Digestive Health: A Starting Point with Huge Benefits
I never really had the chance to become healthy as a child because my parents were receiving misguided medical advice that led us right into a medical trap that I refer to as the Digestive Health Trifecta:
- Gut-Brain-Skin Axis
- Standard American Diet (SAD)
If the foundation isn’t set, then the building will fall. It’s as simple as that.
Don’t discount the importance of digestive health. It is responsible for up to 80% of your immune function! (1)
Digestive health is intricately connected to virtually every aspect of your health. It’s been nearly 80 years since dermatologists Donald M. Pillsbury and John H. Stokes first proposed the link between digstive health, depression, anxiety, and skin conditions such as acne. (2) Known as the “Gut-Brain-Skin Axis” theory, this connection is understood to be a two-way street: emotional states can alter your normal intestinal microflora, which can increase intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and contribute to systemic inflammation. And vice versa—your microflora can influence your emotional states because these vitally important “good” bacteria produce neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers that play a role in mood and cognitive function.
In my case, lacking the antibody- and probiotic-rich colostrum and breast milk in my diet as a baby, research supports my suspicion that being formula fed was the primary cause of my poor digestive health. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, “We found that breast milk-derived SIgA [antibodies] promoted intestinal epithelial barrier function in suckling neonates, preventing systemic infection by potential pathogens. Long-term benefits of early exposure to SIgA included maintenance of a healthy gut microbiota and regulation of gene expression in intestinal epithelial cells. These findings suggest that maternal antibodies provide benefits to the intestinal immune system of the breast-fed infant, which persist into adulthood.” (3)
Couple that with the Standard America Diet (SAD) that I consumed being low in naturally fermented foods, my poor digestive health can, thus, be linked to the multitude maladies that plagued me in my youth:
- Acne, (4)
- Anxiety, (5)
- Childhood dental cavities,
- Depression, (6)
- Gut permeability (leaky gut), (7)
- Stammering (associated with anxiety), (8)
- Suicide ideation (associated with acne), (9, 10)
- and Tonsillitis. (11)
The key takeaway here is that consuming a probiotic-rich diet and breastfeeding are both critical to our physical, mental and emotional health. Eating fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, natto and yogurt are easy to incorporate into your health regimen. When you slip and don’t to eat them for a while, that’s where probiotic supplements are helpful.
Interestingly, when essential oils are taken with probiotics (beneficial bacteria in supplement form) and probiotic-rich foods they have a synergistic effect! In 2012, a study analyzing the development of a probiotic found that essential oils work well with the formula, creating a synergistic effect of increased benefits. According to the study, “The probiotics retard the growth of the microorganisms, while essential oil kills them. Combining the effect of medicinal plant extract and probiotics may be a new approach due to their complementary antimicrobial effects and practically no side effects. The synergistic effect of the essential oil and probiotics will be necessarily higher than using them alone as health product.” (12)
Regarding nursing, it is important to note human breastmilk is the perfect food for infants.(13) Somehow, this minor fact has been omitted by baby formula labels. The fastest growing packaged food source to date, the global infant nutrition industry is a $50 billion market and their revenue growth is only expected to increase. (14)
The advice that far too many moms-to-be receive—that breast milk isn’t necessary and that you’re putting your babies at risk of malnutrition if you decide to nurse—is simply not true.
If you’re pregnant, want to be, or know someone who is, I implore you to consider these things and make a determined effort to nurse your baby for at least one full year. Antibiotics
Whether intended to treat a urinary tract, strep, or staph infection, far too many antibiotics are being prescribed when essential oils could be used instead!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Up to one-third to one-half of antibiotic use in humans is either unnecessary or inappropriate. Each year in the United States, 47 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions are written in doctor’s offices, emergency rooms, and hospital-based clinics, which makes improving antibiotic prescribing and use a national priority.” (15)
Overuse of antibiotics has caused an outbreak of infection and is becoming a main cause of death. Each year in the United States alone, more than two million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and more than 23,000 people die every year as a direct result of these infections. (16)
If you’re thinking of taking an antibiotic, consider using essential oils for all non-serious infections. See below for options.
Standard American Diet
Eating processed and sugary foods every day and using essential oils is like taking one step forward and three steps back!
