Digestion is foundation for all health conditions.

Published Thursday August 18th, 2011

Digestion and its proper functioning impacts all aspects of our health.

Digestion

For this reason, I ask all my patients about their bowel movements and review other symptoms concerning the health of their gastrointestinal tract (or gut).

It's important to do a full assessment of digestive health. Questions aim to determine the presence or absence of constipation, loose stools (or diarrhea), heartburn, reflux (or food regurgitation), burping, gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort or pain, straining with bowel movements, and blood, mucus or ingested food in the stool.

For many of us, ignoring these symptoms is common because we were not taught about the importance of digestive health and ways to be able to fix it.

To help understand why improving your digestive health is so important, I'll use the analogy of your house's foundation (see diagram above). A properly built foundation for your house (like the digestive tract in your body) is perhaps the most important criteria for it's long-term health. The foundation of a house keeps everything above it in place and allows us to build upon it. The state of your kitchen (like your nervous system), living room (hormonal system), front entrance area (liver), bedrooms (circulatory system), family members (immune system) and roof (skin) all depend on a strong foundation. Maintaining your house's foundation is equally important. Any cracks or leaks should be quickly taken care off (like seeking solutions for any changes in your health).

Building and maintaining a strong foundation for our health, therefore, often starts with improving our digestive health. Here are the reasons why:

Inflammation is a contributing factor for many conditions such as eczema, arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and countless others. Discuss with your naturopathic doctor or medical doctor about the importance of testing your blood for inflammatory markers such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) or C-reactive protein (CRP). This is especially useful for understanding the impact of known inflammatory conditions of the digestive tract such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.

On the other hand, abnormal gut bacteria can lead to digestive upset and improper hormone metabolism. As part of its detoxification function (as described above), the liver conjugates hormones and excrete them from the body via the digestive tract (this is done by the liver's production of bile). Once in the gut, unwanted hormones are usually evacuated via our bowel movements. Bad gut bacteria, however, can release enzymes that can lead to the re-circulation of these hormones. Hormonal imbalances contribute to conditions such as PMS, irregular menstrual cycles, changes in libido, etc...

Let's review the Top 5 strategies that aim to restore optimal gut function.
Talk to your naturopathic doctor about options specific to your needs.

Abnormal digestive patterns should always be discussed with your medical doctor or naturopathic doctor. Celiac disease, colon cancer (and other cancer's affecting any part of the gut), Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, peptic ulcers, and bacterial gut infections are serious conditions and must be diagnosed correctly. Many other functional digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), digestive upsets due to food allergies, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gastritis (stomach inflammation), as well as general constipation and loose stools are also important to address. They affect the quality of life short-term and can have important health implications in the long-term.

Improving your digestion is an important priority and should be treated along with one's primary health concerns. Remember, if the foundation for your health (ie digestion) is fixed and strong, the body is much more able to self-regulate and heal itself!

* Dr. Martin Gleixner, MSc, ND owns the Moncton Naturopathic Medical Clinic located at 90 Weldon Street in Moncton (382-1329). Fluent in French and in English, Dr. Gleixner offers professional health care for the whole family. Dr. Gleixner is a qualified naturopathic doctor presently accepting new patients. Additional information can be found on www.monctonnaturopathic.com.

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Intestinal Parasite Cleanse.