Digestive Disorders are a special category of disease or illness. These diseases are often chronic, often auto-immune in nature, and often only treatable with symptom relief from pain-killers, muscle-relaxers or surgery. Because so little is known about diseases of the digestive tract it is imperative to investigate all possible causes or irritants. New information and research is pointing to chronic infections, allergic reactions to foods and to one's self, and toxins in body tissues as major contributing factors in digestive disorders.
At our clinic we treat patients with all ranges of digestive disorders as well as other complaints who have not had the results they wanted from other health care providers. Because we often step back and take a "whole person" perspective we can often find problems that other people may have missed. Rarely do we find a person who does not have major problems with infections in the digestive tract. These infections do not have to be so big that they cause us to feel deathly ill. Instead, these chronic, low-grade infections slowly and insidiously begin to inflame, irritate, and destroy the lining of our digestive tract. Unfortunately, I often find to my dismay that most of my patients with GI complaints have not been screened AT ALL for infections!
Second on our list of leading reasons for GI problems is allergic reactions to foods. All too often, just as the case with infections, very few people have had allergy testing done for their digestive disorders. Most patients have read books and are aware of these possible causes but many have not had any definitive testing done and are shooting in the dark, so to speak, as to what foods to avoid. It is imperative that we test each patient for food allergies because they are so pervasive and influential. We screen each patient for food allergies AT EACH VISIT. This screening procedure takes approximately 5 minutes, is non-invasive, and is included in the cost of the visit. This is necessary because I often find that food allergies can change from month to month as a person gets healthier or as a person is exposed to different foods more or less during each month. As a person becomes healthier we find that they lose most or all of their food sensitivities.
Third on our list of major causes of GI problems is heavy metal poisoning such as lead or mercury, insecticide exposure, or internal toxin buildup. When we have a buildup of poisons in our systems, we get inflammation and our connective tissue suffers. Our digestive system is a complex web of connective tissue designed to absorb foods and excrete wastes. Unfortunately for those with digestive diseases, if the digestive tract is not functioning well, then all too often the rest of the body begins to suffer with aches and pains, low energy, and thinking or emotional troubles. This is because the rest of our body depends entirely on the fuel and micronutrient absorption that goes on in our digestive tract. We screen our patients for 16 different heavy metal toxins, homocysteine poisoning, and insecticide exposure. Our job is to slowly and gently begin the process of detoxifying from these metals and chemicals. Too often patients may have tried to detoxify themselves with a certain protocol and gotten worse. Detoxification needs to be done slowly and at the correct time. Usually before any attempt at body detoxification we need to make sure that the liver and kidneys are functioning at adequate levels. Often they are not. So we address liver and kidney function as well as systemic detoxification for chemicals and metals.
These are the top 3 main reasons behind digestive diseases. I will explain more in detail and expand to several other reasons below. Also I have included examples of success stories at the last for those who would like to see how this is done.
*yeast/fungal/mold- a common infection these days. It is found in 90% of the patients that I treat. Exposure to high levels of antibiotics, steroids (topical or ingested), hormones (birth control pills, artificial thyroid hormones, estrogen replacement therapy, etc), or a high sugar diet makes individuals prone to yeast problems. To clear out a fungal or yeast problem a patient (and often their spouse) need to take special yeast killing medicines and follow a strict diet for 3 weeks. In worst case scenarios houses and air quality may need to be screened. Occasionally a "sick building" will be at the root of sick people's fungal illness and resultant complaints.
*parasites- a common infection found in my patients with long-term digestive diseases. Exposure to poorly handled meats or vegetables, poor water supply, pets, or travel to foreign countries may increase risk of parasite infections. Parasites need to be treated with special antiparasitic medications. Antibiotics will not work on parasites. Parasites are a SERIOUS problem and often are one of the most difficult of infections to clear from a person. Occasionally a person's water supply is contaminated or a spouse needs to be treated also.
*viruses- many people have compromised immune systems. With lowered immune system function certain people are prone to long standing viral infections. Viruses are not easily eradicated except by your own immune system and white blood cells. Any therapy for viral infections needs to be aimed at improving immune system function. Specific herbs, vitamins, and minerals will help. Usually viruses are opportunistic organisms if the viral infection is long standing. Long standing, low grade viral infections are usually the result of a poorly functioning immune system.
*bacterial infections- certain bacteria are long term infections such as H. Pylori (a type of bacteria that lives in the stomach and upper digestive tract and causes ulcers and digestive problems). Certain bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics due to over-prescription of antibiotics and the fact that antibiotics are found in most meat and dairy products. Bacterial infections may need to be treated with antibiotic herbs or medicines.
This syndrome describes a condition where a person's intestinal lining has become damaged and is not controlling what is entering the blood stream efficiently.
