This guide is not about your GUT!
Some things can throw you for a loop when you hear them…
I was sitting under the fluorescent lights at my doctor’s office, with that awkward sound of paper crunching under my bum, when I got the news that I appeared to have ‘leaky gut syndrome.’
That is, my gut was leaking stuff into my bloodstream it wasn’t supposed to. And if I didn’t repair my ‘leaky’ gut, I was headed straight for an autoimmune disease.
Ouch! This was not news I wanted to hear. I didn’t see it coming, either.
Thing is, I scheduled the appointment because I thought I had food allergies. I was also severely overweight, depressed, had a face full of acne, and was in a constant malaise of fatigue. So I was surprised to find out my symptoms stemmed from the disease developing in my digestive tract. (Of all places!)
That’s usually how it starts, I found out. Dysfunction in the gut often shows up as a food allergy, or something equally as unpleasant but oddly mundane.
Like skin inflammation (acne), depression or weight gain. Something that’s annoying, sad or, inconvenient.
And that’s a problem. Because we can be headed for the big ones (like autoimmune diseases) and not even realize we bought a ticket. Not to mention it’s downright uncomfortable, to feel anything but great in your own body. I felt anything but great.
I was a mess. And very motivated.
I wanted my body back. I wanted my health back. And it just so happens, that the way to get there was by repairing and healing my gut.
“All disease begins in the gut,” – Hippocrates
Hippocrates (aka ‘The Father of Western Medicine’) made the all-important connection long ago, between disease in the gut and its connection to disease in the rest of the body.
He was on to something.
Today, the medical community has been focusing on the gut as well, and has come to some startling conclusions. Namely that most of the chronic diseases and ailments that people go to the doctor for, have their origins in the gut.
Hippocrates was right all along.
Turns out, the gut guides our overall health. It is the epicenter of our mental, emotional, and physical well-being! Throughout this book, we’ll shine the light on this mighty system (the gut), and everything it can do for you.
When you heal your gut, you’ll find chronic health issues like fatigue, colds, aches, and pains diminish and disappear. You’ll find energy return to you in droves.
You’ll feel that extra weight slip off easily while your digestive tract does the work for you. You’ll give yourself the best protection out there from the nastiest diseases. You’ll sleep better than you have in years. And you’ll increase your capacity for well-being and joy.
Yes, even joy.
This guide is not about your gut. This guide is about taking your body, and your health, back. Healing the gut is just how we get there.
So it’s where we begin. Let’s get to it.
What Every Healthy Gut Has In Common
The gut is comprised of four parts. That’s it. Four parts, or pillars, as I call them.
These four ‘pillars’ make up the digestive system. These four pillars are so fundamental to the digestive system that each are referred to as ‘the gut.’
Get these four pillars in tip top condition, and you are well on your way to the best health of your life
Every healthy gut on this planet is so because all four of its pillars are functioning in harmony, with well-defined boundaries. It’s what every health gut has in common: strong, well-defined boundaries between its four pillars.
A healthy gut is one that has these boundaries intact. One that draws the line in the sand (or in your body), as if to say here I am, and here you are.
In every healthy gut, each of these four pillars draws the line in your body, does its job, and contributes to the other pillars. In a healthy gut, no pillar oversteps its bounds.
A healthy gut doesn’t ‘leak,’ (as is the case with a leaky gut). A healthy gut eliminates waste efficiently and doesn’t spew what’s basically poop into the bloodstream unchecked. It doesn’t let harmful chemicals and parasites get into the bloodstream.
A healthy gut absorbs nutrients from the foods and liquids we consume, and doesn’t reject them by mistake. A healthy gut doesn’t get overwhelmed or confused and begin attacking the body (as is the case in autoimmune disorders).
A healthy gut functions like the best basketball team you’ve ever seen; passing the ball with perfect timing and finesse and winning the game of back and forth (absorbing nutrients and eliminating waste) every time.
Ok, ok, so what are these four pillars that make up the gut? They are (in no order of importance – because they are all important):
- The intestinal wall (the physical structure of the gut)
- The Microbiome (or ‘good’ bacteria) that live inside the intestinal wall
- The intestinal immune system (which lines the outside of the intestinal wall)
- The intestinal nervous system (the ‘brain’ that orchestrates activity of the other three pillars)
The most important thing to remember at this point is, that a healthy gut has healthy boundaries.
In the same way that mental and emotional boundaries help us keep our sanity in day to day life, when these four pillars respect and maintain their physical boundaries with each other, they are considered healthy. When they are healthy, so are we!
The Breakthrough Gut Health Plan is a journey to re-establish and strengthen the boundaries between these four pillars that make up the gut.
Healing the gut has everything to do with taking your body back, staking your claim, planting your flag, and healing your inner boundaries. In the following chapters, we’ll go over the four pillars that make up the gut, all in loving detail.
We’ll also go over exactly how disease manifests itself in the gut, and what we can do to repair and heal the gut for ultimate health and wellbeing.
In the following pages, we’ll go over:
- The four pillars that make up the gut (and the role each plays in our health)
- How sickness happens in the gut (and what the symptoms look like when it does)
- How to permanently heal and repair the gut for amazing health and vitality
At the end of this book, you’ll find an easy to print page of everything you’ll need to follow the plan. So you can slap it on the fridge, take it with you, or just refer back to it as needed. Whatever works.
What’s important is that you can absorb the information presented here at your own pace, as you go, in the easiest to digest format possible. (Warning: there will be puns. Puns for miles. They were all but unavoidable).
The intention with all this information ahead is not to overwhelm you, but to get you the information you need to get the results you want, and the results your body needs.
Pillar #1: The Digestive Tract
Would you believe it? The digestive tract is actually outside of your body!
This ‘tract’ is really just one long tube, and performs a similar function as your skin. That is, it acts as a boundary between the outside world and the body. Pinched closed by your mouth, this ‘tube’ runs 10 to 15 feet through the length of your body, straight to the end where it’s pinched closed again (by your other end).
This digestive tube is the first of the four pillars that make up the gut. It gets the top spot because it makes up the physical structure of the gut. And it has three goals:
- To digest and absorb nutrients
- To shield the gut’s immune system from contact with foreign material
- To remove everything the body doesn’t absorb, and turn it into waste
Everything that makes its way into this tube (anything you put in your mouth) is considered ‘foreign material’ by your body.
This ‘foreign material’ is anything that’s not naturally in your bloodstream. Foreign material is synonymous with ‘not of the bloodstream.’
So, anything we consume from the outside world (food, drink, and all the chemicals we add to them) and everything else under the sun that enters this tube is considered just that. Outside. Not of the bloodstream. Not self.
That’s because your body is one very exclusive club.
It’s the most exclusive club in town. Only certain nutrients are on ‘the list.’ Just because food and other chemicals show up, it’s not enough to guarantee entry on the inside.
The body knows the company it likes to keep, (and it likes to keep company that won’t kill you), and thus only allows select nutrients to enter your body (aka the bloodstream).
The intestinal wall is like the body’s bouncer. It’s the gatekeeper that decides what gets in, and what stays out. If the nutrients aren’t on bodies list, they aren’t getting past the club’s bouncer.
This whole process is digestion itself. Digestion is literally this sorting process of what stays and what goes.
Whatever doesn’t get a pass on the inside, is shown the door. It’s no irony that your rear end is also aptly referred to as, the backdoor. This backdoor is where all the undesirable substances go, in the form of waste.
Digestion first begins mechanically, the moment you start chewing. Although much milder than stomach acid (luckily for us – ouch!) the salivation in your mouth is designed to start breaking down food immediately.
And of course, you help it along by chewing. After this ‘mechanical’ digestion process is finished (ie. you swallow), the rest of the digestion process (which happens chemically) begins. The digestive system then goes to work processing the food given to it.
To extract as many nutrients as possible, the body has evolved to increase the actual surface area of the intestinal wall itself, with folds and subfolds, known as Villi and Microvilli.
These Villi and Microvilli, or folds, significantly increase the surface area of the intestinal wall. To put it into perspective, it’s 200X’s the surface area of the skin on our bodies!
So this is a huge ‘wall.’
This giant intestinal wall is constructed by what are called ‘tight junctions.’ I like to think of these tight junctions as bricks that make up one, giant brick wall.
Brick by brick, or cell by cell, these junctions stack on one another to create the intestinal wall. In a healthy gut, these bricks (cells) are sturdy. They are tightly packed together and have no holes.
The tight junctions allow approved nutrients into the body (bloodstream), by allowing the nutrients to pass directly through the cells, or between them (between their ‘tight junctions’).
The rest is packaged and shipped for a one way trip out the body (via a short visit to the restroom).
HOW THE DIGESTIVE TRACT GETS SICK
In an ideal world, only the good stuff (nutrients) breaks through the tight junctions making up the intestinal wall. This is incredibly important, because foreign organisms can kill and cause serious injury if they reach the bloodstream.
The most common way these harmful microbes and bacteria find their way into the body is by a weakened intestinal wall.
