Irritable bowel conditions like acid reflux, diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, and many more are increasing in numbers and severity. Related autoimmune disorders are also on the rise. Many healthcare professionals agree that damage to the gut flora is the major cause of these problems. In the next several paragraphs, we will identify the top 12 likely causes of a damaged gut flora responsible for the rise in bowel and auto-immune disorders.
The most well known offenders are antibiotics. Too often people think they will do well by merely avoiding prescription antibiotics. But many people unknowingly consume antibiotics daily in their food. Common indirect sources include animal foods such as beef and dairy. In the United States, many farm animals are given antibiotics daily to cope with their deplorable living conditions.
Medications are essentially chemicals and poisons that happen to have side effects. When chemical side effect are discovered that are opposite medical symptoms, new drugs are born. But these chemicals are toxic and may cause ill health and death to your gut flora. Drugs that may damage your gut include pain medications, mood altering drugs, chemotherapy, and many more.
Insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides are intended to kill life. They are primarily used to hinder competition and allow the vegetation to produce more. When we consume these plant foods, these same chemicals continue to kill in our guts. These same plant foods are also fed to farm animals and make their way into animal foods. When we consume animal foods, we may be taking in second hand pesticides that again end up in our guts furthering the damage.
Food manufacturers put chemicals calle “preservatives” in the food to extend the shelf life. The concept is that adding chemicals to the food makes it a poor environment for life forms including bacteria, yeast, and fungus to live. When you ingest these chemicals into your gut, your gut may become a less healthy environment for your normal flora.
5. ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, COLORS, SWEETENERS
Artificial says it all. These are laboratory synthesized substances that ought not be ingested. Chemicals are not food and create a less healthy place for your gut flora to thrive. When your body attempts to break down these chemicals, even worse by-products may be formed.
6. ALTERED FOODS
These include trans-fats and partially hydrogenated oils. Such substances are added to foods for the purpose of increasing the shelf life. That is, they make the food a less suitable place for bacteria, yeast, and fungus to grow. Consuming such “foods” may very well have the same effect in your gut – making it difficult for your flora to thrive.
7. GMO FOODS
We really don’t know the long term damage being done by allowing genetically modified vegetation to take over our planet. The possibilities are just outright scary. But what we do know is that many GMO’s are created to withstand the application of pesticides; that makes it easier for farmers to spray down their crops with chemicals without the fear of killing them.
In some cases, the genetically modified plants seemingly require less chemicals; but that is because the plants were designed to produce their own pesticides. As an example, the BT toxin was bred into corn. BT produces a “sharp” protein. This crystal protein is there to “rupture” the guts and kill the insect. But when we eat these same GMO foods, we are also taking in these same sharp BT toxin proteins. BT is the subject of much attention as one of the primary causes of the rise in “leaky gut syndrome”.
For those that consume animal foods, I once head Jordan Rubin say “You have heard it well said that you are what you eat; but I say, when it comes to animal foods, you are what they ate”. If the animals are consuming chemical laden non-organic GMO foods and you eat the animal foods, then you too are consuming those same chemicals.
8. HALOGENS IN THE WATER
Most people are smart enough to avoid drinking tap water. City water systems contain chlorine and other halogens that are potent anti-bacterials. In fact, as little as 2-3 ppm chlorine in public swimming pools seems adequate kill and prevent harmful bacteria from growing in the pools. Municipal water systems however allow up to 4 ppm chlorine in the water deemed “safe to drink”. Obviously doing so will kill off at least some of your intestinal flora.
A potent neurotoxin, mercury as “Thimersol” has been used in minute quantities as a strong preservative in vaccines. Mercury has also been used historically in dental amalgums. But with the rising awareness of it’s dangers, use in vaccines and dental care is now largely frowned upon. Although not intentionally added to the water system and food supply, mercury has made it’s way into our nutrition. There is a concern over the increasing levels of mercury in the fish and fish oils. Power plants spew out Mercury into the air which ultimately contaminates the worlds food and water supply.
Pasteurization is intended to kill harmful pathogenic bacteria in food and beverages. The problem is it also kills the beneficial bacteria. Eating raw foods may be one of the ways designed to replenish our gut flora. Fermented foods are often started from the natural healthy bacteria that exists on raw vegetation. Live fermented foods are an excellent way to replenish the intestinal flora. But pasteurization kills the good bacteria that is there to protect the food and replenish our gut.
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Radiation is another form of pasteurization. However, radiation may be much more damaging with the potential to damage the DNA of the food that it is passing through.
As a bonus side note, with the not so recent Fukushima disaster, their is concern that radionuclides are making their way into the U.S. food supply at levels that pose a public health concern. Radioactive materials are continuing to spew out of damaged facilities and may already be affecting the entire globe. There are reports that the fallout is now showing up even in the grass of US farmlands. Even those purchasing grass fed beef and dairy from USDA certified organic farms may be consuming unacceptable levels of radiation from the animal foods they consume.
12. HIGH PRESSURE PROCESSING
A newer form of pasteurization, high pressure processing, appeals to the raw foodist. That is, no heat is used, only pressure. The food is put into a sealed pressure chamber that imparts pressure as high as 87,000 pounds per square inch to kill life forms that may be present. The pressure essentially explodes any life inside the chamber. But like radiation, there is concern over the amount damage to the nutrients. HPP products are no longer “live foods”, however HPP is probably less damaging than heat processes.
* ANTIBACTERIAL SOAPS AND LOTIONS
Although not ingested, the skin is a permeable organ. Once thought to be a barier to the outside world, even drug companies are using the skin as a delivery system for drugs. Nicotine patches, analgesic creams, and hormone replacement roll-ons are a few common examples of chemicals delivered through the skin. Just like these drugs, anti-bacterial chemicals put on the skin can make their way into the bloodstream and may affect the ability of the gut flora to flourish.
* PRESERVATIVES IN COSMETICS
Chemical preservatives like parabens and other formaldehyde doning preservatives used to make cosmetics shelf stable have little regulation by the FDA since they are not ingested. But like antibacterials, these chemicals also make it into your body where they can alter the environment of your intestinal flora.
Certainly this is not an all inclusive list of the things that are killing our guts. We could discuss how sugar feeds yeast and furthers the imbalance. We could discuss high fructose corn syrup. It seems there is no end to how far we could go in identifying things we eat that do not support healthy digestion. The astounding facts are that most of these things really didn’t exist just 100 years ago. It only makes sense that these are contributing to the rise of irritable bowel diseases and that the cure is in the prevention. Avoiding the offenders and consuming a natural healthy diet of foods grown and raised the way our creator intended may be the key to a healthy gut and vitality.
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