The stomach has ways of telling us when we’ve made a mistake. If we ate something that doesn’t agree with us, we might get symptoms like bloating, nausea, discomfort, or pain. That’s usually when we reach for one of the many remedies that can alleviate the situation, from over-the-counter antacids to home remedies like peppermint tea.
In a short time, we get relief.
But sometimes, digestive discomfort doesn’t ease up. In fact, more and more people today are suffering from chronic, long-term digestive problems that force them to endure ongoing pain, discomfort, irregular bowel movements and other difficulties. Unlike occasional indigestion, these chronic digestive troubles appear to defy conventional treatments.
However, all is not lost. Today, there are a number of safe and effective integrative therapies available that can help repair and rebuild the digestive system. From time-honored botanicals and targeted nutrients to specialized enzymes and probiotics, these and other adjuncts help improve not only digestive function but overall health and vitality.
“Health begins in the colon”
Perhaps you’ve heard the old saying, “Death begins in the colon.” In integrative medicine, we often say instead, “Health begins in the colon.” These sentiments reflect age-old principles held by traditional medical systems from around the world, which position digestive health as the key to longevity and vitality. A large and fast-growing body of published data has substantiated this critical link, demonstrating the direct relationships between digestion and cognitive health, immune response, hormone balance and more. So when we experience persistent gut symptoms, we must take action.
One of the first steps in repairing digestive health is to look at what it is exactly we’re trying to digest. Because in many cases, digestive difficulties and other ongoing health issues are a direct result of inflammatory reactions to common trigger foods, such as gluten, corn, eggs or dairy. These inflammatory responses, termed “food sensitivities,” may not cause full-blown allergic reactions, but they nevertheless trigger fiery flare-ups that damage the digestive wall over time, leading to what’s called leaky gut syndrome.
Food sensitivities and leaky gut syndrome
Food sensitivities are problematic because they can be difficult to diagnose. Consider the array of potential symptoms: rashes, diarrhea, constipation, achy joints, exhaustion, asthma, sinusitis, migraines and depression. Any one of these issues could be caused by a dozen or more different conditions.
A closer look at the biology behind food sensitivities gives us more insight into the issue. Food sensitivities are akin to an autoimmune response, with the immune system treating certain food items as foreign invaders. As the immune response continues, the small intestine becomes inflamed, and over time, the chronic inflammation makes the intestinal lining more porous. Sometimes these cells can no longer form an effective barrier between the gut and the bloodstream. When that happens, undigested proteins, pathogens and molecules that would normally stay isolated in the gut, leak into the blood and act as antigens that create an abnormal immune response.
This is leaky gut syndrome, and it can affect numerous organs and systems throughout the body. With the immune system on constant alert and chronic inflammation setting fires in the gut, the body becomes vulnerable to allergies, autoimmune conditions and many other degenerative issues related to chronic inflammation. Without intervention, the problem usually gets worse.
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