Healthy Routes Column: Health Through Digestion

by Gladys Kublic, co-owner Neighbors vitamin Shop

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” is an often quoted line accredited to Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, the author of the Hippocratic oath which still binds doctors to “. . . never do harm to anyone.” Famous for establishing medicine as an independent profession with governing principles, he acknowledged one of the fundamental precepts of good health – what we take into our body affects the health of our body.

Next in importance for our health to the quality of what we are ingesting – the purity, nutrient value and the freshness of our food. Likewise, a compromised digestive system cannot provide the fuel to grow and sustain a healthy mind or body. A much publicized example of this is celiac disease and gluten intolerance or sensitivity, where the body is unable to digest the gluten found in cereal grains, primarily wheat. This food then becomes a poison to that person, damaging the small intestine and causing a wide range of illnesses. Even when the gluten is removed from the diet, many celiac patients never really recover their health and many contract major illnesses such as diabetes and cancer.

Looking for answers as to why so many people do not become totally healthy even though they follow the gluten free diet faithfully opened up the proverbial ‘can of worms’ – a can so large it can’t be sorted out in one quick article and so entangled that I don’t think research has explored all the connections between the state of our total health and the state of our digestion.

The basic principal of good health (what goes in must come out) has been tested and experienced in one way or another by all of us. Explanations of the chemistry and mechanics behind this physiology fill several heavy textbooks. However the results of this process are as individual and varied as each and every one of us, influenced by our own particular set of enzymes, bioflora, diet, and even parasites.
The shine of our hair and the glow of our skin reflects the state of our digestion. The creak in our joints reflects the results of our digestion past and present. The state of our nerves, the restfulness of our sleep and the resilience of our immune system reflect the state of our digestion. Allergies, arthritis, asthma, bowel diseases, some cancers, celiac disease, diabetes, eczema, gastroesophageal reflux, heartburn, and a whole alphabet of diseases and disorders trace all or part of the problem back to the digestive system.

Beginning in the mouth where a complex chemical, mechanical process breaks our food down so that individual nutrients can be extracted and absorbed by the blood and circulated to nourish all the cells of our body. This process also relies on organs such as the gall bladder, pancreas, liver, and different glands and their secretions such as saliva, gastrin, choleocystrokinin, and secretin. A healthy system secretes the proper amounts of enzymes, hydrochloric acid, bile, more enzymes, insulin and biocarbinates to neutralize the acid in the small intestine during the process of digestion along a permeable tract which has the ability to keep out wastes while allowing nutrients to pass through.

It is an amazing process which miraculously survives an enormous amount of abuse. But not everyone is blessed with a perfectly healthy, robust system. Problems which stem from compromised digestion can range from poor growth, poor concentration, low vitality, weak immunity, susceptibility to disease and anxiety. Even the most robust system deteriorates over time, so as we age we need to be more supportive of a system we tend to take for granted.

In a series of articles, I’d like to share with you some of the information I have learned about the digestive process. How we can improve and maintain good health through digestion; how we can prevent serious illness through digestion and how we can heal and protect our digestive system. In order to remain strong and healthy into a very old age we need the nourishment that can only be provided through good diet and good nutrient absorption. Let that gut feeling be a good one.

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