Life Extension Magazine®

Woman and mother with food for gut health

Digestive Wellness

In her book, Digestive Wellness, Dr. Elizabeth Lipski explains the connection between digestion and conditions ranging from migraines and skin issues, to arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in May 2022. Written by: Life Extension Editorial Staff.

Hippocrates famously said that all disease begins in the gut.

Now, modern research is proving that everything in the body is connected, and that the center of that connection is the gut.

A healthy digestive system does more than prevent gas, bloating, and other intestinal upsets. It helps you sleep better, think more clearly, boost your energy levels, and fight disease.

In Digestive Wellness, 5th Edition, Elizabeth Lipski, PhD, CNS, FACN, IFMCP, professor of clinical nutrition, and author of numerous books on digestion, provides the latest scientific research on the connection between faulty digestion and conditions ranging from migraines and skin issues to arthritis and fibromyalgia.

In addition to covering topics like the gut-brain connection, leaky gut syndrome, prebiotics and probiotics, and cancer prevention, Digestive Wellness provides natural remedies for common gastrointestinal disorders like acid reflux, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.

In this interview with Life Extension®, Dr. Lipski explains how optimizing digestive wellness can help prevent disease and enhance your overall quality of life.

—Laurie Mathena

Mother holding child and grocery bags

LE: Can you explain the basic concept of your book, Digestive Wellness?

Dr. Lipski: Doctors are trained to identify diseases by where they are located. If you have asthma, it’s considered a lung problem; if you have rheumatoid arthritis, it must be a joint problem; if you are overweight, you must have a metabolism problem.

Doctors who understand health this way are both right and wrong. Sometimes the causes of your symptoms do have some relationship to their location, but that’s far from the whole story.

As we come to understand disease in the 21st century, our old ways of defining illness based on symptoms and location in the body are not very useful.

Instead, by understanding the origins of disease, and the way in which the body operates as a whole, integrated ecosystem, we now know that symptoms appearing in one area of the body may be caused by imbalances in an entirely different system.

Everything is connected. The center of that connection is the gut.

If your skin is bad or you have allergies, can’t seem to lose weight, suffer from an autoimmune disease, struggle with fibromyalgia, or have recurring headaches, the real reason may be that your gut is unhealthy.

This may be true even if you have never had any digestive complaints.

Woman feeling discomfort in gut

LE: How do you go about treating gut-related issues?

Dr. Lipski: In conventional medicine, a clinician makes a diagnosis and there are standard therapies for each diagnosis. In functional medicine, there is no cookie-cutter approach. Finding the underlying mechanisms of disease rather than focusing on symptom relief is the goal.

Two people with the same diagnosis may need completely different therapies. At the same time, two people with completely dissimilar diagnoses may benefit from the same therapy.

For example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraine headaches, attention deficit disorder, and fibromyalgia may seem like different diagnoses, but they may all have the underlying cause of leaky gut syndrome or food intolerances.

LE: How do you begin looking for underlying mechanisms?

Dr. Lipski: It’s called the DIGIN approach. No matter what the diagnosis, by looking at your symptoms and diagnoses through the DIGIN model, you’ll find ways to move toward health.

DIGIN is an acronym for the five primary categories of digestive imbalances: Digestion/absorption, Intestinal permeability, Gastrointestinal (GI) microbiota, Immune function and inflammation, and enteric Nervous system.

By assessing each of these areas, you can discover how to best get your body back into balance.

LE: Let’s talk a little more about just one of these areas. To what conditions has intestinal permeability been connected?

Dr. Lipski: Leaky gut syndrome is really a nickname for increased intestinal permeability, which underlies an enormous variety of illnesses and symptoms.

The list of health conditions associated with increased intestinal permeability grows each year as we increase our knowledge of the synergy between digestion and the immune system. Currently there are more than 13,800 research articles on intestinal permeability.

Depending on our own susceptibilities, we may develop a wide variety of signs, symptoms, and health problems.

Leaky gut syndrome is associated with the following medical problems: allergies, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, HIV, and malabsorption syndrome.

Leaky gut is a triggering factor in every autoimmune condition. These include multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis.

It’s also found in people with AIDS, liver diseases including hepatitis and cirrhosis, lung conditions including asthma and bronchitis, and other conditions.

LE: How can something like a leaky gut have an impact on so many areas of the body?

Dr. Lipski: When there is increased intestinal permeability, substances larger than particle size—bacteria, fungi, potentially toxic molecules, and undigested food particles—are allowed to pass directly through the weakened cell membranes into the bloodstream, activating antibodies and alarm substances called

The cytokines alert our lymphocytes (white blood cells) to battle the particles. Oxidants are produced in the battle, causing irritation and inflammation far from the digestive system.

LE: What are some steps you can take to restore gut integrity?

Dr. Lipski: If you believe you suffer from leaky gut, it’s best to work with a health professional who can help you determine the underlying factors. Fortunately, you can find many ways to heal your gut.

Some involve changing your habits, like chewing your food more completely; others involve taking specific supplements that will help your body repair itself.

Bone broths are a way to use food to heal the gut lining.

