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Understanding the Gastrointestinal System

The role of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and its contribution to health and disease has gained much momentum over the years and has become a key area of focus. In our lifetime, we will consume between 30-50 tons of food and host more microbial cells than human cells. The GI tract is responsible for extracting nutrients from food, maintaining appropriate balance of microbes, and being a conduit for waste products. A dysfunction in these key tasks can lead to many seemingly unrelated chronic conditions; and why the phrase “heal the gut first” has become a focus within functional medicine.

One of the main functions of the GI tract is to digest food and absorb nutrients from it. Different digestive juices are found in various areas of the GI tract. Digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid in the stomach, and muscle contractions of the GI tract all play a critical role in breaking down large food particles into macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) and micronutrients (such as vitamins D and B12, zinc, iron and iodine) that are easily absorbed into the body. Each step is important and decreased absorption of nutrients (malabsorption) can lead to metabolic dysfunction. Typical after eating symptoms of gas, bloating, nausea, stomach pain, burping and/or urgency generally occur as an indication of disruption.

Improper digestion of food particles are an additional area of concern, seeing as they may trigger immune responses and be accessed by gut bacteria. This can lead to changes in microbiome balance (dysbiosis) or in bowel transit time.

The role of diet is extremely important to GI functionality. Poor dietary habits of processed foods, refined carbohydrates, hydrogenated fats and preservatives are pro-inflammatory. They place a significant burden on the detoxification capacity, and slow down digestion as a whole, creating a downward spiral. To further complicate, many individuals have undiagnosed food sensitivities which irritate and weaken the gut barrier.

We can use diagnostic testing to guide treatment of digestive disorders. Implementing specific dietary changes and supplementation protocols is necessary to rebuild and restore optimal function.

Don’t overlook the importance of GI health even if you don’t have the classic GI symptoms. We can help repair and restore from within and see improvements across the board. Schedule your consultation to learn more out the GI Repair and Restoration Program.


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