* It allows undigested food particles into the blood stream, producing stress on the immune system. Eventually allergic and autoimmune reactions or unpleasant side effects begin to occur. Leaky gut syndrome is often caused by long term exposure to intestinal infections and the inflammation that follows. These allergic reactions that follow leaky gut syndrome also stress the adrenal glands.
*Leaky gut syndrome often spontaneously heals when infections are removed. Occasionally herbal formulas and certain vitamins, mineral, or amino acids are required to speed healing of the intestinal lining. When the intestines begin to repair allergic reactions to foods greatly decrease.
Food allergies are such an important part of changing digestive diseases that I just can't say enough about it. I could not fully get patients well if I did not screen for food allergies and then have my patients do trial avoidances of certain foods. Identification of the correct food allergy can help a patient have extremely quick resolution of symptoms for asthma, stomach complaints, diarrhea, and inflammation. Usually food allergies are to certain common foods such as dairy products, corn, wheat, oats, eggs, tomatoes, potatoes, or meats. I also find allergies to less common foods. We screen all our patients with a simple 5 minute test each office visit. This is necessary because food reactions often change from week to week! Exposure levels to foods vary each day and the body is burdened with varying levels of toxins, emotional burdens, and organ functions. We desensitize each patient to their indicated allergy causing foods and have then avoid them for a week or two.
I see most of my patients, as they become healthier, lose all sensitivities to foods and airborne irritants. Most people with airborne allergies have at root of their problems some unidentified food allergies, infections, and liver congestion. Because I see airborne allergies as being caused by similar problems that cause food allergic reactions I will discuss "allergic reactions" as being just one thing.
There are at least 3 types of allergic reactions to stressors. The first type of reaction is a fast response which is mediated by IgE antibodies. These allergic responses are usually associated with itching, sneezing, rashes, trouble breathing, hives, etc. These fast acting allergies are responsible for people's reactions to bee stings, sneezing attacks from ragweed and pollens, or rashes after eating strawberries. They can be life-threatening. People often know that they have these types of allergies because they can be obvious. A way of testing for IgE mediate allergies is by the skin scratch method. I dislike this type of allergy testing because skin testing only looks for IgE mediated responses and there are other important types of allergies which I will discuss. Having a skin scratch test is like smelling smoke in your house and just looking in the bathroom for the fire!
The second type of allergic response to foods is a slow response which is mediated by IgG type antibodies. This delayed allergic response can be delayed from hours to days, up to 72 hours in some instances after exposure to an irritant. Because these reactions are so delayed it is difficult to make a connection between source of irritation and symptoms. If you have a piece of chocolate cake and 1 to 3 days later get a headache it is difficult to realize that it might have been the chocolate cake that gave it to you! I find that these delayed response allergies are responsible for many of my patients'complaints including digestive complaints, headaches, fatigue, mood changes, chronic immune suppression and resultant frequent infections, sinus problems, ear problems in children, colic in infants, hyperactivity, tonsilitis, diarrhea, rashes, and even aches and pains in joints. Two ways of testing for these allergies are blood testing and neurologic testing. For people who have IgG reactions to foods it is important to identify these foods, avoid these foods for several weeks, support digestion, supply missing nutrition, and desensitize with acupuncture, NAET, cold laser therapy, or other techniques. Frequently people return to me with a large enough improvement in health that they can reintroduce these foods into their diet and suffer no more reactions!
A third type of allergic response is a gut-mediated response or IgA allergic response. This is where the intestines themselves and the immune system associated with them respond to foods in the gut. These types of reactions are probably responsible for many of the digestive disorders people complain of such as irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, etc. This allergic response can be tested for with certain laboratory testing or neurologic testing. This type of allergic response is still rather new to most doctors and is slowly being incorporated into progressive clinics testing procedures. IgA allergies are treated the same way as IgG reactions.
I have no doubt that there are other yet unrealized ways that the body may be reactive to certain substances. It is not uncommon for a person to have tests that show no allergic connection to a certain food and yet you know that when you eat this food you feel bad and have symptoms. This is just an example of how you can have unpleasant reactions to substances and yet we are unable to find the exact connection. The gold standard in all allergy testing is using your common sense: Do you feel better when you avoid this food? Do you feel better when you avoid breathing pollen laden air? If so, we probably are on the right track. Since it is difficult to avoid breathing air during pollen season, I focus on other areas of a person's health like hidden food allergies, digestion, liver function, dysbiosis. When a person has these other problems cleared up usually a person can handle breathing the air during "allergy season"and have no symptoms.
