All diseases that pertain to the gastrointestinal tract are considered by the medical community to be digestive diseases. Sadly, over 85 percent of all adult Americans suffer from some form of intestinal problem. In fact, most nutrient or toxicological conditions can be traced back to a problem in the digestive system. Nutrient deficiencies, pollution, poor diet, dehydration, stress, poor sleeping habits, and lack of exercise are among the long list of contributors to these staggering statistics. Suffering from these conditions causes a myriad of bodily harms, encompassing every cell and organ in the human body.
Fortunately, the vast majority of these conditions are entirely preventable and often times easily remedied. Let the caring staff at Balanced Well-Being Healthcare of Fort Collins help! We have the experience and expertise to accurately diagnose your condition and provide fully integrative solutions resulting in an actual cure, not just the treatment of symptoms.
The three most common digestive dysfunctions that we see include Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), and Leaky Gut.
Risk factors for gastrointestinal disturbances include (but are not limited to):
- Insufficient exercise
- Traveling or other changes in routine
- Consuming high volumes of dairy products
- A diet low in fiber or some other nutrient deficiencies
- Being stressed
- Resisting the urge to have bowel movements
- Overusing laxatives (over time these can weaken your bowel muscles)
- Taking medicines containing calcium or aluminum (antacids often contain these)
- Taking certain supplements or medications (antidepressants, iron pills, antibiotics, and narcotics are common)
These contributors often lead to what are known as “functional disorders,” those in which the bowel looks otherwise normal but functions improperly. Functional gastrointestinal disorders are the most common and affect the colon and rectum. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one such condition.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS (also called spastic colon, leaky gut, irritable colon, or nervous stomach) is a condition in which the colon muscle contracts more easily than in people without the condition. It is estimated that up to 45 million people, or 10-15% of the American population, suffer from IBS. About 2 in 3 IBS sufferers are female, while about 1 in 3 IBS sufferers are male. IBS affects people of all ages, including children. There are three primary types of IBS: IBS with constipation predominance (IBS-C), IBS with diarrhea predominance (IBS-D), and mixed IBS (IBS-M), which presents as an alternating pattern of constipation and diarrhea.
Symptoms of IBS can include abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, excessive gas, a change in bowel frequency and appearance, and dramatic shifts away from normal stool patterns. Symptoms typically improve with defecation.
A number of factors can trigger IBS, including certain types of food, certain supplements or medications–blood pressure medications like calcium channel blockers and beta blockers, and medications to reduce or eliminate acid like proton pump inhibitors, and medications to prevent incontinence. Bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine (SIBO), gut infections like candida or dysbiosis, food sensitivities, and stress can also be triggers.
The migrating motor complex (MMC) is the name for the natural “cleansing wave” — movement of muscles in the lining of your intestines that serves to empty the small intestine of waste at regular intervals. Research suggests that damage or impairment to this muscle movement may result in the bacteria and waste remaining and flourishing in the small intestine, creating IBS symptoms. Many things can damage the MMC. One theory is that an episode of food poisoning, referred to as “acute gastroenteritis”, may damage the muscles and cells responsible for this cleansing action, which helps explain the phenomenon of post-infectious IBS. Stress can also impact the MMC–it may slow down the action of the cleansing muscles, thus explaining the relationship between stress and IBS. Acid blocking medications, constipation, and infections like H Pylori can also inhibit the function of the MMC.
Testing is now available for IBS, through Commonwealth Labs, called IBSchek. The test diagnoses IBS based on the presence of antibodies to a toxin from gastroenteritis called CdtB, as well as vinculin, a protein found in the lining of the gut. IBSchek is a proprietary blood test for IBS based on the scientific findings of Mark Pimentel, MD, and his team of gastrointestinal experts at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Dr. Pimentel and his team conducted a 2500+ patient clinical trial which showed that anti-vinculin and anti-CdtB are effective biomarkers for the diagnosis of diarrhea-predominant or mixed symptom IBS.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Within each of our digestive systems lives a complex micro-ecosystem of bacteria (roughly 1000 species known) that interact with each other and your body in a symbiotic way allowing you to properly digest your food and keep your digestive system healthy. Typically, these vast microbial populations are kept in balance by gastric acid secretion, intestinal movement, certain immunoglobulins, pancreatic secretions and even each other. The beneficial microbial colonies compete with each other, keeping one another in check so no specific microbial colony dominates. Any condition which impairs the normal transit or motion of the small intestine can increase the likelihood of getting SIBO. Abnormal pancreatic or immune function, decreased mobility, radical changes in diet, and the introduction of new bacteria into your system through food poisoning or contaminated water can cause this delicate internal balance to break down and allow for the abnormal and excessive growth on one or more types of bacteria. This “takeover” by one or more bacterial species is what we refer to when we say “bacterial outgrowth.”
There is a definite link between IBS and SIBO. A recent scientific study found that 36% of patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome could trace their disease back to to a small intestinal bacterial outgrowth (SIBO), or Dysbiosis (aka. Dysbacteriosis). This condition can cause severe serious malnutrition and other deficiency syndromes, as well as perpetuate further damage to the digestive system as the dominating bacterial species (outgrowth) continues to damage other bacterial populations.
