The study results support the hygiene hypothesis which, in the case of IBD, argues that the absence of exposure to worms in too-clean modern living spaces has left some with oversensitive, gut-based immune systems vulnerable to inflammatory diseases. Gut worms have helped to train and balance immune systems throughout human evolution, but are now missing in developed nations, which, in turn, have the highest rates of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. #GetDirty.
I’m currently reading Dr. Kelly Brogan’s book, A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives. She is tackling the gut as a major source of mental illness. The gut’s affect is linked to WAY more than just belly discomfort. It’s linked to thyroid issues, hormones, joint destruction, autism, chronic fatigue, and so on and so on.
So what’s a person to do about it? How do you know if you have gut problems?
The safe answer is to assume that you do have gut problems. The solution is to create an internal ecosystem that promotes gut health. What’s the danger of doing this if you don’t have gut problems? Nothing. It’s called creating health. If it’s good for your gut, it’s good for your brain. If it’s good for your gut, it’s good for your hair. If it’s good for your gut, it’s good for your sex drive. If it’s good for your gut, it’s good for your mitochondria.
The problem with a lot of ‘natural’ providers is that they are just as guilty of separating the body’s infinite intelligence into a pile of parts as a traditionally trained allopath. The reality is that you can’t alter one system in the body without altering ALL the systems in the body. In fact, there aren’t many systems in your body. You are one system. This is why I see so many that go from specialist to specialist continue to get worse. ‘Healthcare’ tries to apply factory production strategies to a product (you) that has more knowledge and wisdom in 1 trillionth (one cell) of it’s parts that exponentially exceeds the accumulation of all the doctors on the planet combined since the inception of ‘evidence based medicine.’
[bctt tweet=”There aren’t many systems in your body. You are one system.” username=”DrKurtDC”]
The only reason that what your doctor does works, regardless of natural or pharmaceutical, is because there is an infinite wisdom in each and every cell that makes up our being that deciphers what to do with that intervention. Innate intelligence dictates whether you accept or reject the treatment. Despite violently rejecting what man thinks is best (side effects), most of the time your body has enough wisdom to use what it can to keep surviving.
With that said, applying these 3 Rs to Gut Restoration is really the 3 Rs to YOU Restoration.
1. Rebalance the Nervous System
Everything that life throws at you has to be organized and coordinated through your nervous system. Depending on what happens, the circumstance will get organized and coordinated into either protection mode or growth mode. Growth mode may sound great but being imbalanced on this side of life for too long, means you have no way of defending yourself when a stress does arise. This is where babies reside. Babies can’t do anything but call for help.
The flip side is that being on the side of protection all the time sets your body up for tissue breakdown, including your gut. Having an appropriate response with the ability to adapt between growth and protection is the first key to gut restoration.
The gut (mouth to anus) has a mucous lining that provides many first line of defenses to fight infection. In ideal situations, this membrane takes care of any invaders without you knowing what’s going on. It actually provides an anti-inflammatory defense mechanism. If an infection bypasses these silent defenses and hits your blood stream, this is where more troops get called into action and you feel the effects and say, “I’m sick.”
The cool thing is that under acute stress (a bear attack hiking), cortisol is dumped into your system from the adrenals and cortisol stimulates these first line defense mechanisms in your gut to be on alert without you knowing it (anti-inflammatory). In other words, you’re not worried about catching a cold when running from a bear. Or if you do run from a bear and tweak your ankle, it doesn’t blow up right away allowing you to get to safety. But once you get to safety, you may look down and there’s the muffin top over your hiking boot, that just minutes ago was your ankle.
Inflammation isn’t necessarily bad. It’s your body’s attempt at repair from injury and infection. In acute danger, if your body elicited a full blown inflammatory reaction, it would inhibit your survival of a potential danger. The problem is that when inflammation is constantly suppressed, that anti-inflammatory gut lining can’t keep up with demand and the invasion overtakes the security guards. As a result, another component of the immune system has to be called in to recruit anti-bodies, which then pulls the alarm on the heavy hitters that produce inflammation helpers.
When stressful things happen over and over and over again, the lining of the gut doesn’t get a chance to recover. The repeated call for cortisol often gets depleted as well, creating an inability to trigger the initial security guards. Not only are first line defenses down, now communication is down to trigger backups as well. When assessing nervous system balance, I often use a tool called Heart Rate Variability.
The basic point is that under acute stress, you adapt well. When that stress becomes chronic, your ability to adapt wears out to a point of fatigue. Stress isn’t just mental, emotional anguish. Stress is anything that creates deficiency and toxicity. It could be sitting in a cubicle all day. It could be medication. It could be too much screen time. It could be a your diet. And it can be un-forgiveness or self condemnation.
