This is how the risk of getting Covid-19 is usually explained: in terms of EXPOSURE.
In fact, there’s a much better way to assess your likelihood of getting Covid – and whatever other bugs are going around: THE HEALTH OF YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM.
This is an important difference in perspective. In the first view, there’s nothing you can do to stay healthy except avoid exposure. In the second view, you can do lots to stay healthy by taking specific measures to strengthen your immune system. And, since 80% of your immune system resides in your gut microbiome, improving the health of your gut microbiome will also protect you against most of the diseases and conditions usually considered just part of aging.
Clearly a huge win-win for you with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
GOOD HEALTH = HEALTH OF THE ENTIRE BODY AS A SYSTEM
The second perspective is how Functional Medicine practitioners approach healing – not as a series of symptoms to be modified but as seeking the root causes of those symptoms and repairing those underlying imbalances.
YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM: THE GUT MICROBIOME
This video gives a brief explanation of the relationship between the health of your gut microbiome, where 80% of your immune system lives, and what’s going on with your overall health.
Covid and other viruses spread among people whose immune systems aren’t working properly, making them vulnerable to pathogenic bugs. We often hear people express surprise that someone in ‘good health’ got Covid, a Clostridium difficile infection or some other nasty illness.
At issue here is how we think of ‘good health’. If you define it as not having been diagnosed with a disease, then you’re missing the important role of the gut microbiome. Modern conventional medicine tends to focus on and treat the symptoms of chronic poor gut immunity, dividing the various organs up into medical specialties. Functional medical practitioners view the body as an integrated system and treat the whole system by helping people correct the underlying causes of their various symptoms.
An example from my life. My husband suffered from autoimmune conditions starting early in his childhood: frequent, severe migraines and rheumatoid arthritis. In his 40’s, some of his liver functions were off. I went with him to his doctor’s appoint and heard the doc commend him for his good health because he had such low blood pressure. We were told not to worry about the liver imbalance. My husband went on to develop other autoimmune conditions, including, eventually, life-threatening myesthenia gravis, which caused him great suffering.
This doc was a very nice guy. He surely had gone into medicine to help people stay healthy but his way of understanding health was sorely lacking.
How autoimmune problems develop:
Chronically poor condition of the gut microbiome (gut dysbiosis) ––> leaky gut ––> chronic low level inflammation in the body, which eventually ––> autoimmune diseases and conditions
ASSESS YOUR COVID-19 RISK & IMPROVE YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
To this end, a group of scientists have created a way for you to assess your real risk of getting COVID and provided clear information on what you can do to build up your immune system so you don’t get it – while also improving your overall health at the same time.
Go to their #STOP COVID COLD site to calculate your Covid risk. After you’ve submitted your answers to the quiz, you’ll see your score and can learn what you can do now to keep from getting the virus and also improve your general health picture.
The video by Dr Mercola at the top right of the page explains it well as do the two Stealth Strategies to Stop Covid Cold e-reports you’ll find near the bottom of the page to download. (#StopCovidCold, 2020)
You can also download one or both of the Stealth Strategies to Stop Covid Cold reports here.
See the About page on the Stop COVID Cold site for bios for the coalition of experts and organizations who provided the information on the site.
NOTES ABOUT THREE OF THE QUESTIONS ON THE QUIZ
Vitamin D3 is highly protective in preventing and achieving overall health. A 25-hydroxyvitamin D test is the usual way to measure its level in the blood.
Lymphocytes are white blood cells that are one of the body’s main types of immune cells. They are made in the bone marrow and found in the blood and lymph tissue.
A high lymphocyte blood level indicates your body is dealing with an infection or other inflammatory condition. Severe or chronically low counts can indicate a possible infection or other significant illness.
Neutrophils are the most plentiful of the white blood cells in the body’s immune system, making up 55-70% of the white blood cells.
Researchers with the Singapore General Hospital and Duke-NUS Medical School set out to determine if a combination of vitamin D, magnesium and vitamin B12 would improve outcomes among COVID-19 patients aged 50 and older
Seventeen of the patients received oral vitamin D3 (1,000 IU), magnesium (150 milligrams (mg)) and vitamin B12 (500 mcg) — together known as DMB — upon admission for a median of five days while 26 patients who did not receive DMB served as the control group
Significant benefits were seen among the DMB group, with only 17.6% requiring initiation of oxygen therapy during their hospitalization, compared to 61.5% of those in the control group
Vitamin D, magnesium and vitamin B12 may present a unique three-pronged approach for tackling COVID-19 by modulating the hyper-inflammation often seen in the disease
– Midlands Directory. (8/24/2020)
NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS I LIKE
In case your risk of getting Covid is high and you need to supplement with the vitamins and mineral mentioned in the previous section about improving outcomes for Covid patients – also important for preventing getting Covid, here’s a list of the supplements I like and use in case my diet isn’t providing adequate amounts. These amounts work for me. You should check with your own health care provider:
Vitamin D3 5,000 (Metagenics).I take 1 gel cap daily and 2 every 3rd day during the pandemic – and have 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood tests every three to six months to check my D blood serum level. It was 63 in early March 2020 (good) and I’d gotten it up to 90 by September 2020 (very good).
Magnesium Glycinate Chelate (Nested Naturals). I take 2 capsules in the morning.
Neuro-Mag (l-threonate) (Designs for Health). I take 1 capsule after lunch + 2 in the evening.
Vitamin B Complex
Dr Mercola’s Vitamin B-Complex (I take 2 capsules each morning)
Keep your gut microbiome healthy so the rest of you can be healthy too.
Updated 8/29/2014, 9/7/2015, and 4/15/2016. NOTE added at end of post on 9/6/2015. Last updated 10/22/2016.
In the global diabetes epidemic, rates of new cases are rising rapidly. I hope this post will help you avoid becoming one of them.
Number of People Diagnosed with Diabetes
Millions, by region
Source: IDF Diabetes Atlas, Sixth Edition; Managed Care calculation of percentages using data from The World Factbook, published by the CIA
TYPES 1 & 2 DIABETES: AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES
During digestion, most of our food gets broken down into glucose (a form of sugar that’s the body’s main source of fuel), which then passes into the bloodstream. Insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas) must also be present in the blood for glucose to be able to make it into our cells to nourish them.
Type 1 diabetes is known to be a serious autoimmune problem of the metabolism. An autoimmune disorder or disease is a result of chronic inflammation in the body’s immune system, causing it to turn against a part of the body – to attack it as if its cells were dangerous, invading pathogens. In Type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. (WebMD, 2008)
Type 2 diabetes is now also largely viewed as the result of a different type of autoimmune reaction: one in which B and T immune cells cause inflammation in the fatty tissue surrounding organs in the body. The inflammation occurs when rapidly growing fat cells outstrip their blood supply and begin to die off. These dying cells spew out their contents, and macrophages (another type of immune cell) are called in to clean up the dead cells. “The resulting onslaught by the immune system inhibits the ability of the remaining fat cells to respond to insulin and causes fatty acids to be shed into the blood. This sets in motion a physiological cascade that leads to fatty liver disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and further insulin resistance throughout the body.” (Conger, 2011)
TYPE 1 DIABETES
In Type 1 diabetes, which used to be called juvenile diabetes, the immune system mistakenly kills off pancreatic cells that make the blood-sugar-regulating hormone insulin. The body’s immune system attacks and destroys these pancreatic cells so they no longer make enough insulin.
Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 10% of diagnosed diabetes in the US.
TYPE 2 DIABETES
In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas usually produces enough insulin but the cells in the body have become unable to make effective use of the hormone, a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin production eventually decreases. So, as in Type 1 diabetes, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being properly delivered to the cells in the body where they’re needed for fuel.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity, older age, family history of gestational diabetes, and physical inactivity. About 80% of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight. Unfortunately, Type 2 diabetes is also increasingly being seen in younger people, even children and teens.
A prediabetic condition indicates the amount of glucose in the blood is above normal but not yet high enough to be called diabetes. Prediabetic people are at greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
DIABETES STATISTICS IN THE US
Statistics from the American Diabetes Association Report, 2014 show the magnitude of the problem in the US:
PREVALENCE: In 2012, 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population, had diabetes.
Approximately 1.25 million American children and adults have type 1 diabetes.
UNDIAGNOSED: Of the 29.1 million, 21.0 million were diagnosed and another 8.1 million were undiagnosed.
PREVALENCE IN SENIORS: The percentage of Americans age 65 and older remains high, at 25.9%, or 11.8 million seniors (diagnosed and undiagnosed).
NEW CASES: The incidence of diabetes in 2012 was 1.7 million new diagnoses/year; in 2010 it was 1.9 million.
PREDIABETES: In 2012, 86 million Americans age 20 and older had prediabetes; this is up from 79 million in 2010.
