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Archive for August, 2009

As we’ve seen, taking acid blockers can actually be quite harmful, in the long run, to the upper GI system, especially to the stomach and lower esophagus.  As we’ll now see, the lower GI also takes a hit when things farther “north” aren’t working properly.

Most people (and this would include most doctors and other medical practitioners) just don’t recognize the serious ramifications to much of the rest of the body, from a digestive system that is out of balance.  Digestive dysfunction can lead to issues relating to allergies, arthritis, rashes, acne, chronic fatigue, cardiovascular issues, mood disorders (including ADD and ADHD), autism, dementia, cancer, autoimmune diseases and a lot more. 

In the words of Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, “having a healthy gut means more than simply being free of annoyances like bloating or heartburn! It is absolutely central to your health. It is connected to EVERYTHING that happens in your body.”

This is why, as Nutritional Therapists, we almost always start from “north” to “south”, beginning with the digestive system.

Intestinal Fortitude

In a proper functioning GI tract, chyme enters the duodenum and its acidic pH triggers the release of pancreatic juice.

 Under conditions when the chyme pH is not correct (as described in last month’s blog), the hormone secretin is not excreted adequately to trigger the release of pancreatic juice.

 Then, sodium bicarbonate is not released to raise the pH of the chyme, and it burns the mucosal lining of the upper small intestine, which may lead  to duodenal ulcers.

 As you’ll recall, the inside of the small intestine (or gut) is covered with small, finger-like projections called villi and micro-villi, much like a Terry-cloth towel.  villiAny undigested food in the small intestine will wear away at the villi, eventually allowing large molecules of proteins and fats to pass through the gut, which will overwhelm the immune system.  What should have been nourishing food now becomes a major assault on immunity and systemic inflammation.

This wearing away of the thin (one cell layer) inner lining of the intestine is called “leaky gut”, and if that barrier is damaged, you can become allergic to foods you otherwise would be able to digest perfectly well, your immune system will become overactive, and it will begin producing inflammation throughout your body.

Not A Lot of Gall?

Dysfunction of the gallbladder is related to poor quality fats or low-fat diets in conjunction with too little stomach acid.

Fats are primarily digested by bile salts and pancreatic lipase in the duodenum.

 Fat in the chyme stimulates the release of CCK (cholecystokinin), which stimulates the gallbladder to release bile.

 Low fat diets do not stimulate the release of bile, causing the bile to get old and viscous.   In this situation the gallbladder tries to contract, but is unable to release the sticky bile.  Many people experience severe gall-bladder pain when this occurs.

No bile leads to no absorption of fats, and this has a cascading effect throughout many other systems of your body, including cholesterol imbalances, effects on the immune system and many hormones.  Fats help build cell walls, control the inflammatory process and much, much more.

 This is not a “No Brainer”

There is also the situation of your second brain – an entirely different nervous system that resides in your gut (it’s true, we really do have “gut feelings”). Your gut actually contains MORE neurotransmitters than your brain. In fact, the gut has a brain of its own. enteric nervous systemIt is called the “enteric nervous system”, which initially developed alongside your “main” brain; it is a highly sophisticated part of your overall biology and is wired to your brain in intricate ways.

Messages are constantly traveling back and forth between your gut-brain and your head-brain, and when those messages are interfered with in any way your health will suffer.

 

The End of the Line

Finally, and once again, the large intestine deals with the leftovers from all of the rest of Digestion.

Mal-digested foods are often full of parasites, microorganisms, and undigested fats.  As this mal-digested debris tries to pass into the colon, the ileocecal valve (between the small and large intestines) can get clogged or jammed open. 

Poorly digested foods degenerate the colon, disrupting the healthy flora (called dysbiosis).  As the colon weakens, inflammation, and loss of tone occurs leading to many forms of bowel disorder along with poor nutrient absorption.

Without healthy flora, butyric acid is not produced, which weakens the cells of the colon.  This leaves the colon subject to inflammation, diverticulitis, and loss of tone. This in turn, can lead to issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, crone’s disease, colitis, celiac disease.

Each has its own unique causal mechanisms, but all are exacerbated by poor digestive process.

Now, the main foundation has been set.  As you will see in future posts, many other dysfunctional issues will come right back to problems and connections with digestion.  Truly, the way to a person’s heart (and kidneys, cardiovascular health, immune system, hormones, moods, brain function and on and on) is through their stomach (and related organs of digestion).

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