FIX YOUR GUT LINING. FIX YOUR HEALTH.
Written by , May 26, 2020
What’s the gut lining got to do with it?
Your Gut Lining Is A Masterpiece
In the article The Curvaceous Small Intestine And Better Health, I explained the importance of all the dips and curves of the small intestine that serve the vital role of providing maximum surface area for the absorption of nutrients from the foods we eat.
The small intestine is a long, winding tube that runs from your stomach to the large intestine. The walls of that tube are not smooth. They have finger-like projections (the villi), grooves (Crypts of Lieberkühn), and even hairs on those villi (brush border), all to increase the surface area for absorption.
When those projections are blunted, flattened, smooth, trouble with your health begins. Even if you eat sufficient amounts of food of the highest quality, you will soon become malnourished from that lack of absorption. Absorption of nutrients is critical to life.
Without sufficient nutrient absorption, protein deficiency leads to things like hair loss, muscle atrophy, and reduced neurotransmitters for mental health. Inadequate fat absorption leads to conditions like skin conditions and hormonal problems, just to name a few.
Leaky Gut Makes You A Feast for Pathogens
The gut lining is made up of a single layer of epithelial cells one after another with tight (tight, that is, in a healthy gut) junctions between them, The tight junctions between the cells make it difficult for large unwanted particles like pathogenic microorganisms and undigested inflammatory food particles to enter into the body simply by the small size of those junctions.
When the junctions between those cells become leaky, and there is a long list of factors that can damage that gut lining from foods that your body finds inflammatory to inflammatory bowel conditions to opportunistic pathogens that grow on that lining and love to poke holes in it, you become like a feast. Yes, I said a feast, like a Thanksgiving feast complete with a well-stocked mini bar for all the toxic microorganisms that shouldn’t be allowed entry into your body.
Your immune system is designed to fight toxic particles with one particular goal of blocking their entry into the bloodstream. If they gain access to your blood vessels, they hitch a ride on that complex circuit of blood vessels that go to every corner of your body.
If your gut is leaky, the immune system does its best to put up a good fight but it can only do so for so long before it weakens. And then all forms of disease states develop from that weakened immune state and your gut becomes the perfect host for all sorts of new pathogens too. It is a vicious cycle.
It’s All About Mucosal Barrier Repair
Our bodies are all different, of course, and it is never as simple as a one-size-fits-all solution. However here are a few strategies to restore optimal gut health.
- Remove foods that are inflammatory to your body. Some of the most common food sensitivities include dairy, wheat, eggs, nuts, corn, caffeine, soy, and nightshades. Elimination diets typically consist of elimination of all common food sensitivities all at once for say 30 days and then reintroducing them one at a time to see your body’s reaction to each food type. If eliminating them all at once is difficult, another strategy is to take one food type at a time and eliminate only the one for 30 days, and so forth. But notice that I said “foods that are inflammatory to YOUR body”. The topic of food sensitivities is one that has puzzled me over the years. Hearing from thousands and thousands of followers about their reactions to foods, it is clear that our bodies each react differently. What is healthy food for one person may be unhealthy for another, and what is unhealthy for one person may be perfectly healthy for another.
- Test for food sensitivities. There are several helpful diagnostic tests including MRT (Mediator Release Test) and food Zoomer tests. Beyond the most common food sensitivities, my clients have uncovered sensitivities to different types of fruits, vegetables, spices, seafood, meats, and poultry.
- Take a probiotic. Your gut is home to beneficial microorganisms that help keep your gut in tip-top condition. When your gut flora is rich and healthy, it does the heavy lifting of killing off pathogens and inhibiting their colonization. Too often our guts lack the number and diversity of beneficial microorganisms and that’s where high quality probiotics, and prebiotics (food for the healthy bugs in your gut) too, fit in the picture.
- Identify gut pathogens. If there is one big giant step forward that you can take for your gut health, it is a gut pathogen screen hands down. Understanding what types of opportunistic microorganisms living in your gut is a necessary step to stop the vicious cycle. When our small intestine harbors those bugs, they grow and reproduce and inflame our gut lining eventually leading to villous atrophy, blunted brush border, and leaky gut. Those large gaps in our lining then give those bugs free access to enter our bodies and our immune system goes into overdrive on constant alert to defend the body from those pathogens until eventually it tires out. With a weakened immune system, you then become the perfect host for new bugs too. It is not a surprise when a stool test reveals multiple pathogenic microbes present at the same time. The first step in eradication is to understand exactly what microbes you are dealing with.
- Gut-healing nutrients. In a gut healing protocol, l-glutamine can be your best friend in helping the gut lining to regrow and repair. Other gut-repairing nutrients include aloe, slippery elm, and marshmallow root. Some people need more or less time than others on a gut healing protocol depending on the severity of their condition.
- Take digestive enzymes. While your gut is healing, digestive enzymes help break down the foods you eat for better absorption of nutrients across the gut lining.
- Reduce stress. Stress kills, as they say. And it is not an exaggeration. When your brain perceives a challenging threat, it initiates a cascade of events involving the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis. The stress hormone “cortisol” is produced to help the body address the stressful event and, in a healthy state, should reduce back to normal. In our ultra high stress lifestyles, cortisol production often remains stuck on non-stop for years and even decades until the system breaks down and cortisol production plummets so low eventually that it sets the stage for chronic diseases. HPA axis dysfunction can be addressed in different ways including the use of adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, rhodiola, and holy basil. One thing we can do for ourselves is to identify sources of stress that we have the power to change and to incorporate relaxation techniques to help our body’s better react to stressful situations.
One day my body suddenly broke from hypothyroidism. I clawed my way back to health by devouring the scientific literature. You see, I was once the team leader of an Ivy League professor’s research team with no clue then that those skills would one day save my life and that my site Hypothyroid Mom would spread across the internet like lightening. And then came the day to share all my other precious health nuggets and Yes! Healthier was born.