The Root of ALL Chronic Disease and How YOU Can Save Your Life
Written by: Greg Ashby
Most chronic health problems or diseases can be traced to having an impaired digestive system.
Did you know… having an impaired digestive system can lead to Dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is a condition that occurs when there is an imbalance between good bacteria and bad bacteria in the gut.
Dysbiosis has been shown to be a direct result of eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), which is:
- High in sugar
- High in fat, cholesterol, sodium
- Full of refined and processed foods
- Low in fiber, minerals, EFA’s (essential fatty acids)
- Full of preservatives
- Loaded with hormones, etc. in meat, fish, eggs
Along with stress and chronic antibiotic usage, you are setting your body and health
up for a fall. Without making some lifestyle changes, this condition can develop into a much more serious problem called Leaky Gut Syndrome or Intestinal Permeability.
This syndrome spreads low level chronic inflammation throughout your body, setting the stage for an often preventable Autoimmune condition, which starts to slowly damage your health or even kill you. Autoimmune Diseases are a major health problem and unfortunately, continue to be on the rise.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates up to 23.5* million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease and that the prevalence is rising. Roughly 50 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease! That is an insane number!
Now that I have your attention, let’s start from the beginning.
It is estimated by the CDC that between 60 and 70 million people are affected by a digestive disorder. This is the third most common illness in the United States.
For food to be absorbed in the body properly, it must be broken down into carbohydrates that are then converted into glucose and then protein is broken down into amino acids. But if you are under stress or you are eating on the run or eating too fast, you set the stage for improper digestion. If your food is not broken down properly, it will start to putrefy and produce toxins. If you are not eliminating properly, this will begin to build up and can lead to chronic illness.
Some of the other factors that can cause impaired digestion are:
- eating too much processed food, lacking in fiber and making the body work harder with little in return
- drinking too much fluid while eating impairs digestion by diluting your stomach acid (hydrochloric acid, of HCl)
- eating too fast
- overeating, especially the wrong foods
One of most significant causes of Leaky Gut is Stress.
The stressors can be physical, emotional, mental and even environmental caused by thousands and thousands of chemicals in our food, water and the air we breathe. Under stress, your body is designed to divert or stop any energy that was going to the stomach for digestion and redirect it towards dealing with the stress. Stress ZAPS your energies and can be a major contributor toward Intestinal Permeability, Autoimmunity and even Cancer.
In The Healing Power of Foods, Dr. Murray talks about the downward spiral your body experiences when you are not nourishing yourself well.
Impaired digestion leads to Intestinal Toxemia then Candida and Parasites, which lead to an imbalance of your Gut Flora, then Leaky Gut progresses to chronic disease.
This progress can start slowly in the form of food sensitivities. Poor digestion, eating too fast or not chewing your food well enough allow undigested food particles into your lymphatic system. This pattern sets off an alarm in the immune system that there are invaders.
Your body goes into a fight, flight, or even a freeze reaction, which suppresses your rest and digestive state (the parasympathetic nervous system, which leads further impaired digestion and poor healing). Your body can then stay in a chronic state of stress, which results in elevated cortisol levels and possibly cortisol resistance.
Chronic stress plays a major role in the following unhealthy outcomes:
- Nutrient absorption decreases and nutrient excretion increases
- Blood cholesterol and triglycerides go up
- As cortisol levels rise, it is associated with weight gain, abdominal obesity and inability to lose weight or build muscle
- This excessive cortisol output results in premature aging of the body, which increases oxidative stress
- The body retains sodium
- Food sensitivities increase
- Insulin resistance rises
- Protein metabolism decreases, therefore muscle mass decreases
- Inflammation greatly increases
The more toxic your environment, the greater burden to your body – especially your liver – is put under. Examples of this include toxins you might not have of thought of!
What kind of water do you drink? Is it filtered?
Do you drink out of plastic bottles? Drinking from plastic containers exposes Bisphenol A (BPA), a big toxic no-no! BPA is also found in aluminium can linings.
In a study by the National Institute of Agronomic Research in Toulouse, France, researchers exposed both rats and human intestinal cells to a dose of BPA, which was 10 times lower than the amount currently considered safe by most governments. They found that on exposure to the chemical, the intestinal lining of both human and rat guts developed ‘leaky gut syndrome’ or damage to the lining of the gut. This damage allows toxic substances and foreign pathogens to enter the body through this leaky gut and because gut lining also contains immunoglobulin A, its disruption can affect the entire body’s immune system.
Further, in a study cited in the 2009 PNAS journal, researchers found that exposure to BPA in the womb or immediately after birth significantly increased rats’ risk of developing severe intestinal inflammation as adults, adding to the evidence that BPA is particularly dangerous to developing fetuses and children.
Some of the factors that can further lead to Leaky Gut are:
- Gut irritants (caffeine, alcohol, gluten/grains)
- Parasites/Bacteria (from contaminated water and food)
- Chemicals (in food, plastic and environment)
- Deficiencies in enzymes
- Junk food carbohydrate diets
- Excess hormones (prescriptive and food)
- Mycotoxins (mold and fungal)
Leaky Gut can lead to:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Crohn’s disease
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Or any other Autoimmune condition!
