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Improving Gastroinestinal Health

Why the (GI) Tract is linked to Illness

It’s really important to understand how and why someone originally became ill. That way, we can better address the problem and help them recover as quickly as possible.

No matter the issue, I believe it’s always helpful to start by improving gastrointestinal health. It is widely accepted by providers of integrative or functional medicine that disturbances in gastrointestinal (GI) health often lead to health problems.

One reason for this is that the gastrointestinal system is our largest interface with the world around us. There are three main ways that we interact with toxins:

1. The skin
2. The respiratory tract
3. The gastrointestinal tract

Leaky gut

From the mouth to the rectum, there are thousands of feet of cells. The integrity of the junctions of these cells can either protect us or allow things to cross through that shouldn’t. We refer to the latter as ‘leaky gut’.

Leaky gut can greatly impact the immune system, so improving the condition of this GI interface can go a long way to improving our overall health. This needs to be part of any functional or integrative approach to getting well.

Improving gastrointestinal health should include the use of probiotics, nutrients that support healthy cell turnover (folate and glutamine), fiber, healthy fats, immunoglobulins, and collagen protein. It also usually involves eliminating foods that can disrupt these tight junctions, such as gluten and sugar.

It makes such a difference when we are able to get to the cause of an illness rather than just treating the symptoms. Interestingly, the medicines that are often used to treat the symptoms of inflammation – non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory agents such as ibuprofen – make this important barrier leakier. Ultimately, this can lead to further illness.

How ‘systems’ medicine can help in improving gastrointestinal health

In a recent blog, Dr. Hyman describes the way that ‘systems medicine’ (also known as functional or integrative medicine) can help to get to the root causes of a disease and even undo the damage caused by drugs used to treat individual symptoms.

He writes: “The way conventional medicine is practiced today is like trying to fix a car by listening to the noises it makes instead of looking under the hood. But that’s what systems medicine, also known as functional medicine, is all about — about looking under the hood.”

He gave the example of a patient with a broad range of symptoms, which had been treated with many types of conventional medicine. Dr. Hyman was able to come up with a holistic treatment programme to restore the patient’s whole body. It began with improving the patient’s GI health, as this was at the root of many of his health problems. You can read the full article here.

Start improving your gastrointestinal health today!

Whatever your symptoms, improving your gastrointestinal health is a good place to start. There are plenty of great articles online to inform your research, but it would almost certainly help to see a doctor who practices integrative or functional medicine. Doing so will help you get to the root of your problems quickly and start putting them right at the time of your first appointment.

Patricia Deckert, D.O.

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