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Digestive System

A properly functioning digestive system is critical to maintaining good health, including a strong immune and neurological system.

The gastrointestinal tract (G.I.) is designed to break food apart, extract valuable nutrients for absorption and eliminate waste products.

Our gastrointestinal tract is a muscular tube about 27 feet long and includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. It also serves as a protective barrier against many foreign invaders and has the ability to stimulate the immune system at the first sign of G.I. dysfunction. The nutrients extracted from our food by the digestive tract provide fuel and the necessary building blocks for growth, reproduction, repair, and maintenance of every organ in the body.

Unfortunately, our digestive tract is not always working at its best. Gastrointestinal tract dysfunctions can be caused by exposure to food allergens, drugs, pollutants, food additives, heavy metals, viral and bacterial infections, emotional and physical stress and the disruption of our healthy bacterial flora in our G.I. tract.

If the G.I. abnormalities persist, they may lead to increased susceptibility to viral and bacterial infections, lack of energy, weight loss or gain, skin problems and neurological abnormalities such as memory lapses or clouded thought.

Signs of G.I. tract problems can include:

Abdominal pain, cramping or excessive burping
Bloating, gas
Chronic diarrhea or constipation
Abnormal color or consistency of stools
Food allergies

So what can we do?

First, consult with your health care practitioner. On your journey to better health it is important to find out the cause of your G.I. dysfunction. There are tests that can identify specific irregularities as undigested food or the presence of harmful bacteria, yeast, or parasites.

Second, you can try some dietary modifications to eliminate food sensitivities. And third, you can take nutritional supplements to support some of the structures and functions of the gastrointestinal tract. Some beneficial nutritional supplements include; digestive enzymes, fiber and probiotics.

Digestive Enzymes are essential and break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats into subunits that can be absorbed. Digestive enzymes "unlock" nutrients in our food so they can be utilized for energy, growth, repair and maintenance of the body. There are different classes of enzymes depending on the specific foods that the enzyme break down. Proteases and peptidases work to break proteins into amino acids necessary for building and repairing organs and body tissues.

Amylases break carbohydrates into simple sugars (such as glucose). Lipases break fats into fatty acids to be used for energy. Enzyme deficiencies can be caused by a poor diet, aging, stress, illness, genetic abnormalities and by the interference of environmental pollutants such as heavy metals or pesticides which prevent the enzymes from functioning.

A high-quality digestive enzyme formula should provide the body with a broad spectrum of enzymes. Research shows that these enzymes can exert a powerful natural healing influence against a number of G.I. conditions such as, leaky gut syndrome, bacterial and fungal overgrowth and food allergies. For example, an enzyme known as dipeptidyl peptidase IV, has been especially effective for children and adults who are gluten (a protein found in wheat) and casein (a protein found in milk) sensitive. When gluten and casein are not broken down adequately, "opiate-like" particles are generated and can cause serious behavior problems when they enter the bloodstream and into the brain.

Fiber is the undigestible bulk that is found in grains, cereals, seeds, and raw vegetables and fruits. Types of fiber include bran, cellulose, gums, lignins, mucilages, and pectin (all either soluble or insoluble). A combination of soluble and insoluble fiber is best. Benefits of adequate fiber include regularity and proper stool consistency. Fiber helps to normalize elevated blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels, reduces the chance of constipation, hemorrhoids and fills the stomach to help reduce over-eating. Proper fiber can help remove unwanted pathogens from the gut.

Probiotics are beneficial "friendly" bacteria that live in harmony within our GI tract. In exchange for nutrients provided by the foods we eat, these bacteria protect us from harmful microorganisms and toxic wastes, help us digest some of the foods we eat, balance intestinal pH and even make some vitamins! Disturbances of the normal balance of beneficial bacteria (flora), from excessive antibiotic use for example, can lead to yeast overgrowth and proliferation of other harmful microorganisms.
When a probiotic supplement is used, it will boost the flora in the gut and help suppress harmful microorganisms. Many gastrointestinal tract disturbances experienced by individuals have been greatly reduced by the introduction of a highly active probiotic supplement. Probiotics should be included in any therapeutic program aimed at restoring the function and health of the GI tract.

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