"All disease begins in the gut." Hippocrates
Over 2000 years ago Hippocrates, often referred to as the "Father of Medicine", cited that disease begins in the gut. Today, more evidence and research is supporting his assertion.
Digestive disorders are more prevalent than ever, with 60 to 70 million people in the U.S. being affected by some form of digestive disease. In 2004, digestive diseases accounted for over 100 million ambulatory care visits and 13.5 million hospitalizations in the U.S. alone. Common diseases include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chronic constipation, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disorder, IBS and more.
Sadly, many people simply "deal" with digestive issues or self-medicate with over-the-counter (OTC) drugs such as antacids or anti-diarrheals versus truly getting to the root of their problem. In addition to OTC drugs, patients often seek assistance from their doctors and are provided with some prescription medication. Medications for digestive diseases are among the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S. with millions doled out each year. According to the National Institutes of Health, in 2004 the total cost of prescription drugs was $12.3 billion. Over half of this cost ($7.7 billion) was associated with drugs prescribed for GERD; these include medications such as proton-pump inhibitors (PPI).
Underscoring this alarming trend in digestive disease is the poor nutritional status of the Standard American Diet. The advent of artificial foods, preservatives, additives, GMOs and processed foods is serving to wreak havoc on our guts. "Anti-nutrients" found in common foods is also believed to be a major contributor to digestive dysfunction, with gluten being the most well-known assailant. Celiac disease, the GI disease associated with an autoimmune response to the protein molecule of gluten/gliadin, rates have risen over the past several decades with now 1% of the U.S. population being diagnosed as having the disease (many more may go undiagnosed). Gluten intolerance rates are even higher with 5-6% of the population being suspected and speculation by progressive researchers being that as much as 30% of the population being potentially intolerant to gluten.
The goal is to optimize digestive function and get to the underlying cause of any suspected gastrointestinal disturbances. A variety of environmental factors can contribute to digestive disease such as food sensitivities, pathogenic infection (parasites, bacteria, fungi), poor nutritional habits and chronic stress. Once identified, tangible steps can be taken and strategies implemented through nutrition, supplementation and other therapeutic measures to heal the gut and restore proper function - this is imperative. Research is mounting each day that links the health and integrity of the gut to autoimmune disorders, thyroid dysfunction, brain inflammation and more.
If you are struggling with digestive problems or want to optimize your digestion, find out how Functional Diagnostic Nutrition can help.
Bad food, bugs and more - the articles below provide some insight into how to identify the source of your digestive dysfunction and improve the health of your gut.