According to Chinese medicine, almost all disease begins through the degradation of the digestive tract. This ancient knowledge has been verified by many well-known researchers and alternative medical practitioners since the early 1900s. It is now becoming more widely accepted in Western medicine, although there is still much resistance despite the overwhelming evidence that supports this theory.
When the intestinal lining becomes compromised due to inflammation, it creates small gaps in the mucosal lining. This allows for non-digested food particles and toxins to enter your blood stream. This often triggers the immune system to fight off these foreign invaders, causing increased inflammation throughout other parts of the body. The immune system can also easily mistake bodily tissue for undigested proteins in the blood, causing chronic autoimmune conditions such as arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and lupus. In order to heal disease, it is essential to first heal the intestinal lining from any inflammation. The degradation of the intestinal lining occurs over time as a result of a few different factors:
1) Gluten Sugar & Dairy
Gluten, sugar, and dairy are generally either difficult for many people to digest, or are directly responsible for causing inflammation in the body. These foods effect everyone differently, and may not cause as much inflammation in some people, as in others. In order to get a baseline understanding of the health of your body, it is necessary to cut out all foods that could be contributing to inflammation. There is abundant research verifying the negative effects of each of these substances, showing a link between these foods and inflammation and various other diseases in the body. In addition, candida and other parasites tend to feed on sugar, simple carbohydrates, and dairy sugars. The proliferation of parasites can perpetuate intestinal inflammation, cause nutritional deficiencies, and increase systemic inflammation, which is why cutting these foods out is so important.
2) Nutrient Poor Diets.
The average Western diet is extremely out of balance, lacking alive, fresh, and nutrient rich foods. A lack of vitamins and minerals prevent the systems of the body from functioning properly. Even among those people with a largely plant based diet, industrial farming has depleted soil quality (and consequently reduced the nutritional value of the crops). This is largely due to a century of non-biodynamic farming practices—this includes many organic farms as well. Most synthetic vitamin supplements that many people take have been shown to be mostly ineffective at delivering vitamins and minerals that the body is capable of absorbing.
3) The Accumulation of Toxins and Parasites.
Toxins from the environment, food, air, water, and prescription medication (particularly the excessive use of antibiotics) all contribute to creating inflammation in the body. Large amounts of toxins accumulate over the course of a person’s lifetime, reducing vitality and health, and setting the stage for disease. Parasites and candida thrive in a toxic environment, often feeding on the acidity created within the body when toxins are present. Candida and intestinal parasites have been linked to numerous diseases, and can cause long term health complications if left untreated.
When the digestive tract becomes inflamed due to the causes listed above, it creates small fissures, or gaps, within the intestinal lining. These gaps in the intestinal lining, begin to allow toxins and other non-digested substances into the blood stream that were never meant to pass through the mucosal lining of the intestinal tract. The presence of undigested food particles, and toxic elements in the blood stream causes systemic inflammation throughout the body, as the immune system attempts to fight off these foreign substances. Over time the systems of the body can begin to break down, creating a cycle of inflammation and toxicity. It becomes a perpetual downward spiral. From a purely physiological perspective, this is the root cause of disease—inflammation, beginning in the intestinal tract, and spreading slowly to other parts of the body.
There are countless examples of people who suffered from cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and many other conditions, who have regained full health after healing leaky gut and detoxifying from chemicals in the body. I am one of them! And again, this is not new information. This diet and healing protocol are merely a culmination of what has been known for over 100 years in the alternative healing community.
Additionally, when the body is in a state of poor health and toxicity, it can adversely affect a person’s mood, causing depression, anxiety, fatigue, and irritability. When the intestines are not healthy, fungus and bacteria such as candida and intestinal parasites begin to proliferate, causing additional health problems, and contributing to overall poor absorption of nutrients.
It should be noted that approximately 80% of the body’s total serotonin production actually occurs in the cells of the intestines. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation, nervous system functioning, and proper digestion, which means that when our digestive tract is unhealthy it directly affects the chemistry within our brain, and other important functions of the body—including digestive functioning! It is easy to see, then, how a downward spiral begins when the digestive tract is unhealthy.
Healing the Intestinal Lining (Healing Leaky Gut):
Healing the intestinal lining is essential for healing the rest of your body. When undigested food particles (particularly proteins) pass through the lining into your blood stream, your body reacts against them as though they were foreign invaders. Healing the intestinal lining ensures that your body only absorbs what is healthy and nourishing.
1. Begin the Holistic Healing Diet, as described in the next section
2. Begin taking the following supplements daily (according to the directions on the bottles):
– Slippery Elm Bark and/or Marshmallow Root (be sure to take 1 hour before food)
-Probiotics (at least 40 billion organisms per capsule). Research shows that it is best to take probiotics within 30 minutes before, or simultaneously, with a meal or beverage that contains some amount of fat (which ensures the survival of the beneficial bacteria). It’s best to find a refrigerated brand if possible.
-Cayenne Pepper Tea—Combine the following ingredients to make a healing digestive tea with 1-2 cups warm water: -¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon manuka honey (optional), 1-2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar. Drink the cayenne tea at least two times a day, 20-30 minutes before lunch and dinner. Start off with one serving a day, working up to three servings. Though it may seem counterintuitive, cayenne pepper is a great remedy for healing leaky gut. While it might be assumed that cayenne is an irritant, it is not. The pepper is actually a stimulant—meaning that it does not harm tissue in any way, but rather stimulates blood vessels within the tissue. The active compound in cayenne, capsaicin, tricks the body into believing it has a wound. While no damage is actually being done to the tissue, the body responds as if there were, increasing blood flow and initiating the healing response.
-Turmeric, Ginger, and Cinnamon Tea—Combine any ratio of turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon into a cup of warm water and sip. Add a pinch of black pepper (which significantly increases the healing effects of the active compound in turmeric, curcumin). Drink this tea in the morning or before going to bed. Each of these ingredients contains powerful healing properties that will help to reduce inflammation, repair damaged tissue, and cleanse the blood.
3. Begin a Liquid Diet
– Put 60-70% of your meals through the blender with just enough liquid to blend it up (with a majority of your food being blended raw vegetables). You can also make blended soups out of cooked vegetables (remember, just enough liquid to blend it up). Experiment with the liquid diet by doing either a full day of liquid diet for 2 or more days at a time, followed by 1 or 2 days of eating solid foods in between. You can also do a liquid diet for the first half of each day, and then have a dinner of solid foods. You may feel so good on a liquid diet, that you want to continue for weeks at a time. However, you also may experience a healing reaction as your body adjusts to the increase in enzymes present in raw foods. Listen to your body, go at a comfortable pace, and go for it! (see: “green smoothie” at the bottom of the page for a nutritious breakfast smoothie).
4. Intermittent Juice or Water Fasting
– Fasting can be one of the most powerful ways to let the intestinal lining heal. Fasting gives the body a chance to repair itself and rest from the processes of digestion. Juice fasts will also accomplish this without as much detoxification symptoms as a water fast. I would suggest starting with a 1/2-3/4 day juice fast, only drinking fresh pressed vegetable juice (no store bought juice or fruit juice) for the first part of the day, breaking the fast with a light meal for dinner. If you have never fasted, perform a succession of 3-4 partial fasts before attempting a one day fast. Fasting can cause detoxification and other health complications when performed incorrectly. Please consult with a holistic health practitioner before attempting a water fast if you have any health concerns.