We hear more and more these days about changes in the human microbiome and the importance of gut health. There are many products offering probiotics. Recently I noticed a government sponsored ad warning of the overuse of antibiotics. Is it really this simple?
The root of health is absolutely in our digestion. This has been known in traditional medicine for literally thousands of years. Gut health plays centre stage but it’s not just about what we eat. A cascade of reactions begins with our thoughts about our next meal. Dysfunction can happen at many places causing uncomfortable symptoms. What functional medicine does is look for why.
For example a person can come into a clinic with a concern of depression. Leading research shows a gut/brain axis where an inflammatory response in the GI system will lead to decreased activity in the frontal lobe. Serotonin, dopamine and other important neurotransmitters are produced primarily in a healthy gut lining so where there is infection, inflammation, allergic responses, permeability etc then depression is part of what occurs. This level of diagnosis and treatment is rarely looked into.
We also hear and see a lot about boosting our immunity. Often this is oversimplified. It is important to understand the different levels of immune function and the goal using botanicals or other supplements. Is it surprising that over 80% of our immunity is housed in the lymphatic tissue of our guts? From the level of the common cold or small wound healing to more complex auto immune disorders it is through optimizing our digestive health that we can protect ourselves. Understanding where to start is key. Opening up the detoxification pathways by simplifying assimilation is a very good start.
Hormone disorders often relate with our ability to detoxify. The cascade of activity that happens beginning in the mouth is incredibly nuanced and if we are stressed when we eat it can all go sideways. Insulin and leptin resistance are connected with high levels of cortisol: the stress hormone. This will interfere with the phase one and two pathways of the liver leading to a build up of hormones or some partially metabolized hormones which lead to more problems including difficulty diagnosing even with lab tests.
The good news is that by eating a nutrient dense diet, getting enough sleep, managing stress and moving your body enough the right enzymatic co-factors will be available and detoxification will happen effortlessly. I’ve seen hormone levels change simply with some diet therapy and acupuncture. Chronic autoimmune disease has seen relief through similar methods. I talk with nearly all my patients about our ancestor’s diet and how this is linked with genetic memory. Understanding that our body’s are geared to eat a certain way promotes recovery from illness and allows for an ongoing quality of life.
Functional medicine and acupuncture are two systems that look deeply at the individual to discover the root cause of imbalance and disease.