Imagine that you are planning to plant a garden in springtime. You clear the soil of grass and weeds, sift out the rocks, fold in some manure or composted material to enrich the soil. You then plant seeds for squash, peppers, maybe some heirloom carrots. You water the garden and then wait for the seeds to sprout, hoping for a glorious bounty of veggies in a couple of months.
But you forgot that there are raccoons, rabbits, and deer in the neighborhood, creatures eager to eat your work. Sprouts come up, leaves, then young vegetables—only to disappear overnight after a raccoon or rabbit feast.
So it goes with the garden you call bowel flora: you prepare the “soil,” plant the seeds (probiotics and fermented foods), then “water” and “fertilize” the garden (prebiotic fibers). You don’t have raccoons or rabbits in your intestinal tract, of course, but you have many other factors that, in effect, wreak havoc on your intestinal garden of microorganisms that protect you and your health. The factors that disrupt intestinal microorganisms are not herbivorous creatures but take the form of:
- Chlorinated/fluoridated drinking water—Municipal drinking water is chlorinated (and, more commonly today, chlorinated with the more persistent chloramine, not chlorine, that cannot be boiled off) to prevent bacterial and protozoal diseases, fluoridated on the (faulty) assumption that it prevents tooth decay, but these two potent halogenated antimicrobials also disrupt the microorganisms in your bowels.
- Prescription antibiotics—The oodles of antibiotics most of us have taken over the years leave a virtually indelible mark on bowel flora species sufficient, for instance, to increase potential for adult type 2 diabetes and obesity from antibiotics taken as children.
- Herbicides/pesticides—Herbicide/pesticide residues have consequences and are present at concentrations greater than agribusiness and the farming industry are willing to admit. Tylosin, oxytetracycline, and chlortetracycline, for example, are adding to livestock feed to hasten growth, while other antiobiotics are administered to treat common infections such as mastitis and skin infections from living in manure-filled paddocks, all part of modern dairy and livestock high-volume commercial production.
- Wheat and grains—Those of you who have said goodbye to all wheat and grains and then re-experienced a re-exposure (intentional or inadvertent) understand the gastrointestinal havoc that results from gliadin, gliadin-derived opiate peptides, wheat germ agglutinin, D-amino acids, phytates, and myriad other bowel toxins that are present in the seeds of grasses that are largely indigestible by non-ruminant humans. Dysbiosis (disruptions of bowel flora) is therefore the rule with grain consumption, as they are so incredibly disruptive on the mucous lining of the intestinal tract, bowel flora (e.g., wheat germ agglutinin that blocks the digestive hormone cholecystokinin and thereby inhibits gallbladder and pancreatic digestive functions), and cause gastrointestinal inflammation. Conventional advice to eat more “healthy whole grains” coupled with food manufacturers’ enthusiasm for the cheap filler of grains have amplified this effect.
- Soft drinks and other sugary foods—Sugar overload, aspartame, acesulfame, sucralose, and saccharine all lead to changes in bowel flora composition that encourage obesity, type 2 diabetes, and autoimmune conditions.
- Prescription drugs—We know that drugs that increase stomach pH, i.e., block stomach acid, such as Prilosec and Protonix, also disrupt bowel flora—dysbiosis is virtually guaranteed over time. There are probably many other drugs that alter bowel flora, but the drug industry releases drugs but almost never tests whether bowel flora is impacted by these drugs. So we are largely in the dark on this issue. But it is probably a lot worse than we know.
- Emulsifying agents—Emulsifying agents are added to processed foods to cause fats and other components, such as proteins or water, to stay mixed or suspended. You therefore find emulsifiers in ice cream, peanut butter, chocolate, and many other processed, especially low-fat, foods. Emulsifiers not only emulsify food, but also emulsify your protective mucous lining in the gastrointestinal tract. The mucous lining modulates bacterial movement and bacterial composition and can play a role in having or not having abnormal intestinal permeability of the sort that can lead to autoimmune conditions. This issue seems to be one of potency with more potent synthetic emulsifiers being the most offensive: polysorbate 80, carageenan, lecithin.
- Genetically-modified foods—The most common genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), glyphosate-resistant and Bt toxin-containing, both exert antimicrobial effects in addition to their intended effects. The full bowel flora-implications of GMOs are still under investigation, but understand that Big Agribusiness makes it their business to downplay, not test, even conceal such data, as billions of dollars in seed and farm chemicals sales are at stake.
This is a partial list, as we swim in a virtual sea of industrial chemicals, herbicides, antibiotic residues, and tainted foods, but these are the biggies.
What steps can you take to remove these “raccoons” messing up your precious garden? Let’s take them logically, one by one:
- Filter drinking water—preferably with a reverse-osmosis and/or charcoal filter, while avoiding chlorinated/fluoridated drinking water as often as possible.
- Only take antibiotics when you must—and avoid taking them for trivial reasons
- Select organic foods whenever possible—This avoids GMOs, as well as most herbicides and pesticides.
- Eat no wheat nor grains—Wheat Belly followers already knew this!
- No soft drinks or other sugary foods, nor those sweetened with the synthetic sweeteners aspartame, sucralose, or saccharine
- Get off prescription drugs—The Wheat Belly lifestyle is incredibly effective in helping you accomplish this. (You may need, of course, to work with a willing healthcare practitioner to get off the drugs in a safe manner.)
- Minimize synthetic emulsifiers—Those of you who avoid most processed foods already do so. Rely on real, single-ingredient foods that do not require such additives.
Once you’ve eliminated or minimized these dietary “raccoons,” efforts to cultivate your garden of bowel flora will yield better results and maintain them, all part of our effort to generate better health and control over weight.