What do brain function, good skin, heart health and healthy weight management all have in common? They all depend on your gut.
Every cell and system in your body relies on various nutrients in order to function, grow, and heal properly. Food and drink are our primary sources of nutrient intake. Of course, our cells can’t simply take in nutrients from the food we eat. First, our bodies need to break the food down into molecules small enough to enter our cells. This process is what we call “digestion”.
Digestion is perhaps the most important process in our bodies, and as you can see, it affects everything else. When our digestion doesn’t work properly, the cells in our body cannot work properly either, yet many of us are suffering from poor digestion and either don’t realise it, or don’t think there is anything that can be done about it. Studies have shown that more than 30% of Australians are currently suffering from at least one functional gastrointestinal disorder, and many of these people actually have three or more of them.
As a kinesiologist, digestive issues are one of the most prevalent issues that I deal with in my Parramatta holistic health clinic, but they are rarely the main issue a client comes in to see me for. Digestive issues are so common that many of us consider the symptoms normal and don’t seek help for them.
Do you regularly experience:
- Abdominal pain
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
- Fatigue, lethargy
- Undigested food in stool
- Feelings of heaviness
- Cold limbs
- Food allergies and/or sensitivities
If you answered, “Yes,” to any of these, you might have something wrong with your digestion. If you do, taking supplements or changing your diet will not be enough. If your body can’t process and utilise nutrients properly, it doesn’t really matter what you put into it. Imagine your body is a car. If the engine is broken, your car will not run even if you give it the best fuel money can buy. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can eat anything you want without consequences if you have digestive issues; a poor diet can cause even more damage to your digestive system and contribute greatly to other health problems.
There are three main categories of digestive issues:
Food is pushed through our gastrointestinal tract by a series of involuntary muscle contractions. Regulatory digestive issues occur when food is not passed through the intestinal tract properly. This leads to inefficient digestion, stagnation and fermentation in the gut.
Environmental digestive issues are when there is something wrong with the internal environment of your gastrointestinal tract. Common problems include overgrowth of bacteria or yeast, such as candida albicans, or the presence of parasites.
When your body does not get the nutrients it needs for healthy organ function, you have a deficient digestive issue. This can occur when your body fails to break down food properly in order to absorb the nutrients. You may see undigested food when you go to the toilet. When this happens, even if your diet is good and contains all the nutrients you need, your body won’t be able to utilise them.
Mind body medicine perspective
Identifying what kind of digestive issue you have is only the first step. In Mind Body Medicine, we understand that the body affects the mind, and the mind affects the body. Digestion involves not only the absorption of nutrients into the body, but also the absorption of ideas and information into the mind. Over thinking, worrying and stress are often major contributors to poor digestion. It works the other way around, too; poor digestion can contribute to poor concentration and increased anxiety. To effectively treat digestive issues, it is important to address both the physical and the psychological aspects.
Digestive issues are extremely common, but you don’t have to accept them. If you suspect you have a problem with your digestion, it’s important to get it checked because it could be impacting many other areas of your health. There is no reason to continue suffering in silence.