No Guts, No Glory…… don’t let this be your story
“All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates
Hippocrates was a wise man. Many of the insights he had 2000 years ago still stand today, often supported by modern science. Regarding his statement of disease and the gut - today we know about gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) which works in the immune system to protect our health. Without getting too much into the physiology, this letter will give some basic insight how to support your gut-health with food.
Apart from oral health which we do not cover here, the most important thing is what goes into the mouth. Mainly allow whole, organic, nutrient dense food that will support the function of digestive enzymes and membranes further down the system. This is what ultimately determines optimal absorption of the good stuff (this happens in the small intestine) and successful elimination of the bad stuff. If done right, you will have excellent oral health as a side benefit.
Not much digestion happens in the esophagus. However, if the acid from the stomach pushes up, it could be very painful. Many people suffer from this condition (a.k.a. heart burn). To keep the esophagus healthy, look after your stomach!
The contents of the stomach is very acid, mainly to start the breaking down of heavy proteins (especially animal proteins) and kill off bad bacteria. The importance of the gut bacteria is only discovered in the last decade. If the bad bacteria is not killed off in the stomach, it will disrupt the rest of the digestive process.
Eating heavy meals and too much animal protein causes inadequate breakdown of these proteins. To compensate, the stomach produces more acid and this could be one reason for heart burn. Eating too much refined food stimulates acid release in the stomach and with no proper food to break down, the acid just accumulates and could be another reason for heart burn. In severe cases, the acid causes disruption of the stomach lining and lead to stomach ulcers. Apart from being very painful, it could cause undigested food to enter the bloodstream as foreign invaders in the body. This could be very serious and many health experts think this is the cause of inflammation and consequently, many of our modern diseases.
To treat heartburn and stomach ulcers we rely heavily on antacids and proton inhibitors. This causes the stomach to be too alkaline, preventing proper breakdown of proteins. These inadequately broken-down proteins enter the small intestine which has limited ability to further break down proteins. Also, bad bacteria do not get killed off in an alkaline environment, disrupting proper function of the rest of the digestive tract.
To support the digestive process in the stomach and consequently the small intestine the following foods could be consumed:
1. First thing in the morning, consume a drink which will stimulate the release of gastric juices:
o Hot water with lemon and some honey for sweetness.
o Ginger tea, also beneficial for the colon. A few slices of ginger root and some honey steeped in hot water.
o Apple cider vinegar and honey diluted in hot water
To all of these drinks you can add one or more of the following spices: cayenne, cinnamon or turmeric. Experiment with the combinations to find a drink which you will enjoy to kick-start your day.
2. Papaya and pineapple have enzymes which help with the breaking down of proteins. You could mash it up to marinate meat, or simply enjoy it as a side dish with a heavy protein meal. It is also available as supplements in the form of digestive enzymes.
3. Bitter greens also help with digestion of food and should be served as part of a salad whenever animal proteins are consumed. Or even better, as an appetizer before.
4. Chewing also stimulates the secretion of stomach acid. So, follow grandma’s advice and chew well before swallowing.
It has been known for a long time already that the colon is the habitat of bacteria. These creatures have tasks which we do not always relate to digestion. Amongst other things it plays an important role in immunity, manufacturing of some vitamins and in the maintenance of brain health.
To protect this colony of bacteria you could feed it bacteria (probiotics) in the form of fermented foods like apple cider vinegar, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, traditional pickles (beets, cucumbers garlic radish and more), soy sauce and yogurt. To keep these bacteria healthy, you need to feed them nutrients. They thrive on vegetable fiber (prebiotics) – the consumption of any fiber rich vegetables helps them to perform well in protecting your health.
1. At all cost, try to stay away from the use of antibiotics as they kill these bacteria. And if you must take it, make sure you consume lots of pre- and probiotics in that time. You could also supplement with probiotics. I recommend that you get a variety of supplements to cover most of the bacteria. Put these in one container and take two or three of these capsules daily.
2. To protect the lining of the gut one should consume collagen, which is the raw form of gelatin:
o Drinking bone broth from grass-fed cattle and free-range chicken, will supply collagen to the lining of your gut, the skin the joints. If you do not like the taste use it in stews and soups.
o If you are vegan you can get it from soaking flax or chia seeds which also contain collagen. Once it becomes jellylike, it could be absorbed by your digestive system.
o Alternatively, you could just add gelatin to dishes you regularly consume. Adding it to smoothies, yogurt or stews and soups will disguise the bland taste and stickiness.