SIBO is a condition in which bacteria in the small intestine has overgrown and become chronic. In most patients, SIBO is not caused by a single type of bacteria, but is an overgrowth of the various types of bacteria that should normally be found in the colon. Bacteria are normally present throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract, but in varied amounts. Relatively few bacteria normally live in the small intestine compared to the large intestine. SIBO has been shown to negatively affect both the structure and function of the small intestine. It may significantly interfere with digestion of food and absorption of nutrients leading to serious malnutrition, primarily by damaging the cells lining the small bowel. This damage to the small intestinal cells can lead to leaky gut, which can lead to a whole host of problems from inflammation, to autoimmune disease, to food allergies.
Symptoms of SIBO are similar to that of IBS and include gas, bloat, indigestion, nausea, constipation, and diarrhea. It is currently believed that small intestinal bacterial outgrowth is one of the most misdiagnosed and under diagnosed conditions today.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky Gut is a condition in which microbes, waste, or other toxins “leak” through a weak or excessively permeable gut wall resulting in these toxins moving into the blood stream and other internal areas of the body. This in turn can cause a myriad of problems and trigger an immune response. Once your body’s intestinal lining is damaged, it is less able to protect the internal environment, and your ability to filter needed nutrients and other biological substances into your system appropriately will be compromised. The body’s natural response to a compromised intestinal lining may in fact produce additional toxins. For instance, the liver will produce free radicals and carcinogens, and the body’s immune system may overreact causing increased food sensitivities or further damage other organs. The weakening of the gut wall itself may be caused by toxins, poor diet (malnutrition), parasites, infection (viral or bacterial), or medications. Conditions related to Leaky Gut Syndrome include:
- Crohn’s disease
- Frequent headaches
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
- Certain skin conditions (ex. Eczema and Psoriasis)
- Food allergies
- Chronic indigestion
- Autoimmune diseases
Removing gluten and casein from your diet and decreasing your sugar consumption may help in the treatment of Leaky Gut Syndrome. Certain anti-fungal agents, anti-microbial agents, supplements and probiotics are also recommended depending on the nature of the patients condition. For a complete analysis of your own condition, call Balanced Well-Being Healthcare today so we can custom-tailor a recovery and wellness plan specifically for you!
The ‘Four R’ Gut Healing Program
At Balanced Well-Being Healthcare we use the ‘Four R’ gut healing program to help people recover from digestive dysfunction as described above.
Step One: Remove the problem(s). In this step we remove the offending foods, pathogens, and toxins contributing to poor gut health. All of these irritate the gut in some form and create an inflammatory response. This means caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, sugars, gluten, and dairy, and in some cases grains and beans as well. If food allergies are a concern, we will do testing and further eliminate those that have been found to be problematic for you. In this step we also want to remove any pathogenic bacteria or infections that have come to light through testing. We may use a combination of prescriptives and herbal antimicrobials depending on your specific findings.
Step Two: Replace what you are missing to ensure proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. In this step we want to replace any digestive aids that you may be lacking. Digestive enzymes and stomach acid are the most common. Including these when indicated will better help you utilize the nutrients that you are taking in through food.
Step Three: Reinoculate with beneficial bacteria (i.e. Probiotics). Restoring beneficial bacteria to reestablish a healthy balance of good bacteria in your gut is critical for health and immune function. We typically recommend anywhere from 10 -100 billion units a day. Also, taking a prebiotic (food for the good bacteria) or consuming foods high in soluble fiber is important.
Step Four: Repair the gut lining. Providing the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself is essential. We use nutrients like L-Glutamine, omega 3’s, zinc, aloe vera, curcumin, and slippery elm to help repair and rebuild the gut lining.
Colon Cancer Screening
Every year about 130,000 Americans are diagnosed with some form of colon cancer. It is the second most common form of cancer in the United States. Fortunately, with advances in early detection and treatment, colon cancer is one of the most easily curable forms of this disease. By using a variety of screening tests, it is possible to prevent, detect, and treat the disease long before any symptoms appear. One of the most troubling aspects of colon cancer is that in its early stages, there are seldom any symptoms. When symptoms do become apparent, the cancer is often in an advanced state. When symptoms do become apparent, they often include blood on or mixed in with the stool, sometimes severe weight loss, irregular bowel habits, abdominal pain, and fatigue. Most cases of colon cancer are detected in one of four ways:
- Screening people at average risk for colon cancer (beginning at age 50)
- Colon screenings in patients with symptoms
- Screening people at higher risk for colon cancer (if you have a personal or family history of cancer)
- A chance finding at a routine checkup
Early detection is always the best chance for a cure. Many gastrointestinal disturbances and disorders can be prevented or minimized by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, practicing good bowel habits, and submitting to screening. At Balanced Well-Being Healthcare, we have the experience and expertise to accurately diagnose your condition, and build a solution together based on your unique needs. Please call us today to arrange your initial consultation.