There’s an old saying that goes “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” We often see this adage at play when it comes to determining which system in the body is the highest priority.
If you’re a practitioner who focuses on glucose dysregulation, you likely think blood sugar issues are the logical place to start a healing program for your clients. On the other hand, if your work primarily deals with minerals like magnesium, iron, and iodine, you probably believe that balancing minerals is the right starting point in a healing journey. Or if you’ve worked to help clients improve their water intake with good success, you might make the argument that hydration trumps everything else.
While all of these imbalances are important, none of them are the first priority. Everyone’s highest healing priority of all is proper digestion – absolutely everyone.
If we aren’t absorbing vitamins, fatty acids, and fiber from the food we eat, we won’t have the essential factors required to support pancreatic function and insulin production, and thus we can’t optimize blood sugar handling. If we can’t access the minerals from our diet, we’re going to have deficiencies, and supplementation isn’t addressing the root of the issue. And while proper hydration is critical, it simply doesn’t override the importance of an optimally functioning digestive system.
When we think about digestion, we need to consider several key aspects, each of which triggers a domino effect further down the digestive pathway.
1) Is food being properly broken down?
The process of converting the food we place in our mouths into microscopically-sized particles, small enough to pass through the tight junctions of the small intestine and be taken up by the lacteals for proper absorption, requires many critical processes. If any of these steps don’t occur optimally, there is a consequence further along in the digestive process. Food that is not optimally broken down, often due to deficiencies of digestive juices and other secretions, results in particles too large to be absorbed. When food isn’t properly absorbed, we can’t benefit from the nutrients in that food, no matter how organic, pastured, or properly prepared it is.
2) Is there a pathogen?
We used to think that intestinal parasites were only an issue in developing countries. Now, with global food distribution, foods grown in developing countries are finding their way onto our plates. What about opportunistic bacteria? When you consider that most people eat a highly-processed Standard American Diet, low in beneficial fiber, and have used multiple rounds of antibiotics, the result is a dysfunctional intestinal terrain – an ideal habitat for opportunistic bacteria to set up housekeeping. And since most Americans are overeating starch and sugar, yeast and candida can also establish a cozy place to live in our imbalanced digestive tracts.
3) What about the microbiome?
We need abundant beneficial flora to keep our colons healthy. A healthy microbiome allows for proper absorption of B vitamins, vitamin K and some minerals. Many of us are missing important strains of beneficial flora (the flowers in our garden), allowing for even more overgrowth of dysbiotic bacteria (the weeds taking over the garden).
If any of these crucial aspects of digestion are dysfunctional, we cannot fully benefit from the nutrients in our food and that leads to downstream issues such as mineral deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, cardiovascular problems, and poor detoxification.
And so: addressing digestion is the #1 healing priority in the body.
Knowing how to address digestive issues is a skill every health practitioner must have in their tool kit. If you don’t start with the gut, actually – if you start anywhere else – you’re never going to help your client truly get well. Again and again we see clients who, by simply optimizing digestion, no longer have menstrual cycle issues or migraines, leg cramps or anemia or – you name it. We’re not saying digestion is the end-all, be-all, but we are saying it’s where we start with everyone.
In health and wholeness,
~ Anne and Margaret
PS – Restorative Wellness Solutions can help you uplevel your clinical skills, teaching you how to address digestion thoroughly and once and for all. Mastering the Art & Science of Gastrointestinal Healing is a 12-week course that will teach everything you need to know. Registration opens March 13 and class starts April 13th. Register early to take advantage of early bird pricing (Save $150!) and to secure your spot as this class typically sells out. Get on our list to be notified when registration opens so you don’t miss out!