DEATHS: Based on the 69,071 death certificates in which diabetes was listed as the underlying cause of death in 2010, diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in the United States that year. In 2010, diabetes was also mentioned as a cause of death in a total of 234,051 certificates.
CAUSE OF DEATH UNDER REPORTING
Diabetes may be under reported as a cause of death. Studies have found that only about 35% to 40% of people with diabetes who died had diabetes listed anywhere on the death certificate and only about 10-15% had it listed as the underlying cause of death.
DIABETES IN YOUTH
About 208,000 Americans under age 20 are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes, approximately 0.25% of that population.
In 2008—2009, the annual incidence of diagnosed diabetes in youth was estimated at 18,436 with Type 1 diabetes, 5,089 with Type 2 diabetes.
Some other diabetes statistics showing the seriousness of the problem:
Below are diabetes prevalence data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of reported cases tripled between 1980 and 2008. The CDC estimates that “the number of Americans with diabetes will range from 1 in 3 to 1 in 5 by 2050.”
And here’s information from the International Diabetes Federation comparing reported cases of diabetes in 2013 with projected cases by 2035 for countries around the world – an expected increase of 55%.
GUT BACTERIA & DIABETES
Researchers are discovering changes in normal gut bacteria that take place before either Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes turns into a clinical condition. Since we now know that 70-80% of our immune system is located in our GI tract, where digestion takes place, you can see how a serious imbalance in the bacterial make up of the gut microbiome could lead to the development of diabetes in people with a genetic predisposition for it.
“Mounting evidence suggests that the bacteria resident within our GI tract – and the immune response to those bacteria – influence the permeability of the gut mucosa. This idea — which has become to be known as the “leaky gut” hypothesis — proposes that a cycle of dysbiosis, dysregulated immune response, and unintended gut permeability leads to the peripheral host immune system being unbalanced towards a pro-inflammatory response. This in turn is suggested to lead to (some of) the imbalances that are thought to be causative of diabetes and other non-metabolic disorders.” (Moore, 2015)
GUT BACTERIA, ANTIBIOTICS & RISK FOR DIABETES
A team of scientists led by Dr Ben Boursi, a Post Doctoral Researcher in Gastroenterology at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, found people who have taken multiple courses of antibiotics were 37% more likely to develop Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The team also found the greater the number of courses of antibiotics, the higher the risk for developing diabetes.
Dr Boursi notes, “Our findings are important, not only for understanding how diabetes may develop, but as a warning to reduce unnecessary antibiotic treatments that might do more harm than good.”
Several studies in humans have shown that early childhood exposure to antibiotics is associated with increased risk of obesity in later life – and obesity has long been recognized as risk for developing diabetes.
There’s also growing evidence that imbalances in the gut microbiome’s composition contribute to the development of both Type 1 and 2 diabetes.
The Boursi team’s future research will focus on identifying the species of gut bacteria necessary to prevent and reverse diabetes, potentially working towards the possibility of transplanting prebiotic and probiotic microbes into the gut as a therapeutic strategy for diabetes. (Arendt, 2015) & (Davenport, 2015)
PREDIABETICS HAVE FEWER & LESS DIVERSE GUT BACTERIA
A research team led by Dr Elena Barengolts, an Endocrinologist at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, found irregularities in the composition of the probiotic bacteria in the guts of prediabetic patients: Compared with subjects whose glucose tolerance was good, the prediabetics had fewer and less diverse populations of bacteria living in their gut microbiomes.
There were 116 participants in the study, all African-American veterans. Their ages ranged from 45 to 70. Their intestinal bacteria were measured by stool samples at the start of the study and again 12 months later.
Participants were divided into four groups based on their body’s ability to regulate blood sugar:
Group 1 – Those with stable glucose tolerance (normal)
Group 2 – Those with stable impaired fasting glucose or stable impaired glucose tolerance
Group 3 – Those with worsened glucose tolerance
Group 4 – Those with improved glucose tolerance
The study found that men whose blood sugar control remained normal over the year (Group 1) had higher numbers of beneficial gut bacteria while the men who continued to be prediabetic had fewer beneficial bacteria and higher numbers of harmful bacteria in their guts.
Furthermore, the group whose blood sugar management improved over the course of the year (Group 4) had a higher number of a strain of healthy bacteria (Akkermansia) than the group who had maintained normal blood sugar control over the year (Group 1). (Gray, 2015)
At the phylum level, this study found significant differences in the bacterial composition between Groups 1 and 2: Group 2 (people with impaired but stable fasting glucose or glucose tolerance) had higher levels of Bacteroidetes and lower levels of Firmicutes than people in Group 1.
The Bacteroidetes/Firmicutes ratio was 1.9 vs 0.9 respectively for Groups 1 and 2 and 1.9 vs 1.1 respectively for Groups 1 and 3.
The number of Proteobacteria decreased over the 12-month study period in Groups 2 and 4 compared with Group 1. Proteobacteria are a major phylum of gram-negative bacteria that include a variety of pathogens – such as Escherichia, Salmonella, Vibrio, Helicobacter, and Yersinia. (Wikipedia, 2015)
At the family and genus levels, Group 2 had fewer Prevotella and a higher Bacteroides/Prevotella ratio than Group 1: 5.6 vs 2.7. Group 2 also had fewer Enterobacteriaceae (a large family of bacteria that includes the pathogens Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Yersinia pestis, Klebsiella and Shigella) and more Ruminococcae and Veillonellaceae.
“We speculate that lower abundance of Prevotella may be associated with worsening glycemia, and, conversely, higher abundance of Akkermansia might be associated with improving glycemia, thus corroborating suggestions from previous studies,” the researchers said.
Barengolts notes, “Changes in the gut microbiota occur in the early stage of diabetes development. The gut bacteria signature — the composition and abundance — could be a useful tool in assessing a person’s risk for developing obesity and diabetes.” (Ciubotaru et al, 2015) & (Brown, 2015)
Other studies are currently underway in Italy and China investigating gut bacterial transplants as a treatment for diabetes.
ALTERED GUT BACTERIA PRECEDE TYPE 1 DIABETES IN CHILDREN
A small study followed 33 babies from Finland and Estonia who were at increased genetic risk for developing Type 1 diabetes. Analysis of their stool samples charted changes in the multitude of microorganisms living in their guts.
By age three, four of the children developed Type 1 diabetes. Huge alterations in the gut microbes of those those four children were seen about a year before onset of the disease. As with the men in the veterans’ study, there was a marked drop in the diversity of the overall microbial community. This drop in gut diversity was accompanied by spikes in inflammation-favoring organisms, gene functions, and serum and stool metabolites. These changes in gut microbial levels did not occur in the at risk children who didn’t progress to Type 1 diabetes.
Researcher Dr Aleksandar Kostic, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Computational Biology and Experimental Biology at MIT and Harvard, hopes the study’s results will lead to an early diagnostic test for Type 1 diabetes. (Kostic et al, 2015) & (Norton, 2015)
PREVENTING & TREATING DIABETES VIA THE GUT MICROBIOME?
Bacteria in the Human Gut
Given what we already know about the gut microbiome’s role in keeping the body in a balanced state so it remains healthy, it makes sense to focus on diet and nutritional supplements for preventing and treating diabetes.
For example, we know there is considerable variation among people in the microbes that live in and on us. We also know that an individual’s microbial populations are always changing.
The following is from an easy to read summary of changes in the various human microbiomes from birth through old age. It was prepared by the University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center (2015). You might want to take a look at it – it provides useful information along with some delightful drawings:
“Before birth, we’re all more or less sterile—we have no microbes. Within a few years, we’re covered in thousands of different species of microbes, and they colonize every millimeter of the body that’s exposed to the outside world. By the time we enter kindergarten, we have vastly different populations living in the different habitats around our bodies. Even as adults and into old age, our microbiota continue to shift.
” … Because so many things affect our bodies’ ecosystems, there is a huge amount of variability in microbial populations even among individuals of the same age. Just like our fingerprints vary, we vary in the microbial species we have as well as their relative abundancies. Our microbes vary with gender, diet, climate, age, occupation, and hygiene. Even differences in our genes influence our microbial populations—indirectly by affecting things like the acidity of the digestive tract, and also more directly through variations in proteins on our cells that communicate with microbes.
“Even with all this variability, there are some trends. Microbial populations differ more among body sites than between individuals. For example, the microbes living on the forearms of two different people tend to be more similar than the microbes on the forearm and ear of the same person. And there are certain species of bacteria that will only live in the gut, others that will live only on the teeth, and so on.”
GENETICS VS EPIGENETICS
We also know this about autoimmune diseases: DNA IS NOT DESTINY
Chronic diseases, especially autoimmune ones, are only 25% determined by genetic inheritance. The other 75% is affected by other factors. It’s a matter of genetics vs epigenetics. You may have a genetic predisposition for diabetes but also have a large say in whether your DNA expresses that predisposition in your body.
