Adding real, whole, nutrient-rich foods is the ideal way to strengthen the gut and immune system .
But as I discussed in my last blog, what you avoid consuming is equally important to better support the gut and build your immuno-resilience . Over time, many of my patients become aware of how…
Food sensitivities can damage the gut.
These food sensitivities can develop from eating foods such as corn and soy that create chronic reactions, over and over. They damage the gut wall and as a result weaken the immune reaction, ultimately setting them up for an increased risk of infections — from chronic sinus infections to the common cold.
Artificial Sweeteners Impact the Gut and Immune System
Beyond eliminating food sensitivities, I pinpoint other obstacles that can also impair the gut and immune system. Some of them aren’t always obvious, such as drinking diet sodas.
These sodas, which are often sweetened with aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, can make you gain weight and increase your risk of obesity . 1
Artificial sweeteners in diet sodas also raise your risk of stroke, heart attack, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease . 2
Studies also show that…
Artificial sweeteners can alter the gut microbiome.
Certain sweeteners, including saccharin and sucralose, can impact the quality and diversity of gut microbiota .
Human studies have shown that saccharin can alter metabolic pathways linked to glucose tolerance and dysbiosis in humans . 3
These artificial sweeteners can promote the growth of bacteria that make more calories available to the body . 4
Obnoxious Toxins are Ubiquitous
For some patients, even after eliminating food sensitivities including artificial sweeteners, gut problems still persist. Even with a healthy diet, I’ve found that certain exposures can continue to damage the gut — and, by extension, the immune system .
One of the biggest and often-overlooked problems are environmental toxins .
These obnoxious toxins are everywhere . In the food you eat, water you drink, air you breathe , and in many everyday products you use — including cosmetics.
We live in a toxic world, and so completely eliminating toxins isn’t possible. However, you can reduce your exposure to them, and by doing so also reduce the impact they have on your body.
A key role of the gut is to eliminate waste and toxins from the body.
If your gut is not functioning properly and/or your gut microbiome is imbalanced, these toxins accumulate within the body, causing harm to the gut , immune system, and much more.
Along with necessary evils (antibiotics) and eating the wrong foods (processed, packaged sugar-laden snacks), the toxins you are exposed to in your environment can eventually result in a dysbiosis — an imbalance between favorable and unfavorable microorganisms in the gut. These things persistently damage the intestinal lining and contribute to what we call intestinal hyperpermeability, aka leaky gut .
As these partially digested food particles, toxins, and microbes leak out into the bloodstream from the gut wall, your immune system goes into high gear, leading to increased inflammation throughout the body.
Avoiding Toxins is the Primary Name of the Game
One of the best ways to heal the gut and build immuno-resilience is to reduce the amount of these toxins that you are exposed to , and a good place to start is with the pesticides in the foods you eat.
Pesticides protect crops and help farmers yield the maximum amount of a particular crop. They can even determine how many times crops can grow.
Worldwide, there are over 1,000 pesticides used in food.
These pesticides protect crops against insects, weeds, fungi, and other pests.
Every year, American farmers use about a billion pounds of chemicals on crops . In 2016 alone, California used almost 210 million pounds of pesticides.
But what protects plants can harm you. M any of those pesticides are classified as potential carcinogens or cancer-causing agents, endocrine or hormone disruptors , and reproductive or developmental toxins . 5 They can be toxic, creating short- and long-term damage to the gut and other organs.
Many of them show up in our food supply.
About 70 percent of fresh produce sold in America, in fact, contains residues of potentially harmful chemical pesticides. 6
In their most current study in 2020, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) looked at 47 fruits and vegetables. They found that over 90 percent of samples of strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines, and kale had residues of two or more pesticides .
Researchers here found that kale carried a whopping 18 pesticides.The pesticide most frequently detected in kale was chlorthal dimethyl or DCPA , an herbicide used on a wide range of vegetable crops. 7
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies DCPA as a possible human carcinogen. And in 2009, the European Union banned DCPA . As a result of this pesticide assault…
Over 90 percent of Americans have pesticides in their bodies
mostly from eating conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. 8
Pesticides Flow Deep In Our Water
These pesticide residues are ubiquitous in our food, but they can also seep into our drinking water . 9
Over 700 synthetic organic compounds have been found in American drinking water.
This contamination comes from a variety of sources , including household products and leakage or improper disposal of chemical water.
Researchers have detected 22 pesticides in U.S. wells. Under certain conditions, that number can increase to 80 pesticides in groundwater. 10 Just as with food, the body absorbs these pesticides , many of which are fat-soluble and get deposited in body fat. Over time, they take a toll on the gut and can create widespread health problems.
While the EPA sets limits on acceptable rates of pesticide exposure, many of them can cause harm at even low doses. Exactly how toxic these pesticides can be depends on the type. Insecticides , for instance, tend to be more toxic to humans than herbicides . How often you’re exposed to these pesticides also determines how harmful they can be. 11
GMO Foods are Higher in Pesticides
The serious health risks these pesticides can precipitate aren’t always immediately apparent. They can take years to show up, in fact.