There are two major ways this important boundary gets damaged:
- When ‘bad bacteria’ damage the cells making up the tight junctions, the cells lose the ability to replace themselves quickly enough. This can leave holes in the wall, and allow for organisms to pass through and wreak havoc.
- Even if there are no missing cells (or gaps) in the wall, the tight junctions between the cells can loosen. When the tight junctions loosen (the cells lose their grip on each other) this creates gaps between the ‘bricks of the wall.’
These bad bacteria are able to wreak havoc on the gut wall precisely because there aren’t enough good bacteria to kill them off, and keep their numbers low in the gut.
Damage to the intestinal wall happens a lot like a riot happens to a quiet street; a collective mod of bacteria and organisms over power the normal order and start breaking things.
Holes and looseness in the intestinal wall from this type of bacterial ‘rioting’ is so common and well-known in the medical community, that the phenomenon has its own name. It’s called Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Yep. Gross. It’s what I was diagnosed with. It’s considered common, because most people on the planet have a leaking, or leaky, gut. It doesn’t have to be a full blown syndrome to leak. If you’re anything like me you might be wondering what exactly, is the gut leaking?
Let’s take a look…
LEAKING GUT AS A PRECURSOR TO DISEASE…
Leaky gut is nothing like Vegas. In a leaky gut, what happens in the gut, does not stay in the gut! A gut can ‘leak’ undigested food, toxins, chemicals, microbes and bacteria.
When they breach the wall, they are given free access to spread throughout the body via the bloodstream.
This invasion is immediately spotted by the immune system on the other side of the intestinal wall.
The immune system sees this as a full on invasion and assault on the rest of the body. And that’s exactly what it is. Total border siege. The immune system was never intended to come into contact with these invaders and responds accordingly: with all out panic.
When this leaking of the gut happens, the entire digestive system also loses its capacity to absorb nutrients efficiently. That’s because as the body is assaulted with foreign microorganism, it spends most of its energy protecting the body through a process called inflammation (we’ll go over inflammation in the following sections.)
When the body perceives this kind of threat, neutralizing it becomes a higher priority than absorbing nutrients, as in ‘no time to eat dinner, the house is on fire, gotta put it out first.’
This change in the body immediate priorities cascades into a host of other problems. Without the proper tools (nutrients), the bodies other functions slow down to save as much energy as possible (energy it needs to combat the invading microorganisms).
Thus, it slows down the removal of normal waste byproducts. This is where ‘toxic buildup’ happens, and we often see it manifest as fatigue. Toxic buildup in this manner means waste is being recycled back into the bloodstream.
The body loses its capacity to take out the trash (essentially flinging poop back into the bloodstream.)
Let’s recap. When the intestinal wall gets into this state of dysfunction, called ‘leaky gut,’ it means:
- Undigested food and toxins are allowed access where they should not have it (the bloodstream).
- The body goes into high alert (via the immune system) because of this boundary assault, and sends the body into a state of ‘clean up mode,’ or inflammation.
- As the body rushes to clean up the mess, it focuses less on nutrient absorption, leaving the body depleted of sustenance.
- The body slows down waste removal, and begins a cycle of toxic buildup. Waste cycles right back into the bloodstream. And yes, if you’re thinking about what that means, it means a poop filled bloodstream. Disgusting.
HOW THE BREAKTHROUGH GUT HEALTH PLAN HEALS THE DIGESTIVE TRACT
Your gut is one tough SOB (it dukes it out daily to keep you safe.)
It wants to be healthy and it’s designed to be. The breakthrough gut health plan is specifically tailored to give the gut everything it needs to repair and return to its natural state of health.
The intestinal tract will naturally begin repairing itself. It will begin replacing the holes in the intestinal wall with new healthy cells, and the tight junctions themselves will tighten naturally. Harmful substances will no longer be allowed access to the bloodstream, and will be removed from the body as they are intended to be, as waste.
To repair the intestinal wall, we need to take a good look at the living ecosystem (bacteria) residing inside its walls. This ecosystem is where the damage begins. And where the repair begins. And it’s the second pillar of the gut for this reason…
Welcome to microbe town! This city of bacteria, otherwise known as the microbiome, is nestled in the foothills of your digestive tract. You could combine every major city in the world, and the population wouldn’t hold a candle to the one that’s living right inside your gut.
There are 300 times more bacteria in your gut than there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy! Indeed, there are one hundred trillion bacteria in your body, 90% of which live inside your large intestine alone.
These bacterial cells don’t share our human DNA, and thus are not considered part of the body. Rather, they are ‘outside organisms’ that live throughout the entire digestive tract. These bacterial cells outnumber human cells 10 to 1. (Our bodies are 10% human, and 90% bacteria!)
We made friends with these bacteria over thousands of years of evolution. Friendly bacteria make their way into everything alive on the planet.
You’ve got ‘em. I’ve got ‘em. And the dog has ‘em. And they love our gut. It’s warm, cozy, protected from the elements, and there’s always a fresh buffet of food to gorge on.
These happy campers live between the folds of the intestinal wall (the Villi and Microvilli). They set up shop there and help the intestinal wall digest everything that comes down the ‘tube.’ In return for this heavy workload, they get free room and board inside the gut.
These bacteria are also fiercely loyal, and will protect their territory (our intestinal wall) to the death. They are the first thing any organism that enters our digestive tract encounters. In addition to digesting (ie gorging) on the unlimited supply of
food we send down the digestive tract, these good bacteria also protect their cushy territory in our gut from harmful, or ‘bad’ bacteria.
The gut’s immune system loves these good bacteria, because they are the immune system’s first line of defense against outside threats. That is why they get labeled as ‘good bacteria.’
Good bacteria team up with digestive tract’s immune system in the fight against harmful bacteria. Because they are so useful to the immune system, they are able to keep a truce with the immune system (and keep their food coming!)
They only have to do two things to stay safe from the immune system. 1) Do their job. 2) Stay inside the intestinal wall.
The immune system likes these workers in its employ, but is unable to directly contact the bacteria directly.
The GALT (immune system) regularly sends what’s called ‘dendritic cells’ through the intestinal wall to check for the presence of these good bacteria and get the ‘ok’ that all’s clear.
This process of checking for good bacteria is literally called ‘snorkeling’! The gut’s immune system literally ‘snorkels’ beneath the intestinal wall to get a head count of the good bacteria.
And if the immune system sees a lot of these friendly bacteria, it assumes business is well and working as usual. The presence of abundant good bacteria in the intestinal wall is the key signal to the immune system that the body is safe and healthy.
So, we want this flora, or good bacteria, alive and well and plenty, because it keeps our immune system from being in attack mode. And that’s a very good thing, as we’ll see.
HOW THE MICROBIOME GETS SICK…
Scientists have discovered that when the immune system goes snorkeling to check the gut’s flora (bacteria) activity, it likes to find a ratio of 80/20. That is, 80% ‘good bacteria,’ and 20% ‘bad bacteria,’ such as parasites, viruses, pathogens and some yeasts.
This is an important detail: For the gut to be in optimal condition, the bad bacteria does not have to be completely absent.
It just has to be under control and not the dominating species in the jungle. That’s because bad bacteria in the gut are not considered a direct health threat to the body when they are kept in check. When they are kept in check.
It’s when there are too many of these bacteria that it becomes a problem for the gut. Because the intestinal flora is on the front lines, and the first encounter for any foreign organism, this flora is also the first to be affected.
Ill-health and disease begins here. If these good bacteria begin getting outnumbered, the immune system assumes that there is a bacterial riot breaking loose.
But what is bad bacteria exactly? Another word used synonymously with ‘bad bacteria,’ is opportunistic bacteria.
Disease begins when these ‘opportunistic bacteria’ are running rampant within the gut. They are opportunistic organisms, because they only thrive when there isn’t enough good bacteria to eradicate them.
Kind of like ‘no one’s looking.’ They then set out to gorge themselves on the normal cells and tissues lining the intestinal wall. This is something the good bacteria would never allow, and would never do themselves, because of their symbiotic truce with the immune system.
Further, viruses can take over the control centers in the intestinal cell’s DNA, allowing for the creation of more viruses. These viruses, parasites, and other harmful organisms are thus called ‘opportunistic organisms’ for this very reason.
They take an opening (brought about by an imbalance of good bacteria) and run with it. There’s no truce with these guys. It’s total anarchy.
WHEN THE GOOD BACTERIA LOSE THE BATTLE…
When the body does not receive enough good bacteria to populate the gut, the digestive tract can be taken over by the opportunistic, or bad bacteria.
The bad bacteria will begin tearing at the walls of the intestinal tract. They push their way through its tight junctions, loosening them. Without the good bacteria to keep them in check, they wreak havoc.
And if this happens, the immune system will eventually notice after one of its ‘snorkeling’ trips when it goes to take a head count.
Once the immune system sees that there are more bad bacteria than good (remember the 80/20 ratio?) it will go into a do or die survival mode.
The immune system will send out panic signals, similar to Morse code, up to
the guts nervous system or, “second brain.” This panic in the digestive tract can leave us feeling depressed, panicked, and worried in the process, manifesting its dysfunction as a change in our moods and feelings.
