The Epithelium

Understanding why your epithelium is so critical to the OFM program is crucial to your health and wellness especially if you are an athlete with gastrointestinal issues. The epithelial lining of the stomach and gut can be described as similar to a rainforest canopy environment which inside resides the biome community along with a host of other epithelial cells. Like the rainforest it is a complex and diverse community composed of our various epithelial cells and mucous membrane in conjunction with the biome. What impacts this “environment” both positively & negatively is literally what we ingest via foods, water, electrolytes, medicine (including antibiotics) etc.

It is currently thought these cells turn over very rapidly so nourishing them needs to be a focus. This is another reason for understanding the concept of “Nutrition NOT Calories”!
Epithelial cells are also very prone to oxidative stress so the constant consumption of concentrated carbohydrates in large quantities as is common for most athletes with any volume of training literally can “burn” down the rainforest canopy of the epithelium. This does not happen overnight but is a progressive degeneration.


Early symptoms can be indigestion and acid reflux and mild intestinal issues during competition. As the “deforestation” continues athletes find themselves having greater intestinal issues when competing, are more prone to allergic/inflammatory reactions to certain foods and are more prone to food borne illnesses. Later stage degradation often results in digestive tract disorders like Crohn’s Disease, IBS, Celiac’s Disease, Gall Stones and Leaky Gut Syndrome.

Concurrent with this breakdown of the epithelium and the resident biome many athletes will also develop one or more of these conditions; metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, leptin resistance, arthritis, wide swings in energy levels, weak bones, heart disease, dislypidemia and are generally more prone to injury. While this all sounds pretty dramatic, observationally, this is all too common in many endurance athletes following a conventional carbohydrate centric diet and, while the science has yet to fully identify the overconsumption of carbohydrates as an issue, it certainly has strongly suggested the more obvious players like simple sugars, sodas, white flour and exonerated saturated fats. So maintaining our first line of digestion and defense by nourishing rather than degrading our epithelium is key to robust health thus robust performance.

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