by Sushma Hirani, M.D.
We are what we eat. Our digestive system provides nutrition for every cell in our body and plays a critical role in our immune system. A “sick” digestive system results in an increase in chronic and degenerative diseases and a steady decline of health and well-being.
What Is Digestion?
Digestion is the process by which food and drink are broken down into microscopic nutrients so the body can use them to build and nourish the cells. It involves mixing food with digestive juices or enzymes, moving it through the digestive tract and breaking down large molecules of food into smaller molecules to be carried to cells throughout the body.
Poor digestion can be responsible for various systemic effects and diseases in the body. Lifestyle plays a significant role in a healthy digestive system. According to Hippocrates, “If you are not ready to alter your way of life, you cannot begin to heal.”
Together, the nerves, hormones, blood and the organs of the digestive system conduct the complex tasks of digesting and absorbing nutrients from the foods and liquids you consume each day. Digestive enzymes help in the digestive process. Lack of sufficient digestive enzymes can lead to the poor digestion of foods, difficulty with breakdown of fats, carbohydrates and proteins, as well as difficulty with utilization of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
These can lead to upper digestive symptoms of indigestion (bloating, gas, excess belching or heartburn), malnutrition (reduced absorption of vitamins A and E) or esophageal reflux. Lower digestive symptoms include conditions of improper bowel movements such as constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel.
What are Treatment Options?
There are a number of tests that can help determine the cause of your gastrointestinal symptoms such as stool tests, food allergy tests, H. Pylori testing, upper and lower endoscopies, gastric acid pH testing or comprehensive digestive analysis testing. Based on some of these test results, the physician may identify root causes such as bacterial or yeast overgrowth, parasites, food intolerances, lack of probiotics or digestive enzymes and more.
Some treatment options may include diet and lifestyle changes, supportive supplementation or detoxification or cleanses. Remember, the harder your body has to work on digestion, the less energy it has to work on other functions. So, take care of yourself by eating well. You deserve it.
Sushma Hirani, M.D. practices functional and integrative medicine to treat chronic diseases, such as Hypothyroidism, Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Fatigue at Rose Wellness Center, in Oakton, VA. She specializes in women’s health care, natural hormone balancing and digestive disorders.
Dr. Hirani will be offering a free, live webinar on this topic on Tuesday, August 7 from 6:45 to 7:30 p.m. This webinar will be hosted by Natural Awakenings, Washington, D.C. To be a part of this event, register at DigestiveDisorders.Eventbrite.com.