I recently read a book called Digestive Wellness by Elizabeth Lipski, Ph.D. This book focuses on strengthening the immune system and the prevention of disease through healthy digestion. The findings are based on the latest research on the healing properties of probiotics, healthy fats and anti-inflammatory foods. I found this book very interesting; it highlights the importance of the gut and digestive system in overall health; something that has been relatively overlooked by the medical profession. This book demonstrates effectively how the body functions as a whole system and the importance of gut health and has reinforced my understanding of the importance of gut health to many different symptoms and diseases. Whilst I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about Digestive health and functioning, it is essentially a medical textbook, and may be heavy going for some readers. Below I have summarised the major elements of the book for those interested.
The book opens with a thorough overview of the digestive system and the role it plays in our overall health, metabolism and immunity. One of the most interesting findings from this section is that around 70% of our immune system is located in or around our digestive system, something that would likely surprise most people! Based on this statistic, it makes complete sense that many illnesses would originate from digestive issues or from the digestive system. The book lists the most common causes of digestive problems, resulting from imbalances caused by:
- Chronic stress
- Cigarette smoking
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of dietary fibre
- Low stomach HCL
- Poor food choices
- Alcoholic beverages
- Environmental toxins/irritants/metals
Interestingly, most of these factors are modifiable, that is, we as individuals have capacity to change or modify them – placing more power in our own hands than we may have believed to manage and optimise our health.
The functional medicine approach is used with digestive wellness, namely finding the underlying cause or mechanism instead of treating just the symptoms. The DIGIN model and the 5 R’s are central to this approach.
- Digestion & Absorption
- Intestinal Permeability
- Gut Microbiome
- Inflammation & Immune
- Nervous system
This acronym highlights the underlying categories that cause imbalances in the digestive system. The model assists with the identification of specific diagnoses by listing symptoms common to each category as well as the underlying pathophysiology. This model is particularly helpful in identifying the root cause of a problem, rather than simply targeting symptoms.
Once the underlying cause of symptoms is identified, using the DIGIN model, the 5 R’s listed below guide treatment planning.
- Remove – Nutrient depleted food, processed foods, poor quality fats and oils, parasites, metals, infections and intolerances
- Replace – Processed foods with whole foods, nutrients, digestive enzymes, HCL and bile salts
- Repopulate – Beneficial probiotics and prebiotics from food and supplements
- Repair – Using foods and supplements such as glutamine, fibre, aloe, beets, essential fatty acids plus many more
- Rebalance – Stress management, improve sleep habits, exercise and movement, changes in attitudes and belief systems
The 5 R’s approach is based on the work of physician, Sidney Baker, a pioneer in the field of Functional Medicine, who stated “get rid of what you don’t need, and get what you do need”. Hence, the 5 R’s support the removal of irritants or toxins and the inclusion of healing foods and supplements.
In one of the most interesting sections of the book (certainly to me), natural therapies for common digestive problems are investigated. Each region of the body, starting from the mouth and moving south including; the oesophagus and stomach, the liver, the pancreas, the gall bladder, the small intestine and the large intestine, are covered, with common digestive issues related to each region discussed. A comprehensive list of self-care ideas are given to either alleviate symptoms or to help the body heal the underlying cause.
This sections also delves into natural therapies for the diverse consequences of faulty digestion related to specific diseases of the body listed below. It gives a general information about the disease, recommendations for functional laboratory and healing options. Diseases/illnesses covered include:
- Arthritis (Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis)
- Autoimmune Disease (Type1 Diabetes, Addison’s disease, Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis plus many more)
- Chronic Fatigue
- Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis
- Migraine Headaches
- Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome
As the list above shows, the impact of faulty digestion or digestive issues can include many and varied illnesses, highlighting for me the importance of digestive wellness on overall health and wellbeing.
Happy and healthy eating!
Osteopathy Melbourne CBD.