© William Nelson, NMD
There is probably no chronic or acute illness that could not be helped by improving bowel function. J. F. Montague put the GI health and illness connection very succinctly in his 1927 book, Troubles We Don’t Talk About. He stated that all diseases can be divided into three categories, “those conditions causing constipation, those which were caused by constipation, and finally constipation itself.”
A 2008 report from the SEER Cancer Statistics Review estimated that approximately 150,000 men and women are diagnosed with colorectal cancer annually, and approximately one third of those diagnosed will die from the disease. This makes colorectal cancer the number two cause of death in the US. In addition, if a person has two immediate family members that have been diagnosed or have died from colon cancer, this increases their risk for the disease five fold. However, 3 out of four diagnosed with colon cancer have no family history.
The intent of this article is to emphasize the importance of digestive health, not only on preventing colon cancer, but also to prevent or reverse other seemingly unrelated illnesses by improving your digestion and colon health. Traditional Naturopathic Doctors have known this fact and continually educate the public on the problems of constipation. These include: heart disease, allergies, low back pain, autoimmune disease, headaches, acne, general fatigue, addiction and addiction recovery, chronic sinusitis, asthma, and many others. In short, there are probably no chronic or acute illness that could not be helped by improving bowel function. J. F. Montague put the GI health and illness connection very succinctly in his book Troubles We Don’t Talk About, written in 1927. He stated that all diseases can be divided into three categories, “those conditions causing constipation, those which were caused by constipation, and finally constipation itself.”
Over 80 percent of your immune system is directly associated with your gastrointestinal tract. Sub-optimal digestion and elimination in the GI tract are a “block” to healing and will severely limit your positive response to medical treatment, whether it is conventional or naturopathic.
Optimal digestive function is observed when:
A healthy diet provides the sustained optimal energy and vitality for daily activity free from chronic joint pain, chronic infections, allergies, digestive upset, constipation, muscle cramps, poor sleep, and overwhelming emotional stress.
Proper absorption of nutrients and efficient elimination of solid waste indicated by 3 complete bowel movements per day.
Healthy immune response indicated by infrequent but periodic acute cold/flu that resolves without complication in a short period of time.
Steps to improving GI function
Repairing leaky gut and eliminating constipation. This is paramount to preventing disease and recovering from all disease. Naturopathic Physicians are experts in this important task. Their approach will include dietary and lifestyle changes, herbal and nutritional supplements, and other recommendations based on your specific situation.
Restoring enzymes, hydrochloric acid. Your Naturopathic Physician will assess and make recommendations based on clinical observations to make this change.
Improving detoxification pathways. The key routes of elimination include the liver/GB, kidney, lungs (respiration), and skin (sweating). Once again, the benefit of working with your Naturopathic Physician is that they will help you identify which of your elimination pathways are sub-optimal and then recommending effective supplements, treatments, dietary and lifestyle changes to improve this important area.
Removing pathogens. These may include anaerobic bacteria in the large intestine or small intestine (SIBO), pathogenic yeast (candida), parasites, and even pathogenic “food intolerances”. A key note is that when attempting to identify food allergies prior to completing steps 1-3 will predictably provide an overwhelming list of otherwise healthy foods to avoid. I have seen many patients in my 18 years of practice that bring results from a food allergy test that list 20 or 30 foods to avoid (the record is 58). After completing steps 1-3 above, most patients may only have one or two true food intolerance and they probably will be able to eat theseintolerances periodically in small quantities without ill effect.
Re-inoculation. Replacing the probiotic bacteria. This can be accomplished using fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, fiber, etc, and/or with a quality probiotic. In serious conditions this step can be be helped by colon reflorestation.
In closing, GI health is the cornerstone to all chronic and acute illness. The steps required are best taken under the guidance of an expert in restoring healthy digestion, namely the Naturopathic Physician. The benefits of this approach on preventing illness and restoring health are impossible to exaggerate. This approach will not only benefit the patient, but also the patient’s family. Once a person experiences the benefits of improved GI health, they will slowly but surely convert their family members into adopting these health promoting changes.