by Dr. Holly German
The saying you are what you eat is true. The foods you ingest become the cells that make up and fuel your body. Your diet dictates your level of energy, mood, and how easily/quickly you heal from illness. So, why do people who eat a well balanced diet continue not to feel good?
The reason is that ingestion is only the first step in getting nutrients into your system. After ingestion, your body must digest, assimilate, and distribute those nutrients to all of your cells. When your gastrointestinal health is poor, all the fruits and veggies in the world won’t do you much good because your body can’t access the nutrients.
Dysbiosis is the term used to describe an imbalance in gut flora. This can mean there is a deficiency of “good” bacteria, such as the stuff in yogurt and fermented foods or an overabundance of “bad” bacteria like candida and H.Pylori.
There are many causes of dysbiosis – antibiotics, analgesics (like Tylenol), and acid blocking medications are some common causes. Other causes include chronic stress and worry, high sugar/carbohydrate intake, toxins from the environment (such as pesticides in food and chlorine in water), consuming inflammatory type foods, and low acid production in the stomach.
After years of chronic dysbiosis, the lining of the gastrointestinal tract becomes weak and what is called “leaky gut” ensues. When leaky gut sets in, the body’s immune system begins to recognize foods as foreign invaders instead of nutrients. This sets a chain reaction that results in inflammation and dis-ease.
Aside from GI discomfort such as gas, bloating, and unhealthy bowel movements, there are many other illnesses associated with dysbiosis: autoimmune disease, arthritis, allergies, mood disorders (anxiety, depression), chronic sinusitis, autistic spectrum disorders, and fibromyalgia to name a few.
Rebalancing gut flora begins with probiotics. I recommend taking a high dose of quality probiotic daily. If candida or H.Pylori have invaded, these pathogens need to be treated with dietary changes and anti-microbial herbs, such as black walnut and pau d’arco. A stool test can reveal which type of candida is present and which herbs can best be used to eradicate it. Glutamine, slippery elm, and zinc picolinate are proven to help heal a leaky gut lining. Digestive enzymes are also helpful in supporting the body in digestion and nutrient assimilation.
While there are some good general habits to get into to prevent dysbiosis, treating gastrointestinal imbalance is not a one-size fits all approach. For example, many kids on the autistic spectrum lack an enzyme called DPPIV (dipeptidyl-peptidase IV). This enzyme is necessary to break down wheat (gluten) and dairy (casein). These children will need to also avoid wheat and dairy for their GI imbalance to improve.
Because we are all unique beings, the best treatment can be found by pinpointing the exact cause of the imbalance for each individual. Only then can we remove the cause of illness and develop a treatment plan to support each individual’s innate ability to heal – mind, body, and spirit.