Digestive system problems and disorders are the in thing. You ain’t cool unless you’ve got some kind of digestive issue, be it Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), or even just plain old chronic constipation. You are certainly in the minority if you’re in your golden years and don’t suffer from Diverticulosis or at least have a few juicy hemorrhoids.Although high fiber diets may be touted as the be-all-and-end-all of IBS cures, it may actually be counterproductive in the fight against digestive issues.
The vast majority of gastrointestinal disorders relate to the bacterial ecosystem that exists within the digestive tract. A bit of a chicken or egg question, either the bacterial ecosystem becomes deranged, known as dsybiosis or dysbacteriosis, which prevents proper absorption, or sugars that aren’t absorbed provide a food supply and environment for bacteria and yeasts to thrive in unnatural quantities and in unnatural areas of the digestive tract; namely the small intestine. Either way, prevention and treatment of the vast majority of digestive complaints and illnesses rests entirely on reducing inflammation and malabsorption.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in the medical literature is the standard recommendation for virtually any known digestive illness – adopt high fiber diets,consume foods high in fiber, take fiber supplements, and wash it all down with extra water. Fiber is a substance in healthy, whole, unprocessed carbohydrates such as whole grains, root vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, seeds, beans, and nuts. However, if you have altered gut flora overgrowing your digestive tract, causing chronic inflammation, acidic byproducts of fermentation, etc., then fiber becomes nothing other than an irritant. In fact, fiber gulped down and shoved into a digestive tract that is damaged, weakened, and inflamed is actually a leading suspect in the causation of many colorectal disorders and digestive system problems, especially IBS, ulcerative colitis, diverticulosis, polyps (which precede colon cancer), and Crohn’s disease. Fiber is even a common cause of the constipation that it is so lauded to relieve.
Frankly, telling someone with a digestive problem to eat lots of fiber differs little from telling someone with broken legs to do power lunges to heal up.
The mainstream infatuation with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – and the recommendations put forth by the healthy eating pyramid have been a tremendous disservice to many people. These foods, and the fiber in them are no help to diabetics, those at risk for heart disease, and are scarcely more than poison to someone with a digestive disorder. Nor or they any help in reducing appetite, helping with weight loss, or any other of the loose claims attached to fiber that were more or less eliminated by the recent results of the famed Nurses Study, conducted by Walter Willett of Harvard University.
Fiber is no health food nor is it in any way an essential nutrient. Removal of fiber from foods in the refining process has always been associated with the onset of digestive disorders – but had little to do with fiber itself. Historically, dozens of medical doctors and nutritional pioneers observed this phenomenon, from Weston A. Price to Denis Burkitt to Robert McCarrison. McCarrison looked into this phenomenon with the greatest detail, noting that nutritional deficiencies associated with a diet high in refined grain and sugar without adequate nutrients to compensate resulted in very predictable and catastrophic consequences upon the digestive organs of not just humans, but a half dozen other animal species in which he experimented upon. The irony, he pointed out, was that once digestion was impaired, a diet of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and other foods that could have prevented the condition in the first place were intolerable.
But there is hope,and there are digestive system and IBS cures available. There are several historic human diets that were fiber free or close to it, and this provided a level of health that surpasses what modern man currently enjoys by any account. The Eskimos, for example, ate a diet that contained no fiber and no plant material whatsoever. Explorers, across the board, marveled at the legendary level of health experienced by Eskimos still following their native diet. The same was true of the traditional Masai tribe in Kenya, who subsisted almost entirely on milk and meat. Not only were digestive disorders unheard of amongst these people, but so was heart disease, obesity, cancer, mental disorders, and even tooth decay – currently the most common disease affecting humans worldwide.
But the biggest culprit of all in the manifestation of digestive system problems is malabsorption. The most commonly unabsorbed food substance is fructose – a type of sugar found in fruit, refined sugar, agave nectar, crystalline fructose, and high-fructose corn syrup. It is estimated that two-thirds of all children do not absorb this form of sugar properly, leading to bacterial overgrowth, hypoglycemia, and in half of the cases – visible signs of digestive distress. The gases and acidic byproducts of fermentation also lead to a wearing away of intestinal walls causing intestinal permeability, which can later lead to bigger problems such as food allergies, immune system impairment, and the chronic inflammation that is becoming increasingly linked to nearly every form of degenerative disease, particularly those that are most rapidly rising amongst children: ADD, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, asthma, allergies, and type I and type II diabetes.
Other factors are involved, from the use of antibiotics and oral contraceptives, to toxic chemical overexposure, to the lactose in pasteurized milk (the 2nd most common source of unabsorbed sugars). But again, the best strategy for most digestive disorders is not to adhere to higher fiber diets by eating the clichéd and outdated 6-11 servings of whole grains topped with rabbit food and a side of Metamucil, but to follow a protocol that is wildly different.
For an excellent discussion on many strategies to deal with a long list of digestive problems, check out 180’s eBook on the topic: 180 Degree Digestion.