Digestive Health & G.I. Disorders

Hippocrates, said,  “All disease begins in the gut," and modern medical research has proven he was largely correct. 

Good digestive health is critical to optimal health. An unhealthy gut can be a significant contributor to inflammatory conditions such as gastrointestinal disorders, chronic pain, poor immune health and disease. It can slow down energy, hamper mental focus and affects overall health, including emotional and mental wellbeing.  

Approximately 80% of the immune system is located in the gut. The gut acts as an engine to power and sustain the rest of the body. The immune system determines who will get sick and who will stay well. Researchers are studying changes in gut bacteria that are seen in Parkinson’s, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes and obesity.  A strong and functioning immune system strengthens your resistance to virus, infections and disease.

If digestive health is not optimum, other G.I. disorders can occur such as:

Maintaining proper balance and diversity of healthy flora is key, but the gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem affected by many factors. Understanding the gut microbiome and the balance between “good bugs” and “bad bugs” is an essential piece to good overall health and an area of expertise for integrative physicians.

What Determines Gut Health?

Diet

A significant factor in the health of the "soil" in our gut microbiome is the food we eat. Consuming high amounts of refined sugars, processed foods, preservatives, refined flours, and genetically modified food (GMO's) put a burden on the body and tend to increase inflammation in the gut and contribute to Leaky gut, Candida and other digestive disorders.

Genetics

Our genetic inheritance plays a role in our gut health. For example, lactose intolerance is common in people who do not descend from herders; they lack the gene to make the enzyme that breaks down milk sugar, i.e., lactose. This can create an inflamed gastrointestinal tract that leads to gas, bloating or nausea with the consumption of dairy.

Food Allergies or Sensitivities

Food allergies or sensitivities can be a major contributor to gastrointestinal disturbances. A simple food sensitivity test can determine if this has been a factor in producing poor health. Signs of a food allergy include brain fog or fatigue after eating, gas, bloating or skin reactions such as hives.

Medication

Overuse of antibiotics can cause harmful changes in the gut microflora and result in destroying both bad and good bacteria. Any medication prescriptions or even over-the-counter pain relievers with aspirin or acetaminophen irritate the intestinal lining and decrease mucosal levels, the protective barrier in the intestines. This can cause an inflammatory cycle (more bacteria, yeast, and digestion issues) and promote an increase in gut permeability.

Chronic Stress 

Chronic stress tends to create a suppressed immune function, which is more easily overrun with pathogens. This increases overall gut inflammation, leading to increased permeability of the intestines and insufficient levels of digestive enzymes and stomach acid leading to poor "soil" in the gut. This creates a vicious cycle, leaving a person unable to digest the very nutrients that they need to restore their health.

Candida (Yeast)

Yeast, or Candida, is found in normal gut flora but can proliferate with high consumption of sugars and refined carbohydrates and antibiotic use. Candida can coat the intestines and may cause its own holes in the lining. Patients with an overabundance of Candida tend to have symptoms of brain fog, fatigue, difficulty with digestion, and often acne, among many other symptoms.

Zinc Deficiency

Zinc is involved in maintaining a strong intestinal lining. A deficiency of zinc can lead to the mucosal lining losing strength and becoming more permeable. Just supplementing with zinc when it is deficient can dramatically improve intestinal lining integrity.

 

Restore Gut Health with the 4 R’s

An acronym for healing the digestive system is sometimes described as the 4 R’s

1 REMOVE

Removal of the offending flora, junk food, allergenic foods (wheat and dairy are common), mercury fillings, and toxic chemicals. Diagnostic testing for food sensitivities, stool, urine or blood work are sometimes needed to determine what the unfriendly flora is and what herbals and antibiotics remove it. Colon hydrotherapy  can be very helpful in the removal process. 

 

2 REPLACE

Replace digestive enzymes.  As we age, and especially if there have been any chronic health issues or EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency), the digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid produced in the stomach is diminished.  Supplementing with digestive enzymes helps food get broken down into absorbable elements.

 

3 RE-INOCULATE

Re-innoculate the good flora by reseeding with probiotics. Probiotics are products containing living beneficial bacteria, i.e., "good bugs", which colonize the entire lining of our intestine. Fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut contain natural probiotics.

 

4 REPAIR

Repair the lining of the intestines, healing the “leaky gut” or microscopic holes that allowed food to leak through and challenge the immune system.  The lining of the intestines is the line of defense between your immune system and unfriendly flora and toxins. Some foods help to naturally repair the gut lining include prebiotics, probiotics, fermented foods, homemade stocks, l-glutamine and aloe vera.

 

As your gut health improves, inflammation decreases, and you may find that chronic pain and illnesses start to improve. It is also likely that your energy, mood, sleep and mental focus will improve.

Together, we can assess the 4 R’s for gut health and develop a strategy and treatment plan to heal the gut, improve digestion, reduce symptoms and restore a healthy balance. 

 

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