The Underlying Cause of Ill Health and Weight Gain

My most recent articles centering on the subject of health, specifically diet’s role in health, have revolved around eliminating triggers and allergens from your menu- i.e. gluten, wheat, soy, dairy, grains, etc. Now, while I still somewhat adhere to these principles, I’ve recently come across some information that not only changed my view of how the body works, putting a lot of things into perspective, it also solidified my opinion that the human body is an amazing organism with brilliant inner workings; and that an unhealthy body is not flawed or poorly designed, it’s performing functions that are actually saving your life.

The information more or less blew my mind, which means this article has the potential to become long-winded, so please bear with me while I explain. To make sense of everything I feel I need to give a watered down summary of how your body uses and stores everything you ingest, and how it functions on a day to day basis (it’s not going to be very scientific so as to be easier to comprehend and not so dry and dull).

Your body is constantly using energy, fueling your cells to perform standard tasks and maintenance, and it turns these cells over continually as they become used up and “die”. These dead cells then become your most basic form of waste. Your body also produces waste from toxins in the foods you eat, impurities in the fluids you drink, pollutants in the air you breathe, and chemicals with which your skin comes in to contact. An optimally functioning body will excrete these waste products through one of your four main elimination pathways: your skin (sweating), your lungs (deep breathing), your urine and your bowel (everybody poops), and the processing and elimination of these waste products occurs mainly and optimally in your bowel (I’m using bowel as a blanket statement including your gut, intestines, stomach, digestive tract).

When your bowel is damaged, either from continual bombardment of toxic substances and waste, or from poor development through childhood (unfortunately more often the case these days), it loses the ability to process and eliminate waste products, which are then re-released into your bloodstream. These free-floating waste products are what most people are referring to when they use the word toxin (I’ll go ahead and jump on that bandwagon and use toxin from here on as well). If these toxins were to stay in your blood you would die, but your body has a beautiful defense mechanism built in to neutralize the danger: it releases alkalizing minerals stored in your bones (calcium, potassium, etc.) to bind with the toxins and maintain the proper pH balance of your blood, and since it’s unable to eliminate them, it then stores these toxins in your organs, keeping them out of your bloodstream and keeping you alive.

Now to the part that blew my mind: in order to further buffer the toxins and keep them out of your blood stream, once your organs reach their limit (which is different for everybody) your body starts to retain and use water to create fat cells in which to store the excess toxins it can’t eliminate, resulting in bloating and weight gain. I feel like repeating that: Your body creates fat cells as a defense mechanism to buffer your blood from the effects of the toxins in your system. This means the common view that being overweight is a sign of laziness, excess calorie consumption, and/or having a slow metabolism (or something wrong with your body) is wrong! It’s actually your body’s defense mechanism to keep you alive and breathing. Mind: kabang! It also means that in order to REALLY improve your health and weight, you need to focus on healing your gut and bowel to improve your digestion and ability to eliminate waste from your body.

So why do elimination diets help us feel better? They mask the symptoms of a dysfunctional bowel. When your body is facing a toxic overload, and your immune system is compromised, it can begin overreacting to molecules that would be otherwise benign, i.e. difficult to digest gluten in wheat, complex starches in beans, casein proteins and lactose sugars in milk, etc. and cause immune responses. These responses are symptoms of a damaged bowel that can’t fully digest and eliminate, not a genetic weakness in the body. Now when a person like myself, who has been sensitive to gluten, eliminates it, I do feel better because I’ve negated the immune response and following inflammation and other symptoms that follow, but I’ve done nothing to heal my body and get to the root of the problem; like our modern medicine, I’ve just treated the symptoms.

Then there’s also the low-carb, high protein approach (Paleo, Atkins, etc.). This diet helps you feel better because it limits the amount of glucose entering your system. When you ingest glucose, it fuels your cells, giving them the energy to cleanse your body and release toxins into your blood and bowel, which is normally a good thing if your elimination is working properly as your bowel will then get rid of the toxins. However, in an unhealthy bowel these toxins aren’t eliminated and cause discomfort, bloating and weight gain as they’re reabsorbed and stored in your organs, and/or more fat is created to buffer them. So if you adhere to a low-carb diet, you’re not improving your health, you’re simply masking the symptoms by not giving your cells the fuel to cleanse themselves and the green light to release any stored toxins. You may feel better, but it’s because you’re just keeping the toxins stored out of your blood; you’re not treating the cause, just the symptoms.

One caveat to elimination diets is that in the process of healing your bowel, they can be positive as they do help you feel better (keeping you more positive and likely to focus on healing you bowel), and in some cases they can be life-saving (for extreme allergies). But the main focus still needs to be helping your body eliminate toxins and improving the health and digestion in your bowel.

In order to improve the health of your bowel, probiotics are a necessity. Probiotics are still little understood, but to put it in layman’s terms: your gut is populated by some 100 trillion (yes, with a T) beneficial bacteria that help your body digest and absorb nutrients, and also process and eliminate waste. In our modern world of stripped, refined, cleansed and processed, we don’t naturally ingest the beneficial bacteria we once did, and the excess of chemicals and toxins in our environment further damage the bacteria we do have (and feed some less than helpful forms). This is where taking a probiotic supplement can help. The dosage is still in debate, but my personal strategy is to be taking 200+ billion organisms per day (some argue that’s still too low, but it can get pricey going higher), which is normally two to three times the serving size of most brands. Do some research and look for a brand with multiple strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. There’re also some herbs that can help to balance the ratio of bacteria in your gut; again, a little research can point you in the right direction if you’re so inclined.

To aid elimination of waste, I recommend ingesting healing clays. Healing clays, like Bentonite and Zeolite clays are natural substances that have been used for generations by indigenous societies known for stunning health and vitality. Most toxins have a positive electrical charge and the clay uses its negative charge to attract the toxin and then bind to it, easing elimination from the body. The easiest way to ingest the clay is by mixing one to two teaspoons in 20-25 ounces of water, drinking it once or twice a day. Some people warn against the continued use of clays over long periods of time, but they have a history of safe use behind them. Again, don’t just believe what I’m writing, do some research and decide for yourself what makes sense to you and how you wish to proceed.

There are other methods of improving digestion and elimination, but these are the easiest, and most effective long term. Healing your bowel and body is something you have to dedicate yourself to as depending on your health, getting back to an optimum level could take years (it’s not like your body was damaged overnight), but feeling better is something that can happen sooner and continue to improve throughout the process. The light at the end of the tunnel is that as your bowel health improves, it becomes better at maintaining its own health, and the supplementation can wean in time. Other steps you can take to help are obviously avoiding as many chemicals as you can, whether in the form of food additives, fluoride or chlorine in your water, purifying the air in your home and being more aware of the chemicals that are added to most soaps and lotions, looking for ones with fewer. What’s most exciting, in my opinion, is that the power to truly heal is within our grasp. Our bodies are magnificent at healing; all we have to do is give them the right tools to perform the task.

Robby Bell