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Understanding Digestive System: A Quick Overview

The 6 Functions of the Gut

Your digestion is much more than eating and absorbing food. As we learn to understand the digestive system more we realise that it has many functions. Let's take a look into what functions the digestive system are.

1.       Digestion - this begins in the mouth through chewing and is continued in the stomach and small intestines. If you do not chew food well this may lead to poor digestion, diarrhoea, flatulence and bloating.

2.       Absorption - this happens in the small and large intestines. What you absorb is crucial to your overall health. If you are absorbing the wrong things or not absorbing properly this will affect your long term health.

3.       Barrier - the gut lining provides a barrier between us and the outside world. See it as your internal skin. If this breaks down in anyway it is going to let things into the body that shouldn't be in there. This may lead to headaches, ache, inflammation and pain and possibly autoimmune problems.

4.       Immunity - around 70% of our immune system resides in our gut. Frequent illness and infection may be an indication of issues in the gut.

5.       Detoxification - our gut cells produce enzymes that are used in the detoxification process. This takes pressure off the liver and helps with getting rid of toxins from the body.

6.       Elimination - this process eliminates waste plus excess cholesterol, sex hormones and other toxins. If the elimination process is not efficient then this will cause feelings of sluggishness, tiredness and a lack of well-being.

Digestive Symptoms

Digestive symptoms are one of the most common complaints people go to their GP about. They include...

  • bloating

  • heartburn

  • diarrhoea

  • constipation

  • abdominal pain

  • flatulence

  • burping and many more

Many GPs will run tests to rule out disgestive disorders like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD/GORD), gallstones, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis (UC) and bowel cancer. You may be referred on to a specialist or more commonly diagnosed with IBS. IBS is a collection of symptoms as above but will be different for everyone. GPs may recommend medication such as Buscopan, Colpermin, laxatives, antispasmodics or even anti-depressants.

Factors that contribute to poor gut health

In Western society the weight of an average stool is between 80-120g compared to societies where they eat unprocessed high fibre diet whose stools weigh 450g. Along with stress, our lack of fibre is likely to be one of the biggest causes of gut issues.

Many other factors of modern living contribute to poor gut health. This includes....

  • lack of vegetables and fibre in the diet

  • antibiotics

  • gut infections

  • excessive alcohol

  • excessive sugar and snacking

  • excessive lectins from grains and legumes

  • excessive gluten

  • overeating

Poor digestion increases the risk of systemic inflammation which may lead to chronic illnesses, accelerate the ageing process and reduced mobility.

So what can you do if you are experiencing gut symptoms?

Elimination diets are always a start such as elimination of sugar, gluten, alcohol and dairy. Increasing your vegetables (fibre), good quality proteins and fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado, and oily fish to make up for all the things you are eliminating. Take one thing at a time and eliminate it for a few days and record if there is any differences. You may not see a great deal of difference until you have eliminated them all for a period of a month, but it maybe worth the effort.

And don't worry I have something to help you with this.

Yeah! My 7 day free gut plan can help you begin the journey to better gut health.

It contains lots of free information on gut health as well as a 7 menu plan and lots of recipes to stay on track.

It gives you lots of information and you can sign up for the gut plan through there. Happy days 😃

If you like to engage my help with my 1-2-1 service please check my service page for more details.

Marie Jarvis

BANT Registered Nutritional Therapist specialising in improving gut health.

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