Many people suffer from poor digestive health and regularly complain of digestive signs and symptoms (cramping, bloating, abnormal bowel motions, reflux). These signs and symptoms, particularly when they are ongoing, can significantly impact a person’s quality of life and their overall health status. This is because the health of the gastrointestinal system (commonly referred to as the ‘gut’ or ‘GIT’) can determine the health and functioning of other systems in the body.
One of the most notable people in the history of medicine, Hippocrates, stated that “all disease starts in the gut”. You may have heard of the ‘gut-brain axis’ or the ‘gut-skin connection’ – these terms exist because research is consistently showing a strong link between the gastrointestinal system and other systems in the body, such as the skin, immune system and nervous system. Therefore, many Naturopaths will investigate the health of the gut when a patient is presenting with a condition such as eczema, autoimmune disease, or mental illness. If imbalance is found, working to restore balance in the gut usually leads to a significant improvement in the patient’s condition.
So what happens when you have poor digestive health? It may be one, many or all of the following:
- Imbalance in the bacteria found in the gut – this may be an overgrowth of bacteria that do not usually reside in the gut, or low levels of healthy bacteria that should be found in high numbers in the gut (or both!)
- The lining of the gut (gastrointestinal membrane) becomes leaky (‘leaky gut’)
- Low stomach acid (Hydrochloric acid) or low digestive enzymes – leading to poor digestion of food and absorption of nutrients
- Yeast overgrowth – whilst candida is a common yeast overgrowth, there are many other yeast species that can cause issues
And how do these various imbalances occur? There are many reasons, including but not limited to the modern diet (processed foods, high intake of sugar, low intake of fruits and vegetables, food intolerances), medications (e.g. antibiotics ‘killing off’ not only bad bacteria but also good bacteria), stress, anxiety and depression, alcohol, plus many more! It is no wonder that the digestive system becomes prone to damage.
Due to the vast amount of problems that can occur within the digestive system, naturopathic treatment needs to be very targeted (the Naturopath needs to know exactly what imbalances are occurring to be able to correctly address them) and also very comprehensive to ensure all aspects of poor gut health are resolved.
So how do you improve your gastrointestinal health and wellness? Consuming a healthy, balanced and appropriate diet is the basis for a healthy digestive system. Some people will also require effective nutritional and herbal supplements that can further help to heal the gut, promote a healthy balance of gut flora, and assist in digestion and absorption of nutrients. Learn more about how to enhance digestive health here: http://www.integratedwellnessclinic.com.au/digestive_system_wellbeing/