There is a 30-foot pathway that, in the Western world, is overlooked and
at times ignored. The condition of this passageway plays and important role
in an individual’s quality of life and longevity. It is the gateway that
guards us from invaders, which may lead to disease and eventual death. So
where is this 30-foot track found? It is found in the abdomen region of
every human and is called the intestinal tract.
In Eastern medical practice, the condition or health of the intestinal tract is extremely
important. Ayurvedic medicine, which dates back some 5,000 years, places
great importance on cleansing and detoxifying the intestinal tract. A
therapy called Shodan is used to rid the body of toxins and to aid in
healing and restoring health. Ayurvedic medicine views toxins as the root
cause of all disease; toxins are believed to stem from undigested and
unabsorbed food, which builds up on the walls of the large intestine or
colon and becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and parasites.
In Western medicine, many of the antibiotics that some experts believe are
over-used to treat infection and rid the body of bacteria may actually
weaken intestinal health and compromise our bodies’ natural healing powers.
Dr. Mark Pochapin, Director of Gastrointestinal Health at New York
Presbyterian Hospital, has been quoted as saying, “Indiscriminate killing of
good and bad bacteria is too drastic.”
Pochapin further states that, “In
fact some doctors point to reduced bacterial counts in the intestines for
the upsurge in intestinal disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and
Crohn’s Disease.” It’s time for East to meet West and to develop a system of
health where its foundations are built on prevention rather than repair.
The intestinal tract transforms the foods we eat into macro (protein,
carbohydrate and fats) and micro (vitamins, minerals, enzymes,
phytochemicals and fiber) nutrients, which provide the building blocks for
cellular repair and energy for life. The intestines also remove the
by-products of waste and toxins from the transformed food, which, if allowed
to remain in our system, could lead to disease and possible death.
The three functions of the intestinal tract are digestion, absorption and
elimination. The first 25 feet of the intestines, called the small
intestine, consist of three parts – the duodenum, ileum, and jejunum.
Together, they perform the function of digestion and absorption. The cells
in the wall of the small intestine, called the mucosa, secrete mucus,
peptidase, maltase, lactase, and lipase, along with the enzymes and
digestive bile secreted from the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder, to digest
food and make it available to be absorbed through the small intestine’s
walls to enter the blood to be used by all cells.
The last five feet of the intestines, the large intestine or colon, consists of five parts the
cecum colon, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, and sigmoid
colon, which complete the function of absorption of certain vitamins,
minerals, and water. The colon then performs the function of formation and
elimination of feces consisting of nutrient-void food, along with toxins
that are the byproducts of chemical digestion.
Unlike the small intestines, the mucosa cells in the walls of the large intestine produce only mucus,
which protects the cells from the toxins in the waste material as it passes
by. It takes three to ten hours for the partially digested food called chyme
to pass through the small intestine and enter into the large intestine. The
transit time of waste material in the large intestine can be hours or days.
It is this extended period of digestion, absorption, and elimination that
provides the battleground for bacterial microorganisms to play a major role
in keeping our defense mechanisms free of disease. We don’t catch diseases;
we create them when our natural defense mechanisms are broken down.
What are your first thoughts when you think of bacteria? Are they good or bad? If
you’re thinking of the kitchen counter or toilet seat, your anti-bacterial
conditioning will have you saying bacteria is bad. However, when it comes to
your intestinal health, the correct answer is both. We need good bacteria to
digest food, to synthesize vitamins and minerals, to clean up toxins and
dead cells, and to compete with the bad bacteria for nutrients. The bad
bacteria are pathogenic and disease-causing. They attempt to overtake our
immune systems and compete for the same nutrients that bring life to our
bodies. So, for optimum health, we must understand the intestinal world of
friendly or harmful bacteria.
