Sometimes it comes as a shocker to re-visit very old logic and find that, try as we might, we really cannot escape what our ancestors knew. Modern medicines and surgery, techniques and testing cannot find us any other way to create and maintain health than what has always been done. There, in the gut tube, still lies the answers to health and disease in the vast majority of cases. What we can do today, though, is rationally explain why what our ancestors instinctively knew is true. And we can use those wisdoms to bring about our healing.
In the Essene Gospel, book one, Jesus apparently appears as a physician, presumably before the three-year ministry found in the Bible. There he teaches many things about diet and healing, but one thing sticks out as particularly relevant to this discussion. He had those who would listen do water enemas and fast to rest and heal. Healing went from the gut out to the rest of the body.
The gut is also a primary matter when it comes to embryology. While we developed in the womb, we first developed a gut with an exit. This would become our whole GI tract eventually. It began with a special tube that every other specialized tissue would be connected to. These connections formed reflex zones on the gut for life (an area where the type of stimulation there affects the corresponding organs or tissues, however distant) and established the gut’s predominance as the organ of importance. This relationship sometimes makes the unhealthy, irritated or toxic gut the cause of vision problems, foggy thinking, arthritis and all sorts of degenerative diseases that may settle in one or many areas.
As an adult, the same story is retold. The Bible says the Lord has bowels full of mercy. I am not sure if we fill ours with things quite so healing, emotionally, physically, mentally, socially or spiritually. As adults, we discover that what is in our bowels matters immensely. In the gastrointestinal tract, 80% of the body’s energy resources are used. In the GI tract, two-thirds of the body’s immune system operates and resides. In the GI tract half of the body’s nervous system resides. The GI tract receives most of the body’s blood by volume.
It is safe to say that what happens in the GI tract does not stay in the GI tract, but literally becomes the standard for all body operations. If we are depleted, it could be because even a small percentage increase in energy demands by the gut results in a serious reduction of the remaining 20% that is used for other daily activities. No one is well without a well gut. There is no getting around it.
So now that we have this information, it follows that we should discuss how to get and keep the gut healthy for life. We need to know the role of diet and what we should think about the gut in order to be well.
First of all, it is important to know that the gut is made of tissue that regenerates quickly. It is covered with the same type of tissue that covers the body as skin. This tissue is called Labile which means that it rebuilds itself constantly. Like the skin, if things are too rough, or if there is too much irritation, it may not be able to rebuild, but the moment the irritation or insult is gone, repair begins to happen at a very fast rate. This is good news for the gut in us!
Of course, we must think in terms of reducing the burden on the gut. This could take the form of water fasting, juice fasting, herbal tea fasting and/or fresh fruit fasting. Some people will get enough rest from raw food diets.
Someone is probably thinking, “Wait a minute, isn’t raw food going to be more work for the colon?” The answer is yes, but it is like working out doing something you love, whereas what most people are doing with their diets is more like entering alternately a war zone and then a concentration camp! A healthy, enjoyable workout in peaceful settings is a tremendous respite from that.
This begs the question: what are the real stress sources for our guts? The answer is processed food. This food goes in, and unnaturally broken down particles enter the blood, causing an immune reaction. Sometimes the food itself (in the case of sugar and refined sweeteners), and sometimes particles breaking off the food (as with bread and dairy) are potent pro-inflammatory particles! This situation brings on allergies, inflammation, irritation and subsequent exhaustion and imbalance. When you eat bread, starch, sugar, processed food, dairy, preservatives, chemical flavorings/colorings or very much animal flesh, you are taking your gut into a war zone. When you eat raw non-starchy vegetables and fruit primarily, and seeds and nuts secondarily, you are taking your body to a gym to work out and be healthy. It is very different.
A few foods, grains, beans and animal flesh, need to be discussed a little more. What you should know is that the human body is designed to rotate food with the seasons. It was never designed to consume the same 13 foods 365 days per year for a lifetime (statistically it is about that many different foods people eat). Eating produce seasonally can still be done and variety is very easy to get. The price even helps you eat seasonally.
However, there are some foods (grains, beans, some seeds and nuts) that probably always were good storage foods for times of shortage. These are great blessings from heaven. They are nutrient dense foods and very storage friendly. They can be sprouted and brought to life (the first mistake we make today–we don’t sprout) so they are full of vitamins, enzymes and more appropriate carbohydrate and protein forms. They can feed you and keep you healthy in times of shortage.
The rule I give, then, is that if a food is likely to be available to you 365 days per year, you must eat it in live form (sprouted, if it is a seed) and you must always eat small doses of it and no more than one time daily. Such foods are always very nutrient dense and are slow to digest–surely you can see the brilliance and beauty of such a plan for feeding humans during times of shortage.
Animal flesh is another matter. We are not really designed for animal flesh from a physiological standpoint. We are frugivorian, as David Wolfe has said. On the other hand, we have adapted to generations of consuming it. As such, some people seem to feel that small amounts of animal flesh are appropriate for them.
In order to balance the fact that we are simply not designed for animal flesh consumption with the fact that we have adapted to eating it, I have created a rule: You can have animal flesh (just flesh, not mystery meat breaded and deep fried with 20 ingredients) midday only and no more than 2 times per week. You really only benefit from it if it is eaten one time per month. Beyond that it becomes a burden to the gut. However, if you are ever starving to death and you can kill a healthy animal to survive, you have my permission to go ahead and survive. My request is that you do not live every day…every MEAL…like you are getting your first meal in a month and you are going to indiscriminately eat whatever is in front of you like you do not know when your next meal is coming!
Finally, when we think about the gut, we might think about herbs that heal the gut and have always coexisted with us. These would be soothing and building herbs. Aloe vera/barbadensis, comfrey, marshmallow, slippery elm, okra, cayenne, apples, papaya, burdock root, elecampane root, nettle leaves, cherry bark, licorice root and cabbage juice. Any or all of these and probably dozens of others could be used to heal the gut during a time of fasting.
I have become fond of juice fasting on apple juice (fresh) and concord grape juice (from the store) with a large amount of cloves powder added to 1 out of 3 cups of juice. Cloves also soothe the bowel and disinfect it, kill parasites and calm down excessive activity and irritation. They are carminative also (improve digestive secretions and liver flow). Fasting will be discussed in detail in a later article. For now, start thinking about how you can rest your gut. Do not think in terms of starvation or fasting, but think in terms of rest, the same as you would rest your body. Of course, rest your mind when you eat to also rest your body. If you cannot rest your mind, do not eat.
Thanks for reading.
Comments from Dr. Esposito
Kal once again helps us to step back and think out of the box about our health. I have struggled for years trying to help patients understand the gut-health connection. When a patient suffering from knee pain from rheumatoid arthritis is told they have to have their gut tested, they will say “But I have knee pain, why do you want to check my gut?!”. This article will help thousands of patients to understand how to better manage their health by learning the hidden, underlining root causes of many conditions.
I share in Kal’s concerns about the consumption of processed, inflammatory, nutrient-void foods due to the havoc they can play on our health. Many people are using this source of food as their only food source which is a gamble with your health and your life.
I have concerns about the consumption of meat but I am more concerned with the type of meat and the amount than the frequency. The 16oz. porter house steak is too stressful to the entire human body, and the processed lunch meat such as the “lunchables” that kids take to school are processed meats full of nitrates and nitrites. I am more comfortable with you consuming grass fed, lean meats at a portion of 4 oz..
Kal’s comments on resting the gut as you rest your body is a very powrerful concept that needs to be embraced by those who are sick as well as those who want to maintain their optimal level of health.