To live healthy, you follow a healthy lifestyle, follow a routine, train hard, supplement right, and try to get enough sleep. But what if all that hard work is in vain because of poor intestinal health?
There might be something wrong with your inner tube, and it could be making you sick and overweight. You may not even realize you have a problem.
The digestive system is the cornerstone of our wellbeing, as it is involved in many processes. If the digestive system is poor, we can end up with impaired immune and nervous systems, disrupted hormonal functions, and upset the equilibrium of our body. So, having a healthy intestine means more than simply being free of annoyances like bloating or heartburn. It is absolutely central to your health. It is connected to everything that happens in your body. It is absolutely essential that you heal this critical system in your body if you want to achieve optimum health.
Role of Intestine
The health of your intestine determines what nutrients are absorbed and what toxins, allergens, and microbes are kept out. It is directly linked to the health of your whole body. Intestinal health could be defined as the optimal digestion, absorption and assimilation of food. But that depends on many other factors.
First, there are bacteria in your intestine that form a diverse and interdependent ecosystem, like a rain forest. In fact, there are 500 species and three pounds of bacteria in there which form a huge chemical factory that helps digest food, regulate hormones, excrete toxins, and produce vitamins and other healing compounds that keep your intestine and your body healthy. This ecosystem of friendly bacteria must be in balance for you to be healthy. Too many of the wrong bacteria, like parasites and yeasts, or not enough of the good ones, like lactobacillus or bifidobacteria, can seriously damage your health.
Secondly, your entire immune system is protected from the toxic environment in your intestine by a lining that is only one cell-thick layer. If spread out, this lining would take up a surface area the size of a tennis court. If that barrier is damaged, you can become allergic to foods you may normally be able to digest perfectly well, you will get sick, your immune system will become overactive, and it will begin producing inflammation throughout your body. Filtering out the good molecules from the bad molecules and protecting your immune system is yet another important factor in intestine health.
Third, there is nervous system for the intestine. Did you know your intestine actually contains more neurotransmitters than your brain? In fact, the intestine has a brain of its own. It is called the “enteric nervous system” and it is a very sophisticated piece of your biology that is wired to your brain in intricate ways. Messages constantly travel back and forth between your intestine-brain and your head-brain and, when those messages are interfered with in any way, your health will suffer.
Fourth, your intestine also has to get rid of all the toxins produced as byproducts of your metabolism, which your liver dumps into bile. If things get backed up when you are constipated, you will become toxic and your health will suffer.
And, last but not least, your intestine must break down all the food you eat into its individual components, separate out the vitamins and minerals, and shuttle everything across the one cell-thick layer mentioned above so it can get into your bloodstream and nourish your body and brain.
Your intestine has quite a lot to manage. Even in a perfect world, it is hard to keep all of this in balance. But, in our modern world, there are endless obstacles that can knock our digestive system off-balance, making it that much more difficult to maintain excellent digestive health.
Signs of Imbalance
There are certain factors which will throw your intestine out-of-balance. They are:
- Our low-fiber, high-sugar, processed, nutrient-poor, high-calorie diet, which causes all the wrong bacteria and yeast to grow in our intestine and damages the delicate ecosystem in your intestines.
- Overuse of medications that damage the intestine or block normal digestive function — things like acid blockers (Prilosec, Nexium, etc.), anti-inflammatory medication (aspirin, Advil, and Aleve), antibiotics, steroids, and hormones.
- Undetected gluten intolerance, celiac disease or low-grade food allergies to foods such as dairy, eggs or corn.
- Toxins like mercury and mold toxins, which damage the intestine.
- Lack of adequate digestive enzyme function, which can come from acid-blocking medication use or zinc deficiency.
- Stress, which can alter the intestine nervous system and change the normal bacteria in the intestine.
What happens then is obvious. You get sick. But what is important to understand is that many diseases that seem to be totally unrelated to the intestine — such as eczema or psoriasis or arthritis — are actually caused by intestine problems. By focusing on the intestine, you can get better.
Towards Intestinal Health
- Eat whole, unprocessed foods. Make sure to include plenty of fiber from foods like vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
- Eliminate food allergies. If you think you have food sensitivities, try an elimination diet. Cut out gluten, dairy, yeast, corn, soy and eggs for a week or two and see how your intestine feels and what happens to your other symptoms.
- Treat infections, if any. Parasites, small bowel bacteria, and yeasts can all inhibit proper intestine function. You must treat these infections if you want to heal.
- Replenish your digestive enzymes. When you don’t have enough digestive enzymes in your intestine, you can’t properly convert the foods you eat into the raw materials necessary to run your body and brain. Take broad-spectrum digestive enzymes with your food to solve the problem.
- Rebuild your friendly bacteria. Take probiotic supplements. They will help you rebuild the healthy bacteria so essential to good intestine health.
- Get good fat. Take extra omega-3 supplements, which help fight inflammation in the intestine.
- Heal your intestine lining. Use intestine-healing nutrients such as glutamine and zinc to repair the lining in your intestine so it can resume its normal function.
Keeping your intestines healthy is absolutely essential if you want to achieve overall health. So, go ahead and spend a bit of time and work on your part to take care of your intestines.