Being in the midst of cold and flu season, I frequently get asked what measures I take to remain healthy during the unpredictable winter months. My answers typically vary from person to person depending of their depth of understanding towards the topic, as well as what category they currently fall into: Lessening the Duration or Preventative Maintenance. If strictly the former, I highly recommend the acronym ACEZ plus rest. Out of many of the over the counter nutraceuticals currently available, I find a combination of Astragalus, Vitamin C, Elderberry, and Zinc to be the most effective in myself as well as my clients. Perhaps in a future blog post I can go more in depth as to why I’ve chosen these special four and a review of the current scientific data.
However, the more enlightening of the two, in my humble opinion, is what we can do on a day to day basis to prevent illness. I’m going to attempt writing a layman’s version that most can follow, so bear with me. If you didn’t already know, seventy-to eighty-percent of your immune system resides in your gut. The super selective mucosal lining in your small intestines is much like your own skin and act as a barrier to protect you from environmental pathogens. At any given time, there is an estimated three to four pounds of bacteria and yeast living within your intestines. In a perfect world the good bacteria outweigh the far less beneficial yeast as they all compete for nutrients from the food you eat. So we live life to the best of our abilities, and just shy of living in a bubble, to a greater extent most of us really can’t control many of the environments we subject our bodies to everyday. We all get sick from time to time. Every time you swallow antibiotics, you kill the beneficial bacteria within your intestines. When you do so, you upset the natural balance allowing yeasts to thrive. Yeasts can use their tendrils to literally poke holes through the lining of your intestinal wall , allowing your digestive tract to become more porous … Yeast is also used to make bread, making me hungry… to continue enriching the minds of many, HA!
I’m sure most everyone has heard of the word gluten, and the term “gluten-free” or someone choosing to eat a gluten-free diet. There is much value to be had in understanding why. We can and do set-up the environment in which our intestines work 24/7 with the foods we eat. Gluten (think grains), along with eggs and corn are among the top most common intestinal irritants one can consume. This is in part because the ancient grains of yesteryear are not the same grains of today due to extreme efforts towards modern industrialization leading to some serious unintended consequences… Here’s the take home. Every time grains (or any food allergy you may have) touch the intestines, an inflammatory immune response is mounted which damages it’s mucosal lining. Irritable Bowel Syndrome begins and with time Leaky Gut Syndrome occurs, which refers to an inflammatory state of the bowel, and causes the gut’s inability to regulate the trafficking of nutrients leading to malabsorption. Still despite digestion being poor, nutrients can be absorbed big and small along with serious toxic agents and chemicals contained in many of today’s processed pre-packaged “convenience” foods … and from what I’ve read, there is at least two studies linking leaky gut to cause auto-immune diseases  such as Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis to name a few. The latter as a result of total systemic inflammation as nano-molecules from the food we ingest migrate towards our joints. In an effort to stop this process, the body then launches white blood cells to those sites. Unfortunately because of the constant demand and stress on our system, our bodies can’t always keep up. Gastroparesis – otherwise known as delayed gastric emptying, is thought to be due to an auto-immune response triggered by a viral infection.  Chronic intestinal inflammation also causes a widening of the spaces between cells allowing bacteria, viruses, parasites and yeast to pass into the bloodstream. Again, I question what part of these conditions are convenient verses a proactive dietary approach to prevention?
The main reason I bring up Gastroparesis is because there appears to be a recent influx of cases within my family and network of friends. I believe it’s only going to get worse in years to come, unless we begin taking a hard look at what we are putting into our mouths. My own grandmother is currently battling with the condition and has made some great strides with a few dietary adjustments. So allow me to be a guide in pointing you towards the right direction. There is literally tons of insightful and practical information regarding this topic. The information I’m about to provide is just a condensed version. Start by eating more of a paleolithic diet and embracing the lifestyle that comes along with it. Refer back to my post entitled: Eat Your Sprouts! Grass-fed meat, green vegetables, fermented vegetables (probiotics), rice, coconut oil and various essential fatty acids is a solid foundation to build upon. Lots could be said for homemade bone broths and soups as well… By default of changing the way you are preparing and consuming food, you will be eliminating the majority of both processed foods and sugar. The need to eliminate sugar is important because if the body has been overpopulated by yeast (think also yeast infections), restricting sugar will effectively starve them to death.
Second tip, utilizing supplementation. Consider supplementing with L- Glutamine. One of the reasons why bone broth is great. Glutamine improves functioning of the intestinal walls and is critical for immune regulation of intestinal IgA. IgA is an antibody that that attacks virus and bacterial pathogens. Probiotics are another piece of the puzzle. Probiotic supplements assist with replacing the species of bacteria that foster inflammation within the intestine and help aid digestion. Among their many tasks, these live microorganisms aid in fermenting (and utilizing) carbohydrates, aid the body in absorbing nutrients from food, and boost immunity within the body. Any excellent probiotic formula will include Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS). These compounds are found naturally in fermented foods. The FOS helps feed probiotic bacteria and allows them to flourish. One of my absolute favorite formulas out on the market for daily use is EvoMuse’s Gut Health. It contains a unique set of good bacteria along with FOS to help alleviate and manage the symptoms of IBS, leaky gut as well as whole body inflammation. According to a 2011 study published by the Public Library of Science, L. ccasei DN-144 001 improves symptoms of colitis by strengthening the gut wall function. This is also true of L. ccasei DN-144 001 for cases of IBS, and Crohn’s disease.
Last but certainly not least, do not underestimate the power of sleep. Lack of sleep will decrease the body’s ability to manage stress. When you are stressed and eating on the run, poor digestion is often the result. If you digestive tract is inflamed to begin with, you end up falling into the same vicious cycle over and over. It stands to reason that if our bodies recover from exercise and recharge our brains while we sleep, so wouldn’t the same repair happen to our guts at night?