When the body goes on high alert over a threat, so do we!
HOW THE BREAKTHROUGH GUT HEALTH PLAN HEALS THE MICROBIOME
The key to restoring health inside the microbiome is re-establishing the all- important ratio of 80/20 within the gut.
The Breakthrough Gut Health Plan addresses this all important ration head on. By eliminating the worst offenders, (things that kill good bacteria and strengthen bad bacteria), and by replenishing good bacteria back into the gut, we’ll repair the intestinal wall, and relax the immune system (and ourselves).
Indeed, as the microbiome is healed, and thus able to heal the intestinal wall, this will have a massive impact on the gut’s immune system (or GALT). As we’ll see in the next section, this immune system is key to our overall health and longevity. And it’s the third pillar of the gut…
Pillar #3: The GALT
GALT stands for Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue. That’s a really fancy way of saying immune system – the GALT is the gut’s immune system.
This immune system lines the outer shell of the intestinal wall. Its main function is to monitor the activity going on inside your gut. The GALT makes sure unwanted substances (stuff that’s not on the bodies ‘list’) are not entering the bloodstream.
To do this, the GALT creates watchtowers along the border of the intestinal wall. These ‘watch towers’ are known as peyer’s patches.
The main function of these peyer’s patches is to watch over the gut’s perimeter (the intestinal wall) while keeping an eye on its inmates (the bacteria that makes up the Microbiome).
These peyer’s patches do the ‘snorkeling’ mentioned earlier, and regularly take the headcounts of the Microbiome.
But here’s the craziest part about this immune system. It accounts for over 90% of the body’s entire immune system. That’s a huge role to play in our health! Indeed, most of our immune system is located in the gut. As the immune system’s job
is to protect the body from infection and disease, this makes perfect sense. As Hippocrates said, “all disease begins in the gut.”
The GALT is on a 24 hour watch. It’s always on call to protect your body for harm. If anything considered ‘foreign’ to your body approaches the bloodstream (via breaking through the intestinal wall’s tight junctions) this GALT system is ready to destroy it.
Toxic chemicals, undigested foods, harmful bacteria, and the scary sounding ones like viruses and parasites – all these are set to get the green light from the terminator that id the GALT.
In a healthy gut, the GALT functions with expert precision. Every organism that enters the digestive tract has a surface code, a lot like an ID.
The immune system takes the ID of every organism that makes its way through the intestinal wall. Ultimate border control.
When the intestinal wall is secure and intact (tight cell junctions) and the intestinal flora (good bacteria) is abundant and processing food properly, the immune system is calm and untaxed.
That’s because it doesn’t have much to do. The body is healthy when the immune system doesn’t have much to do. A safe city has bored cops.
HOW THE GALT GETS SICK
When the gut’s flora and intestinal wall are weakened, and harmful bacteria, toxins, and undigested food get through the gut barrier, and when bad bacteria begin to outnumber the good bacteria, the immune system does its job, and immediately notices something is wrong.
The cells of the GALT begin to manufacture antibodies. It sends these antibodies out in droves through the body. It then begins a host of chemical reactions and responses to mitigate the threat posed by the invading organisms.
These chemical reactions fall under the umbrella of inflammation, as we’ll get to later. And for very good reason. Just like a wild animal or a heavy metal object can harm or kill us, these tiny organisms can kill us from within, with the same ease.
In the normal cases of infection or sickness we’ve all experienced (like a cold or flu), the gut easily eradicates the threat. So the issue is not that invasions happen. The GALT is perfectly equipped, and indeed exists, to handle these threats.
The problem arises, when too much of this foreign material is making its way through a damaged and compromised gut barrier, for too long.
When the immune system in the gut is taxed for too long, and spread too thin amidst the chaos, sometimes the immune system begins mistaking our own cells for the bad guys. It misidentifies them.
And that’s when the body begins turning on itself. It begins with good intentions (you’ve heard, ‘the road to all good intentions,’ right?). It’s the same case here.
Because the organisms from food were never meant to get beyond the gut barrier in the quantity they sometimes do, for the length of time they sometimes do, they can become targets by a frazzled and overworked immune system.
HOW THE BREAKTHROUGH GUT HEALTH PLAN HEALS THE GALT
When we begin to heal the intestinal wall and the microbiome, the GALT gets a concret block of responsibility lifted off its shoulders. When the GALT does not have to go on a constant defensive to protect your body, it will begin to relax and reduce the spiral of inflammation (inflammation by the GALT is so important it that it gets its own section, up ahead).
Taking away the GALT’s panic immediately begins to reduce this inflammation because there is simply no need for it.
This reduction of inflammation is directly related to our moods and feelings. It’s the ‘why’ behind the sense of well-being, and even joy, you’ll feel when you when you experience the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan. And it’s all thanks to the fourth pillar of gut health, up next…
Pillar #4 – The ENS
This is where it gets interesting. Did you know you actually have a second brain? That’s right. You have two brains. That second brain is in your digestive tract. It’s called the Enteric Nervous System (or ENS for short).
The ENS is the gut’s neural network. Philosophy, art, and all forms of our ‘higher thinking’ are done in our regular brain. The dirty work of the digestive system is left to the ENS, or our ‘second brain.’
The ENS is why we can forget about food after we’re done eating. It’s doing all the work for us.
Fact: The neurons that make up the second brain, form a mass bigger than the ones in the head. The vast majority of neurotransmitters are produced by ENS – not by the brain! These discoveries have prompted a fervor of research into the link between the gut and our behavior.
That’s because, this second brain is actually way more active in its production of neurotransmitters than the brains in our skull. Serotonin, that neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well-being, happiness, and joy — is almost entirely produced by our gut’s Enteric Nervous System (ENS).
Almost 90% of all serotonin is produced in the gut.
So, it’s more than coincidence that the gut is the center of our intuition. Evidence for this mind-body-gut connection is all around us, in phrases like:
“I trusted my gut”
“Go with your gut”
“I was sick to my stomach” “Having the guts (or not)”
“I hate his (or her) guts”
“I can’t stomach the thought”
The health of our gut, literally has an impact on our moods and feelings. And, our moods and feelings have an effect on our gut as well. Our ‘gut’ feelings aren’t just a coincidence. They are direct communication.
Stress, depression and anxiety play a role in our digestion. And vice versa. (Example: ‘I was so nervous I felt like I could throw up!’) Or when I’ve eaten ice cream right out of the carton because that thing happened (insert any stressful event ever. Someone ate over it.) Comfort food anyone?
The “second brain” is basically a communication infrastructure for the gut. And it’s extremely busy. To encapsulate just how much the ENS is doing at any one time, we could think of it like a mad scientist orchestrating a complex Rube Goldberg machine (think elaborate mousetrap).
It is constantly lifting levers (like the opening flaps to the gallbladder, kidney and liver), pumping chemicals, and watching all of the gut’s systems simultaneously. Its goal is to make sure everything functions as intended.
The ball in a Rube Goldberg machine is like the food that passes through the digestive tube. To make sure this ball reaches the other end correctly with minimal damage, the machine has to manage and orchestrate many systems at once.
It’s also in constant communication with the gut’s tissues and glands to help along hormone coordination and balance. It dictates to the gallbladder when to release chemicals into the large intestine, and at just the right time.
This second brain is does the work of digestion for us. It’s why we can eat a meal, and forget about what happens afterward (only being reminded when we feel the urge to use the restroom.) It’s all thanks to the Enteric Nervous System.
HOW THE SECOND BRAIN (ENS) GETS SICK
Of the four parts that make up the gut, the intestinal wall and the gut flora are on the front lines, and are affected first. The other two, the immune system and the second brain (ENS), are the responders.
They will respond with one goal in mind: Survival. We all know constant worry is stressful and exhausting to our mind. It’s exhausting for our second mind, too!
When intestinal permeability (leaky gut) occurs, and the GALT kicks into action to save the day, it massively impacts our second brain. That’s because, the ENS, in addition to all the functions it is performing, has to divert its precious attention to coordinate the responses of the GALT.
It spends so much energy doing this, that its other normal everyday functions get affected, because they have to be put on the back burner to deal with the “emergency” initiated by the GALT.
When toxic invaders start attempting a B&E (breaking and entering), the ENS has to drop what it’s doing to assist the GALT. (Because it’s smarter than the GALT, and has to strategize which steps the GALT should take). Only the ENS doesn’t really get to drop what it’s doing (it can’t or we would die!).
This means the ENS just adds the task to its already packed workload. I think we can all relate to the frustration!
WHEN THE ENS IS STRESSED, SO ARE WE
Although we might not know we’re under attack, our second brain, or intuition, certainly does. Under intense, prolonged duress, the Enteric Nervous System can produce ‘gut feelings’ that often lead us to feel tired, worried, or just ‘off.’
This stress can manifest itself in our daily life as depression, anxiety, and that constant sense of fatigue we struggle to put our finger on. It makes perfect sense that we might feel this way however, when the epicenter of our intuition itself, our second brain, is stressed out!
These types of lowered moods, are usually an indication that things have been going awry in the gut for some time.
