In the last post we discussed the concept of properly breaking down your foods with the appropriate amounts of digestive enzymes. In the second part of this 6-part series we are going to discuss the concept of a hyperpermeable gut membrane…or leaky gut. The ability of your gut to recognize the good versus the bad is essential for you to have good health. In this post I will show you how your gut is kind of like the airport screening by TSA agents and the borders of our country. I will try to refrain from any jokes, political comments, horror stories, etc…but I can’t make any promises.
Your meal arrives at your table. The aroma of salmon, vegetable medley and brown rice is causing you to drool. Your side salad looks delicious and you can’t wait to dig right in. Your first couple of bites taste great and you continue to talk to your friends at the table and enjoy your meal. The moment you swallow your first bite a thousand different things start happening. All automatically. All without your conscious effort. Done properly these tasks add up to you feeling great and nourished after your meal. Done wrong and you are left feeling bloated, gassy, and nauseated.
The purpose of digestion is to turn what you eat into particles that can be broken down and assimilated into your blood stream. Then your body has to rebuild them for use by the 100 trillion cells in your body. Everything from new receptor sites, new hormones, new muscle cells, mitochondria, cell membranes…the list is endless! Since your body’s primary goal is survival, it has systems in place to take outside influences (think the salad you just devoured) and convert them into usable resources (think about boosting your immune system). All of this takes place each time you eat.
You want to selectively absorb the right things. All of the amino acids, fats, vitamins, healthy sugars, and minerals that are required to fuel your body. You also want to selectively eliminate the harmful things. These are the undigested food particles that can rot in your gut, the parasites that hitched a ride on your salad from the kitchen, the bacteria that is living on the plate you were scooping your last bite off of, and the toxins that come from the contaminated food products we are exposed to on a daily basis.
So the job of your digestive system is to break down the particles with proper amounts of acid and enzymes and then decide which can pass and which can’t pass. This is where the TSA analogy comes in. At the airport security checkpoints you have masses of people of all sizes, shapes, and colors. The job of the TSA security is to determine who is safe to pass and who should not be let through. They are to screen every bag, purse, computer bag and satchel that comes through the screening process. They do this to rule out the harmful things. If done properly, you get through in a timely, efficient and a pride-sparing manner. When the system is broken you get a nightmare process. My mind goes to the 90-year-old woman with her stockings around her ankles, barely able to walk, being chosen for the random pat-down.
Consider our borders, as the next analogy for digestion. Ideally, all would go through secure checkpoints to be screened to make sure they are safe to enter the country. But when the gaps are too large, the protection too scarce, and the system overburdened you start to have a spill-over of some really bad things. We obviously don’t want drugs, weapons, gang members and killers crossing the border. This happens, though, when there is a breakdown in the ability to properly screen for harmful things.
In essence you have two abnormal situations when it comes to digestive function. Situation number one…you are too diligent with the screening process of digested foods and things that are really good are tagged as potentially harmful. This would be like a gut problem leading to an autoimmune disease. Situation number two…you aren’t diligent enough, too many gaps in your barrier and the good and the bad cross over. This places an “economic” load on your body and creates a burden on detoxification, immunity and digestion.
All of the following things can lead to improper digestion and assimilation leading to problems:
- skipping meals
- processed foods
- the Standard American Diet (SAD diet)
- eating on the run
- not chewing food thoroughly
- not eating whole, real foods
If these are some of the things that lead to digestive problems, then doing the opposite is a place for you to start healing your digestive system.
In order to regain your health you are going to have to improve the health of your gut. This means a digestive system that is able to appropriately, selectively, and with precision absorb the right nutrients. Even though this all occurs without your conscious awareness, you have a much larger role in choosing a healthier gut than you might think. You can choose to eat the right foods and this can start a healing process.
At LEC I will often start patients with a Wellness Week. This is a one week period where they consume only a medical food and one organic vegetable each day. I learned this from Dr. Robert Rakowski. He has used a similar protocol with thousands of patients. We have great results (as you can see from the video testimonials on our site) with the Wellness Week. It really serves as a great way to “reboot” the system and dramatically reduce the burden being placed on the digestive system.
After the Wellness Week cleanse we will often move into a modified elimination diet in order to look for hidden sources of food sensitivities. This will also make it easier on the digestive system because it is a time you are dedicated to only eating real and natural foods.
Keeping your digestive system healthy is important for good health. Here are some other tips and resources you may find useful:
- Is Your Food Poisoning You? – in this presentation I discuss some healthy eating tips and the purpose of an elimination diet.
- Leaky Gut – this presentation is popular among patients and lectures I do in the area. We discuss leaky gut, indigestion, and a great smoothie recipe.
- UltraMind Solution – In this book, Dr. Mark Hyman, does a wonderful job showing the importance of a healthy gut and body in order to have a healthy brain.