Every moment of every day it works for you.  It feeds your major organs, brain and body.  It helps fight infection and illness. It plays host to trillions of microorganisms.  And, although it is often neglected and under-appreciated, your digestive tract is inarguably the most important system in your body.  

That miraculous collection of hollow tubes and organs that connect gum to bum, provides us with what we need to survive and thrive. While the function of the digestive tract can be reduced to the intake of food and elimination of waste, there is a whole lot of awesomeness that happens in between. 

"The prevalence of digestive disease is on the rise and we are challenged to provide care to those who need it."

Neglected and underappreciated

With all that it does, you’d think we would do everything we could to protect this remarkable system.  Sadly, this is not the case. Most of us take our digestive health for granted and it shows.  About 20 million Canadians suffer from digestive ailments every year and thousands die unnecessarily.  Misconceptions, self-reproach, stigma, embarrassment, fear and lack of understanding result in many Canadians becoming ill because they ignore or hide troublesome symptoms.

Digestive illness is expensive

Digestive disease represents more of the total direct health-economic burden than almost any other disease category, including respiratory disease and diabetes.  We lose about 18 million work days every year to those living with digestive illness. And, it is estimated that digestive disease represents $18 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Countless digestive diseases affect people of all ages, races and socioeconomic positions. The prevalence of digestive disease is on the rise and we are challenged to provide care to those who need it. Add to this situation the fact that the number of gastroenterologists, which is already grossly insufficient, is dropping, and we have a recipe for a health disaster.  We already see evidence of this lack of preparedness having a potentially devastating impact.

Digestive disease reduces quality of life

While some digestive diseases rob people of their lives, most steal something that is just as valuable — the quality of life lived. Millions of Canadians suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) year after year. The painful and embarrassing symptoms of these ailments make work and personal fulfillment difficult. 

On average, 67 Canadians are diagnosed with colon cancer every day and 26 die. This is tragic when this disease is essentially preventable with proper screening.  Canada has one of the highest rates of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in the world.  This debilitating and expensive disease generally strikes young people in the most productive years of their lives.  About 110,000 Canadians are diagnosed with celiac disease but we suspect there are at least double that number who remain undiagnosed. The list of digestive afflictions goes on, and on.

You can protect and enhance your digestive health

The good news is that 42 percent of digestive disease is preventable and nearly all diseases of the gastrointestinal tract are treatable. There are safe tests and effective therapies to diagnose digestive disease early on. We have over-the-counter and prescription medications to cure or halt disease progression. 

We can proactively protect our digestive — and overall — health by making good food and lifestyle choices, maintaining a healthy weight, taking proven probiotics, and adhering to treatment recommendations.

Your digestive tract has the power to keep you strong, healthy and resilient.  It is worthy of your attention and respect. Learn more about protecting and enhancing it today so that you can live better.