HOW THE BREAKTHROUGH GUT HEALTH PLAN HEALS THE ENS
When the ENS stops receiving distress signals from the GALT, it will go back to its main functions. It will orchestrate the movements of a health digestive system. It will relax.
And when the second brain relaxes, it will produce serotonin as it would normally. When the ENS is given a break, it will manifest in our daily life as an increased sense of well-being, and even joy.
HALLMARKS OF A DYSFUNCTIONAL GUT
As we’ve seen, none of the damage done in the digestive system is done in a vacuum. When one of the four pillars is damaged, the potential for damage in the other pillars is very real.
When one area of the gut loses its boundaries, it affects the boundaries of other areas in the gut, too. What varies is the level of dysfunction.
This level of dysfunction hinges on how deeply the gut’s boundaries are crossed, how long they’ve been crossed, and how capable (ie fatigued or not) the body is in handling the crossings.
This dysfunction in boundaries can show up in more subtle forms as:
- Excess intestinal gas
- Food allergies
- Runny nose, itching, sneezing, and coughing
At worst, this damage becomes a gateway to many of the chronic diseases, autoimmune disorders and mental disorders seen in the world today, such as:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS)
- Crohn’s Disease
- Heart Problems
Ensuring the health of the gut is the single most important step we can take to ensure our long term health.
Even if your own reasons for seeking health through the digestive system are not as severe, you’ll find many other benefits, including weight loss, energy increase, mental clarity and did I mention weight loss?
Your body doesn’t want the extra weight. It’s just more work for your body to handle. And the body will gladly give it up when you repair the damage done to the gut.
What’s more, you’ll find excellent protection from the nastiest diseases like the ones listed above. And that’s a very good thing.
THE FINE LINE BETWEEN INFLAMMATION AND IMMUNITY
This phenomenon was touched on briefly in the section about the GALT, the gut’s immune system.
However, inflammation is such an important aspect of the guts health, and plays such a pivotal role in the development of disease, that it deserves its own section entirely.
When the gut’s healthy function is compromised by harmful invaders, the immune system gets into gear to react. The immune system dispatches different responses to different threats, accordingly. However, all of these responses have one thing in common. They are all inflammation.
Inflammation is the immune system’s tool for doing its job more effectively. Inflammation occurs to make the immune system (GALT) better able to do its work on the body.
When the body is threatened, the immune system rolls out inflammation to go to work. It needs to do its job, and it wants to do it as quickly and effectively as possible. In comes inflammation to help it do just that.
Inflammation is a perfectly design survival mechanism. It prepares the immune system to wage war against foreign invaders. It sets up internal weather systems for repairing damage, forming scars, patching up injured tissues, and restoring damaged tissue to their original, healthy state.
We couldn’t survive normal wear and tear, and onsets of biological attack without it. It is the key to our immunity from disease and sickness.
There is nothing problematic with inflammation in and of itself. It is a perfectly normal, natural response to infection and dysfunction in the body and its primary use is to expedite healing. The key here is that inflammation is like a first aid kit. It’s always available in case of emergency. And it’s a life saver. However, something is very wrong when the first aid kit is always out, being used.
The problem occurs when the body, because it is constantly assaulted with our modern day toxins and opportunistic organisms, never gets a chance to really recover. So the muscle of the immune system remains constantly active and flexed.
When inflammation never gets turned off, it becomes systemic. A great example is blood coagulation. Normally if the skin is cut, blood will coagulate to prevent the body from losing more blood.
Inflammation then sets in to repair the damaged tissue, forming a scar on top. But what if blood coagulation became systemic, that is spread throughout the entire body, all at once? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess what would happen. Instant death.
It can be helpful to consider inflammation in this way. Localized, targeted inflammation is absolutely essential. Like blood coagulation. But when it spreads, its effect is described in medical communities like an inner wildfire — burning everything in sight and wreaking havoc.
Instead of small patches of fire, the fire spreads into every area, literally burning you from the inside out. And there is a general consensus in the medical community that this systemic inflammation arises and originates in the gut.
One of the most common warning signs that inflammation has been in full bloom for too long, is what we experience as fatigue. That’s because the gut’s immune system, though silent in its work, is much like a muscle.
During a perceived threat, the immune system begins ‘flexing’, massing up a response and sending out its workers to find and destroy the threat throughout the entire body, not to mention the gut itself. If the immune system is constantly flexing, it gets tired. And so do we, via fatigue.
Worst case, these symptoms morph into an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease is when the body begins a serious biological betrayal, and starts attacking itself.
The immune system starts checking the “ID’ of every organism traveling through the body to detain the harmful invaders. This takes a lot of energy, and manpower. Autoimmune diseases occur when this system, having been worked too hard for too long, gets confused and begins mistaking the ID of the body’s normal cells as ‘invaders.’
There is growing research and information available all the time, that what we have considered chronic diseases, are actually responses to the body’s survival mechanism, inflammation.
That’s why there’s such a fine line between immunity and inflammation. And why diseases are not reductionist one off phenomenons, but the result of the body frantically trying to survive.
The Breakthrough Gut Health Plan is designed to combat inflammation at its source. That is, to turn inflammation off, by eliminating the triggers that set it off in the first place. Healing the gut is how we turn off this survival mechanism.
When the gut thrives, it no longer has to merely ‘survive.’
THE BREAKTHROUGH GUT HEALTH PLAN
Your health is a two-way street. It’s your first relationship. And it can be a real heartbreaker.
But it doesn’t have to be! By following the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan, you’ll see the end of digestive discomforts (like bloating, constipation, and diarrhea). You’ll see the end of aches and pains, and skin inflammation (acne).
You’ll see your energy return and even increased triple fold. You’ll see the excess weight slip off effortlessly. You’ll sleep better than ever, and you’ll gain the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re doing everything you can for your body.
By healing all four pillars that make up the gut, you’ll also see your daily mood lifted as the inflammation lifts and the body begins to relax into its new found health.
Eating for gut health and repair comes down to (most obviously) what we put into our mouths. The truth is that the gut is never sleeping. It’s always doing work.
So every minute that you are digesting good foods you are making progress!
Every minute you aren’t putting harmful bacteria into your system you are making progress.
It starts with the first good meal you eat. It starts the first hour that turns to two, then three hours you go without putting junk into your body.
When I set out on a journey to repair my health, I knew right then and there, I would never be as unhealthy as I was right at the moment I decided to change. The moment I made the decision, from the moment I ate my first meal to improve my health, I was getting healthier.
I would literally never be as unhealthy as the moment I started. Instead of looking forward at how far I had to go, I saw I was never as far away as when I started. Everyday. Every minute, is progress.
I urge the following Information to empower you completely. We’ve gone over how the gut functions. Up ahead, we’ll go over the known triggers to gut inflammation, and the best practices when repairing the gut. At this point, I also urge you to follow your own ‘gut’ on what you’re personally looking for on your journey. Tailor this information as you see fit, and follow to your own path. Trust your gut.
The Four R’s: The Path To Optimal Gut Health
There are four steps to healing the gut. The first step, removal, is the only step that is actually sequential. That is, once the harmful substances are removed, the last three steps will all be done in tandem, at the same time.
STEP 1: REMOVE
It’s time to remove the main offenders. This step is all about eliminating in one straight shot all of the known toxic triggers in the digestive tract.
I’m using the word known, as these foods, microbes, bacteria and chemicals are known culprits in the medical community, that lend to the formation of disease and dysfunction in the gut.
This removal process is a lot like pulling an emergency zip liner in the gut. Because it immediately pulls the plug on everything that has been damaging the gut. With one fell swoop.
Removal prevents any further damage from being done, immediately. It gives the gut a break. It also gives what good bacteria is left a chance to grow and reinforce. It stops adding fuel to the fire with more bad bacteria or those toxic organisms that allow them to thrive. It’s the first stage of the healing process.
It’s also the easiest step. And the hardest. You may not want to remove everything on this list. That’s okay. It is best to avoid these substances completely during
the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan. But if you find yourself unable to limit them completely, at the very least, reduce them wherever possible.
Whatever you do, don’t fret! Nothing will ever be presented here without a solution. There is always a solution. We’ll go over each trigger, and how important each is to eliminate. So are worse than others. We’ll also go over everything that helps build the gut’s health and assists in its repair.
Let’s get one thing straight about antibiotics right now. If you are already taking antibiotics prescribed to you, then by all means, keep taking them. Later on, we’ll go over what you can do to mitigate their effects in the gut.
With that said, let’s jump right in.
Antibiotics are literally anti-life for all bacteria. Taking an antibiotic is like dropping an A-bomb in the digestive tract. They wipe out all known life inside our digestive tube. Good bacteria, bad bacteria, it doesn’t matter. Antibiotics don’t discriminate in their destruction.
Their purpose is to wipe out an entire population and they do so magnificently,
all in an effort to quell harmful pathogens and parasites in the gut. This is a really good thing in some instances, namely to get rid of particularly aggressive strains of bacteria that cause us to get sick.
The issue is that antibiotics can leave the intestinal bacteria compromised. There is often little to no good bacteria left after they’re done flattening the gut’s microbiome.
