If you’ve done much research on gut health, you already know that antibiotics, even when prescribed and used correctly, can really do a number on your digestive health. While they’re killing off the pathogens they were meant to eliminate, antibiotics also rid your body of the helpful bacteria and other friendly microbes.
This microbial community that lives inside us, our Microbiome, is incredibly important to our health as humans. It helps or even actually does the work of dozens of body processes.
Ideally, we start life with a healthy, balanced microbiome. It evolves with us over time and helps to keep our nutrition cycles and immune system working smoothly.
So if your doctor prescribed antibiotics for you, you may want to ask her if they are really necessary. Sometimes they may be. But in many cases, antibiotics don’t speed up healing. You can get well just as quickly without them.
At least if you’re taking antibiotics, you’re aware of it and can make an attempt at getting your body back into balance. Many pharmacists will recommend that you add a probiotic supplement, such as acidophilus, after you finish your prescription. And this usually helps, at least a little bit.
But there’s a bigger problem that’s not easily seen. If you’re eating commercially raised meat, eggs, or dairy products, you are consuming low doses of antibiotics every day.
You see, factory farming is not a healthy environment for these animals that are to become our food. The horrendous overcrowding these creatures must endure creates perfect circumstances for the spread of sickness and disease.
So to prevent illness in the flock or herd, antibiotics are added to the livestock’s food. Makes sense, right?
Wrong. This consistent low dose of antibiotics is creating Superbugs that are very difficult to control.
At some point, the factory farmers discovered that low dose antibiotics help livestock to gain weight more quickly than normal. Meat is usually sold by the pound and cheap pharmaceuticals can add a lot to the old profit margin.
More than 80% of the antibiotics sold in the United States are used in the agriculture industry. Millions of pounds of drugs are added to our food supply every year. Drugs that never appear on ingredients labels.
But it’s not just livestock production practices that mess with human gut health. The development of hybridized wheat has also added to the problem.
It is often said that bread is the staff of life. We have been eating it for thousands of years.
Bread is usually made from wheat, because wheat contains lots of gluten proteins. The gluten is what allows the bubbles produced while baking the bread to become part of the loaf’s structure, rather than collapsing it into a dense brick.
And science has helped to create wheat strains with even more gluten than ancient grains had. To make bread softer, lighter, and presumably more fun.
It turns out that gluten is very hard for anyone to digest completely. Incompletely digested proteins, including glutens, are very hard on your gut lining.
In addition to loosening the tight junctions between the cells making up your intestinal wall, glutens have a tendency to stir up your immune system. An inflammatory cascade is created, which can lead to health issues anywhere in your body. Usually in an organ or gland that has already been weakened somehow.
Grain fields offer yet another gut health obstacle.
Weeds are a farmer’s nightmare, adding to their fuel and equipment costs and to their workload. And then herbicides were invented to take care of the weeds.
But to be effective, the seed companies needed to get the crop plants to survive the weed killer. Enter genetically modified seeds, resistant to glyphosate, commercially known as Roundup®.
Having Roundup-Ready crops in the field means that more and more glyphosate is being used on our food. Glyphosate doesn’t just kill weeds. When we eat food that has been treated with this herbicide, it acts very similarly to antibiotics in our digestive tract.
And we already know that is a problem.
Even though on the surface it may seem expensive to buy organically raised and produced groceries, the long term savings in our health and medical budget are well worth it.
What does got health have to do with hayfever or seasonal allergies? Probably a good deal more than you might think.
Allergies and hayfever are an inappropriate defensive response to pollen and other substances.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, “Besides being associated with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, or celiac disease, leaky gut can also be a contributing factor to allergies.”
It’s true that pollens can be extremely irritating. When you look at them under a microscope, some look like medieval torture devices.
Your body wants to rid itself of irritants, so when you’re exposed, you may sneeze to blow it out. Or produce mucus to rinse your sinuses. Or even develop a tickle so that you grab a tissue to blow your nose.
This isn’t really an allergy… just your body taking care of housekeeping.
Much of the hayfever problem and asthma, too is caused by food allergies. It’s like the inflammation caused by an allergy to specific foods or food groups becomes contagious, and spreads to the respiratory system.
And food allergies begin in the gut.
When your intestinal lining loses integrity or leaky gut syndrome, it allows in completely digested food particles into your bloodstream. Your immune system doesn’t recognize these too-large particles as nutrients, so they’re considered to be invaders, and are attacked and disposed of.
It also creates antibodies to those particles. These are sort of like the FBI’s most wanted list, so the immune system can quickly identify and subdue these substances, should they ever decide to invade again.
From Dr. Mercola again: about a third of seasonal allergy sufferers have Oral Allergy Syndrome. Sometimes your immune system is fooled by similar looking proteins. So when a pollen molecule is structurally similar to a food molecule you’re already allergic to, Your immune system looks at the protein molecule and says, ‘Close enough!’ and attacks it.
