Our Digestion Keeps Us Healthy Or It Makes Us Sick
The role of our digestion is quite a miraculous process. The health of our digestion system determines what nutrients are absorbed in our bodies as well as what allergens we might respond to and what microbes are let in and kept out. Our “whole body” health is directly linked to our digestion. In fact, intestinal health can be defined as “optimal digestion, absorption and the assimilation of food.”
Did you know that our guts, actually contain MORE neurotransmitters than our brains!? In fact, the gut has a brain of its own. It is called the “enteric nervous system” and it is a very sophisticated piece of our biology that is wired to our brains in intricate ways. Messages constantly travel back and forth between our gut-brains and head-brains, and when those messages are interfered with in any way – our health will suffer.
Our guts have quite a lot to manage! Even in a perfect world it is hard to keep all of this in balance. But in our modern world there are endless insults that can knock our digestive systems off balance making it much more difficult to maintain excellent digestive health.
Let’s start here…there are plus or minus about 500 species and 3 pounds of bacteria in our guts which form a HUGE chemical reaction that digests our food, regulates hormones, excretes toxins, and produces vitamins as well as other healing compounds that keep our gut and body healthy. This ecosystem of friendly bacteria must be in balance to be healthy. Too many of the wrong bacteria, like parasites and yeasts, or not enough of the good ones, like Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria, can seriously damage our health.
Did you know that in our guts we have a “gut-immune system”? It’s true. Keeping a healthy balance of bugs in our intestines is one way to good digestive health. Our entire immune system, and the rest of our bodies, are protected from the toxic environment in our guts by a lining that is only ONE cell thick. If you were to spread out this layer, the lining would take up a surface area the size of a basketball court, where the entirety is covered by a sewer!!
If this thin but protective cell barrier becomes damaged, we may suddenly find that we are allergic to foods that we were able to digest perfectly well. We may get sick. Our immune systems may become overactive and begin producing inflammation throughout our bodies. Filtering out the good from the bad molecules and protecting the immune system is yet another important factor in gut health.
Our digestive system has to get rid of all the toxins produced as byproducts of metabolism, which the liver dumps into bile. If things get backed up when we are constipated, we may become toxic and our health will suffer. By the way, one of the number one causes of constipation is dehydration!
How Do We Know If Our Gut Is Unbalanced?
First we need to understand what is sending your gut out of balance in the first place.
The list is short:
- Our low-fiber, high-sugar, processed, nutrient-poor, high-calorie diet, which causes all the wrong bacteria and yeast to grow in our gut, damages the delicate ecosystem in our intestines.
- Overuse of medications that damage the gut or block normal digestive function – like acid blockers (Prilosec, Nexium, etc.), anti-inflammatory medication (aspirin, Advil, and Aleve), and overuse of antibiotics, steroids, and hormones.
- Undetected gluten intolerance, celiac disease, or low grade food allergies to foods such as dairy, eggs, or corn.
- 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 like mercury and mold toxins, which damage the gut.
- Lack of adequate digestive enzyme function, which can come from acid-blocking medication use, or zinc deficiency.
- Stress, which can alter the gut nervous system, cause a leaky gut, and change the normal bacteria in the gut.
What happens then is obvious. You get sick.
7 Steps To Optimal Digestive Health
To heal the Digestive System we simply need to:
- Eat whole and unprocessed foods.
- Make sure to include plenty of fiber from foods like vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
- If you think you have food sensitivities, try an elimination diet.
- Cut out gluten, dairy, yeast, corn, soy, and eggs for a week or two and see how your gut feels and what happens to your other symptoms.
- Parasites, small bowel bacteria, and yeasts can all inhibit proper gut function.
- Treat any infections or overgrowth of bugs.
- Rebuild the ecosystem of friendly bacteria.
- Take broad-spectrum digestive enzymes with food to solve the problem.
- Take probiotic supplements. They will help rebuild the healthy bacteria, essential to good gut health.
- Eat good fats.
- Take extra omega-3 supplements, which help cool inflammation in the gut.
- Take glutamine and zinc to repair the lining in your gut so it can resume its normal function.
Fixing your digestion may take some time, but it can be done and it is absolutely essential if you want to achieve vibrant health. Work on healing the digestive system using the steps above and watch as your symptoms (and those extra pounds) disappear!