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Healthy Gut, Healthy Life

I am so excited about tomorrow night’s Fundamental Foods and Friends Dinner with our special guest, Jan Etzel. Every dinner we do here is a great time – and they only get better as we go – but I believe this one is going to clear up a lot of misconceptions about healthy eating and tie together things I’ve been saying all along here on “Wellness Wednesday.”

If you read last week’s article, you already know that Jan has a unique perspective on the importance of gardening for optimum health. This week, I want to share some notes I’ve personally taken as I’ve listened to Jan teach in the past. I think you will recognize some themes that she and I have in common.

What Is Gut-friendly Eating?

For example,

“Gut-friendly foods feed beneficial bacteria, ensuring a healthy diversity of gut flora, iron-clad immunity, and a resilient gut wall.”

If you’re new to my website, let me take a minute to unpack some of the terms here:

When we talk about your gut here, we’re not talking about the spare tire hanging over your waistline. We’re referring specifically to the gastrointestinal tract from your stomach to your rectum.

In that space live trillions of bacteria that work together in a symbiotic ecosystem (your “gut flora”) that triages billions of cells a minute, separating nutrients from waste products, toxins, and viruses. This bacterial colony is not only where your food is digested, it’s also the centerpiece of your immune system. Some of the cells are programmed to recognize toxic invaders (e.g, viruses, poisons, damaged cells, etc.), surround them, neutralize them, and dispose of them through the waste system. Those cells are good. You need them to fight off disease.

Fighting For A Healthy Gut

But like any living entity, your gut bacteria have lifespans and can be damaged or destroyed if they encounter a stronger toxic cell. Just like an invading army can destroy a defending army and break down a castle wall, poisons, antibiotics, chemotherapy, blood-borne diseases, and other invaders can break down the healthy cells in your gut and can even damage the lining of your intestinal wall, leaving you vulnerable to disease, ulcers, and inflammation. You can read more about it here.

A Simple Secret To Win The War

Now, you can call this good news or you can call it bad news, but one of the worst things to ever happen to your gut flora is the Standard American Diet (SAD). The SAD is loaded with sugars, chemical preservatives, bleached flours, and heavy pesticides. All of these additives in our food have a damaging effect on the gut bacteria. Your body in general (and the gut flora in particular) was designed to heal itself and protect your health from the inside out, so the SAD puts your body at a steep disadvantage for fighting off disease and keeping you healthy. It’s bad news because it’s a terrible commentary on our society that we serve ourselves and our children food that damages us, but it is also good news because it demonstrates that we can make different choices based on good information.

“A healthy gut relies on a diversified balance of beneficial bacteria. Therefore, you want to eat foods that encourage the proliferation of good bacteria as opposed to bad bacteria.”

Gut-strengthening Foods

One of the choices you can make is to eat foods that are rich in nutrients, gut-friendly, and free from damaging chemicals. Gut-friendly foods include foods that we call “probiotic” (meaning they support the growth of healthy digestive bacteria), like yogurt, pickles, apple cider vinegar, kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut.

“This is the most low-cost, high-return strategy to reduce health care costs for you and your family.”

If you are giving your body the materials it needs to build healthy cells and defend itself against invaders, you are going to spend a lot less time in the doctor’s office (unless you visit my office, where I will cheer you on in your good choices).

So much of the disease Americans suffer is preventable. Consider that heart disease, stroke, inflammation, liver disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, and even some cancers are linked to diet.

Side note: Do you know what cancer’s favorite food is? Sugar.

“Sugars in the form of sweets and refined carbohydrates feed bad bacteria in the gut, which degrades the intestinal wall over time.”

Can you avoid sugar in your diet? Yep.

Is it easy? Nope.

Back To Earth

I’ve covered these topics here many times, so you can imagine how encouraging it is for me to listen to someone who understands nutrition the same way I do.

Maybe my favorite quote is the one that ties this week’s article to last week’s:

“You can make a huge difference in your gut diversity by spending time outdoors, ditching chemical hand sanitizers in favor of soap and water, buying food directly from farmers, opening windows, hugging your pets, allowing your immune systems to be challenged and strengthened by fighting a viral illness without drugs, and playing in the dirt.”

In 2016, The New York Times published a terrific article called, “Educate Your Immune System.” The issue that many researchers are beginning to recognize is that, in our culture of “germophobia,” we have weakened our immune systems through over-sanitziaton and our reliance on drugs. Just like antibiotics indiscriminately kill both good an bad bacteria, sanitizers wipe out the very cells our bodies use to develop a strong immune system. Jan’s solution is to “get dirty.” Work in your yard, plant a garden, grow your own vegetables. As we mentioned last week, there is so much in the soil that is so good for your body on so many levels.

I really think you’re going to enjoy Jan’s presentation tomorrow night, so I hope you will make plans to come. My office is behind the YMCA on Pine Ridge Road in Naples. We’ll start at 6:15 p.m., so bring a dish to share or $10 cash and be sure to RSVP on our Facebook page. If you know someone who enjoys gardening, or who just wants to learn to eat healthier, be sure to send them the link. At the risk of sounding like I’m overstating it, this dinner could change someone’s health future.

“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas

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