The environment inside a healthy gut is miraculous. Your cells interact with friendly bacterial cells to form a living, breathing, energy-making ecosystem. The ecosystem inside a healthy gut is like a paradise, and paradise makes for a healthy person inside and out. Unfortunately, the ecosystem inside an unhealthy gut can be something more akin to a nightmare, causing many more problems than you may even realize.
What is a healthy gut?
Because the inside of your gut is technically the outside of your body, just because you eat something doesn’t mean it belongs to you. Food has to be constantly broken down into extremely tiny particles in order for nutrients to be absorbed, because you can only absorb nutrients through the very tiny junctions between your “2nd skin” or your epithelial cells in your gut. So the nutrients must be broken down to their very smallest form in order to be absorbed into your blood stream.
But we can’t do all this breaking down ourselves – we need help. That help exists in 100 trillion friends you didn’t even know about. These little guys stick together and form a thick biofilm of good bacteria on the walls of your digestive tract – protecting it from undigested or indigestible food particles, viruses, and bad bacteria.
Your good bacteria are like factory workers, breaking down foods into tiny particles and releasing their nutrients. These bacteria also make new, helpful nutrients and chemicals like B vitamins and serotonin, which calm you and make you feel good.
The biofilm of good bacteria ensure that you “take out the trash” in the colon – where it’s supposed to be done.
What Does an Unhealthy Gut Look Like?
A healthy gut becomes unhealthy because the delicate balance of good bacteria is disrupted. How do we disrupt the good bacteria? Let me count the ways:
- Excessive antibiotic use
- Processed foods high in refined sugar
- Chlorinated/Fluoridated water (i.e. drinking city water)
- Birth control
When we lose the thick biofilm of good bacteria that line the inside of our digestive tract, we lose the vital protection they provide. What happens next is irritation of the digestive tract wall and eventually intestinal permeability – more commonly known as leaky gut.
As our gut becomes “leaky,” undigested food particles, toxins, bad bacteria, yeast, and even viruses can get through into our blood stream. Then begins the inflammatory reaction of our innate immune system. If this is allowed to continue for too long, things can get out of control and wastes can begin to build up in our body. Our systems of elimination are like filters: as they get backed up we start to develop things like allergies, skin issues, lung issues, and, if it goes unchecked for too long, autoimmune diseases.
I’ve said it many times to my patients and I mean it will all my heart – good health begins in the gut.
So you’re thinking to yourself: “I think I might have leaky gut, but what do I do about it?” The good news is we know the gut can heal if the conditions are right.