Are Your Health Problems Actually a Digestion Problem?
Updated: Dec 14, 2019
Do you have some unexplained aches and pains?
Does it feel like your metabolism is sluggish? Thinking seem foggy? Energy too low?
Ever considered that your health (or weight) challenges might be a sign of a problem in your gut?
So many (often mysterious) health challenges, even those that don't manifest as digestive problems, have their roots in a stressed out, inefficient, or porous gut.
In fact, you can actually be eating a nutritious diet, but if your gut can't absorb what you eat, you'll still be malnourished.
A QUICK PEEK INSIDE
Your digestive tract is essentially a long, warm, wet, flexible, living tube inside you...with all sorts of nooks and crannies.
It is home to trillions of microbes and thousands, if not tens of thousands, of different species of yeasts, molds, fungi, bacteria, and possibly even parasites.
And get this...your cells are out-populated by these organism by about 10-1. The microbes are tiny, but they make up 2-6 pounds of your body weight.
YOUR AMAZING DISASSEMBLY LINE
Technically, anything in your digestive tract, is still outside your body.
For something to make its way into the body, it needs (or should need) the permission of the digestive tract.
The digestive tract is the place where your food is disassembled into usable building blocks, and when working efficiently, the workers in the tract gather what is needed, and send everything else to the exit at the end of the tube.
WHERE THINGS START TO GO WRONG
Ever let clothes sit in the washing machine too long?
Ever left a bag of trash out in the warm, summer sun?
It starts to get funky right?
Because warm and wet is a great place for microbes to grow. In other words, the ever-present organisms in the air, have found a place to land and procreate.
And so it is with your gut.
YOUR GUT HAS ITS OWN ECOLOGY
Now, picture a warm, wet environment...inside you, with a constant influx of food, (for some people) medications...and the chemicals used in today's "food" -- pesticides, preservatives, artificial flavors, fake sweeteners, food-coloring chemicals, etc.
That's quite a cocktail right?
Sounds like a feast if you're a microbe...and it is, depending on what type of microbe you are.
THE IDEA OF "GOOD AND BAD" MICROBES
The vast majority of the microbes living inside you said to be "friendly." In other words, in a healthy gut, they enhance your well-being.
It is also said we all have "bad" microbes inside us that we will never fully eliminate--that's the nooks-and-crannies part.
Instead of seeing microbes as good or bad however, I think it's more helpful to conceive of them as balanced or unbalanced.
ONE IMPORTANT LAYER DEEPER
In a healthy ecosystem, there is no infection--soil is fertile, plants grow, animals thrive, etc.
In a healthy ecosystem (think of a giant rainforest), we need the microbes that feed on death and decay. Without them, nothing would rot, and the cycle of life would not go on.
Death feeds life.
What we don't want, is for the microbes that feed on death and decay to become the dominant species, thereby crowding out the other important microbes.
That can only happen if a large volume of rot is constantly present.
Unlike a rainforest, where flora and fauna decompose and are re-assimilated into a natural balance, many people have an internal rainforest (i.e. digestive tract), regularly barraged with poor food choices, and the ingestion of disruptive chemicals--antibiotics, endocrine disruptors, etc.
That influx constantly feeds an internal ecology of imbalance.
In other words, the "bad" guys start to overpopulate the "good"
The fancy term for this imbalance is "dysbiosis."
WHERE THE PROBLEM GETS WORSE
Just like acid dissolves meat, many of the chemicals we (knowingly or unknowingly) ingest, actually erode the sensitive lining of our intestines, making then porous. This erosion (read, "killing of healthy tissue") provides more rot for the bad microbes to eat...and the dysbiosis worsens.
Because of the erosion of the intestinal lining, chemicals and undigested foods can leak into your bloodstream, overwhelm your immune system, disrupt your hormones, and can thereby wreak havoc to any system or process of your body.
In plain English: Poor digestion may explain your mysterious symptoms.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS?
One thing I love about being in the business of building health (rather than treating sickness), is that my work requires me to regularly ponder how to better support the body so it can work efficiently.
The key question I've learned to come back to regarding the gut, is "How does nature keep things balanced?"
Nature is fantastic at it. So using what we know above we can come up with...
A SIMPLE FRAMEWORK
Stop the influx of foods, chemicals, and other sources of stress that injure the gut.
Make the environment hostile to the overgrowth of "bad" guys.
Send in an army of the "good" guys.
While the overall framework isn't complicated, working it out in your own body can be quite a personalized process.
There's a lot more to rebooting your gut than simply popping a pro-biotic or pre-biotic.
The framework above and the levers below are some of the tools we use with our clients when it becomes apparent their gut is what's holding them back.
It's beyond the scope of this article to help you figure out exactly what you would need. So, think of the framework above, and the suggestions below, as starting points to get your research-gears turning.
FIVE (DIETARY) LEVERS YOU CAN PULL TO IMPROVE YOUR GUT HEALTH
An Elimination Diet -- Almost everyone looking to reboot their digestion, ought to consider an elimination diet. There is a pretty big "spectrum of aggressiveness" to consider, but aside from the obvious need to stop eating junk food, most elimination diets start with at least a temporary removal of grains, dairy, refined sugars and vegetable oils (the latter two would ideally never come back).
Bacteria-Balancing "Earth" -- Clay, charcoal, and real salt have been used for centuries to help with healing. Do a quick search of them on PubMed and you'll turn up all sorts of studies that talk about how these simple substances can put infections in check. Used correctly, they make the environment unfriendly to the organisms we don't want overpopulating inside us.
Raw, Unfiltered Honey -- Like many natural substances, before the commercialization of this wonderful superfood, honey has been used traditionally to help the body heal. Good honey (not too much) is great medicine and can do wonders to put infections in check. It works for bees...and it's super yummy.
Herbs -- Herbs are nature's antibiotics. Plants in nature are exposed to the elements 24/7. To survive, they've had to develop their own internal and external phytonutrients (plant chemicals) to keep the bacteria, in and around them, balanced. Garlic and ginger are two popular plants known to fight infection. Some of the most potent herbs can be purchased in tonic or supplement form. From personal experience I can tell you that carefully selected herbs are a tremendously-potent weapon against infection.
Anti-Biofilm Agents -- Once a colony of "bad" bacteria establishes itself, it can be pretty tough to kill because it develops what's called a "biofilm" to protect itself--this "dome" is how bacteria can become anti-biotic resistant. Simple substances like oregano oil, black walnut, and others can be powerful at dissolving biofilms. Used in tandem with the above they can help put undesirable overgrowth in check.
BRINGING IN THE ARMY OF GOOD GUYS
This "invasion" (read highly-nutritious, bacteria-rich, foods and supplements) can be done in tandem with, or towards the tail end of, an elimination diet.
If after an elimination diet you still have a hard time digesting known, healthy, traditional foods. You likely still have an infection. Go back to step two, and possibly go to the next level of aggressive (restrictive) with the elimination diet.
There's a lot more I could say here but as you can probably tell, this quickly gets super, person-specific depending on how the above "hostility battle" goes.
The short version is, the healthier your diet, the healthier your gut will be. Diet always comes first.
A well-functioning gut is essential to good health.
A poor-functioning gut may be ground zero of your health (or weight-loss) challenge.
If you've made a lot of attempts to heal, stop pain, or lose weight, and haven't had much success, taking two to eight weeks to really focus on gut health might be just the kickstart you've been missing.
Until next time...hope you found this helpful,
PS. If you want some help with your gut health, reach out any time. We've added a significant digestive health track to our Transformational Weight Loss Academy coaching program. It's just one more way we coach the whole human.
Have a thought to share? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.