Gut complaints are common and as we age our digestion function weakens and this makes us more prone to complaints like indigestion, reflux and heart burn, irregular bowel movements, and constipation. What we eat and how we live has profound affects on our gut function, which in turn affects mood, energy, vitality, our immune system and our skin. Many of these problems are not physical but functional and can be corrected with herbal medicine and lifestyle changes often including diet changes and sometimes nutritional supplementation. Other chronic gut conditions like Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis are more difficult to treat but they can be greatly improved with herbal medicine and making lifestyle changes.
Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (FGIDS)
- Functional is not physical – FGIDS mean there is something out-of-whack that has no known physical cause and you can’t usually determine anything in irregular from a pathology test. FGIDS are the types of health concerns people may endure for years until symptoms worsen. This happens often as we age or there is a distressing life event and the person feels worse or it maybe we simply get fed-up with it and decide to do something. People often self-prescribe. It may be tablets for diarrhea; various potions and pills for constipation; anti-acids and PPIs for reflux and heartburn.
- The Gut-Brain connection – The brain/nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) do more than communicate with each other, they regulate each other. FGIDS cause disharmony between our brains and our GIT and this can worsen symptoms and disrupt the key functions of the gut that depend everyday.
- Motility is critical for a healthy gut and when this doesn’t work as it needs to we suffer all kinds of discomfort and problems including constipation; diarrhea, bloating and cramps as well as fatigue, loss of appetite and even loss of sleep.
- Pain is key feature of FGIDs. The type of pain and where and when it occurs are clues to what is happening inside.
- Microbiome – There is no doubt our symbiotic bacteria we carry in our GIT is fundamental to our well-being. Many things can alter the carefully balanced population of bacteria including : prescription drugs, inflammation, antibiotics, diet, mood and infections.
- Feelings and Mood – Our GIT contains more than 300 millions neurons , otherwise known as enteric system and this is constant communication with our nervous system. Our GIT also produces hormones which regulate our feelings e.g. serotonin. Chronic stress, feeling depressed and anxious has profound affects on our digestion and our gut isn’t functioning properly it can affect our feeling and mood. The question still remains does Brain affect gut first or vice-versa. Either-way our GIT informs can be vital information on our well-being.