Vegetables with nutrients for a leaky gut

LE: What specific supplements could be beneficial?

Dr. Lipski: Glutamine is the first nutrient I think of to repair a leaky gut. Glutamine is alkalizing to the body. It decreases the incidence of infection and stimulates the production of sIgA. Glutamine has also been shown to decrease the risk of bacterial translocation.

Dosages can range from 1 gram to 30 grams daily, depending on your needs. Begin with 1 gram to 3 grams daily.

I also think about quercetin, which heals the gut lining, works as an antihistamine, and also regulates the immune system.

Be sure to get a high-quality quercetin product. Take between 500 mg and 3,000 mg daily.

Zinc may [also] be an essential nutrient for gut repair. The type that shows the most promise for digestive healing is zinc carnosine.

A typical dose is 75 mg of zinc carnosine twice daily.

LE: What role does the microbiome play in overall health?

Dr. Lipski: In the last decade, research on the human microbiome has mushroomed. There are several emerging concepts and theories about the microbiome:

1. The emerging research suggests that the microbes that we evolved with play an enormous role in determining our overall health.

2. Having a wide diversity of microbes gives us great healthy resilience.

3. Modern people are missing chunks of microbes that used to give us greater diversity. Current research suggests that diversity is the key to optimal health.

The microbiome functions much like an organ, and it acts as a major part of the immune system. It protects us from microbial and parasitic diseases, influences the effects of drugs, affects whether we are fat or thin or happy or sad, determines our nutritional status and overall health, and contributes to our rate of aging.

LE: How can prebiotics help improve the health of your microbiome?

Dr. Lipski: Prebiotics are the food for the gut microbes. They nourish and stimulate growth of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria in the microbiome, while reducing disease-causing bacteria such as Colstridium difficile, Klebsiella, and Enterobacter.

They help build bone, keep blood sugar and insulin levels regulated, lower ammonia levels in people with liver disease, normalize serum triglyceride levels, prevent constipation and diarrhea, and protect against colon cancer.

LE: Can you explain how faulty digestion contributes to something like arthritis?

Dr. Lipski: The dietary connection between rheumatoid arthritis and food sensitivities was first noted by Michael Zeller in 1949 in Annals of Allergy. He found a direct cause and effect by adding and eliminating foods from the diet.

Since then, other studies have been done on the relationship between food sensitivities and arthritis. In a study of 43 people with arthritis of the hands, a water fast of three days brought improvement in tenderness, swelling, strength of grip, pain, joint circumference, function, and sedimentation (SED) rate (a simple blood test that determines a breakdown of tissue somewhere in the body).

There is documentation in the literature about arthritis and deficiencies of nearly every known nutrient. When the needed nutrients are supplied, the body can begin to balance itself.

Though many nutritional and herbal products help arthritis sufferers, no one thing works for everyone, so persist until you find the therapies that work best for you. Give each one at least a three-month trial before giving up on it.

LE: What about something like cardiometabolic health?

Dr. Lipski: As research unfolds about the microbiome, it appears that the drivers of liver disease, diabetes, and obesity are tied closely back to gut health. This is a mutual relationship that goes in both directions.

As dysbiosis increases, we also see increases in gut permeability and bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS), inflammation, weight gain, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome.

As we improve health by changing diet and lifestyle, losing weight, and rebalancing the gut and microbiome through the DIGIN model, balance is improved and risk is lessened.

LE: Once you identify the problem, what is the solution?

Dr. Lipski: The principles of repair in functional medicine are fairly simple. As one of the pioneers in the field, Sidney Baker, MD, said: Get rid of what you don’t need, and get what you do need.

Remove: Nutrient-depleted food, processed foods, poor-quality fats and oils, parasites, molds, metals, chemicals, infections, and foods that don’t agree with us. Remove relationships and stressors that no longer serve us.

Replace: Processed foods with whole foods, nutrients, digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid (HCl), and bile salts. Also, replace poor lifestyle habits with better ones.

Reinoculate: Beneficial probiotics and prebiotics from food and supplements.

Repair: Using foods and supplements such as glutamine, gamma-oryzanol, duodenum glandular, N-acetyl glucosamine, fiber, Boswellia, geranium, licorice, quercetin, and more.

Rebalance: Discover your “new normal,” which may be the healthiest you’ve ever felt or not quite as great as you’d like.

LE: It seems like this approach could take some trial and error.

Book cover of Digestive Wellness

Dr. Lipski: If at first you don’t find major improvement, keep working at it. You may not have found the best remedy or combination of therapies on the first try.

Patience and perseverance bring the best results. It takes time to resolve chronic illnesses.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

Dr. Elizabeth Lipski holds a PhD in Clinical Nutrition, has two board certifications in clinical nutrition (CNS and BCHN), is certified in Functional Medicine (IFMCP), and is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition (FACN). She is a professor and the director of the Academic Development for the Nutrition programs in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health. She is also the founder of and Innovative Healing Academy.

The information in this article was used with permission of McGraw Hill Education.

To order a copy of Digestive Wellness, call 1-800-544-4440 or visit

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