Digestive system disease is on the rise. Recently I happened to see a Public Broadcasting Special on TV called “The Road to Perfect Health” with Brenda Watson. Brenda is a Certified Nutritional Consultant based in Florida. She is considered one of the foremost authorities on Probiotics and Nutrition in America today. Our “digestive system” is what Brenda Watson likes to call our “Gut Protection System” or GPS. She explained how to boost our GPS so that it is able to perform its natural function of protecting the body’s primary defence system – our gut.
Her presentation was so clear and laid out so well, that I bought her 650 page book: The Road to Perfect Health, which is available through her PBS special a couple of times a year.
Below is information that you may find useful, about how your digestive system protects you from disease, and a whole slew of problems associated with poor digestive health.
How The Food We Eat is Changing
You can be eating 10,000 calories a day but if your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs in a way it can digest them, then you are starving nutritionally, and your body takes notice of that.
Man made, food-like products that are made to look better, to smell better, taste better than natural foods, and sugar, bread and salt trick your body into thinking it’s getting the nutrients it requires. So it craves more of these. But the cells don’t get nourished from these foods, and as long as the cells don’t get nourished, you are starving on a cellular level.
Take a look at this video which is actually the trailer for the movie “Hungry for Change”. Rent the movie Hungry for Change here.
Imitation Foods vs. Natural Foods
More and more these days, in our busy lives, we find ourselves eating convenience or processed foods. The problem is that these foods resemble natural foods less and less. We drink diet sodas which are mainly made up of artificially sweetened water and chemicals. The body doesn’t know what to do with artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, Equal, Sweet & Low, and others. So it stores them in fat cells. Not only that, diet sodas trigger sugar cravings. So while the diet soda itself doesn’t doesn’t contain any fat, shortly after drinking it, you develop a craving for something sweet. So you get a double whammy from the artificial sweeteners which trigger sugar cravings, and the digestive tract is thrown into disarray when confronted with an imitation food.
The digestive tract is also confused when we eat genetically modified (GMO) wheat, soy, corn, high fructose corn syrup, and foods with hydrogenated oils in them. These foods have been altered so much, that the body no longer recognizes them as foods. Wheat, soy or corn are present in almost all processed foods, so it is very difficult to avoid, unless you read the ingredient list on the packaging or have the time to make things the old-fashioned way from scratch.
However, the presence of imitation food ingredients in our diet has become a very real threat to our health. So we can no longer ignore it. If you live on a highly processed diet, chances are it will cause havoc in your digestive tract, if it hasn’t already.
How Many of Your Foods Contain Carrageenan?
Carrageenan is an ingredient found on food labels for ice cream, cream, diet soda, veggie dogs, processed meats, and even beer. It is used as a thickening agent. It seems innocuous enough, why should that be a concern? Numerous studies link carrageenan to gastrointestinal issues, inflammation and cancer. If you look at the foods you eat and discover that many of them contain carrageenan, you may want to monitor your body for intestinal ulcers, chronic diarrhea, and inflammatory bowel disease. These symptoms can sneak up on you, and you wonder what’s causing it. If you have any of these issues, look at the labels on your foods. Better still, eliminate foods with imitation food ingredients before a problem develops.
The multitude of imitation food ingredients in our diet could be likened to mixing water with gas in the tank of your car, which is designed to run on pure gasoline. The engine cannot process the fuel when it is mixed with water, and it starts to sputter and backfire. If you keep driving on this fuel, you’ll ruin your engine. Game over. You will have joined another group called The Great Unwell.
Some Symptoms of Digestive Distress
So, when the body doesn’t recognize the foods we eat as food anymore, the digestive system can’t digest them. The scene is then set for the entrance of bad bacteria, and viruses into the system. You may notice symptoms. As the food begins to rot in the gut, the body starts to produce odiferous gases, which makes it difficult to be around others. Are you feeling bloated? Do you suffer with acid reflux? These are the early stages of what could become Leaky Gut Syndrome. The rotting food in your intestinal tract sets the stage for the bad bacteria to take over, and also to enter the bloodstream and go all over the body, lodging in muscles and organs and places they were never meant to be.
