by Jason Gourlas, PA-C
A leaky gastrointestinal (GI) tract or “gut” may be the root cause of autism, depression, chronic fatigue, allergies and autoimmune diseases. Hippocrates, the father of medicine said, “All diseases begin in the gut.” As we gain more knowledge and catch up to this ancient wisdom, we are beginning to see how right he was.
The gut and why it leaks
The gut is essentially a tube that begins at the mouth and ends at the anus. The lining of the tube is covered with special cells that are bound together tightly and regulate the passage of the gut’s contents into the bloodstream. The GI tract normally keeps toxins, bugs and undigested foods out while allowing nutrients in. If the GI tract becomes inflamed, the cell’s lining can be damaged or killed. When damaged, the gut lets bad things into the body and is not as effective at absorbing the good. Carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals and fats aren’t available for the body to utilize. Nutrient deficiencies and their associated diseases result. The enemies of gut integrity include poor digestion, bacteria, viruses, yeast, parasites, chemicals (including medications), allergens, GMOs and stress.
A problem with wheat
Gluten is a special protein found in wheat. Gluten is a huge problem in people with celiac disease, an inherited, immune-mediated response to a part of the gluten protein known as gliadin. Gluten can inflame the gut for a long time after eating it. However, even those people without celiac disease should be aware of gluten. It has been shown to promote “leakiness” of the gut for about 45 minutes after it is consumed. This becomes a significant problem as today’s wheat (through the process of hybridization and genetic modification) has about 400 percent more gluten than the wheat of just 50 years ago.
Shields are down
When the gut’s defense systems are compromised, toxins, pathogens (bad bugs) and undigested proteins enter the bloodstream. These substances can affect the body directly or cause an immune response. Undigested proteins are recognized by the immune system as foreign invaders, so the body makes antibodies to fight them. Sometimes, these proteins resemble the proteins that comprise joints, the thyroid or other tissues. The immune system then begins to attack these tissues, resulting in autoimmune arthritis, thyroid disease and other health issues. At other times, allergies or sensitivities to foods can result. There are some bacteria in the intestine that have a substance in their cell wall that is a very potent initiator of inflammation. When this substance enters the bloodstream, it can cause inflammation of the brain, resulting in depression and chronic fatigue.
The 4R program for patching the holes
The “4R Program” (Remove, Replace, Repair and Reinoculate) provides a helpful way to remember the steps for healing the gut.
- We need to Remove the agents that caused inflammation and damage in the first place. This entails reducing or eliminating offending foods for a period of time or, in some cases, permanently. We must also avoid allergens and offending medications. We need to get rid of pathogens with either conventional antibiotics or herbal preparations.
- We need to Replace the things that are lacking in the gut, such as stomach acid and digestive enzymes.
- We need to supply the things necessary to Repair the specialized intestinal cells, thus sealing a leaky gut. The preferred energy source for cells of the small intestines is a protein called glutamine; zinc and fish oils are potent anti-inflammatory agents also helpful in replacing the gut’s lining. Some botanical substances are also useful. These include aloe vera, slippery elm and mullein. Bone broths from appropriately raised animals are especially healing.
- Re-inoculation entails adding probiotics (good bacteria and yeast) to the GI tract that crowd out pathogens and protect and nourish the cells of the GI tract.
Jason Gourlas, PA-C, offers free lectures on “Raising Your GIQ!” once a month at Vital Life Wellness Center, located at 2520 Broadway, Suite 100, in San Antonio. Call 210-595-1019 for more information and to RSVP. Gourlas has 22 years of experience in medicine, which includes primary care, emergency medicine, neurotology and surgical critical care in hospital, clinic and military settings. He is board certified through the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, a member of The Institute of Functional Medicine and is a diplomat of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Gourlas also served 15 years in the United States Army. For more information about Vital Life Wellness Center, including information on free seminars, visit www.vitallifewellness.com.