figs for digestive health

4 Keys to Optimal Digestive Health

Category: Blog

4 Keys to Optimal Digestive Health

Discover the 4 keys to optimal digestive health from a functional perspective. We work with your body to achieve optimal function – in this case, in the digestive system.

Gastrointestinal (GI) Health

Our gastrointestinal (GI) tract is our most intimate contact with the external environment. Our GI tract has the responsibility to extract the necessary nutrients from foods that we eat, maintain the balance of helpful and harmful microbes, and at the same time, prevent harmful substances from entering the bloodstream.

For our naturopathic doctors at Bay Wellness, our primary goal is discovering the underlying dysfunction that is causing GI symptoms. We are less concerned with labeling your condition, and more concerned about removing the barriers to treat, and resolving the underlying dysfunction so that you can live optimally and without digestive, or other related symptoms.

GI function can be broken into four categories – digestion, elimination, microbial balance, and gut mucosal integrity.

1. Digestive Health

Through the coordination of mechanical chewing and churning, the release chemical enzymes, acids, and bile salts, the action of peristalsis and microbes, our GI tract can break down complex food sources into their macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients consist of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. While micronutrients are vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. A deficiency in any of these nutrients can lead to biochemical dysfunction, in the gut and other systems in the body.

2. Digestive Health and Elimination

Ridding our body of un-useable portions of food, and toxic metabolites produced when we digest is critical to the optimal functioning of our body. Proper elimination helps regulate bowel transit times, having an effect on water retention, salt-water balance and healthy microbial fermentation. A healthy liver is paramount to digestion, as well as bile production and release.

3. Digestive Health and Microbial Balance

The microorganisms in our gut represent one of the most biologically active systems within our body. These organisms have an affect on glycemic (blood sugar) control, cholesterol and amino acid breakdown. Proper microbial balance helps regulate our immune function, prevent overgrowth of harmful bacteria and regulates bowel motility.

4. Digestive Health and Gut Integrity

A proper mucosal barrier is vital to our health. Within the lumen of the gut, there are toxic agents, such as allergenic food particles, harmful organisms and their metabolites, which should never reach the bloodstream. The integrity of this barrier is a single layer of tightly-fitting cells, that when spread out, cover the area of a tennis court. 70% of the immune system function is closely associated with the GI tract, in specialized lymphatic cells found within the mucosa.

Putting It All Together

When all of these areas are working properly, we have a GI tract that functions optimally without symptoms. However, when one area is compromised, it places strain on the other areas leading to symptoms related to digestion. It can be difficult to pinpoint the downfall of the homeostasis of the GI tract, but when working with one of our naturopathic doctors, they do the digging to find the root cause of the problem.

For example, the use of antibiotics can trigger a dysbiosis due to the loss of healthy micro-organisms (antibiotics kill helpful and harmful bacteria in the GI tract). This may lead to mucosal damage, which then leads to an inflammatory process that disrupts the surface area increasing gut permeability, and reducing the barrier that our GI tract is meant to be. The symptoms that result from this can be digestive related (constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, distention, abdominal cramping, reflux, etc.) but symptoms can also be non GI-related (headaches, skin irritations, chronic joint pain, brain fog, low energy, depression, etc.).

Treating the GI Tract

When working with the naturopathic doctors at Bay Wellness, they go through your whole health history to determine the possible causes of digestion-related symptoms. From there, they will work on optimizing these four keys to your digestive health, allowing you to live symptom-free.

Ready to optimize your digestion? Book with us!