A GUIDE TO THE MOST INTRIGUING
ADVENTUROUS PLACES IN THE SOUTH
By Salina Nelson
Are you one of the millions of people who suffer from some type of digestive complaint, or feel fatigued often? Do you have cardiovascular issues, blood sugar imbalances? Maybe you have trouble sleeping, or feel excessively anxious or depressed? Are you like millions of women who suffer from chronic yeast infections, urinary tract infections, or any one or more of a myriad of imbalances? If so, then you’re probably not getting the nourishment you need on a daily basis to allow you to live a vibrant and health-filled life.
Udo Erasmus, in his incredibly informative book, Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill, says that “our entire body is made from food, water, air, and light, and that we need 21 minerals, 13 vitamins, eight amino acids and two essential fatty acids.” The term ‘essential’ indicates that we must obtain them from dietary sources because our body cannot manufacture them. Additionally, we need to be supporting a healthy population of beneficial bacteria, and have access to a plentiful supply of exogenous enzymes (exogenous means derived from outside the body, endogenous means from within). We need building blocks and builders to make a healthy body. During the course of this article, we will explore the role these nutrients, probiotics, and enzymes play in creating a healthy and energized body.
Let’s start with enzymes. It’s a simple, physiological fact that if an organism is devoid of enzymes, then that organism is dead! The transformation of biochemical substances (food) into other biochemical substances (us) is made possible through the activity of enzymes. They are catalysts, allowing biochemical reactions to take place in a timely manner, and without them, we wouldn’t have the capacity to think, dream, digest, fight off pathogens, renew our cells (or ourselves, as we get a new body every two to seven years, depending on who you ask). If enzymes allow for life, wouldn’t it seem rational that a surplus of enzymes would be better than a deficiency? Indeed it is, and fortunately, research has allowed for the manufacturing of supplemental oral enzymes to aid digestion, and overall health.
Before the advent of cooking when man, like all of the other animals, ate all his food raw, including meat, he was constantly ingesting exogenous enzymes with his food because all organisms contain such enzymes. Therefore, he was probably less sluggish after a meal and able to forgo the eurgue nap.
Most people on a daily basis have a slew of responsibilities and obligations, and probably don’t take the time to ponder the complexities of digestion, that is until something goes wrong and they start to experience heartburn or reflux, and then it is difficult not to notice the nagging discomfort brought on partially by lack of digestive enzymes. According to Lithuanian holistic health practitioner, nutritionist, and raw foods advocate, Viktoras Kulvinskas, it is important to realize that, “a human is nourished and maintained not by what he eats, but by what is digested. All food is, at least potentially, a poison, until converted into simple structures by enzymes.”
The consumption of food is necessary for survival but a considerable amount of effort is required by our body to perform the task. For example, the small intestine at rest receives approximately 20 percent of cardiac output and uses approximately 20 percent of the body’s oxygen consumption. After a large meal, the percentage can climb up to 40 percent. This is one of the reasons we feel sluggish after eating, especially if the meal was large, or complex, or both! Our body is busy trying to deal with what we’ve just consumed, and if the meal was one of predominately cooked foods, then not only do we have to make a concerted effort by pumping out a lot of digestive enzymes, but also our immune system (mainly our leukocytes, or in other words, our white blood cells) has to make sure what we’ve just consumed is safe.
Unbeknownst to most people is the existence of something called “GALT,” which stands for Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue. This is specialized tissue that surrounds the digestive system and is responsible for producing antibodies to defend against infectious agents. GALT is also responsible for communicating with the rest of the body via cytokines (cellular messengers) and can therefore
generate a body-wide inflammatory state is something goes awry in the gut. Not only will there be inflammation in the gut, but the inflammation can lead to increased intestinal permeability, which means toxic substances that should remain in the gut have the opportunity to cross the intestinal barrier and leak into the systemic circulation, (aka “leaky gut”).
Many naturopathic doctors and researchers now consider the gut, what it receives as food nourishment (or lack of), and how efficiently and successfully it can deal with this food as being one of the main determining factors of a person’s health and vitality. If you are one of the millions of people who suffer from some sort of digestive complaint, it would behoove you to experiment with digestive enzymes. These are capsules that typically include protease, glucoamylase, lactase, cellulase, lipase, etc. They allow us to digest a wide variety of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, and are taken at the beginning of a meal. By helping to support a more efficient and comfortable digestion through the use of exogenous digestive enzymes, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier state of being.
