In your mind’s eye, imagine holding a bicycle inner tube. Next take a pair of scissors and cut the tube so that it hangs down in a single straight line. Then place the tube on the floor in front of you. What you now have is a design very similar to your digestive system. Both are hollow tubes with an opening at the top (the mouth) and an exit at the bottom (your butt).
If we forced food into the top of the inner tube and then squeezed it all the way down, it would eventually come out at the bottom. This would be a pretty good example of how the body expels waste. Now hold that image.
Again take out our scissors and begin making several microscopic nicks to the inner-tube. If we again try to force the food down the tube notice how some of it begins to squeeze through those tiny nicks. In theory, those tiny particles are now finding their way into the bloodstream. That’s not good, right?
Not really. The immune system is smart but it isn’t expecting to see fecal matter and particles of food floating around in the bloodstream. As far as the immune system is concerned, all partially digested bacon sandwiches are safely trapped inside the inner tube (AKA your digestive tract).
So when the immune system spots something it doesn’t recognize, it gets a little freaked out and sends the whole system into red alert. Boomshakalaka, say hello to your new food sensitivities.
But guts aren’t meant to leak so why would they do that?
In certain individuals, proteins found in gluten can be notoriously difficult to break down. Over time, the delicate lining of the gut can become irritated and inflamed. Once the lining become permeable food particles to ooze through and enter the bloodstream (as with our inner-tube example). The term for this is often described as leaky gut syndrome. Let’s explore this concept.
From the time we swallow it, to the time it leaves the body, food was always meant to stay inside the digestive system. For it to wander into the bloodstream is both unusual and unnatural. Some might say, almost as unnatural as the way we now grow our food.
In recent years food has recently undergone some radical changes. Much of our food is now sprayed with some pretty heavy duty pesticides. This has become an everyday farming practice and nobody seems to mind. Yet, many of these pesticides contain EDCs (endocrine disrupting chemicals). They work by disrupting the central nervous systems of bugs. Some of the newer insecticides also work by disrupting the guts of insects. Hmm, I see.
The standard western diet is also heavily reliant on grain, most of which have now been “modified” to increase crop yields. While this may sound good, nobody can say for sure how this will affect the human race long term.
For some of us, the gluten found in wheat, barley, and rye is already causing a wide range of reactions. These reactions can range from a feeling of general fatigue to mental confusion and just about everything in between. Throw into the mix a few thousand food additives and we shouldn’t be all that surprised when people experience digestive issues.
Once grains become a problem, switching to “gluten-free” products is unlikely to solve the problem. Think of a lung cancer patient switching different cigarette brands as a way of limiting symptoms. Once your immune system reacts to gluten, you may need to go grain free or you may find you are simply exchanging one problem for another.
The good news is you can buy certified gluten-free oats, but it pays to be sure of the source. The bad news is some people are still going to react because cross-contamination with gluten is common during processing.
It’s important to note that inflammation plays a pivotal role in ALL illness. When your immune system begins to attack food particles in the bloodstream, systemic inflammation is your reward.
A small amount of localized inflammation can be thought of as a well-guarded campfire with a practical benefit. But, inflammation left to linger can soon become a rampant forest fire. The connection between illness and this type of out of control inflammation is well documented.
It seems that doctors are better equipped to hand out pills than they are dietary advice. But they do agree that gluten has the potential to cause damage to the intestinal lining. When the intestines become inflamed it can be harder for the body to absorb nutrients.
Many of us have been conditioned to think the answer to our health problems lies in swallowing more pills. But trying to medicate our way out of a poor diet is just poor judgment.
Keep in mind that the pharmaceutical industry is like no other. It generates higher profit margins than the oil industry. Big pharma has no interest in your nutritional needs. So the mere mention of a leaky gut in your physician’s office and you can expect an uncomfortably long stare.
If you have been paying close attention you may have noticed that the keyword I keep using to describe these events is “theory.” You might now be asking why this is still a theory? Well, clinical trials cost millions of dollars and this “theory” simply isn’t sexy enough to pay for those clinical trials. Put simply, there’s no money to be made from telling you to change your diet.
With so many diseases currently labeled “unknown,” perhaps the leaky gut theory should be given a little more merit. Or, at the very least, explored to the fullest. Some of the best ideas start out as just that, a theory.
Here’s a remarkable story of doctor Ignaz Semmelweis. It begins in 1846 when he took his first medical position as an appointed assistant in a maternity ward at Vienna General Hospital. Shortly after doing so he noticed that some wards had a disproportionately higher infant mortality rate than others.
Ward one gained a particularly bad reputation and many local women preferred to give birth in the street. Statistically speaking, their chances of survival actually improved. Young doctor Semmelweis was told by his seniors that the reason for these higher deaths in ward 1 was a “poisonous gas” that often came into the ward. But doctor Semmelweis had his own theory and was quick to notice something quite odd.
Ward one (the maternity ward) was directly next to the mortuary! It was a common practice for doctors to perform autopsies in the morning and then work in Ward number one in the afternoon.
