Cause and Effect of your Digestive Distress: Healing the gut can result in full body health

Many of you out there in cyber space seemed to like my article on gut health back when I was in my last year of med school.  I recently revisited the topic and wrote a brief explanation of why you might seek out naturopathic help for your digestive distress (AKA your belly ache).  I decided to share it here, in hopes of ushering one of you in to see your local Naturopathic Doctor.


All Diseases Begin in the Gut (Hippocrates, 460-370 BC)

One question I ask almost every patient I see is:  ‘How is your digestion?’  Determining the condition of your digestive system is important to me, because it can provide insight concerning literally every other system in your body.  In fact, the majority of your immune system resides within your gut.  The condition of your gut can even affect your mood.  Digestive disturbances are also often the cause of skin conditions, food allergies, nutrient deficiencies and even chronic sinusitis.

Many folks have been suffering from digestive upset for so long, that they actually consider it normal to have gas, and/or bloating, constipation, heartburn and fatigue after most meals.  It’s important to realize that suffering from these conditions is not normal.  And finding the right medication or herbal supplement to mask a digestive disturbance is not our goal.  For example, gatroesophageal reflux (GERD) and heartburn can be caused by low stomach acid, so blocking all acid production (as most GERD medications do) is often harmful in the long run.   Excessive gas and bloating can be caused by a food allergy or eating on-the-go too often.  Naturopathic Doctors determine the cause of your digestive upset, whether stress, an imbalance in the gut flora (often caused by frequent antibiotic use), eating foods that are wrong for you, or a chronic overgrowth of a ‘bad’ gut microbe, to help you remain symptom free, without taking daily medications.

Often people who come in to see me have already tried various diets to help heal their digestion.  With all the diet and health fads circulating today it can be difficult to determine which one is right for you.  Paleo?  Raw food vegan?  GAPS?  Specific Carbohydrate?  Vegetarian, flexatarian … ?!  Maybe you have been convinced that a raw food smoothie every morning is the perfect food for you, but then you are left bloated or tired just a few hours later.  Or maybe you have tried to fit into the Paleo scene, but are just not feeling at the top of your game on this diet.  Does this sound familiar?  Well head on over to the AANP’s website and find yourself a local Naturopathic Doctor (ND).  NDs help you determine what type of diet is right for you and your body type, so that you don’t have to worry about your post-lunch fatigue or bloat.  And we may even solve your chronic mood disturbance, sinusitis, or immune system dysregulation by enhancing your digestion and assimilation of nutrients.

I typically start by having folks tell me what they eat and crave.  Most people who suffer from digestive upset are eating something that doesn’t work with their body.  I run food allergy tests or have patients eliminate common triggers (dairy, wheat, soy, legumes).  I may look at your iris to determine if your nervous system is in overdrive and contributing to your digestive issues.  Another test I commonly run is a comprehensive digestive stool analysis to determine the dynamics of your gut bacteria.  From there I may recommend a probiotic and in some cases (specifically SIBO: small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) even an antibiotic (herbal or prescription).  I often recommend herbal remedies to enhance digestion and help expel gas while we are working together to heal your digestion and get you well on your own path to optimal health.  Each Naturopathic Doctor or Alternatively minded MD/DO/NP will have a slightly different approach, but in general, some of these basic diagnostic tools are used.