There’s a very enlightening quote from Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, that we at UMZU find particularly valuable.
He said, “All disease begins in the gut”.
We couldn’t agree more.
The gut is central to everything in your body, because it’s the route in which your body obtains nutrients and energy, and it’s the closest connection that your internal environment has to the external world.
That makes it pretty dang important.
What Does A Healthy Gut Entail?
The “gut”, or digestive tract, is a complex system involving many different parts that can end up with issues.
When we think of “gut health”, what we really mean is this:
The ability to eat a wide variety of foods, fully breaking down the food and absorbing the nutrients, while maintaining a balanced gut microbiome, without absorbing harmful components like endotoxin.
There are several parts of this statement that speak to different parts of the digestion process.
First, “fully breaking down food” means that you’re both physically breaking down food via chewing and chemically breaking down food via proper production of all of the necessary digestive enzyme, hydrochloric acid, bile acids, etc.
Second, “absorbing the nutrients” means proper functioning and lack of inflammatory damage of the microvilli in your small intestines that are responsible for absorbing molecules into your bloodstream.
Third, “maintaining a balanced gut micro-biome” means maintaining and consuming a proper balance of good bacteria in your large intestine, in order to prevent the overgrowth of bad bacteria that is common in today’s environment. This balance of bacteria is currently a hot topic in the research, because we’re finding out more and more everyday how these bacteria affect far more than just your digestion, even extending their reach to reducing stress hormones and improving brain function (we’ll dive more into this in a bit).
Finally, “without absorbing harmful components like endotoxin” refers to maintaining tight junctions between the cells in the walls of your large intestines, so they can maintain control over what gets into your bloodstream and what stays out.
The biggest issue here is a byproduct of bacterial fermentation called “lipopolysaccharide”, “LPS”, or most simply, endotoxin, which will leak into your bloodstream and cause all kinds of damage if the cells in the walls of your large intestine aren’t tightly connected.
As you can see, there’s definitely a lot going on with gut health, and in order to heal, restore, and optimize it, we need to get each of these areas firing on all cylinders.
What Happens When The Gut Goes Wrong?
Each of these areas can break on its own, leading to problems within the entire digestive system.
For example, low digestive enzymes will result in unbroken down food particles making their way to your intestines, causing you to not absorb the nutrients, and causing harmful bacteria overgrowth in your large intestine as they ferment these large food particles. This leads to more endotoxin, and the food particle can even agitate and loosen the cell walls in the large intestines.
Similarly, these bad bacteria can overgrow so much that they begin to invade the small intestines, creating a disease appropriately named “Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth:, or “SIBO” for short. This can also happen with fungus, like Candida, which is called “Candida Overgrowth”.
And the most systemic of all problems related to the gut are a class of diseases called “autoimmune diseases”, which are closely tied to loose junctions between the cells in the wall of your large intestines, leading to inappropriate food particle making its way into your bloodstream.
All of this is to say that “gut problems” can range from digestive issues like nausea, diarrhea, constipation, poor appetite, strong cravings, and intestinal pain, all the way to systemic problems like thyroid problems, adrenal problems, autoimmune disease, high stress levels, and brain problems.
The Gut Is Central To Everything
The gut is one of the best examples of how the entire body acts together as a single system, and how to truly heal, restore, and optimize your digestive health, you need to take a systemic approach and focus on the big picture.
Because the gut is responsible for absorbing the energy and nutrients that literally every part of your body uses, it is naturally connected to every system.
But in addition to that, the gut is intimately connected to the liver, which is another incredibly central part of human health. The liver is responsible for creating the bile acid and the digestive enzyme your gut needs, and endotoxin absorption from a leaky gut bogs your liver down and prevents it from performing all of its important actions.
The gut is also closely connected to hormonal balance and stress reduction because the gut produces 95% of the serotonin in the body. Under normal, healthy conditions, that serotonin will play its physiological role in keeping the muscles in the digestive tract contracting to move food along.
But when things start to “break” in your gut, much higher levels of serotonin are released, affecting your hormonal balance, and all the other areas of the Sphere of Health that are connected. In fact, serotonin release is responsible for causing diarrhea in the face of stress to your gut.
This is part of the reason that gut bacteria have such a strong effect on cortisol levels and brain function – they have the ability to regulate serotonin strongly, and serotonin is involved in stress reactions, anxiety, energy production, and all of the other hibernation-related symptoms.
One major cause of leaky gut is lack of blood flow, which happens when stress hormones, like adrenaline, constrict blood vessels to direct blood to the muscles and brain to help overcome the stress. This leads to poor nutrient delivery and absorption in the gut, weakening the cells in the lining of the gut, and furthering the problem.
As you can see, each of the 5 areas of the Sphere of Health are all playing a part in the health of your gut, and vice versa.
How Do You Improve Gut Health?
Since the liver is so closely involved in producing digestive enzyme and acids at the beginning of the process, and since your gut lining plays such a strong role in keeping the liver healthy, one of the best places to start is by fixing your gut microbiome and improving the integrity of your intestinal lining.
To do this, you want to consume plenty of healthy probiotics, like kefir, kombucha, yogurt, and sauerkraut. Another option, which is more convenient, is to take a probiotic supplement, especially one that contains the L. reuteri and L. rhamnosus strains, which have been shown to help seal the gut wall and reduce harmful bacteria overgrowth.
In certain circumstances, “resetting” your gut by consuming large amounts of activated charcoal on an empty stomach can be very beneficial, as activated charcoal will bind everything in your digestive system and eliminate it, including a lot of the harmful bacteria. Some animal studies actually show large increases in lifespan from supplementing with activated charcoal, likely due to reduction in endotoxin absorption from lower amounts of bad bacteria in the gut.
In addition to that, foods that contain insoluble fiber, like raw carrots and bamboo shoots, help to rebalance your gut micro-biome and prevent overgrowth of harmful bacteria, and also helps to cleanse your liver by binding toxins that it releases in bile acid.
In addition, soluble fibers can help to feed the beneficial strains of bacteria, specifically the bifidobacteria strains that are involved in preventing Metabolic Syndrome and diabetes.
It can also be helpful to supplement with digestive enzymes or a shot of apple cider vinegar (ACV) around big meals, to help ease the burden on your own digestive system while it heals, allowing it to still fully break down the food for absorption.
But even before food reaches your stomach, there’s something you can do to massively impact the quality of your digestion: Chew more.
It’s so simple, and yet many of us glaze over it, but chewing your food until it’s completely liquid (or as close as possible), helps your stomach and small intestine work so much better, and even allows the digestive enzyme in your saliva to do more work on the food.
This also reduces endotoxin production, since more food is fully digested and absorbed before it even reaches the large intestines.
Gut Health Action Steps:
- Eat probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, ACV, and sauerkraut
- Consider supplementing with a probiotic, especially one containing the L. reuteri and L. rhamnosus strains
- Consider resetting your gut with high doses of activated charcoal on an empty stomach
- Eat foods high in insoluble fiber, like raw carrots and bamboo shoots
- Consume adequate amounts of soluble fiber
- Consider taking digestive enzymes or ACV with big meals
- Chew your food fully, until it’s as close to liquid as possible
- Consider Trying Floracil50, our Complete Probiotic Supplement. You can purchase it here.