Foreword Why Is Gut Health So Important?
One of the most prominent focuses of health in the twenty-first century is gut health. Having too many bad critters—bacteria and other microorganisms—hanging out in the gut has been linked to numerous medical issues, including autism, obesity, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, depression, and certain types of cancer, heart disease, fibromyalgia, eczema, and asthma. New links between chronic illness and an imbalanced microbiome (also known as gut bacteria) emerge almost every day, and the connection between the gut and inflammatory arthritis of all types is no exception.
While Western medicine has greatly advanced in treating acute disease, conditions that are easily fixed with a pill like an antibiotic, we’ve failed miserably in addressing chronic illness, health issues that linger because they have lifestyle issues like diet and stress as the root cause. In the mid-nineteenth century, the French microbiologist and chemist Louis Pasteur, best known for developing the process of pasteurization, discovered the bug, or microbe, that causes infections; about seventy-five years later, a Scottish biologist named Alexander Fleming developed antibiotics to cure them. This simple cause-effect “cure”—single bug, single disease, and single drug—might work for infection, but not so much for chronic disease.
Ever since, we have been searching for cures for chronic diseases (including cardiovascular and autoimmune disease and dementia), yet we can’t find them! Medicine’s history has become the pursuit
of a holy grail: a pill for every ill. This failed approach will continue to fail because chronic disease results from the complex interaction of our genes, lifestyle, and environment. There is no miracle cure. Instead, we need a well-rounded, permanent lifestyle approach.
Many scientists have started referring to the gut as our “second brain,” an idea reflected in amazing books such as The Good Gut by Justin and Erica Sonnenburg, Ph.D., Brain Maker by David Perlmutter, M.D., The Microbiome Solution by Robynne Chutkan, M.D., and The Gut Balance Revolution by Gerard E. Mullin, M.D. Having a healthy gut should mean more to you than being annoyed by a little bloating or heartburn. It becomes central to your entire health and connected to everything that happens in your body. That’s why, like Dr. Blum and, similar to the program she lays out in Healing Arthritis, I almost always start treating my patients’ chronic health problems by fixing their guts first.
You can begin to understand the importance of gut health when you consider that your gut contains many trillions of bacteria—three pounds’ worth—made up of one thousand different species. Your body has about twenty thousand genes but two million (or more) bacterial genes!
Altogether, your gut is a huge chemical factory that helps to digest food, manufacture vitamins, regulate hormones, excrete toxins, and produce healing compounds, among other functions. Intestinal health could be defined as the optimal digestion, absorption, and assimilation of food. But that is a big job that depends on many other factors. For example, the bugs in your gut are like a rain forest: a diverse and interdependent ecosystem. They must be in balance for you to be healthy. Too many of the wrong ones (such as parasites, yeasts, or “bad” bacteria) or not enough of the good ones (Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria) can seriously damage your health.
Dr. Susan Blum’s groundbreaking book Healing Arthritis is a powerful guide to self-healing, showing how you can address the root causes of disease, reduce inflammation, and heal your joint pain. She lays out a clear road map to recovery for the millions of people
suffering needlessly from arthritis and provides solutions for healing the gut and changes in diet, supplements, and life balance that can help people manage and even reverse these conditions. Dr. Blum’s desire to find these answers was fueled by her own struggle with arthritis, a condition that she has treated successfully and recovered from by using the program described in this book.
Remember, optimal gut balance begins with a diet rich in fiber, healthy protein, and healthy fats. Good fats, including omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats—from sources such as extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, and almonds—improve healthy gut flora, while inflammatory fats like omega-6 vegetable oils promote the growth of bad bugs that cause weight gain and disease. Lack of sleep also contributes to gut imbalance, so be sure to get seven to eight hours of quality sleep. Additionally, your gut flora listen to and are influenced by your thoughts and feelings, so it’s important to practice your favorite stress reduction activities daily. You will find an easy-to-follow diet guide and ideas for relaxation practices in the pages that follow. If you suffer from any type of arthritis or inflammation and are looking for a treatment approach that offers an option to medication by addressing the root causes, this book is for you.
Mark Hyman, M.D., medical director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, founder of the UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time number one New York Times bestselling author