I have to admit, after all these years of spreading the message of the gut connection to total-body health, to hear my message coming from Dr. Oz was certainly gratifying. Just last week his show covered the condition that epitomizes the gut connection to chronic disease—leaky gut syndrome. You can watch the show, in three segments here:
His show highlights the story behind one mother’s search for the truth behind the mysterious joint pain of her son, who was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. That’s a fancy term for children’s arthritis with an unknown cause. As Dr. Smith likes to say, “idiopathic means the idiots don’t know the pathology” (because they fail to look for it).
Mother Susannah Meadows, a prominent investigative journalist, wanted to get to the bottom of her son’s joint pain. The treatment for her son’s condition began with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen. When NSAIDs failed to work, he was prescribed methotrexate, which happens to also be a powerful chemotherapy drug. When his health did not improve, she decided to take the advice of her sister to visit an “alternative health practitioner,” despite her previous reluctance.
This alternative practitioner, whose identity is not revealed, suspected leaky gut syndrome as the underlying contributor to the joint pain experienced by Susannah’s son. It was recommended that she remove gluten and dairy, along with foods of the nightshade family, such as potatoes and tomatoes. She was also advised to cut his sugar intake almost completely. A high dose omega-3 supplement, probiotics, Montmorency cherry juice, and a Chinese herbal remedy were also included in his treatment regimen.
Susannah was cautioned that it might take up to six weeks before her son felt any improvements. To her delight, six weeks later, to the day, her son awoke and said, “Mommy, my knees don’t hurt anymore.” Now that is powerful. Her son was able to stop taking the methotrexate, and is no longer in pain. Susannah believes the dietary changes and supplements restored his health.
Leaky gut syndrome is a condition that involves damage to the intestinal lining, which normally lets small, digested nutrients pass through into the bloodstream. During leaky gut syndrome, the lining becomes damaged, increasing the ability to let larger particles—undigested food, bacteria, and toxins—pass through. I like to use the analogy of a screen. Think of your healthy intestinal lining as a screen. A screen lets in air but keeps out bugs like the intestinal lining lets in nutrients but keeps out foreign particles. Leaky gut is like getting holes in your screen that are big enough to let the bugs get inside your house, or foreign particles into your bloodstream.
When undigested food, bacteria, and toxins pass through a leaky gut, they enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. The immune system responds to these “foreign invaders” in a way that produces silent inflammation (silent because you often cannot feel it or see it—until it gets out of hand). Silent inflammation is an underlying contributor to most, if not all, chronic disease, including the autoimmune disease arthritis experienced by Susannah’s son.
By removing foods that commonly trigger food sensitivity, such as gluten, dairy (and in the case of arthritis, nightshade vegetables), removing sugar that feeds yeast and potentially harmful gut bacteria, and supplementing with probiotics to replenish beneficial gut bacteria and omega-3 oils to reduce inflammation, the gut lining is able to heal.
I hope many people hear this message about the importance of digestive health to the overall health of the body. Whether they learn it from Dr. Oz, or myself, I am delighted to be a part of getting this message out to the world. As I say, heal your gut, heal your body.