Home : Got stomach issues? It’s not your fault. – James Lilley – Medium
IT TAKES GUTS TO LEAK
Certain foods can be harsh on the gut, no question about it. Over time, the delicate lining of the gut can become irritated and inflamed. Once this happens, it’s been suggested that the lining becomes permeable, allowing food particles to ooze through and enter the bloodstream. Let’s explore this theory.
From the time we swallow it, to the time it leaves the body, food is intended to remain inside the digestive system. For it to stray outside the digestive system and enter the bloodstream is both unusual and unnatural. In fact, some might say this is almost as unnatural as the way we now grow our food.
It’s fair to say that most sections of the food chain are now routinely sprayed with some pretty heavy duty pesticides. This has become an everyday farming practice and nobody seems to mind. However, many of these pesticides contain EDCs (endocrine disrupting chemicals) which work to kill pests by disrupting their central nervous systems. Some of the newer insecticides also work by disrupting the guts of insects. Hmm, I see.
In recent times, food has undergone some pretty radical changes. “Modifying” our food sounds good in theory, but I’ve yet to hear anyone say with confidence how this will affect us long term. Throw into the mix literally thousands of food additives and preservatives and maybe we shouldn’t be all that surprised when people experience digestive issues. All this brings us back to the theory of a leaky gut and perhaps we should start with a visual understanding.
In your mind’s eye imagine holding a bicycle inner tube, then take a pair of scissors and cut it so that it becomes a single straight line. Next place the inner tube on the floor. As you look down at it, imagine it is your digestive system. The design is similar. Both are hollow tubes with an opening at the top (the mouth) and an exit at the bottom (your butt).
Now imagine putting a banana into the top of that inner tube and slowly squeezing it all the way down until it arrives out at the bottom end. Once again, this is very similar to how your digestive system works. Food has gone into a tube at the top and then squeezed all the way down until it came out at the bottom as waste.
When we try to do the same thing with certain grains or seeds you can bet they are ultra-harsh on the inside of the tube. To make this point, let us now imagine taking those same scissors, only this time make several microscopic nicks anywhere you like along the inner-tube. If we again attempt to push a through a banana (or any other type of food you can think of) you will notice that small food particles squeeze through some of those nicks. Hold this image. Got it?
Hopefully this mental image is able to demonstrate the “theory” behind the syndrome commonly referred to as leaky gut. Once tiny food particles begin oozing out, they cause a much wider problem. Instead of finding their way to the bathroom with the rest of the food gang you’ve eaten and digested, these tiny particles find their way into the bloodstream. That’s not good, right?
Not if you happen to be a protein by the name of gluten. The immune system is not expecting to see a piece of your bacon sandwich floating around in your bloodstream. As far as the immune system is concerned, all bacon sandwiches are (and should be) safely trapped inside the inner tube (your digestive tract). When the immune system spots the bacon sandwich in the bloodstream, it gets a little freaked out and sends the whole system into red alert. Those proteins found in gluten are treated as foreign invaders. Boomshakalaka, say hello to your new food sensitivities.
In certain people, the gluten found in wheat, barley, and rye has the potential to cause a wide range of reactions ranging from a feeling of general fatigue to mental confusion and just about everything in between. It also pays to keep in mind that although oats don’t contain gluten, they certainly can become cross-contaminated with gluten during processing. The good news is you can get certified gluten free oats, but it pays to be sure of the source. The bad news is some people are still going to react to even gluten free oats.
Given that the standard western diet is heavily reliant on grains, unwarranted attacks can become frequent and systemic inflammation is your reward. As we move through these chapters you will learn that inflammation plays a pivotal role in illness.
A small amount of localized inflammation can be thought of as a well-guarded campfire with a practical benefit. However, inflammation left to linger can soon become a rampant forest fire. The connection between illness and this type of out of control inflammation is well documented.
It seems that doctors are better equipped (or more apt) to hand out pills than they are dietary advice, and the theory of a permeable gut lining doesn’t always sit well with them. But doctors do agree that gluten has the potential to cause damage to the intestinal lining, and when those intestines become inflamed it can be harder for the body to absorb nutrients.
