It’s such a simple yet incredibly profound statement because it is true. Our bodies are constantly making new cells to replace old or damaged cells. Some cells, such as the cells that line the gastrointestinal tract, are replaced every 3-5 days. Red blood cells have a turnover rate of 100-120 days. Where does your body get the building blocks to make the new cells? From the food you eat. Every cell, every enzyme, every hormone, every cytokine (chemical messengers made by the immune cells), every molecule of ATP (energy) comes from what we put into our bodies. If you are experiencing issues with gastrointestinal health it is important to identify what you are putting in your body that is problematic.
“Let food be they medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates
As Hippocrates knew way back in 431 B.C, food is more than just something to please your taste buds and quench a craving. We have to recognize that eating is not just for pleasure, although it can be very gratifying – we all have our favorites! If we can become aware that certain types of food are life supporting and others are life depleting, then it is easier to say, “I’ll pass” to the French fries and choose a side dish of vegetables instead.
What is important to remember is that when life depleting foods are eaten, such as refined carbohydrates (sugar, white or whole grain flours), processed fats, packaged convenience foods and beverages, etc., the body is forced to use its own reserves of nutrients to metabolize and detoxify the chemicals and simple sugars in these foods. This causes your body to have inadequate amounts of nutrients to provide the energy and metabolites necessary for detoxification, regeneration and repair of itself. The constant onslaught of today’s environmental toxin exposure quickly builds to an excess of what the body’s immune system can handle and cancer and other disease develops.
Support Your Gastrointestinal Health & the Life that Exists There
Your gastrointestinal tract (GI) is the most important organ system in your body because it determines what enters your body. Gastrointestinal health is maintained by the estimated 100 trillion bacteria, which are essential for normal physiology. We haven’t been able to identify all of the bacteria, but we know that they have many important functions, such as:
Helping to break down food particles. Without the beneficial bacteria to help break them down fully, foods can become toxic substances, such as casomorhpines and gluteomorphines that interfere with brain and immune system function.
Producing essential nutrients, such as vitamin K.
Assisting in the absorption of nutrients.
Providing a physical barrier against invaders, undigested food, toxins and parasites.
Producing antibiotic-like, anti-fungal and anti-viral substances, which defend against invaders and stimulate the body’s immune system to respond appropriately.
Producing organic acids to keep the guts pH around 4.0-5.0, which is unfavorable for pathogenic bacteria.
Their presence takes up space and inhibits opportunistic, pathogenic bacteria and yeasts from growing, which also inhibits the formation of pathogenic bacterial toxins and their damaging effects to the gut wall. Damage to the GI tract allows undigested foods to leak out, which causes an inflammatory response in the body.
Providing the food necessary for the cells of the gut lining.
This is only a partial list of the benefits of beneficial bacteria, otherwise known as probiotics. Even though science is just beginning to understand the importance of probiotics we know their existence is imperative for gastrointestinal health as well as mind/body. Refined carbohydrates and sugars, use of antibiotics, birth control pills and steroids can encourage the growth of candida, which can inhibit the growth of the probiotics. Candida overgrowth can result in a myriad of health maladies because of the waste products they produce that, when absorbed into the blood stream, are toxic to many body systems. These byproducts can also be recognized by the immune system and create an inflammatory reaction. There are foods that you can eat to help support the probiotics and ensure their proliferation. At the Women’s Health and Healing Center, classes will be conducted to show you how to easily make foods that will support the growth of probiotics in the GI tract.
The Ideal Diet to Support Your Body’s Gastrointestinal Health
Currently, there are many books coming out on the Paleolithic Diet, which is wonderful, because this diet is well suited for our digestive tract, gastrointestinal health, and overall health. The Mediterranean Diet is also ideal as it focuses on consumption of plants and healthy fats. Historically, humans were hunter-gatherers and the diet consisted of animals (the whole animal), fish, eggs, insects, fruit, nuts, seeds, vegetables, mushrooms, herbs and spices. This is a very low carb diet. In fact, humans did not eat grains until a relatively short time ago in our historical existence. Research has proven abundantly that we are not meant to consume a high carbohydrate, grain based diet.
When we consume a diet high in plant food, healthy fats and and low in starches (grains), our bodies begin to use ketones instead of carbohydrates to fuel the brain and muscles. This results in two beneficial changes that are instrumental for the prevention and reversal of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease: 1) reduction in the saturated fats in the blood despite a high intake of fat 2) decrease in inflammation throughout the body.2,3 This has tremendous implications for reducing the occurrence of the number one killer and the estimated $273 billion spent each year in the U.S. for cardiovascular diseases, including heart conditions, stroke, peripheral artery disease, and high blood pressure.
Modern foods, which mimic the Paleolithic diet, consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils. Studies have shown that even short-term consumption of a Paleolithic-like diet decreases insulin secretion, increases insulin sensitivity, improves blood pressure and glucose tolerance, and improves lipid profiles without weight loss in sedentary humans who are relatively healthy.1
The Paleolithic diet can be modified to meet the needs of your unique health and fitness level. For example, since we do not eat the whole animal and have much more “sterile” preparation and cooking practices, it is helpful to supplement the Paleolithic diet with fermented foods to help support the beneficial bacteria in our GI tract. Homemade yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables are wonderful sources of beneficial bacteria. At the Health and Healing Center, classes are provided so you can learn how to prepare these foods quickly and efficiently.
The Foods of Today vs. Gastrointestinal Health: The Need for Nutritional Supplementation
We have come a long way in understanding how foods supply the nutrients our body’s require. Some people have genetic polymorphisms (variations in gene sequence for a specific protein), or gut dysbiosis, which make them unable to absorb and/or utilize certain nutrients. Therefore, supplementation of a certain form of nutrient may be required. In addition, stress and disease can increase the need for nutrients, which supplementation can provide. Finally, because of the mass food production practices, our food supply is lacking the nutrients that our Paleolithic ancestor’s food provided so supplementation fills the gaps.
Supplementation can ensure your body is receiving the nutrients it needs to obtain maximum health. Nutrients can be taken orally as capsules or tablets, as well as in injectable forms, such as IV’s or intramuscular injections. IV or intramuscular injections are an ideal method for the administration of nutrients because they bypass the digestive system for rapid absorption of nutrients into the body. This allows the cells to more efficiently regenerate tissues and detoxify the body in addition to enabling the immune system to operate at peak efficiency. Many people have a nutrient cocktail to help their body fight off the flus and colds during the fall and winter seasons.
Dr. Cheryl Hamilton has had 34 years of study and experience in nutritional science and she loves passing the information on to you. If you are interested in gluten-free, detoxifying, weight-loss, elimination, anti-inflammatory or any other specialized diet or fasting, or if you feel you might have food allergies and sensitivities, we can help you determine the best dietary approach for your unique metabolic needs. A thorough investigation will be conducted to establish your gastrointestinal health and nutrient needs along with determining what your goals and objectives are for health and weight control. Together, we can find a diet and lifestyle that will fit your needs and improve your health and wellbeing.
Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Aug;63(8):947-55. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2009.4. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Epub 2009 Feb 11.
Lipids. 2008 Jan;43(1):65-77. Comparison of low fat and low carbohydrate diets on circulating fatty acid composition and markers of inflammation. Epub 2007 Nov 29.
Lipids. 2009 Apr;44(4):297-309. doi: 10.1007/s11745-008-3274-2. Carbohydrate restriction has a more favorable impact on the metabolic syndrome than a low fat diet. Epub 2008 Dec 12.