The gut, otherwise referred to as the digestive system, is found in the abdomen. The gut consists of major organs that include the stomach, intestines and the bowel. The two main purposes of the gut are to absorb nutrients and remove waste products. According to research, the majority of diseases that affect the gut are autoimmune related. The amount of autoimmune diseases linked to gut health affects roughly 24 million Americans to date. According to The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, autoimmune diseases are those that can affect many other systems of the body because of how the body’s own defense system is interlinked. When the body’s immune system responds by attacking itself, this is considered an autoimmunity. This condition leaves many individuals having to make life-altering changes to their eating habits. A digestive disorder caused by a bacterial infection or a food allergy, for example, could lead to a diet to deal with Celiac disease.  Much of the autoimmune diseases that people suffer tend to be hereditary and may lay dormant or without symptoms for many years. The reasoning behind this lies in the structure and integrity of the intestines and how they function.

A few autoimmune diseases that affect the gut include:

A. Celiac disease– this disease is caused by a sensitivity to gluten ( a protein found in barley and wheat), which causes harm to the lining of the intestines if ingested. The condition often remains undiagnosed because of the absence of symptoms and though it only affects a mere 1% of the population. Many individuals never realize they suffer from the allergy until well later on in life. The best treatment for the disease is to simply abstain from eating any foods that contain gluten.

B. Crohn’s disease– this disease is considered an inflammatory bowel disease. This condition causes inflammation to the organs of the gut. The cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown and typically affects individuals between the ages of 15 and 40. Researchers are beginning to believe that this disease may be genetically linked with evidence suggesting that incidence is found higher among those with smokers in the family. There is no respective treatment for this ailment as no specific diet has been shown to eliminate the symptoms. Focusing on reducing inflammation through pharmaceutical means, meditation and practicing peaceful living have been shown to be most effective.

C. Ulcerative Colitis– this is another inflammatory bowel disease. This condition causes the colon to become inflamed. Ulcerative colitis tends to affect the portion of the colon closest to the rectum region. In unfortunate circumstances, the entire colon is affected. Symptoms consist of abdominal pain and rectal bleeding. Like Crohn’s disease, symptoms usually affect individuals age 15 through 30. Also, like Crohn’s disease, the cause is unknown, also meaning there is no current cure or direct dietary solution for the disease though medication is usually used to control the condition. Much like Crohn’s disease, meditation and practicing living in peace can also help to control inflammation.

The gut plays an important role in the health of the immune system. Recent research has shown that what we think about affects every cell of our body, “given the fact that most of the chemicals in our minds have receptor sites (or links) throughout our tissues–the lining of our gut, our circulatory system, and our immune system,” says Brenda Stockdale, author of You Can Beat the Odds. Hence, the road to good health is not a one way street and should involve a mind-body and spirit approach, involving meditation and prayer.