The healthy digestive tract performs many functions and is key to overall health. These functions include:
- Helping to break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates to release essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals, eliminating waste and toxins
- Containing 80% of our immune system
- Containing 2-6 lb of bacteria (beneficial and harmful) which can impact on the immune system, inflammation, mood and intestinal health
- Production of 85% of serotonin (happy brain chemical) as well as other chemicals which communicate with our brain and nervous system
- Production of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory chemicals
Since the healthy gut has so many functions, signs and symptoms of poor gut health may include:
- At a digestive level – indigestion, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, belching, pain, flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome and bowel disease such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease and diverticulitis.
- At a brain level – low mood, anxiety, depression, mood swings, foggy brain, lack of concentration and irritability.
- At an immune system level – may increase incidence of eczema, asthma, runny nose, frequent colds and respiratory tract infections and auto immune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune thyroiditis, diabetes and many more
- Inflammatory chemicals produced in the gut can travel in the body via the blood stream and cause symptoms elsewhere such as irritability, anxiety, low mood and muscular/joint aches and pains
Potential triggers for digestive symptom issues can be found in figure 1 and many of these are common in our lives.
Removal or reduction of potential triggers may promote gut health, manage symptoms/disease. Gut health may be supported by a gut healing protocol which might include:
- Removing harmful gut bacteria
- Removing food allergens (see immune system health)
- Possible supplementation of beneficial bacteria, digestive enzymes, betaine hydrochloride (a stomach acid replacement) and L glutamine (a protein source that promotes intestinal cell health)
- Managing stress
- Improving diet
- Stool testing provides valuable information on the presence of gut parasites/pathogenic bacteria, quantities and types of beneficial bacteria, inflammatory markers, intestinal cell health and the ability to digest carbohydrates/fats/proteins. Test results allow me to provide a more targeted management of your symptoms.