Digestion is at the core of our state of health and links to every body system and how we function throughout the day. Our digestive system processes the food we eat and governs the nutrients we take in that fuel our cells. Our digestive system is responsible for creating much of our immune system as well as important hormones and neurotransmitters that affect our mood, our sleep and our health at large. Poor digestive health is often linked to autoimmune diseases, arthritis and chronic pain, skin conditions, headaches, heart disease and other serious health concerns. Digestion itself can be seriously affected by conditions that target the mouth, esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, intestine and rectum.
Modern living presents many opportunities for us to alter the microbial flora and environment of our digestive system that may influence our susceptibility to disease and cause troubling symptoms. The food we eat, the toxins we are exposed to, the medication we take, the stress we face and the sleep we fail to get are only a few of the stressors our digestive system faces regularly.
Due to the importance of digestion with regards to health and the potentially debilitating or stressful implications of digestive system disease, naturopathic medicine seeks to treat digestion in 4 main ways:
- Optimize digestion to allow us to break down and absorb food as best we can and regulate our immune system in a healthy way, resulting in improved overall health (i.e. addressing micronutrient deficiencies, treating common symptoms of bloating or gas, and improving immune health with chronic infections)
- Prevent digestive disturbance by mitigating risk for stressors to effect the gastrointestinal tract and supporting digestion prior to and in times of need (i.e when going on a round of antibiotics, travel, undergoing a period of heavy stress)
- Treating digestive health to affect systemic disease (i.e. addressing a compromised digestive system in autoimmune conditions or depression)
- Treating the digestive system for gastrointestinal disease (i.e. Irritable Bowel Disease, Celiac Disease, Food Sensitivities or Gastric Ulcers, etc)
Digestion is best affected by dietary and lifestyle changes, and can be supported further by botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, supplementation and responds well to the holistic perspective offered by Traditional Chinese Medicine.