Digestive health is the core of both overall health and your immune system function. IBS, GI disorders, Indigestion, Heartburn, Gastritis.
Why is Digestion so Important?
Digestion seems like such a simple process in the body. It both is, and it isn’t. Medicine used to think that it was simply a matter of breaking down food to be utilized as the source of nutrition and energy in the body – yes. But, many recent research studies are illuminating the fact that it goes far beyond that. Digestive health is the root of your overall health and wellness – past, present and future all included here. What happens to your gut as a child is instrumental in the state of your health as an adult. The functioning of your immune system is intimately tied to the functioning of your digestive system; one is the reflection of the other and vice-versa. Current estimates are that 70-80% of one’s immune function resides in one’s digestive activity. By observing the unprecedented rise in autoimmune disorders, allergy and food intolerances, and chronic, degenerative diseases in our society, it becomes clear what the implications are to one’s health. There is an epidemic of digestive illness in our country, one that is directly related to the foods we eat and the way we live.
It follows that improving one’s diet and nutrition will improve your digestive health as well as your immune health. Again, in this age of ever-more elaborate diets and conflicting health advice, this can be made to be either very simple or very complicated. Changing the way that we eat and think about food is a learning process that takes time and effort. Yet, a lifestyle change is much preferred to a diet that might not be sustainable or nourishing for your long-term health. I myself prefer simple and easy to complicated and difficult especially when it comes to change. And, author Michael Pollan, has the most basic answer to what people should be eating: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The simplicity of his answer is almost laughable because it is so obvious, but it is true nonetheless. You eat food ultimately to nourish all of your cells. If you make poor food choices or if your body cannot digest, absorb, and utilize the food due to poor digestive function, you will eventually develop signs, symptoms, and finally a diagnosable illness.
There’s a Little Brain in My Gut?
Why, yes there is; don’t you hear it talking to you? There is a lump in my throat. You make me sick to my stomach. I have butterflies (in my stomach). You nauseate me. These sayings all indicate that there is a well-understood relationship between emotions, such as anger and fear, and unpleasant gut sensations and feelings. Furthermore, the saying, I have a gut feeling about this, implies an understanding of an inner intelligence that is based upon prior experiences. Most people know intuitively that there is a Mind/Brain-Gut Connection. And, multiple scientific studies show that most people experience unpleasant gut symptoms associated with stressors/triggers.
There are two “brains” in your body. One brain is within your skull and is part of the central nervous system, or CNS. But you probably never realized that you have a second brain in the lining of your digestive system called the enteric nervous system, or ENS. Dr. Jack Wood, a physiologist at The Ohio State University and a pioneer in gut research, calls the ENS “the little-brain-in-the-gut”. The CNS and the ENS closely resemble one another, because they develop from the same embryonic tissue. Later, they take different developmental paths, but they continue to have similar nerve tissue and neurochemical communication receptor sites. All of the neurotransmitters (acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin) in the CNS are also found in the ENS. What might surprise you, though, is that your gut manufactures significantly more neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, than does the brain. In fact, 80-90% of the serotonin in your body is made in the gut. This is fascinating and clearly demonstrates how even mood disorders and behaviors have a direct link to your gut health.
The big brain in your head and the little-brain-in-your-gut mutually influence one another. Gut sensations originating from the nerves in the wall of the gut travel up the spinal cord and finally reach the brain. Transmission is bi-directional; it is a two-way street. The gut affects the brain, and the brain affects the gut. Interestingly, if the vagus nerve, which connects the brain and the digestive system is cut, the digestive system continues to function fine on its own, an indication of how crucial it is to the rest of our body. There is often an interaction between emotions, the brain, and the bowels, and this means treating the entire problem, not just the gut. And, this is where Acupuncture treatment comes into play.
‘Prior to acupuncture I had tried every treatment out there: from endless doctor visits to holistic medicine with no results. Nothing was working and my symptoms were getting worse leaving me feeling hopeless and depressed. A close friend (who had been suffering with similar digestive issues to mine) recommended acupuncture with Steve, and it was my last resort. It didn’t happen immediately (it took over a month or so of weekly visits), but my symptoms became more manageable, and, with continuing treatments my condition improved dramatically.
Prior to treatments my social life would depend on my ailments. After treatments my life is back to normal. I feel great most of the time and don’t have to accommodate my life to IBS. I still have hiccups here and there with my symptoms, but I can honestly say that Steve gave me my life back. He is very easy and open to talk with. I never felt uncomfortable or embarrassed to tell him my health issues.
I can’t imagine going back to the discomfort I felt before acupuncture. I will continue to receive treatment not only to manage my IBS but for my overall physical and emotional well-being. I will always look forward to my treatment as it is the most relaxing part of my week. It is my hour to let go, meditate and relax. I fall into the deepest sleep within minutes of my treatment, and it is the best sleep I get all week.’
-Alina, 31, Designer
For more information about how acupuncture and other treatments can help you, please contact Board Certified Licensed Acupuncturist, Steve Drugan,B.S., L.Ac., at 614.218.6287 or click here. Taking new patients in and around Columbus, Ohio.