The lyrics in Dave Mason’s hit song say,
“There ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys, there’s only you and me
and we just disagree.” I hope you and I agree on this: He was not singing
about your intestinal tract. There is a war taking place in our intestinal
tracts between the good guys (good bacteria) and the bad guys (bad bacteria)
Dr. Todd Klaenbaner, professor at North Carolina State
University and recognized expert in intestinal bacterial flora, states, “The
number of bacterial cells found in the intestinal tract outnumbers the human
cells ten to one.” He estimates there are 500 strains of bacteria in the
human intestinal tract. The good news, Dr. Klaenbaner says, is that the good
bacteria outnumber the bad bacteria – good 80 percent, bad 20 percent – in
individuals experiencing good health. The bad news is that the ratios can be
reversed – bad 80 percent and good 20 percent in patients experiencing
Dr. Mark Pimentel, co-director of the gastrointestinal motility program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, reports
that 78 percent of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) patients in their research
projects have an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the small intestine. This
study suggests that IBS, a chronic condition tion that plagues an estimated
20 percent of the adult population, may be caused by too much of this bad bacteria.
The educators from the Global College of Natural Medicine (G.C.N.M.) report that recent medical studies have estimated that
85 percent of the North American adult population is infected with at least
one form of a parasite. Built-up fecal material on the colon walls provides
the ideal birthing ground for parasites. A GCNM course on Toxicity and
Detoxification reveals that humans can play host to more than 100 different
kinds of parasites.
Parasites, which are organisms that feed, grow and live
off a host, can be microscopic or can grow as large as several feet.
Parasites are found mostly in the large intestine but they try to permeate
the intestinal wall and migrate to other parts of the body. The most common
source of infections from parasites are under-cooked meats, unwashed fruits
and vegetables, time spent in developing countries, contaminated water, and
infection by mosquitoes. The most commonly occurring parasites in North
America are roundworm, hookworm, pinworm, and tapeworm.
Parasites can devastate our health in the following ways:
weaken the immune system.
2. They prevent the proper absorption of macro
and micro nutrition of foods eaten.
3. They cause inflammation, and
irritation to all tissues.
4. They produce toxic wastes, which are
absorbed into the blood system.
5. They perforate and damage the
intestinal wall lining, as they try to work their way to other regions in
6. They can cause intestinal and pancreatic bile duct
Offense is the Best Defence
What is the best way to defend ourselves from these invading mutants?
A nutritional lifestyle will naturally keep the intestinal tract spic and
span, using nutritional sponges and scrubbing pads found in whole grains,
fruits, and vegetables. These foods are an abundant source of vitamins,
minerals, enzymes, and phytochemicals, and are rich in fiber. Add to this
microbe-fighting powerhouse three things: organic, organic, organic. Learn
to use only organic whole grains, fruits and vegetables, which are devoid of
pesticides. Pesticides might make economical sense to some farmers, but they
can bankrupt our intestinal environment.
To maintain good intestinal health, our bodies require 30 or more grams
of fiber daily. Fiber is divided into two types: soluble and insoluble.
Insoluble fiber is vital in formation of stools and decreases the time that
it takes for waste to be eliminated from our systems. Poor transit time of
waste material increases the feeding time for bad bacteria and the risk of
certain colon cancers. Insoluble fibers prevent the buildup of mucus and
fecal material on intestinal walls, which lead to poor absorption of
nutrients into the body, which in turn can lead to deficiencies such as
anemia or osteoporosis. In addition, soluble fiber acts to absorb digestive
bile, which is made from cholesterol, so when eliminated causes more
cholesterol to be converted to digestive bile, thereby lowering blood
cholesterol (LDL) levels.
The knowledge to bring healing and prevent disease by maintaining
intestinal health is thousands of years old. Greek and Roman writings that
are 2,000 years old describe fermented milk (lactobacillus), garlic, and
onion (which feed Bifidobacteria) as standard practices for physicians
treating intestinal disorders and preventing sickness and disease. Indian
writings called the Vedas, which are 5,000 years old, describe the use of
enemas for intestinal cleansing. The modern science of Microbiology has
expanded on this knowledge and documented its effect on intestinal wellness.
