Restoring gut health

A couple of weeks ago we stared a series looking at Autoimmune diseases and how to tackle them. A key concept to this is understanding 5 different factors that greatly impact your ability to work well with these situations.

This week we look at the first factor: Infections and Microbial Imbalances.

The assumption in this conversation is that autoimmunity is a consequence of an immune system that is overstimulated to the point where it starts producing antibodies that attack your own healthy tissues. In this article we will discuss chronic infections and microbial imbalances and how to manage and control them.

Chronic infections can be obvious, such as:

  • Viral hepatitis
  • Epstein-Barr virus infections
  • Cytomegalovirus infections
  • Infections with chlamydia, mycoplasma and other atypical bacteria
  • Chronic infections such as syphilis or chronic Lyme caused by spirochetes
  • Chronic periodontal disease
  • Tooth abscess or infected root canal
  • Chronic osteomyelitis
  • And others

Some of these can be managed with the techniques of Conventional Medicine, while some are better managed by the techniques and materials used in Integrative Medicine. However you do it, they must be managed as part of a comprehensive approach to reversing autoimmune disorders.

Microbial imbalance can be a concept not clearly understood by many. Consider this—current research shows that an adult human body has trillions to tens of trillions of cells, yet only about 10% of these cells are human cells. The other 90% are the various microbes that live in our gut, on our skin, and throughout our tissues. We live in a mutually symbiotic relationship with many of these microbes. For example the bugs that populate our intestines help with things like regulating digestion, movement of the gut, even how much water is left in our stool before we expel it. There are beneficial microbes that do these jobs well, and other microbes that simply upset our intestinal functions.

When we take antibiotics during an infection they usually upset the microbial balance in our gut. Even the antibiotic residues found in animal food products raised using industrial agricultural techniques can upset things. As we saw from the story of the Canadian girl last week who had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics sprayed on the blueberries she ate, we cannot be too sure what things impact our gut. Often restoring a healthy microbial balance may require nothing more than a decent quality probiotic. Click here for one we recommend and use regularly.

When the microbial balance in our gut is in disorder it is referred to as ‘dysbiosis’ (literally, ‘life in disorder’). A consequence of dysbiosis is that the integrity of the intestinal wall becomes compromised. The gut wall is designed to contain the contents of the intestines and allow only desired nutrients to move from the gut into the blood. When the integrity of the gut wall is compromised, we see a loss of control over what gets into the blood from the gut.

As this important system breaks down, all kinds of stuff gets into the blood. We refer to this as ‘leaky gut syndrome’. It’s a polite way to say that poop gets into your blood. And, no surprise, this debris causes a serious immune response. Our body is fighting toxins in places other than the usual locations and the whole system becomes strained. The body fights to survive and pulls whatever it can from itself to counter the issue at hand.

How would you know that your gut is unhealthy?

  • You are taking antacids or drugs to reduce the acid production in your stomach.
  • You have pain or dysfunction in your digestive system.
  • You have chronic constipation or irregular stools.
  • If your bowels move regularly, but only if you take laxatives all the time, then your gut is unhealthy.
  • Your are on a chronic antibiotic therapy.
  • You’re told that your have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • You over-consume alcohol.

The bottom line? Spending the time and effort to restore the health of your digestive system is a necessary part of the comprehensive work to reverse autoimmune disorders. Tolerating the issues listed above is generally the path to avoid. We see this frequently. For whatever reason a small problem gets put off for longer and longer. You go from an occasional antacid to a few a day. Your body is trying to tell you something.

The challenge? We become accustomed to routine. We might ask a person how their digestion is and they say “fine”. Then we ask if they take antacids or anything for indigestion. They reply, “Oh yes. All the time. But that’s just how my stomach is.” Not good. These practices become our routine and “normal” to us. However this is far from normal and once we can learn about these things, the faster we can direct people back to their health.

A point throughout this series we hope you realize is the practice to stop, be curious and be honest. We understand that life is stressful and that your plate overflows at times. We understand that it can be hard to make good food choices or take a probiotic everyday. We also understand the challenge with being honest about your habits and perhaps letting some of them go.

Making these changes is better than the other option. The option generally offered for something like your irritable bowel syndrome, which is to take a drug for it. The downside to this? You don’t then address the underlying issue. The drug masks the symptoms but the damage continues. And that could be perilous to your health.

To end this part of the series we wanted to include a great article that goes more into this topic. It comes from Eating Well Magazine. We’ve attached a PDF of it here as well as a link. We think it will continue this important conversation.

For PDF: How Good Gut Bacteria Could Transform Your Health – Eating Well

For Website link: Click Here

Next we will look at Factor #2: Foods You Are Sensitive To.

So make sure to stay tuned. Leave a comment. Make sure to “like” us on Facebook. And most of all stay well.

To Your Health.

Image credit: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Seamartini

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