That’s not to say that if you require antibiotics that you should avoid them. Absolutely not. Antibiotics can be lifesavers and have had an important place in our medical arsenal in the fight against disease.
What’s important is to recognize their potential effects on our guts bacteria (what bacteria?!) and thus avoid them wherever possible.
Now, usually we don’t take antibiotics for fun. I know I don’t. Usually they are prescribed for a very specific reason. But as we’ll see, they are also not the only types of antibacterial substances we consume!
By now, you’ve probably already heard the buzz over factory farms vs. grass fed, open range farms. I know I have!
The concern over how animals are treated in these big, factory operations has been in our collective consciousness (via the media) for awhile now. Emotional pleas aside, this manufacture mindset in animal production actually has far reaching effects for our gut health, as is based wholly in science.
In concentrated feeding operations, these animals are literally in a production line. They are squished together, prodded and packed into tiny spaces that make it easier for the factory employees to process them.
One thing leads to another.
Because the animals are is such tight (and efficient) quarters, they get covered in their own waste. Small space, same waste. In short, they get dirty. Very dirty. Constantly bumping into each other. Constantly bumping into the cages and bins they’re in.
Because of this, their own waste makes its way into their food, and their gut. They also tend to get scrapes and cuts from the hustle and bustle. (Think about wiping feces on a cut, not very sanitary right?)
The animals are fed antibiotics to prevent illness and disease that can come from this bacteria infested environment. And for good reason. They are not in a normal environment.
But here’s the thing. These antibiotics, originally given to the animals, then show up in the foods we eat at the dinner table.
They make their way into the bloodstream of the animal and the here we are again with antibiotics getting into our system. With processed meats we end up taking an antibiotic A-bomb, all without ever being prescribed one!
During the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan, shoot for meats and eggs with no antibiotics and hormones added. These protein sources will have ‘grass-fed’ and ‘open range’ on the label.
PASTEURIZED DAIRY PRODUCTS
Pasteurization is a fancy word that describes the process of heating a liquid to such a high temperature, that all the bacteria in the liquid is wiped out. Most commercial dairy products we consume have been pasteurized, including milk, cream, cheese, yogurt, butter and ice cream.
In an attempt to eliminate harmful bacteria, this process of pasteurization (sterilization), also prevents any good bacteria from remaining.
This heating process also destroys active enzymes, fragile milk proteins, and vitamins inherent in milk (the stuff that is so nourishing about milk in the first place.)
But the reason dairy makes it on the list of triggers, is because of a protein called casein.
Casein is the dominant protein found in milk. And it is notoriously hard for the human digestive system to break down. Casein is the culprit behind lactose intolerance and dairy allergies. It’s why milk products can cause bloating, stomach pain, and gas in people who don’t have lactose intolerance.
This is because most digestive systems lack the enzymes needed to break down this milk protein.
During the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan, it is best to eliminate dairy in the
initial stages. This way, your digestive system can focus on repair the gut lining. Removing casein from the diets will take tons of strain off the gut while it attempts to heal.
As well, when you do introduce dairy back in, you’ll have a good insight as to how tolerant your gut is to milk proteins. Your gut may be more sensitive than you realized!
PROCESSED FOOD PRODUCTS
Let’s call these ‘processed foods’ what they are. Products. Packed with preservatives, pesticides, food coloring, artificial flavoring, (and good intentions), these ‘foods’ are miles from their straight-out-of-the ground cousins. And just as many miles from good bacteria.
The chemicals added to our modern food and drink are completely counterintuitive to sustaining a healthy microbiome.
And it’s simple.
The main purpose of processing foods is to hold the food’s shelf life, and allow them to travel farther distances in an increasingly global community. The main purpose of bacteria is to break down (digest) foods.
These food additives are able to make food last longer precisely because they eliminate the bacteria that would normally break foods down.
Processed foods are often sterile foods.
Preservatives, pesticides, food coloring, and artificial flavoring. During the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan, these foods are best avoided as much as possible.
Gluten is a two-part, sticky protein. It’s found naturally in wheat, rye, and barley. It’s stickiness comes from the protein peptides gliadin, and glutenin. These proteins hold the nutrients together inside the plants it’s naturally found in.
The fact that it is sticky in intriguing, but that it is also not water soluble, and able to absorb almost anything, it is downright amazing. It’s why Gluten is used in almost every processed food conceivable.
Let’s pause for a moment: It’s used in almost every processed food conceivable.
That’s because, this sticky, yet not water soluble, yet highly absorbable substance makes for a highly versatile binder, filler, shaper, bulking agent, texturizer and stabilizer. Gluten is used to prevent shrinkage of foods. It dissolves fats seamlessly into foods.
It replaces the elasticity in imitation cheeses. It gives bred the fluffy, spongy texture we love in pizza, buns, pancakes, muffins, pies and pastries. It’s used in the recipes for mayonnaise, instant coffee and almost all cereals.
When gluten makes its way to the gut, the intestinal wall produces an enzyme known as transglutaminase (tTG), to break it down. If you have gluten sensitivity, it means that the GALT (immune system) has identified gluten as a harmful invader.
GALT then turns on inflammation, and sends antibodies to attack the gluten. This can cause bloating, constipation, and diarrhea, as well as being the downward spiral to a leaky gut.
During the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan, it is recommended to remove gluten in the initial stages. This way you’ll know if you have a sensitivity to gluten. If you already know that you don’t, simply avoid processed foods and you’re already avoiding most sources of gluten.
Sugar (including high fructose corn syrup) actually feeds the bad bacteria in the gut. It allows these bacteria to proliferate and tip the balance of the microbiome in their favor. Sugar is like an all-you-can-eat buffet in the gut.
Only the buffet is full of foods (in this case sugar) that only the bad bacteria can feast on. It starves the good bacteria in the process. They get to drool on the sidelines while the bad bacteria gorge themselves.
The gut cannot restore the good bacteria fast enough when sugar is given freely to the opportunistic bacteria.
This imbalance in the microbiome can signal the immune system and trigger inflammation. During the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan, for the love of all that is holy, avoid sugar.
WINE, BEER AND SPIRITS
Oh, alcohol! Why must you contain gluten, and sugar?
Wine, beer, and spirits fall under the umbrella of processed foods. And these liquids are made with the same cereal grains that contain gluten. Because of
the fermentation process required to make these liquids they also contain living organisms that can feed candida yeast overgrowth. Both gluten and candida can contribute to leaky gut.
Then there’s the sugar. Lot’ and lots of sugar.
Alcohol can irritate the gut lining, directly damaging cells along the digestive tract, and contribute to bacterial overgrowth due to the high levels of sugar alcohol produces when it’s broken down.
During the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan it is best to eliminate wine, beer and other spirits entirely.
Trace amounts of chlorine are added to the water supply in the United States. The end result in the gut’s microbiome is similar to taking an antibiotic. In an effort to kill bad bacteria, chlorinated water tends to kill most of the good bacteria as well.
The Environmental Protection Agency has publicly stated, that their studies have shown a strong association between bladder and rectal cancer and the chlorinated by-products in our drinking supply.
Try investing in what’s called a ‘reverse osmosis filter.’ This filter is specifically designed to combat overly sanitize water, and has been proven, over and over, to successfully remove all chlorine (among other chemicals) from any water source.
Even water right out of the kitchen sink. This filtered water won’t have any good bacteria, but it will have the benefits of the chlorine treatment, minus the actual chlorine!
During the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan this removal is definitely not a must-have, but it’s important enough to mention. Do your homework and decide what’s best for you.
Coffee contains proteins that are extremely similar to the proteins found in gluten. In a taxed immune system, these proteins can elicit the same inflammatory response as gluten.
This is a well-known phenomenon in nutritional science, termed a cross-reaction. Cross-reaction is when the body responds to a non-harmful substance the way it would with a harmful substance thus making a seemingly innocuous substance harmful.
The good news is that your gut may not have a negative reaction to coffee. During the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan, it is recommended to eliminate coffee from the diet. (To find out if it’s a trigger for your body.) However, if you feel like you just can’t go without coffee, try limiting it as much as possible, and note how you feel when you do drink it.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS (GMO’S)
GMO’s are foods and other consumables that have been genetically modified to survive harsher weather than normal, repel bugs, and last longer on the shelf.
Although GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) have been all but normalized in the United States, the fact is that many countries have actually banned them altogether. And for good reason.
That’s because the genetic structure of the food itself has been altered. So a GMO stock of corn looks like corn, but doesn’t have the same genetic makeup as nature made corn.
Up until now in our evolution, our gut has never encountered foods that are quite like the foods created through genetic modification. That’s because we made ‘em up!
During the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan, avoid genetically modified foods where possible.
Try going organic where possible. The term organic is synonymous for non-GMO in the United States. (Quick tip: almost all fruits and vegetables are non-GMO whether they’re organic or not. The exceptions include: corn, soybeans, zucchini, Hawaiian papaya, and yellow summer squash.)
