As a naturopathic physician, I know that nothing contributes more to your overall health than digestive wellness. No matter how well you eat, if your digestive system is not breaking down and absorbing the nutrients in your food, your body cannot get what it needs to keep you healthy.
Proper gut function is critical to addressing what can be seemingly unrelated conditions. If your gut is not happy, your body is not happy!
If you’ve got digestive problems you have lots of company
In the United States, at least 75 million people experience digestive disorders. Many more do not know that their unlikely symptoms may also be related to trouble in their GI tracts.
Many individuals with digestive problems are often so accustomed to stomach issues that they do not realize how much better they could feel. They may have learned to live with the discomfort and be under the impression that that is just how it’s supposed to be. Ignoring those symptoms over time, can lead to chronic illnesses that are likely to have a greater negative impact on your health.
Some surprising signs and symptoms of digestive dysfunction:
- Fuzzy thinking
- Loss of bone density
- Migraine and other headaches
- Joint inflammation
- Arthritis (all types)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure
When something disrupts the proper process of digestion, it often affects not only your gut, but also your immune, hormonal and nervous systems. Even if you eat an ideal diet, proper nutrient absorption and energy production may be impaired leading to the development of inflammation and allergies.
A significant portion of your immune system resides in your digestive track to keep microbes and allergens from getting into our bodies. If your digestive system isn’t healthy, neither is this gut immune function, making you prone to immune dysfunction. Symptoms such as increased occurrences of colds and flus, food sensitivities and autoimmune diseases are all results of an imbalanced gut. Understanding the cause of this imbalance is where healing the gut begins to happen.
Understanding how common digestive medications work is curtail to treating and healing the gut. Many individuals take medications used to suppress stomach acid that may actually make digestion worse and often limit your body’s ability to absorb nutrients such as calcium or magnesium. Naturopathic physicians are trained to help patients with simple, safe and effective herbal remedies. For example, chewing DGL (or Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice) before meals can be beneficial in reducing the symptoms and the occurrence of acid reflux.
Poor digestive enzyme function can lead to trouble breaking down food, which in turn can contribute to indigestion, gas, bloating, and constipation. Plant-based digestive enzymes (or apple cider vinegar) have long been a “go-to” remedy for naturopathic physician in solving this problem and often lead to fast results. Fortunately there are a number of remedies available to individuals, depending on their needs. Naturopathic physicians’ advanced medical education enables them help patients understand which remedy is best for their particular circumstances.
Our Approach to Digestive Wellness
As a naturopathic doctor at Summit Holistic Medicine, I see digestion as a key piece to any naturopathic plan. Different approaches to digestive wellness might include dietary modification, food allergy identification and desensitization, immune support, high-quality probiotics, and additional testing.
Any factor that affects your GI function is worth looking into, because good digestion promotes optimal health — both physically and emotionally.