Now suppose you are one of the millions of people who suffer from some form of an autoimmune condition. You might not think that psoriatic arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis would have any connection to your gut, but remember the “GALT” reference? Certain individuals are genetically susceptible to an inflammatory reaction resulting in arthritis if their intestine is housing the bacteria Klebsiella and/or Yersinia. In these individuals, upon recognition of the pathogen in the gut, an alarm is sounded by the immune system and the “GALT” goes into action. Cytokines, chemical messengers, you can think of them as “town criers,” are notified and an inflammatory response is elicited.
If the response is excessive due to too many circulating immune complexes (CIC’s), then there can be negative repercussions like tissue destruction, and the formation of scar tissue. Fortunately, there is a way to reduce these negative consequences from overzealous immune activity and that is through the ingestion of systemic enzymes.
In contrast to digestive enzymes, systemic enzymes are taken on an empty stomach. They are absorbed intact into systemic circulation and aid the body in reducing the number of CIC’s and excessive levels of fibrin, two components which can contribute to the buildup of scar tissue leading to clogged arteries. By reducing these components we end up with more efficient blood flow, and greater oxygen availability.
The health of each of our approximately 50 trillion cells is nourished by our blood, therefore the viscosity of our blood is a major dictator of our health; some say it is the number one factor! Cleaner blood equates to cleaner, healthier organs, which then equates to more energy and better overall health.
Thus far we’ve established the necessity of trying to make sure that we keep our “enzyme bank” topped off, as our longevity is dependent upon the presence of enzymes. We are also dependent on there being a healthy population of beneficial bacteria living in our gut, which by the way, do a pretty fantastic job of synthesizing enzymes not only for their needs but for ours as well. For example, some gut bacteria produce enzymes that degrade oxalates, which are acids found in some plants; maybe individuals who habitually form oxalate stones in their kidneys are deficient in certain oxalate degrading bacteria in their intestines.
Scientists have been researching and mapping over the course of the last decade the “Human Biome.” This is the combination of microbes that live within and upon us. In fact, it is estimated that these organisms outnumber our own human cells by a factor of ten, and that there are around 50 billion bacteria per pound of fecal matter, so we have a veritable ecosystem living within and upon us that dictate our health in a myriad of ways.
One example is that the bacteria that live in our small intestine, and predominantly in our colon (large intestine), manufacture vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, K, and biotin. These nutrients are all absolutely necessary for a properly functioning immune and nervous system. These bacteria, or probiotics, also produce many more digestive enzymes than our own digestive organs do (thankfully we have their help). They also produce bacteriocins which are natural antibiotics that kill or inhibit pathogenic bacteria.
The list of beneficial services performed by our gut bacteria is long, and some of their contributions to our well being may seem hard to fathom, but not when you recall how interactive our gut is with the rest of our body. Remember the reference to GALT and systemic circulation?
Researchers are confirming that there is a direct correlation between what happens in our gut and how we feel overall in our body and in our brain. They’ve coined the term “gut brain,” or “second brain,” to indicate the importance of the conglomeration of neurons in the gut that communicate with our brain and are affected by the bacteria in our gut. For instance, researchers have discovered that upwards of 80 percent of the serotonin manufactured in our body is made in our gut, and that we have roughly 400 times the amount of melatonin in our gut than in our brain. This is made possible because bacteria help to make tryptophan, the precursor for serotonin and melatonin, more available. This begs the question, could depression be as much or more of a “gut thing” than a “brain thing?” Many doctors and researchers are beginning to think so. In fact, Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the book Brain Maker, has seen many surprising results in his patient’s neurological imbalances after they begin supporting their digestive tracts with probiotics.
So, if the bacteria in our gut play a role in determining our mental state via production of neurotransmitters, could they also play a role in weight loss? Or better yet, weight control? Of course they can! It’s been common practice for quite some time to feed antibiotics to livestock to cause them to gain weight more quickly. Well, lo and behold, this information is relevant to humans as well! Once again, researchers are confirming that the type and number of bacteria in our gut either help to keep us lean or predispose us to gaining weight!
In fact, it appears that of all the bacteria inhabiting the gut, the majority fall into one of two groups; either Bacteroidetes or Firmicutes. If you have more Bacteroidetes than Firmicutes then you’re in good shape, but if the reverse is true then you’re more likely to be prone to inflammation and obesity. The reason being is because Firmicutes bacteria are more efficient in extracting calories from the food you eat, so you end up absorbing more calories and gaining more weight.
