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5 Common Causes of GI Issues

Gut Health Gut Health

By Mark Timon, founder of Vibrant Health, Connecticut

1. Stress

Biochemical “stress,” a term coined by Hans Selye, is not just experienced during major events on the order of serious disease, injury or major surgery. As Selye pointed out, “No one can live without experiencing some degree of stress all the time. Crossing a busy intersection, exposure to a draft, or even sheer joy, are enough to activate the body’s stress mechanisms to some extent.” Stress causes the release of the brain’s stress hormone, corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF). CRF influences the gastrointestinal tract, endocrine glands that control metabolism, and the immune system as well as other systems within the body.

Signals from CRF between the brain and the digestive tract affect whether we feel discomfort or pain, and the way our bowels function. For some people, the stress response is too powerful, creating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

2. Pharmaceutical Therapy

Side effects of pharmaceuticals are numerous and multifaceted. Damage to the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract, which is only one cell thick, is common. Over-prescription of pharmaceutical drugs by beleaguered physicians squeezed between pharmaceutical sales people and patients demanding immediate relief is another logical suspect contributing to the increased incidence of bowel disorders. It is estimated that some form of bowel distress bothers about one out of every ten people.

3. Grain consumption

Human biochemistry adapted to an ancient diet in pre-agricultural days that was devoid of grains. Thus, proper metabolic processes and feedback control mechanisms did not evolve to adequately manage the presence of large quantities of starch, their breakdown sugars or gluten. Widespread consumption of grains over the last 12,000 to perhaps 23,000 years ago, has not served humankind well. Consumption of grain brought diminished physical stature, osteoporosis, dental decay, heart disease, smaller brains, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, autoimmune diseases and cancer. Starch and sugars delivered to the gut by grain consumption expands populations of pathogenic bacteria while certain anti-nutrients in some of the grains inhibit the absorption of essential, health-supporting micronutrients, e.g. calcium, magnesium, zinc, etc.

Gluten and modern grains fail to be adequately digested in the digestive tracts of roughly three-fourths of Americans walking our streets today. The undigested gliadin particles from gluten can serve as inflammatory agents over a broad spectrum of intensity in susceptible individuals. For some, the damage is slight, for others the damage can be severe, leading to “leaky gut” syndromes through which large, potentially allergenic polypeptides (complex protein clusters) can pass into circulation. Subsequent metabolic disruptions caused by the presence of these foreign substances can lead to a host of diseases, not the least of which could be an autoimmune response taking the form of chronic ulcerative colitis.

4. GMOs

Agricultural giants modify food crops for resistance to pests and diseases. Some of the genetic modifications have been shown in laboratory feeding studies to have horrendous effects, creating rampant growth of tumors in test animals or killing them outright. We hope that those dangerous genetic modifications have not made it into the seeds marketed to farmers. We rather hope that more benign genetic modifications are the only ones deemed worthy to be taken to market by Monsanto and its compatriots. But we cannot really be sure because there is no federal oversight controlling the safety testing of GMO’s in food. The responsibility for safety lies entirely with the corporation creating the genetically modified organisms. This means we are the ultimate test subjects for GMO’s. At this point, it is only known for certain that increased use of GMO food crops has led to a corollary increase in strange allergic reactions among consumers of those foods. Damage to the delicate lining of the gastrointestinal tract can be expected.

5. Processed Foods

As each decade goes by, Americans consume more processed foods. Epidemiological studies conducted by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) verify that micronutrient intake per capita has gradually decreased over time. Healthy tissue cannot be maintained without adequate intake of vitamin C, protein, zinc, calcium, polyphenols and other nutrients. In addition, processed foods often contain food additives and modified forms of gluten that can be irritants to the gastrointestinal tract. Genetic integrity of cells lining the intestinal tract and deeper within the body also cannot be sustained without sound micro-nutrition that goes well beyond the presence of simple vitamins and minerals. Polyphenols from plants play a major role in preserving and protecting cellular DNA from oxidative damage and genetic anomalies that occasionally occur during cell replication.

The above environmental and dietary factors may in their own right lead to the increasing incidence of irritable bowel disorders, and can certainly do so when combined with an individual’s susceptible inherited genetic script.