Our gastrointestinal (GI) tracts are highly evolved, complex “root systems”, extracting nutrients from the food passing through our bodies.
The Human “Root System”
The lining of your GI tract even looks and acts like a root system. Its surface is enormous, equal in area to a tennis court or two, because of numerous finger-like projections (called villi) and hair-like projections covering the villi (called microvilli). Like the bumps on a bath towel, these increase absorption. Damage and inflammation wearing down the villi and microvilli can greatly diminish the GI tract’s surface area—from two tennis courts to an average bedroom closet!
If a plant’s root system is damaged, other sites far from the roots—such as the leaves or stems—will also suffer, compromising the plant’s ability to extract nutrients. The human “root system” and other parts of the body are similarly compromised if the GI tract is injured.
A healthy GI tract also depends on having the proper bacteria in the “soil” for the “roots” to work properly. Gardeners know that putting decaying fertilizer (full of bacteria) into the soil helps the root system flourish. In fact, our “roots” completely depend on a mutually beneficial relationship with the healthy bacterial flora in our intestines.
Mold and parasites in our “soil” also adversely affect our health, just as unhealthy organisms in the soil damage the roots of plants. Understanding the basics about growing healthy plants and gardens helps us appreciate how the GI tract heals.
The healing of the gut (intestines) is a simple process, but months or even a few years of persistent effort may be needed to complete the healing process. A simple acronym, The Five R’s, is helpful in the understanding of gut healing.
Get your gut back on track with The Five R’s
1) Remove unfriendly bowel flora, which make toxins or bad stuff, usually with the help of collostrum antibody supplements, herbal and homeopathic remedies, and sometimes medication.
2) Reinnoculate friendly flora, the acidophilus and bifidus and other good flora, which make good stuff (nutrients).
3) Replenish the digestive enzymes, which are required to break down food properly into smaller, absorbable molecules.
4) Repair the gut mucosa (leaky gut), the lining of the intestines which can be damaged and allow undigested food particles and toxins to pass through.
5) Restore liver detoxification, the waste disposal factory of the body.
Bad germs are bad because they manufacture bad stuff or toxins which can damage the semi-permeable lining of the intestines causing “leaky gut,” which potentially floods the body with bad stuff (toxins), and which then interferes with healthy cellular functioning in the brain and other parts of the body. Also, damage to the intestinal lining can cause malabsorption, preventing sufficient good stuff or nutrients from getting into the body.
Integrative and Functional Medicine practitioners often stress gut detoxification because toxins from this source can cause various medical and psychiatric diseases, maladies, illnesses, symptoms and disorders, either directly by getting into the body and brain or by damaging the semi-permeable lining of the intestines.
I often encounter patients who have been provided with gut or gastrointestinal support, which had only attended to one or a few of the 5 R’s. They are often discouraged and believe that chronic gastrointestinal problems are incurable. In my experience, if all 5 R’s are attended to diligently, virtually all chronic gastrointestinal problems, like irritable bowel, as well as many immune problems like allergies and autoimmune conditions, resolve completely.
All healing in the mind or body fundamentally hinges on GI healing, therefore it is important to stress that this aspect of treatment is of critical importance for any recovery or wellness plan.
Charles Gant, MD, PhD, served as medical director at Tully Hill Hospital, where he achieved a remarkable 83 percent success rate in ending patients' addictions. Dr. Gant has a private practice in Washington, DC, and is author of End Your Addiction Now (Square One Publishers, 2010). Learn more about him at www.CEGant.com.