Repair the Root Cause of Your Symptoms

By Andrea Nakayama
Andrea Nakayama
Andrea Nakayama
July 10, 2014 Updated: July 10, 2014

What do the following symptoms have in common? Bloating, allergies, eczema, and depression.

Can you guess what’s at the root of all those expressions? It’s your gut. That’s right, the health of that long twisting tube deep-seated in your abdomen is a key factor in a host of health situations. And those situations might not be a “condition” in and of themselves, but instead a manifestation that something’s gone awry in your primary organ of digestion.

You can consider these symptoms in that same camp: gas, constipation, diarrhea, sensitivities to certain foods, headaches, asthma, decreased immunity, brain fog, anxiety, and the list goes on . . .

When the small intestine is suffering, you are too.

Though you might not think of your splotchy skin as having anything to do with your innards, their impairment is the reason that all those fancy creams only work for a short time, if that. 

You can pull the weeds out of your garden, but if you don’t tend to the root, they keep coming back. That’s why I believe in digging down to the root of symptoms. And the very first root to grab my attention is the gut.

The small intestine, when in good repair, is your ultimate gatekeeper. It decides what will travel into the circulatory system and what will not. 

But let’s back up a bit. Your food is broken down into smaller nutrients higher up in the digestive system: in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. Auxiliary organs of digestion, the pancreas and gallbladder, produce enzymes to help the food decompose a little further. Those enzymes are pumped into the “gates” of the small intestine.

Yet what comes out of those gates is dependent on the health of that organ. There are intricate chemical processes that selectively sort and choose what will be introduced into circulation. If nutrients that aren’t properly digested leak into the bloodstream then the suffering begins.

That grief can take the form of the gas, bloating, and indigestion I mentioned, but also create more systemic problems from disrupting your mental health to increasing your internal toxic load.

In my practice I’m always looking to find the root cause of symptoms. That usually means starting with the gut. Since most digestion and absorption happens right in that organ, it needs to be in good repair. And repair it can!

Repair Your Root

Get earthy and eat to heal. Start to repair your root with a bark.

Slippery elm is an herb derived from the bark of the slippery elm tree. Its medicinal use dates back to the Native Americans who used it for everything from remedying coughs to treating digestive disturbances. Now it’s often recommended for helping to heal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and colitis.

Slippery elm can easily be made into a tea, but you can also whip it into a little porridge.

Slippery Elm Porridge

• 2 tablespoons slippery elm powder (available at health food stores or herb shops) 
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
• Pinch of nutmeg 
• 3 tablespoons water 
• 3/4 cup nut or coconut milk 
• 1/2 teaspoon raw honey or several drops stevia, optional

Mix slippery elm, cinnamon, nutmeg, and water in a small pot to form a smooth paste. Add nut or coconut milk and stir over a low flame, gently heating the mixture and stirring constantly until there are no lumps. Turn off the heat and add your sweetener of choice.

With a career born of a personal family health crisis, functional nutritionist Andrea Nakayama takes the idea of food as personalized medicine beyond a clinical practice. Her online programs at and guide her clients in taking ownership over their health.

Andrea Nakayama
Andrea Nakayama