Most doctors who treat allergies holistically will want to reduce the allergic threshold by using an elimination diet. Because adverse reactions can be delayed sometimes, it’s recommended to stay on the special diet for at least 10 days to properly narrow the field.
The top ten common food allergens you may want to avoid:
Eggs, fish, shellfish, nuts and peanuts will usually have an immediate reaction.
Milk, chocolate, wheat, citrus fruits, and artificial colorings often have a delayed reaction.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends using a Neti pot to irrigate your sinuses daily with saline solution. This safely flushes out pollen and other irritants. Though it won’t cure your allergies, it can help with symptoms, taking some of the pressure off while you’re getting to the root of the problem.
Do you have trouble losing extra weight even though you’re exercising regularly and eating healthy foods?
Starving yourself to lose weight isn’t good for your body, and a super hard-core exercise program may not be the answer, either. These are both extremes, most people’s needs fall somewhere in between.
So let’s take a closer look at something that’s becoming a near epidemic in Western culture, because it very well may apply to your situation.
Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a bacterial community to keep YOU healthy.
Yes, you have a village of microorganisms living inside you. It’s a symbiotic relationship. You rely on each other for survival. This community is called your Microbiome, and it lives in your intestinal tract.
When this community is in balance, it helps you with digestion and absorbing nutrients so you can create energy for your body to use. It helps to keep your hormones balanced, so that you feel appropriately hungry or satisfied. When it’s out of balance, stuff starts to hit the fan, and chaos ensues.
How does the microbiome get out of balance?
The overuse of antibiotics may be the biggest cause. Even if you don’t take antibiotics, you likely get them indirectly through the food you eat. Up to 80% of the antibiotics sold in the US are fed to livestock for various reasons.
Antibiotics kill bacteria, and they don’t discriminate. So you lose the helpful ones, too. Unfortunately, the bacteria we call “bad” earn that label because they are so adept at repopulating. You get an overgrowth… An imbalance.
Chlorination and fluoridation in municipal water supply also do a number on gut bacteria.
The resulting imbalance leads to inflammation, which can cause weight gain all by itself. And it also causes a permeability issue in your intestinal lining, commonly known as leaky gut.
This leads to your immune system reacting badly too many foods that are normally considered to be healthy. Which releases another negative cascade of more health problems.
As if this weren’t enough, the bacterial imbalance also causes a hormonal imbalance. Which can affects metabolism, mood, sleep, the ability to think clearly, skin breakouts, and more. Particularly those hunger pangs you get even though your brain knows that you’ve had plenty enough to eat.
And we are not done yet. Sometimes this in balance can be a bit sneaky. You may not realize you even have digestive problems, because you don’t have the typical heartburn, gas, or bloating you most often hear about.
So if you’re eating a reasonable amount of healthy foods, and you still can’t lose that extra weight, why not try healing your gut? It just may be the answer you’re looking for.
GMOs (genetically modified organisms) have genes from another species transplanted into their DNA. This is done to increase production or yield or add some other previously nonexistent quality to the organism.
These experimental organisms have so far been mostly plants, but animals are also being modified.
This is not the same as hybridizing. Hybrids are created through breeding. Genetic modification is actual transferral of DNA material from one species into another in order to achieve some desired characteristic.
To be able to insert the foreign DNA into the recipient plant or animal DNA, either a virus or bacteria must be used as a sort of carrier.
As bizarre as the genetic transfer may seem, perhaps the bigger problem is the use of these viral and bacterial carriers. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
One of the targeted characteristics of GMOs is called Roundup Ready. This means that the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) can be sprayed on the crop without killing it. Evidently the weeds must be developing tolerance for this herbicide, because more and more of it is being used every year. Much of this glyphosate is absorbed into the plant and ends up in our food.
Glyphosate acts like a highly targeted antibiotic in the guts of animals and people. Unfortunately, it targets only our beneficial bacteria- the microbes that help with digestion, detoxification, hormonal balance, immune system and more. It has no effect on pathogenic bacteria like E. Coli and botulism. This throws off the delicate balance of friendlies and unfriendlies, which will become a big problem sooner or later.
Another characteristic that has been added to GM corn is Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) a pesticide that occurs naturally as a soil microbe. It has been sprayed on crops for decades by organic farmers to deter insect damage.
Now the middleman has been eliminated by inserting the pesticide directly into the plant. It wasn’t supposed to affect animals, only insects. It kills pests by creating holes in the cell walls in their digestive tracts.
Surprise! That’s also what it does to cows that are fed GM corn, and to humans, too. Destroying the integrity of the cells naturally leads to leaky gut and to all that it entails.
Believe it or not, it gets worse. When we eat plants, we chew and digest the plant material. Under normal circumstances, the DNA from that plant doesn’t impose itself on us like some sort of invader. Instead, we extract the nutrients from the plant to use in our own body processes.
