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Gastrointestinal Disorders

Gastrointestinal Disorders (GI) and Functional Medicine

How Is My Digestive System Affecting My Quality of Life?

The digestive tract is responsible for our vitality via the breakdown and absorption of every nutrient that fuels our trillions of cells. Problems with the digestive system are typically experienced as:

  • Bloating
  • Indigestion
  • Gas
  • Constipation or Diarrhea
  • Acid Reflux or Heart Burn
  • Even Stomach Pain

 
Many people have experienced gastrointestinal discomfort for so long that they have adjusted to it and think that their system’s poor function is normal. With healthy digestive function a person will feel energized and revitalized after a meal for several hours and will not experience any cravings for sweets.

The foundation of good health lies in proper digestive function. If you are not able to digest and absorb nutrients, your overall health will suffer. Assimilation of vitamins, minerals, proteins and essential fatty acids from the foods you eat is required to keep you healthy. Low stomach acid and low digestive enzymes are common problems due to poor diets and high stress levels.

In addition, an imbalance in the healthy organisms that inhabit the intestinal tract can be caused by parasitic infections, bacterial overgrowth, or invasive yeast often referred to as candida. Hidden inflammatory conditions can also interfere with digestion.

Did you know that the majority of your immune system lies within your intestinal lining? The lining of your gastrointestinal tract is your FIRST line of defense from invading pathogens. If this lining is compromised from years of faulty digestive function, you will be more susceptible to invasion from pathogens, parasites, and infections.

 

What Are Some Common GI Problems?

Digestive Enzymes

The inability to digest protein may reflect a deficiency of stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Without sufficient enzymes your body cannot break down the food you eat for assimilation. Low stomach acid and low digestive enzymes are common problems due to our poor diets and high stress levels (research shows that higher levels of stress hormone in the body, tells the brain to slow down digestive enzyme release).

A simple method to determine digestive function is through blood assesssments which can hint at protein digestion problems. You may also require further testing if you have chronic digestive symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating after meals, intestinal gas, heartburn and food cravings.

The enzymes present in raw fruits and vegetables help us digest foods more easily. However, these enzymes are destroyed in the cooking process. Your body’s own production of digestive enzymes will become depleted if you eat too many cooked foods. When your digestive enzymes decrease, your body’s other enzymes ¬¬– which are critical for proper immune regulation and systemic cellular processes — get pulled from the blood stream back into the digestive system. This pattern leads to depletion of your enzyme reserve in other body systems not directly related to digestion. Enzymes are involved in every process in your body, and depletion of enzymes is a depletion of health.

If you have low levels of digestive enzymes, the food you eat is not completely utilized. Any foods you don’t digest because of insufficient enzymes become toxic to your body. These partially digested foods provide a substrate or fuel supply for harmful microorganisms like yeast, bacteria, and parasites. Health-sustaining enzymes are abundant in raw and lightly cooked vegetables and fruits, and these should be part of your daily food intake.

Dysbiosis and Hidden Digestive Problems

Other, more comprehensive lab analysis may point to what is called dysbiosis, an imbalance in the healthy organisms that inhabit the intestinal tract. Dysbiosis can be caused by parasitic infections, bacterial overgrowth, or invasive yeast often referred to as Candida. Hidden or subclinical inflammatory conditions can also interfere with digestion and cause dysbiosis. ‘Subclinical’ refers to problems that are frequently not detected because they do not cause obvious symptoms.

Leaky Gut Syndrome

Another common manifestation of digestive stress is “Leaky Gut Syndrome,” in which the integrity of the intestinal lining is compromised and is no longer as discerning as it should be between what is absorbed into the blood stream and what is kept out of the blood stream. Therefore, molecules “leak” into the blood that should not be present and are attacked by our immune system, causing inflammation and tissue damage. When food antigens “leak” into our blood stream, the immune system thinks they are foreign invaders and mounts an immune response that we experience as an allergic reaction. Yeast and bacteria can also “leak” into the blood stream and cause significant immune system activity.  This mechanism is very active in those who have autoimmune diseases such as: Hashimoto’s thyroditis (low thyroid), arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Chron’s disease, and others.

Gluten and Dairy

Cow DairyFood sensitivities are a common cause of hidden, or subclinical, inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. For example, some people are sensitive to grains containing gluten such as wheat, barley and rye. Others react to lactose found in milk and dairy products; many people react poorly to soy. These types of hidden food reactions are frequently found in people with chronic health problems (especially asthma and allergies). When needed, a food sensitivity test  allows you to determine if food related problems are a significant factor in your overall health picture. Other examples of commonly undiagnosed gastrointestinal problems are parasitic infections.

Parasites

Many people think of parasites as a problem that only occurs when traveling abroad. However, through recent improvements in diagnostic testing methods, doctors are now discovering high levels of parasite infections in the United States. Parasites are usually acquired by self-inoculation. This can occur when you eat at restaurants where the staff has poor hygiene, or when you eat from salad bars and buffets where food is left sitting out. Handling money, shaking hands with people and using public restrooms are all ways we are exposed to potential parasitic infections.

 

What Steps Do You Take to Correct Problems With GI Issues?

The first step is to take a look at how well your body is digesting. The second step, if a problem is detected, is to determine why your body is not digesting well. Several different types of lab tests are available to assess the function of different organs of the digestive system.

Once the tests are analyzed, a treatment plan will be designed and follow up consults scheduled.
 

Take Action!

Dr. Zac Watkins has had success in correcting GI disorders. Contact our clinic today!

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