As part of my recent articles and teleseminars on Autism and other disorders such as ADD and ADHD, Iwas amazed to find out how little awareness there is generally about the rolethe digestive tract plays in our overall health. Thisis the first in a two part article series about the digestive tract so you can understand why your gut could literally be the cause of many health problems. See part 2 “Your Homeopathic Gut Toolkit”.
First here are some vitally important facts you may not know about your gut!
- The gut is the primary source of neurotransmitters for the brain. (neurotransmitters are the chemicals the brain uses to function).
- The gut plays a vital role in the health of your immune system. Without a healthy gut, your immune function is at best compromised and at worst, severely disadvantaged.
- Contrary to the accepted wisdom, you are not just what you eat but you are what you absorb! A healthy gut absorbs nutrients efficiently and effectively, whereas a compromised gut cannot absorb whatever healthy foods go past!
So if you think constipation, diarrhea, flatulence and heartburn/reflux are just normal ailments to be endured…think again!
Let’s take a quick look at the main functions of the gut and how they work for our overall health.
You can eat the best diet in the world but if you cannot absorb it most of the nutrients will end up down the toilet! The lining of your small intestine features small finger like projections called villi, which serve to increase the surface area of the gut by many times to create a huge surface for absorption to take place. In fact, the surface area of the small intestine alone is approximately 250 square meters..(roughly the size of a tennis court!) If the villi are healthy and functioning well, then absorption is easy and effective.
The gut is home to adelicate balance of bacteria and other micro organisms. These bacteria can weigh up to 2kg! These are so important to us thatI want to outline their key functions one by one:
- Digestion: Gut flora play an important role in the production of enzymes that cause digestion to take place and nutrients to be released.
- Protection: The bacterial layer on the gut wall protects us from harmful pathogens that enter our digestive tracts such as parasites, toxins and other micro-organisms.
- Transport of key substances: Gut bacteria create by-products that play a vital role in the transport of minerals, vitamins, water and gases through the gut wall and into the blood stream where they can be utilized by the body.
- Fibre: Dietary fibre can only be digested in the presence of healthy gut bacteria and fibre plays a vital role in gut health.
- Synthesize: Gut bacteria synthesize various vital nutrients such vitamin K, folic acid, Vitamin B1, vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, vitamin B6 and amino acids. They are like our own internal nutrient factory!
Immune Function and Your Gut
The health of the gut is vital in maintaining immune system health and the role it plays is diverse and requires a whole book! However, one of its key processes is in the synthesis of special immune cells called lymphocytes. These are a type of white blood cell that are the primary protection at a cellular level from invading pathogens. A deficiency of beneficial gut flora causes other key immune cells called Neutrophils and Macropages (these cells literally ‘gobble up’ nasty invaders) to be unable to function properly and so they cannot perform their job.
I think you are probably getting the picture by now, that a compromised gut means not only a compromised immune system, but also an under functioning brain due to the lack of synthesis of those essential neurotransmitters!
So what can you do about this?
Part two in this article series will examine specific gut ailments such as constipation, diarrhea, and flatulence and describe how you can treat this with holistic medicine.
However there are some things you can put into practice immediately:
- Before taking antibiotics for yourself and your children, consider that they kill off all bacteria not just the ones infecting the ear or throat that you are treating. This means that you are causing an imbalance in the gut, thereby compromising the immune system and leaving the body open to an infection with less resources to fight it. Try using an effective natural medicine like homeopathy instead.
- If you have had antibiotics in the last 12 months visit your health food store and take a probiotic that needs refrigerating as these are often better quality. Make sure it has a mixture of lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria. If you have a child under 5 they need a special child version as they have a predominance of bifidobacterium in their gut.
- If you have digestive issues that are chronic (more than 6 weeks), get these checked out by a naturopath or a homeopath.
- Look for signs of poor digestion such as floating stool (you cannot digest fats properly), undigested bits in the stool (a sign of incomplete digestion.) If this does not resolve after 6 weeks on a good probiotic, then visit your homeopath or naturopath.
So what are the key signs to look for in a gut that needs some homeopathic and or naturopathic treatment?
- Chronic diarrhea
- Chronic constipation
- Undigested food in the stool
- Strong odour with stool
- Floating stool
- Colic or cramps
In the next issue I will look at these in more detail. Until next time!
Happy Homeopathic home prescribing!
© Sam Adkins 2008
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This article was brought to you by Sam Adkins The Homeopathic Coachwho teaches families about healthy living and natural remedies using homeopathic medicine. An internationally renowned expert, her helpful articles are regularly syndicated online. She publishes the ezine Homeopathy@Home to provide free Homeopathic tips, tools and resources to educate and inspire you to use Homeopathy at home.www.thehomeopathiccoach.com