Why your abs are only as good as what's underneath

According to Alejandro Junger, M.D., good health begins in your gut.

When you get sick, you see a doctor who specializes in what ails you, right? A skin rash would send you to a dermatologist, while feelings of sadness might convince you to see a psychiatrist. But according to Alejandro Junger, M.D., author of the new book Clean Gut, the cause of your problem—whether it’s allergies, mood swings, lack of libido, depression, or even heart disease and cancer—can be traced to an unhealthy stomach. “How the gut functions has both a direct and indirect effect on every single cell in the human body,” he says. Here, Junger explains how focusing on gut health can eliminate disease and keep you healthy in the long run.

Why did you write this book?
The state of human health is in crisis. Everyone seems to be suffering from something, getting tests done, and taking over-the-counter and prescription medications. But taking a pill for every ill just doesn’t work—and can sometimes make you sicker. In my 20 plus years as a physician, I’ve learned that nearly every ailment can be traced to an injured and irritated gut.

When you say “gut,” what exactly are you referring to?
In addition to the intestines, I’m talking about the bacteria that live inside them, as well as the nervous and immune systems within and around the walls of the intestines. Together, these organs and tissues make up the gut, which is one of the most complex and important instruments in your body. Your health and well-being depend on all these parts working in concert.

What kind of health issues may arise from gut dysfunction?
The main problem I see is inflammation, which can lead to many chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and others. But gut dysfunction can also cause more minor ailments such as fatigue, headaches, insomnia, lack of libido, and irritability.

How so?
The gut is in charge of digesting our food and absorbing the nutrients needed for our bodies to function. If the gut isn’t working correctly, nutrients may not be absorbed, and this can wreak havoc on any organ in the body.

So, how do we make sure our stomachs are in top shape?
The first step in gut repair is to identify what I call “toxic triggers”—foods that cause a negative response in the body. The most common are gluten, dairy, processed sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. In the Clean Gut Program, I suggest that you remove these foods from your diet and then slowly reintroduce them to see which ones are making you sick.

What are some health problems your patients have overcome?
I’ve seen people lose weight, get rid of seasonal allergies, put an end to chronic headaches, have more energy, and sleep better.
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