Often people are deficient in digestive function. With this problem it doesn't matter if you are eating an adequate diet. You adequate diet is not reaching your cells because it is not being digested and absorbed! Stomach enzymes (hydrochloric acid and pepsin), pancreatic enzymes (lipase, protease, amylase), and liver enzymes (bile salts) all conspire to help us break down our food. If any of our organs of digestion are poorly functioning we don't break down our food and use it for health. Digestive efficiency needs to be examined and optimized for vibrant health. Enzyme replacement therapy may be a helpful tool for a while. At the same time other therapies are aimed at helping our digestive organs make our own enzymes again in higher levels.
Nutritional deficiencies in general may be behind certain health problems. Today, more than ever, people are mineral and vitamin deficient. We don't have to just eat junk food to be lacking in vitamins and minerals. Often "healthy" foods, vegetables, fruits, and meats from the grocery have less than half of the mineral content of foods 60 years ago. Shopping for foods that are grown organically helps with this. Without the correct nutrients we cannot make the anti-inflammatory substances that we should have. We cannot repair our digestive tract tissues. We cannot supply our immune system with enough energy to fight infections. We do not have enough of the correct fuel and elements for our liver or kidneys to detoxify us from internal and external poisons. In a nutshell, if we do not have enough of the right vitamins and mineral we will DIE. IF we have less than optimal amounts, we may live but suffer from diseases as our health plummets. It is rare for me to not recommend nutritional supplements to boost someone's return to health. Sometimes multivitamins are recommended. Sometimes an individual mineral or vitamin is recommended. Each person is different and as such needs a nutritional medicine plan designed just for them.
A sign of a poor vitamin is one that has the toxin stearic acid or calcium stearate. Stearic acid is a saturated fat that makes absorption of the vitamin much more difficult. I suggest looking for vitamin manufacturers that encapsulate rather than make vitamins in tablet form. Also a sign of a poor vitamin is one that uses the poorly absorbed calcium carbonate. If your calcium is in the form of calcium carbonate, in my opinion, it is worthless. At our clinic we use Thorne Nutritional products for physicians almost exclusively. They are the one company that is head and shoulders above any other for purity. Thorne products are tolerated well by extremely sensitive patients.
*John- a 16 year old boy recently came to my office with his mom. John was suffering from intense stomach pain and cramping that varied in intensity throughout the day. John had diarrhea, vomiting, or intense stomach pain for all of his life since an infant. No one had been able to help him much despite being to different internists, pediatricians, and gastroenterologists. He had done most testing that is normal for his complaints and no testing indicated any reason for his pain or gave a clue as to what to call his disease. Pain killers and muscle relaxants were the only things that he had tried and they only helped very little. When I screened John for problems I found indications of fungal infection, viral infection, a need for a micronutrient called molybdenum, and multiple food allergies. I asked John's mother if he had ever been screened for infections and allergies. I was disappointed to learn that this had never been done for him. I sent John home with herbal medication to support eliminating his infections, gave him some molybdenum, desensitized him to his allergies, gave him strict orders to avoid his allergic foods, and put him on an anti-fungal diet for 3 weeks. John returned to me in 3 weeks 95% better. John's mother was both happy for her son and angry that it took 16 years for something obviously simple to be screened for and treated.
*Lisa- a 45 year old woman with Chron's disease has been under my care for some time now. Lisa has reported an increase in energy and decrease in her life-long diarrhea when we have her on anti-fungal herbs. Lisa slowly progresses and is happy to have someone to treat her. She has had difficulty in finding someone to treat her over a long period of time because most doctors lose interest or get frustrated by her lack of progress.
*Dan- a medical doctor in his mid-50's came to me for general health care. One of Dan's health complaints was explosive diarrhea. Screening Dan suggested fungal infections. A return visit after 3 weeks on a special anti-fungal diet and medication brought back a happy patient with no diarrhea. Dan had been screened for food allergies with the skin scratch test as a youth and seemed allergic to everything. My screening indicated an allergy to oats and milk. Dan has noticed that exposure to milk seems to bring his energy down and make him congested. Exposure to oats seems to knock out his immune system and he gets sick with a cold or flu. Dan continues to avoid milk and oats.
*Melissa- a 27 year old woman with lifelong gastritis has been under my care for some time now. Melissa also complains of alternating diarrhea and constipation, depression, and headaches. Screening her indicated involvement of fungus and Helicobacter Pylori infection in her digestive tract as well as multiple allergies. We treated her for her infections and she avoids her food allergies that vary with time. Melissa seems to be very burdened with heavy metal toxins and we continue to progress with her detoxification of these metals. Melissa now reports no diarrhea or constipation, stable moods, no gastritis, and much less headaches.
*Karen- a 14 year old girl was brought to my office suffering from bouts of nausea and vomiting mucous. Screening her indicated a large allergy to wheat and adrenal insufficiency. We treated her with chiropractic care, desensitized her to wheat and had her avoid wheat for 4 weeks. She returned with no episodes of nausea or vomiting.
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