Early Detection and Treatment of Digestive Disease with Dr. Scott Freeborn, ND – Part 2
The Dominant Role of the Gut in Overall Health
We have known – for 2,500 years – “All disease begins in the gut” (-Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine). Our gastro-intestinal (GI) system is where we take in our nutrition and is technically an exterior of the body. The entire GI lumen (“lumen” refers to the inside space of a tubular structure, such as an artery or intestine) from the mouth to the anus is a hollow tube that for all intensive purposes is comparable to our skin since it is exposed to the environment. When we take in food and liquids, we absorb our nutrition from them, but we also interface with the external environment including the contaminants found in our food and water supply. Ninety (90) percent of the immune system centers in the tissues in and surrounding the gut, primarily because the majority of pathogens are introduced to the body through the GI system. The respiratory system and the sinuses also interface with the external environment and therefore are significant for immune response, but are secondary to the immune system centered in and around the GI system.
The GI system consumes enormous amounts of energy – seventy (70) percent of all the body’s energy – extracting, digesting, and processing the next meal, i.e., extracting energy from what we eat and drink. All other activities – exercise, working, using our brains – have only the remaining thirty (30) percent of energy to draw from. The functionality of the GI system (i.e., “gut health”) is the single most determining factor for near- and long-term health. An annual program for detoxifying the body and regularly promoting the functionality of the GI system should thus become a priority for ensuring the synthesis of enzymes, maintenance of the right balance of symbiotic bacteria throughout the gut, prevention of fungal overgrowths, and prevention of a wide range of inflammatory disease.
If people want to maintain digestive health, then clean eating and prophylactic, annual or semi-annual fasting and cleanses, like anti-parasitic and anti-fungal regimens, are essential for giving the digestive system a rest and letting it detoxify and regenerate. We live in a toxic world where our food supply has become increasingly industrialized. More than any other time in human history, we are exposed to synthetic chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals) in our food supply and environment as well as antibiotic residues in non-organic animal products. Every person can benefit from a proactive program for detoxifying heavy metals and other environmental toxins from our bodies.
In Naturopathic medicine, three systems in the body are in intended to work like the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of our federal government – independent of each other but interactive and they enact “policies” everywhere else in the body: 1) the central nervous system, the brain-spinal cord-autonomic nervous system, 2) the immune system, and 3) the endocrine/ hormone system.
Western medicine often does not look broadly enough, in part because that kind of screening is expensive and not financially accessible to most people. Instead of spending one to two weeks at Scripps and spending $25,000+ on angiograms, MRIs, CT scans, and every bloodwork known to man, we can take advantage of some very simple tools for preventive and maintenance care. My initial attraction to Naturopathic medicine is because of this focus on functional medicine by recognizing life is going to produce wear and tear on our bodies along with build-up of toxins. Just like one’s car, which requires tune ups and oil changes, fluid flushes, etc., our bodies need annual programs to cleanse the body and fasts that allow the GI system to rest and repair itself.
If we value our bodies like we do our cars, then we start to practice preventive maintenance on our bodies by incorporating daily practices such as adequate water intake, consumption of probiotic foods, adequate rest, and regular exercise. Most importantly, we begin to pay attention to the foods and beverages we are putting into our mouths.
Do heart disease and other forms of chronic inflammation originate in the gut?
Absolutely. Inflammation is the enemy. Cancer, dementia, and neurologic disease all start in the gut. There is no other system more important to address than the gut and that fact has been known for a long time. Health = gut health = what you eat. The general public has bought into the idea it is normal to die of cancer and heart disease, like we are victims of an inevitable outcome due to genetics. In reality, this belief is part of a cognitive dissonance reinforced by general medicine where early symptoms of decompensation are ignored.
The biggest challengers of this system appear to be mothers because of their heightened sense of intuition, drive to raise healthy children, and are the first to note the disconnect between what they are told is suppose to be their kids experience versus what it actually is. It seems to be easiest for the mothers to understand intuitively the fundamental influence of diet since it’s the most pervasive outside input of our lives. Mothers are also forced to experiment when others might not be.
You are absolutely right. By and large more mothers are challenging the system based on the fact they see their kids having issues or problems despite what they are being told. Mothers become receptive to different approaches when they reach their wits end of seeing their child suffering more frequently and more severely.
I frequently see small children whose parents report having tummy aches all their lives and poop only every other day. Their MD brushes these symptoms away saying this is how the child’s body works and it is normal. No, that is not normal. Digestive disease starts in childhood and when early symptoms are left untreated for decades, these children reach their 30’s and have a variety of menstrual issues, mood issues, and depression that has been decades in the making. Digestive disease is not normal and it starts very early.
People need to trust their instincts and understand if their kid is complaining of tummy aches and poop only every other day, it is not OK just because an MD says so. It is critical to address these symptoms early on. I see kids who are under one year of age and on their sixth round of antibiotics with chronic ear infections. Now they are ready to put tubes in. All health and disease starts in the gut. It starts with formula that is dead food, mothers that didn’t nurse, not enough water, poor diet, bleached/ processed white flour, sugar, hydrogenated oils, and fast food. These kids will end up with eczema, allergies, and headaches, and it all starts in the gut and almost from the minute they are born.
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