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Digestive Health

Digestive Health

by Dr. Nahid Ahmedzadeh, Naturopathic Doctor.

Digestive health by dr.nahid ahmedzadeh, naturopathic doctor at ohana wellness clinic in bloor west village, toronto.

Vibrant health starts with good digestive function! This is not an overstatement. Hippocrates first wrote that “death lurks in the intestines”. In Traditional Chinese Medical gut function is often paired with heart function, the immune system and the nervous system.

Gut dysfunction can lead to chronic imbalances elsewhere in the body expressed in a host of symptoms such as allergies, autoimmune diseases, hormonal imbalances, infertility, skin conditions and mood disorders.

Science has started to connect the dots and ongoing research in the fields of immunology, nutrition, the microbiome (study of the microorganisms making up the healthy gut ecology), cardiovascular health and psychiatry are increasingly affirming these connections.
Digestive issues are one of the top reasons for doctor visits in North America; however, allopathic treatments such as antacids, prescription acid blockers, laxatives and cortisone medications have limited success and some can cause side effects such as osteoporosis, vitamin B12 deficiency and increased risk of small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and immune dysfunction.

Function of the Digestive Tract

We normally associate digestion with the function of the stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small and large intestine which are responsible for producing enzymes, Hydrochloric acid and bile needed for breakdown of food, absorption of nutrients and removing waste products. However, the digestive tract is part of a larger digestive/gastrointestinal system which includes:

  • GALT; The Gut associated Lymphatic system, the site of the largest immune activity of the body, in fact, 80% of the body’s Immune cells are part of the GALT.
  • Pyer’s Patches; a rich network of neurons, a part of the Nervous system arranged in patches along the gut producing more neurotransmitters than your brain. In fact, 90% of Serotonin is produced in the Gut!!
  • Microbiome; a new term for intestinal flora that signifies the importance and complexity of the microorganisms that are important for nutrient absorption such as B vitamins and vitamin K known so far. They are also important for immune system balance.

Symptoms of dysfunction can occur anywhere in this system. They can roughly be divided into 4 categories. I will discuss them briefly here and delve a bit deeper in the next newsletter.

1.)  Digestion and Absorption Impairment

Symptoms may include pain, acid reflux, bloating and fatigue after eating, stomach and duodenal ulcers. Major causes may be insufficient or too much acid production, insufficient enzyme production, H. pylori.

2.) Infection and Dysbiosis (altered gut ecology)

Disease states can occur when there is overgrowth of pathogens/opportunistic microbes as in candidiasis and small intestine bacterial overgrowth(SIBO).

3.) Inflammation and Hyperpermeability of the gut lining aka “Leaky Gut”

When the cells lining the gut are damaged or impaired, partially digested food and other unwanted chemicals/toxins can pass through to the blood stream starting a cascade of systemic inflammation that can manifest anywhere in the body such as the skin (eczema, psoriasis), joints (rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis) and GI tract such as food allergies, IBS, Crohn’s and colitis. Possible causes are prolonged stress and lowered cortisol levels, alcohol, smoking, low fiber, high trans fats, PCB’s and infections (food poisoning).

4.) Mental-Emotional Connection

The nervous system in the gut (Enteric Nervous system) communicates with our central Nervous system (CNS) so our mental state and mood can affect our gut function, decreasing enzyme production, affecting gut motility. Imbalance of neurotransmitters in the gut can disrupt normal motility and functions of GI sphincters (e.g. lower esophageal sphincter, pyloric sphincter and ileocecal valves) and potentially lead to many GI complications such as GERD, SIBO, dysbiosis, and IBS.

Correct diagnosis is important for proper treatment. A number of functional medical tests are available through a Naturopathic doctor such as:

    • IgG antibody testing for Food sensitivities and candida (blood test)
    • Breath test for SIBO
    • Intestinal permeability test (blood test)
    • Stool test for microbial balance

Dr. Nahid is a licensed Naturopathic doctor practicing in Bloor West Village at Ohana Wellness clinic (416) 820-8588. She has a special interest in digestive health, detoxification, mind body connection, mental health and hormone imbalances.  Book your naturopathic consult today.