“We know from twin studies, from identical twin studies, that 25% of autoimmunity is your genetics, and 75% is from the environment. … So that’s an enormous amount that we have control over and can influence.”
Amy Myers, MD. (Sanfilippo, 2015)
If we know that both the composition and abundance of micro-organisms living in our guts change over the course of a lifetime, shouldn’t it be possible to learn how to make deliberate changes to our gut microbiome – changes that prevent diabetes from developing even if we have a genetic predisposition for it?
TO AVOID OR REVERSE INSULIN RESISTANCE
These are Dr Robert Mercola’s suggestions for turning insulin resistance around (Mercola, 8/23/2015) & (Mercola, 8/27/2015):
EAT REAL FOODS INSTEAD OF PROCESSED ONES
Almost all so-called foods that come in a bottle, can, jar, bag, or box have had sugars added to them, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup.
EAT FRESH FRUIT INSTEAD OF PURCHASED FRUIT JUICES
Commercial fruit juices are loaded with added sugar.
AVOID “DIET” FOODS AND DRINKS
They promote insulin resistance and other health problems. “The artificial sweeteners saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame decrease function in pathways associated with the transport of sugar in your body, and can induce both gut dysbiosis and glucose intolerance. Research also shows that artificial sweeteners promote diabetes and weight gain by disrupting your gut microbiome. Sucralose (Splenda) was found to reduce beneficial gut bacteria by as much as 50 percent!”
AVOID GRAINS, ESPECIALLY WHEAT, BARLEY, OATS & RYE
Grains turn into sugar in your body, sharply raising your glucose and insulin levels, and contribute to insulin resistance. Many grains also contain gluten, which triggers inflammation in the intestines, leading to a state of chronic inflammation in the body and autoimmune diseases.
Consuming a lot of refined grains (and even whole grains) is also highly inflammatory for another reason: Humans are designed to eat a diet containing a ratio of 1 or 2 parts of Omega-6 essential fatty acids to every 1 part of Omega-3. This ratio is what we get when we eat real, unprocessed, highly nutritious foods – non-GMO veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and pastured animals. Our typical diet now has come to contain 10 to 20 parts Omega-6 to every part Omega-3 – producing a highly inflammatory state in the body. (Kratka, 2011)
“Grains are almost single-handedly responsible for the removal of omega-3 fatty acids in the modern diet…. There have been over 2000 studies done on omega-3 and for good reason: the omega-3s in our diet (or the lack their of) have massive implications on our health. It all boils down to ratios: the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in your diet is so crucial, it goes down to the cellular level.” (Kratka, 2011)
Better alternatives to grains are non-GMO almond meal, coconut flour, buckwheat groats, and sweet potatoes. They are much gentler on your blood sugar than grains. Mercola points out that even these healthier alternatives will hamper your body’s ability to heal if you’re already insulin resistant. “Once the clinical signs of insulin resistance have resolved, you can relax your carb restriction.”
Eat fewer saturated and trans fats (unhealthy) and more mono and poly unsaturated fats (healthy). Examples of healthy fats include avocado, butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk, cheese, raw dairy, organic pastured eggs, raw nuts, grass-fed meats, and coconut oil.
Due to the high percentage of nutrient-poor foods, refined carbohydrates, bad fats, and refined sugars in the Standard American Diet (SAD), along with consumption of multiple OTC and prescription pharmaceuticals, we are far from getting the optimal ratio of 1:1 for Omega-6s (inflammatory) and Omega-3s (anti-inflammatory). The ratio in our modern Western diet is often as high as 20:1, creating excessive, chronic inflammation in the body – and chronic inflammation is a precursor to many diseases.
GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D3
Having a sufficient blood level of Vitamin D is essential for maintaining good health and preventing a wide range of autoimmune and neurological diseases: Type 1 and 2 diabetes, asthma, allergies, cancer, Alzheimer’s, MS, susceptibility to infection (including viral respiratory infections) among them.
Vitamin D3 is vitally important for healthy immune functioning – and most of us are seriously D3 deficient. Unless we work mostly naked outdoors in a sunny climate without slathering our skin with sunscreen, we can benefit greatly from adding a high quality D3 supplement to our daily diets.
Some good sources of Vitamin D3 are:
Exposure of the skin to sunshine (without sunscreen), salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, cod liver oil, egg yolks, cheeses, butter, shiitake and button mushrooms, sunflower seeds and sprouts, and high quality supplements.
Guidelines for the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D were updated by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2010 and are currently set by age: For those 1-70 years of age, 600 IU daily; for those 71 years and older, 800 IU daily; and for pregnant and lactating women, 600 IU daily. This is thought by many as far too low.
Due to a mathematical error, the IOM’s widely cited RDA’s for Vitamin D underestimate the body’s need for it by a factor of 10.
The IOM recommends a Vitamin D serum level of 20 ng/ml but we should actually aim for a blood level of 40 ng/ml, supplementing with whatever amount is necessary to reach and maintain that level. (Mercola, 5/10/2015)
One of my alternative health care providers recommends 5,000 IU/day in the summer time and as high as 10,000 IU/day the rest of the year. (Miller, 2011). I like Metagenics, D3 5000, 120 Softgels (1 2X/day).
Vitamin D serum levels should be monitored with periodic blood tests.
(4/15/2016: I reduced my D3 intake to 5,000 IU/day after my D blood serum level was too high.)
(10/22/2016: A few months ago, I needed to reduce my D3 intake even further – to 5,000 IU/day during the darker months and the same amount every other day during the sunnier months.)
Over 10,000 studies show that prolonged sitting harms your health. 8-10 hours of sitting a day, even if you exercise 30-60 minutes daily and are very fit, promotes dozens of chronic diseases – including obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
“The reason for this is because, at the molecular level, the human body was designed to be active all day long. When you stop moving and sit still for extended periods of time, it’s like telling your body to shut down and prepare for death. As soon as you stand up, a number of molecular cascades occur that promote and support healthy biological functioning.
“For example, within 90 seconds of standing up, the muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol — which are mediated by insulin — are activated. Surprising as it may sound, all of these molecular effects are activated simply by carrying your body weight upon your legs. These cellular mechanisms are also responsible for pushing fuels into your cells and, if done regularly, will radically decrease your risk of diabetes and obesity.
“So, the remedy is simple: Avoid sitting and get more movement into your life. Ideally, aim to sit less than three hours a day. Also consider walking more, in addition to your exercise regimen. In short, rest is supposed to break up activity — not the other way around. This kind of non-exercise physical movement appears to be really foundational for optimal health, and if you’re currently inactive, this is the place to start even before you get going on a workout routine.” (Mercola, 8/23/2015)
Don’t let this be true for you:
NOTE ADDED ON 9/6/2015
I’d asked Warren Fraser, MD, to look over this post. Dr Fraser is an experienced board certified endocrinologist and Co-Chair of the Institutional Review Board at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA. He sent these helpful comments:
I think your post is very good.
I hadn’t thought of autoimmune diseases as being a result of chronic inflammation, but it makes sense. It’s seems as if more and more disorders are being linked to chronic inflammation. Cardiovascular disease has, and one of the studies I reviewed this week is looking at a drug which reduces chronic inflammation (the drug is already approved for use in Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, now commonly called Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis) to see if it will lower the incidence of a second cardiovascular event in people who have had one heart attack.
In reference to the TYPE 2 DIABETES SECTION:
The pancreas actually over secretes insulin in the early phases of the disease to combat the insulin resistance. This was quite a surprise to investigators when the insulin assay was developed (late 60’s or early 70’s I think). As you pointed out, insulin production eventually decreases, which may be due to, at least in part, pancreatic ‘exhaustion’ from chronic hypersecretion. High insulin levels are almost always seen in prediabetes (insulin resistance syndrome) and measuring insulin levels is useful in making the diagnosis.
In reference to the section on DIABETES STATISTICS IN THE US:
The increase in new cases may be due in part to a greater awareness of the disorder and more people being tested for it.
I certainly concur that diabetes is under reported as a cause of death. The cause is often attributed to a complication of the diabetes. Back in the 80’s, when Lee Iacocca addressed the annual meeting of American Diabetes Association, he said that he wanted his wife’s death certificate to tell the truth: she died from diabetes.
In reference to the section on GUT BACTERIA, ANTIBIOTICS & RISK FOR DIABETES:
I certainly agree with the harmful effects of excessive antibiotic use.
Again, this is a very good review and my comments aren’t meant to be suggestions to change anything.
– Fraser, 2016
GMO vs NON-GMO FOODS:
In the section AVOID GRAINS, ESPECIALLY WHEAT, BARLEY, OATS & RYE, I’d written “Humans are designed to eat a diet containing a ratio of 1 or 2 parts of Omega-6 essential fatty acids to every part of Omega-3. This ratio is what we get when we eat real, unprocessed, highly nutritious foods – non-GMO veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and pastured animals. Our typical diet now has come to contain 10 to 20 parts Omega-6 to every part of Omega-3 – producing a highly inflammatory state in the body.”
