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Today, more than ever before, our bodies are bombarded by chemicals, environmental pollutants, nasty bacteria, and parasites. These toxins can spread far beyond the digestive tract and, in some cases, turn deadly. Even the produce aisle, where fruits and veggies had always been a safe haven for health-conscious and calorie-concerned consumers, is getting scary. You know what I mean because practically every day, we see headlines like these:

“Melamine in Pet Food…”

“Salmonella Contaminates Peanut Better in 26 States…”

“Bagged Spinach Tainted by E.coli…”

“Contaminated Beef Recalled in 22 States…”

“The Parasite Cryptosporidium Survives Chlorination and May Contaminate Tap Water…”

“Parasite in Tap Water May Cause Blindness…”

It’s enough to make you feel queasy and never want to drink straight from the tap again.

Dodging dangers at the dinner table seems to be a full-time job. And as a professional nutritionist and author of 30 books on health and healing, I’m not just worried by the disturbing trends in food safety, I’m downright alarmed. I have been in the health care field for more than three decades and I can’t recall a time when I’ve seen more people suffer with so many problems related to food.

And, recently, I became one of them.

I thought I had been doing everything “right,” following my own protective protocols, taking daily probiotics and digestive enzymes. Yet, for months, I suffered from bloating, abdominal cramping, embarrassing gases, and anxiety. After several trips to Urgent Care, I was “diagnosed” with acid reflux based on my symptoms. I then decided to try every natural remedy I was familiar with for heartburn, GERD, and digestive ills—all to no avail.

I became so desperate I resorted to commonly prescribed medications like Protonix, Prevacid, and Nexium, which only made me feel worse and very disoriented. When an upper GI scope showed that I was “as clean as a whistle,” I was even more upset. Here I was, the “First Lady of Nutrition,” not knowing what was going on in my body and finding no answers. I was sick, suffering, and stymied.

After six full months of major discomfort, I decided to follow the advice that I would normally have given to a client or a reader who presented the same baffling array of symptoms that I was experiencing: I did a stool test. Finally, I was able to get to the root cause of what was really going on in my body.

My expanded GI panel stool analysis revealed that I was harboring abundant Candida albicans and rarified yeast, abundant inflammatory bacteria with exotic names like Klebsiella and Citrobacter species as well as some rare alpha-hemolytic Streptococcus. Not your ordinary bacteria, by any means. So how did I, of all people, manage to “pick up” all of these bugs? You will be shocked to find out—it may be something you do every day but don’t really think about how you put your body at risk.

I share this story now to let you know that we are truly all in this together. This experience was one of the inspirations behind the development of The Gut Flush Plan. I am deeply concerned about unsafe food handling and the dangers in our food supply and in our environment. With this book and this plan, I want to prevent what happened to me from happening to you.

We are supposed to have the safest food and water supply in the world, but as a nation we seem to be sick and getting sicker with every meal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that more than 200,000 Americans get food poisoning every single day. On a yearly basis, almost 80 million of us get sick, and more than 300,000 go to the hospital, for food-related illness. And these are just the unfortunate victims we know about. Many more people may actually be contracting food-borne illnesses and simply don’t realize their food and drink could be making them ill.

Worse still, we’re importing the problem at an increasing rate. In the first four months of 2007, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seized about 300 food shipments from China. The seafood, candy, and other items had been contaminated with chemicals such as pesticides, antibiotics, antifungals, and formaldehyde. But despite all the problems with imports, the FDA, hampered by personnel and budget constraints, inspects only about one percent of the $60 billion of imported food each year.

Frightened yet? Me, too, and with good reason.

You and I are not being paranoid. The sources of our food are increasingly out of our hands. When giant conglomerates mass-produce assembly lines full of processed food, supermarket chains import food of questionable origin from all over the world, and corporate farmers grow vegetables in polluted environments, we’re right to question the safety of the food on our forks. And while the food supply has gotten scarier, our digestive systems have also become weaker and less capable of coping with food-related upsets. We spend more than $60 billion every year for medical help for our digestive problems, which are now the second most common reason for visits to physicians. (I can’t even begin to tell you how many people consult me because their digestion is “off.”)

You’ve heard of the new types of bacteria—the “Superbugs”— that are quickly spreading through hospitals, gyms, schools, beauty salons, and the community? A recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that more than 19,000 deaths a year can be attributed to MRSA, a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a type of superbug once found exclusively in hospitals that has now leaked into community settings. Among other things, the massive amounts of antibiotics force-fed to conventional livestock have contributed to a dangerous antibiotic resistance that has allowed these superbugs to thrive. And our weakened digestive systems have only helped make us sitting ducks for their deadly infections.

The fact is, due to certain diet and lifestyle habits we’ve developed—from mindlessly munching on our favorite corn chips to compulsively using antibacterial soaps—we’ve become part of the problem. We’ve made ourselves susceptible to a wide range of food-related challenges, ranging from the more common occurrences like food sensitivities and stomachaches to more serious, long-term manifestations such as irritable bowel syndrome, spastic colon, severe constipation, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. We’re a nation suffering from a raging case of what I call Gut Grief.

I know we can fight back. Thus far, amidst all the headlines that scream, the real news has been absent from the front pages. And here it is: you can take concrete steps right now, today, to protect yourself. You can stand up against the invasion of pathogens, parasites, and other undesirables in your food that seek to camp out in your belly and make you sick. Just a simple set of practical, concrete steps can dramatically lower your risk of getting sick—and may even save your life.