Yet merely mention the notion of a leaky gut in your physician’s office and you can expect to be met with an uncomfortably long stare. Keep in mind that the pharmaceutical industry is like no other. It generates higher profit margins than the oil industry! Big pharma has no interest in your nutritional needs.
Many of us have been conditioned to think the answer to our health problems lies in swallowing more pills, but trying to medicate our way out of a poor diet is just poor judgment.
With so many diseases labeled “unknown,” maybe the leaky gut theory should be given a little more merit or, at the very least, explored to the fullest.
If you were paying close attention you may have noticed that the keyword I keep using to describe all these events is “theory” so you might now be asking why this is still a theory? Well, clinical trials cost millions of dollars and this “theory” simply isn’t sexy enough to pay for those clinical trials. Put simply, there’s no money to be made from telling you to change your diet.
LEST WE FORGET
The remarkable story of doctor Ignaz Semmelweis began in 1846 when he took his first medical position as an appointed assistant in a maternity ward at Vienna General Hospital. Shortly after doing so he noticed that some wards had a disproportionately higher infant mortality rate than others.
Ward 1 gained a particularly bad reputation, so much so that many local women preferred to give birth in the street and, statistically speaking, their chances of survival actually improved! Young doctor Semmelweis was told by his seniors that the reason for these higher deaths was a “poisonous gas” that often came into the ward. But doctor Semmelweis was quick to notice something else.
Ward 1 was directly next to the mortuary and it was a common practice for doctors to perform autopsies in the morning and then work in Ward No 1 in the afternoon.
Back then hygiene wasn’t properly understood and a scalpel used in an autopsy was often later used to cut an umbilical cord. Even basic hand washing wasn’t in place until Dr. Semmelweis introduced it as standard protocol.
But here’s the rub.
Despite the obvious improvements that included an immediate reduction in deaths, the views held by Dr. Semmelweis were not part of the general medical beliefs at the time and were met with hostility. He was not only attacked by senior medical figures; he was actually dismissed from his position. I know, right? Keep reading, it gets even worse.
Ward No 1 doctors went back to their old ways and fatality rates immediately returned to their level pre-1847. Dr. Semmelweis was so incensed by such ignorance that he wrote open letters to his main critics calling them “ignorant murderers.” It takes courage to challenge such embedded beliefs, and for the next 20 years Dr. Semmelweis desperately tried to warn people that germs from a dead body needed to be washed off a doctor’s hands before attempting to deliver a baby!
Unfortunately, the status quo had just about enough of doctor Dr. Semmelweis and his germ theory and in 1865 he was tricked into visiting a mental asylum. When he tried to leave, Dr. Semmelweis was forcibly restrained and put in a straitjacket. His injuries were such that they became infected and two weeks later he died. Dr. Semmelweis was buried in Vienna and very few people attended his funeral. Today his theory is saving lives. Who knows? Perhaps in time we will look back and find that the leaky gut theory has merit equal to the germ theory.
Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.
– George Santayana
I appreciate that some readers may already have quite a comprehensive understanding of these concepts while others may be hearing these things for the very first time. In either case my goal is to always leave you with an abundance of relevant information presented in a way that’s easy to absorb.
If you must, continue to fight the idea that the digestive system is the cornerstone of all health, but sooner or later something is going to click. When it does, this renewed understanding will serve you well.
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT
You might not hear this all that often, but the poor food choices you make are not entirely your fault. You should be able to go into the supermarket and pick out anything on the shelf to nourish the body. But somewhere along the line everything got twisted and today we are more likely to find foods high in calories and low in nutritional content than the reverse.
It’s not easy to find a product on the supermarket shelf that doesn’t have some kind of harmful additives, colorings, preservatives, artificial flavors, or high fructose corn syrup, etc. This begs the question, what’s up with food? As a rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce the words on the label, chances are the tiny villi in your intestines aren’t going to like it.
