Do you suffer from (or have previously suffered from) bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, reflux, or gas? Over 100 million Americans have some form of digestive problems. Because of this, there are over 200 over-the-counter drugs for digestive disorders, many of which can actually create additional digestive problems.
The worst part is that most of us (including many healthcare providers) do not realize that digestive problems can create or contribute to even worse problems throughout your entire body. Allergies, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, rashes, acne, chronic fatigue, mood disorders, autism, dementia, cancer and more have all been linked in some way to digestive distress. This is why one of the very first things we often do with our patients is to help them fix their gut.
The health of your digestive system determines what nutrients you are able to absorb and what toxins, allergens, and microbes (viruses and bacteria) are kept out. This means that your overall health is directly related to you digestive health.
There are over 500 species of bacteria in your gut. Too many of the wrong kind or not enough of the good kind can lead to serious health consequences. Both your immune system and your body is protected from the toxic environment in your digestive system by a very thin layer of tissue that covers and area the size of a tennis court. If that barrier gets damaged you can get sick and be stuck with an overactive immune system that creates inflammation within your body.
Your gut also contains is now being called the “second brain.” There are more neurotransmitters in your gut than your brain and your gut is wired to communicate directly with your brain. If those messages are garbled or sent at the wrong time, your health can suffer.
Your gut is also responsible for getting rid of all the toxins that are created from your metabolism that are sent there in the bile from your liver. If that mechanism gets backed up, you’ll get very sick.
And of course, in the middle of all this other stuff (and what most would consider the most important part) your gut has to break down all the food you eat and separate out the vitamins and minerals, sending everything across that thin membrane into your blood stream so you can survive.
Even when the environment is perfect, your gut can have a hard time keeping things balanced.
Here are some things that commonly cause it to become unbalanced:
- Low fiber, high sugar, processed food, nutrient poor, high calorie diet.
- Overuse of medications that damage the gut or inhibit digestive function (medications like anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, acid blocking drugs, and steroids).
- Chronic, low-grade infections or gut imbalances with overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, yeast overgrowth, parasites, or even more serious gut infections.
- Toxins that damage the gut such as mercury and mold toxins.
- Inadequate digestive enzyme function (which can come from acid blocking medications use or zinc deficiency).
It is important to understand that many disease which seem completely unrelated to your gut such as eczema, psoriasis, or arthritis can actually be caused by gut problems.
How do you keep your gut healthy?
- Eat whole unprocessed foods with plenty of fiber.
- If you think you have food sensitivities try an elimination diet or get food sensitivity testing done (come visit us, we can do that!)
- Treat any infections or overgrowth of bugs like parasites, small bowel bacteria, or yeasts.
- Take digestive enzymes with your food
- Take probiotics
- Take extra omega 3s
- Use gut-healing nutrients such as glutamine and zinc