Consider glyphosate, the most utilized herbicide in agriculture. Patented in 1974 by the Monsanto Company, glyphosate is best known as the active ingredient in Roundup ® -branded herbicides, and the herbicide used with Roundup Ready ® genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
A GMO , or genetically modified organism, is a plant or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory . This creates combinations of genes that don’t occur in nature.
The number of GMO crops increases every year. 12
Along with that increase, we are exposed to an increasing number of pesticides. In fact, studies show that over a 16-year period, farmers have increased the use of pesticides on genetically engineered crops by around 404 million pounds or seven percent. 13 Additionally, farmers will spray up to 6x the amount of pesticide on a Roundup Ready ® GM crop than they would otherwise use. 14
Some of the most harmful foods to the gut are also genetically modified.
Around 90 percent of corn and 94 percent of soybeans in the U.S. are engineered to tolerate herbicides.
Since Roundup Ready ® GMO crops were introduced in the U.S in 1996, our exposure to this herbicide has increased 500 percent. 15
But some genetically-modified corn and potatoes are engineered to produce their own pesticide , known as Bt (for bacillus thuringiensis, the soil bacteria that produces an insecticide that kills insects by poking holes in their digestive tract after eating the GMO). Can you imagine what that could do to your gut lining? Well, it’s been tested in mammalian cells and found to do the same thing!
In the scientific community,
Glyphosate is notorious for being carcinogenic or cancer-causing, disrupting hormones, mineral-depleting, and an antimicrobial.
Over time, glyphosate can cause dysbiosis , or gut bacteria imbalances. This disordered overgrowth of bad bacteria can impact every organ, including the brain. 16
In animal studies, glyphosate has been shown to disrupt gut bacteria , killing beneficial forms and causing an overgrowth of pathogens. 17
Keep in mind too that scientists usually study pesticides such as glyphosate in isolation. We aren’t entirely aware of what the added impact of being exposed to multiple pesticides at once can cause.
However, what we do know is when it comes to toxins,
1 + 1 does not equal two; in fact, with toxins, 1 + 1 = 3.
In other words, their effects are more than just additive, they augment each other’s toxicity in the body .
Products containing glyphosate, for instance, usually contain other ingredients that help the glyphosate get into plants. 18 The exponential effects of these ingredients is yet to be fully understood.
Food Preparation is Paramount
It isn’t just what you eat or don’t eat that impacts the body’s toxic burden.
Everyday items used in food storage, cookware, and cooking utensils often harbor engineered compounds that pose potent, silent health threats to our bodies . Many of these compounds bioaccumulate over years and are stored in the fat of the body.
Nonstick pans and cooking utensils are convenient, but at what price?
PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), an ingredient in nonstick surfaces such as Teflon , has been implicated as a causative environmental toxin in autism spectrum disorders.
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) enter our bodies when we eat the foods we prepare on these surfaces , and then they have no easy way out. That is why they are called “persistent.”
They stay in your body for a literal eternity , pocketed wherever fat is stored in the body. In fact, over time these POPs slowly poison your cellular energy machinery, leading to weight gain , fatigue , and leaving you prone to diseases that are not easily traced back to an exposure.
Organic pollutants have even been implicated in the worldwide explosion of the rates of diabetes and obesity.
“Cleanse” your kitchen with cookware labeled “PFOA-free” and “PTFE-free”
Avoid PFOA and PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) in nonstick surfaces.
Some of my favorite pots and pans for green cooking:
- Ceramic . coated nonstick, such as Bialetti’s Aeternum Collection
- Porcelain . enameled cast iron, such as Le Creuset
- Stainless . steel (great for making rice and soups and steaming vegetables)
For example, 360 Cookware Stainless Steel products with Vapor technology offer a healthier alternative to cooking with oils. With my 360 Cookware sauté pan, I make perfectly steamed broccoli in less than five minutes, using very little water, thus retaining all the nutritional value of the food. Who said preparing a healthy, gut-friendly meal had to take a long time?
Also remember that your utensils are often manufactured with nonstick surfaces as well, which can be toxic to you. Instead, use utensils made from:
- Bamboo (a renewable, nontoxic resource)
- Stainless Steel
We all appreciate the convenience, environmental consciousness, and anti-wasting influence of food storage containers.
However, avoid plastic food storage containers, which contain BPA or other bisphenols. Instead, use containers made from glass or Pyrex.
Avoid plastic wraps that use polyvinylidene chloride (such as Saran) and choose a wrap that is made from polyethylene (less evil). An example of the less toxic version is Glad ClingWrap . Even better yet, forgo the plastic wrap and instead use old-fashioned wax paper with tape to hold it together if necessary.
