The lining of our digestive system is very valuable real estate as it holds the key to our immune system. The gut is not simply a long tube that food passes through, it is a battleground where food guys (probiotic flora) fight the bad guys (yeast, parasites, virus, E.Coli) for supremacy. Our gut contains 100 trillion good bacteria we call our microbiome and these bacteria work hard for our good health breaking down toxins, making B vitamins, digesting our food and keeping our immune system calm and ready for action. Unknowingly we do things on a daily basis that disrupt that stable environment: eat excessive sugar, drink from plastic bottles, take antibiotics, get inadequate sleep, stress too much, take prescription medication, eat a low fiber diet. But here is the great news – we can support our gut with a few simple changes and restore health.
Heartburn, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and pain are common issues that patients suffer with on a daily basis and many people come to think that this is their "normal". It is NOT normal, it represents a deep seated problem but this can easily be reversed. If it isn’t addressed then these very symptoms increase your risk for auto-immune disease, heart disease and even Alzheimers as it reflects an inflamed biochemistry. This section is intended to uncover the basic truth outlining the importance of your gut health, show you how it got messed up in the first place and steer you towards step for repair and recovery.
Basic Truths & Factoids – Gut Health
Put on your goggles and grab your goloshes we are going in - A deep dive into the center of your bowels. The sheer mass of your intestines is impressive. If you unraveled and spread your gastrointestinal tract out on flat land it would occupy the approximate size of a tennis court. That entire surface holds 100 trillion good bacteria (flora) that if gathered up in one big ball would weight 2.5 pounds. Here’s the question, what flora of bacteria did you begin life with? That depends largely on your mother. If her gut flora was subpar then you got your first big dose of probiotics (flora) as you passed through the birth canal. You were cesarian? Then you didn't go through the birth canal and you got your flora from the nurse that held you, your first foods and from the blanket or binky that first entered your mouth. Yikes! If your Mom said you were a colicky baby then that's telling us that your initial gut flora was not optimal. If you had repeated ear or throat infections and received antibiotics, that course of antibiotics adversely altered your flora. If that was followed years later by constipation, acne, sinus infections, asthma, and allergies then we are seeing the result of those early events. Your genetics has NOTHING to do with these phenomena. It’s helpful to understand the origin of a problem in order to have a shot at repair. We will talk about what probiotics are best for replacement but also what foods promote healing versus ongoing destruction.
The lining of your intestines holds powerful immune stations called Peyer’s patch (M-Cells) that dot the entire length of the small intestine and represent a full 70% of your entire immune system. They act as police stations that monitor whats coming through your body. Think about that as your gut represents a tube that the world passes through. Enter through the mouth, travel the length of your body and then exit. Our immune system is placed there to watch for threats and react to bad guys. The good bacteria actually receive signals from the Peyers patches when bad guys like yeast or parasites are sensed to be present. The good flora are capable of producing a series of “bacteriocins” that are toxic to the yeast and parasites and sent out to kill them.
Killing off and suppressing excessive yeast presence is one of the keys to good gut health. Successfully killing a lot of yeast is desired but if done aggressively may create a problem in removing their toxic load. Dead yeast leads to a release of toxins into your gut and if its a large enough load it can create symptoms like headache, joint pain and abdominal cramping. If the yeast (candida) are fed sugar and carbohydrates like bread and pasta then you have just given them the food they crave and promoted the growth of that yeast. Now the yeast flourish and produce other toxins called endotoxins that make you feel bad. Yeast will digest or ferment those carbs and create gas and bloating! Are we facilitating our own demise by promoting the growth and spread of yeast? Yes. That very yeast can invade your skin and we call it athlete’s foot or fungal nails. Yeast can occupy sinus cavity’s, prostates, bladder walls and we diagnose those as prostatitis, sinusitis, interstitial cystitis. But its origin of this excessive yeast overgrowth is often the result of the very foods we selected or love such as bread, cookies, pasta, latte’s and more. That's awesome! That means if I had a hand in creating this mess than I can take control to reverse it. Game on.