I’ve spent my entire career helping people identify and pinpoint the “hidden invaders” or unsuspected factors that may be sabotaging their health. For many years, I have seen my patients recover from unresolved illnesses after getting rid of parasites. Their ailments had been mislabeled as depression, allergies, hypoglycemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or even fibromyalgia. As I took their history, I would always ask about recent travel, for instance. A camping trip in the wilderness or a visit to Mexico, Asia, or a tropical island frequently preceded persistent flu like symptoms, extreme tiredness, intermittent diarrhea and constipation, or even sudden weight loss or weight gain. The connection between parasites and your health is well documented in my book Guess What Came to Dinner? Which I updated in 2001 to reflect how a number of factors (travel, the increasing contamination of municipal and rural water supplies, day-care centers, increasing popularity of exotic regional foods, and the continued popularity of household pets) have continued to contribute to the silent parasite epidemic I believe we experience today.

Similarly, in my book The Fat Flush Plan I discuss the neglected and overlooked weight gain factors, beyond just diet and exercise, that are a major contributor to our current obesity epidemic that has claimed seven out of ten Americans. In the Fat Flush Plan, I target liver toxicity, waterlogged tissues, the fear of eating fat, excess insulin/excess inflammation, and stress as potent factors that are “weighing us down.”

Now I have turned my attention to the multiple factors that threaten our poor ailing guts. Given my own puzzling gut-related case history coupled with the rising tides of tainted foods, superbugs, and other scary headlines, I knew it was time to develop a program that could protect against this new breed of 21st century ills. Enter The Gut Flush Plan.

Recent science has shown us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that food, digestion, and health are inextricably linked. In this book, you will learn surprising new information about how nutritious meals can “rebuild” a digestive system that efficiently absorbs nutrients, eliminates toxins, and helps the immune system protect the body from invading pathogens.

We’ll begin by discussing the very real dangers that lurk both around the world and in your refrigerator, whether the “bad bugs” can give you a short-term case of food poisoning or the more dangerous strains can cause long-term illness or turn downright deadly.

Then we’ll consider your individual symptoms: Do you suffer recurring diarrhea? Chronic constipation? Irritable bowel? Acid reflux? We’ll use those symptoms to determine your greatest risks: Are you overrun with yeast? Do you harbor an unknown parasite? Have you adopted an antibiotic-resistant Superbug? Are you sensitive to certain foods, without knowing which ones?

We’ll talk about how each of these conditions is contracted, how and why they are on the rise, and what you can do about them. You’ll take a self-diagnostic quiz to determine your level of risk, so you can follow a protocol specially designed to prevent and relieve each one.

Once you’re on the road to relieving your most pressing intestinal issues, you’ll turn to the core of the Gut Flush Plan, the Gut Flush eating and supplement program. Designed to help everyone defend themselves against yeast, superbugs, parasites, food sensitivities, and other food-borne illnesses, the Gut Flush eating and supplement program is a revolutionary three-step process to rebuild your digestive system from a cellular level up. You will learn to:

  • Fortify your own compromised digestive system against pathogens and parasites;
  • Flush out any lingering infestations or toxicities;
  • Feed yourself nourishing foods that encourage gut health and don’t trigger sensitivities.

The preventive steps and therapeutic solutions in this eating and lifestyle program feature all the knowledge, tips, and techniques you’ll ever need to free yourself from Gut Grief and keep you and your family safe from food-borne illness. You’ll learn how to defend yourself against tainted foods, even name brands you have come to trust. You’ll find out which mealtime staples undermine your best efforts at weight control by feeding greedy parasites or triggering food sensitivities and bloating. You’ll discover how to naturally boost your body’s production of beneficial intestinal flora (also known as probiotics), hydrochloric acid (HCI), and digestive enzymes, your three greatest allies in the fight against Gut Grief. You will also learn that safe food handling is the most neglected subject in food preparation but perhaps the most important of all. As you go, you’ll savor delicious new foods and discover tweaks to your favorite dishes that can make them your strongest allies in the fight to enhance immunity and reduce intestinal distress.

Best of all, the Gut Flush Plan will give you the power to feel in control of your own health, both now and in the future. Enter into the plan and among many other benefits, you can expect to:

  • regain your energy and vitality by eradicating pathogenic bacteria, parasites, yeasts, and food allergies;
  • enhance healthy bowel function by establishing regular, pain-free bowel movements;
  • increase your production of critical, health-protecting vitamins, such as the B vitamins and vitamin K;
  • soothe agonizing maladies, such as peptic ulcers, acid reflux, and heartburn;
  • relieve embarrassing bloating and gas;
  • cleanse toxic, undigested food from your colon and lower intestine;
  • help control irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, celiac disease, and spastic colon;
  • enhance your overall immunity;
  • lose stubborn, unwanted pounds.

Food-related problems are everywhere and show no sings of going away. But you don’t have to be a victim. You can be a person who feels lighter, cleaner, healthier, and more vital. You can face the 21st century food supply without fear and once again delight in the simple pleasure of eating deliciously clean and safe foods. Begin the Gut Flush Plan and start living today.

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Visionary health expert Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, has always been a trendsetter. With millions of followers nationwide, she has the uncanny ability to pinpoint major health concerns and provide solutions years ahead of anybody else.

Highly respected as the grande dame of alternative health and award-winning author of 30 books, she single-handedly launched the weight loss/detox revolution in her New York Times bestseller The Fat Flush Plan. A Connecticut College and Teachers College, Columbia University graduate, Dr. Ann Louise was recognized as one of the top ten nutritionists in the country by Self magazine and was the recipient of the American Medical Writers Association award for excellence. She has been a popular columnist for First magazine since 2003.