Eat dirt

Why leaky gut may be the root cause of your health problems and 5 surprising steps to cure it

Dr. Josh Axe

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Book Details
 336 p
 File Size 
 2,395 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 2016 by Dr. Josh Axe 

About the Author
DR. JOSH AXE is a doctor of natural medicine and a clinical nutritionist with a
passion to help people get healthy by using food as medicine. He founded one of
the largest functional medicine clinics in the United States and runs the popular
health website, where you can find recipes, natural remedies,
videos, nutrition advice, and fitness tips. Dr. Axe is a board-certified doctor of
natural medicine (DNM), earned his doctorate in chiropractic at Palmer College
(DC), and is a certified nutrition specialist (CNS) from the American College of
Nutrition. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, Chelsea.

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I was twenty-four years old, in school training to become a doctor of functional
medicine and working as a clinical nutritionist just outside of Orlando, Florida,
when I received a phone call from home. My mother, Winona, was on the line,
and she sounded upset.
“What’s wrong, Mom?” I asked.
“The cancer has come back,” she said through tears.
My heart sank, and I was immediately transported back to my seventh-grade
year, when my mom was told that she had stage 4 breast cancer that had spread
to her lymph nodes. The news was not only a devastating blow to me, as her son
—but it was also a shock to anyone who knew her. At the time, my mom was
forty-one years old; she was my gym teacher at school and a swim instructor.
Everyone thought she was the picture of fitness and health.

Soon after her diagnosis, my mom underwent a total mastectomy of her left
breast and started the first of what would be four cycles of chemotherapy that
left her too weak to get out of bed in the days that followed. It was painful to see
how sick she got on chemo. I remember walking into the bathroom one day and
seeing clumps of her sandy-blond hair on the floor. She looked like she had aged
twenty years in two weeks.

Thankfully, months later she was declared cancer-free, but her health
continued to spiral downward. Even after bouncing back from chemotherapy and
returning to her job, she felt lousy. Every day, she would get home at three thirty
in the afternoon and nap until dinnertime. We’d eat together but she struggled to
stay awake and would turn in for the night soon after. When she told her doctor
that she couldn’t cope with being a wife, mother, and schoolteacher, he
prescribed an antidepressant.
Depressed and exhausted: this was the mother I knew throughout my teenage
years. She lived in fear that the cancer would return.
And now, ten years later, it had.
Her distressed voice shook me back to the present. “My oncologist told me
they found a tumor on my lungs that was 2.5 centimeters,” she said. “He wants
to do surgery and start radiation and chemotherapy right away.”
I tried to be as encouraging as possible. “Mom, please don’t worry. Your body
has the ability to heal,” I said. “We just need to stop feeding the cancer cells and
get to the root cause of the disease.” I was confident her health could be restored
—but, in order to do that, we’d need to take care of her whole body.
The next day, I flew home to help her lay out a health program. I asked her to
tell me about any symptoms she had been experiencing in the time leading up to
her diagnosis.

She sighed. “Well, I’m still struggling with depression,” she said. “And even
if I get a good night’s sleep, I’m always tired the next day.” She described
symptoms that indicated she had multiple food sensitivities. She also revealed
that she’d been diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
All of this was quite troubling—but it was her last symptom that shocked me.
When I asked about her digestive habits, she revealed that she’d had an average
of one to two bowel movements a week, for the last ten years.
“Wow, Mom,” I said, stunned. “Why didn’t you talk to your doctor about this earlier?”
“I thought it was normal,” she said. Her face crumpled.
I reached out for her hand and told her not to be discouraged. “Mom,” I said,
“this is actually good news. We can definitely do something about your
digestion, and that alone will make a big difference in how you’re feeling.” And
hopefully will help stop the cancer, too, I thought.
I told my mother about leaky gut syndrome—a condition in which the
intestinal wall breaks down, allowing microbes and food particles to leak out of
the digestive tract, triggering an inflammatory immune response—and how
dangerous it was. I told her I believed it was the cause of her constipation and
several other health problems, and that we needed to address it immediately.
“We can do this, Mom,” I said. “Come on.” I stood up and asked her to follow
me into the kitchen.
I grabbed a black garbage bag and opened kitchen cupboards. “We’re starting
all over,” I announced. “From now on, you’re not eating anything that comes out of a box.”
Together, we threw out every processed food we could find:
boxed cereals like Honey Nut Cheerios and Honey Bunches of Oats (she
thought these cereals were healthy)
plastic bottles of Juicy Juice billed as “90 percent real fruit juice” but made
with apple juice concentrate and “natural” flavors that weren’t natural at all
chips and crackers made with MSG and genetically modified corn
cereal bars made with high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, and soy protein
salad dressings with artificial thickeners, emulsifiers, and hydrogenated oils
bags of highly refined white sugar and white flour
Then we attacked the refrigerator and tossed out condiments, sauces,
margarine, coffee creamers, mayonnaise, and conventional dairy items such as
skim milk and processed cheese (“American cheese”) singles. Altogether, we
threw out three huge garbage bags of processed foods.

Then we drove to a local health food store, where I walked her through the
aisles and talked her through the types of foods she should be eating to help
support her body in its fight to kill the cancer cells. We selected organic
vegetables and berries, wild-caught salmon, pasture-raised chicken, and “clean”
pantry staples—all organic foods with as few ingredients and as little processing
as possible. Then we drove to another health food store, where we picked up
nutritional supplements like turmeric, immune-boosting mushrooms, vitamin D3,
and frankincense essential oil.

