Digestive disorder - What's really making you sick ?

I truly believe that age … if you are healthy… age is just a number.   -  Hugh Hefner

Health is a central issue associated with increase in longevity and population ageing. The maintenance of health status and functioning with age is a critical factor impacting upon many other aspects of the lives of older persons, their families and communities. Ageing is accompanied by several changes in the gastro-intestinal (GI) system and older adults frequently present with GI problems. Also sedentary lifestyle and food habits affect mid-40.

The causes for the GIT disorders vary based on the age of the person, based on locality & mode of lifestyle. The common causes are contaminated food and water supplies, nutritional factors and also pathogens like bacteria, viruses, protozoan parasites, and helminthes. It is estimated that some form of digestive disorder affects more than 100 million people. For some people, digestive disorders are a source of irritation and discomfort that may cause them to drastically limit their lifestyles and frequently miss work. For others, the disorders may be extremely crippling and even fatal.

The Gastrointestinal Tract
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a long muscular tube that functions as the food processor for the human body. The digestive system includes the following organs: mouth and salivary glands, stomach, small and large intestines, colon, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.

Irritations or inflammation of the various sections of the GI tract are identified as gastritis (stomach), colitis (colon), ileitis (ileum or small intestines), hepatitis (liver), and cholecystitis  (gallbladder). The GI tract is not a passive system. Rather, it has the capability to sense and react to materials passed through it. For a healthy digestive system, every person requires different food selections that match their GI tract capacity.

The Digestive Process
The GI tract breaks down foods by first using mechanical means (e.g., chewing) and then via the application of a host of complex chemical processes (from saliva to colon microbes).  The food eaten and passed through the GI tract contains nutrients as well as toxins. Toxins can include, but are not limited to, food additives, pesticides, and specific foods that induce a reaction from the GI tract. 

The process of digestion is accomplished via the surface of the GI tract using secretions from accessory glands. The two glands providing the majority of digestive chemicals utilized by the GI tract are the liver and the pancreas. Another very important function of the GI tract is as a sensory organ. By rejecting foods through objectionable taste, vomiting, diarrhea, or any combination of these symptoms, the sensing capacity of the GI tract can protect the body. The surface of the GI tract has a complex system of nerves and other cells of the immune system.

Dietary Shifts and Digestive Disorders
Human evolutionary history clearly shows that we are primarily herbivores.  The so-called canine teeth of humans bear no resemblance to the canines of even a domestic house cat. The human digestive system is long, and the food is processed slowly to extract all the nutrients from plant material. Conversely, carnivores have short digestive tracts that digest flesh very quickly. The digestive systems of carnivores are able to eliminate the large amount of cholesterol consumed in their diets, and carnivores do not have alpha-amylase present in their saliva. The effect of the shift in our diets during the past 100 years has resulted in heartburn, suffering from peptic ulcer disease, and non-ulcer dyspepsia. Over-the-counter medications for these ailments are a multibillion-dollar industry. Nearly every hour, there is at least one television commercial selling an antacid or similar product.

Gastrointestinal Symptoms
There are five basic symptoms indicating a GI tract problem. These symptoms are generally associated with dietary problems or specific food allergies.

Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting can vary from an unsettled feeling in the stomach to the violent action of immediate vomiting. Patients with nausea and vomiting symptoms should assume the ingestion of a reactive food (i.e., food containing toxins) . Patients with low-level nausea usually have their symptoms disappear with dietary change(s). Nausea and vomiting are also linked with migraines caused by food allergies.

Bloating can result from excessive gas in the digestive system, failure of the digestive tract to sustain youthful peristaltic contractions, or a lack of sufficient quantities of digestive enzymes and bile acids to rapidly break down food. Intestinal gas results from food fermentation and swallowing air while eating. The bloating from intestinal gas is different from that which occurs in the colon.

Constipation is the decreased frequency or slowing of peristalsis, resulting in harder stools. When the GI tract is slowed down, feces can accumulate in the colon with attending pain and toxic reactions. A spastic colon results when the colon contracts out of rhythm in painful spasms blocking movement of the stool. Some patients experience painful days of constipation followed by forceful diarrhea and watery stool, often accompanied by abdominal cramps.

Diarrhea is the increased frequency of bowel movements, which are also loose or watery. If diarrhea increases, the possibility of celiac disease is considered. Celiac disease is a serious disease that allows certain macromolecules to pass through the intestinal wall. If blood appears in the stool, ulcerative colitis is likely. Protracted bouts of diarrhea can result in nutritional deficiencies due to poor absorption of essential nutrients.

Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain appears in different patterns and with varying intensities. Cramping occurs because of muscle spasms in abdominal organs. Severe cramping pain, often called colic, usually occurs from problems with strong allergic response to food.

Diseases associated with central GI tract disorders include depression, migraine, asthma, sinusitis, and fibromyalgia.  All of these diseases also have links to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) .

Steps to a Healthier Digestive System

Elimination diets are a good method of determining what foods cause an allergic reaction in the GI tract lining. Planning and following such diets are a safe starting point for anyone desiring to track their GI tract response to food. Interview physicians to learn who may be most qualified to assist in planning an elimination diet. A very good indicator of a healthy GI tract is regular transit time for complete food digestion.

Nutrition from an Ayurvedic perspective
Discovering your constitution and eating respective to your constitution (PRAKRITI) is very important. By understanding your basic constitution and condition, you can utilize nutrition as deep source of healing.

This resource is largely under your control: It is you who eats for you and no one else.


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