Your digestive system is one of the most important systems in the whole body. If your body cannot properly digest and absorb nutrients and eliminate waste products, then it is difficult if not impossible to achieve optimal health.
Proper gut function is critical to addressing many seemingly unrelated conditions.
Poor digestion impacts more than you may realize!
When something goes wrong during the process of digestion, it affects not just your gut, but can have a wide range of affects on the rest of the body. It can affect your immune system, nutrient absorption, allergies, inflammation and energy production.
Even if you eat an ideal diet, if your body is not breaking down, absorbing, and utilizing your nutrients, it won’t matter what food you put on your plate because your body won’t be able to use it.
Common medications taken to suppress stomach acid may actually make digestion worse, and often limit your body’s ability to absorb nutrients such as calcium.
Poor digestive enzyme function can lead to trouble breaking down food which in turn can contribute to indigestion, gas, bloating, and constipation.
A significant portion of your immune system resides in your digestive track to keep microbes and allergens from getting into our bodies. If you digestive system isn’t healthy, neither is this gut immune function, making your prone to immune dysfunction.
Naturopathic Medicine excels in working with digestive problems
Naturopathic doctors receive extensive training in understanding the complexities and interrelations of digestive wellness and overall body health. We are well versed in natural health approaches to specific digestive disorders such as IBS, heartburn, and ulcers as well as less obviously digestive-related conditions such as autoimmune disease, allergies, and migraines.
Digestive Disorders helped by naturopathic medicine:
- Constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Celiac disease, gluten-intolerance
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis
- Intestinal dysbiosis (gut microflora imbalances or intestinal candida overgrowth)
- Food allergies
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Acid reflux / Heartburn / GERD
- Indigestion, gas, bloating
- Pancreatic enzyme insufficiency
- Gall bladder
- Hepatitis, liver congestion or fatty liver (non-alcoholic steatic hepatitis)
- Diverticulosis or diverticulitis
Other conditions related to digestion helped by naturopathic medicine:
- Auto-immune diseases
- Migraines and headaches
- Weight gain or loss
- Joint pain, arthritis
- Mental-emotional fogginess
Our approach to digestive wellness:
Here at AntiAging Northwest we see digestion as a key piece to any naturopathic plan. Different approaches to digestive wellness might include dietary modification, food allergy identification and desensitization, homeopathic remedies, immune support, high-quality probiotics, and additional testing.
Why All the Emphasis on Digestion?
The liver is considered to be the “seat of the soul.” So much goes on in the liver - processing of food, removal of toxins, fighting against infection - that it is probably the only organ which could not be replaced with a machine. But the intestines are equally important. The surface area of the small intestine, alone, is roughly equal in size to a tennis court. It has more solid contact with reality (in the form of the pounds of material we ingest each day) than any other part of the body.
That being the case, the small intestine’s job is a very big one. It is responsible for letting useable parts of the food and drink we consume into our bodies, but also for keeping out toxic things we swallow. It does that by maintaining integrity at the cellular level. A food component, toxin, virus or bacterium which wishes to get into the body via the gut has to go through the cells lining the gut (enterocytes), or through the “tight junctions” between enterocytes.
As long as the tight junctions stay tight, things function reasonably well. But if the junctions become leaky (so-called “leaky gut”), as can happen with excessive antibiotic use, ingestion of toxic chemicals (including low doses of toxic chemicals adding up over a long time), or various types of infection, people get sick. Various inappropriate materials (partially-digested food, viruses and other pathogenic bugs or chemicals) can be absorbed, to our peril.
When these foreign materials invade the blood stream, bad things happen. The immune system sees them as foreign, and attacks. Sometimes it also attacks cells in the body with surfaces similar to the foreign materials. This can produce allergies, arthritis, odd neurological and psychiatric symptoms and a host of other problems.
Once the gut becomes leaky, it tends to remain so without treatment. Treatment involves avoiding irritating foods and materials from the diet, replacement of specific amino acids which help the gut lining cells regenerate, repletion of favorable bacteria (probiotics) and their preferred foodstuffs (prebiotics). Sometimes it may take complete bowel rest with elemental or IV nutrition, but it can be done.
Once the gut regains its integrity, many other problems will often right themselves spontaneously, or with a little help. Restoration of gut integrity is usually required for other treatments - removal of heavy metals, balancing of hormones, relief of allergies - to respond effectively.