The Gut, A Holistic Perspective
The gut is the hub of health. Typically, patients are assessed from their sinuses to the rectum when their gastrointestinal issues are being evaluated by an integrative medical doctor. Consider that whatever you swallow, whether from post-nasal drip or saliva, can potentially land in your gastrointestinal tract and therefore influence the health of this precious system. The more than 20-foot tunnel of intestines not only absorbs nutrition and eliminates waste, but it also sets the stage for the wellbeing of your entire body.
The microbiome of the gut is the bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that live within you and influence your body’s welfare. While that may sound disgusting, it is a necessary to prevent disease. Recently, these microbes were found to influence who responded to cancer treatments.
In one study, patients who received a fecal transplant with good healthy gut bugs responded better to cancer therapy. This makes sense when you realize you are made up of more microbial cells than human cells.
There are approximately 100 trillion bacteria in the gut that make up 80% of the weight of stool. Good bacteria help you body manufacture vitamins, like vitamin B and K. These organisms have been shown to help your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. Certain ratios of bacteria have also been found to influence your weight. Within your body is the proverbial battle of good and evil, its important that the good bacteria outnumber the bad to gain health.
Many diseases have been linked to bad bugs in the gut. This is because of a process called “molecular mimicry.” In this case, the immune system targets these bad bacteria or viruses, and they share similarities with the host. As a result, the immune system may attack parts of the body believing it to be the enemy. The bacteria, yersinia, for instance, has been linked to hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Enteroviruses have been associated with ALS, ADHD, diabetes, and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Maintaining a healthy flora may be one of the best forms of preventive medicine.
How can you secure the health of your gastrointestinal tract? Stool testing among others are used to evaluate a patient’s gut health. Then, together we utilize the “4 R’s.” This process involves removing the bad bugs and allergens; replacing with enzymes and healthy food as necessary; restoring the microflora with probiotics and prebiotics; and repairing the gut lining with supplements like glutamine, aloe vera, and zinc carnosine to name a few. These simple steps help to alleviate imbalances and offset inflammation leading to a healthier gastrointestinal tract.
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