So what can YOU do?
Introducing The 5 R Program
Remove the bad. The goal is to get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract, such as inflammatory foods, infections and gastric irritants like alcohol, caffeine or drugs. Inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs and sugar can lead to food sensitivities.
I recommend a IgG food sensitivity testing to determine if any foods are a problem for you. Infections can be from parasites, yeast or bacteria. A comprehensive stool analysis is also a key to determining the levels of good bacteria as well as any infections that may be present.
*Note: food intolerance/allergy tests can provide false positives if you already have leaky gut. In this case, an elimination diet is best, as it’s more accurate until you’ve healed your gut.
Remove the infection agents with antimicrobial herbs such as:
Garlic: against-Salmonella typhimurium, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, Bacillus subtilis, mycotoxigenic Aspergillus, Candida albicans
Onion: Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus parasiticus
Cinnamon: Mycotoxigenic Aspergillus, Aspergillus parasiticus
Cloves: Mycotoxigenic Aspergillus
Mustard: Mycotoxigenic Aspergillus
Allspice: Mycotoxigenic Aspergillus
Replace the good. Add back in the essential ingredients for proper digestion and absorption that may have been depleted by diet, drugs (such as antacid medications), diseases or aging. This includes Enzymes and sometimes HCL and bile acids are needed to re-establishing proper digestion.
Restoring beneficial bacteria to re-establish a healthy balance of good bacteria is critical. This may be accomplished by taking a Probiotic supplement that contains beneficial bacteria, such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species. It is recommend anywhere from 25 -100 billion units a day. Also, taking a prebiotic (food for the good bacteria) supplement, or consuming foods high soluble fiber is important as you want your bowels to be moving these toxins out of your body daily.
Providing the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself is essential. My favorite supplements are Glutamine, an amino acid that helps to rejuvenate the gut wall lining; zinc carnosine; omega 3 oils; vitamin A, C, E as well as herbs such as slippery elm and aloe vera
“Activating the relaxation nervous system – the one that allows us to “rest and digest” – is an effective means of easing symptoms and restoring an anti-inflammatory state. You can start with something as simple as listening to a guided meditation for several minutes a day and working up to 20 minutes twice a day for a therapeutic effect.
The interconnectedness of your gut, brain, immune and hormonal systems is impossible to unwind. Until you begin to appreciate this complex relationship, you will not be able to prevent or intervene effectively in depression, slated to become the second-leading cause of disability in this country, within the decade. For true healing, and meaningful prevention, take steps every day toward sending your body the message that it is not being attacked, it is not in danger, and it is well nourished, well supported and calm.
As a society, we can begin to think about protecting the microbiome by demedicalizing birth and infant nutrition. And as individuals, by avoiding antibiotics, NSAIDs, grains, genetically modified and non-organic food. Promising interventions for depression from a gut-brain perspective include probiotics, fermented foods as part of a high natural fat diet, and relaxation response for optimal digestion, anti-inflammatory and insulin sensitizing effects. No antidepressant medication required!” (source)
Managing stress is a lifetime learning process, but here are a few suggestions to get you started.
- Learn how to breathe properly. Anytime you are feeling anxious, stressed or overwhelmed by what is happening, take a deep breath in and count to 5, hold for 3, then let it out slowly to a count of 8 with a long sigh. Do this 3 times. This is also helpful before you eat.
- Sip on a cup of Tulsi tea. Tulsi is an ayurvedic herb that can help you adapt to stressors in your life.
- Do not create stress in your life by eating too fast. The faster you eat, the less nurtured your body feels.
- Do not consume caffeine on an empty stomach, especially first thing in the morning. Add a healthy fat source (like coconut oil or ghee) or protein (like collagen powder) to help stabilize glucose levels and avoid the spike/crash roller coaster.
- Do not engage in a deep or heated conversation before breakfast.
- No extreme exercise before breakfast.
Focus on eating a 70% plant based diet for a month and see how you feel! And remember to steam the vegetables until they grow tender. This opens up the plant fiber and allows the body to absorb the nutrients more easily.
Try eating cultured vegetables, like Kimchi or sauerkraut. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet – including essential fatty acids like fish oil and GLA – is imperative for healing the gut. There should be no processed grains or sugars. This diet should also include some Wild Salmon and Grass-fed meat if possible.
Use Zinc Carnosine and Glutamine. These help maintain intestinal metabolism and function and seem to benefit patients who have had intestinal injury whether it be from chemotherapy, radiation, medications or just a S.A.D. diet.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, your life’s ‘core essence’ – your health – has its home in your GI tract, where 70-80% of your immune system resides. So it makes very good sense to take care of the home YOU live in NOW… before it’s too late.
Integrative Health Coach and Functional Nutrition Consultant
at Ask Dr. Garland
Greg Ashby, CHHC, AADP lives in Ogden, Utah and is an Integrative Health Coach and Functional Nutrition Consultant. Greg has been in the Health and Wellness industry for over 20 years.
Because of his personal experience with Adrenal and Thyroid disorders, as well as Cancer, he’s committed to the areas of Autoimmunity and Cancer prevention and management when it comes to research and his work. He enjoys studying the Psychology of Eating and Behavioral Disorders.
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