One of the most notorious organisms which currently afflicts 17 million Americans is a Yeast Infection. One in particular – Candida – is particularly difficult to get rid of. Candida albicans is a fungal organism that is present in virtually everyone’s intestinal tract in small amounts. In a healthy gut, the immune system keeps it under control with beneficial microbes such as intestinal lactobacilli and bifidobacteria that balance the bad bacteria. But when the bad bacteria multiply and outnumber these good bacteria, yeast can easily grow out of control.
If your digestive system is overworked trying to deal with all the junk you are throwing into it, perhaps without even realizing it, it can begin to allow large undigested food particles to pass into the bloodstream creating holes in the gut lining. This is a full-blown “Leaky Gut” and it can make you feel very uncomfortable after eating. Once you develop “Leaky Gut”, the way is clear for food allergies to appear, auto-immune disorders, and all kinds of indefinable aches, pains, fatigue, as well as a general feeling of malaise. Does this sound familiar to you? Do you know of someone close to you, who is on that path?
Let’s See What Happens When a Virus or Imitation Food Enters Our Gut
It’s difficult to imagine how this situation can develop, so let’s take a closer look at what actually happens, when a virus, or imitation food, enters your digestive tract.
First on the scene are your friendly bacteria. They begin the fight to stop “the invaders” from entering your bloodstream.
We can look at it in 3 different stages.
Bacteria treat “artificial or man-made food particles” in the same way they treat a virus.
Stage 1 – While the virus or undigested food particles are still in your intestinal tract, they surround it and attempt to neutralize it. This works with the virus, but the food just starts rotting in your gut.
Stage 2 – The good bacteria form a barrier along the intestinal lining and prevent the virus from passing through your intestinal lining into your bloodstream. This blocks the virus, but the undigested food particles bombard the gut lining as we continue to eat them day after day, week after week. Eventually the artificial food particles penetrate the lining of the gut and enter the bloodstream.
Stage 3 – If the virus gets through, the friendly bacteria actually communicate with each other. They signal to your blood cells to produce substances that will neutralize the virus before it can cause any damage. This works for invading viruses, but it doesn’t work for undigested food particles, who continue merrily on their way using the blood system as a transport system.
With Leaky Gut, as we saw above, the lining of the gut is damaged from these big particles entering the blood. The big holes created in the lining of your gut, now allow things through that shouldn’t get through. You can see now how food allergies are triggered, and auto-immune disorders like celiac disease (an allergy to gluten in wheat), and reactive arthritis (pains and aches in various parts of your body), begin to appear out of nowhere. When your digestive system is no longer able to protect you, you become vulnerable to all kinds of unpredictable illnesses. And because of the way it happens, that is, through the digestive system, there is no way for doctors to trace these diseases back to any direct root cause. It’s a very sneaky business.
Like the GPS in your car, when your internal Gut Protection System is not working properly, your gut loses direction, and doesn’t know what to do with the “imitation food” it is faced with. When this happens, your health is then in danger of being compromised.
What Steps Can You Take to Prevent This Decline in Your Health?
Because of the prevalence of “imitation foods” that look like “real foods” everywhere we go, in might be a good idea to re-educate ourselves, about what steps to take, to restore the balance in our digestive systems, or better still to prevent this situation from ever getting started.
The Role of Bacteria in Protecting Us From Disease
In addition to switching to a natural diet, what else can we do to help our digestive systems, when they have gotten off track and don’t know how to digest normal foods anymore? That’s where Brenda Watson’s Probiotics come in. Probiotics are the “good” bacteria. The word “bacteria” has gotten a bad reputation lately. But, not all bacteria are bad. Yet in our culture, we have been taught that bacteria are something we have to get rid of. We try to scrub it off our bodies, and clean it off everything we come in contact with. So many people continue to associate the word ‘bacteria’ with something bad.
