“All disease begins in the gut” – Hippocrates
Hippocrates made this claim more than 2,000 years ago, and we are only now beginning to appreciate the wisdom of his words. Over the last 20 years, research has revealed that an unhealthy gut contributes to a wide range of diseases. These include, but are not limited to, arthritis, autism, depression, autoimmune disorder, and even obesity. With gut health such an important factor in overall health, what can we do every day to ensure we are taking care of this vital system in our body?
The H.O.P.E. formula
H.O.P.E. is the basic foundation of good health. It consists of four essential elements for an optimal digestive system in a healthy body. If you have a digestive system, you need H.O.P.E.!
H – High fiber O – Omega 3 Fats P – Probiotics E – Enzymes
Taken daily, these four elements will improve the way your body functions:
- Regulate bowel movements
- Reduce inflammation in the digestive tract
- Eliminate digestive issues such as gas and bloating
- Fully digest foods and enhance absorption of their vital nutrients
- Increase your energy and overall health
Most sources suggest a range of 25 to 40 grams of fiber per day, with 35 the ideal for most of us. The typical North American diet averages around 13 grams of fiber per day.
Fiber comes only from plants: fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains. While technically not a nutrient (no calories, vitamins, or minerals), fiber is found in Nature’s most nutritious foods and is indispensable for a healthy diet. It comes in two types, each with its own unique health benefits: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water forming a gel that moves through the digestive system trapping fat and toxins for removal from the body. Many foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber but most are predominately one or the other. Some dietary sources of soluble fiber include apples, carrots, barley, legumes, oranges, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and peas. Insoluble fiber, also called “roughage,” sweeps the walls of the colon clean and provides the bulk needed to strengthen and tone the muscles of the colon. Some dietary sources of insoluble fiber include wheat bran, fruit and vegetable skins, flaxseed, lentils, root vegetables, nuts, beans, and seeds.
OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS (Fish Oils)
Essential or Omega fatty acids are the “good” fats that your body needs to establish and maintain overall well-being. They can only be acquired through a healthy diet; the body does not produce them on its own. The two most common Omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in smaller, cold-water fish, (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, anchovies, and other species), and have names you can’t spell or pronounce – call them EPA and DHN. Since the typical North American diet is quite deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids, daily supplementation with a natural fish oil formula is a good way to obtain their health-promoting benefits.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for:
- Brain function and mood support
- Cardiovascular health and function
- Healthy skin and hair
- Hormone production
- Lubrication of the colon
- Nervous system function
- Reducing the risk of chronic disease
Recent research has been revealing the central importance of “gut health” to our total well-being. Many of our most common health complaints, such as obesity, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, even depression, can be linked to the chronic, systemic inflammation that occurs when our gut bacteria fail to do their job.
Despite our urge to treat them all as invaders, the bacteria that live and grow in our bodies are our friends and constant companions. You are host to 100 trillion of them, mostly in your intestinal tract, where they function as our first line of defense. Known as beneficial bacteria or “good bacteria”, they help our bodies recognize and defeat any harmful bacteria or pathogens we may ingest and keep environmental toxins from leaking into our bloodstreams. Think of these microbial residents as your very own GPS – “Gut Protection System”!
The unique bacterial makeup of your body is established in the first two years of your life and remains relatively unchanged into adulthood. This microbial “fingerprint” may dictate the difference between someone who has strong digestive health and someone who does not.
So how does your GPS protect you when, for example, you are exposed to a virus? Your good bacteria will fight off that virus in three ways:
Level 1 – They surround the virus while it is still in your intestinal tract.
Level 2 – They form a barrier along your intestinal lining to prevent the virus from passing through into the bloodstream.
Level 3 – Good bacteria communicate with your body to produce substances that neutralize the virus before it can cause any damage.
Enzymes are protein-based molecules that enable the breakdown of food into smaller, usable components within the body. Many of the most common digestive complaints, such as bloating, gas, heartburn, and upset stomach, can be due to a lack of digestive enzymes. There are three digestive enzymes with specific jobs to do:
- amylase and other carbohydrase enzymes break down starch into sugars (maltose, glucose, and fructose)
- protease enzymes break down proteins into amino acids
- lipase enzymes break down lipids (fats and oils) into fatty acids and glycerol
Amylase is produced in the salivary glands, pancreas, and small intestine. One type of amylase, called ptyalin, is made in the salivary glands and starts to act on starches while food is still in your mouth. It remains active even after you swallow.
Pancreatic amylase is made in the pancreas and delivered to the small intestine. Here it continues to break down starch molecules into sugars which are ultimately digested into glucose by other enzymes. This is then absorbed into the body’s blood circulation through the wall of the small intestine.
Protease is produced in the stomach, pancreas, and small intestine. Most of the chemical reactions occur in the stomach and small intestine. In the stomach, pepsin is the main digestive enzyme attacking proteins. Several other pancreatic enzymes go to work when protein molecules reach the small intestine.
Lipase is produced in the pancreas and small intestine. Besides breaking down fats and oils, lipids play many roles, including long-term energy storage and supporting cellular health. A type of lipase is also found in breast milk to help a baby more easily digest fat molecules when nursing.
Enzymes are essential for many other functions within the human body besides digestion:
- delivering nutrients to the entire body
- transport of toxic waste
- blood clotting and blood purification
- supporting kidney and liver function
- delivering hormones
- balancing cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- strengthening the immune system
PERSONALIZE YOUR H.O.P.E. PROTOCOL
Taking care of your digestive health is one of the simplest but most profound things you can do for your health. You take a multivitamin every day to fill in the holes that might be in your diet, so think of H.O.P.E. as a multivitamin for your gut. Incorporating these supplements into your daily routine will give you optimal health from the inside out.