In many of my patients who have chronic illnesses I very commonly find that when they also have gastrointestinal symptoms, such as reflux, pain, or chronic diarrhea, it is only when their GI (gastrointestinal) symptoms are treated and resolved that they begin to get better.
We all know how critical the GI tract is for digestion and absorption of nutrients. People are often unaware that up to 80% of the bodys immune tissue that protects us from infections is located in the intestinal wall. As well there are ten times as many microorganisms (bacteria) in the intestines then there are cells in the human body. These bacteria are critical to achieving optimal health. The body uses these bacteria to produce Vitamin K, to optimize the immune system, and to produce hormones.
Disruption in the healthy bacterial balance can often result in disease. Diseases that can result from bacterial gut imbalances include inflammatory bowel diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer.
Food intolerances and allergies are another topic of gut health that is underappreciated. Many very young children with colic, chronic ear and sinus problems, and rashes often suffer from undiagnosed food allergies.
The most common sources of food allergy is dairy and wheat, as well as allergy to a wheat protein called gluten which can result in Celiac Disease. The health effects of these food allergies can often extend beyond the GI tract.
Another example is a deficiency of stomach acid, which is critical for digestion. Most people know of acid reflux, but probably as common is a low level of stomach acid. This can result in chronic bloating, bacterial and yeast overgrowth, as well as poor absorption of food an nutrients, which can in turn result in osteoporosis, neurological issues, rashes, and muscular weakness.
There are many more examples of the wide ranging effects of GI problems.
It is important to bring to your physicians attention any chronic symptoms you have and ask if they can be connected to other health issues. It is useful to do food allergy testing, cultures for infections, and measurement of stomach acid. Hunting for hidden bowel infections can often pay off handsomely in health benefits. Use of pro-biotics, which can restore normal bacterial balance, and pre-biotics which can nourish and return to health the intestinal cells and membrane, can often make a big difference.