Avoid triclosan , an antibacterial agent, and just use regular plant-based detergent , such as Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid . You don’t need an antibacterial agent unless you are sterilizing your apartment like a hospital.
6 Ways To Avoid Obnoxious Toxins
Like I said, you can’t completely eliminate these toxins, but you can minimize your exposure to them.
Years of treating literally thousands of patients suffering from the negative effects of toxicity — and by default an assault on their gut — led me to craft a program to take the guesswork out battling gut-related health issues. With the intent of battling these effects head on, I put together my GUT C.A.R.E Program ® to minimize exposure to pesticides and other harmful chemicals .
Here’s how to put the program into action.
1-BUY ORGANIC PRODUCE
To minimize your exposure to pesticides and GMOs, I encourage you to buy organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible .
To qualify as organic, farmers must abide by strict guidelines to avoid using pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. 19
Organic fruits and vegetables usually contain lower levels of pesticides and higher levels of nutrients
that can help support the immune system, including vitamin C and magnesium. 20
This is because organic produce has to produce more antioxidants to protect itself from bugs and infections, whereas non-organic produce has been stripped of this need by being bathed in pesticides, making the later plants weaker, more susceptible, and less nutritious.
2-SHOP FARMERS MARKET
Certifying a food as USDA Organic costs money. Some local farmers bypass that certification but still grow their crops as organic.
The best thing you can do is visit your local farmers markets , talk to them about how they grow their food , and develop a relationship with them.
3-CONSULT SHOPPERS GUIDE
Sometimes, eating organic isn’t possible. Maybe it’s too costly, or you can’t find organic produce at your grocery store.
That’s where the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ , created by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), can help. They identify the fresh fruits and vegetables that are most and least contaminated with pesticide residues.
Their Dirty Dozen™ provides a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticides . These are the foods you don’t want to compromise on — BUY ORGANIC.
The EWG’s Clean 15™ lists the least-contaminated fruits and vegetables . If you can’t buy organic, these are your best choices.
I encourage you to print out these lists or save them to your phone, so you’ll always have them available when you shop for food.
4-ELIMINATE SKINCARE TOXINS
While you’re at it, check out some of EWG’s other guides to minimizing toxic exposure, including their Skin Deep® guide for cosmetics and their Guide to Healthy Cleaning for cleaning products.
Even if you buy organic produce — and especially if you can’t — I encourage you to wash off pesticides with a homemade vinegar solution . Combine four parts water with one part vinegar , and soak fruits and vegetables for 20 minutes.
6-SUPPORT LIVER DETOX
To reduce the harmful impact of pesticides, you’ll want to reduce your exposure in every way possible — one of the best ways to do that is with your food.
Equally important, you want to support the body to eliminate these harmful toxins .
Without sufficient nutrient support, the liver cannot effectively eliminate the toxins in our food, water, air, and more.
As a result, they are reactivated and reabsorbed into the body , where they continue to cause damage.
How To Eliminate Toxins And Remove Gut Irritants
The body requires the appropriate nutritional support for effective functioning of the liver’s detoxification . Things such as environmental pollution, increased stress — and yes you guessed it — obnoxious toxins, all point to the body needing supplemental amounts of amino acids, minerals, and other factors essential for healthy detoxification.
To assist the body in that process with balanced Phase I and Phase II detoxification pathways, I created the HAPPY GUT ® REBOOT: 28-day Cleanse that I outlined in Happy Gut ® .
The goal is to minimize the amount of toxins the body is exposed to, as well as provide all the necessary nutrients to support the body’s elimination of those toxins — so they don’t accumulate and damage the gut, brain, liver, immune system, and more.
Avoiding obnoxious toxins and supporting the body’s ability to detox helps you build Immuno-Resilience.
In fact, JC, a patient of mine who came under my care after contracting Covid-19, had this to share with regards to the HAPPY GUT REBOOT: 28-Day Cleanse after his recovery:
“I never want to feel ‘helpless’ and on the brink of not being in control of what could very well save my life. Getting my gut in order with the 28-day cleanse, after recovering from the coronavirus, was by far one of the best things I’ve ever committed to AND completed! I’ve never had so much energy from cutting things out – so much that I’ve returned to working out while at-home. Then there’s the uhm how do I say…’happy butt’ — I’ll spare you the details but know this, my tummy troubles are next to none. I never thought that would be the case after having them my entire adult life. With all the unknowns that lie ahead, I can say this with 100 percent certainty — my immune system is ready to shield off things I’ve always been susceptible to like the flu or my case, Covid-19.” — JC, Brooklyn, NY
This comprehensive program gives the gut all the nutrients it needs to heal . You can feel confident knowing that you’re giving the body everything it needs to detox, digest, and defend against infections as well as thrive in any type of environment.
Pesticides and environmental toxins are everywhere . They can sabotage the gut, immune system, nervous system, hormone system, and so much more.
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