Dr Fraser also asked for clarification on the meaning of “non-GMO”. Here it is with respect to the foods we consume:
The short answer is that NON-GMO plant foods are ones that have not been genetically modified and NON-GMO animals are ones that have not been fed genetically engineered grains or other plants.
GMO foods have been genetically engineered, for reasons completely unrelated to health or nourishment, to withstand heavy applications of potent herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup (a glyphosate-based weed killer). GMOs are created using the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology to inject DNA from one species into another species, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that don’t occur in nature or through crossbreeding methods.
Glyphosate causes serious damage to the beneficial microbes living in our guts (our gut microbiome) and is regarded by many scientists as the most important factor in the development of the many chronic diseases and conditions plaguing Westernized societies.
The process of genetically modifying foods is relatively new in agriculture. The first genetically modified seeds for commercial use were planted in the US in 1996. In 2014, 18 million farmers in 28 countries planted biotech crops, with the highest acreage by far here in the US. Worldwide planting of GE crops covered 181.5 million hectares (448 million acres) by 2014.
The Center for Food Safety estimates that about 3/4 of all grocery store products now contain one or more genetically modified ingredients.
England, France, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland, China, Indonesia, and more than 25 other countries around the world require GE foods to be labeled so consumers can choose to avoid them. England, Japan, Brazil, Norway, India, Thailand and some other countries have even completely banned some GE food crops.
Monsanto and the other big biotech companies have joined together to spend huge sums of money to make sure these GMO foods remain unlabeled in the US.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has declared genetically engineered food unsafe for consumption. They cited animal studies indicating serious health risks associated with GM foods – “including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM advised physicians to tell their patients to avoid GM foods.
“Before the FDA decided to allow GMOs into food without labeling, FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long-term safety studies, but were ignored.” (Institute for Responsible Technology, 2014)
Studies of people in the US and Germany have found high levels of glyphosate in human urine, blood, and breast milk as well as in drinking water supplies.
Kostic, A.D. et al. (2015). The dynamics of the human infant gut microbiome in development and in progression toward type 1 diabetes. Cell Host & Microbe, 17:2, 260-273. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25662751
Those of us living in developed countries where we have multiple food choices often focus on our calorie intake while neglecting the health of our gut microbiome – the vast numbers and variety of microorganisms inside our intestines. We’re talking about several pounds of tiny critters – 10’s of trillions of them, including about 1,000 different species of bacteria made up of over 3 million genes all living and working in our intestinal walls to digest our food and keep our bodies healthy.
Some of the important functions of those multitudinous microorganisms in our guts (Gut Microbiota WorldWatch, 2015):
Helping digest foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to digest
Helping produce some vitamins (B and K)
Helping combat aggressions from other microorganisms
Maintaining the integrity of the intestinal mucosa
Playing an important role in the immune system, performing a barrier effect
If you’re not keeping those pounds of critters healthy and in balance, you’re likely to become ill – perhaps not in the short run but as you move along through your life. The kinds of illnesses and conditions we’re talking about include acne, allergies, asthma, autism, cancer, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, depression, diabetes, eczema, endocrine imbalances, endometriosis, Graves’ disease, some heart disease, infertility, juvenile arthritis, lupus, Lyme disease (chronic), MS, myesthenia gravis, peripheral neuropathy, psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis, rheumatic fever, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, vitiligo … and many more.
A HEALTHY VERSUS A DAMAGED GUT LINING
Isn’t the image below graceful and beautiful? It shows the villi, mucosal cells in the lining of a healthy small intestine. The mucosal layer is where our probiotic microorganisms live and work. It’s also home to the body’s largest population of immune cells.
Now compare that lovely image to the one below. This person’s intestinal villi have been seriously damaged by celiac disease:
Here’s another image of damaged intestinal villi. There are holes where there should be intact cells that allow only needed nutrients to get through the intestinal walls into the blood stream. These holes allow larger particles of undigested food and toxins through and the body attacks them as invading pathogens, producing an inflammatory response.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN AN UNHEALTHY GUT MICROBIOME, CHRONIC INFLAMMATION AND AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES
As someone who’s now having to work hard to repair a very damaged gut lining and reverse several autoimmune conditions – the result of being given infant formula instead of breast milk, childhood exposure to heavy metals (fluoride in my formula and in my city’s water supply, mercury fillings), many courses of antibiotics in adulthood – I assure you it’s wise to nurture your gut microbiome so your gut lining resembles that first, beautiful slide above and is never allowed to turn into the second or third.
A diagram of how damage to the intestinal lining leads to increased gut permeability – also called Leaky Gut:
And another graphic depicting how damage to the gut’s mucosal lining allows undigested food particles and toxins to escape into the body, where they cause an inflammatory response. Chronic inflammation –> autoimmune responses –> disease.
POLYPHENOL PREBIOTICS HELP HEAL DAMAGED GUT LININGS
Now that we’ve covered the importance of the probiotic microorganisms living in your gut microbiome, I hope you’re ready for some really good news!
It’s about polyphenols and how they can help us repair our overall health by restoring the health of our gut linings. Polyphenols are a type of PREbiotic, the kind of nutrient that feeds your PRObiotics.
PREbiotics and PRObiotics
Polyphenols are anti-oxidant micro-nutrients derived from a variety of plants that increase the amount of good bacteria (probiotics) and inhibit the amount of bad bacteria in our guts. They also act as PREbiotics. (Marksteiner, 2014)
Prepare for a radical improvement in your digestion and your general health! Greenteaspoon’s Good Gut Daily is a tasty, liquid dietary supplement containing antioxidant, PREbiotic polyphenols for protecting or rebuilding a healthy gut.
Preliva™, the proprietary active formula in Good Gut Daily, is made from plant extracts rich in bio-available polyphenols. The results of a large double-blind and placebo-controlled clinical study, published in the peer-reviewed publication the World Journal of Gastroenterology (Noguera et al, 2014), strongly support the prebiotic potential of the polyphenol blend in Preliva™ to:
Strengthen the protective digestive lining
Nourish the body’s good microflora (the friendly digestive microbes living in our guts
Reduce digestive distress – diarrhea, stomach discomfort and bloating
Strengthen your immunity
Fight immune burnout
Combat symptoms of stress
Support your overall well being
Greenteaspoon makes three versions of Good Gut Daily in a variety of flavors and sizes:
GOOD GUT DAILY NATURAL IMMUNE HEALTH
Good Gut Daily Natural Immune Health is formulated to strengthen your immunity and support your overall well-being.
Good Gut Daily Natural Immune Health is designed for people with ongoing digestive problems, food sensitivities or ‘leaky gut’ symptoms – including acute digestive issues like gastroenteritis, travelers sickness, diarrhea, gas, bloating, or an upset stomach. Taken daily, it protects your digestive system and can decrease digestive distress.
What it does:
Fights immune burnout
Clinically proven to calm digestion
Reinforces your digestive lining
Combats symptoms of stress, diarrhea, stomach discomfort and bloating
Who it’s for:
Good Gut Daily Natural Immune Health is for people actively trying to improve and manage their ongoing immune health.
Mango Passion Fruit
Available in three sizes:
2-oz quick-shots (sold in 12-packs)
12-oz bottles (12 servings)
32-oz (32 servings)
Safe for children over age 2 and for adults of all ages.
GOOD GUT DAILY NATURAL DIGESTIVE HEALTH
Good Gut Daily Natural Digestive Health is designed to help you manage your ongoing digestive issues. Taken daily, it protects your digestive system and can decrease digestive distress.
What it does:
Calms Your Digestive System
Clinically Shown to Alleviate Occasional:
Gas and bloating
Nourishes Your Body’s Good Microflora
Who it’s for:
Good Gut Natural Digestive Health is for people with ongoing digestive problems, food sensitivities or ‘leaky gut’ symptoms – including acute digestive issues like Gastroenteritis, travelers sickness, diarrhea, gas, bloating or an upset stomach.
2-oz quick-shots (sold in 12-packs)
12-oz (12 servings)
32-oz (32 servings)
Safe for children over age 2 and for adults of all ages.
GOOD GUT RESCUE
Double strength Good Gut Rescue rapidly soothes the symptoms of digestive distress, alleviating occasional diarrhea, upset stomach, gas and bloating. Good for rapid-onset upset stomach and handy for travel.
What it does:
Clinically Shown to Alleviate:
Gas & Bloating
Who it’s for:
Good Gut Rescue is for children and adults ages 2 and up with acute digestive issues like gastroenteritis, travelers sickness, diarrhea, gas and bloating or upset stomach.
How it works:
Strengthens the protective digestive lining
Supports friendly digestive microbes
Reduces digestive distress
2-oz quick-shots (sold in 12-packs)
Safe for children over age 2 and for adults of all ages.
