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Gastrointestinal tract health

If two thirds of our immune system is in the gut, how healthy is your gastrointestinal tract?

Saul Yudelowitz BSc (Hons)

THE IMPORTANCE OF GASTROINTESTINAL HEALTH

Cleaning up the gastrointestinal tract is imperative in sensitive individuals. Physicians have known for centuries that a well-functioning gastrointestinal tract and digestive system are crucial to good health. When digestion is working optimally, other organs and systems in the body have a better chance of working optimally, as well. This is because the digestive system is responsible for processing the nutrients in our food, which in turn are used for growth, reproduction, development, tissue repair, healing, and for the normal functioning of every organ in the body. Therefore, the digestive system is very much responsible for supporting the health of the body as a whole. In addition to providing fuel for the body through nutrition, the intestinal tract also plays an integral role in the functioning of the immune and nervous systems. This association is often referred to as the “gut-brain connection.”

Signs of Gastrointestinal Disturbances

There are many distinct, recognizable signs of gastrointestinal disturbances, but if the individual is unable to communicate the signs may not be obvious to the caregiver. Some of the signs are:

Abdominal discomfort or cramping (often includes crying, screaming or holding the abdomen)

Constipation, diarrhea, or alternation between the two

Indigestion, bloating, gas

Inadequate digestion evidenced in stools

No formed stools

Inflammation

Yeast or bacterial overgrowth

Serious food sensitivities

When gastrointestinal disorders are suspected, a thorough examination by a gastroenterologist is called for. The evaluation very well may include an endoscopy and biopsy. Based on this evaluation, the physician has many options to help. These options may include:

Prescription anti-fungals, antibiotics, or other drugs

OTC medications or supplements

Special diets including GF/CF or SCD

Probiotics to support good flora and crowd out undesirable organisms

Products that support tissue healing

Digestive enzymes

The Intestinal Immune System

The intestinal tract represents an important barrier between the external world and the internal environment, and there are a number of immune mechanisms built into the gut lining that help ensure that invading organisms from the outside are neutralized before they can do potential damage inside the body. It is postulated that up to 70% of the body’s immune system is associated with the digestive tract. This intestinal immune system is known as Gut-Associated Lymphatic Tissue. When the specialized immune cells that line the digestive tract detect an unknown or possibly harmful substance (called an antigen), they signal the immune system to provide antibodies to help fight these antigens. Another immune defender that is present in the lining of the gut wall is known as Secretory Immunoglobulin A (SIgA). When antigens are present, SIgA can help to trap them in the mucous layer of the intestinal tract, thereby rendering them ineffective. The immune system has an integral involvement with the digestive system, and imbalances of the gastrointestinal tract often occur concurrently with immune dysfunction. Further discussions of the immune system will follow later in this article.

Gastrointestinal Tract: A Top Priority

Because of its involvement in the rest of the body processes, the gastrointestinal tract should be the top priority in getting proper care for sensitive individuals. Without the proper functioning of the GI tract, trying to correct other areas may be futile. Discuss this priority with your physician early in your association. Prior to an examination by a physician and/or a gastroenterologist, one can very safely try a special diet, a comprehensive probiotic or a digestive enzyme to help alleviate gastrointestinal discomforts. Often these interventions improve the quality of life for the individual by improving overall health, gastrointestinal status and discomfort related behavioral issues.

Digestive Function

Closely related and sometimes concurrent with gastrointestinal discomforts are digestive irregularities. These are often present when the gastrointestinal tract is not healthy. The primary function of the digestive tract is to break down the large particles of food that we eat into small molecules that can cross over the intestinal lining, enter the bloodstream, and become fuel for the various metabolic processes in the body. In order to accomplish this function, the intestinal tract is involved in four primary activities:

1. Digestion,
2. Absorption,
3. Assimilation and
4. Elimination.

Digestion is the breakdown of the food particles into usable nutrient forms. Absorption is where those usable nutrients cross the gut wall and pass from the intestine to the bloodstream. Assimilation is utilization of the products of digestion for energy and the body’s metabolic processes, while elimination is, of course, the excretion of the body’s waste products through the intestines and kidneys. Digestion begins in the mouth with salivary secretions, then continues in the stomach where secretions of hydrochloric acid and pepsin form a material called chyme. The pancreas then releases enzymes into the duodenum of the small intestine as the chyme also passes into the duodenum. Digestion and absorption then continues and is essentially completed in the small intestine. The final stage of digestion is completed in the large intestine and colon where waste accumulates and is then eliminated.

