Tag Archives: digestion

The Moat Around Your Castle

Photo from Flickr.com user ukgardenphotos under Creative Commons licensing

Photo from Flickr.com user ukgardenphotos under Creative Commons licensing

Your one cell thick gut barrier is the wall, or moat, protecting your inside world from the outside world.  Consider that the inside of you is the castle, your territory, the you that moves and is in the world. This protective one cell layer acts as a gatekeeper.

The barrier is semi-permeable, meaning it selectively allows certain substances to come in like the nutrients, electrolytes and water, while maintaining an effective defense against toxins, antigens (foreign substances your body wants to attack) and microorganisms.  A healthy gut barrier consists of numerous villi, or fingerlike projections, in the small intestines which absorb nutrients for the body to function and maintains tight junctions, which act as a tight barrier between cells.  If this layer becomes compromised you can get into trouble fast.

When the barrier between you and the outside world becomes compromised, it is unable to break down food and allow nutrients to cross the intestinal wall into the bloodstream. This can lead to serious health consequences, like premature aging.

The immune protection that resides on the gut barrier is like a paint called “secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA),” an antibody which I did my doctoral studies on. This defensive antibody is the first line of protection for the gut barrier to thwart entrance into the body by any foreign bacteria, virus, parasite or fungus. It also protects against toxins such as heavy metals (mercury, lead, etc.) and unwanted chemicals like pesticides and herbicides.  Again, it is necessary for you to live a healthy life.

If the paint on your gut barrier is not present you will not absorb nutrients from your food that you need to survive.  The problem with not absorbing is suddenly you can feel old, haggard, worn out without any energy or drive.  It’s like you have wilted as an overexposed piece of lettuce—not too good! I don’t know about you, but I like my lettuce crisp.

My point in telling you all of this is that this common problem is absolutely preventable. For the next few weeks, I’d like to share with you three reasonable ways in which you can prevent your gut from coming under attack. Next week, we’ll discuss the first: a simple saliva test that will tell any doctor if your “paint” is all there.

To your health,

Dr. Dana

Health Begins with the Pathway of Digestion

CaptureEvery cell in the body requires energy to function.

Food that is ingested is the energetic material necessary for cellular function.   However, most food cannot directly enter the blood stream and be used by the cells of the body until it is broken down into simple molecules.  The digestive system’s role is to alter ingested food by mechanical and chemical processes so food can cross the gastrointestinal barrier and enter the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems for cellular distribution throughout the body.  Digested food is then able to provide energy to fuel body activity and incorporate into the body structure.

So let’s get acquainted with the digestive system.  The digestive system is comprised of a tube called the alimentary canal that extends from the lips to the anus.  Below the diaphragm the digestive tract is called the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The alimentary canal is a long muscular tube lined with mucous membrane for a total length of about 27 feet with 1 ½ feet above the diaphragm. Each part of the tube is called by a different name, for example, mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.  Each classified part has its own special anatomic characteristics and performs its own particular functions with the overall purpose of making food available to the cells of the body.

The whole time food remains in the canal it is considered “outside” of the body and has not “entered” the body. Think of the alimentary canal as the hole in a doughnut. In order for food to enter the body it must cross the epithelium that lines the wall of the digestive tract.  A number of glands and organs assist in the digestion of food in the alimentary canal including secretions from salivary, gastric and intestinal glands, the liver/gallbladder and pancreas.  The digestion of food is a complex interplay of many players we take for granted but relay on one another to accomplish a very important task, fueling the human body.

The activities of the digestive system are divided into six basic processes beginning at the mouth and ending at the anus—it’s a journey.  This hidden passage of physiological processes is your body’s ability to feed itself through sustained nourishment.  The alimentary tract is like a root system deep in your body that anchors your health and provides the foundation for your longevity.

To ensure our health and vitality it is imperative we pay attention to what we eat and how we feel. Good and natural foods may be inflammatory in some people’s gastrointestinal tract.  Paying attention is critical so gut problems do not take hold and alter the sensitive balance of good flora or erode your immune status.

Be mindful of what you eat.

To your health,

Dr. Dana