New Beginnings Healthcare for Women

Digestive Health

How To Achieve Digestive Wellness

By Rana A. Colaianni, CRNP
Founder/Owner, New Beginnings Healthcare

Did you know digestive issues affect well over 70 million Americans, according to the NIH, and the incidence is rising? Over 40 million Americans have heartburn at least weekly, and another 35 million have "irritable bowel syndrome", inflammatory bowel diseases and other digestive concerns. These are conservative estimates. Many of us live with minor digestive issues and never seek care, so the true incidence of digestive issues is likely under-reported. Gluten sensitivity , celiac disease and autoimmune diseases have all increased in the past few decades.

Since it it true that" we are what we eat" and more, specifically, "we are what we absorb", you can see how your gut is truly your inside tract to good health!

Did you know our digestive tract contain billions of healthy germs which make up the gut "microbiome"? In fact, the healthy gut contains an average of about 3 pounds of healthy germs! This amazingly diverse ecosystem is related to many aspects of our health, including our immune systems, our mood, our weight to name a few. Researchers are finding our more and more about how important these "healthy germs" are to our health. When we are born our GI tracts are colonized by healthy germs. As we progress through life, however, our bodies must continue to grow and maintain this healthy ecosystem.

Highly processed diets, especially diets high in sugars, and exposure to antibiotics and chemicals like chlorinated water, can affect the state of our microbiome. We must also "feed" these healthy germs the right foods so they can proliferate. When the gut ecosystem becomes very out of balance, we call this "dysbiosis". Chronic overuse of certain common medications, like acid blocking drugs can contribute to an imbalance in our ecosystem. For example, our normal stomach acid protects us from such germs like helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) that cause stomach ulcers. The irony is that when we over-suppress our stomach acid with chronic use of these medications , H. pylori can over-grow and cause ulcers! While certainly sometimes these medications are necessary, quite often they are misused. Overuse of antibiotics can cause an infection called "C. diff" which is becoming more common and can be quite difficult to treat.

Did you know that stress also affects the state of our digestive health? When we are chronically stressed, cortisol levels can become out of balance. The gut tissue can become inflamed. When this occurs our health can be affected in many ways. For example we may not optimally absorb our nutrients ,leading to nutrient deficiencies. Food sensitivities can develop, and the immune system can be compromised leading to autoimmune issues. Common digestive symptoms include bloating, pain, reflux (heartburn), constipation and diarrhea, and others.

While stress often causes the initial inflammation that predisposes us to food sensitivities, those food sensitivities then can become become a common and significant cause of digestive troubles!

Did you know that digestive imbalance can also affect you mood? The gut has the same number of neurotransmitters as the brain. We make most of our "feel good" brain chemicals like serotonin in our gut! It is said that the gut is our "second brain". It actually has its own nervous system, the "enteric nervous system". We can recognize this when we get a "gut feeling" about something, or when we get a "nervous stomach" when stressed or worried.

Here are some suggestions to keep your digestive tracthealthy:

  1. Eat whole, fresh, unprocessed foods, local and organic when possible
  2. Enjoy fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut. Consider taking a quality, balanced probiotic as well. Fermented foods, while beneficial, often are not bacterially diverse enough.
  3. Eat in a relaxed state. Take time and really enjoy your food.
  4. Avoid sugar and alcohol or use only in small amounts.
  5. Eat healthy oils high in omega 3's, like oily fish or chia seeds, walnuts & hemp oil.
  6. Avoid any foods that cause or aggravate any GI symptoms.
  7. Avoid overeating. Food must have enough room in the stomach to mix with digestive enzymes for optimal utilization. (Think of an "overstuffed washer or dryer"!)
  8. Get restorative sleep and enough physical activity.
  9. Avoid overuse of antibiotics. Unfortunately they are often prescribed for viral illnesses or other inappropriate uses. Question your provider as to whether a wait and see approach is reasonable for a minor infection. Take responsibility for your health and don't ask for antibiotics for minor problems unless the benefits outweighs the risks.
  10. Nurture your emotional and spiritual health.
  11. Work with a knowledgeable integrative medicine practitioner if you need help with your digestive health. Diet, lifestyle, the right testing and possibly the right supplement support will often get your digestion back on track!

So, the next time your gut tells you something, pay attention! It knows more than you think!!

Here at New Beginnings Healthcare we take a whole-person approach to healthcare, seeking to get to the root of a person's health concerns. This is especially critical when dealing with digestive issues which can have multiple root causes. We would be honored to be part of your healing journey! Call us at 570-329-2273 for more information or visit us at

Blessings for the journey,

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Williamsport, PA 17701
Phone: (570)-329-2273
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