Digestive Enzymes

Digestive function irregularities are prevalent in sensitive individuals. The majority of these are the result of the stomach not secreting enough hydrochloric acid or the pancreas not releasing enough pancreatic digestive enzymes. When these situations occur (and they often occur together), supplemental digestive enzymes are often tried to help support the insufficiencies. When we talk about supplementing with digestive enzymes, it is the pancreatic enzymes that we are talking about. These are the enzymes that have specific jobs and act only on specific types of food substrates. When digestive enzyme supplementation is called for or recommended by a health professional, it is imperative that the proper combination of enzymes is chosen so as to address the problems at hand. For example, lipase only digests fats; it does not act on proteins or sugars. Sucrase only digests sugars; it has no effect on fats or proteins. Proteases and peptidases act on protein, casein and gluten -- other enzymes do not.

Digestive Irregularities

There are many recognizable indicators that digestive discomforts are present in an individual. Some of these can be:

Bloating and/or abdominal pain or cramping

Irregular bowel habits or abnormally loose or mushy stools

Constipation, diarrhea, or alternating between the two

Discomfort after eating

Excessive gas

Extreme sensitivity to dairy and grains

Very odorous bowel movements

Undigested food in the stool

Oily, greasy, and/or floating stools

As discussed earlier, a specific enzyme combination must be selected based on an individual’s specific needs. There are many different enzyme products in the marketplace including :

Lipase - addresses fat digestion

Lactase - aids lactose intolerance including casein and gluten

DPPIV (Peptidase) - targets casein and gluten

Multi spectrum enzymes - digest all food groups

Carbohydrate digesting enzymes - address carbohydrates

If you know that a person needs a specific enzyme, such as lipase for fats, you can look for that specific enzyme-containing product. Usually, however, individuals are not sure, in which case a multi-spectrum digestive enzyme would be the product of choice. Multi- spectrum enzyme products help digest all food groups including proteins, fats, starches and other carbohydrates, sugars, celluloses and fiber.

How Long Should the Trial Period be on Enzymes?

Improvements of the digestive symptoms should be quite rapid. If no improvements are noted in about four weeks, supplementation can be stopped.

Probiotics

Often, enzyme insufficiency is accompanied by a poor ratio of gut flora present in the intestinal tract. A healthy intestinal tract normally has a good balance between healthy, desirable flora and unhealthy bacteria or yeast, while a compromised intestinal tract lacks this good balance of flora. In these instances taking a probiotic with the enzymes is a possible solution and helps maximize the enzyme activity. The probiotics are blends of beneficial flora that set up residence in the small intestine and help to crowd out the unwanted organisms. When enzymes and probiotics are taken together, it is recommended that the enzyme be taken at the very beginning of the meal with the probiotic following about one half hour later. When enzymes are not being used concurrently, the probiotic should be taken at the beginning of the meal.

How Long Should the Trial Period be on Probiotics?

The trial period on probiotics should be about two months because it takes time for the organisms to set up residence and begin crowding out the unwanted organisms. As a result, the improvements can be quite gradual and subtle. Improved stools and fewer digestive symptoms should be evident after the trial period.

General Facts About Our Immune System

The immune system is a complex and dynamic network of many soluble components including cells, membranes, and a mini circulatory system separate from blood vessels. These entities all work together to protect us from infection by opportunistic microbes, bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that abound in our environment. The immune system also constantly scans our bodies for any signs of abnormal cell growth. Our body’s first line of defense against unwanted intruders consists of our skin, our body enzymes, such as saliva and stomach acid, and our protective epithelial cells, which line our body’s mucosal surfaces. These physical factors combined with specialized white blood cells make up our innate immune system, which is non-specific and broad- spectrum in nature. More complicated is our body’s adaptive immune system, which is far more sophisticated and deals with specific fragments of any potentially harmful or foreign material. These fragments are called antigens and they are dealt with in the immune system by antigen receptors. Once an antigen receptor adapts to one of these invading fragments, it retains antigenic memory so that it may quickly neutralize that antigen if it invades the body again. There are many specialized white blood cells that work together to coordinate overall immune response. “T” cells are responsible for cellular immunity while “B” cells produce antibodies in response to antigens. Then there are NK – natural killer cells that kill off certain infected targets, granulocytes, which remove bacteria and parasites by releasing toxic compounds, and macrophages that engulf and destroy foreign material. There are two major types of T cells: Th1 and Th2. Th1 cells drive immunogenic responses, while Th2 cells drive antibody production by B cells and are especially important in responding to allergens. Compromised immune systems usually display a Th1 to Th2 cell shift that causes an increase in food and environmental allergies . The success of our immune system relies on an incredibly elaborate and dynamic regulatory/communications network composed of millions of cells and is a sensitive system of checks and balances. Genetic make-up and environmental invasions can result in the immune process going terribly wrong. Serious infections and other health consequences can result.

