10 Common Causes of Chronic Conditions: Cause #1
1. Poor diet with impaired digestion.
The SAD Diet
Today’s Standard American Diet (SAD) contains many components that are making us sick. These ingredients include refined sugar, refined and “enriched” carbohydrates such as white flour, pasta, and white rice, partially hydrogenated oils (also known as trans fats), artificial sweeteners, chemicals, pesticides, and traces of heavy metals. Food manufacturers have found many ways to prolong shelf life, and increase calories in foods, at a severe cost to human health. We, as a society, have departed from eating nutrient-dense, low-glycemic, whole foods, and we are experiencing chronic conditions—sometimes in epidemic proportions.
On the other hand, many people believe that if they eat healthy foods, they will be healed. This is not entirely true. Eating healthy foods is just one component of nourishing your body. The other component is the healthy absorption of key nutrients that adequately sustain the body. When your digestive tract is sluggish, impaired, or injured, your body isn’t able to process and absorb nutrients from the foods that you eat—even if you’re making every effort to eat the best foods. The truth is you can become malnourished despite the fact that you’re eating what you feel are the “right” foods. And when your body isn’t able to adequately absorb nutrients from the foods you eat, all your body’s systems become impaired, ranging from your cardiovascular system to your neurological system.
The Results of SAD
One of the chief problems related to the digestive tract is the breakdown of the permeability in the small intestine, commonly referred to as leaky gut syndrome. The small intestine, which has a surface area larger than a tennis court, is designed to allow very small particles of digested nutrients to pass through its wall and into the bloodstream so that these nutrients can be distributed throughout the body. But numerous things can happen and the gut can become more permeable, allowing larger “less digested” particles to pass through into the bloodstream. The immune system then interprets these larger particles as foreign invaders, and it goes into overdrive (also known as a hyper-immune response).
Leaky gut is almost always involved in chronic illness and is actually a leading cause of many chronic conditions. Leaky gut starts a vicious cycle in which allergic sensitivities, toxic and hyper-immune activation, liver dysfunction, pancreatic insufficiency, and malnutrition occur.1
The good news is that if you can heal the gut, you can dramatically improve almost any chronic condition.In order to heal your gut, it’s important to understand the key factors that can damage your gut in the first place. Leaky gut can be triggered by:
- The overuse of broad spectrum antibiotics—Antibiotics kill ALL bacteria, even the good bacteria that protects the lining of your gut.
- The use of over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen, that can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and damage the lining of the intestinal tract.2
- The use of steroids, such as prednisone and corticosteroids.
- The overuse of alcohol.
- Common allergies and food intolerances such as wheat and/or dairy (also known as gluten, casein, and lactose intolerance) that can wreak havoc in the intestinal tract.
- Bacterial and fungal overgrowth, such as candida (yeast).
- Lack of adequate hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Many people unknowingly have low concentrations of stomach acid that hinder the body’s ability to adequately digest food, and disrupts the delicate balance of good and bad intestinal bacteria.
Healing leaky gut requires several components:
- Avoid any gut-toxic drugs and allergic foods.
- Eliminate as much bacterial and fungal overgrowth as you can by using herbal antimicrobials, such as garlic, and if necessary prescription anti-fungals such as Diflucan®.
- Use high-quality probiotics (good bacteria) for an extended period of time in order to restore the good organisms that should be dominant in your gut.
- Supplement with digestive enzymes, to facilitate digestion.
- Maintain a proper concentration of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid, or HCl). By effectively restoring the correct concentration of stomach acid, your digestive tract can break down food efficiently. When food fails to break down in the digestive tract, it putrefies, and aggravates leaky gut.
1Galland, Leo. “Leaky Gut Syndromes: Breaking the Vicious Cycle” www.mdheal.org/leakygut.htm Accessed August 2005
2“Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Liver Damage” www.medicinenet.com/tylenol_liver_damage/article.htm Accessed August 2005