STEP 2: REPLACE
Removing the harmful organisms, microbes, and chemicals from the gut is only half the battle. Once the main offenders have been removed, the next step focuses on refilling this empty space with the good stuff.
I like to think of this step as repopulating the internal city. So far we’ve evicted the main offenders running amok in step one. Now we’re ready to populate this city with good workers that will begin the hard work of repairing the damaged structures in the gut.
Unlike antibiotics which decimate all bacteria in the gut, probiotics actually add bacteria to the gut. In droves. When probiotics are given the right environment, they thrive, they get jiggy, and they reproduce like crazy.
Live bacteria probiotics are often prescribed to patients on antibiotics to combat the digestive side effects of the medication for this very reason. If antibiotics are like dropping an A-bomb on the gut’s microbiome, probiotics are like dropping a disco ball.
Are also found in foods such as yogurt some dairy products and pills they are also very delicate heat and even stomach acid can kill them That’s why they are so uncommon in processed highly processed or heated boots they just can’t survive in that kind of environment.
Probiotics introduce good bacteria into the gut they help the good bacteria grow and when needed they improve the good to bad bacteria ratio.
Probiotics not only fertilize the good bacteria; they also stifle production of the harmful disease causing bacteria. What’s more, probiotics are everywhere.
There are super easy to find and consume because they are everywhere healthy, functioning life exists. They are found naturally in the following foods: Kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, and pickles (check the label. It should say ‘live active cultures.’)
During the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan, it is essential to include a probiotic source (or two or three). Probiotics can also be found in capsule form in the supplements section at any health food store. We’ll cover probiotic supplements in more detail in later sections.
Also known as probiotic foods, fermented foods are filled with lactic acid producing bacteria. It’s also why these foods tend to be pretty dang sour. This sourness comes from the lactic acid. The unique compounds found in fermented foods do a few very useful things.
Fermented foods create an acidic environment in the gut that has been proven the perfect nesting ground for good bacteria to grow.
These sour foods also destroy and inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria, and fungus, as well as help the gut release gastric juices that help the gut remove waste more effectively. They are also fully of good bacteria, and probiotics.
Fermented foods include: Kimchi, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, miso soup, and pickled vegetables (pickled carrots, beets, garlic, cucumbers etc.)
Consuming even small amounts of fermented foods is powerful, and highly recommended on the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan.
Most people don’t know this, but fiber is also known as a prebiotic in medical communities. Prebiotics are indigestible fibers.
They are called prebiotics, because probiotics simply cannot survive without them. Literally, they cannot live without prebiotics. Much less thrive like probiotics are meant to!
Prebiotics are like the soil that vegetables grow in. We couldn’t care less about the dirt most of the time but without this soil, we would have no vegetables. This is precisely why prebiotics are so important.
They help those probiotics live, thrive, and multiply.
Concentrated prebiotics can be found in chia seeds, flax seeds, and sprouted hemp seeds. When it comes to taking these types of fibers, it’s up to your best judgement. Indigestible fibers can be found in whole grains as well.
As we covered earlier, gluten can be present in these sources, and it’s one of the reasons chia seeds and such are touted as the superior source of fiber — they don’t come with the gluten baggage.
However, if you feel your gut is especially damaged or sensitive, introducing these fibers from whole, organic vegetables and fruits, because they present prebiotics in a less condensed form.
STEP 3: REPAIR
This is hands down the ‘what to eat’ step of the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan. After removing the triggers in step one, and replacing them with good bacteria in step two, we are ready to focus on giving the gut stuff to digest!
This phase is all about repairing the damage done to the intestinal lining. This is done largely by consuming unprocessed, anti-inflammatory foods and liquids.
Whole, unprocessed foods are the absolute key to repairing the gut and achieving breakthrough well-being and health. Let’s be clear on what ‘whole’ food means
in this context. Whole regards those foods that either come out of the ground, or consist of one ingredient.
The top priority when adding foods to the gut is to focus on natural, whole foods that have a high probiotic and enzyme count.
It’s important to eat plenty of organic foods that come right out of the ground. This is to take advantage of all the good bacteria and microbes found in natural soil.
As unprocessed as possible is the goal here. So no preservatives, pesticides, antibiotics, or other chemicals like food coloring, or gluten.
HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDERATE
Our digestive tract, that beloved tube, is like a long river.
Everything that makes its way down this chute is like a canoe bouncing down the canal of our gut. Some of this traveling shipment washes up on the shores of the intestinal wall and gets absorbed.
The rest gets packed up and sent down the line, eventually ending in that big ocean, the toilet bowl. Indeed the digestive system is designed for movement from one place to another.
So it’s extremely important to keep this passage hydrated. This keeps the flow going smoothly.
By getting enough water, you’re keeping the cells in your gut nimble and able to move and rise to the occasion when they need to perform their job. I like to think of it like a conveyor belt.
When all the workers are hydrated and happy, they can sort through each item as it comes down the line with few to no errors, which helps the entire system.
Staying hydrated also helps keep the waste by-products diluted and easier to process. This helps in a direct detox inside the intestinal wall.
STEP 4: REBALANCE
This step comes in last, but it is best experienced throughout the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan.
It might help to think of this step as an exponential one. That is, the benefits gained in this step compound and multiply the healing benefits of the other three steps.
This step really comes down to our lifestyle. It’s like an umbrella above the other three steps, that is to say, that we carry our lifestyle with us everywhere we go.
So, it’s all about addressing the external stressors in our day to day, and giving our
gut’s nervous system a break.
You’ll find the nervous system calming naturally by following the other steps. But we can play a huge part as well, through our lifestyle.
By setting boundaries in our lives and doing what we can to relax and rejuvenate, we can literally calm the gut from the inside out.
The gut’s already taxed, and the gut’s nervous system will be focusing on healing the gut and creating order in the digestive system throughout the healing process. We can do our best to sit back, relax, and let it get to work.
There’s a number of ways to do this, all covered below.
Remember when we talked about boundaries? Let’s address them again, here. They are that important. As your body begins to heal its inner boundaries, it will be important to set up your external boundaries as well.
Setting personal boundaries can be summed up this way: Say yes to all of life, including your no.
Practice tuning into, and listening to your gut. It really does want the best for you. Listen to what it tells you. Do you keep saying yes to things you’d rather not do? Stop it. Feel sick at the thought of going to that event? Don’t go.
Stomach turning because there is something you’re putting off? Then do it. Feel uneasy about doing something (anything) or don’t feel like doing it today (whatever it is). Then don’t do it.
This has nothing to do with keeping your responsibilities, running normal errands or dealing with the regular details of everyday life. I’m not saying don’t go to work just because you don’t feel like it.
I’m talking about listening to your gut and working with it like the best friend that it is. Your intuition really is one of your greatest assets! Use it.
I found establishing these external boundaries hugely important on my own journey. I found that listening to my gut was an effective way of keeping my inner boundaries (in the gut) healthy, too! I didn’t grab the twinkies (or whatever else was handy) because I said yes when I really meant no.
I stopped worrying about things by stopping it right where it started. I stopped living with so much stress because I eliminated it at its source – my own boundary setting.
And that’s what intuition is; it’s like a knife that cuts the bullshit out of life. Of course not all stress is avoidable, but the load gets so much lighter. Start trusting your gut.
Deep breathing and relaxing the mind isn’t just some woo woo self-indulgent practice! Meditation is a legitimate way of relaxing the nervous system. Indeed relaxing the immune system is a defining hallmark of meditation.
Since most the body’s immune system is in the gut, this is a great way to assist the gut’s healing process.
There are tons of guided meditations online if you’re not sure where to start or don’t feel like doing it alone. The music is pretty good too!
Or you could try yoga, or anything else that calms you down. Watch Netflix. (I won’t say anything.) Just do something that’s opposite of watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre or reality tv. Whatever. The point is – relax! Do relaxing on purpose.
REPAIRING THE CIRCADIAN RHYTHM (SLEEP CYCLE)
It’s not only good for you, it’s good for your gut, too!
Did you know that the gut and the bacteria that live inside it have a circadian rhythm too? Disrupting normal sleep-wake cycles can alter the microbiome’s normal functioning. And ours!
Ever notice all the advice to eat breakfast in the morning to ‘start your day right?’ There’s much wisdom in that and it’s tied to the gut, too!
Eating breakfast wakes the gut up after you’ve gotten up yourself. When the gut ‘wakes up,’ this naturally wakes the rest of your body up. It’s why eating breakfast can leave you feeling alert and with energy to start the day.
Spend time outdoors if you can during the day and let your skin soak in the sun. Avoid artificial light at night. Avoid eating 3-4 hours before sleeping (this gives the gut a head start on digesting your last meal before you sleep.)
Use the planet’s natural light and darkness, and eat according to these timeframes as much as possible. This gets the gut on a rhythm and allows the body to organize the information you pass to it via food and drink. You’ll find you sleep easier and effortless when you do this. Try it!
I like to combine my exercise with outdoor activities. Getting out into nature helps the skin and lungs take in nutrient rich air, in addition to the exercise itself.
Any exercises that involve twisting or turning of the torso can aid in digestion, and assist in effective waste removal in the body. Exercise gets the digestive tract moving!