Signs of Immune Deficiencies

The signs of an immune problem are often quite easy to recognize over time. Persistence of the following conditions are key to suspecting immune deficiencies:

Frequent illness

Continuous food allergies or an increased number of such allergies

Inadequate detoxification as indicated by laboratory testing

Low glutathione levels as indicated by laboratory testing

Impaired methylation

Sensitive individuals are especially prone to immune problems. In the case of children, parents’ observations conveyed to the physician are extremely important in helping the doctor recognize the problem, which is often hard to judge at an office visit. There is a long list of nutritional products that support a healthy immune including :

Zinc

Vitamin A

Vitamin C

Vitamin E

Selenium

Beta Glucan

Coenzyme Q-10 or Idebenone

N-Acetyl Cysteine

Colostrum

Cranberry Extract

Garlic

Olive Leaf

Goldenseal

Reduced L-Glutathione

Dimethylglycine or Trimethylglycine

You may recognize some of the above nutrients as being present in the multi-vitamin/mineral you may be using. To better support a compromised immune system, additional supplementation of the nutrient is recommended. Increasing zinc to 50 mg. daily, vitamin C to 1000-3000 mg. daily, vitamin E to 200-400 IU daily, selenium up to at least 75 mcg. daily, and Coenzyme Q-10 up to 100 mg. daily may be beneficial.

Sleep Issues

Sleep issues in sensitive individuals are not much different from sleep problems in the general population. These can include:

Trouble falling asleep

Periodic night awakenings

Restlessness

Nightmares

It must be remembered, however, that these sleep tendencies could be all or in part due to underlying conditions such as digestive issues, gastrointestinal tract issues such as ulceration, reflux, or inflammation or other causes of pain. The dietary supplements often useful in supporting restful sleep are:

Magnesium

Melatonin

L-Taurine

GABA

Sulfation

The sulfation process is linked to an enzyme system known as phenol sulfotransferase (PST). Normally, PST is involved in a process called sulfoconjugation, whereby a group of potentially harmful chemicals known as phenols are attached to sulfate and thereby eliminated from the body. When there is a deficiency of sulfate in the bloodstream, phenolic compounds may build up in the body, and this in turn can interfere with neurotransmitter function. Sulfate deficiency and the resulting impairment of PST activity may explain some sensitivity reactions to a variety of phenolcontaining foods, such as apples, grapes, chocolate, food colorings, and some herbs and spices. Very sensitive individuals seem to have only about 1/5th of the normal level of sulfate in their bodies, the rest having been excreted excessively in the urine. In addition to the phenolic buildup described previously due to sulfate deficiency, sulfur and sulfate also play other important roles in the body including:

• Detoxification processes

• Releasing certain pancreatic digestive enzymes

• Activating the hormone CCK

Sulfation can often be supported by oral sulfate, topical Epsom salt products, or by giving individuals Epsom salt baths. Magnesium sulfate products and Epsom salt baths are perfectly safe interventions that can be tried at home without concern by simply following the label instructions.

Methylation

Methylation is a series of very important biochemical reactions in the body that are responsible for overall good health. In sensitive individuals, this process is very often lacking to some degree, making these individuals poor methylators. A properly functioning methylation pathway has rewarding health benefits including:

Proper brain function

Healthy detoxification

Proper reproduction

DNA protection

Healthy, normal, non-premature aging process

There are many nutritional supplements that support proper methylation. You should discuss these options with your physician carefully, because each individual is unique and requires a methylation improvement program specifically tailored to his or her requirements. Products your

doctor may use to support the methylation process include:

Methyl Vitamin B-12

Dimethylglycine or Trimethylglycine

Folic or Folinic Acid

Vitamin B-6

SAMe

Selenium

Zinc

Phenol reducers

The methylation pathway is complicated and a physician should be consulted to determine interventions.

