Digestive issues are one of the most common complaints seen in any doctors office. They also tend to be very complicated. That's why seeing a Naturopathic Doctor can be so helpful; we spend the time to figure out your complex issues. Since it's a complicated system, certain aspects can get missed.
One aspect of the digestive system that often gets overlooked is the mucous lining. It's exactly what it sounds like: a lining of mucus that covers the inside of your digestive tract. I know, sounds appetizing, but it's a bonafide superstar of your digestive health and therefore your entire health.
The mucus lining is the unsung hero of your digestive tract: Why is this slimy structure so important?
It houses your good bacteria.
Gut flora, or good bacteria, has been a hot topic in health and medicine for a while now. Like any living thing, they need to be nourished and given a place to live. That's where the mucous lining comes in; it's where they reside. If there isn't a healthy lining, fewer will be able to live happily. It won't matter how many billion you take, what strains you take, or how much money you spend, if your lining isn't healthy, they won't survive.
It's where your immune system interacts with the "outside world”.
The mucus lining also provides a space for the immune system to interact with pathogens. Specialized cells will "sample" molecules and either initiate an immune response (so they can recognize it the next time they come across it) or develop tolerance. If this mucus membrane isn't healthy, this interaction is subpar; the pathogens could easily slip past the immune cells, causing allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances.
It's your first defence against harmful pathogens.
Our immune system is made up of many different types of cells; one of the first-line defenders is Immunoglobulin A or IgA. It is one of the most abundant immune cells, and is present on all mucous membranes. It functions by attaching itself to potentially harmful molecules and preventing them from entering circulation. This is one way your gut lining is connected to your immunity - poorer mucous membrane means less space for IgA to function.
How do you fix a dysfunctional gut lining? Like anything else, in order to build it, you have to take away the things that will knock it down. In the case of the mucous lining, food sensitivities, processed foods and certain medications are the major demo crew. So avoiding or limiting those things are a good idea.
If you're one of those people who have a hard time digesting raw fruits and vegetables, it may have something to do with your gut lining. Although they are considered a healthy food, if they aren't being absorbed they aren't helping. Allow your gut to heal by eating well cooked veggies and avoid bothersome fruit for a while.
You can make some food choices that can help repair your gut lining. One of my favourites: bone broth. Either chicken or beef, homemade or responsibly purchased. It is a great option to help replenish electrolytes, provide cofactors for growth, and support the immune system. Watch my blog for a piece in the coming weeks on this amazing food.
And then there is the supplement side of things: it depends on the individual. I always focus on the lifestyle options first, and add supplements if we think they could help.
Key takeaways: Don't ignore the symptoms of poor digestion, consider all parts of digestion, and remember Rome wasn't built in a day, it takes time to reach your full potential.
If you have any questions about how to reach your full potential, don't hesitate to contact me, book an appointment, or stop by the clinic.
Thanks for reading,