Gut issues are a growing problem for many people, especially those of us with Autoimmune conditions.
There are now 60-70 million people in the USA that are affected by all digestive disease (1).
You are not alone!
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You may be reading this, and you already know that you have one of the many autoimmune condition or maybe you’ve never been diagnosed, but you’re experiencing problems with your gut and found yourself here on my blog.
Whichever it is, I’m glad that you found me, because, I’m here to help.
In this blog, Part 1, I would like to guide you, so that you can learn more about Gut problems, such as leaky gut and inflammation, because today, these are major health concerns.
In Part 2, I will also highlight the foods that are known to cause the unpleasant gut issues that you may already have.
I will also share with you the type of foods that are recommended by functional medical doctors, which may be able to help you eliminate your gut issues.
Hippocrates stated that “All diseases begin in the gut.”
Now science is backing his statement up. If you want to be healthy and stay healthy, it is imperative that you understand your gut and the important role that gut health has on your body.
Dr. Roshini Raj, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Medical Center/Tisch Hospital in New York City, says,
“There is a critical need for people to educate themselves about digestive health issues and seek guidance from a healthcare professional, who can determine if their unidentified GI symptoms are serious enough to warrant further attention or specialist intervention.”
Dr. Roshini Raj added,
“It’s imperative that anyone who experiences these symptoms take an active role managing their health and engages in an open and honest dialogue with their healthcare professional, and not simply attribute GI symptoms to stress or an improper diet.” (2).
I couldn’t agree more. You do need to consult with a medical professional, ideally a Functional Medical Doctor who will look for the cause of your issues and treat accordingly.
Before you do, let me help you understands some basics, so that you can have a meaningful conversation with your doctor.
First, you need to understand what the Gut is.
What is The Gut /GI Tract?
Put very simply, the gut is the gastrointestinal tract, a hollow tube that runs throughout the length of your body from your tongue down to your rectum. The food that we eat is digested, broken down into nutrients in the stomach by stomach acids and microorganisms. When it arrives in the small intestine, the nutrients are absorbed across the cell wall and into the blood stream.
Living inside the gut are trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms, some are good and some are bad. They make up our microbiome.
The good ones help food digestion, create biochemicals such as short chain fatty acids. These healthy fats reduce inflammation and modulate your immune system, some good microorganisms also help with detoxification.
Bad microorganisms, on the other hand, produce fats that promote allergy and asthma, eczema, and inflammation throughout your body, (3). Bad microorganisms (pathogens), can include bacteria, viruses, fungus or intestinal worms.
Gut dysbiosis means that there is an upset in the natural balance of these microorganisms in your gut. If the bad microorganisms proliferate over the good microorganisms then some of the basic biological functions such as digestion begin to breakdown, and you may experience symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), has recently been recognized as an underlying cause of many cases of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), clinical relapses of Crohn’s disease as well as Celiac patients unresponsive to a gluten-free diet. SIBO is a chronic infection of the small intestine, resulting in the excessive fermentation of dietary carbohydrates and the accompanying flatulence, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. (4)
The composition of the microorganisms in your body is affected by many things, in particular, by the food that you eat. I will talk more about this in Part 2. Medications such as antibiotics, environmental toxins and stress can also negatively affect the gut microbiome.
What Happens When The Gut Is Damaged?
- Leaky Gut
The lining of your gut is comprised of a single cell layer known as the epithelium.
Each of these cells are joined tightly together, most of the time. But, sometimes they can be triggered to open up, (they become permeable), resulting in what’s known today as “Leaky Gut”.
Leaky Gut or “intestinal permeability” as some mainstream medical practitioners prefer to call it, has been linked to symptoms and condition that many people are suffering from today. (5)
Leaky Gut Symptoms:
- Digestive Pain
- Irritable Bowel
- Bad Breath
Some of The Conditions linked to Leaky GUT
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Celiac Disease
- Crohn’s Disease
- Chronic Fatigue
- Hashimotos Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
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Cause of Leaky Gut
More clinicians and researchers are now coming around to the idea that, “leaky gut” maybe ground zero for most autoimmune conditions.
70% of our immune system is contained in the gut associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), which sits across the gut cell wall. The GALT protects us daily from everything that passes through the gut wall. When the gut becomes permeable, as in the condition “leaky gut”, more virulent hard to manage pathogens and partially digested food can enter and start to wreak havoc on the body. (6)
Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, says,
“We now believe that under certain circumstances, fissures open up in the intestinal barrier that may allow things to get through,” (7).
He has extensively studied the gut and its role in human health. In 2000, he and his team discovered “zonulin,” a gut protein that unlocks the tight junctions between the cell walls in your gut. Inflammation from gluten in the diet can cause zonulin to be produced. (7), (8).
