Every time I am about to get sick or eat the wrong foods I get a stitch in my side and sluggish digestion. Almost all of my patients have gut (gastrointestinal) related issues. It could be overall fatigue, weight gain and not feeling good or more severe symptoms from conditions such as depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue to name a few. If the gut is irritated chances are there is an imbalance somewhere else in the body. Since the gut is the pipeline or the garden soil to the rest of the body it makes sense to start there first to evaluate total health.
Sixty to eighty percent of the immune cells line the intestinal tract and communicate with the rest of the body. There are about 3 pounds of good bacteria in the gut which holds ten times more bacteria than is found in the entire body. Gut bacteria has 100-150 more genes than the human body! This means the way we express our genetics, good or bad can be influenced by the health of the gut. Trillions of microorganisms communicate to keep the gut in balance, the immune system in check, and provide essential bio chemicals and nutrients to the whole body.
To have a healthy gut we can take probiotics, eat yogurt and high fiber foods, avoid sugar, to name a few but there are silent influences on the gut not often mentioned by the mainstream media or healthcare professionals. The influences I am talking about are environmental chemicals which are a huge irritant to gut balance. There are approximately 80,000 plus industrial chemicals in the environment and 74 billion pounds of chemicals being imported or produced in the United States everyday. These numbers do not include pesticides, pharmaceuticals, or food additives!
GMOs, genetically-modified foods are a huge source of chemical contamination but we can go into detail another time. BPA’s, food packaging and certain food additives are other sources of gut irritants. Rather than go through the health hazards of chemicals lets just talk about what can be done to stay healthy. The purpose of this blog is to explain the importance of the gut in total health and to offer solutions to keep it strong in a chemically altered environment. Below are a few suggestions.
Cutting down the use of packaged, processed foods will eliminate exposure to GMO’s and many chemicals. It has been estimated that 75 to 80% of all processed foods contain genetically modified ingredients. And, that each United States citizen is consuming on average about a 198 pounds per year, unknowing, of genetically modified ingredients. Other chemicals for example are in processed foods like microwave popcorn bags that contain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which breaks down when the bag is heated. The Environmental Protection Agency says that PFOA is a “likely carcinogen” and is likely to cause cancer in humans.
Becoming GMO free will reduce your exposure to pesticides. The most common GMO foods are corn, canola, soy, cottonseed, sugar beets and beet sugar.3 The GMO Arctic Apples may be in grocery stores as soon as 2014. Sign petitions for banning or at least mandatory labeling of GMO containing foods.
Buying USDA certified Organic produce, dairy, and animal when possible. To largely avoid GMO and pesticides in your food try to eat organic. Avoid the common GMO even if they are organic due to possible cross contamination of crops. Try to find grass fed livestock when possible. Animals are often fed GMO corn, soy, and grains heavy laden with pesticides. Look for grass fed, organic and meats that come from animals that are fed non GMO feed. Check out http://www.localharvest.org/ to find local produce and meat in your area.
Consuming foods and beverages from safe containers and packaging is protection from chemically contaminated foods. Use BPA free plastic or glass to consume your water, and beverages. Look for recycled plastics containers with the numbers 2, 4, or 5 which are safer for food and the environment. Use fresh foods that are not packaged in plastic cling wrap when you can. Buying meats from the butcher in paper is a good idea. Drink coffee and hot beverages from paper and glass rather than Styrofoam.