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A Focus on Digestive Health


A Focus on Digestive Health

 

by Dr. Michael Kane

 

 

While not everyone might agree with the statement " Good health starts with a healthy gut" many more might after reading the health conditions that have a gut centered etiology (cause).

 

There are many roles for the gastrointestinal tract. 

 

Digestion and Absorption

 

One of the primary roles of the digestive tract is the digestion and absorption of food. The properly function of this process involves multiple parts and players, but suffice it to say that the breaking down of food and absorption of nutrients is one of the most important roles of our gastrointestinal system. Chronic issues with this process can have significant effects on a multitude of systems in our body. Many organs and processes in the body rely on this supply chain.

 

Immune Barrier and Protection

 

Like our skin, the gastrointestinal tract provides a barrier of protection.  It also houses one of the biggest components of our immune system, the GALT- Gut Associated Lymph Tissue. The Galt system keeps a close eye for infectious agents and can ramp up an army of soldiers to go to battle if an invasion does happen.

A compromised barrier or GAlt system can cause dis-regulation in our bodies and is thought to be a major factor in many auto-immune conditions.

 

Hormone Production

 

We might not think that hormone production takes place in our digestive tract.  But many compounds that have influence in other parts of our body come from the intestines.  Melatonin and serotonin, are two neurotransmitter that are produced in the gut.  Often called "The Second Brain" for this reason, we often look to the gut for issues related to mood and behavior.  A popular book, "The GAPS Diet",  focuses on the brain and gut connection.

 

Detoxification

 

Much of the bodies waste elimination relies on an efficient digestive tract.  Waste removal relies on a healthy liver and kidneys and a digestive function that assist to bind and evacuate toxins.  A sluggish system in those who have constipation or a long transit time ( the time it takes for a substance to move through your body) often will reabsorb toxins or compounds meant for elimination putting extra burden on the body. Some of these toxins can have an impact on our health by increasing risk of cancers or causing damage to organs.

 

A Team Effort

 

There are many components involved in the proper functioning of our gastrointestinal system. The liver, the gallbladder, the pancreas and all the glands and enzymes involved, have their specific role in making everything work.

 

 

One of the components of our digestive tract deserves specific mention. Information about its importance and role in our health is ever evolving.  That is our Microbiota.  The Microbiota is the collection of bacteria that lives in our digestive system.  The bacteria residing here can number in the tens of trillions, ten times more cells than in the rest of our body. There are more than 3 millions microbial genes in our gut Microbiota, 150 times more genes than in the human genome. 

 

The research about the microbiota continues to reveal just how important this part of our digestive tract is. How we can keep a healthy population will be discussed in an article below. Supporting Your Gut Flora.

 

 

If you question if your digestive system is functioning properly, ask your doctor what tests can be done to help us optimize the health of this important system.