We have to distinguish between “good” bacteria and “bad bacteria”. Why? Because we need to take in this good bacteria in order to increase it in our intestinal tract, so our army of “good” bacteria can win the battle against the “bad” bacteria rotting the food in the intestinal tract.
How do we get the good bacteria into our system?
We need to make probiotic foods a part of our daily diet. The word “pro-biotics” means “for life” just like the word “anti-biotics” means “against life”. Antibiotics are taken to kill undesired bacteria. Probiotics are fermented foods taken to support the good bacteria. Probiotic foods have been eaten as far back as 5000 BC such as kefir, miso, tempeh and natto. Sauerkraut, kombucha tea, high quality dark chocolate, and green pickles are also top probiotic foods. Probiotic supplements have been around for about 20 years. You can buy them in health food stores.
A Word About Yogurt
Yogurt which started as a probiotic food with billions of good bacteria in it, has become more of a fashion food that is packaged with high sugar content, and a variety of different flavours. You can see that “yogurt” has a foot in both the bad and good bacterial camps, depending on which kind you buy. By now, you probably suspect that yogurt with a high sugar content may not be the best kind of yogurt to eat, and you’d be right. Some yogurt even comes with candy on top. How helpful is that going to be? Sugar makes the “bad” bacteria thrive. Plain yogurt with the bacterial content listed on the label is the best to buy. Remember: If you buy yogurt with sugar in it, you are contributing to the imbalance of bad bacteria in your gut.
Prebiotics – the New Kid on the Block
Prebiotics are relatively new on the scene. Honey, fruit, raw apple cider, sprouted wheat, tomato, raw chicory root, raw Jerusalem artichokes, raw garlic, onion – cooked or raw, raw asparagus, banana and butter are all foods that contain prebiotics – which are the foods that the probiotics consume. Butter is rich in butyric acid, which bifidus strains of bacteria feed on, and then produce Vitamin B in the small intestine, which is absorbed into the blood stream. By eating prebiotics, you can ensure that beneficial bacteria like Bifida continue to grow and thrive in your digestive system.
How to Stabilize Your Digestive System and Keep it Healthy
There are so many things in our lifestyle that can destroy the balance of friendly bacteria in your digestive tract. Air pollution, exposure to chemicals: household chemicals, body care products which are full of chemicals, even fluoridated and chlorinated tap water, all interfere with the level of friendly bacteria in our digestive tract. Depending on where you live, you could even be exposed to prescription medications everyday, in the tap water you drink. In some major US cities, antibiotics, antidepressants and even antipsychotic drugs have been found in the drinking water.
Pointers for Boosting Your Digestive System
If you want to make sure you are eating and drinking foods that are going to support a healthy digestive tract, that will protect you from disease, here are some pointers to get your started.
1) Avoid pre-packaged and processed foods, that have gone through a heating process, and/or had chemicals, additives, preservatives and flavorings added to them.
2) Seek out fresh, organic, raw and fermented foods as often as you can. These foods are alive, and the body is programmed to know how to use them.
3) Avoid antacids which reduce the acidity in your stomach which is needed to digest your foods.
4) Avoid products made with any of the “Big Four” Genetically Modified ingredients: corn, soya, canola, cottonseed oil. I would add to that list Wheat, which is now almost all modified. If you want to know more about the state of “wheat” in our food supply read Dr. William Davis’ book: Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health
5) If you are pregnant, the best thing to do, would be to supplement your diet with probiotics, because it will strengthen your immune system and that of your baby.
Research shows that babies given antibiotics in the first 6 months of life, have a 50% chance of later developing asthma. Protect your baby with Probiotics not Antibiotics.
We will all experience wear and tear in our bodies, as we move through life, and we can all get off course in our eating habits. But we need to realize that we can fix, replace, replenish and restore the optimum conditions in our digestive track, and get on-course again with a healthy digestive system that will protect us from disease. The important thing is not to delay. Your GPS is your first line of defence. If it is to serve you well, it’s a good idea to learn how to feed your digestive system and maintain it in the best possible way.