Ingredients NOT in Good Gut Daily
All the versions of Good Gut Daily contain NO calories, sugar, gluten, soy, dairy, or GMOs – and come with a 30-day money back guarantee.
TO BUY GOOD GUT DAILY
Good Gut Daily isn’t available at stores yet. You can order it on the Greenteaspoon website to try it for yourself.
Remember: If your gut microbiome is balanced and healthy, the rest of your body will be a nice happy place to live too.
A Personal Note:
My experience with Good Gut Daily is that it greatly improved my GI health (which had become bad again a few months ago) in just a few days (4 to be exact) – alone, without taking any of my usual PRObiotics or other nutritional supplements.
I started with a single 1-oz dose of Good Gut Daily’s Natural Digestive Health (the Mango-Passion Fruit flavor) and then increased to 1 oz in the AM (on an empty stomach, 30 minutes before breakfast) + another 1 oz 30 minutes before dinner. This 1 oz twice a day dosing calmed down my over-active gut and gave me back my energy, which had been disturbingly low during the previous weeks of GI upset.
I’ve been taking Good Gut Daily for about seven weeks now. My gut and the rest of my body never want to be without it. Rob Wotring, Greenteaspoon’s Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, is currently engaged in clinically testing a pill version for travel. I’m hoping it’ll be available before I leave for a long vacation this fall.
Rob Wotring at Greenteaspoon told me: “We’re convinced polyphenol prebiotics will play a huge role in advancing our understanding of the importance of the gut mucus layer in health and wellness.” Many highly respected scientists, doctors, and other health care professionals agree.
Those of you who have been following this blog know I’m interested – for personal reasons and also just because it’s fascinating – in how the state of the probiotics in our gut microbiomes affects our health in general.
So this development is of great interest to me:
A different kind of PREbiotic dietary supplement, Good Gut Daily, has recently entered the market. PREbiotics provide the nourishment for our PRObiotics. This kind is polyphenol-based and has been clinically shown to calm acute digestive symptoms in as little as 30 minutes and enhance immune health. For those of you who, like me, suffer from ongoing digestive health problems and haven’t found a satisfactory solution, the arrival of this new supplement is excellent news.
Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds found in plants – including fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee, and wine.
I’ll be writing about Good Gut Daily in more depth in an upcoming post but, in the interest of not overwhelming you with information, I thought it useful to do a preliminary post on some of the causes of increased intestinal leakiness so you can see how your GI problems originated and how poor gut health creates major health problems elsewhere in your body.
This post grew out of a phone and email conversations with molecular biologist Rob Wotring, the Chief Scientific Officer at Greenteaspoon. Many thanks, Rob, for sharing some of your wealth of information on how the gut works.
DIGESTION – FROM MOUTH TO ANUS
The human digestive tract runs from the mouth at the top to the anus at the other end. Foreign matter (food) is taken in and partially broken down by chewing in the mouth. It then travels down through the esophagus to the stomach and from there into the small and large intestines, where it is selectively digested. During this trip, various phases of digestion take place and nutrients are extracted and absorbed. The liver, gall bladder and pancreas, organs that aid in the digestive process, are located along the length of the GI tract.
The total length of the GI tract varies from person to person. In an adult male the range is 20 to 40 feet. On average, the small intestine in adults is 22 feet long and the large intestine is 5 feet.
As you can intuit, a lot could go wrong during that long trip – and much of that depends on the quality of what you deliver to your mouth as ‘food’.
You can see the location of the mucosal layer (called ‘mucous coat’ in the diagram below) and the intestinal villi in this cross section of the human small intestine. The empty space in the center, just below the villi (the spikes you see in the image of a healthy mucosal membrane in the image to the left above), is called the lumen, the tube in which food travels through the intestines.
INCREASED GUT PERMEABILITY – AKA LEAKY GUT
Increased gut permeability – also known as hyper-permeable intestines or “leaky gut” – describes the intestinal lining’s having become more porous than it should be so the process of what is allowed out into the body no longer functions properly. Larger, undigested food molecules and other bad things (such as yeasts, toxins, and other forms of waste that normally would continue on and get excreted through the anus) flow freely through these too-large holes in the intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream, where they don’t belong and are treated as dangerous invaders.
The gut’s mucosal layer is thin, delicate – and very important. This is where our probiotic bacteria live, so degrading it also degrades the strength of our immune systems. The probiotics residing in the gut mucosal layer make up 70-90% of the human immune system.
Damage to the gut’s mucosal layer leads to a whole range of serious problems as the body tries to cope with the invaders being released into the bloodstream. Once this lining has become disturbed, allowing problematic things to flow through it into the blood stream, a cycle of chronic irritation begins, leading to chronic inflammation in the body and a whole series of autoimmune conditions.
Symptoms associated with Leaky Gut Syndrome (Age Management & Hormone Balance Center, 2013)
Abdominal Pain (chronic)
Gluten Intolerance (celiac)
Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
Poor Exercise Tolerance
Recurrent Vaginal Infections
Swollen Lymph Glands
Constant Hunger Pains
Shortness of Breath
Fears of unknown origin
Recurrent Bladder Infections
Recurrent Skin Rashes
Here’s a partial list of diseases and conditions associated with increased intestinal permeability (Galland, undated) (Age Management & Hormone Balance Center, 2013):
Chronic arthritis/pain treated with NSAIDS
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Food Allergies & intolerances
Inflammatory bowel disease & syndrome
Multiple food & chemical sensitivies
Neoplasia treated with cytotoxic drugs
Pancreatic dysfunction & insufficiency
There are other chronic diseases and conditions we now know are also autoimmune in nature – including allergies, diabetes, lupus, multiple sclorosis, myesthenia gravis, endometriosis, some heart conditions, juvenile arthritis, chronic Lyme disease, myasthenia gravis, PANDAS, PCOS, pernicious anemia, Raynaud’s, restless leg syndrome, rheumatic fever, rheumatoid arthritis, some thyroid disease, vitiligo … and many others. Learn more about AUTOIMMUNE DISORDERS.
Ten years ago the father of integrative medicine, Dr Andrew Weil, offered this definition of leaky gut (Weil, 2005):
Leaky gut syndrome is not generally recognized by conventional physicians, but evidence is accumulating that it is a real condition that affects the lining of the intestines. The theory is that leaky gut syndrome (also called increased intestinal permeability), is the result of damage to the intestinal lining, making it less able to protect the internal environment as well as to filter needed nutrients and other biological substances. As a consequence, some bacteria and their toxins, incompletely digested proteins and fats, and waste not normally absorbed may “leak” out of the intestines into the blood stream. This triggers an autoimmune reaction, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal bloating, excessive gas and cramps, fatigue, food sensitivities, joint pain, skin rashes, and autoimmunity. The cause of this syndrome may be chronic inflammation, food sensitivity, damage from taking large amounts of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), cytotoxic drugs and radiation or certain antibiotics, excessive alcohol consumption, or compromised immunity.
FUNCTIONS OF THE INTESTINAL MUCOSAL LAYER (Camp, 2015)
This thin, wet layer lining the intestinal walls serves many important functions:
Determines which nutrients pass through the intestinal walls and into the blood stream
Protects and covers mast cells that contain histamines
Secretes antibodies made from the intestinal wall to support immune defenses
Prevents yeast and parasites from adhering to the intestinal wall
CAUSES OF INCREASED GUT PERMEABILITY
INFECTIONS THAT PENETRATE THE GUT’S MUCOSAL LAYER
Infections (eg, acute viral or bacterial infection, intestinal parasites, HIV, candida, etc) that damage the integrity of the intestinal mucosal lining are the most common causes of increased gut permeability. (Galland, undated) (Wotring, 2015)
Ulcerative means a loss of the surface lining. Colitis means inflammation of the mucosa lining inside the colon’s walls. Ulcerative colitis occurs when the immune system reacts aggressively against the normal bacteria inhabiting the colon – ie, it is an autoimmune process.
The gut’s mucosal lining in babies under six months is not yet fully formed. (Wotring, 2015) Mature intestines are made to allow absorption of appropriate nutrients while also preventing pathogens and toxins from entering the body and causing diseases. In young babies, the barrier function is underdeveloped so large amounts of big molecules get through the gut mucosal layer and enter circulation in the body. This makes infants susceptible to infectious diarrhea, necrotizing enterocolitis (the lining of the intestinal wall dies and the tissue falls off), and allergic gastroenteropathy.