What testing like HRV, adrenal testing, biomarkers that matter, and others represent is how how much damage is occurring, how much allostatic load your system is under, and the severity of the nervous system imbalance. Once you know how imbalanced, then you undergo steps to rebalance the nervous system. Some starting strategies are next in the 3 Rs for gut restoration.
2. Reconsider Lifestyle Choices
Your level of stress load on your life (allostatic load) is directly proportional to the choices you make. Yes, there was a point in your life that choices were made for you that may have shifted your nervous system. But the beauty of your innate intelligence is that the more you create sufficiency and the more you create purity, the better off your innate intelligence’s chances at restoring your health.
There are many things that will affect your gut but the most direct are the ones that come from your fork, spoon, or cup. To improve any health measures, not just your gut, these are things I often discuss with clients regarding their diets. These aren’t the only things but 3 major players I see often.
High Glycemic Index Foods
This just means foods that are going to spike your blood sugar. The obvious are the ones that are made of sugar like cakes, cookies, pies, etc. But the not-so-obvious ones are the items that spike sugar. Most often I pick on wheat products as a major source for people. Most Americans have toast with and/or cereal at breakfast, a sandwich or salad with croutons at lunch, and often times bread at dinner or something that is breaded.
As for beverages, it’s going to be the obvious like sodas, juices, and even coffee. Even if someone drinks coffee black, I’m still hesitant as the caffeine is a stimulant, essentially mimicking that bear attack. Short term stresses are fine. It’s when those stresses become chronic. If someone had coffee and then spent the rest of the day on the beach, paddle boarding, reading a bit, walking, enjoying loved ones, etc. it would have much less impact than most people’s hectic lifestyle of go-go-go.
And there are studies coming out that coffee has anti-inflammatory and brain protecting effects but I question the long term efficacy of those results in context with people’s hectic lifestyle. I may be a little jaded as my dad, who only drank black coffee (probably 2-3 cup/day) has become a hostage in his own house under 24 hour surveillance due to Alzheimer’s. The body naturally favors an anti-inflammatory state under acute stress but what happens with repeated exposure to those things that can fatigue out that response. With coffee, I’m cautious on all the reported short-term benefits.
In your intestines, your inner tube, there are tiny gaps called tight junctions. These tight junctions have a role of keeping a balance of water, nutrients, and electrolytes within the gut tube and surrounding blood circulation. These tight junctions also regulate the trafficking of environmental antigens across these tiny channels. An antigen is something potentially attacked by your immune system. Antigens could be bacteria and virus but also chemicals, pollens, pet dander, etc.
A tiny little protein, called Zonulin, is the main signaling component to regulate the opening and closing of these tight junctions. The body doesn’t make or do stupid stuff. Zonulin is essential for you to digest and absorb nutrients. The delicate balance is that when nutrients are present, the gates can open. When a bacteria is present, the gates should close.
The problem with tight junctions is that one of the most powerful zonulin stimulating substances is gluten. You may not have an allergy or sensitivity to gluten itself but the abundant presence of this molecule can induce your gut lining to be compromised. This is one of the main reasons we avoid gluten with our kids.
Kids intelligently have a leaky gut. This is vital for mom’s antibodies to get through the gut lining to provide a primitive immune protection via breast milk in those early years. As a child’s gut matures, we want to avoid things that keep adding an insult to the lining. Today’s wheat has been hybridized over the generations to provide a gluten content with a higher yield for industrial purposes at the expense of nutritional gain.
The more that gut lining takes a beating, the more your immune system is activated to produce inflammation. What better way to fight inflammation that NSAIDS?
You may know NSAIDS as Aspirin, Excedrin, Bayer, Ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, Naproxen, and Aleve to name a few.
NSAIDS (Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) work by inhibiting a class of messengers called COX-1 (Cyclo-oxygenase) and COX-2. These messengers inhibit the activity of prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins are a group of lipids made at sites of tissue damage or infection that are involved in dealing with injury or infection. They contribute to inflammation, blood flow, formation of blood clots, and induction of labor.
Prostaglandins are made at sites of tissue damage or infection, where they cause inflammation, pain and fever as part of the HEALING process. When a blood vessel is injured, a prostaglandin called thromboxane stimulates the formation of a blood clot to try to heal the damage; it also causes the muscle in the blood vessel wall to contract (causing the blood vessel to narrow) to try to prevent blood loss.
Not only did you just stop the healing process cold in its tracks, you got rid of prostaglandins which protect the stomach lining. Hello ulcers and intestinal bleeding. But don’t worry, you have Tums and Prevacid to kill that stomach acid so now you have absolutely little chance of digestion and absorbing anything you put in your mouth. Unless you radically change course, your chance of gut repair while continuing NSAID use is about as high as Obama getting a third term.