Back then, hygiene wasn’t properly understood and a scalpel used in an autopsy was often later used to cut an umbilical cord. Even basic hand washing wasn’t in place until Dr. Semmelweis introduced it as standard protocol.
But here’s the rub.
Despite an immediate reduction in deaths, the views held by Dr. Semmelweis were not part of the general medical beliefs. He was not attacked by senior medical figures and later dismissed from his position. I know, right? But keep reading, it gets even worse.
With Dr. Semmelweis out of the way, ward number one soon went back to its old ways. Not surprisingly fatality rates immediately returned to their level pre-1847. It takes courage to challenge such embedded belief but Dr. Semmelweis was enraged by such ignorance. He even wrote open letters to his main critics calling them “ignorant murderers.”
LEST WE FORGET
And so, for the next 20 years, Dr. Semmelweis did everything he could to warn people. But people refused to believe that dead bodies had germs. Doctors continued to deliver babies without washing their hands.
Unfortunately, the status quo had just about enough of doctor Dr. Semmelweis his germ theory. In 1865 he was tricked into visiting a mental asylum. When he tried to leave, Dr. Semmelweis was forcibly restrained and put in a straitjacket. His injuries were such that they became infected and two weeks later he died. Dr. Semmelweis was buried in Vienna and very few people attended his funeral. Today his theory is still saving lives. Just sayin, perhaps in time we will look back and find that the leaky gut “theory” also had merit.
Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.– George Santayana
I appreciate that some readers may have quite a comprehensive understanding of these concepts already. While others may be hearing these things for the very first time. In either case, my goal is to present information in a way that’s easy to absorb.
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT
You might not hear this all that often, but the poor food choices you make are not entirely your fault. You should be able to go to the supermarket and pick out anything on the shelf to nourish the body. But somewhere along the line, everything got twisted. Supermarket foods are now high in calories but low in nutritional content. They also contain a fair share of colorings, preservatives, artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup and food additives. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce the words on the label, then your intestines aren’t going to like it.
This begs the question, what’s up with food?
Recently I was once at my local food store and noticed an elderly lady in the parking lot struggling to load a heavy grocery bag into her car. It took me but a second to help lift the bag into her trunk and she was duly thankful. As she drove away waving, it made me wonder if she fully understood the meaning of words like acesulfame-K, Aspartame, and monosodium glutamate.
With so many toxic food additives, it can be a full-time job trying to keep up with them. Perhaps the onus shouldn’t be on the shopper to have to read the fine print on every label.
The hard way is to read every label; the easy way is not to buy food with labels. I know right, it’s a radical concept. Better hold onto your hat, more is coming.
You may view your local supermarket as a convenience, but remember it’s a business, and as such, it is there to make money. If the supermarket is creating meaningful jobs and making it easy for you to gather food, that’s great. But someone needs to ask, why can’t we just go back to having simple ingredients that are less harmful to our body?
While we wait for the supermarkets to do the right thing, the good news is that if you get to vote with your feet three times a day. The bad news is it’s actually easier to buy crack cocaine on the street than it is to buy locally raised organic chicken. What’s up with that?
If you aren’t sure what to buy or where to buy it, no need to panic — I’m here to help. Just keep reading my posts and all will become clear.
BE KIND TO YOUR SMALL INTESTINE
For this next exercise, you will need a small cloth tape measure like the one found in a sewing kit. Got one? … Great.
Today more than ever we spend a disproportionate amount of our time sitting down; we do it in our cars, at our desks, at the movies, even while we eat. Hell, you are probably doing it right now!
While sitting down, grab that cloth tape measure and run it around your waist and make a note of the number. Now stand up and do the same thing. What you should have is two very different numbers, am I right?
Now take off your pants (trousers to my European homies) and measure the inside of the waistband. Forget what the label says, just measure it and then write that number down. Finally, do the same thing with your underwear while in the “unstretched” position.
Now compare all four sets of numbers. Do you see it? Your clothes are restricting the free movement of your small intestine for sixteen hours a day. Throw in a few leather belts and buckles and we really compound the problem. If you suffer from bloating this whole restrictive process will be magnified tenfold, especially when you are sitting.
The goal here is to try to avoid unnecessary discomfort to the small intestine. Keep in mind that the accurate sizing of our clothes depends largely on who made them. It can be a costly mistake to simply grab “your” size and go. Always take the time to try new clothes on in a sitting position. Also, be aware that our body shapes can change from season to season, it’s not uncommon to gain a few pounds in the winter.
Your digestive system needs you to wear clothes that are comfortable. If you happen to be wearing ultra-skinny jeans, then this news is no doubt falling on deaf ears. Organ compression can lead to serious digestive problems down the road. I’d really like to prevent that from happening to you. Try to keep in mind that hospital gowns can be less flattering than jeans.
Now go burn those skinny jeans.
What did we learn from this?
Many of the great medical discoveries were first mocked by the medical establishment. For the sake of your digestive system, consider reading my other article here as the two are closely linked.
Homework: Please check out my new book