Health Starts in the Gut
“All disease begins in the gut.” -Hippocrates
The body is populated nearly everywhere with colonies of diverse bacterial microbes. Our focus will be the trillions of bacteria residing within the digestive system called the gut microbiome. These ‘gut bugs’ are also referred to as flora and microbiota. They are your friends and their populations must be kept healthy, robust, and in balance. The gut microbiome is a fascinating and complex environment of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and microbes that reside along the intestinal tract and influences the health and function of every organ in the body including the brain. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride has stated “about 90% of all cells in the human body are in our gut flora,” leaving the other 10% to make up our human cells. We are truly more bacteria than human and it is essential to keep all the different species living in harmony.
The development and colonization of the gut microbiome begins in the womb. Genetics, mode of delivery, medications, diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors influence the microbial environment right from the beginning of life and continues through adulthood. “A well-functioning gut with healthy gut flora holds the roots of our health. And, just as a tree with sick roots is not going to thrive, the rest of the body cannot thrive without a well-functioning digestive system.” – Dr. Campbell-McBride.
A flourishing and balanced bacterial ecosystem in the gut is just as important as having a strong and well-functioning intestinal mucosal barrier known as the gut wall or gut lining. The gut wall is responsible for keeping pathogens from entering the blood stream and moving to vital tissues and organs. At the same time, the gut wall must identify the right nutrients to pass through and transport to other areas of the body. The gut wall is comprised of epithelial cells coated with a thick layer of “mucous” that provides a protective barrier against invaders, undigested food, toxins, and parasites. Immune cells and bacteria produce antibiotic and antiviral-like substances at the surface of the gut lining to neutralize any potential toxins or foreign invaders. Gut bacteria digest food to provide essential nutrients to the gut wall to keep the physical barrier strong and functioning properly. When gut flora are compromised, it leaves the gut wall vulnerable and potentially “leaky.”
Leaky gut refers to the breakdown and dysfunction of the gut lining, leaving “cracks” in between the cell walls for undigested food particles and potential toxins to leak through into the lymph fluid and blood stream, resulting in an immune response and inflammation. Leaky gut has been associated with autoimmunity, digestive conditions including Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, skin disorders, mood disorders, and ADHD, and many other underlying health conditions.
“The cell regeneration process in the gut lining is ruled and orchestrated by the beneficial microbes which normally live on its surface. Without their presence there can be no healing.” The GAPS Diet provides the probiotic microbes and essential nutrients to heal and seal the gut lining and rebalance the entire microbial ecosystem in the intestines.