Blog post written by Crystal Springe, NTP, S.A.G.E. Holistic Health & Wellness Center
Hippocrates believed that ?all disease begins in the gut? so an imbalanced digestive system is the root cause, or at least a huge contributor, to many diseases and symptoms. That also means all health begins in the gut, so restoring gut health should be the first step you take towards restoring health.
Let’s take a look at the important roles our digestive system plays:
1. Absorbs nutrients into the blood stream that are necessary for energy, growth and cell repair.
Each nutrient plays a crucial role in overall wellbeing. Just one nutrient deficiency can make it impossible to maintain homeostasis.
A nutrient-dense diet does no good if digestion and absorption are sub-par
2. Contains 70%-80% of the immune system
It’s important to have a majority of the immune system in the digestive system because it is our bodies first encounter with the outside world. When we eat inflammatory foods or have chronic stress, it triggers an immune response causing inflammation in the intestines. Unmanaged digestive inflammation increases intestinal permeability, leading to leaky gut and autoimmune disease. (See blog post).
Having the right balance of microbes as part of your microbiome keeps your immune system strong and healthy. Your microbiome can also help prevent diseases far beyond the gut! Studies now show that up to 90% of all diseases can be traced back to the gut microbiome.
3. Houses the microbiome
The microbiome is a lot like Earth’s ecosystems, the bacteria interact with one another within the community they live in (our gut). Throughout our lives, we help shape our own microbiomes. They change in concentration depending on their surroundings. So they are very reactive to the foods you eat, how you sleep, your level of stress you and use of medications/antibiotics. These bacteria play a role in boosting immunity, keeping our digestive systems running smoothly, balancing our hormones and keep our brains working properly.
4. Produces serotonin, and other neurotransmitters.
Gut-friendly bacteria can help manage neurotransmitter activity, which makes them natural antidepressants and anti-anxiety organisms.
What disrupts gut health?
Years of eating pro-inflammatory, non-organic, processed, nutrient-poor, empty-calorie foods take a toll on the body, leading to many modern chronic diseases that never plagued our ancestors.
Stress induces changes in gastric secretion, the movement of food through the digestive tract, intestinal permeability, blood flow, and inflammation Basically, in times of stress our bodies slow down digestion or completely turns it off.
How to recognize if your gut needs support
The list of symptoms resulting from poor digestive health is long. And one thing that makes digestive issues especially complex to navigate is that similar symptoms can have different causes. Plus, these symptoms may occur not only within the gut, but far beyond it as well.
In the digestive tract, there may be bloating, changes in bowel movements (either diarrhea or constipation), gas, discomfort, pain, and acid reflux.
Elsewhere in the body, digestive disorders can cause fatigue, skin conditions, brain fog, anxiety, depression, weight changes joint pain, headaches, infertility, behavioral problems, and nutritional deficiencies.
There are three primary issues concerning the gut that can cause the above symptoms; intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut), food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances, and an unhealthy microbiome.
How to begin restoring your digestive system
Incorporate anti-inflammatory, organic, fresh, whole foods to boost the immune system, increase energy, improve sleep, balance your hormones and improve cognitive functioning. Your cells are the building blocks of everything in your body so it’s important to nourish them, providing them with exactly what they need to reproduce and function.
Practice mindfulness techniques such as meditation or yin yoga to balance your nervous system. Each of those techniques involve deep breathing, which triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, and activates processes involved in rest, repair, and digestion. When the body is in parasympathetic mode, blood flow and oxygenation to the digestive tract is increased, making digestion more efficient.