Since intestinal barrier dysfunction is known to predispose the development of intestinal diseases as well as autoimmune diseases in other parts of the body, it is highly important that infants’ intestinal barriers be allowed to receive the health benefits of breast milk so they mature properly. Illnesses associated with intestinal barrier dysfunction occur more often in adults who were formula-fed as infants than in those who were nursed. (Anderson et al, 2012)
In the elderly, epithelial stem cells mutate more frequently, leading to thinning of the mucosal lining. GI disorders are a major cause of illness and death for the elderly. (Saffrey, 2013) (Wotring, 2015)
REDUCED OXYGEN-CARRYING CONDITIONS
Ailments that reduce the amount of oxygen carried in the blood – eg, anemia, heart conditions, respiratory problems – are associated with increased gut permeability. (Wotring, 2015)
The observation that gut and lung disorders commonly occur together has led GI and respiratory researchers to think they share a common cause. For example, asthmatic flares and seasonal allergic reactions – both autoimmune conditions – are accompanied by inflammation in the digestive tract.
In a 2010 paper appearing in the National Review of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, neurogastroenterologist Nicholas Talley and his colleagues observed that people with asthma and allergic rhinitis have abnormally high levels of eosinophils in both their airways and their intestines. In healthy people, these cells aren’t found in their airways at all.
Eosinophils are specialized cells in the immune system created in the bone marrow. In the mucous membrane lining the stomach, small intestine and colon, their purpose is to prevent pathogenic bugs and toxins from escaping through the gut walls and getting into the body.
In allergies, these eosinophilic cells start growing in the lungs and airways and the ones in the GI tract stop serving their protective function and instead damage the gut’s mucosal lining, allowing toxins to leak through. This increased intestinal permeability has often been documented in asthma patients. (Johnson, 2010)
Alcohol disrupts the integrity of the gut’s mucosal layer. The disruption can be measured within 30 minutes after alcohol has been consumed. (Wotring, 2015)
Alcohol damages the delicate lining of the stomach and intestinal tract as it passes through, creating increased permeability. This increased porosity permits large, incompletely digested food particles to move through the gut walls directly into the bloodstream, where immune cells regard them as foreign invaders and attack them with specially designed antibodies.
Once these antibodies have been created, they remain in the body on the look out for offending food particles to come along, creating a vicious cycle of autoimmunity: Because the alcoholic’s gut lining has become too permeable, improperly digested particles are always invading and a perpetual allergy-addiction cycle has been created – the immune system is in a state of continual hyper-reactivity.
Several studies have shown that alcoholic patients have an unusually high degree of allergic responses: both to “classic” allergens such as pollen and to various foods. Multiple studies have compared the allergic responses of alcoholics, depressive, and schizophrenic patients, and found that the alcoholic group was significantly more allergic to a variety of food allergens. A similar study compared patients admitted to an inpatient alcoholism hospital with a matched control group of patients with no history or evidence of alcohol abuse who have been admitted to a general hospital for elective surgery. Most alcoholics are allergic to a wide range of foods as well as environmental-mental allergens. Among foods, grains (the primary ingredient of many alcoholic beverages) are highly reactive. It is well known that particular foods and/or certain chemicals-can become an addiction.
– (Occhipinti, 2013)
Emulsifiers are chemicals or natural substances that encourage the suspension of one type of liquid in another – as in the oil and water in margarine, shortening, ice cream, salad dressings, and creamy sauces. They are one of the most frequently used type of food additive.
Emulsifiers are added to commercial breads and cakes, icings, frozen desserts, soups, mayonnaise, homogenized milk, whipped toppings, non-dairy creamers, chocolate bars, chew candies, bubble gum, extruded snacks, soft drinks, bottled liquid coffees … and many other processed foods. (FoodAdditivesWorld, 2013)
Emulsifiers are also added to cosmetics, lotions, and some pharmaceuticals for the same reason they’re put into processed foods – they improve product appearance by preventing ingredients from separating and extend storage life. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2015)
The FDA and other regulatory agencies in the US claim there is no evidence that chemical emulsifiers increase the risk of cancer or have other toxic effects in mammals so have ruled they are “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS) for use in processed foods.
Yet there is evidence that these emulsifiers disturb the colonies of probiotic bacteria living in the colon, increasing the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases and metabolic disorders. (Reardon, 2015)
Yet there is evidence that these emulsifiers disturb the colonies of probiotic bacteria living in the colon, increasing the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases and metabolic disorders. (Reardon, 2015) Anything that can break down fats also breaks down the gut’s mucosal layer. (Wotring, 2015)
Could adding emulsifiers to food products to make them look more appealing and ‘last’ longer possibly be worth ruining our gut linings and increasing our risk for developing one or more autoimmune diseases?
See Emulsifiers for more than you might want to know about these food additives.
Aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxin are common NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) available OTC for use as pain relievers. NSAIDs are also available at prescription strength.
They are the most widely prescribed medications in the US. 100 million Americans use them regularly to manage pain. ALL NSAIDs cause injury in the GI tract: erosions, ulcers, bleeding and perforations in the stomach and intestines.
An estimated 16,500 Americans die each year from and 100,000 are hospitalized with NSAID-induced complications. (PLx, undated)
It takes NSAIDs such as asprin, ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, Aleve only 15-30 minutes to create lesions in the mucosal layer of the GI tract! (Wotring, 2015)
NSAIDs damage the hormones in your GI tract that protect the gut from becoming inflamed. Chronic use can lead to dire consequences such as intestinal perforations, H. pilori infection, kidney failure, Crohn’s disease, diverticular disease, inflammatory bowel disease. (Alice, 2015) (Camp, 2015)
Japanese researchers found small bowel injuries occurring in 80% of their study participants after only two weeks on aspirin therapy. Other studies have noted GI damage in people on low-dose aspirin therapy taken for cardiovascular protection. (Alice, 2015).
After many decades of promoting an aspirin a day to prevent heart attacks, the FDA has now reversed its position. (Alice, 2015)
The FDA’s website now says:
“FDA has concluded that the data do not support the use of aspirin as a preventive medication by people who have not had a heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular problems, a use that is called ‘primary prevention.’ In such people, the benefit has not been established but risks — such as dangerous bleeding into the brain or stomach — are still present.”
Hopefully this news will change the behavior of the 40 million Americans who take an aspirin every day.
See this WebMD article for more information on both OTC and prescription NSAIDs.
Many people experience nausea, heartburn, cramping, and diarrhea while exercising – especially during high-intensity exercise.
When the body is at rest, your heart directs 20-25% of its pumped blood to your digestive tract. While even moderate exercise increases your heart rate and therefore the amount of blood being pumped from your heart, the amount of blood flowing to the GI tracts gets decreased by as much as 60-70% and is instead diverted to your muscles, heart, lungs, and brain. Increasing the intensity of your workout reduces the blood flow to the gut even further. This decrease causes those common GI complaints. (Rocky Mountains Health Plans, 2014)
The harder or longer you run or exercise, the less blood gets delivered to your gut, causing digestion to slow. (Powell, 2013)
Runners, cyclists and triathletes tend to get diarrhea after 30-60 minutes of intense exercise. These athletes often put toilet paper inside the seat of their pants to soak up the mess. (Wotring, 2015)
Even worse, exercising can damage the gut’s mucosal lining and cause increased gut permeability. The authors of an article in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition explain how this works:
Among athletes strenuous exercise, dehydration and gastric emptying … delay are the main causes of gastrointestinal (GI) complaints …. A serious underperfusion of the gut often leads to mucosal damage and enhanced permeability so as to hide blood loss, microbiota invasion (or endotoxemia) and food-born allergen absorption (with anaphylaxis)….
Anyone who participates in physical exercise is at risk for injury and illness arising from such activity….
There is a very high prevalence of gastrointestinal (GI) complaints during exercise among long-distance runners, triathletes and athletes involved in other types of strenuous long-lasting exercise. These GI complaints occur because of the redistribution of the blood flow, that is shunted from the viscera to skeletal muscle, heart, lung and brain….
The symptoms are often mild and may not even affect performance. Some of the symptoms, however, can be life-threatening, such as blood loss in feces in the hours following the running presented by some marathoners and long-distance triathletes.
Damage to the gut and impaired gut function is associated with increased of intestinal permeability after a marathon. Moreover, vigorous exercise (jogging, aerobics, dancing, tennis, bicycling, racquetball, swimming, and skiing) facilities allergen absorption from the GI tract, leading to a food-dependent exercise induces anaphylaxis (FDEIA).
(Prado de Oliveira & Burini, 2011
When the body is in an overheated state, some of the blood that normally flows to the intestines gets diverted to the skin and the temperature inside the intestines increases. (Wotring, 2015)
This combination damages the intestinal barrier, creating increased intestinal permeability to microbial endotoxins (toxins present inside a bacterial cell that get released when the cell disintegrates), leading to endotoxemia (the presence of endotoxins in the blood). (Lambert, 2008) Severe endotoxemia can lead to shock, hemorhages, and kidney death.
Be careful when exposing yourself to high heat for extended periods of time (eg, while tanning all day at the beach, taking a long sauna, engaging in intense exercise).
