Health: A Gut Feeling

Why We Will Probably Talk to You About Diet and Digestion

We have all heard the old saying “You are what you eat.” In naturopathic medicine, it would be more accurate to say “You are only as healthy as what you eat, absorb, metabolize, and excrete.” Which means, essentially, that you are only as healthy as your diet AND your digestive tract. A person with a healthy diet but an unhealthy digestive tract can not be fully healthy. And a person with an unhealthy diet cannot be healthy – partially because such a diet will result in an unhealthy digestive tract.

Many people have difficulty understanding the connection between the digestive tract and conditions that are not normally associated with the digestive tract – conditions as diverse as allergies, asthma, autoimmune disease, headaches and migraine headaches, chronic inflammatory diseases, even high cholesterol.

The state of the digestive tract is influenced by diet, stress, medications, and other factors. Also, the digestive tract is unique to all the organ systems of the body, in that It has an enormous immune system that interacts with the immune system of the rest of the body; like the respiratory tract, it is composed of an enormous mucous membrane system that interacts with the outside environment (the “tube” of the digestive tract is continuous from one end to the other with the outside world); it has a nervous system that is secondary in size and importance only to the central nervous system; it hosts a population of microbes (bacteria, yeast, and other organisms) than outnumber human cells in our body and which comprise a complete ecological system on their own; and is responsible not just for the absorption of nutrients but also for excretion of metabolic waste and toxins.

Most important is that toxins that are formed in the digestive tract, or removed from the bloodstream by the liver, can be absorbed back into the bloodstream. This intimate relationship between the GI tract and the bloodstream makes the state of the digestive a primary, and in many cases THE primary, influence on health.

So, if you come in for allergies (or another chronic inflammatory condition) and we recommend a course of treatment that seems directed at your gut rather than your nose or histamine levels or whatever you had expected, now you understand a little more why.