Our digestive system is required to perform a complex set of tasks. First, we must digest the food we have consumed and break it down effectively into its basic components: simple carbohydrates, fatty acids, and amino acids. Then these nutrients need to be absorbed in a highly selective fashion to ensure that only the good stuff gets through and the bad stuff is rejected or destroyed. This process happens at the surface layer of the intestinal tract, where the interaction of pancreatic and brush border enzymes, hydrochloric acid, bile salts, and the microbiome direct this critical operation.

The introduction of processed and genetically modified foods has caused radical changes in our food supply. These changes, when coupled with toxins, stress, and the widespread use of antibiotics, have created the perfect storm for digestive dysfunctions. Studies of the intestinal microbiome show a progressive loss of biodiversity. Scientists have found that a strain of bacteria called Bacillus infantis, which had been the dominant bacterium in the infant gut for all of human history, is disappearing from the Western World.

In the world of functional medicine, digestive issues are at the root of many illnesses – including maldigestion, malabsorption, malnutrition, increased intestinal permeability, and immune system activation.

Suggested Reading

Gulp: Adventures on The Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution by Steven Gundry, MD

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