In our conversation, Rob Wotring also mentioned these interesting tidbits about the gut:
The gut’s mucosal layer is being created all the time. This may explain why your gut – and the rest of you – can feel awful say in the morning and then good some hours later on in the day.
Approximately 40% of your energy goes toward producing the mucus barrier.
Women are much more susceptible to disruption of the mucosal layer.
Progesterone thickens the gut lining.
There’s convincing evidence that polyphenol PREbiotics (as in Good Gut Daily) are able to heal damage in the gut lining.
Now that you’ve read about the importance of your intestines and what can happen if their walls become damaged, here’s another depiction of the four layers of the intestinal lining in all its amazing complexity (University of Leeds, undated):
The innermost layer, the MUCOSA, is made up of three parts:
A thin EPITHELIAL lining which includes glandular tissue
An underlying layer of loose connective tissue called the LAMINA PROPRIA which provides vascular support for the epithelium and often contains mucosal glands. Products of digestion pass into capillaries here. Lymphoid follicles and plasma cells are also often found here.
And finally, next to the lamina propria, the MUSCULARIS MUCOSA, a thin, double layer of smooth muscle responsible for local movement of the mucosa.
The layer next to the mucosa is the SUBMUCOSA, a loose connective tissue layer containing larger blood vessels, lymphatics, and nerves. It can also contain mucous secreting glands.
The layer outside the submucosa is the MUSCULARIS PROPRIA (EXTERNA). There are usually two sub-layers of smooth muscles in the muscularis propria: An inner circular layer and an outer longitudinal layer. The two layers work together to produce peristalsis ((rhythmic waves of contraction) to move food through the gut.
The outermost layer is the ADVENTIA (OR SEROSA) consisting of loose connective tissues containing blood vessels, lymphatics, and nerves. This layer is covered by the visceral peritoneum.
And here’s another intestinal cross section so you can see the location of these layers in relation to the central intestinal “tube”, the lumen, where the digesting food is working its way through from the stomach to the anus:
Lambert, G. (2008). Intestinal Barrier Dysfunction, Endotoxemia, and Gastrointestinal Symptoms: The ‘Canary in the Coal Mine’ during Exercise-Heat Stress? In Thermoregulation and Human Performance: Physiological and Biological Aspects. (Editor: Marino, F.E.). See: http://www.karger.com/Article/PDF/151550
In the developed world, we have become brainwashed into regarding ALL bacteria and microbes as DANGEROUS to our health. We use antibacterial soaps and ointments on our skins, mouthwashes that promise to kill 99% of the germs in our mouths, disinfectant and antiseptic sprays and wipes in our homes. We’ve become like real life players of a version of Rampage: Total Destruction – on a mission to destroy all the bacteria on, in, and around us.
In Rampage: Total Destruction, players destroy the environment to earn points. In our fear of all microbes, we too are working to destroy our internal and external environments by targeting the bacteria that keep us healthy (called PROBIOTICS) along with ones that make us sick (called PATHOGENS).
PROBIOTICS are live bacteria, yeasts, and other microscopic life forms that SUPPORT GOOD HEALTH in our our digestive systems – and throughout the body. If they’re not in good balance, we become sick in a whole variety of ways – from digestive problems to skin rashes, allergies, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
The next time you look in a mirror, think about this: In many ways you’re more microbe than human. There are 10 times more cells from microorganisms like bacteria and fungi in and on our bodies than there are human cells. But these tiny compatriots are invisible to the naked eye. So we asked artist Ben Arthur to give us a guided tour of the rich universe of the human microbiome.
I also recommend another interesting video by NPS MedicineWise, called The human microbiome and what we do to it.
Dr David A. Relman, who’s the main speaker in the film, is the Thomas C. and Joan M. Merigan Professor in Medicine, and Microbiology & Immunology at Stanford University. He’s also Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto (CA) Health Care System. Dr Relman’s research focuses on the indigenous human microbiota and the identification of previously-unrecognized microbial agents of disease. He has advised the US Government on emerging infectious diseases, human-microbe interactions, and future biological threats. He is Chair of the Forum on Microbial Threats at the Institute of Medicine (National Academies of Science) and Past President of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and a Member of the Institute of Medicine.
In other words, he knows what he’s talking about.
NPS MedicineWise’s description of the video:
Did you know that you and I are only 1% human — we’ve 90 trillion cells which don’t belong to us. Yes we are more bacteria than human.
Have you ever wondered what it means to be human? It turns out that only a tiny percentage of what you and I are made of is actually human — and we need our non-human bits to survive. This part of us now has a name — it’s called our microbiome. But we’re doing dreadful things to this hidden majority and it’s damaging our health as a result. From the Tonic series produced with the assistance of NPS.
Autoimmune diseases develop when the body’s immune system produces an inappropriate immune response against its own tissues. Because the vast majority of our immune system is located in the composition of our gut microbiome, this is where we need to focus to understand how we come to develop an autoimmune disease (probably more than one) and also how to reverse these types of diseases.
When the immune system stops recognizing as “self” something that’s a normal constituent of the body, it starts producing auto-antibodies that attack the body’s own cells, tissues, and/or organs. This produces chronic inflammation that damages these body parts and leads to autoimmune disorders.
Autoimmune diseases are generally classified as systemic (those that damage more than one organ or part of the body) or localized (those that damage a single organ or type of tissue). This distinction is somewhat artificial since localized autoimmune disorders often extend beyond the targeted tissues, indirectly affecting other organs and systems. (American Association for Clinical Chemistry, 2014)
In a scientific literature review article entitled The role of intestinal microbiota and the immune system, the authors examined articles on atopic* diseases, inflammatory bowel diseases and treatment of these conditions with probiotics. They concluded that the evidence strongly points to the intestinal microflora’s having important “protective, metabolic, trophic** and immunological functions” and that the micro-organisms comprising the gut microbiome are “able to establish a ‘cross-talk’ with the immune component of mucosal immunity…. When one or more steps in this fine interaction fail, autoimmune or auto-inflammatory diseases may occur. Furthermore, it results from the data that probiotics, used for the treatment of the diseases caused by the dysregulation of the immune system, can have a beneficial effect.” (Purchiaroni et al, 2013)
* Atopic: A predisposition toward developing certain allergic hypersensitivity reactions
** Trophic: Of or relating to nutrition; promoting cellular growth, differentiation, and survival
Here’s my short hand version of the process:
Chronic unbalance in the content of the gut microbiome (gut dysbiosis) –> leaky gut –> chronic inflammation, which eventually –> one or more autoimmune diseases.
See AUTOIMMUNE DISORDERS for a more complete list of the autoimmune disorders and more information about them.
HOW TO PUT AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES IN REMISSION
In talking about how to prevent autoimmune diseases disorders and how to reverse them if you’re already suffering with one or more, I’m going to focus on the work of a very smart scientist, writer and mother, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne in this discussion. As you read on, you’ll see why.
Sarah Ballantyne, PhD, earned a doctorate in medical biophysics at the age of 26 and then spent the next four years doing research on innate immunity and inflammation before becoming a stay-at-home mom. After the birth of her second child, she began experimenting with the Paleo lifestyle – which greatly improved her health.
Over time, she healed herself of a long list of autoimmune conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, and Lichen Planus (an inflammatory skin condition).
Inspired by this success, Dr. Ballantyne created the popular health blog ThePaleoMom.com and became co-host of a top-rated podcast, The Paleo View.
Ballantyne is passionate about providing straightforward explanations of the science behind her diet and lifestyle recommendations for managing autoimmune disease. A lover of food and cooking, the next logical step for her was to write a book called The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body. (Ballantyne, 2014b) This was soon followed by a companion book called The Paleo Approach Cookbook: A Detailed Guide to Heal Your Body and Nourish Your Soul (Ballantyne, 2014c)
From Amazon.com’s description of The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body:
An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from some form of autoimmune disease. If you’re among them, you may know all too well how little modern medicine can do to alleviate your condition. But that’s no reason to give up hope. In this groundbreaking book, Sarah D. Ballantyne, Ph.D., draws upon current medical research and her own battle with an autoimmune disorder to show you how you can become completely symptom-free—the natural way.
The Paleo Approach is the first book ever to explain how to adapt the Paleo diet and lifestyle to bring about a full recovery. Read it to learn why foods marketed as “healthy”—such as whole grains, soy, and low-fat dairy—can contribute to the development of autoimmune conditions. Discover what you can eat to calm your immune system, reduce inflammation, and help your body heal itself. Find out which simple lifestyle changes—along with changes in diet—will make the biggest difference for your health….
Simple strategies for lifestyle adjustments, including small steps that can make a huge difference, guide you through the most important changes to support healing.
Do you have a complicated condition that requires medical intervention, medication, or supplements? Dr. Ballantyne also walks you through the most useful medical tests, treatments, and supplements (as well as the most counterproductive ones) to help you open a dialogue with your physician.
