Enemies of the GI Tract

(This is part 3 in a 5 part digestive series. Part 1 – The Digestion Matrix, Part 2 – Your Gut’s Best Friends)

So now you know digestion basics, as well as all of the fun friends you want to invite to your digestion party. Unfortunately, many of us tend to invite things into our system that don’t sit so well and like to stir up trouble. Let’s meet a few of those guys…

sadbelly

1.  Food Allergies & Intolerances

This is by far the biggest cause of digestive issues in clients that I work with, and it constantly gets overlooked. This is because not all allergies and intolerances make your throat swell up or have an instant effect. Besides gas, bloating and constipation (which usually indicate intolerances), having a food allergy may result in congestion, acne, “seasonal” allergies, energy problems…and the list goes on. And it doesn’t always happen immediately, so sometimes it can be hard to tell what the culprit is.

Some of the most common intolerances and allergens are wheat, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, shellfish and tree nuts. Even if you don’t have an allergy and/or intolerance, wheat, dairy and soy can also be inflammatory and have other ill effects on the body.

If you suspect you may have a food allergy or intolerance, it might be a good idea to try an elimination diet (eliminating all common allergens) and slowly introduce foods back in one-by-one until you find the culprit.

2.  Sugar

sugar

Remember that whole discussion about your gut’s best friends and the digestion party? Well sugar is like the tequila of the party. It gets all of your gut flora out of control…quickly. Sugar feeds the bad bacteria so that it starts to take over for the good bacteria. Once the balance is upset, it can lead to issues like candida which can lead to extreme fatigue, yeast infections, brain fog and much more.

Not to mention, that without the proper gut balance, your food isn’t being digested properly and you aren’t absorbing many of the nutrients you are eating. Being malnourished leads to even more problems…are you starting to see how everything leads back to gut health?

The problem is not only that sugar is addicting to the brain, but when you have a lot of bad bacteria, they are craving the sugar to stay alive, so it can be hard to rid yourself of sugar cravings once the issue has started. Proliferating good bacteria by eating a lot of fermented foods and probiotics may help as well as going through a sugar detox program or supplementing with certain herbs. (If you need help with either, contact me for a free 15 minute consultation and let’s get you off of that sugar cycle)

3.  Fake Sweeteners

If you are looking for a no calorie alternative to sugar, please look at natural alternatives like stevia (made from grinding up a leaf), rather than sweeteners like Splenda, Sweet & Low, Equal, etc. There are a number of studies that warn of the dangers of many artificial sweeteners as well as many reports of the long term effects on the digestive system, hormones and the brain, and there is still not sufficient studies done on the safety of long term use for all of them. I won’t get into the details, but think about it…if it’s made in a lab, then your body isn’t recognizing it as food.

Please, please, please….Just. Dont.

4. Stomach Infections

Remember that time you went to Mexico and came back with an unwanted friend? Well sometimes our bodies kill the bacteria or parasite using our own immune system and stomach acid. Unfortunately, many times our bodies do not kill it, and our digestive systems are never the same. Once a bug has made a home in your body, it can upset the microbiome or cause leaky gut which then can lead to undigested food particles making their way to places they shouldn’t be (also causing additional food intolerances and hormone imbalances).

Many times when I work with clients who have digestive issues, they can trace them back to a moment in time, usually when they were traveling or were sick because they never actually killed the bug (yes, sometimes this is months or YEARS later). If you ever had a stomach bug and suffer from digestive problems, you may need to take herbal supplements to help kill the bug, avoid foods that will further exacerbate the infection, and strengthen your digestive system and immune system to help fight it.

5. Antibiotics

Ever had the problem of using antibiotics for a UTI and ending up with a yeast infection (candida)? There’s a reason for this. Antibiotics usually do a good job of killing the bad bacteria, BUT, they also kill the good bacteria. They are like the police of the party. Once they get in there, it’s over. So after a round of treatment, they leave your digestion party empty, and many times the bad bacteria are the first ones to come back and get it started up again.

This is why it is crucially important to supplement with probiotics and fermented foods before, during and after antibiotic treatments.

There are also a plethora of natural treatments and ways to fight infections by strengthening the body’s immune response instead of relying on antibiotics. Herbs like Bee Propolis, Echinacea, Goldenseal and Oil of Oregano are prime examples of natural remedies, and when paired with proper diet will not only kill the bacteria, but also strengthen the body and digestive system. It’s a matter of taking a holistic approach and looking at the whole body rather than just treating one symptom.

Don’t get me wrong, antibiotics have a time and place where they are absolutely necessary, and please don’t use any of this information against your doctors orders. Unfortunately, our medical system has started overprescribing them for ailments that would normally clear up on their own or for non-bacterial infections, and it’s wreaking havoc on our digestive tracts. Not to mention that the bacteria start becoming resistant to the antibiotics and become stronger and harder to kill, and then you end up with a long term infection or have candida take over.

pills

6. Painkillers

Studies show that painkillers (yes, even a simple ibuprofen) damages the stomach and small intestine leading to leaky gut and can also eventually lead to ulcers.

Again, there is a time and place when painkillers are necessary. If you’ve just had a big surgery or are in a serious accident, they may be the only thing that makes the pain tolerable.

But if you are getting headaches, maybe start looking at why you are getting the headache instead of popping a pain killer. Are you dehydrated? Did you get enough sleep? Are you eating something that didn’t agree with you?

You may think popping a pain pill is harmless, but it’s not. So if it’s not a serious injury, maybe try to get to the cause of the pain, rather than compromising your digestive health.

Hopefully now you understand a little bit about the enemies of the GI Tract and how to avoid them. If you need any additional help, as always, please reach out for a free 15 minute consultation and let’s get you back on track.

Up next, “The Stomach Acid Issue.”

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