The gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the stomach and intestine is extremely complex, and is now thought by scientists to be our body’s second brain. The surface lining of the GI tract includes numerous bacteria, immune and nerve cells that largely function to protect us against toxins and foreign invaders. In fact, many researchers argue that the gastrointestinal tract makes up between 80 and 90 percent of our body’s entire immune system.
If you have celiac disease or another autoimmune or gastro disease, gluten sensitivity, or any type of food intolerance for that matter, this gut-immune link could not be more important. It highlights the fact that what we consume plays an even more integral role in our overall health than we may think. Those with food sensitivities and allergies, including anaphylaxis, are believed to have a somewhat weaker immune system. It makes sense, as food allergies and chronic diseases in North America are both dramatically on the rise. We are becoming more and more allergic to our food, and our food is making us more and more sick.
In celiac disease, which is autoimmune, the theory is that gluten is signaled by the body as being foreign and an immune response takes place. As a result, the absorptive surface of the small intestine gets damaged. The majority of people with celiac disease never completely heal and they deal with many health struggles that can linger long after diagnosis and commitment to a gluten-free diet. Of course, that begs the question, why? Theories include unknown cross contamination, the possible need to go grain-free, and the result of what we are exposed to when we lack a clean diet, such as genetically modified foods, pesticides, antibiotics, additives, refined sugar and other toxic chemicals.
It seems that those of us with food intolerances are at a disadvantage in comparison to our non-food-intolerant peers when it comes to our GI tract and our immune system as a whole. But all hope is not lost! There are many ways we can improve the health of our GI tract, thus improving our immune system. For example, stick to your special diet diligently. Sometimes we need added support, and a coach can be very helpful. Make clean, healthy food choices daily, including an abundance of whole and juiced veggies (particularly green ones) for that much-needed fibre, and choose lean proteins and heart-healthy fats. Make sure you’re drinking enough water—I like to add organic lemon juice to hot and cold water for its many health benefits (including kidney stone prevention). Consume organic when you can. Consider probiotics, which promote beneficial gut bacteria and maintain the integrity of the GI tract lining.
Spring Cleansing: Now that spring is here, you may want to consider a cleanse (talk to your holistic health provider to find out what is right for you), which can be a powerful, enjoyable, natural way to clear out and clean up the GI tract and give our immune system a healthy boost. There are many different kinds of cleanses, such as the anti-candida cleanse, parasite cleanse, kidney cleanse, gallbladder cleanse, liver cleanse, and various juice cleanses.
How I Cleanse: Personally, I try to complete a one or two-day organic juice cleanse about twice each year—I enjoy kicking off both spring and winter with one. I try to stay away from juices high in sugar and I will add a touch of of organic nuts and seeds with each juice to prevent hypoglycemia.
Cleansing can offer numerous health benefits. Here are a few:
Slow the Aging Process
There is a widely accepted free-radical theory of aging/disease among the scientific community. Free radicals are unstable atoms or molecules that cause damage to our body over time; you can think of them like rust on a car. When we detoxify and increase our antioxidant intake (which fights free radicals) by cleansing, we rid our bodies of free radicals, thus slowing the aging or “car rusting” process.
Cleansing done properly can lead to healthy weight loss as we eliminate refined sugar, simple carbohydrates and unhealthy fats from our diet. The experience can lead to healthier dietary choices.
Certain cleanses, such as juice cleansing, provide us with an abundance of nutrients and stimulate our body to eliminate waste and toxins. Water is the main ingredient of every fluid in our body and is involved in just about every function of our body. When we cleanse, we take in more water, which supports our bodily functions.
North Americans are over-consumers of processed, fatty, high-caloric, sugary foods, which ultimately leads to chronic degenerative disease, such as type 2 diabetes and cancer. Cleansing often helps us become more aware of our eating habits, and encourages us to change them for the better over time.
When our diet is “off” so is our body, and as a result, it cannot function optimally. Each of our organs strives to function in a state of homeostasis, or balance. A healthy, clean and nutritionally balanced diet helps to support this in every way, such as blood sugar and blood pressure. Cleansing helps rid our bodies of toxins like refined sugar and salt, which can negatively affect those levels.
If you would like my advice about cleansing options that are best for you and your unique needs, get in touch with me by sending me a message here.
What are your thoughts about cleansing?
Originally published in GustoTV.com, January, 2016.