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It turns out your mom was right, you are what you eat. From the moment you eat or drink something, a very complex transformation starts which has an incredible effect on your overall health. As food comes into the body, digestion begins, which is the process of breaking food down into smaller particles which then travel through the digestive tract - also known as the gut.
Think of the gut as a fine meshed net that allows these smaller nutrient rich particles to pass through and be absorbed by our bodies to deliver the vital nutrients we need to live. This net also prevents other substances from getting into the body. As these food particles move through the gut, nutrients get used, and other things like toxins get metabolized by the liver and the GI tract, and eventually will be eliminated from the body.
When you have a properly functioning digestive tract, this process is efficient and you are healthy inside and out.
However, in some cases, when the intestinal walls become inflamed due to irritants in foods or medications, you can develop a condition known as ‘leaky gut syndrome’. This is where the net in your gut loosens because of inflammation, and creates larger holes in the mesh. These larger spaces allow some of these toxins and undigested food wastes to escape from the digestive tract and re-enter the body through the bloodstream.
There are many triggers that can lead to a leaky gut - these can include parasites, medications, infections and pollutants, but can also be caused by common foods such as sugar, alcohol, dairy and gluten - which is one of the most common triggers. But inflammation can also be caused by external forces like stress and age, and even genetic predisposition.
If the body were a tree, the root system would be similar to the gut. When the root system works properly, the branches and leaves are healthy, and the tree is strong and able to ward off infection and disease. When the root system becomes compromised, the nutrients from the soil are no longer being delivered efficiently to the tree - this compromises its very core resulting in sickness and dysfunction.
WHEN WE ARE HEALTHY INTERNALLY, IT MANIFEST EXTERNALLY
Like the tree, when we're not healthy on the inside, there are many indications on the outside alerting us to these problems.
Left untreated, irritants and inflammation from the gut can lead to food allergies, immune abnormalities and eventually autoimmune and chronic conditions. Even though the main condition is an imbalance in the gut, the symptoms manifested are numerous and in many cases seem totally unrelated to the gut. Symptoms can be very common things like aches and pains, fatigue, headaches, migraines, acne, gas and bloating - or even more serious issues like irritable bowel, Crohn's disease, thyroid conditions, hormone imbalance, epilepsy, autoimmune disorders and more.
The problem is the current medical model focuses solely on symptom management. Unfortunately, this approach relies heavily on medications and antibiotics. While these may provide temporary relief of symptoms, they also tend to further contribute to the underlying cause of the condition. This is where functional medicine can provide a better solution to not only rid the body of the symptoms, but to also treat, and heal the root of the condition.
Functional medicine often uses the "FIVE R's'" approach to healing the gut:
- REMOVE toxins
- REPLACE nutrients
- REINOCULATE the microbiome
- REPAIR the gut wall lining
- REBALANCE the relationship between the gut and the body
I think this is a completely reasonable way to break things down. But I think I can make it even simpler than that - the "THREE S's".
- STOP eating garbage
- START eating real food
- SUPPLEMENT with the nutrients your body needs
Voilà! That's it.
STEP 1: STOP EATING GARBAGE
It seems simple, yet so many find it impossible to do: Please, please, please - stop putting garbage in your mouth. 'What?', you say, 'who would intentionally swallow garbage?' You. Yes, you.
Let me clearly define "garbage". If what you are putting in your mouth falls under any of the following categories, consider it garbage:
- Food that comes out of a box, a bag, a can, or a jar
- Food that contains more than 5 ingredients
- Food that contains ingredients you can't pronounce
- Food that is a color that doesn't belong in nature
- Unfiltered clear liquid that comes directly out of the tap
- Any pill to 'reduce inflammation'
- Any pill to 'kill infection'
- Any pill to 'prevent pregnancy'
- Any pill to 'prevent acid reflux'
- Any oil made from a seed
- Any milk that comes from a species of mammal other than your own
- Any food containing gluten
Fake food happens. You and I both live in the real world - the world of time constraints, kids, impossible schedules, kids, a full time job, kids kids kids... I hear you. To live on planet Earth with children, a job, a spouse, a tax burden, a house payment, and only 24 hours in a calendar day, will you need to at some point in your life eat a hot dog from a little league concession stand?
YES. Of course you will.
If you are also in fact a human, you will in all likelihood eat that hot dog - and that hot dog (even with sweetened with corn syrup relish, a wonderfully glutenous bun, and red-dyed 'ketchup') will not kill you. Poison has a dose. Diet is like a job - do your best the majority of the time. The rest of the time, pat yourself on the back for just making it through the day. In this department, effort counts.
Medications are, for the most part, poisons to help us live longer, sicker, and have fewer children. Haha - totally kidding, I'm sure that's not what they're really for... Not all medications are grinds on our system but some of them reallyyyy are.