Bt is a bacteria that has been forcefully inserted into plants. Somehow this bacterial DNA is separating itself from the plant material being digested. It appears that Bt can survive and replicate itself in our own gut Microbiome, essentially turning us into pesticide factories. Basically the Bt can continually injure the gut lining because instead of flushing out of the system within a few hours, what it’s supposed to do, it’s moving in and raising a very destructive family.
Similar to this scenario, those bacterial and viral genetic carriers mentioned above have been discovered in the digestive tracts of bees. It’s normal for bacterium to exchange genetic material with one another. It’s part of the way they communicate.
But these microbes appear to be cross breeding with the bees’ natural bacteria and creating new varieties.
The gut biomes of bees and humans are closely related. It’s being theorized that maybe the same thing is happening in human digestive tracts as well. And that it could be a part of the cause of the explosive increase in food allergies in recent years.
Realistically, we don’t know the extent of damage that has already been done, or what is still to be discovered. Sometimes the wisest move is to assume the worst, and do your best to avoid GMOs until we know how to fix the problems.
Your body is designed to digest the food you eat; it creates hydrochloric acid along with various enzymes for just that purpose. So why might you consider taking them as a supplement?
Well if you seem to get gas no matter you eat, or you often suffer from heartburn or indigestion, or if constipation is an issue for you, it probably means that there is something not quite right with your enzyme production. In order to be able to absorb nutrients, your food has to be broken down microscopic particles. Anything that’s not totally broken down starts composting somewhere in your intestinal tract, leading to any number of problems.
But before you start taking pills, let’s look at how the digestive process works, or at least, how it’s supposed to.
Digestion actually starts before you ever pick up your fork. Ever notice that smelling something delicious can make your stomach growl? That’s your body realizing that food is on the way, and starting to pump out digestive juices to get ready for it.
And as woo woo as it may sound, it’s important to look at your food and appreciate it before you begin eating. Gratitude for the cook, the farmer, the grocery store, for the Creator, feeling thankful allows your digestion to work better.
Next, chew your food thoroughly. Yes, just like your Grandma probably told you when you were little. This obviously mechanical step also stimulates the production of saliva, which contains the first round of digestive enzymes.
Your stomach produces acid that begins breaking down proteins. This acid also signals your gall bladder to release bile, which begins breaking down fats into fatty acids your body can use.
After this mixture churns for awhile, your pancreas takes over. It neutralizes the stomach acid and releases enzymes that further break down the food.
If all has gone well, by the time it gets to your small intestine, macronutrients have been broken down into micronutrients, which can be absorbed into your bloodstream.
If not, well, that’s how you get those symptoms we talked about earlier.
All of the different digestive actions are necessary for the whole thing to work. Remove or inhibit one piece, and the rest of the process suffers.
There are a few diseases that affect enzyme production, but one of the biggest causes of enzyme deficiency is Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS). This is ironic, because enzyme therapy is also crucial to heal leaky gut.
Depending on your situation, your healthcare practitioner may suggest the use of hydrochloric acid therapy, or other enzyme combinations. Proper use of supplemental enzymes can help to heal your body’s ability to once again create the enzymes it needs.
For years, we’ve been taught that eating whole grain foods – from bread to pasta – is what’s best for building good health. And whole grain truly is better than the refined version of foods: more vitamins are retained, a lot more of the beneficial fiber is available. And many would say there is more flavor, as well.
But recently, it seems as though wheat has gone totally out of style. Everywhere you look, you see gluten free this or that.
And not just the gluten free aisle at the grocery store… Many restaurants now feature a no gluten section in their menus. Gluten free birthday parties for the kids, and gluten free snacks for soccer practice.
So what happened? How did we get from whole wheat to no wheat, and how did it happen so quickly?
Likely this move began a number of years back when it was discovered that there seems to be a connection between a child’s ADHD and their diet. And one of the villainous foods turned out to be wheat.
Typically this was a bit rough on both kids and parents, because it was so unusual not to be able to eat bread, or cake, or even that childhood staple, spaghetti. Having to eat differently can really set a kid apart, which is usually the last thing children want to happen. But gradually, this no- wheat requirement became better known, and much less a stigma. But knowledge spread slowly.
And then there was Paleo.
Ridiculed at first, eating like a caveman was touted as the perfect way to lose weight. You could eat red meat. And bacon. Don’t forget the bacon!
The business of weight loss is huge. More than 60 billion dollars spent in the U.S. in 2014 alone. That much money can make for some powerful momentum.
And the Paleo way of eating for weight loss really does work for most people. Especially when vegetables take up at least as much room on the plate as does that coveted meat.
Probably the biggest reason for its ability to help people take off those extra pounds is that sugar and most grains aren’t allowed on the diet.
Humans have likely been eating wheat in many forms for about 10,000 years, and will probably continue to do so. But I’ll wager that having the choice of eating wheat free won’t be going away any time soon.