This comment about Ballantyne’s first book on its Amazon.com page struck me as summing up the battle against autoimmune diseases – and sound advice on how to live a satisfying life in general. The writer describes how she used Ballantyne’s guidelines to make her autoimmune diseases go into remission and get her life back on track. The comment is long but I think very much worth reading:
How The Paleo Approach Saved My Health (after years of low-carb paleo)
By Stacy & Matt, the Paleo Parents on January 28, 2014
While you all have waited patiently for years as Dr. Sarah Ballantyne wrote The Paleo Approach, I was lucky enough to begin following her protocol well before it was available to the public. I started my journey on healing when Practical Paleo first came out and I started with the methodologies Diane put forth for autoimmune conditions (autoimmune protocol: AIP).
Problem was, after following the AIP for nearly 3 months I wasn’t seeing healing. Some of the super negative symptoms were alleviated, like adrenal fatigue, clumps of hair falling out and terrible acne, but when I reintroduced foods I would get flares again. I distinctly remember it being SO. HARD. Like, temper tantrums in the car hard because everything, EVERYTHING I was used to eating had eggs or nightshades and I was overwhelmed at the idea of living the rest of my life that way. All of which contributed to my ongoing struggles with depression – the obsession with food was beginning to overwhelm me, it was starting to cause disordered eating again, as I looked for ways to “get around” the AIP.
I was so frustrated, I began talking with Sarah about what her thoughts and recommendations were. It was at this time that Sarah was hundreds of thousands of words deep into writing The Paleo Approach (no, seriously, it’s a tome). There were a few things she shared with me about what she found in the scientific literature about recommendations she was going to make, versus things I’d read in Practical Paleo and other resources.
And so it began, in 2013 I started following The Paleo Approach. Mostly this meant that I focused more on what to add to my diet instead of what to remove from it. Sarah and I talked every week on The Paleo View and nearly each episode each one of us would get more and more geeked out on nutrient-density, our new favorite word. We began exploring healing foods; Matt and I became so inspired that we wrote the nose-to-tail cookbook, Beyond Bacon – almost every recipe of which includes bone stock and/or lard (high in Vitamin D and easy for me to digest).
I’d been following a low-fat, low-carb version of paleo for years. Turns out, it made me sick. It affected my adrenals, thyroid function, and ability for my body to heal itself. I was nutrient-poor, despite eating what I thought was the best diet possible. Perhaps for some people eating that way is healthy for them, but for me as a busy woman with no gallbladder and previous metabolic syndrome, it ended up as a disaster long-term. Turns out, a high protein diet (especially when the protein is mostly poultry) wasn’t doing what I thought it was for my health. I got over my fear of fat and incorporated more nutrient-dense healing fats, specifically lard, coconut oil and ghee/butter (I was shocked how well I tolerated ghee and butter after a lifetime of being dairy intolerant). I switched my proteins to a majority of grass-fed red meat and pastured pork, added seafood and incorporated the true superfoods: organ meat and bone broth.
One of the things I learned from Sarah is the importance of vegetables. I’ve popularized #morevegetablesthanavegetarian in social media – but it was Sarah’s focus on the importance of vegetables – specifically a variety of colorful ones – that really made me focus on them. For a while, I’d actually reduced the types of vegetables I was eating because I wanted to stay away from foods high in insoluble fiber – which I personally let affect the quantity of veggies I was eating. When Sarah told me she had research that greens rich in insoluble fiber, even cruciferous ones, showed to be positive healing foods from her research it was a big change in how I approached nourishing myself. As I started adding in much more vegetables, especially leafy greens, it was amazing how much it affected my digestion and how I felt.
From the prior AIP protocol I was already consuming fermented foods rich in probiotics, which is another big important factor in helping to heal the gut through food. So then I turned to lifestyle factors.
I learned to love myself and let things go. I know… it’s hokey. And intangible. And something I can’t possibly define for you to replicate… although I’ve tried to articulate it a zillion times on The Paleo View. Stress Management was defined and something I began when I first started Practical Paleo`s AIP. But it’s not something one can fix overnight. Over time, and through Sarah’s repeated reminders of the scientific backing behind stress being a leading causes of health deterioration, I learned how to slay the stress monster.
First, I gave myself permission to do something(s) for me. Without guilt or remorse. It was really hard in the beginning to know I was missing out on time I could (or as I thought, should) be doing: helping with dinner, spending time with the kids, staying later at the office, etc. But then I realized I deserve to take care of the only body I’ll have to carry me through this life. My children deserve a role model to show them that sometimes it’s OK to stop and put the gas mask on yourself before helping others – I learned to take care of myself first before putting others ahead of me. This, was huge.
I learned to breathe. There was a point at which my stress levels had caused an eye twitch I couldn’t get rid of for months. And I had begun grinding my teeth and experiencing frequent headaches from it. I even had about a 6 week period of time where I was experiencing frequent anxiety attacks in crossfit, unable to breathe when something ended up being harder than I anticipated. It made me want to quit, and I’ve never been a quitter. It was at this time Sarah talked to me about relaxation techniques she highly encouraged. It was so bizarre for this scientist to be telling me to do some hokey-pokey-crunchy-granola-meditation… but she was right. My body was overwhelmed and needed a break. So several times a day I intentionally stood up and walked around the office, finding someone to smile with and change my environment while activating happy hormones. During crossfit I learned to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth with deep, intentional breaths. Soon, the twitching and anxiety attacks just went away!
I learned to let things go. This was the hardest for me and is something I’m still actively working on. I talk out loud about what I can or cannot do. It’s about acknowledgement, doing what you’re able the best you can, and then forgiveness. What a concept… all backed by science to help you be healthier!
Be positive! No, really. Of course not everything’s great. But almost everything has something positive about it. So I learned to frame things to myself positively and it helped me have an overall positive outlook and attitude.
Sarah goes over LOTS more stuff in The Paleo Approach but these are the things that I personally applied to my own life.
I’ve resolved ALL of the autoimmune related health issues I experienced in 2011 and 2012.
Let me restate that, because I want to make sure it’s heard. I no longer have symptoms of autoimmune disease, adrenal fatigue, micro-nutrient deficiencies, skin breakouts or depression (at all). My body has not only recovered fully from the autoimmune flare, but I’ve actually been able to heal my body even further – now able to consume foods like high quality heavy cream and cheeses without distress! And when accidentally exposed to gluten or intentionally eat things I know my body has a difficult time with (like nightshades or grains) I find each and every time my body responds better than the time before. I have successfully reintroduced nuts, seeds, chocolate, egg yolks and seed spices (all in moderation) but have found that egg whites and nightshade vegetables (except peeled white potatoes) are something I can not (yet) tolerate.
I plan to continue my healing journey and hope to be a role model for those out there with autoimmune conditions. Keeping in mind that 2 years ago I was depressed with barely enough energy to slog through the day (thyroid and adrenal issues), I now am a fully charged woman who manages this blog, a podcast, writing books, a full-time job, raising 3 boys AND am training for a StrongMan competition in just a few months. I’m happy to report that The Paleo Approach quite literally gave me my life back.
On her own blog, ThePaleoMom.com, Sarah Ballantyne says this about how autoimmune diseases develop and how to put them into remission (Ballantyne, 2014a):
Autoimmune disease is caused by the immune system losing the ability to differentiate proteins belonging to your own body with proteins belonging to a foreign invader (like a bacteria, virus or parasite). What causes symptoms is the build up of damage to cells, tissues and/or organs in the body–damage caused by your own immune system attacking those cells. Which proteins/cells are attacked is what separates once disease from another. In Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the thyroid gland is attacked. In Rheumatoid Arthritis, the tissues of your joints are attacked. In psoriasis, proteins within the layers of cells that make up your skin are attacked. However, the root cause is the same.
Genetic predisposition to autoimmunity makes up about one third of your risk of developing an autoimmune disease. The other two thirds of your risk come from environmental factors, which include: diet, lifestyle, infections (both prior and persistent) exposure to toxins, hormones, weight, etc. While you cannot control your genetics or whether or not you had mono as a kid, you do have an immense amount of control over your diet and lifestyle (and the extent that these affect hormones and weight and even toxin exposure). By removing the foods that contribute to a leaky gut, gut dysbiosis (the wrong numbers, relative quantities, or types of microorganisms typically growing in the wrong locations in your gut), hormone imbalance, and that stimulate inflammation and the immune system, you can create the opportunity for your body to heal. By addressing important lifestyle factors and changing your focus to eating nutrient-dense foods that support optimal gut health (and optimal health of your gut microorganisms), that restore levels of important nutrients and provide all of the building blocks that your body needs to heal and properly regulate the immune system, that help resolve inflammation and support organ function, you create an environment in your body conducive to healing.
This is not a cure (once your body learns to attack itself, it can never un-learn this), but you can put your disease into remission, often permanently.