(Part 4 of 4) "Gut Primer" Video Series: What to do first about that gut (and what not to do)free course gut healing tips gut health start with your stomach stomach acid Feb 23, 2021
Want to learn even more about digestion? Head to the 3-part Digestive Dysfunction Deep Dive series below to continue learning.
Wowee, you've made it all the way to Part 4 of this 4-part video series all about the tumultuous marriage between the gut and the immune system.
We've covered a lot of ground. We started by painting a bird's eye view of this relationship, fleshed it out in Part 2 by exploring two major inflammatory conditions in the gut, then we illustrated how those conditions can directly lead to a confused immune system and autoimmunity.
In this final installment, we'll talk about what all of this means in terms of your first step in trying to leverage this knowledge for your benefit. So we'll start by talking about what not to do, and then we'll talk about what to do instead.
OK, so we've landed on the fact that dysfunction tends to be rooted in the majestic intestines, the beautiful bowels, via the two pathways we've discussed: dysbiosis and leaky gut.
So If all of that is true, we should probably focus any interventions we use specifically on the intestines, right?
No! No! No!
This, my friends, is where most people go terribly, terribly wrong. And I'll tell you why.
You see, and if you remember nothing else from this series, please remember this: digestion is a north to south process.
It begins northward in the brain and mouth, proceeds down to the esophagus and stomach, then the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder kick in and everything moves down into the final southern steps of the intestines.
The significance? Everything that comes in the chain before these intestine steps directly impacts how well the next step can happen.
Our digestion is a very complex set of chemical cascades that needs to proceed exactly in order to achieve the desired outcome.
Sort of like a multiple step chemistry experiment, where different agents are mixed together to yield a specific compound in a lab. If we add the wrong chemical into the mixture on step 1, or step 2, there's no way the proceeding steps are going to yield what we set out to make.
Every previous step needs to be correct in order for all of the proceeding ones to work. Otherwise you may even create an explosion!
What's more, we find that the intestines - since they're at the end of the line - are the most apt to show manifestations of dysfunction from previous steps, because the effects become magnified as they move through the process.
The same is true for our intestines - dysfunction shows up there because its where the rest accumulates. However, you can't fix this dysfunction by just fixing the intestines.
This would be like just fixing the water damage caused by a leaky pipe and not tending to the pipe itself! In order to ensure no new water damage, you've got to first tackle the leak. Only then should you turn to the water damage.
And fixing the leaky pipe in this case refers to northward digestive players such as the stomach.
Ensuring you possess sufficient levels of digestive secretions in your upper GI, is the absolute best way that you can address the leak, and prevent 'water damage' from happening in your intestines.
Strengthening your stomach acid is foundational to gut health because it corrects northward dysfunction that may be directly driving southern intestinal issues.
Stomach acid is called ‘Hydrochloric Acid’, and is often abbreviated to ‘HCl’.
HCl generally serves three purposes in the body - all of which are fundamental for health, especially gut health, and by extension immune health.
The first, is to properly break down food into a substance called "chyme" which I lovingly like to refer to as safe sludge.
The truth is that our food, if not properly digested, is dangerous!
This is because the rest of our digestive system, like those infamous intestines, are made of more delicate tissue, that are sensitive to anything other than perfectly liquified forms of food. Anything else is abrasive and can lead to damage such as that which occurs in Leaky Gut.
The second purpose of HCl in the body, is to provide an acid barrier.
When we ingest food and drink into our bodies, we also ingest whichever microbes happen to be on that sustenance. And while some of these microbes may be beneficial or neutral, some may also be pathogenic.
It's important that our stomach is plenty acidic in order to kill or neutralize these threats.
This ensures that by the time they reach our intestines, they are killed and turned into part of the safe sludge that can provide us with nutrients.
If stomach acid fails to kill these microbes, they can latch on to our intestinal lining, and try to take up residence, causing dysbiosis.
So proper levels of stomach acid will actually digest our enemies, and will definitely not provide them with a home.
So let's return to this slide about dysbiosis from part 2 and look at it again in the context of stomach acid.
A healthy individual's stomach acid will neutralize any ingested pathogen species before it can cause trouble. This prevents the damage done from the first contributing factor.
It also helps to break down starches and sugars more quickly so that they get absorbed into the body before they can feed the opportunists in the intestines, helping to mitigate the other secondary driver.
This brings us to the primary driver of dysbiosis... any guesses here?
That's right, low stomach acid. And likewise, the best preventative for dysbiosis is building strong stomach acid.
Now, let's look at the Leaky Gut slide.
Increasing your stomach acid actually increases the amount of nutrition you can derive from your food, so restoring it can ensure that you maximize the nutrients you get from the food you're eating right now without any dietary changes.
Second, restoring your stomach acid can move the bar in terms of which foods you're sensitive to and how sensitive you are to them. Ensuring your food is rendered into "safe sludge" significantly decreases the likelihood that it will leak out into the blood stream and cause negative symptoms.
So low stomach acid is the primary driver of leaky gut as well, and strong stomach acid is the best way to combat leaky gut.
Finally, the third role of stomach acid - which we take a deep dive into explaining in some of my other content, which I'll try to link to below - is as a signaling mechanism.
The acidity of the stomach works to set in motion and halt crucial digestive processes - and this signaling can often become disrupted when stomach acid is too weak, leading to health consequences like acid reflux, GERD, or heartburn.
So by this time you may be thinking that you've heard from the doctor or from the people around you that stomach acid is bad - doesn't it cause heartburn and acid reflux and the like? The short answer is "no" - really the problem is impaired protective mucosa and acid in the wrong places.
This is a BIG topic and I'd love to enlighten you on it, so I'll include some options for how you can learn about this below.
But it all boils down to the people who tell you that stomach acid is bad being misinformed, and there is actually a lot of literature and theory to back that up.
Alright! so this concludes our 4 part series meant to firm up that link in your brain between fixing your gut and fixing your immune system - hopefully by now that is clear as day.
I also hope that you have a clear idea as to where to go from here by thinking a little bit more about your stomach acid. I've got a lot of resources about this, so please check out the additional information below.
Thanks so much joining me through this video series, and I'll see you in the next one.
Here are a few resources on stomach acid to get you started:
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