These very special microorganisms even help to increase a neuroprotective protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which protects and promotes the growth and differentiation of new neuronal synapses in the brain. But however awesome these contributions may be, most people are familiar with probiotics as being the “go to” supplement for supporting proper bowel function and regularity, which they do very well.
Now that you know that the population of bacteria in your gut is another determining factor of your overall health and wellbeing, you need to also realize that their health is dependent on your actions. If you don’t provide a proper environment in your digestive tract for probiotics to take up residence, then you’ll end up with a population of predominantly “bad” bacteria, and you won’t be able to achieve the vibrant state of health that nature intended.
The introduction of this article made reference to Udo Erasmus’ book, Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill. This book is exceptional in explaining just how much impact dietary fats have on our health, and in what manner we are positively or negatively affected by them.
In order to figure this out, we need to look at the different dietary fats we come in contact with and the role fats play in our health and wellbeing. Through our diet, we have access to saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and super unsaturated fatty acids, and unfortunately also through our diet we have access to unnatural, man-made hydrogenated and trans fatty acids, the latter two being largely responsible for helping to fuel fatty degeneration in our bodies. Udo states that “hydrogenated fats are a manufacturer’s dream.”
These unnatural fats have an incredibly long shelf life, so they are incorporated into practically all supermarket baked goods such as cookies, crackers, snack foods, etc., in the form of margarine, shortening, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. These fats, or rather the fatty acid molecules from which they are composed, have been converted to a practically toxic substance, unable to fill the roles good fats play in our health.
These “good fats” are so important that without them, life as we know it could not exist. Fatty acids are part of each of our approximently 50 trillion cell’s membranes. They can carry an electrical charge, allowing neurons to fire and nerve impulses to travel, and they are the precursors for prostaglandins which are fatty acids with hormone-like functions that play roles in the regulation of cellular activity. In Erasmus’s words, “essential fatty acids are involved with producing life energy in our body from food substances, and moving that energy through our system. They govern growth, vitality, and mental state.”
For years, fats were feared, thought to be the cause of conditions, like obesity and cardiovascular disease. The tide is changing however, and we’re becoming more aware of the need for a balanced fat intake. So, if you want to feel and look your best, you must be cognizant of which kinds and how much fat you’re consuming.
Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids are critical and essential, and the ratio of the two largely dictate the level of inflammation present in our bodies. Saturated and monounsaturated fats are typically only problematic if ingested in excess of the body’s needs. Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, or “fake fats,” should be avoided like the plague! James Wilson N.D. states that, “when you eat foods containing hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats, they disrupt normal fatty acid metabolism in your body. They use up the enzymes that normally would be utilized by the good oils and prevent your body from creating quality cell membranes and nerve sheaths.”
My intention in writing this article is to give you, the reader, a greater understanding of how critical diet, specifically certain aspects of diet, are to your health. Over the course of the past decade, I have had the pleasure of speaking to numerous customers regarding their health. Many of them have had issues with digestive, immune, cardiovascular, neurological, and/or hormonal imbalances, and they have seen the benefits of supplementing their diets with enzymes, probiotics, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and herbs.
Herbs!! Ah!! I love them! They have saved me and countless others from having to endure imbalances and irritations such as yeast infections, sinus infections, colds, muscular injuries, poor wound healing, inflamed capillaries, elevated blood pressure, aphthous ulcers, and many more. The list is long.
It’s only been since approximately the early 1900s, so just over a hundred years, that the use of herbs went from being effective treatment for man’s ills, to “interesting but ineffective folk medicine.”
Fast forward to 2016 and there’s definite evidence of an herbal renaissance. People are becoming dissatisfied with the side effects of some over the counter and prescription medications and are choosing to support their health in a holistic manner.
Everything that we ingest has ramifications regarding our health. If we consume a non-nutritive substance, then we use up some of our vitamins, minerals, and enzymes just to process that substance through our body. When we take nutritional substances such as herbs, then we are ingesting a substance that has the capacity via its phytochemical profile to help us regain balance and homeostasis.
Let’s look at some of the scientifically validated uses of herbs based on their phytochemical makeup. We’ll take the Ayurvedic herb, Amla, otherwise known as Indian Gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica) as an example. This herb has been in use in the country of India for thousands of years and is considered a “rasayana,” a substance which “arrests the process of aging and prolongs life,” or rejuvenates and restores.
