For weeks now, we’ve been spending Wednesdays talking about your gut.
No, not that spare tire around your waist (we’ll use “Move Right Monday” to deal with that); I’m talking about the important work that goes on inside your gut. Specifically, we’re dealing with gut flora – the microscopic community of good bacteria that process your food, fight infections, and help produce some of the nutrients your body needs for health and long life.
If you live in the Naples area, I invite you to join us at my offices on Pine Ridge Road this Thursday, October 8 for our next Fundamental Foods dinner, where we will continue this discussion on gut health, specifically Kombucha, which we looked at last week.
As we’ve been talking about the things we can do to promote good intestinal health, the question has come up about what would damage that delicate bacterial ecosystem. We’ve touched on a couple of them in previous articles, but I want to address them directly, because there are so many things that we eat without thinking about the damage they have the potential to do.
In short, there may be things you’re eating that are eating you, and some of them might surprise you.
I’ve talked about this already, but it’s important to reiterate because so many doctors, nurses, and pharmacists hand out antibiotics like candy. Got a sniffle? Take an antibiotic. Ear infection? Antibiotic. Abscess tooth? Get the antibiotics flowing right away!
It’s too easy to give out antibiotics for anything that involves bacteria. The problem is not the intent, it’s the method. The way antibiotics address bacteria is similar to the way World War II German bombing raids addressed people: indiscriminately. While the antibiotic is wiping out the bad bacteria your body is fighting, it also destroys the good bacteria your body needs. That interferes with your digestion, as well as your body’s ability to fight infection on its own. In a way, antibiotics can create a situation where you can’t live without them. Antibiotic residue can even live on in your liver and other organs for years, prolonging the damage.
If you must take an antibiotic to fight an infection, please follow it up with a good probiotic. A probiotic repopulates the devastated bacterial colony in your gut without strengthening the bacteria at the infection site. There are several good ones on the market – for most people, I recommend lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus. There are dozens of different brands of acidophilus on the market; you’ll want to be discriminating as you choose. This is a pretty good reference to check before you buy.
Most prescription drugs carry a list of side effects, and some of these lists are lengthy. One of the most common side effects is some combination of diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, cramping, and pain. This is because many of them damage the lining of the intestines or the bacterial colonies in an attempt to address other problems around the body. The best way to take medicine is to keep yourself educated on what your doctor is prescribing to you. Understand the dosage, the side effects profile, and contraindications (which is when one drug interferes with another). On the other hand, you have to be really careful with information you find on the Internet, so make sure you’re getting your information from a reputable medical professional.
Your grocery store has two kinds of food: food that will rot in a few days if you leave it out, and food that will never rot. The latter are found lining the shelves in the middle of the store in cardboard boxes and metal cans. They are loaded with preservatives, colors, flavors, and other chemicals that irritate the lining of your intestines. There are literally hundreds of chemicals that the FDA has approved for use in processed foods, even though they can damage your stomach, liver, intestines, and even your nervous system. I’ve always said that if your food came from God, your body knows how to process it, but if it came from a test tube in a laboratory, your body considers it a virus and fights it off. Some of the food in your local grocery store is straight-up poison. Someday, someone will be held accountable for the way our food has been manipulated.
When plants are growing, they absorb and assimilate everything they interact with – the nutrients in the soil, the additives in the water, and the herbicides the farmers spray on them (don’t even get me started on the chemical companies that are genetically modifying seeds – I don’t have time for that nonsense here). At the end of the day, chemicals that get sprayed on your food stay with your food and enter your digestive system, where they can damage the gut flora. My best advice is buy organic and wash your vegetables in clean water before you prepare them. We are just beginning to see the effect on our bodies of chemicals that we unknowingly consumed decades ago. The longer we are exposed, the more obvious the effects will be.
Some of our favorite foods are the most damaging to our health. Processed white sugar is one of the most addictive substances on earth, and it’s absolutely toxic. It suppresses your immune system and interferes with digestion. This is an excellent article that goes into greater detail on the dangers of sugar, but that’s just the beginning. Soda, chips, cookies, and other prepackaged foods are designed to have an addictive taste, but most have little or no nutritional value, and many leave you feeling bloated, lethargic, and sore. Some cause inflammation in your joints, headaches, gas, and other discomfort. MSG and aspartame are neurotoxins, meaning they destroy brain and nerve cells. Plus, these foods not only lack the basic nutrients and enzymes that your body needs to complete the process of digestion, some actually deplete the body of nutrients. Carbonated water in most soda leeches calcium out of bones.
Water is probably the most important thing you can put in your mouth. Without adequate water, most of us would die within 7 to 10 days. Typical adults need about 3 quarts of water a day, although very few of us even come close to our daily need. Worse, most of us live in areas where our water is treated with chlorine, fluoride, and other chemicals that will ruin your gut flora. As if that weren’t bad enough, all that treatment doesn’t remove residue of tons of medical waste that has been dumped in the water supply for decades. Bottled water is expensive, and while some of it is good, many brands are no better than tap water. Instead, I recommend you install a carbon filter for your drinking water supply. You need water. Your gut needs that water to be clean.
I could continue this list of gut-damaging foods, but suffice to say for now that many processed foods are harmful for the delicate gut flora your body needs for optimum health.
It’s worth mentioning that some illnesses (colds, flus, diseases, etc.) can throw off your body’s chemistry, which will interfere with – and even destroy – your intestinal flora. Your body was designed with a very precise chemical balance, and disease is an indication that your body is out of balance in one direction or another.
Stress and anxiety will mess with your chemical balance. Drugs and alcohol use will throw off your balance. Excessive amounts of sweets, sugars, and fruits can throw you out of balance. Comfort eating (or eating to mask pain) will mess up your balance. Food allergies are an indication that you are out of balance.
In the coming weeks, we’ll talk more about what you can do to address these problems. For now, consider removing some of the foods I’ve mentioned from your diet (or at least reducing them). Consider a water filter. Add a daily probiotic to your daily routine, or a fermented food like Kombucha, sauerkraut, or kimchi. These are things you can do right now to improve your gut’s health, and – by extension – your whole body’s health. And that’s where we want to get to.
Thank you so much for joining me today. If you know someone that you think could benefit from this article, I hope you’ll take a few seconds to share it on Facebook. You never know who you will help. I’ll see you tomorrow for “Think Right Thursday.”
“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas