According to many healing traditions, the root of all illness begins in the gut.
The latest research shows a strong connection between gut health and autism, ADHD, depression and even Alzheimer’s, not to mention autoimmune conditions.
First, let’ go over some simple facts that will increase your understanding of gut health.
Functions of the Digestive Tract
The digestive tract is basically one long tube that has sections with different names and different functions. The tube starts at the mouth, becomes the esophagus, then the stomach, small intestine, then large intestine and ends at the anus.
When you eat something, saliva spurts into the mouth, and hydrochloric acid (HCl) is released from the stomach. Next, digestive enzymes and bile are ejected from the pancreas and gall bladder into the small intestine. The large intestine is where the trash is dumped. This process should completely break down your food into individual molecules.
The digestive tract contains “soil” like a vegetable garden. Healthy soil is filled with microbes that are necessary for plants to be strong and resistant. If the garden has poor soil, the plants become weak, and succumb to bugs. Your large intestine houses 85 to 90% of your immune system in the form of good bacteria and like the soil, its quality will determine your health.
Lastly, the digestive tract acts like a gate, only allowing individual food molecules (completely digested) to cross into the deeper tissues of the body.
When the digestive system works, it is a seamless and beautiful thing. We eat, we have energy, we eliminate and we feel clear-headed.
How to Achieve Healthy Aging by Caring for Your Digestive Tract
Your stomach must release HCl to digest protein into amino acids, the essential building block for muscle building. As we age the stomach output of hydrochloric acid is diminished. It is harder to digest protein and absorb the iron and B12 necessary for energy. Muscles start to sag. HCl also kills many of the microbes that we swallow with food so we are left more vulnerable to infections.
Many people suffer from gastrointestinal disturbances and have GERD or acid reflux. Antacids and drugs designed to help with acid reflux reduce the acid environment which can cause anemia and leave undigested protein to rot in the gut.
These medicines are not a good solution for aging well.
Taking bitters, adding an HCl supplement or starting your meal with a salad with lemon and apple cider vinegar can boost the HCl. Often, stored stress and fears find their way into the stomach and mimic acid reflux. Try to identify if things are bothering you and remove the cause, not the symptoms.
The Truth About Chronic Constipation
The bowels need to move every day. Chronic constipation is painful. It also creates toxicity. When the bowels are sluggish, the waste they are carrying gets reabsorbed back into the body. For this reason, constipation may cause elevated cholesterol and hormones.
Natural things you can do to eliminate constipation include: drinking ½ your body weight in ounces of water or herbal tea each day, and adding high fiber foods like oat bran, psyllium, figs, beans, fruits and vegetables to your diet. Add prunes and beets, or drink senna tea. Make sure you rule out a hypothyroid condition.
The Importance of Good Bacteria
The population of good bacteria must completely outweigh the pathogenic bacteria and yeast living in the gut. If you have been given a dose or two of antibiotics, it is likely that the ratio of good to bad bacteria will shift to an unhealthy ratio and can cause yeast infections, bloating and gas.
If this happens, eliminate all sugar, including fruit, alcohol and grains for a week. Eat only protein, vegetables, tree nuts and seeds. Invest in good probiotics and take them for at least two weeks to two months. Foods that are great for replacing good bacteria include raw sauerkraut, kefir (including dairy-free kefir), natto and kombucha tea.
Understanding Leaky Gut
If you are chronically stressed or have been taking repeated dosages of a group of drugs called NSAIDS, which include aspirin, ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, and Celebrex, the cells that line the small intestine may become lax. Lax gatekeeper cells can allow all kinds of molecules into the deeper tissues. This situation is called leaky gut.
Leaky gut puts your immune system on high-alert and inflammation ensues. There is no medical test to diagnose this but some of my patients report they can’t seem to eat the foods they used to eat because now they have gas, bloating, or chronic diarrhea. They might also have constipation or headaches, or just feel spacey.
The main strategy when this situation occurs is to seal the gut cells so they create the gate again. You may need to see a specialist regarding specific herbs to take. The diet to turn leaky gut around includes bone broth, steamed (non-starchy) vegetables, organic wild meats, wild-caught fish, egg yolks, avocados, fruit, coconut oil, olive oil and ghee. The emotional medicine includes meditating, singing, praying and taking time for yourself to unwind and be kind. For a great bone broth recipe email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you aware of the importance of having a healthy digestive tract? What foods do you eat to keep a balanced healthy gut diet? If you suffer from gastrointestinal issues have any of the suggestions in this article been helpful? Please join the conversation.
This article recently appeared on the website SixtyandMe.