One may wonder, how this little fruit is able to do such a thing? It’s capacity for healing lies in its phytonutient profile, which includes bioflavonoids, carotenoids, B complex vitamins, vitamin E, polyphenols, etc. One of its bioflavonoids is quercetin, another is vitamin C, and the combination of these two constituents allows amla to be advantageous to our bodies in general by helping to maintain proper connective tissue integrity. Its vitamin C content varies depending on where it’s grown, but has been documented to be as high as 1800mg per 100 grams of dried fruit. Also research has indicated that Amla can elevate superoxide dismutase (SOD) levels to reduce free radicals, accelerate repair of connective tissue, enhance secretion of interferon and corticosteroids, and stimulate production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. This latter attribute may be due to the quercetin content in Amla which also helps to decrease the occurrence of cataracts by blocking a certain pathway called the aldose reductase pathway.
This pathway is responsible for converting glucose into sorbitol in the eye, therefore contributing to the formation of cataracts. It seems like Amla would be of benefit to any of the 442 million individuals with elevated blood sugar levels (Type II diabetes). Quercetin also reduces allergy symptoms by decreasing mast cell sensitivity. Mast cells “guard” the body by mounting an attack on foreign particles, viruses, and bacteria, which is a good thing until it gets out of control and excessive inflammation results. Quercetin ‘quiets the frenzy” by stabilizing the mast cell wall, therefore fewer leukotrienes (chemical messengers) are produced and inflammation resolves and your sinuses feel better and you can breathe again. Ah, the wonders of nature!! Amla is even given to animals to support stronger bones, teeth, claws and connective tissue.
Another herb with beneficial properties that many people are already familiar with as a culinary herb is rosemary. Rosemary has been used historically for relief of anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia, depression, as a digestive aid, a liver tonic, and an aid to convalescence. It enhances peripheral circulation and is a warming herb. It can therefore be of benefit for low blood pressure and asthenic individuals.
There is a saying, “rosemary for remembrance” and this herb does in fact help to facilitate better memory and cognitive function both by enhancing blood flow to the brain and by acting as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Acetylcholine is a major neurotransmitter in the brain. Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme that degrades acetylcholine. So, by supplementing with rosemary one can help to promote more adequate levels of acetylcholine which translates into improved cognition. In fact, some researchers feel that rosemary could be of benefit to persons with Alzheimer’s because the condition is usually accompanied by a decrease in acetylcholine levels.
Rosemary has also been documented to have a neuroprotective effect on the brain due to its antioxidant, metal chelating, and anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps to promote better detoxification by turning on the Phase II detoxification enzyme system in our liver, and we could all benefit from carrying less of a toxic burden.
So many herbs have been used for so many years by so many individuals for so many different maladies that it boggles the mind. It’s important to recognize that plants are immobile. They can’t run away from a predator or move to the shade when the sun is too intense like animals can, so plants must be equipped with phytochemicals that allow them to flourish in their environment. For example, the leaves of the Camellia shrub, which we consume as green (or black) tea are very high in tannins which make them unpalatable to most insect or herbivore pests. For us however, the tannins can be of benefit. For example, their astringent properties can be used to decrease inflammation in the gastrointestinal track and help to control symptoms of inflammatory bowal problems, and via the consumption of green tea we expose ourselves to an array of phytochemicals that our bodies can then use to flourish in our oftentimes inhospitable environment.
Some examples of these phytochemicals are polyphenols which can scavenge free radicals, enhance immune activity, and (in tea form) inhibit growth of streptococcus in the mouth, therefore reducing plaque. There’s epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which is claimed to have antioxidant properties 100 times more effective than vitamin C, and catechins which have been documented as having cancer-preventing properties. These are just three of its numerous phytochemical constituents, but I hope that you are getting the idea. The way that you feel on a daily basis is directly related to what you put in your mouth. So, why not start today by taking some time to reflect on what you’re presently consuming and how you presently feel, and come and visit us at Remedy Herb Shop, where we will provide you with the highest quality service, supplements, and information required to help you feel your best.
Salina Nelson has been the manager of Remedy Herb Shop since 2005. She passionately spends her time assisting customers in their quest for radiant health and in constant study of medicinal herbs and their beneficial application. Located within the Healing Arts Centre, Remedy has been providing the highest quality vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements since 1992.