Doctors receive little nutrition education, if any. Which is surprising. Nutrition is required for energy production, healing and repair and has a direct effect on your chemical makeup. What is even more surprising, they are not taught to address your complaints by looking to your gut health as part of the solution.
They rarely approach gut health unless there is a symptom specific to the gut. Your digestive tract and the how well it functions influences all your other systems, how well you function and your overall well-being.
Here are 4 areas, your well-being can be greatly influenced by addressing the health of your GI Tract.
Your Immune System
It is currently believed that about 80% of your immunity comes from your GI tract.
Just like your skin is a barrier, so too is your intestinal wall. It physically prevents pathogens from entering your body and specialized cells in the lining secrete antibodies. If your gut is not healthy and isn't producing sufficient quantities of antibodies, pathogens can enter your body.
There are also pathogen infections that stay within the GI tract that can cause quite a lot of dis-stress. Gas, bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain & cramping, constipation, food sensitivities and more are often associated with a GI tract infection. This not only causes you discomfort, it inhibits your ability to properly digest and assimilate nutrition.
Yet, seldom are stool samples collected. And if they are, the tests are limited.
A couple of years ago, I saw my GP for abdominal pain. It was in my lower left quadrant and it was excruciating at times.
Nothing showed up, but the pain was still there.
I requested a pathogen test. My doctor did not suggest it, I requested it.
It came back clear and I was told to eat less broccoli and other foods that cause gas.
I wasn’t content with that recommendation.
As a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, I ordered my own test and it came back positive for two different bacterial overgrowths. One normal flora and the other not. In addition, I had a slight yeast infection.
The difference between the test my doctor ordered and the one I ordered is rather vast. Preparation and sample collection, the type of testing and the range of pathogens they looked for were very different.
One reason they may not test for pathogens initially is because they consider them transient. A healthy GI Tract and immune system should be able to manage and resolve most infections. And this is true if you are healthy without a lot of stress. But if you have a lot of dysfunction, your immune system is compromised. Just being in a state of chronic stress, whether it’s from external or internal sources, diverts resources away from your immune system. This can cause further stress. And it’s a cycle that needs assistance to break.
Knowing what was going on in my GI tract helped me to relieve my pain, by targeting the the actual dysfunction. Relieving an internal stressor.
Your Emotional Health
Another routinely overlooked reason to address gut health is mental and emotional health.
“Scientists have found that gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA, all of which play a key role in mood (many antidepressants increase levels of these same compounds). … In addition, the microbiome is intertwined with the immune system, which itself influences mood and behavior.”
Serotonin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and is often referred to as the master neurotransmitter. It plays a key role in your sleep cycle, depression, anxiety, carbohydrate cravings and PMS.
Dopamine is your focus or joy related neurotransmitter. When dopamine is either elevated (inefficient) or low, symptoms of poor focus or memory, attention issues, or poor stress response can be noted. Feelings of always being overwhelmed are associated with an imbalance of dopamine.
GABA is another inhibitory neurotransmitter and is often referred to as “nature’s valium.”
I routinely speak with people who are on antidepressants, have trouble focusing and feel constantly overwhelmed and anxious.
I have yet to have a person tell me that their neurotransmitters were tested. Everyone is surprised to learn that gut health plays a huge role with their moods, anxiety, depression, and even sugar cravings.
Genetics, stress, anxiety, excessive worry, lack of physical exercise or movement, excess alcohol intake, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, excess caffeine intake, trauma and a lack of balance/rest/restoration can all contribute to neurotransmitter imbalances. And so, can gut health.
Poor gut health can adversely affect both the synthesis and utilization of neurotransmitters and your body manufactures approximately 95% of serotonin in the GI tract.
By addressing the health of your gut, you can respond better to stress which can aid in making further lifestyle changes to support improving your mental and emotion health even more.
Your Ability to Produce Natural Energy
Long-term fatigue is an indicator that something in addition to not getting enough rest and sleep is going on. It’s an indicator that you are either in or entering a stage of energy crisis.
Thousands of mitochondria located within your cells are responsible for producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), your natural form of energy. They require water, oxygen and nutrients to produce ATP.
For these two resources to reach your mitochondria, you must intake them, digest them and transport them. To do this, macronutrients must break down into small enough particles to pass through your mucosa membrane. It has also been discovered, bacteria in your microbiome produce metabolites when breaking down macronutrients. These metabolites are important for mitochondrial health and activity. Without these metabolites, your mitochondria’s ability to produce ATP is diminished.
Additionally, if your GI tract is not functioning properly, you do not digest and absorb all the nutrients you need. And, if you have a pathogen infection, much of your nutrition is robbed from you.
When addressing long-term fatigue, you want to consider gut health as one of your priorities.
Your Stress Levels
Stress comes in many forms and is either external or internal. If your GI tract is unhealthy or inflamed, your stress response system will be on alert. If you have a pathogen infection, your stress response system will be on alert.
When on alert, you are more reactive and your ability to digest, rest and repair goes down. Resources are shuttled away from processes that are not critical for immediate survival. Processes such as digestion. Energy is also directed away from your immune system.
You will never be completely free of stress, but by addressing gut health you can alleviate stress caused by an inflamed and/or infected gut. It can also improve your ability to address other internal stressors. And it improves your ability to intake and use nutrients, strengthens your immune system, and supports your mental and emotional health.
Your doctor is doing his or her best, but their education has been lacking. There needs to be more focus on how systems interconnect within your body and the role of gut health.
Your health and well-being are ultimately your responsibility, so ask questions, shop around and find the support you need. Don’t stop at finding relief for your symptoms. Get to the underlying cause. If all you do is address relief, you are bound to continue to suffer. And eventually, find yourself a statistic of chronic illness.
Your partner in health,
PS: If you want my support to help you find what works for you specifically, post on my Facebook page, send me messages, email email@example.com, or hire me to coach you through it. Just know that it's is possible to feel better and be a more confident, functional you. And you don't have to do it alone.
Please share your insights in the comments below. I and our community would love to hear from you.
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