My challenge to you is to think, “What would Jesus eat?” If Christ were living on this planet today, would He eat or drink anything that could potentially cause His body harm? What do you honestly think?
As we see in the Bible 2,000 years ago, Christ’s life purpose was to honor God in everything that He said, thought and did; even to point of dying on the cross. Although I won’t be able to prove it on this side of Heaven, I cannot logically see any way that He would have consumed anything that could possibly have hindered His ministry. And don’t mistake it, everything that we eat and drink directly affects our mental, emotional, social, and physical health.
Sadly, this revelation hasn't reached mainstream Christendom. As one of my preacher friends quipped, “Christians don’t drink, they don’t smoke, they eat!” An argument can be made that gluttony is the acceptable sin in the church. Or, at least it appears this way because I don’t hear too many ministers preaching against it!
I have seen the lives of far too many pastors, missionaries, and church leaders cut short because of disease; many of which could have all but been prevented by lifestyle changes. This, my friend, is the antithesis of Biblical health: seeing spiritual “giants” fall apart at the hands of poor lifestyle decisions.
1. Vighi, G et al., “Allergy and the Gastrointestinal System,” Clinical and Experimental Immunology, 153, suppl. 1 (2008): 3–6. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.2008.03713.x.
2. W.P. Bowe and A.C. Logan, “Acne Vulgaris, Probiotics and the Gut-Brain-Skin Axis–Back to the Future?” Gut Pathogens, 3, no. 1. DOI: 10.1186/1757-4749-3-1.
3. E. Rogier, et al., Secretory antibodies in breast milk promote long-term intestinal homeostasis by regulating the gut microbiota and host gene expression, PNAS, 111, no. 8 (2014): 3074-3079. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1315792111.
5. T. Loney, et al., “Not just ‘skin deep': psychosocial effects of dermatological-related social anxiety in a sample of acne patients,” Journal of Health Psychology, 13, no.1 (2008):13:47–54. DOI: 10.1177/1359105307084311.
6. E. Uhlenhake et. al., “Acne vulgaris and depression: a retrospective examination,” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 9, no. 1 (2010):9:59–63. DOI: 10.1111/j.1473-2165.2010.00478.x.
7. I. Le Huërou-Luron, S. Blat, G. Boudry, “Breast- v. Formula-Feeding: Impacts on the Digestive Tract and Immediate and Long-term Health Effects,” Nutrition Research Reviews, 23, no. 1 (2010): 23-36. DOI: 10.1017/S0954422410000065.
8. E. Blumgart, Y. Tran, A. Craig, “Social Anxiety Disorder in Adults Who Stutter,” Depression and Anxiety, 27, no. 7 (2010): 687-92. DOI: 10.1002/da.20657.
9. P. Robinson, et al., “ Acne, anxiety, depression and suicide in teenagers: a cross-sectional survey of New Zealand secondary school students,” Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health, 42, no. 12 (2006): 42:793–6. DOI: 10.1111/j.1440-1754.2006.00979.x.
10. M. Gupta. “Depression and suicidal ideation in dermatology patients with acne, alopecia areata, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis,” British Journal of Dermatology, 139, no.5 (1998): 139:846–850. DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2133.1998.02511.x
11. R. Li, et al., “Breastfeeding and Risk of Infections at 6 Years,” Pediatrics, 134, suppl. 1 (2014): S13–S20. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2014-0646D.
12. S. Karmakar, et al., “Development of Probiotic Candidate in Combination with Essential Oils from Medicinal Plant and Their Effect on Enteric Pathogens: A Review,” 2012 (2012): 457150. DOI: 10.1155/2012/457150.
13. A.K.C. Leung and R.S. Sauve, “Breast Is Best for Babies,” Journal of the National Medical Association, 97, no. 7 (2005): 1010–1019.
14. Zenith Global, “7% Growth for $50 Billion Global Infant Nutrition Market,” https://www.zenithglobal.com/articles/1355?7%+growth+for+%2450+Billion+global+infant+nutrition+market, accessed 4/5/17.
15. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Antibiotics Aren’t Always the Answer,” https://www.cdc.gov/features/getsmart/, accessed 4/5/17.
16. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Antibiotic/Antimicrobial Resistance,” https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/, accessed 4/5/17.