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What is Digestive “Health” and Why Does it Matter?

Our digestive system is referred to by many names: “Core”, “Gut”, “Digestive System”, “GI System”, “Intestines” but it’s importance in overall human health is paramount. Of all the other systems in our bodies (nervous, muscular, skeletal, circulatory, endocrine, brain, immune,etc.), the digestive system is where we extract the nutrients from the food we eat that feeds the cells, tissues and organs of the body.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Everything we eat and drink must first go into our digestive systems to be processed to nourish and support all the other bodily systems. So if the digestive system is out of balance, then what?

When I first started in nutrition, all these systems tended to be viewed separately. Although everyone knew that carrots, for example, supported eye health and protein supported tissue repair and growth, the science of the importance of a balanced digestive system was just emerging. Over the last 15 years, we are finally connecting the dots of how balance in the core emanates good health to the rest of our body.

Probably by now, you may have heard about the “gut microbiome or microbiota” since it’s been widely researched and written about, but just in-case you haven’t, I’ll tell you.

These tiny life forms in our intestines have such an impact on our health. How? The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses (and their genes). Some of these microbes are good, some are bad and some are neutral. The goal is to have more good guys than bad guys. Not only does the microbiome play a role in the digestion and absorption of our nutrients, but it actually may help to keep our protective mucous lining in tact (strong and resilient) which in turn does the following:

  • protects against pathogens by crowding out the bad bacteria

  • supports the immune system

  • aids in detoxification through elimination

  • synthesizes (makes) a variety of vitamins

  • possibly determines how much energy we burn and how much fat we store

More research is emerging on the significant effect that healthy digestion has on:

  • brain function

  • mood

  • common chronic conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes obesity, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease

  • autoimmune diseases

Diet and lifestyle play a big role in maintaining a healthy digestive system.

Stay tuned for my next blog that discusses which foods can help rebalance your core and help these good bacteria thrive and crowd out the bad bacteria.


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