By Sunao Gilbert, MD, FAARFM, ABAARM
Do all of your joints hurt? Does every movement cause you to experience pain? If so, you may have a leaky gut. Leaky gut occurs when the Gastrointestinal tract is inflamed, proteins and food particles then leak through the inflamed lining and cause an immune response.
Do you have a “low thyroid”? The cause may be your gut. Your GI tract converts nutrients, vitamins, and hormones into their active form. Thyroid hormone, the regulator of metabolism requires this activation. The liver and gut is responsible for turning T4 (prohormone) into T3 (active hormone).
Do you crave sweets? It may be an imbalance of the microbes in your gut. Often, it is an overgrowth of Candida in your gut screaming at your brain “Feed me”!
Do you have a rash, eczema, or other skin problems? It may be your gut. Your skin has many functions and one of them is to rid your body of toxins, therefore problems with detoxification and elimination in your gut can, and often do, manifest in your skin.
Are you suddenly unable to lose weight? Were you rapidly losing weight and then…nothing?! It could stem from your gut. Most toxins are stored in fat tissue. When there is rapid weight loss, those toxins are dumped into the body. Therefore, your body switches its focus from losing weight, to protecting itself from this toxic load of toxins. No more weight loss.
Each year, nearly 70 million Americans are affected by digestive diseases, from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Despite normal colonoscopies and upper endoscopies, millions are daily taking acid blocking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), H2 blockers and calcium carbonate for gastric distress; or laxatives like MiraLAX or Dulcolax, to have a bowel movement. These common medications only serve to patch the problem. They do not fix the root of the problem. It is necessary to look at the core functions of our gut in order to properly heal it.
The GI tract has the job of breaking down our food and absorbing the nutrients. It makes vitamins and transforms nutrients into an active bioavailable form the body can use. These fundamental processes take place on the surface layer that comes into contact with the food. This vital surface layer of our GI tract (called the epithelium) is what gets damaged with inflammation due to acid, toxins, food intolerances (gluten, dairy) and infection ( like Salmonella).
The GI tract also has the task of protecting us from everything that we put in our mouths and the average person eats 75,000 to 80,000 pounds of food by the age of 75! The GI tract is the headquarters of our immune system and our first line of defense from food particles and invaders getting into our blood supply. Believe it or not, that important wall of defense is only ONE cell layer thick. Keeping this barrier healthy is the way to prevent and improve food allergies, chronic joint pain, chronic problems like sinusitis and even autoimmune illnesses.
Did you also know that your GI tract makes more neurotransmitters than your brain does? There is a nervous system that lives in the gut with a direct line of communication with the brain. There is also the Hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis which is a signal pathway that the brain uses to communicate with the body in response to stress. Serotonin, for example, the neurotransmitter most known for its contribution to our happiness, is mostly made in our gut. Therefore, the improvement of gut health could be a more prominent focus in mental health to reduce the reliance on antidepressant medication.
Most are now aware that the human GI tract is host to countless microbes (some estimate 100 trillion bacteria alone) that have a powerful impact on human health. These symbiotic organisms serve 4 basic functional categories which covers at least 16 different tasks. When the balance of these microbes becomes disturbed (dysbiosis) by use the use of antibiotics, NSAIDs, exposure to pesticides and infections (both viral and bacterial), we can have problems with indigestion, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea and get labeled with IBS or other syndromes.
Since the beginning of time, we have used out gut as a barometer of what is good for us and what is not. We look to what we feel in the center of our core, to delineate what is best for us in many cases. We often say “trust your gut” or it was “my gut reaction” or my gut instincts tells me…” It is no surprise, then, that the gastrointestinal tract is central to optimal health.
Through advanced stool testing we can assess your gut microbial balance, your current immune response to offenders, your levels of gastric acid and pancreatic enzymes, and the health of the cells that line your GI tract. With this information we can begin the process of returning your gut to an optimal level of function. Please take your gut health seriously and get to the root of your health issues.
It’s important to be able to trust your gut!