BEHAVIORAL CONSIDERATIONS

Behavioral disturbances are very common in diet sensitive individuals. Because each individual is different and displays different behavioral traits, it is challenging to find the right interventions

for a given person. Often, laboratory test results are of no value here because what causes one individual to behave a certain way may have quite a different effect on another. Sometimes doctors and parents are forced to use trial and error evaluations of various interventions until the correct regimen is found for a given patient.

The most common behavioral disturbances involve the following symptoms:

Speech delay or absence of speech

Unable to put words or sentences together

Learning disabilities

Lack of social skills

Lack of eye contact

Aggressive behavior

Passive behavior

Depression

Anxiety

Tics or abnormal neurological responses

The list of supplements and interventions that have been used in dealing with these behavioral issues is long. Some of the more popular ones include:

High B-6/magnesium supplements

High potency multiple vitamins and minerals (some may include higher B-6/magnesium potencies as well)

Dimethylglycine or Trimethylglycine

Taurine

Carnosine

Creatine

Inositol

Omega-3 fatty acids

Cod liver oil

HBOT (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy)

Coenzyme Q-10 or Idebenone

You may have already tried the multi-vitamin/mineral supplementation with high B-6/magnesium as your first intervention so you will have evaluated its effectiveness.

Often lack of eye contact due to insufficient vitamin A in the diet can be improved by cod liver oil, as demonstrated by Dr. Mary Megson of Richmond, Virginia. Generally, a thorough examination by your physician is preferred before any of the above interventions are begun. Other interventions like dimethylglycine or trimethylglycine, HBOT, creatine, carnosine and inositol normally require a physician’s involvement for maximum safety.

Oxidative Stress

Individuals with dietary sensitivities can have elevated oxidative stress. Certain toxins called oxidants enter the body and begin causing oxidative tissue damage known as oxidative stress. These toxins can be in the form of chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, and other environmental pollutants. Some of these cell-injuring oxidants are known as “free radicals.” It is important to minimize oxidative stress damage by consuming antioxidants, which retard the process. Some of these antioxidants include vitamins C, E, and A, selenium, melatonin, carnosine, carnitine, pycnogenol, grapeseed extract and CoEnzyme Q-10. There are laboratory markers that measure levels of antioxidant compounds present in the body. Talk to your doctor about appropriate testing and subsequent supplementation with antioxidants.

TOXIC LOAD/HEAVY METALS

Substantial evidence is emerging linking many medical conditions to negative environmental influences present in our world. Negative environmental factors have been implicated in a myriad of medical irregularities. The frequency of many of these medical conditions is increasing, which leads to further speculation that outside environmental causative factors are involved. Included in the list of environmental insults that can affect disease states are toxic chemicals, heavy metals, PCBs, and pesticides present in the products we use, and contaminants in the air we breathe and the water we utilize and drink.

These environmental pollutants can affect the body in numerous ways. Natural body defense mechanisms such as immune response can be bombarded with the insults, thereby becoming less effective because of the toxic load. Another area of intense research is how environmental factors affect the genetic makeup of an individual. There are many genes in our body that are considered “environmentally responsive,” which means that they can be altered by environmental factors. If you alter a gene’s makeup, the potential exists for changing the normal development of a person. Some of these changes can be immediate and some may take many years to manifest. Depending on which gene is involved, an individual can become vulnerable to changes in metabolic pathways, physical development, immune response, brain development and function, and nervous system development and function.

What Could be Signals of a Toxic Load Burden?