3. Repair the Lining
Once you have rid yourself of the repeated gut offenders, it’s time to repair. The problem I see most often is that people try and start the process here and they get frustrated with their results. This would be like trying to build a house in the middle of a hurricane and you get pissed because your framing doesn’t stay up. If you need help figuring out how and where to start based on the first two R’s, I can help. But please don’t look at this section and start here in your gut restoration journey.
The first insult to a dysfunctional gut is an imbalanced nervous system. There are great ways to help this rebalance. As a chiropractor, this is where chiropractic adjustments can help the repair process. The nervous system organizes and coordinates all functions in your body. The spine is a major protector of those communication pathways. There are 62 nerve branches that exit the spine, through openings between the bones stacked upon each other. The integrity of the spine will have a direct effect on the integrity of communication of those nerve branches. The less biomechanical stress load around your nervous system, the less it has to be in a constant state of adaptation. This is why I’m a fan of standing work stations. It elongates the spine and lessens the compressive forces that sitting provides.
I’m also a fan of neuro-feedback to assess brain wave patterns and recondition them. I don’t do this in office but have good relationships with a psychologist in town that we often tag team cases.
I don’t want you to gain weight and become a sloth. I want you to eat fat and not be afraid of it. The standard American diet favors a low-fat diet. What this translates to is a high sugar diet. Once you take fat out of something, you lose flavor and sugar is a cheap way to make it palatable again. Sugar is like rocket fuel, fat is like diesel fuel. By replacing low fat foods with high fat foods, you are giving your nervous system a chance to rest. Sugar is a stress on the body, just like worry. An easy way to calm the nervous system, while giving your body the basic building blocks to virtually every cell in your body (including those that line the gut) is to consume fat.
If you haven’t seen the bigger picture, healing the gut is all about giving your nervous system a break. Stress is inherently a good thing, it helps saves your life. The problem is that when it starts piling on top of a previous event, repeatedly. Use exercise to help calm the nervous system. Long drawn out cardio may be doing more harm than help. For one, if you’re running from an angry bear, you would go as fast and as hard as possible. You won’t just jog and check your heart rate every so often. Long, drawn out cardio doesn’t help your chance of survival.
It actually adds more stress to the gut and nervous system. Many times I’m advising people to go short with a workout but go intense. You can do this through interval training and/or lifting heavy. For most that are in front of me, it’s starting with basic body movements like push ups, squats, and burpees. If you can’t get flat on the floor and stand back up very fast but can walk for miles, how does that serve your survival?
Not sure that body weight movements are right for you? Take this simple test and it may change your mind.
One of the missing ingredients in health restoration is dealing with the mind. I’m not going to say, ‘just have a positive attitude.’ Most people are positive their life sucks. Instead, I want you to dig deep into what and why you believe what you believe. In order to get psycho, you first have to define your personal philosophy and purpose for your life. I know this sounds heavy but it’s a HUGE part of why I have been able to sustain health practices.
Basically, philosophy asks the question, ‘what’s my role in this thing called life?’ To answer that question, I like to use Ayn Rand’s 5 branches of philosophy to add more questions behind the that ultimate question. The 5 branches are: Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics. Once you dive into those 5, then you clear up a LOT of life contradictions that will add stress to your life that may not be conscious to you.
After figuring out your philosophy, you can then determine your purpose. This answers, ‘why do you do what you do?’ This ‘why’ is often geared around gaining something you want but don’t have or losing something you have that you don’t want.
After you have figured out your philosophy and purpose, you can then move onto your psychology (what you think). Once all that is cleared up, THEN you can start on the action steps of doing. The problem I see so many have is that they start with the doing. They go for a while and it’s good but then lose focus, intensity, motivation, and inspiration.
If you constantly need motivation and inspiration, you have a problem in your philosophy and purpose. Until you clear that up, you’re gut restoration path will be filled with frustration. Those contradictions may be the biggest thing causing stress to your life and no amount of nutrition and supplementation will make a dent in your journey.
In today’s information age, I think you can tackle this whole issue on your own. There are plenty of books, blogs, videos, and online summits to train you for a gut restoration journey. But that doesn’t mean you should always be a DIYer. Personally, I want to be able to do some house remodeling and car repairs but those things intimidate me. As much information we have at our disposal today, experience is becoming the new currency. I’m always here to help but if you need help finding someone in your area, leave a comment with your zip code and I can try and find someone to help in your journey. This help could be ordering the right testing, specific supplementation for your case, or just someone that acts like a coach/consultant.
To end, you have to realistic expectations for this journey. There are going to be good times and not-so-good times. It will probably take longer than you would like. But in the context of 80 years of life, a year or 2 is miniscule.