Understanding Digestive Issues:
Insights from Gut Philosophy
Digestion and absorption functions are crucial to providing key nutrients, such as amino acids, glucose, fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and fibre to allow proper functioning of the body on a cellular level.
Therefore, any challenges with digestion and absorption could manifest in a wide range of symptoms, from fatigue, bloating, irregular bowel movements, headaches, brain fog and cognitive issues, weight gain or loss, skin problems, autoimmune conditions, allergies and many more. In addition, digestive issues will be affecting composition and function of the gut microbiome which is a fundamental component of your health. Poor gut microbiome is linked to numerous chronic health issues, including immunity, digestion, metabolism, brain and mental health.
At Gut Philosophy, we are dedicated to providing you with the information and tools you need to address your digestive symptoms and support your gut health. In this informational page, we are covering the basics of common root causes of digestive issues and ways to support your digestion and gut health.
Main Digestive Complaints
The most common digestive complaints include:
Heartburn is a burning sensation or discomfort in a chest area. It is often believed that heartburn is caused by excessive stomach acid and it is treated by antacid medications, such as omeprazole. In reality, there are numerous causes of heartburn, including low stomach acid (not high as usually believed), hypersensitive oesophageal lining, weak low-oesophagal sphincter, food sensitivities, compromised gastric lining, bile reflux and more.
Antacids could be helpful to alleviate pain associated with burning sensation, but it is a short term solution and does not address the root cause of heartburn. In a situation, where heartburn is caused by low stomach acidity, taking antacids, in particular in longer term, would further decrease stomach acidity aggravative digestive complaints, such as bloating and constipation, and causing other issues, such as gastric lining atrophy, protein indigestion, multiple mineral deficiencies.
Bloating happens when there is a built-up of gas in the gastro-intestinal tract. The gas is produced by intestinal microbes fermenting different types of fibre in our intestines. Therefore, food sensitivities, suboptimal microbial composition or dislocation, low gut motility or sensitive or damaged mucosal lining in the stomach and intestines may cause excessive bloating and gas build-up. Excessive gas built-up pushing on the walls of the gastro-intestinal tract may then cause abdominal extension, pain and discomfort.
if you have at least one of the following, then you are considered constipated:
- you skip one or more days without a bowel movement;
- you rely on stool softeners/laxatives to go to toilet;
- your have daily bowel movements, but you have to strain
- your bowel movement does not feel complete
- stool feels dry, lumpy, hard and/or looks like pellets.
There are a number of contributing factors to constipation, including low stomach acidity, suboptimal bile flow, gut dysbiosis, compromised motility, diet low in fibre, dehydration and sedentary lifestyle.
occurs when stool moves too quickly through the digestive system, resulting in soft, loose or watery stools. There are different causes of diarrhoea, including intestinal pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites. Food intolerances, certain medications, gut dysbiosis and issues with motility are also important considerations.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS):
it is not a medical diagnosis, it is a name given to a group of symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, irregular and/or painful movements, nausea. Usually, prior to an IBS “diagnosis” all other serious causes have been ruled out by a doctor, including Coeliac Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (i.e. Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis). There are multiple imbalances and causes of IBS, such as dysregulated nervous system, impaired gut motility, gut dysbiosis, including Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, and more. IBS requires an integrative approach. Following low FODMAP diet and/or taking medication are often not sufficient to resolve the causes of IBS.
Key Causes of Digestive Complaints
There are a number of root causes behind digestive symptoms. Here we are considering the most common ones.
- Poor oral health: Mouth is the beginning of your gut health. If you have dental cavities, bad breath, root canals, missing teeth, gum disease, bleeding after flossing or brushing teeth – these would most likely affect the composition of gut microbiota, contributing to digestive symptoms.
- Low stomach acid:
The stomach acid is responsible for the digestion of protein, absorption of Vitamin B12, release of certain minerals from food (such as Iron, Zinc, Copper, etc) and sterilisation of the contents of the stomach. In the absence of sufficient stomach acid, a number of issues that may arise:
- Improper protein digestion, causing feeling of fullness and nausea after heavy meals, as well as belching and heartburn.
- Overgrowth of microorganisms in the small intestine, causing severe bloating, nausea, abdominal cramping, constipation or/and diarrhoea.
- Multiple nutrient deficiencies, in particular Vitamin B12, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Magnesium – they may have a wide range of symptoms from poor quality nails and hair, poor immune system to mood disorders.
Identifying and removing factors responsible for poor stomach acidity, as well as, supporting healthy stomach acid production and healthy gastric mucosal lining are crucial steps in addressing this imbalance.
- Issues with Bile Flow: Insufficient bile synthesis and/or flow bile is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Having a healthy bile flow is crucial for fat digestion and fat-soluble vitamins (i.e. Vitamins A, D, E and K) absorption. Insufficient bile production due to liver dysfunction, compromised bile flow due to bile quality (e.g. gallstones), or issues with a gallbladder sphincter may contribute to digestive issues, such as feeling nauseas after eating fatty food and gut dysbiosis.