Probiotics, prebiotics, and symbiotics are the latest cutting edge use of
these ancient healing techniques
The word probiotic comes from the Greek, and means pro-life. It is
administered by eating live bacterial organisms. Probiotic bacteria not only
survive digestion, but aide in digestion. The most numerous of the probiotic
bacteria are Lactobacillus, Acidophilus, and Bifidobacteria, however there
are hundreds of others strains. The best food sources of these bacteria are
cultured foods like yogurt, and fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha, but they can also be taken in liquid, powder, capsule, or
Look for organic yogurt (made without the use of antibiotics and toxic
pesticides) and be sure the label certifies it contains live active cultures
like Lactobacillus (L) Acidophilus, Bifidus, L. Casei and L. Reuteri. The
challenge is for the bacteria to survive the hostile gastric juice
environment of the stomach, on its way to the small intestines to add to the
colony of existing bacteria and become food for future bacteria.
Prebiotics are non-digestible fiber foods that act as a host to feed and
promote bacterial colonies – most notably bifidobacteria – mainly in the
large intestine. The formation of short chain fatty acids from these fiber
foods not only feed the good bacteria, but also the muscosa cells in the
colon wall. Prebiotics play a role in the muscosa cells’ ability to absorb
the minerals calcium, magnesium, and iron, along with the vitamins niacin,
folic acid, B-6 and vitamin K. Probiotic foods contain the phytochemicals
inulin and oligosaccharids, and are found in garlic, onions, asparagus,
artichokes, chicory, bananas, wheat, barley and rye. It is estimated that
Americans eat less than three grams daily of these foods, far less than what
is needed for optimum intestinal health.
Symbiotic refers to the combining of both probiotic and prebiotic in the
same product. A good example are yogurts that contain live active cultures
(probiotic) and add inulin (prebiotic). This makes for a winning combination
to add to the number of good bacteria, both in the small intestine
(lactobacillus) and large intestine (bifidobacteria).
Maintaining Optimal Intestinal Health
Autointoxication is self-poisoning caused by bad bacteria, metabolic wastes, and other toxins produced within the large intestine. It
originates in an unhealthy colon and often results in constipation. What
steps can be taken to maintain optimal intestinal health?
- A detoxification
program is a good start, but those with extremely weak immune systems should
- Eat a diet of organic whole grains, fruits and vegetables, with
30 grams daily of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Incorporate a daily
routine of both probiotic and prebiotic foods.
- Drink eight to ten glasses of pure water to assist the elimination process.
- A lifestyle of three to four hours of exercise weekly will aid in mechanical digestion and reduce transit
time of waste elimination.
- Avoid all processed foods, white flour, simple sugars, and alcohol, which are the foods of choice for bad bacteria.
- Avoid eating beef and poultry that are raised on antibiotics. Almost half of
all antibiotics used in U.S. each year are given to livestock.
Be aware that continued use of aspirin or drugs like acetaminophen, ibuprofen or oral
contraceptives deplete the good bacteria. Flatulence and abdominal bloating
may occur in the initial stage of introducing foods that are probiotic and
prebiotic; this is the result of the breakdown of unfriendly bacteria and
the fermentation of the friendly bacteria. If it becomes too unpleasant,
introduce these foods more slowly to your daily routine. Taking a digestive
enzyme is helpful when increasing fiber to a minimum of 30 grams daily,
especially if you have been consuming, like most people, 10 grams or less
Good Takes Care of Bad
In closing, I’m reminded of a meeting I once had with a couple on the
techniques of good nutrition. They had brought their son Jarred, who at the
time was four years old. During the meeting he interrupted and asked,
“Charlie why is there bad?” I looked into his eyes and said, “Good always
takes care of bad; always keep your eyes on good and you won’t have to be
concerned about bad.” That could not be more true when it comes to our
Keep your immune system in peak performance, maintaining the good bacterial flora that brings
life and health and lowering the bad bacterial flora that can lead to
Charles Remington is a nutritionist and herbalist who is the author of a
best-selling nutritional software program. He has been a featured guest on
many television talk and news shows, as well as national radio broadcasts,
delivering his message that “Food’s not the problem, it’s the solution”. His
articles on health and fitness have been featured in national and
international publications. Known to his thousands of clients as The Fat
Loss Coach, his concepts on healthy weight loss are well embraced by the
medical community and supported by a large insurance provider. He has
conducted more than 200 seminars in the corporate, municipal and education
arenas and manages a nutritional practice in Cheshire, Connecticut. Contact
him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website