Digestive Health and Nutrient Deficiencies

Digestive health starts well before you are born. It starts with the health or your parents pre-conception and with mum’s health during pregnancy. The first inoculation of good bacteria you get to support your gut/immune system from the outside world is from mum on your way through the birth canal; closely followed by colostrum/breast milk. The quality of the bacteria you receive of course dependent on mum’s diet and health.

If a child is born by caesarean section, the right bacteria must be provided immediately to replace what would have come naturally from mum. If for any reason breast feeding is not possible or has to stop early on, you need to ensure the infant gets the right bacteria from other sources.

A healthy digestive tract is essential for good physical, mental and emotional health. It has many important layers that control absorption of important nutrients and stop leaky gut syndrome (foods/toxins from leaking through the gut wall and making their way to your blood stream). The small intestine is lined with tiny finger like projections called villi and microvilli; these are very important as they make important digestive enzymes and allow your body to digest/absorb important nutrients from food. They also protect the integrity of the gut wall to prevent leaky gut syndrome.

Leaky gut syndrome is known as increased intestinal permeability. Leaky gut can be caused by certain foods; gluten does it via chemical means, causing a chemical called zonulin to open up channels on the gut wall and causes leaky gut briefly in everyone and for several weeks in those who are sensitive to gluten! In severe gluten reactions (coeliac disease) - gluten destroys the villi and microvilli causing great physical damage to the gut wall.

Some other irritants that can cause damage to the gut wall are other food sensitivities/intolerances including non coeliac gluten sensitivity, bacterial infection, fungal infection, parasitic infection and stress.

With Leaky Gut Syndrome - undigested foods and other toxins can now cross the intestinal wall and enter into the blood stream. This sets off your immune system, causing inflammation in the body which can create more food intolerances and eventually can lead to auto immune conditions.

The above digestive issues if not identified and corrected quickly will lead to major absorption issues and nutrient deficiencies.

Common nutrient deficiencies, especially in people with digestive issues:

1.Iron

Required to make red blood cells and the neurotransmitter (brain chemical) dopamine, which supports motivation and concentration. Signs and symptoms of low ferritin (iron) include fatigue, irritability, hyperactivity, poor concentration and poor behaviour in children. Headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, very pale appearance and low immunity.

2.Zinc

Is involved in energy, immune system function, fertility and helps to make the neurotransmitter (brain chemical) serotonin. Children with ASD and ADHD are commonly zinc deficient.

3.Magnesium

Required for many important functions including making sleep hormones (melatonin), carbohydrate metabolism, blood pressure regulation and relaxation of muscles. Signs and symptoms of deficiency can include hyperactivity and impulsivity, poor sleep, poor attention, tense muscles, muscle twitching, muscle cramps, constipation, anxiety and depression.

4.Iodine

Required for healthy brain function and the making of thyroid hormone which affects the majority of hormones in the body. Research has linked low iodine levels with ADD/ADHD.

5.Fats

The brain is largely made up of saturate fat and cholesterol. Fat is vital for brain development and brain function. Omega 3 fats are particularly important for mood and behaviour. Insufficient intake of omega 3 fats can result in people (especially children) having problems with memory and poor concentration.

6.Protein

Protein foods are made up of many amino acids. Amino acids are one of the main building blocks used to make neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) including dopamine, serotonin, GABA, melatonin etc. Many people don’t eat enough protein or have issues with digesting it, so end up being protein deficient. Protein is also essential for good skeletal health, muscle building/repair, skin, hair, nails, appetite regulation and blood sugar control.