Most chronic health problems start in the gut. A lot of contemporary humans are overweight, chronically inflamed, tired, and metabolically deranged and have a less than stellar libido and mental health. This isn’t surprising, seeing as a lot of contemporary humans eat a species-inappropriate diet and harbor an imbalanced, unhealthy gut microbiota. Many are also psychologically stressed and physically inactive, something that contributes to causing gut dysfunction and disease.
Unfortunately, this is something mainstream medicine hasn’t recognized. The gut is not only not prioritized by most mainstream physicians; it’s often completely overlooked. This is extremely concerning, seeing as it’s impossible to prevent or treat the chronic ills that run rampant in modern societies if one doesn’t pay any attention to what goes on in people’s gastrointestinal systems.
If your gut is healthy, then chances are the rest of your body is in good shape as well
The list of diseases and health problems that gut health and nutrition have been shown to play a central role in is endless. It includes everything from hypertension to chronic fatigue to autism to colon cancer to heart disease to acne vulgaris to depression (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10). It’s a lot more challenging to find a dozen ills that aren’t related to the gut than it is to find a dozen ones that are. This fact – that virtually all diseases are tightly linked with the gut and/or microbiome – has led some researchers to propose that it’s time for a paradigm shift in medicine (11).
When we think about it, it’s not really surprising that the gut is the ground zero for human health. Not only is most of the human immune system located in and around the gut, but the gut is also where nutrients are absorbed and where most of the cells that make up the human microbiota are found.
Unlike many other parts of the human body, the gut – in its totality – is extremely malleable. The microbial communities it harbors are in some ways the gatekeepers of the body. They help control the permeability of the intestinal wall and which compounds that are allowed to pass into the host’s circulatory system. They don’t do so out of kindness, but rather because man-microbe co-evolution has forged close, mutually beneficial relationships between man and many different microorganisms.
The societal ramifications of microbiome destruction
Seeing as so much of what goes on in the human body occurs either partly or wholly as a consequence of what happens in the gut, it’s not unthinkable that the workings of our guts greatly contribute to shaping the workings of our modern societies. By rapidly changing the conditions we live under we have altered the environment of the human gut. We’ve lost touch with old microbial allies and developed new relationships with some less-than-friendly bacteria (16, 17). This has undoubtedly contributed to causing various problems that are indirectly related to people’s health and mental functioning. It has not only contributed to driving up our society’s health care cost, but it has likely caused more crime, hate, and social injustice.
It may sound crazy, but widespread gut dysfunction and consumption of unhealthy food is likely a major underlying cause of several of the social problems that plague our modern societies. Hence, it goes without saying that it’s important that microbiome restoration and nutritional counseling become a prioritized part of modern health care.
Conventional medicine has unfortunately been slow to absorb the science on the human microbiome
A massive amount of research on the human gut as it relates to health and disease has emerged in the scientific literature over the past couple of decades. The problem patients face at the moment is that this research hasn’t yet been translated into clinical practice. Fecal microbiota transplants have indeed been incorporated into the treatment program of some illnesses; however, in general, it’s safe to say that the gut doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.
A lot of patients who frequent modern medical clinics and hospitals undoubtedly have a damaged gut and would have benefited greatly from targeting this issue via diet and lifestyle interventions. Unfortunately, pharmaceuticals – a cornerstone of conventional medicine – don’t fix people’s guts. Typically, they merely block or suppress symptoms of poor nutrition and microbiome dysfunction.
On a more positive note, it appears that more and more health professionals are acknowledging that many diseases can and should be treated through the gut. It’s becoming increasingly recognized that the longstanding practice of separating the human body into distinct parts and treating each part in isolation is fallacious. It fails to account for the fact that the human body is a complex system composed of many interconnected parts.
Many gut healing programs likely do more harm than good
One of the key messages I’m trying to get across with my writings on this site is that the gut, with all its microbes, immune cells, and circulating nutrients, is at the center of the human superorganism. It controls and directs much of what goes on in the human body.
Another thing I’m trying to get across is that the primary goal of any gut healing program should be to repair and restore normal functioning of the gut and its resident microbiota. This in turn, will contribute to enhancing the health of the whole body. I think it’s a big mistake to chronically ingest large quantities of probiotics, use a myriad of different supplements, or otherwise bombard the intestine with evolutionarily supernormal concentrations of certain bacteria, nutrients, and/or herbs.
This is where I think many gut healing regimens miss the mark. Instead of focusing on repairing the gut and the body’s built-in defense and immune systems, they involve long-term use of a variety of dietary supplements and herbs that are supposedly beneficial, gut health wise. I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about the workings of the human gut; however, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that the human body is a “fine-tuned” system that was shaped over evolutionary time. It doesn’t need a constant influx of man-made nutritional products to work well. It not only doesn’t need it; it doesn’t have the experience to safely handle it.
Much of what goes on in your body occurs as a consequence of what happens in your gut. If you are very overweight, feel mentally foggy, have low sex drive, are chronically fatigued, and/or suffer from a chronic illness of some sort, then chances are your gut is in a sorry state. By changing your diet and taking steps to gradually repair your microbiota, you may find that your health and well-being significantly improve.