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4 Components of GI Health

Gastrointestinal (GI) health is composed of four main components – digestion, elimination, microflora balance, and gut membrane integrity. The healthy functioning of each of these components is critical to a healthy GI system. A disruption in any one of these areas can result in a wide variety of digestive complaints, including constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, and heartburn. Because the digestive system is so closely linked to all other body systems, problems with digestion, elimination, microflora balance, and gut integrity can also manifest in symptoms beyond the GI tract, and include complaints such as headaches, brain fog, fatigue, joint pain, and skin irritation. Therefore, for optimal total body health, it is essential to care for each of the following GI components:

Digestion – main function is to digest and absorb the foods you eat. Enzymes, hydrochloric acid in the stomach and the rhythmic contractions of the GI tract all play a part in breaking down large food particles into macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) that can be absorbed by the body. If there is a decrease in enzymes, food particles can’t be broken down, which can result in a variety of problems (indigestion to vitamin deficiencies). Poor digestion can result in low energy, sluggish metabolism, fatigue, and an increased susceptibility to chronic illnesses.

Elimination – just as important as digestion and is vital for well-being. Elimination involves removing unusable portions of food as well as eliminating toxic waste products from biochemical reactions taking place in your cells. Elimination is critical for maintaining total body health along with liver health, by clearing out accumulated toxins that circulate in the bloodstream. Toxins can cause damage to cells, tissues, organs, create inflammation and dysfunction.

Microflora Balance – maintaining a healthy ecosystem within the body. It is composed of more than 100 trillion microbes. There are more than 500 different strains of beneficial yeast, bacteria, and microorganisms that grow in the intestines. It is one of the most metabolically active systems in the body and its purpose is to help maintain health and digestion and absorption in the GI tract. Flora helps to regulate immune function and blood sugar levels, assist in vitamin production and manufacture essential nutrients such as butyrate, which is a source of energy for the gut lining. It is important to keep a healthy flora balance to regulate the digestive system and prevent GI illnesses.

Gut Integrity – The GI tract is the body’s largest protective cell layer, serving as a barrier between the internal body and the external world. It is a critical function of the mucosal membrane to allow nutrients into the body while excluding all the harmful substances that pass through our gut. If this barrier isn’t maintained, the intestinal barrier can become permeable to a number of harmful substances that trigger a host of autoimmune responses. About 70% percent of the immune system is located in the digestive tract.

Article written by Margo Gladding, MS, CNS, LDN for Ellicott City Pharmacy.


Jan 13, 2012 | Category: Diet, Health, Nutrtion | Comments: none | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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