The rise of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in the western world is no longer being brushed aside. Since the 1970s the incidence of IBD; Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis has skyrocketed; and so has our awareness of the epidemic.
Over the past couple of years, various beliefs around digestive disorders have resulted in many different schools of thought on causes and treatment, and an over-complication of the condition itself.
As a result, many patients are left frustrated and confused, having to navigate the muddy waters of this condition on their own with only limited holistic support. I have faced the long dark road of autoimmune disease head on, and can say from experience, this should not be the case. So, let's dive in and get clear about what we need to understand about digestive disorders.
Your Digestive System Affects Everything!
In any illness, no matter where the dysfunction or disorder is in the body, the entire body is being affected. My gut was severely inflamed during every Ulcerative Colitis relapse, but so were my joints, muscles and bones.
They were chronically aching due to the antibodies in my blood. I also experienced a very negative mindset which led to depression; lost 70% of my hair due to anemia and malnutrition; my sleep cycle was disrupted; and I had a loss of menstrual cycle for a year and a half.
Clearly, my whole body was affected, so the IBD label did not paint the whole picture. I believe specialists, like gastroenterologists in the IBD field, should not be specializing too much, or they have the potential to forget about the rest of the body and how it is all linked.
Don’t fret; this is where Functional and Integrative Medicine comes in – practitioners in this field look at and treat the whole body as one connected system, not a collection of separate parts.
You Need To Treat Your Gut Bacteria Right
It is true that some digestive disorders are linked to genetics. There is a genetic footprint of IBD that runs in my family, and many specialists I saw latched onto the genetic theory as if it was the only thing that mattered. This led to me to living in fear and accepting the term ‘victim of my genetic history’.
I drilled that into myself for years. However, along the way I learned that the genes your parents give you are not the whole picture. Let’s not forget that we only have 23,000 genes from our parents and Mother Nature has given us 2.2 million genes in the microbiome: the colonies of good and bad bacteria, yeast and fungi, which are located on our skin and in our intestinal tract.
Scientific evidence is now revealing that the microbiome is responsible for everything needed to have a healthy, vibrant and energetic body. Our gut microbes determine the strength of our immune system, which naturally resists disease and infection. When nurtured, the microbiome can perform the way it was designed to do and provide us with a healthy brain; after all, most of our neurotransmitters are made in the gut.
Eighty to ninety percent of serotonin is produced in the gut (people with depression have very low serotonin production). The gut is also responsible for our energy levels, and the proper digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients. So perhaps we are bacteria having a human experience and that the state and terrain of our guts and overall environment (epigenetics) can override our genes.
Stress Is Your Worst Enemy
There is no disease that is not related to stress. Period. I think many of us forget how much chronic stress can damage us. Humans experience many different types of stress whether it is physical, mental, nutritional or thermal.
Whatever the stress, our body does not distinguish between types. Stress is perceived as a threat by the body and is most commonly activated by something that has not happened. However, it is not all bad - stress is an inbuilt survival mechanism that goes back to our hunter-gatherer days.
Our brain is wired to assess threat everywhere to keep us safe. Stress has a purpose, but we need to manage its power over us by incorporating tools such as meditation and yoga.
What You Eat Is Critical To Feeling Well
Tweet - The food we consume is the foundation for every system and function in the entire body. What we eat day in and day out literally becomes us. By the end of each year, you have a different body. You have replaced: a new skin every month, new liver every six months and a new skeleton every 7-10 years.
I am still unsure why I was told for so long by many professors and gastroenterologists that food didn't matter, and I could just “eat anything I wanted” - how ironic in the world of digestive disorders. The point is that when the human body delivers an autoimmune digestive disorder, the body is viewing its own cells as foreign invaders and makes abnormal CRP auto-antibodies against the body’s tissue - hello inflammation.
This is why it is crucial to eat food that is clean and as close to Mother Nature as possible. In this highly stressed state, your body is already confused by not being able to tell the difference between a foreign invader and yourself.