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Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis affect the Gastro-Intestinal Tract
Patrick Hanaway describes the gastro-intestinal tract as 'the tube within a tube' that connects us to our environment through a dynamic interface that is larger than a tennis court. He says that over the course of our lifetimes, we ingest many tons of macro-nutrients, micronutrients, chemicals, and toxins.
He says that experts vary on the tonnage, but figures range from 30 to 60 tons of food consumed in the life-time of the average well-nourished adult1. These materials provide the building blocks for everything human.
Classically, the functions of digestion and absorption are considered the principal roles of the gastro-intestinal epithelium. The impact of diet and nutrients on the balance of commensal* flora is considerable.
Digestion and absorption provide proper macronutrients and micronutrients, while responses such as:
must all function effectively and in balance with each other in order to foster health and well-being.
Hanaway says that dysfunction within the gastro-intestinal system manifests in typical digestive disease such as:
Hanaway continues to explain how gastro-intestinal dysfunction can also manifest as imbalanced immunologic function, thereby creating and/or contributing to both atopic illness 6(including allergy and asthma) and autoimmune dysfunction 7 (including rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and Hashimoto's thyroiditis). He adds that other diseases of immune dysregulation and gastrointestinal dysfunction now include the autism spectrum disorders8.
He tells us that the evolution of these diseases begin long before the presentation of symptoms and thus the opportunity for prevention and early intervention can have tremendous impact on the burden of suffering and disease.
He stresses that dietary approaches provide the most effective means of restoring balance within the gastro-intestinal system. It allows us to intervene along a continuum from illness to wellness, where the approach is of value at each level:
Hanaway suggests that Diagnostic testing helps to illuminate and clarify the degree of dysfunction. Evaluation of stool provides information on parameters of digestion, absorption, inflammation, infection, and altered gut flora (known as dysbiosis).
*Commensal: DEFINITION: Living in a relationship in which one organism derives food or other benefits from another organism without hurting or helping it. Commensal bacteria are part of the normal flora in the digestive system.
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