THE MODERN LIFESTYLE
Anti-bacterials, antimicrobials, and sanitizers. Cleaners, cleansers, soap, and dish soap. Hand wipes, hand sanitizers, shampoos and laundry detergents.
Toothpaste, mouthwash, windex, bleach, disinfectants, and house cleaner. But not just any house cleaner; there’s wood cleaner, stainless steel cleaner, window cleaner, upholstery cleaner, and on, and on. And just when you thought it was over, car cleaner. Hell we’ve even got plant cleaners. We’ve got cleaners for our cleaners.
The point is our modern lifestyle is beyond sterile from a bacterial standpoint. The different chemicals in these soaps and cleaners have their way of getting through our skin barrier and impacting our gut’s bacteria very similar to consuming an antibiotic.
When a label says ‘kills 99.9% of germs,’ it’s referring to bacteria. So often these sanitizers, disinfectants, antibacterials and cleansers tend to clean more than just the surface they’re sprayed or rubbed on. They make their way into the gut as well. This is why it’s so important to let a little dirt in, as we’ll see next.
That’s right. Get dirty! Your gut likes it dirty. This doesn’t mean go lick the door handle at your local McDonald’s. Not that kind of dirty.
I like to think of this step as giving myself permission to be a kid again. (A big kid, with a job.)
Research has shown – definitively – that children’s superhuman immune system’s, are not strong just because of their age. It’s also because they often aren’t afraid to get dirty, and thus get exposed (even if unknowingly) to a buffet of different bacteria throughout the day.
Getting exposed to a variety of bacteria is simple, even for us adults! It can be as simple as taking a walk barefoot outside. Playing with the dog. Gardening. Going to a park and breathing in the microbial rich air. Or a beach. Or forest trail. Anything that gets you outside and up close with nature will do.
Please note it’s still a good idea to wash your hands. I’m not saying don’t wash your hands here! But this really boils down to using our other two bodily functions, our skin and our lungs, to let friendly bacteria in.
Indeed it’s a lot more natural than the overly sanitized disinfected environments that we keep today. It’s about getting back to our roots. Going a little primal goes a long ways.
JUMPSTART YOUR SUCCESS
The key to healing the gut lies in repairing the inner ecosystem through the 4R’s (remove, repair, replace, and rebalance). This much we know.
But how long should you follow the plan? And which triggers do you choose to eliminate? The answer is: it depends on what your goals are! Below we’ll cover a few tips to jumpstart your journey and factors to consider to help you decide what’s right for you.
THE 21 DAY PARADIGM
Let’s talk about time. Everything alive needs time to change and transform. Bacteria are alive and they’re going to need time to clean up their act in your gut.
A timeframe of 21 days is widely, almost unanimously, considered the minimum length of time needed to reset the gut’s microbiome and repair the gut lining.
The 4R’s of gut health are considered the benchmark because they are the standard. They work. And 21 days is proven to be most effective. 21 days is the amount of time it takes the digestive system to truly heal, and for symptoms of dysfunction to diminish and disappear.
If you’re looking to aggressively restart your health, have extra weight lose, or otherwise want to quell symptoms of a ‘leaky gut,’ give your gut 21 days to heal.
During the 21 days of the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan, the focus is to completely reset the gut. From the inside out.
The goal is to absolutely wipe out all possible triggers, and give the gut its first real break in years (possibly in a lifetime). As such, it eliminates foods like dairy, bread (and anything containing gluten), sugar, processed foods (and all the chemical baggage that comes with them), antibiotic laden protein sources, coffee and alcohol.
Once all triggers are removed, the focus is to eat whole, unprocessed and fermented foods, probiotics, and fiber. This is all supplemented with changes to lifestyle, in an effort to reconnect the mind-body-gut connection.
Of course, going longer than the standard 21 days would be ideal! The longer your gut is given this ideal environment, the more intensely you’ll feel the benefits take root.
If you have substantial health related issues in your digestive system to address, or if you have a large amount of weight to lose, or if you just wouldn’t be bothered by eliminating the above foods from you diet, you can stay on the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan as long as you wish.
Below we’ll go over the reintroduction phase that takes place after the initial 21 days. Regardless of how long you choose to stay on the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan, this method of reintroducing foods back into the diet remains the same.
WHAT TO EAT
We’ve already touched briefly on the importance of whole, unprocessed foods in repairing the digestive system. Below is a rundown of what to look for:
Beef, Poultry, and Fish
The best animal protein sources out there are organic, grass-fed, pasture raised and/or free-range. These phrases will be found on the label of animal proteins that are grown without the use of antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals.
The organic label also signifies the animals were fed grains that have not been genetically modified. This labeling system applies to eggs as well!
Organic produce is grown without the use of pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), chemical fertilizers and preservatives. Because organic produce is all but pulled from the ground before it is sent on its way to the grocery store, it’s the prime pick when it comes to eating for gut health.
These vegetables will have a higher probiotic and prebiotic count, essential while healing the gut’s bacteria levels. Go organic as much as possible!
Because of most fruit’s naturally high sugar levels, some fruits can spur bacteria and yeast growth in the digestive tract. As the goal of the gut health plan is to reset the bacteria ratios within, most fruits are best avoided. Fruits with a lower sugar count, such as berries, limes and lemons are fine. When adding fruits back into the diet, try including as many organic sources as possible.
Nuts & Seeds
The most useful sources of nuts and seeds when healing the gut will be the raw varieties, free of sugar and preservatives. Nuts and seeds not only contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, they also have loads of protein and healthy fats. Try a handful a day and see how they aid your digestion.
Fats & Oils
Look for cold-pressed, unrefined, organic oils such as olive, coconut, nut and
seed oils. Of all the oils available, coconut oil is the all-out rockstar. Coconut oil
is incredibly versatile, and can be used as an all-purpose cooking oil, is a good source of saturated fat, and can even be used in shakes, smoothies, and as a skin moisturizer.
High quality coconut oils have less of the coconut taste as well, Try using this wonder oil for a week and see how your gut feels (and how your skin looks!)
Although grains are best completely avoided during the gut health plan, they are a useful food group if you have no gluten sensitivities. Trying including non-gluten grains, like buckwheat, rice and quinoa. If you do add gluten back into your diet, note the effects the next day. This will give you a good indication if you have a sensitivity to gluten.
|What to Eat||What to Avoid|
|Vegetables: Whole, organic vegetables and leafy greens (Kale, Chard, Mustard Greens, Spinach, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Radish, Asparagus, and Tomatoes.)||Vegetables: lentils, beans, soy- based products, beets, potatoes, corn, yams, and sweet potatoes. + All processed vegetables, canned or preserved.|
|Fruits: Whole, organic fresh|
or frozen berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries) lemons, and limes.
|Fruits: All fruit juices and fruits other than berries, lemons, and limes.|
+ All canned, sweetened, or otherwise processed berries.
|Healthy Fats: Minimally processed fats (olive and avocado oil, flax, sesame, almond, sunflower, grapeseed, and coconut oils.)||Dairy: Butter, cream, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, cheese, and non-dairy creamers.|
|Meat & Fish: Grass fed, organic meats (chicken, turkey, lamb, duck, cold-water fish including salmon, trout, tuna, halibut, mackerel, sardines, bison, and venison, Go light on grass-fed beef and pork.||Grains: Rye, wheat, barley, millet, spelt, kamut, and oats.|
+ Includes all Gluten-free varieties
|Nuts & Seeds: Raw, unsweetened nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, and seed butters (almond, tahini etc.)||Meat & Fish: All factory farm (and antibiotic laden) protein sources|
+ Includes canned, cold cuts and processed meats (frankfurters and hot dogs)
|Dairy Substitutes & Eggs: Coconut oil and butter, nut-based milks (almond, walnut, hazelnut, etc.) and eggs. Look for free-range, antibiotic- free varieties.||Nuts & Seeds: All peanut butters and oils.|
|Fermented Foods & Liquids: Apple cider vinegar, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, pickles, tempeh, kimchi, and pickles.||Fats & Oils: Processed fats and oils (margarine, butter, canola oil, shortening, mayonnaise, salad dressings and spreads.)|
|Drinks: Green and white tea, coconut water, filtered and/or mineral water, yerba mate, and unsweetened seltzer waters.||Drinks: Heavily processed (and chlorinated) water, coffee, soft drinks, fruit juices, and alcohol|
|Condiments: All herbs and spices, vinegar (can substitute with apple cider vinegar), sea salt, black pepper, and coconut liquid-aminos.||Condiments & Sweeteners: For the love of all that is holy (to the gut): Sugar, and sugar based condiments such as ketchup, bbq sauce, honey mustard, relish, chocolate syrup, teriyaki sauce, salad dressings, and dips. And sugar.|
|Sweets: You already know what they are. Refer to the above regarding sugar!|
EAT REGULARLY, BUT NOT CONSTANTLY
During the 21 days of the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan, the timing of meals is extremely important!
