Gut Function is key to overall health and well being, in fact to improve any health condition it is key to address the health of the gut.
The following is an article on how to correct digestive complaints. Whether you are diagnosed with IBS, Chron’s, Ulcerative Colitis, or have frequent gas bloating the system for repair gut function is often the same.
Dr. Jeffrey Bland, one of the leaders in Functional Medicine, refers to the process of improving digestive function as the 5 R’s.
- Remove: Remove stressors: get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract including allergic foods, parasites or other bad bugs such as bacteria or yeast. This might involve using an allergy “elimination diet” to find out what foods are causing GI symptoms or it may involve taking drugs or herbs to eradicate a particular bug.
- Replace: Replace digestive secretions: add back things like digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid and bile acids that are required for proper digestion and that may be compromised by diet, drugs, diseases, aging, or other factors.
- Repair: Help the lining of the GI tract repair itself by supplying key nutrients that can often be in short supply in a disease state, such as zinc, antioxidants (e.g. vitamins A, C, and E), fish oil, and the amino acid glutamine.
- Reinoculate: Help beneficial bacteria flourish by taking in probiotic foods or supplements that contain the so-called “good” bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species, and by consuming the high soluble fiber foods that good bugs like to eat, called “prebiotics.”
- Rebalance: Pay attention to lifestyle choices – sleep, exercise and stress can all affect the GI tract.
This is by far the most important aspect of my treatment process. The identification of stressors to the body, particularly the digestive tract, is crucial for healing to occur. By far the most common stressor to the digestive tract is dysbiosis (bacteria, fungus, parasite, or viral stressors to the microbial balance of the GI tract). For more info on dysbiosis, please see the following article.
In order to correct a dysbiotic gut the use of anti-microbial herbs or possibly medications will often need to be employed. For some people it is possible to fix dysbiosis without these remedies but it will take much longer and require very strict lifestyle choices. The most common anti-microbials I utilize are Morinda Supreme, Melia Supreme, and Golden Thread Supreme.
The second aspect of the removal process is the identification of food sensitivities and subsequent abstinence by the patient. The most common food stressors to the gut are Gluten, Dairy, Soy, Corn, Egg, Coffee, and Nightshades. Patients have the option of going on an elimination diet where they eliminate all of the above foods and then start adding them back in slowly to see how they react. This process can be very tedious and time consuming, but my treatment process can streamline the identification of offending foods.
Unfortunately, food allergy testing through blood testing can be unreliable. The only true test for a food sensitivity is how you feel when eat a certain food versus how you feel when you don’t eat a certain food.
In addition, some foods that many people would consider healthy may be detrimental to someone dealing with a digestive complaint. For example, sometimes raw vegetables or high fiber can be too rough on a sensitive digestive tract. Often, patients may have sensitivities to FODMAPs, a group of carbohydrates that may be poorly digested. For more information please see this article.
Proper digestion is dependent upon a few different factors. First, it requires proper pH in the stomach. Despite what you see on TV, excessive acid production from the stomach is not common. Often, patients lack adequate stomach acid to properly breakdown food and the heartburn they are experiencing is caused from the putrefaction of the food they are not digesting. Inhibiting stomach acid production (through medications) will impair digestion and often patients may need additional stomach acid to improve their gut function.
In addition to adequate stomach acid and low pH, digestion requires enzymes to properly breakdown food. Personally, I do not provide digestive enzymes that often to patients but they can be beneficial for short periods of time. Often if a patient constantly needs digestive enzymes there may be true causes being missed such as food sensitivities or dysbiosis.
Long term digestive complaints have often wreaked havoc on the gut lining. One of the key nutrients for repairing that tissue is Vitamin A, and not the beta carotene version. Vitamin A is crucial for calming down the immune response of the digestive tract and allowing for healing to take place. In addition, some other key nutrients for repair the gut lining are Vitamin D, Folic Acid (MTHF) and B12, Quercetin, Chlorophyll Complex, Vitamin E, and Aloe.
Reestablishing a good gut flora through the use of probiotics and fermented foods (yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir) can be crucial in restoring digestive health and prevent recidivism. If you have performed the previous 3 steps often the reinoculation will occur on its own. Probiotics can definitely be beneficial but make no mistake there are no replacement for removal of offending foods and they often will not remove pathogenic organisms. The probiotics that I recommend the most are from Klaire Labs, in particular the Women’s formula and Therbiotic Complete show a positive response on many patients.
Your diet could be pristine but if your life stress is excessive or you are not getting plenty of rest you will be susceptible to gut disorders. Excess cortisol will inhibit IgA production which is your first line of defense for your digestive tract. In addition, people with excessive adrenal stress are more likely to develop infections and food sensitivities. Therefore, it is key to identify that stress can be a trigger for your digestive complaint.
For more information on how to correct your digestive complaint please feel free to contact the office.