- Inflammation and the Immune System
When the gut is damaged from leaky gut, it can create inflammation in your body, which can become chronic over time, if not treated.
Your immune system is made up of two types. You have an innate immune system and an adaptive immune system.
- Your Innate Immune System kicks in as the first response to an injury, an infection or something toxic entering the body. It produces acute inflammation, the automatic reaction from the body to destroy any invading pathogens.
- Your Adaptive Immune System kicks in when there is an invasion of pathogens that your body has experienced before and it remembers them. It develops antibodies and is ready to target and attack the invaders and begin the inflammation process.
Both these systems use acute inflammation to attack and destroy the invading pathogen which is a good inflammation to have. However, when inflammation becomes chronic because the attack is continuous, then we have a problem.
The immune system doesn’t just attack the invading pathogen, but it starts to attack your body as well.
This is the beginning of autoimmunity, a condition which affects 50 million people in the USA. (9) including me!
Other Conditions Affecting The GUT
Through my research I discovered information that I had not heard before, which I would like to share.
- Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI).
The pancreas produces enzymes to help with the digestion of food. When the pancreas fails to provide the necessary amount of digestive enzymes, then the body is unable to properly digest nutrient such as fats, carbohydrates, and proteins
EPI is associated with uncomfortable gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, like bloating, gas, and oily diarrhea that floats and is difficult to flush. Additionally, if you have EPI, you may not be getting the necessary nutrition from the foods you eat.
Conditions such as autoimmune pancreatitis, celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease have been associated with EPI.
To learn more about EPI visit http://www.identifyepi.com/
- The Enteric Nervous System (ENS)
The ENS is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from the oesophagus to the rectum.
Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology, explains,
“Its main role is controlling digestion, from swallowing to the release of enzymes that break down food to the control of blood flow that helps with nutrient absorption to elimination.”
It is now believed that the ENS may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset.
“For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around.”
Researchers are finding evidence that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that trigger mood changes. (10)
This link between digestion, mood and health may help explain why people with IBS and functional bowel problems develop depression and anxiety.
I know this is a lot of valuable information to take in, so bookmark this page to your favourites so that you can read it over again.
Part 2 in this 2-part series looks at the foods that can cause damage to your gut, as well as those foods that are recommended to eat which will support your gut health.
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Ready for Part 2?
Here it is >>
Thank you for reading and sharing.
It is much appreciated.
To Your Success,
You Are What You Eat, Choose Wisely.
Katherine Minett, a Blogger with Hashimoto Thyroiditis, who is on a mission to educate and guide others on the importance that good nutrition has, in preventing and managing autoimmune diseases. Specifically, how to manage the symptoms of weight gain and fatigue that are commonly associated with these conditions.
Disclaimer: “Essential Nutrition Tips Blog” does not offer medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have medical concerns please consult your doctor. See Full Disclaimer.
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National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Digestive Diseases Statistics For The United States. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/digestive-diseases
PR Newswire. New Survey Reveals More than Half of Americans are Living with Gastrointestinal Symptoms and Not Seeking Care from a Doctor. Nov 06, 2013. Retrieved From http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-survey-reveals-more-than-half-of-americans-are-living-with-gastrointestinal-symptoms-and-not-seeking-care-from-a-doctor-230804341.html
Dr Hyman. 5 Steps to Kill Hidden Bad Bugs in Your Gut that Make You Sick. Retrieved from http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/09/27/5-steps-to-kill-hidden-bad-bugs-in-your-gut-that-make-you-sick/
Today’s Dietician. Gut Health and Autoimmune Disease — Research Suggests Digestive Abnormalities May Be the Underlying Cause. Aglaée Jacob, MS, RD Vol. 15 No. 2 P. 38 February 2013 Issue http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/021313p38.shtml
Axe, J. MD., (2016). The Hidden Epidemic. Eat Dirt (pp 9-10) New York, NY: Harper Collins.
Axe, J. MD., (2016). The Immunity Connection. Eat Dirt (pp 35-36) New York, NY: Harper Collins.
Markham Heid. (13 Jan 2016). You Asked: Is Leaky Gut Syndrome a Real Thing? http://time.com/4178015/leaky-gut-syndrome-probiotics/
Fassano A. MD., et al. The Lancet. Zonulin, a newly discovered modulator of intestinal permeability, and its expression in coeliac disease. Volume 355 Issue 9214. 29 April 2000, Pages 1518-1519 Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673600021693
American Autoimmune Related Disease Association, General AD Information, How Many Americans have autoimmune disease? Retrieved from https://www.aarda.org/knowledge-base/many-americans-autoimmune-disease/
John Hopkins Medicine. Healthy Aging. The Brain-Gut Connection http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection