All disease begins in the gut.
by: Andrea Laine White, Certified Nutrition Therapy Practitioner
As Hippocrates stated long ago, the importance of gut health cannot be overstated.
Research shows that gut health is essential to overall health. Conversely, an unhealthy gut contributes to a wide range of diseases including: diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, autism, depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
What you need to know
There are two factors that determine a healthy gut: intestinal microbiota (gut flora) and the gut barrier (integrity of intestinal tract).
The human gut contains an incredible 100 trillion microorganisms. In fact, there are 10 times more bacteria in the human body than our own cells!
So, it would be true to say that we are more bacteria than we are human!
Healthy gut flora promotes normal digestive function, protects against infection, regulates metabolism, and houses more than 75% of our immune system.
So, what contributes to unhealthy gut flora?
• Medications such as birth control and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen
• High intake of refined carbohydrates, sugar, processed foods
• Low intake of fermentable fiber (soluble fiber found naturally in fruits, vegetables, starches, nuts, and seeds)
• Gluten and industrial seed oils that cause leaky gut (more about leaky gut below)
• Chronic stress
• Chronic infections
The Gut Barrier
The gut is essentially a hollow tube that begins at the mouth and ends at the anus. It allows nutrients to enter the body and, just as important, prevents harmful foreign substances from crossing into the body.
This critical function of the gut can be impaired by “leaky gut”.
Leaky gut is a condition where the integrity of the intestinal tract lining becomes compromised and large protein molecules escape into the bloodstream.
In response, the immune system mounts an attack against these foreign invaders. Research now shows that this condition is linked to the development of autoimmune disorders like hashimoto’s, celiac, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and others.
So, what causes the gut to become permeable and create “leaky gut”?
Many people ask me, “Is this whole gluten-free thing just a fad? I don’t feel any different if I eat gluten."
My response, “No, it’s not just a fad. The super-charged, cross-bred, hybridized wheat found here in the United States is not your’s grandma’s wheat. And this new wheat can cause leaky gut because of one simple mechanism…"
Gluten contains a protein called gliadin. Gliadin increases production of a protein in the body called zonulin. Zonulin regulates the tight junctions in the body, including those of the intestinal tract. The upregulation of zonulin tells the tight junctions to open up, thus causing leaky gut.
So, even though you may not feel any symptoms of eating gluten, or even from having leaky gut, it may manifest in other ways: weight gain, bloating, fatigue, skin disorders like eczema and psoriasis, heart failure, thyroid disorders like hashimoto’s, joint disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, brain fog leading to more serious cognitive disorders, depression, autism, and more.
Other things that can cause leaky gut include:
• SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) – Bacteria migrate from the colon into the small intestine
• Chronic stress
• Infection with bacteria (i.e. H. pylori, the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers)
• Excess alcohol consumption
• PPIs (proton pump inhibitors for acid reflux)
• Environmental & food toxins
Putting it all Together
Often unhealthy gut flora and a compromised gut barrier (leaky gut) are found together. If so, you will be inflamed and fatigued. It is the systemic inflammation that leads to autoimmune disorders.
You may feel digestive disorder symptoms with an unhealthy gut, or your symptoms may manifest completely different:
• Heart failure
• Brain fog
• Skin conditions
• Allergies, asthma, & autoimmune disorders
To heal your gut and address these health conditions, you must rebuild healthy gut flora and restore the integrity of the intestinal tract.
At Colorado Natural Medicine, we will work with you to heal the gut and restore health by:
• Testing for and treating food sensitivities and intolerances
• Testing for and treating any intestinal pathogens/parasites that may be present
• Maximizing your digestive capacity using supplemental acid and enzymes
• Recolonizing the gut with a therapeutic dose of probiotics
• Removing all food toxins from the diet
• Establishing and supporting a new diet conducive to overall gut health
Learn more about our approach to Naturopathic Medicine and Functional Medicine by visiting our website at coloradonaturalmed.com.
Wheat Belly, William David, MD
The Paleo Cure, Chris Kresser
The Microbiome and Overall Health, ProThera, Inc. Practitioner Newsletter