The digestive system is comprised of :
- The mouth (with the teeth, salivary glands, tongue)
- The pharynx
- The esophagus
- The stomach
- The gall bladder
- The pancreas
- The liver
- The small and large intestines.
Any of these organs may become compromised, affecting the general capacity of the entire tract to operate optimally, and leading to unpleasant symptoms that, if untreated, will eventually turn
into serious health issues and illnesses.
If you cannot properly digest your food, absorptiono of nutrients will be impeded. This means that the trillions of cells that your entire body is made of (think of your heart cells, your muscles
cells, your brain cells, your skin cells, your reproductive cells, and so on) won't get the daily nutrients they need in order to function optimally and be healthy.
Many serious health issues are originated
because of impaired digestive function.
The main causes of poor digestion are the following:
- Poor chewing and mental/emotional/physical stress during mastication.
- Insufficient secretion by the stomach of hydrochloric acid (which breaks down proteins). Heartburn is not excessive stomach acid, but actually, not enough.
- Insufficient secretion of bile salts (which break down fats) by the liver.
- Insufficient secretion of digestive enzymes (responsible for breaking down fats, carbohydrates, proteins, pectins, and phytic acid) by the pancreas.
- Insufficient secretion of metablic enzymes (disregulation of which has been linked to diabetes, obesity, hypertension, osteoporosis, hormonal disorders, cancer, and many other diseases)
by the body.
- Insufficient dietary fiber (soluble fiber & insoluble fiber) found in whole foods made my mother nature and in bacteria fermented in the large intestine
Functional medicine and digestive issues
recongnizes that the whole is contained within the parts. We don't separate the parts and understand the whole from the
perspective of just one isolated part. We actually know that when any part is not functioning right, the system as a whole is affected. So for example, when your digestive system (a part)
is not functioning optimally, your enitre system (the whole) may be affected (i.e your sleep will suffer and your energy levels will drop; your skin, hair, and nails may become dry, brittle, lose
their strength and shine or show evident signs of stress; you may start experiencing bad headaches, muscle pains, etc.).
Likewise, most often, G.I (gastro intestinal) complaints are caused by multiple interdependent
dysfunctions and a diminished capacity by the body to properly digest foods and absorb their nutrients into the cells will lead to a successive
failure in other systems of the body.
The casacade of bodily functions that may suffer just because your digestive system
isn't working optimally, may look like this:
- Maldigestion will result in time in symptoms that irritate the G.I system. Irritation will inevitably lead to inflammation. Some of these symptoms
2. Gut irritation will in turn lead to more serious problems like:
- Leaky gut (increased gut permeability)
- Food allergies
- Bacterail overgrowth
- Yeast overgrowth
- Production of gut toxins
3. If a toxic & unbalanced gastro-intestinal environment is allowed to proliferate
because of the above factors, your body will experience:
- Loss of integrity of the gut walls
- Toxic molecules now cross the porous gut walls and enter the portal and systemic circulation (where nature never intended for these
molecules to be!)
4. This invasion of food molecules and
pathogens into the circulation activates the immune system which attacks bodies not expected to be present in the blood. The result will be:
- Disrupted immunity (autoimmunity!)
- Disrupted hormonal function
5. Finally, the resulting complex inflammatory interactions will favor etiology