I was once at my local food store and noticed an elderly lady in the parking lot struggling to load a heavy grocery bag into her car. It took me but a second to help lift the bag into her trunk and she was duly thankful. As she drove away waving, it made me wonder if she understood the meaning of the words on the labels of the foods I’d glimpsed in her bag, words like acesulfame-K, Aspartame, and monosodium glutamate.
Perhaps the onus shouldn’t be on the shopper to have to read the fine print on every label. With so many potentially toxic food additives, it can be a full time job just keeping up with them.
The hard way is to read every label; the easy way is not to buy food with labels. I know, pretty radical right? Hold onto your hat, more is coming.
You may view your local supermarket as a convenience, but remember it’s a business, and as such it is there to make money. If the supermarket is creating meaningful jobs and making it easy for you to gather food, that’s great. But someone needs to ask, if food is playing a role in illness why can’t we just go back to having simple ingredients that are less harmful to our body? That kind of food and those ingredients can still be sold in supermarkets for our convenience.
If you aren’t sure what to buy or where to buy it, no need to panic — this book is here to help. The good news is that if you choose to eat three times a day then you also get to vote with your feet three times a day, a topic we will be coming back to in more detail. The bad news is it’s actually easier to buy crack cocaine on the street than it is to buy locally raised organic chicken. I know, right? What’s up with that?
BE KIND TO YOUR SMALL INTESTINE
For sure the digestive system is super important but the problem isn’t confined to what we put inside our belly, it’s also what we do to our belly that can affect our health. For this exercise we need a small cloth tape measure similar to the type found in a sewing kit. Got one? … Great.
Today more than ever we spend a disproportionate amount of our time sitting down; we do it in our cars, at our desks, at the movies, even while we eat. Hell, you are probably doing it right now! While sitting down, grab that cloth tape measure and run it around your waist and make a note of the number. Now stand up and do the same thing. What you have are two very different numbers, am I right?
Now take off your pants (trousers to the rest of us) and measure the inside of the waistband. Forget what the label says, just measure it and then write that number down. Finally do the same thing with your underwear while in the “unstretched” position.
Now compare all four sets of numbers, suddenly it becomes clear that our clothes have the uncanny potential to restrict the free movement of our small intestine for maybe sixteen hours a day! If you suffer from bloating this whole restrictive process will be magnified tenfold, especially when you are sitting. Throw in a few leather belts and buckles and we really compound the problem.
The goal here is to try to avoid unnecessary discomfort to the small intestine. Keep in mind that the accurate sizing of our clothes depends largely on who made them. It can be a costly mistake to simply grab “your” size and go. Always take the time to try new clothes on in a sitting position and make sure you aren’t shooting yourself in the foot by restricting the very cornerstone of your health. Also be aware that our body shapes can change from season to season, it’s not uncommon to gain a few pounds in the winter.
Your digestive system needs you to wear clothes that are comfortable. If you happen to be a total fashionista and currently wearing ultra-skinny jeans, then I realize this news is probably falling on deaf ears. Try to keep in mind that hospital gowns come in limited colors and generally speaking are less flattering than jeans. Organ compression can lead to serious digestive problems down the road. I’d really like to prevent that from happening to you. Now go burn those skinny jeans.
As we move through this book together I’ll continue recommending key people for you to check out on YouTube, this ensures all gaps are plugged.
This time around I’d like to suggest that you take a look at the leaky gut through the eyes of Dr. Darren Schmidt. I love this guy; his videos are always clear and highly informative yet simple enough not to be a distraction.
Over the years I’ve literally watched thousands of hours of medical clips to gather all this information for you. I find Dr. Schmidt’s style refreshingly different, which helps keep my interest in the game. You can find him in today’s homework assignment below.
What did we learn from this?
Once gluten becomes a problem, switching to gluten free products is unlikely to be helpful. To help you turn this corner, it may be more helpful to go totally grain free.
Remember that many of the great medical discoveries were first mocked and even vilified by the medical establishment. For the sake of your digestive system, consider buying whole foods that come without labels. Try to wear comfortable clothes.
Stay tuned, I have lots more content that I’d like to share with you.