathogens by doing a functional medicine stool test.
- Avoid processed meats, too many calories, refined carbs and too much fructose.
- Take some supplements especially vit.D to help seal the gut lining, vit A and Zinc via supplementation and diet.
Your takeaway from all this
For us to begin to heal from the inside out, we must begin to understand how to get to the root of all these illnesses that we are seeing and learn how to solve them.
Gut health is the gateway for us to move forward. If we don’t stop, listen to the signals our body gives us and start reducing our stress levels, we will continue to push those buttons towards disease. We need to implement strategies on how to handle things or else it will begin to cause a knock-on effect and that can impact the health of our gut flora.
The immune system activation results in inflammation. When our immune system is constantly activated by a leaky gut, the result is a chronic state of low–grade inflammation, and increased susceptibility to an auto-immune disease dynamic.
Work on stress reduction can be physical, mental and or physiological, along with all the steps mentioned above. This will reduce inflammation which in turn will keep the gut health good and strong to help protect the gut lining and help keep the gates closed. That way all pathogens and toxins are then eliminated from the body through the correct channels and this creates a healthy body.
Hope you found this article helpful and educational. If you need any help, you know where to find me!
Small changes for a Healthier “U”