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You Are Not What You Eat

Jun 30, 2015 10:47PM
(But What You Eat Sure Does Matter)
By Dr. Chas Gant

The old saying “you are what you eat” suggests that the totality of a human being’s mind, body and spirit can be reduced to the quality of the food they consume. What is true is that our gastrointestinal (GI) tract and its microbiome—the microorganisms which make their home in our intestines, depend heavily on the quality of the food we eat.

In turn, our health and well-being is heavily dependent on their function. Consider several facts:

    • The GI tract is a semipermeable membrane which is designed to allow nutrients to pass through (amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, water, peptides and enzymes and other nutrient molecules) and repel toxic molecules.
    • The GI tract is composed of a single-cell-thick membrane covered by a thin biofilm of microorganisms.
    • The GI tract’s cells are folded all over itself, so that it has the surface area of about 1-2 tennis courts.
    • Only about 10 percent of the cells of your body are actually your body. The other 90 percent are mostly the numerous tiny bacteria that live in your gut microbiome.
    • Basically when you eat food, your microbiome eats the food you eat, digests some of it, manufactures vitamins from some of it and gives you what’s left over.
    • Friendly bacteria also digest away some of the toxins in food to protect us.
    • “Unfriendly” bacteria, yeasts, viruses and parasites generate toxins to protect themselves from our immune system which is trying to destroy them and to hinder the friendly organisms they are in competition with.
    • 60 to 80 percent of the entire body’s immune system lives in and around the GI tract to police the microbiome.
    • Preservatives in food and chlorine in water, designed to inhibit infectious organisms; mercury fillings placed into teeth to destroy the bacteria which cause tooth decay; the fluoride in toothpaste and antibiotics which we take; find their way into the food we eat and all take a toll on the health of the microbiome.
    • Mother’s milk supplies probiotics to the infant, suggesting that the relationship between an infant’s health and breast-feeding is, in part, determined by the health of the infant’s microbiome
    • Toxins in food or from dental fillings impair digestion, allowing undigested food to enter the large intestine where it can feed unfriendly organisms
    • Inflammation in the gut caused by imbalances in the microbiome can “poke holes” in the intestines, so that food proteins leak through, which challenges the immune system even more and leads to food allergies
These account for only a portion of the astonishing facts about the GI tract and the microbiome. It is clear that the health of this part of the body has a lot to do with the health of the entire body. For instance, autoimmune disorders, like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, are often primarily caused by a severely imbalanced microbiome and a sustainable, medication-free recovery is not possible until the microbiome and intestinal lining is healed.

Likewise, sustainable, authentic, medication-free recoveries from other chronic conditions like Lyme disease and its co-infections, cancer and psychiatric disorders are impossible until the GI tract and microbiome is healed.

Healing the GI Tract and its microbiome usually involves a several-month process, which can be summarized by the acronym, the “5 R’s”.

      • Remove the unfriendly organisms.
      • Re-innoculate the friendly microorganisms.
      • Repair the lining of the GI tract.
      • Replenish digestive enzymes.
      • Restore liver detoxification.
You are not what you eat, but what you eat sure does matter. The health of the intestines and the microbiome depends on what you eat, which directly affects your health and wellness.

Dr. Chas Gant, M.D., Ph.D., is an author, physician and educator, specializing in functional medicine, molecular health and healing. For more information, call 202-237-7000, ext. 152 or visit


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