The GI tract is one of the most complex of systems in your body. Healthy function built on a strong foundation of care is needed for optimal health. When the GI system is not functioning at optimum, a variety of problems will arise.

Common physical problems related to poor digestion:

Irritable Bowel

Anxiety/mood irritability

Acid Reflux

Skin conditions, rashes

Indigestion/bloating

Food intolerances

Asthma

Headaches

Thyroid dysfunction

Obesity

Joint pain

Circulatory /heart disease

Cancer

Hormonal imbalance

Functions of the gastrointestinal tract:

From our mouth to the large colon at the end of the tract, we break down food and nutrients to absorb for use in our body.

• Digestion and absorption of food

This process involves chewing food well, production of saliva, gastric stomach acid and enzyems that break down macro nutrients: proteins, fats and carbohydrates into the micronutritents such as amino acids, glucose, minerals, vitamins, fiber and water.

• Elimination and detoxification

The liver functions as the primary filter. Adequate amount of water and fiber to aid in bowel action is necessary for movement. Clears end products of metabolism including excess hormones, toxins.

• Immune system support

The stomach needs acid to breakdown food and protect you from bacteria that may be harmful. The intestines are full of helpful bacteria called the microbiome. We each have our own personal balance of bacteria that regulates immune communication and environment of the gut.

• Provides Barrier and Protection

The gut lining is a thin layer of protective cells that need to have an environment that fuels its healthy cell walls. Inflammation and breakdown of the balance will cause “leaky gut”. Then there are particles of digestion that cross into the our body and further irritate and cause immune response as allergy.

Causes of poor GI health

• Poor diet: low in whole foods, high in processed foods, alcohol, processed ingredients, preservatives, chemicals

• Stress: decreases digestive energy and quality

• Medications: disrupt the motility and absorption of food, microbiome

• Sedentary lifestyle: slows gut transit, routine bowel movements

• Obesity: storage of excess that causes inflammation in our body

How can you support your gastrointestinal health?

• Eat more whole food, rich in nutrients, fiber and free of chemicals and added hormones.

• Cook more meals from home.

• Drink half your body weight in water daily.

• Eat 30 gms of fiber daily.

• Move your body throughout the day and add activity that makes you sweat.

• Take antibiotics and other medication if only absolutely necessary.

• Minimize alcohol.

• Decrease stress where you can. Ask for help in cultivating a routine in your life that supports your most important values.

• Make time to rest.

• Partner with a provider to help you identify your health needs and keep learning new ways to care for your whole body!

Dawn Ritter is a Family Nurse Practitioner, Certified Health and Wellness Coach and owner of Begin Again: Health & Wellbeing LLC. She can be reached at 507-676-7308.

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