Q: Dr. Scott, I have severe abdominal pains, along with many food sensitivities—so many foods bother my digestion. What is going on in my guts and what can I do?
A: Intestinal dysbiosis and “Leaky gut syndrome” (and food sensitivities) are prevalent problems in our society, meaning that your small intestine (where food is absorbed to go to the liver) is no longer working efficiently. Conditions like heavy metal toxicity, excessive inflammatory processes, as well as food and chemical sensitivities are all common for patients with leaky gut syndrome and dysbiosis.
Normally only digested food is selectively absorbed through special pores that open and close at the base of the microvilli that line the small intestine. Various factors that are part of the leaky gut picture, especially mold overgrowth, can cause the lining of the small intestine to get irritated, changing the pore’s function from that of a turn-style to that of a swinging-door, allowing undigested food and bacterial endotoxins to leak into our immune system. This leads to a cascade of increased low-grade inflammation.
The food that leaks through the pores of the intestinal lining is engulfed by white blood cells. The white blood cells, carrying the partially-digested foods, are called circulating immune complexes, or CICs.
Two things now happen: 1) we become sensitive to these particular foods because they are treated as foreign invaders, and 2) these circulating immune complexes cause inflammation wherever they settle (e.g., the brain/nervous system in erratic behavior, such as ADHD; or the GI tract in failure to adequately absorb nutrients or irritable bowel syndrome; or the vascular tree and its many diseases). These CIC substances are key promoters of total body inflammation and their symptoms may range from fatigue, arthritis, weight gain, allergies, asthma and skin problems to sinusitis, neurodegenerative disease, immune dysfunction (autoimmune diseases) and cardiovascular disease.
When digestion is poor — whether in the stomach, small intestine, or large intestine — the body fails to break food down into its component parts for absorption. The food can actually become putrid when this occurs, and gases of varying nature can form. This causes the bloated gaseous feeling and rumbling a person may experience when the digestive system is not functioning correctly. This is not just an uncomfortable situation; much more important, it is a situation in which the body fails to absorb nutritional ingredients for the processes of life. A person can eat nutritious food, but if his/her digestive system fails to break it down and use it properly, nutritional deficiency can result. The high prevalence of vitamin deficiencies in the American population is an important reality in this regard.
Healing the Gut
Since half of your immune system, responsible for 77% of our antibody production, is wrapped around your small intestine, it’s important to take steps to preserve the health of this digestive and detox organ. Your intestines contain 5 pounds of bacteria, molds and viruses, made up of 15 to 35,000 species. Known as your gut biome, this important intestinal biomass is estimated to manufacture greater than one million compounds for the body.
If we could but teach pharmacists, nutritionists, and general and nurse practitioners to screen people for potential adverse drug and food biochemical reactions, looking for changes in Manual Muscle Tests (MMTs) while the potential medication or nutrient or “bug or microbe” is in the mouth of the patient or under the south pole of a 5,000 gauss magnet, their results could be exponentially multiplied.
Leaky Gut Syndrome: What You Can Do
Do a periodic cleansing of your internal body using Digestive Enzyme Therapy or some variation.
Become clear about what your food and mold sensitivities are. Have an evaluation done by a doctor (an applied kinesiologist) familiar with functional medicine.
Avoid any foods of which you suspect you may be intolerant: they will produce toxins in the gut that can cause stress to the detoxification mechanisms. Bacteria, viruses, parasites, too much alcohol, coffee and other caffeine-containing drinks, smoking and the medicines that have powerful effects on the liver, stomach and other parts of the body can prove toxic. Chew your food well to help release the enzymes that aid digestion.
Functional Medical practitioners utilize a vast array of foods and nutrients to allow the eliminative organs to function at optimum levels.
If you work in an occupation in which chemicals are used, have regular check-ups and consider having blood and urine analysis to detect toxic exposure. It may be especially important that you do a cleanse.
Use liver-protecting products.
Drink water purified by carbon filtration and reverse osmosis, especially if you live in an area with landfills or known chemical contaminants.
Hippocrates the Father of Medicine said: “All disease begins in the gut.” The Father of Medicine also said “Let your foods be your medicine and let your medicine be your foods.” Taking these steps to restore your digestive health can turn many chronic health problems around.
Dr. Scott Cuthbert is the chief clinician at the Chiropractic Health Center in Pueblo, Colorado, as well as the author of three new textbooks and over 50 peer-reviewed research articles. PuebloChiropracticCenter.com.