As you begin giving yourself break, it’s also important to give your gut a break,
too. Give your digestive system at least 3-4 hours between each meal. Grazing, or eating constantly throughout the day keeps the digestive tract in a constant exertion mode.
By taking time between meals, the gut has a chance to really be with, and process the food it already has to work with. This also prevents undigested food from backing up in the gut, which is a breeding ground for unhealthy bacteria and yeast.
Conscious Food Combining
Food combining is a best friend to breaking between each meal. Between each meal, the digestive tract will go to work processing the undigested foods into nutrients and waste.
Combining foods consciously will assist gut, and make its job even easier. That’s because certain foods compete for the bodies resources during digestion. The body rolls out different chemicals to digest different food types.
Thanksgiving (or any holiday that includes tons of foods) is a great example. Think about that food coma after eating mashed potatoes, meat, cake, soda, fruit, gravy, buns, butter and pudding? It’s no coincidence you want to take a nap!
The digestive tract is literally in ‘hold the phone’ mode trying to deal with this massive influx different foods. It takes incredibly energy to deal with that crowd, and the body attempts to put you asleep so it’s got more energy to deal with digestion.
Thus we have, the food coma. The food coma is directly related to the food bomb. That is, bombing the gut with tons of information to process, at once. This food bomb won’t kill you, but it’s a great example of how food combining matters to the gut.
Here’s a general way of looking at food combining:
- Eat fruit alone (or with a friend! The important thing is to eat the fruit by itself)
- Combine leafy greens and vegetables with animal proteins
- Avoid eating animal proteins with rice, grains, and legumes
AFTER THE 21 DAYS: REINTRODUCTION
After the initial 21 days, the gut is now planted with plenty healthy bacteria, functioning well and no longer under attack. It’s relaxed.
This is the absolute best state for your gut to be in while you reintroduce foods. Why? Because when the gut is in this state of health, it will tell you (via your intuition and physical symptoms) if something’s off or not right about a food.
If any of the foods that you reintroduce are triggers for you, even slightly, you’ll feel bloated, sick, constipated, or uncomfortable. You might be restless, anxious, or ‘down.’ It might show up as fatigue, or trouble sleeping.
However the symptoms of a digestive trigger manifest in your body, you will notice! Once you’ve cleaned out your gut, you’ll have a newfound awareness of what foods feel like.
One of the reasons all triggers are eliminated on the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan, is so that you can reintroduce foods one at a time, and really zero in on which foods you may have a sensitivity to. This way, if one food shows up as a trigger for you, you’ll know it’s a trigger.
These possible triggers include:
• Gluten • Dairy • Coffee
A great way to test new foods back into your gut is to introduce them for the day, and note how you feel the next day.
If you feel no ill effects, it’s most likely safe to continue consuming them. If you do feel negative effects, this is a good indication that they trigger your digestive system. It may be prudent to eliminate them entirely, but if you can’t (if you enjoy them too much!) try reducing them when possible.
Not all of the triggers listed during step one, or removal stage, have been included here. That’s because processed foods, protein sources riddled with antibiotics, and sugar have universally negative impacts on the body.
They go beyond being a mere ‘personal’ trigger. There’s nothing personal about them! They aren’t helping anyone’s gut, at anytime. Because of this, it’s best to eliminate them completely, or reduce consumption of them as much as possible.
SUPPLEMENTING GUT REPAIR
‘Supplementing’ your diet is a powerful way to assist your gut in the healing process.
Taking a supplement gives your digestive system targeted, rich sources of helpful probiotics and enzymes.
They are especially helpful for weight loss. If you are limiting your food intake, supplements can fill the nutritional gap. Below is a look at the most effective supplements for repairing the gut.
Although naturally found in fruits, vegetables, and some dairy products (like greek yogurt, and Kefir), probiotics can also be take in a pill form.
Taking a probiotic capsule twice a day is helpful, especially in the beginning phases of the gut health program, because it will literally flood the digestive tract with healthy flora (i.e. good bacteria).
There are quite a few brands on the market, and many purport different benefits. Look for brands that cater to immune functions and specifically digestive tract repair.
When deciding between different brands, check out these details on the label to help you decide:
o CFU Count (Colony Forming Units): Capsules containing more
than 15 billion CFU’s are the most effective. Because probiotics are sensitive to the acids in the stomach, those with a high CFU count are best, as there is a greater ratio of able to reach the intestine.
o Bacterial Diversity: Look for brands that combine multiple strains of bacteria. This helps create and maintain a much needed biodiversity of good bacteria in the gut.
Enzymes help bacteria in the gut break down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. A person with lactose or gluten intolerance lacks enzymes that break these molecules down effectively.
Even if you do not have an intolerance, enzymes can still give an added boost to your digestive arsenal. If you decide to take an enzyme supplement, look for brands that says ‘full spectrum,’ which will include a broad range of important enzymes for digestion.
Quercetin is a compound known for its ability to keep inflammation at bay. That’s because it literally helps create tight junctions in the digestive tract via its ability to create proteins in the intestinal lining.
Bone Broth (Collagen)
The collagen found in bone broth (and found in supplements like collagen powder) contains the amino acids proline and glycine. These two amino acids consistently repair the intestinal lining of the gut. Essentially cartilage, this gelatin is the same substance that creates structure for bones, tendons and ligaments.
This amino acid has been proven effective repairing the gut lining and thicken the cell walls. It’s why L-Glutamine is considered an anti-inflammatory supplement, and helpful when repairing a leaky gut.
HCL with Pepsin
HCL with Pepsin is a rock star supplement. It literally helps add and restore the HCL, or hydrochloric acid found naturally in the gut. In fact, hydrochloric acid is the main acid in the stomach responsible for breaking down proteins before they enter the intestines.
People who suffer from a leaky gut usually do not have enough of this acid in their stomach, and it’s directly related to the larger chunks of food that make their way into the digestive tract, and eventually through the tight junctions.
Be sure to take this supplement as directed, with meals that contain protein. Start off slowly, a little HCL with Pepsin goes a long way!
ESSENTIAL OILS & AROMATHERAPY
The use of essential oils has shown incredibly effective on the gut’s digestion. This includes essential oils taken by capsule, and absorbed through the skin and lungs, via aromatherapy.
Before you write off these ancient herbal remedies, consider smoking. By now you, me, and the dog is aware that smoking is unhealthy and causes massive health problems — and those health problems were directly linked to inhalation. All anyone did was inhale a smoke!
So, the act of inhaling a substance does affect the body. And aromatherapy, or the inhalation of therapeutic oils does hold ground. Many ancient traditions focused on the relationship between smell, mood, digestion and health.
Evidence for smell’s physical affect on the body is all around us. The smell of something putrid or rotten sends us running the other direction. Smells that indicate sickness and decay are disturbing to us, and the gut literally responds with disgust (sick to our stomach). Smells that are welcoming and filled with life have just as powerful, albeit opposite, effect on the digestive system.
Essential oils can also be used internally, much like tea is used for medicinal purposes. One of the most intriguing aspects of essential oils, pertaining to gut health, is their remarkable antifungal properties, and their ability to target yeasts in the gut, while unharming good bacteria in the gut.
Below is a list of notable essential oils as they relate to digestive health.
Thyme is a superhero in the world of gut health. A full on antimicrobial; what is unique, and powerful about tyme, is that it does not attack the beneficial bacterial colonies in the gut. If you already use this herb in cooking, that may be enough.
However, it’s worth a look at as a supplement if you’d like to pack an extra punch against harmful microbes swimming in the intestinal wall.
Lavender has long been reputed to have an uncanny effect on our moods, and our digestive health. Between candles, lotions, and even the scent lingering in many spas, lavender no doubt has a calming effect on anxiety. It also shows highly anti- inflammatory effects on the lining of the gut.
Whether it’s potency in anti-anxiety treatment stems from its calming effects on the gut, or vice versa, it does present an interesting correlation between gut health and calming of the nerves.
Oil of Oregano
Oil of oregano is a potent antifungal. Antifungals combat excess yeast and candida, two strains of bacteria that can turn ‘opportunistic’ in a hurry.
Whether used internally, or for their calming effects via aromatherapy, essential oils are gaining serious ground in medical communities for their potent effects on the digestive tract. These natural remedies are worth experimenting with.
Try mix and matching different oils, noting their effects on your digestion.There’s an essential oil just about everything. Play with it, and find out what works best for you!
The guiding principles of healing the gut are time-tested and clear. Regardless of where you are on your journey, or what your ultimate goals may be.
These principles make up the foundation that can guide you (and your digestive tract) back to optimal health.
That being said, everything in this book is best considered just that: A guideline!
In the health and wellness arena, there is no shortage of “experts” that tell us what to eat and how to live.
But the best rules are a lot like the best foods. Rarely canned. If something doesn’t work for you, change it. Or stop it altogether. Try something new. Do more of what works. Find what works for you.
As you go through the Breakthrough Gut Health Plan, consider these principles as a jumping off point along your own unique journey. Be open to learning about yourself and your own boundaries. Nothing is more powerful than your own experiences when it comes to the health of your body.
And as always, trust your gut!
Wishing you the best of luck on your journey!
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