- NSAIDS (Advil, Aleve)
- Steroidal anti-inflammatories (prednisone, methylprednisolone)
- Antibiotics (amoxicillin, Zpak, tap water)
- Antacids (I'm talking specifically about PPIs -
Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium - ie omeprazole, lansoprazole, esomeprazole)
- Oral birth control pills
NSAIDs punch obvious holes in the gut wall - sometimes large enough to cause an actual intestinal bleed. If you're lucky - just big holes in the gut wall lining. Steroidal anti-inflammatories suppress immune system function leaving intestinal permeability wide open. Antibiotics kill off the healthy microbiome which protects the gut wall. PPI antacids disrupt the healthy GI pH balance putting us at risk for malabsorption and serious intestinal infections. To decrease systemic inflammation and improve your overall health, avoid these gut destroying toxins as much as possible.
STEP 2: START EATING REAL FOOD
This is pretty straightforward. Take step 1 - totally reverse it, and... that's it.
Real food doesn't have labels. Real food comes from 'a farm' that grew its produce 'in the soil' using natural fertilizer from humanely treated 'grass fed animals'. Might seem totally foreign, but trust me, You got it.
STEP 3: SUPPLEMENT WHAT YOUR BODY NEEDS
So we kind of wrecked our soil with this whole 'monocropping' deal. Our soil used to contain all sorts of nutrients - not just nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous, but calcium, magnesium, zinc, etc. Monocropping is a super efficient system for crop production, but the cost of this method of agriculture was the destruction of soil ecology, soil erosion, pesticide resistance, and pest evolution, to say the least. If you live on planet Earth and want a healthy well balanced system - you're going to need to take a few supplements every day because they are no longer available in the foods we eat. But don't despair - they are super cheap, super easy - literally a few capsules a day, and you're good as new. I'll get more to those later.
INSIDER TIP: SECRET OIL POISON - SEED OILS
Seed oils - watch for these and avoid them like the plague. Industrial seed oils are highly processed oils extracted from soybeans, corn, rapeseed (no joke - the name later replaced with the word 'canola' for what seems to be the obvious reason...), cottonseed, sunflower, and safflower seeds. In processing, the seeds are heated to mega temperatures creating oxidized fatty acids (trans fats and cancer causing omega-6 fatty acids) which are extremely pro-inflammatory and harmful to your health Once upon a time, seed oils were manufactured for industrial lubricants - like oil for your car. Seriously - Canola oil instead of Mobile oil. Over time, the brilliant idea was had that they might make good food additives, prolonging the shelf life of many 'foods' out into eternity and beyond. The cost, however, was the addition of a glut of inflammatory fats which increase a person's risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and other chronic illness. Amazingly, they have not been banned by the Food and Drug Admin - rather, they are all still readily available at a grocery store near you.
ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM ANY OF THE FOLLOWING?
Aches and pains, fatigue, headaches, migraines, acne, gas and bloating, irritable bowel, Crohn's disease, colitis, thyroid conditions, hormone imbalance, epilepsy, autoimmune disorders, depression, anxiety, brain fog, or other symptoms, the root cause could be a sick gut. Our team at Lindgren Functional Medicine is here to help you fix that gut and help you learn how to not wreck it again in the future - and help restore your health in the meantime.
DID YOU KNOW?
Many common foods can irritate the lining of the gut causing inflammation that leads to intestinal permeability. Many of these foods are paradoxically nutritious - just introduced to the human gut at an imperfect evolutionary time, or in a dose higher than the human gut could handle. These include certain grains, gluten, processed sugar and fake sweeteners, products made from cow's milk, excessive alcohol consumption, and many more.
THINGS YOU CAN DO TO IMPROVE YOUR DIGESTIVE HEALTH
Aside from avoiding certain foods, you can also make some lifestyle changes that can have a significant impact on your digestive health.
GET ADEQUATE SLEEP
We're all different, but we're also all humans. We used to think little humans needed more sleep than adult humans. Yeah...we were wrong about that. Human adults need a solid 6 (ideally 8) hours of sleep each night. Getting the right amount of sleep on a consistent basis has been shown to improve health all the way around the block.
REDUCE OR ELIMINATE STRESS
lol - this is my favorite. If I could wave a magic wand that would transport all interested patients to a private island in the South Pacific that ensured maximal sunshine, relaxation, clean food, and connection with the Earth, while outlawing cell phones, microwaves, negative energy, and plastics, I would surely be nominated for the next Nobel Prize. Look - we all have stress and according to all local and national news outlets, that's not going away anytime soon. Learning to manage stress and kindly say no to taking on more stress, will add years of productive service to your life
Even light to moderate exercise has exponential benefit to the body. Regular exercise helps boost metabolism, increases brain function, helps with hormone levels, and contributes to improving your mood.
EAT PROBIOTIC AND PREBIOTIC FOODS
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can be found naturally in foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, miso, and other fermented foods. Once they have established in the gut, these beneficial bacteria need prebiotics to feed on. Prebiotics come from soluble fiber, and can be found in apples, garlic, onions, asparagus, chicory root, oats, and many more whole foods.
Dr. Kristen Lindgren has rescued many human guts from leaking their way into total planetary annihilation. If you need help fixing your gut, please call our office to learn more.
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