At that time, the mainstream antibacterial craze was at its height, and almost
every product in conventional grocery stores—from floor cleaner to toothpaste
to number-two pencils—seemed to have added antibacterial ingredients.
Scientists had started to sound the alarm about the overprescription of antibiotics
causing resistance to some strains of illnesses, and the danger of overly sterile
environments to our immune systems, but their research wasn’t trickling down to
most neighborhoods just yet. The evidence of these issues was showing up every
day in my natural medicine practice, though. For several years I had seen the
collateral damage these antibacterials and other supposedly “sanitary” chemicals
were causing.

If part of the problem centered on being too clean, I felt certain the solution
must be the opposite—to get dirty. To consciously create repeated
“microexposures” to dirt that held long-lost bacteria, viruses, and other microbes
that could function as nature’s immunizations. To fortify and replenish the
beneficial bacteria our bodies lost during the onslaught of antibacterial products
in our environment. To completely reeducate the immune system, so it could
once again learn how to defend itself without going overboard.
To not be afraid of a little dirt here and there, but instead, more consciously
follow the rhythms of nature and embrace the healing power that surrounds us every day.

And so, to start Mom’s healing program, I went straight for the dirt. In my
years of medical research, I’d developed a special interest in probiotics—
supplements and foods rich in healthy microorganisms, bacteria, fungi, and yeast
that tip the overall balance of our gut microbiota toward health. One of the most
novel and interesting threads of research I’d found centered on microorganisms
in soil, which possesses many vital microbes often missing in the human body.
Right away, I started my mom on a probiotic supplement with soil-based
organisms (SBOs) believed to improve the absorption of nutrients, eliminate
yeast overgrowth, and improve bowel function.

Then I brainstormed other ways for my mom to “get dirty.” She liked to ride
horses growing up, so she headed back to the stables and began riding regularly,
breathing in dust and grooming the horses. We also visited the farmer’s market
to pick up organic, locally grown produce that had traveled less than ten miles
from the farm. The vegetables were vibrant with antioxidants and had clumps of
soil still clinging to their roots. In her kitchen, I taught my mom how to make
green drinks with servings of spinach, celery, cucumber, cilantro, lime, green
apple, and stevia. She consumed a daily regimen of supplements, high-quality
extracts derived from medicinal plants. She downed many cups of bone broth
soup, the healing elixir made from the bones and innards of chicken, beef, lamb,
or fish—animal parts previously considered dirty waste, now known to be an
excellent source of collagen, glutamine, and other nutrients that help “heal and
seal” the lining of the gut. She spent time outside in her garden every day,
digging in the flower beds, or simply being still and giving thanks.

I have to hand it to Mom—she followed my diet and lifestyle advice very
closely. And over the next several months, she saw many positive changes in her
health: her constipation problems resolved, and she began having one bowel
movement every day. She noticed a major upswing in her energy. Her thyroid
issues disappeared. She lost twenty-two pounds, and she no longer felt
depressed. She reported feeling more joy than she had ever experienced.
When my mom went in four months later for a CT scan, her surgeons were
mystified by the results. Not only was her blood work normal, her cancer
markers had dropped dramatically.
“What’s happened is very unusual,” the oncologist said, with obvious
surprise. “We don’t see cancer shrink very often.” Her largest tumor had shrunk
by 52 percent.

The oncologist encouraged her to keep doing what she was doing, “because
whatever it is, it’s working.” Her medical team decided to hold off on surgery.
Mom was greatly relieved to avoid going under the knife again.
Now, I want to be clear: cancer is one of the most extreme health concerns
any of us will ever face. I would never claim that my program “cured” my
mom’s cancer. Many factors come into play with an outcome like hers, and she
was very diligent about following the guidance and directions of her other
doctors. But where her doctors’ instructions left off, her diet and lifestyle
changes began. And I believe it is due to the integration of all of these factors
that today—more than twenty years after she first learned she had breast cancer,
and a decade after this second diagnosis—Mom is enjoying the fruits of her
lifestyle changes.

About seven years after her second diagnosis, my mom and dad retired and
moved to a house on a lake in Florida. Today, they enjoy water-skiing and
hiking trails with new friends. Mom has run several 5K races with me (finishing
in second and third place in her age group!). She is radiant and bursting with
energy. Almost every time I see her, she marvels at how much her health has
changed. She says she feels better in her sixties than she did in her thirties!

BONUS: If you want the detailed eating plan, supplement plan, and
lifestyle regimen my mom followed to heal herself, you can download it for
free at:

Table of Contents
1 The Hidden Epidemic
2 Ground Zero for Leaky Gut
3 The Immunity Connection
4 Eat Dirt
5 You Are What You Eat
6 A Sanitized Society
7 The Price of Convenience
8 Our Stressful Lives
9 Medication Nation
10 The Eat Dirt Program
11 Healing the Whole Body
12 Healing Candida Gut
13 Healing Stressed Gut
14 Healing Immune Gut
15 Healing Gastric Gut
16 Healing Toxic Gut
part four | RECIPES
17 Recipes for Home and Body
Resource Guide
About the Author
About the Publisher

About the Publisher
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