The following symptoms could be present as a result of toxic burden:

Learning or speech difficulties

Lack of social skills

Aggressive behavior

Passive behavior

Poor immune response

Biochemical pathway issues

Minimizing the Toxic Load

Sensitive individuals often have severe toxic burdens. This can be compounded by the fact that a biochemical pathway known as methylation is often compromised. A doctor’s evaluation is needed to determine if this pathway is not working properly. Nutritional interventions can support improvement of this condition. Certain nutrients are considered natural detoxifiers and can help minimize the negative impact of toxic exposures and enhance the body’s natural detoxification process. Examples of such vitamins and minerals are zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium. Other nutritional factors that can be helpful are taurine, N-acetyl cysteine and glutathione. Being selective about the products we use or the foods we eat can greatly influence our toxic load. The FDA has already issued warnings about how

much fish we should eat because of the mercury content. Using other food products or dietary supplements with ultra high purity - such as those with a hypoallergenic designation - is another means of minimizing our toxic load. This is also true for personal care products and cleaning agents we use. And don’t forget about the air we breathe and the water we drink and cook with. The purer our water and air, the less environmental contamination. Numerous air and water filtration products are available to improve air and water purity.

Detox-Aid Advanced Formula

When environmental toxins are encountered by the body, a detoxification process must occur to prevent a toxic overload. In sensitive individuals, the detoxification pathways are often compromised requiring the system to obtain a “boost” from the outside.

How Does Detox-Aid Advanced Formula Work?

As toxins become active in the body, glucuronic acid combines with the toxins to form a non-toxic molecule called a glucuronide which can be excreted into bile, thereby eliminating the toxin. An enzyme called beta-glucuronidase present in the body largely as a by product of intestinal flora can disassemble that non-toxic molecule which then frees up the activated toxin again. Calcium D-glucarate acts to prevent that disassembly process of the glucuronide by becoming D-glucaro-1, 4-lactone, the direct inhibitor of the betaglucuronidase.

Without this inhibition process, the cleaving of the glucuronide would lead to the toxin being reabsorbed by the intestinal mucosa. Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant that increases the formation of the detoxifying glucuronides. Turmeric’s antioxidant properties also aid glutathione in doing its job.

Reduced L-glutathione is required by the body’s cells in order to detoxify.

N-acetyl cysteine provides cysteine that is used in the body to form glutathione, the body’s cell detoxifier. Cysteine is also the major source of taurine that is produced by the body.

Taurine is an essential component of bile formation. Bile flow into the intestinal tract is a major detoxifiction route in the body, along with sweat, urine, breath, hair and nails.

Milk Thistle contains silymarin which is a very powerful antioxidant that supports the protection of cells. It also supports liver function, which is instrumental in body detoxification processes. In human and animal studies, silymarin has exhibited its protective effects.

Olive Leaf Extract for controlling the growth of undesirable intestinal flora that tend to thrive in the presence of sulfur compounds such as glutathione and N-acetyl cysteine.

Selenium is present due to the fact that it is an antagonist toward ingested metals including lead, mercury, aluminum and cadmium.

Heavy Metal Detoxification

Chelating agents should be used only under the supervision of a physician, as laboratory testing must be routinely performed to monitor kidney, liver and cell conditions. You may be in the beginning stages of trying to eliminate toxins that are present in our environment. We should all be doing that. Some will remain, as we still have to eat, breathe and drink to sustain our lives.

BIOCHEMICAL PATHWAYS

Sensitive individuals often exhibit certain tendencies in several biochemical pathways. Each of these individual pathways has a unique purpose and an abnormality can lead to health issues. A description of those pathways most often disrupted follows. als poor methylators. A properly functioning methylation pathway has rewarding health benefits including:

Proper brain function

Healthy detoxification

Proper reproduction

DNA protection

Healthy, normal, non-premature aging process

There are many nutritional supplements that support proper methylation. You should discuss these options with your physician carefully, because each individual is unique and requires a methylation improvement program specifically tailored to his or her requirements. Products your doctor may use to support the methylation process include:

Methyl Vitamin B-12

Dimethylglycine or Trimethylglycine

Folic or Folinic Acid

Vitamin B-6

SAMe

Selenium

Zinc

Phenol reducers

The methylation pathway is complicated and a physician should be consulted to determine interventions.




The information contained in this Newsletter was prepared from medical and scientific sources which are referenced and are believed to be accurate and reliable. The information herein should not be used to treat or to prevent any medical condition unless it is used with the full knowledge, compliance and agreement of your personal physician or other licensed health care professional. Readers are strongly advised to seek the advice of their personal health care professional(s) before proceeding with any changes in any health care program.


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