- Gut dysbiosis: Gut dysbiosis is a loss of balance in microbial composition of the gut. Intestinal microbes are crucial in digesting fibre, promoting immune system tolerance to own tissues, producing anti-inflammatory substances, vitamins and neurotransmitters, as well as metabolic health. Any imbalance in microbial composition could contribute to increased inflammation in the gut, poor gut motility causing constipation and bloating, as well as a number of extra-intestinal symptoms from anxiety to skin issues.
- Dysregulated Nervous System: Any unprocessed emotional traumas, periods of acute or chronic physical or emotional stress would have a dramatic effect on your gut health. Some of the negative impacts of dysregulated nervous system include:
- Compromised gastro-intestinal motility – which means that the gut moves too fast (i.e. diarrhoea, hypersensitivy) or too slow (i.e. constipation, bloating).
- Low production of digestive substances, such as saliva, gastric juice, pancreatic digestive enzymes – this would cause indigestion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, as well as vitamin and mineral causing deficiencies in the body.
- Improper functioning of sphincters, such as low-oesophagal sphincter causing heartburn, indigestion, acid reflux, sphincter of Oddi, causing poor bile flow resulting in bloating, bile reflux, gut dysbiosis.
- Chronic Infections & Inflammation:
- Untreated intestinal infections could cause a range of digestive and non-digestive symptoms, including abdominal cramping, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation.
- For example, Helicobacter pylori infection could go undetected for years, and may cause heartburn, stomach acid reflux, feeling too full shortly after eating, bloating, gastric lining atrophy, stomach ulcers.
- Identifying and eradicating infections and parasites in the gastro-intestinal tract are important for healing.
- Lifestyle Factors:
- Certain lifestyle factors could cause or aggravate digestive symptoms. For example, poor dietary choices, such as diet high in processed foods, sugar, alcohol, additives and flavourings can cause digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, and constipation.
- Food intolerances and sensitivities, such as lactose or gluten, can cause digestive symptoms.
- Certain medications could deplete nutrients in the body, affect motility, contribute to dysbiosis and compromised gut mucosal lining.
- Poor sleep and sedentary lifestyle was linked to poor microbial composition, for example. It may also affect gut motility.
- Identifying all possible causes of digestive issues and developing a health strategy across dietary and lifestyle interventions, as well as supplementation is required to address the digestive issues.
Tips for Improving Digestive Health
Mindful eating habits: Proper chewing and having your meals in a relaxed environment without any distractions is highly underrated and very effective in supporting the secretion of your digestive juices and peristalsis (e.g. gut motility). Chewing your meal to a semi-liquid consistency could support acid reflux, bloating, constipation and feeling heavy and tired after a meal.
Avoiding excessive snacking: focusing on two-three main meals per day without any snacking is particularly important when you are dealing with bloating, stomach cramping. However, some people with certain conditions will require small and more frequent meals.
Having a balanced meal each time: a “balanced meal” will include protein, fibre, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. Focusing on balanced meals each time you eat would provide nutrients required for optimal functioning of gastro-intestinal tract.
Focusing on 7-10 portions of plants per day: predominantly vegetables of different colours. This would provide fibre supporting gut microbiome and gut motility, as well as polyphenols to fight inflammation.
Focus on diversity: fibre is needed to “feed” gut microbiota, try folloing “30-30 principle”, or eating at least 30g of fibre daily and consuming at least 30 different types of plant-based foods weekly.
Having fermented foods regularly: aim to have small portions of fermented foods at least 4-5 times to support microbiome diversity.
Avoiding processed foods, artificial sweeteners, food additives and emulsifiers – these were found to be disruptive to mucosal layer of the intestine and gut microbiota.
Addressing emotional traumas and supporting mental and emotional health with meditation, breathwork, yoga and psychotherapies.
Optimising sleep routine, improving sleep quality and developing optimal exercise regime will be supporting your nervous system and ultimately your gut health.
How Gut Philosophy Can Help
At Gut Philosophy we support gut health through integrative approach, starting with in-depth assessment of your medical history, recent lab results, evaluation of your diet, sleep, stress levels, exercise and movement, and environmental chemicals exposure.
During your Initial Consultation, your functional medicine practitioner will outline the key imbalances and triggers, will explain the strategy how to address them and support your symptoms.
Following your Initial Consultation you will receive a personalised Health Optimisation Programme based on our findings and analysis.
Your Health Optimisation Programme usually includes:
- Dietary interventions (i.e. functional foods, key nutrients, optimising digestion, fasting schedules)
- Lifestyle interventions (i.e. sleep hygiene, stress coping strategies, exercise & movement strategy, addressing environmental chemicals, and more)
- Personalised supplementation schedule using professional and highly bioavailable supplement range
- GP or specialists referral (if needed)
- Any further testing and therapies (if needed)
If you have questions about our approach or testing options, you could schedule a complimentary discovery call here.
Common Concerns About Digestion
Contact us today to book a free discovery call with one of our functional medicine practitioners and learn how we can help you support your energy levels and overall well-being.