“It’s perfectly natural and healthy to want to live in a clean home, to want to eat clean foods, and to want to be hygienic, sanitary people - but the nuclear option of germ eradication is not the way to go.”
You can’t really read about nutrition and health these days, without coming across the term gut health. The field of research dedicated to the bacteria, viruses, yeast, and fungi in our gut is fascinating, and really just getting started. New studies are coming out every day, linking our gut microbiome (all the little organisms that live in your digestive tract) to hormone imbalances, health conditions such as allergies, and aiding with detoxification of our body. I read pretty much every study and book out there on the gut, because it’s a little bit like a puzzle, where we are trying to fit all the pieces together. Dr. Axe’s “Eat Dirt” book is the first of its kind to bring together an Eastern and Western medicine approach. He doesn’t just look at what kind of foods are harming and helping our gut, but he also looks at the gut and its imblance from a Tradtional Chinese Medicine perspective.
“So why do some people with those [illness] genes get sick while others don’t? The answer, put simply, is our environment. That’s why the choices we makes every day - the food we eat, the prodcuts we use, the stress level in our lives, the pills we take - can make the difference between illness and health.”
Our gut is a long tube that is supposed to help in digesting our food; breaking it down, and transporting it through the gut walls into the blood, and to its destination. Sadly, due to many reasons, our gut walls have become lose and too permeable. In this case we speak of a “leaky gut”. The gut lets too many big particles into the blood, which then causes our body to react with an immune response. This can look like an allergy, an asthma attack or perhaps a case or arthritis.
On top of this, in a healthy person we find a rich micobiome - bacteria and other organisms that live in our digestive tract. The bacteria are responsible for digesting food, regulating our metabolism, creating vitamins, managing hormone levels, disposing of toxins, and making natural chemicals to help protect our gut wall. If the bacteria are disturbed or, even worse, completely wiped out, we add to the creation of leaky gut.
In today's world we all of a weakened gut with more than 80% of the population suffering from a case of leaky gut.
“Food and environmental sensitivities (like allergy to detergent) [are] the outward manifestations of a leaky gut.”
The book breaks down how to address a leaky gut by addressing five core areas:
Food: some of the foods that cause harm to our gut wall are gluten, dairy, hydrogenated vegetable oils, sugar, and artifical sweeteners. These are sadly all the major players in our processed foods. Dr. Axe describes in detail how these foods work to break down the gut wall and cause inflammation in the body. As with all things, it comes down to cutting back on processed foods. Healing foods such as fermented veggies, broths, coconut produts, and omega 3 fats can help heal a leaky gut.
Environmental toxins: the US representst less than 2% of the world population, but uses 24% of pesticides. Add to that toxic food additives, household cleaners, and air fresheners that all wreck havoc on our gut wall.
Stress: the overwhelming stress of modern life weakens the immune system and overgrows yeast in our gut. When yeast takes over, good bacteria die.
Over-sanitation: we live in a world of germophobia with too many antibacterial gels and antibiotics getting prescribed for everything. Fighting bacteria means we also kill off our good gut bacteria, and cause an imbalance in our gut.
Over-medication: too many prescription drugs and other medicine (like painkillers) wipe out bacteria and damage the gut.
In order to heal from a leaky gut, there are five key steps to restore optimal health:
Remove: take out the foods that harm your gut like gluten, cow’s milk, sugar, hydrogenated oils, GMOs, and toxic chemicals.
Reseed: introduce good bacteria back into your gut by bringing in probiotic rich foods and perhaps even supplements.
Restore: eat a diet rich in nutrients to help make up the nutrient gap in your digestive tract and to help heal.
Release: let go of stress. This sounds incredibly hard, because aren’t we all a little bit addicted to stress? Dr. Axe gives some great tips to implement into your daily life such as drinking a warm cup of tea, taking a walk or using essential oils.
Reseal: once gut health is restored, you want to make sure to seal the gut wall up, so it doesn’t get hurt again so quickly. Dr. Axe talks about his favorite supplements for this such as probtioics, digestive enzymes, L-glutamine, and collagen.
"One of the biggest (and most often overlooked) causes of leaky gut is emotional and mental stress. Stress makes us sick, wears us out emotionally, and can exacerbate just about any health condition you can think of."
Once you’ve read through the first five pillars, I am sure you are ready to make some changes in your own diet and lifestyle. Then Dr. Axe takes it one step further. He breaks down your leaky gut into one of five sub-categories: