Protecting the Gut with the Immortal Elixir of Chinese Medicine

September 28, 2016

Protecting the Gut with the Immortal Elixir of Chinese Medicine

There are many ways to protect the ‘second brain’ of the body—our gut. Among them is an ancient Chinese remedy, dating back more than 2000 years, that helps to detox, bolster our immunity with antioxidants and healthy gut bacteria, scavenge our bodies of free radicals while supporting weight loss, and even aid in cancer prevention. Kombucha is considered the ‘immortal elixir’ for good reason.   

 

Our Second Brain and Intuition

Our stomach and intestines are connected to the enteric nervous system, a part of our bodies that constantly conveys messages between the brain and the nervous system at large. Our guts process and digest our food, but that ‘gut’ instinct is not just a figment of your imagination. Our gut truly is part of our intuitive faculties. There are more than 100 million neural cells lining the intestinal walls—more than the spinal chord or the peripheral nervous system—that help us to make a decision before our conscious brain can even process all the information around us.  It only takes the brain 13 milliseconds to ‘see’ an image before us, but the gut arguably works even faster.

While the second brain doesn’t help us to understand great poetry or to make logical decisions, it does respond to a thousand different cues that help us make good decisions. In addition to that, the neural cells along the intestinal walls are constantly talking to microscopic organisms that can either boost our health or cause absolute havoc on our immune systems, our mood, and even cause serious diseases like leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, or worse.

The second brain informs our state-of-mind in other more obscure ways, as well. Many of our emotions are influenced by the nerves in our gut as they signal there as part of our physiological stress response. Michal Gershon, chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, an expert in the nascent field of neurogastroenterology and author of the 1998 book The Second Brain, says that “although gastrointestinal (GI) turmoil can sour one's moods, everyday emotional well-being may rely on messages from the brain below to the brain above. For example, electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve—a useful treatment for depression—may mimic these signals.”

This wisdom from ancient Chinese Medicine reverberates through Ayurvedic medicine, also. This tradition calls the energy which integrates the human mind-body connection through our digestion Samana Vayu—this energy allows us to stomach what we eat, but also what we feel.

This force allows us to digest not just our food, but our life experiences. When this force is dampened due to emotional upheaval, or just the modern stressors of daily life, it can have a direct effect on our capacity to digest food, or even feelings.

 

Why the Gut Is Considered to Be the Bulk of Our Immune System

Almost all of your immune system tissue is located in your gut—about 80 percent of it, in fact. This is the first place in your body, aside from through the nostrils, or mouth, that foreign pathogens can enter. Therefore, it is one of the most important places in your body to help prevent illness.

Moreover, the gut mucosa, known as the body’s second skin, protects us from the mouth to the anus. It also communes with the largest population of gastrointestinal immune cells in the body, which are part of the lymphoid branch of our immune system. This mucosa secretes lymphocytes into little bundles called ‘Peyer’s Patches,’ which then release white blood cells (T-cells and B-cells) that defend against disease.

 

Here’s How Kombucha Actually Works

When we drink kombucha, we support all of these processes within the body. Here’s why:

Kombucha is a beverage made from black or green tea and natural sugars. A colony of healthy bacteria and yeast is formed through the process of fermentation, which carbonates the drink, but also creates vinegar, B-Vitamins, enzymes, and a host of probiotics, along with several types of health-boosting acids: acetic, gluconic, and lactic. A symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, or SCOBY, is created. This collection of ingredients is known to:

  • Aid digestion
  • Increase energy
  • Help with weight loss
  • Detox the cells
  • Support immunity by creating healthy gut flora
  • Reduce joint pain by decreasing inflammation in the body
  • Prevent cancer

Most kombucha teas contain the following probiotics, as documented by the scientific journal, Food Microbiology:

  • Gluconacetobacter (>85 percent in most samples)
  • Acetobacter (<2 percent)
  • Lactobacillus (up to 30 percent in some samples)
  • Zygosaccharomyces (>95 percent)

The word probiotics comes from ‘pro,’ meaning ‘for,’ and ‘biota,’ meaning 'life'. These commonly present probiotics in kombucha help to populate the gut with ‘good’ bacteria, while overpowering ‘bad’ bacteria, and unfavorable yeast overgrowth like candida that can cause a number of additional health concerns. As Harvard explains, “An estimated 100 trillion microorganisms representing more than 500 different species inhabit every normal, healthy bowel.” By making sure we have a healthy gut colony, we are already making greater strides toward peak health.

Additionally, kombucha’s high Vitamin B content helps to protect the pancreas and liver, and glucosamine that helps to protect the joints. The pancreas is responsible for helping to digest sugars and fats, and the liver is a master detoxifying organ of the body. These organs benefit greatly from drinking kombucha.

Among all these benefits, kombucha is also known as a gateway food, because it usually leads to healing on so many levels. This initial healing can lead to better choices concerning diet, lifestyle, and even better balance in ways we might not have experienced before.

It may seem surprising that a single food source can do so much for our health, but kombucha has been known as a powerful elixir for millennia. This power drink offers so many benefits, they are almost too plentiful to mention.

 

Image courtesy of: PaleoHacks



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