naturopathy for digestive health
Your digestive tract interacts with all other body systems so it is no surprise that a digestive problems cause a host of seemingly unrelated symptoms which can seriously impact your overall health.
Did you know your gut constitutes around 80% of your immune system4? Digestive problems don’t lead only to obviously connected health problems such as weight-gain, an insidious increase of abdominal fat even though you are eating healthily and a struggle to lose those extra kilos.
Nor is poor gut health simply about indigestion, acid reflux, bloating, wind, or cravings for certain foods (sweet, carbs, dairy, salty, or alcohol).
You might suffer from constipation, diarrhoea or both and terrible mood swings. You might have been told you have eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis or asthma and have tried prescribed creams or inhalers to no avail.
Digestive problems also cause allergies and intolerances to foods and environmental triggers like pollens, cosmetics or cleaning products.
Maybe you have been recommended antidepressants and told you have an eating disorder, but your instinct tells you this isn’t right. You might reach a dead-end when you no longer know what to eat, what is upsetting you or why.
It’s a lonely place to be, especially when social events instead of being enjoyable turn into a challenge and often have negative consequences for your health.
Gut or digestive problems affect us all in different ways. We are individual, each with our own susceptibilities and our unique genetic makeup. So you might have eczema while your friend has perfect skin but suffers from energy crashes.
An imbalance in our gut flora or microbiome leads to our own individual cocktail of symptoms.
The good news is that so much research has been done in the last ten years to understand the importance of our microbiome and how it impacts our overall health, we now have a much better understanding of how to approach digestive problems.
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My approach to healing
I offer personalised treatment to address your individual digestive problems. Through a combination of exploring your personal health-history, what the possible root cause might be, evaluating your symptoms (the expression of your imbalance) and when and why they started, running laboratory tests which show us what is going on in your gut, we work together to create a personalised treatment programme.
I call this naturopathic approach to healing root cause resolution or a Functional Medicine perspective. Together we look to understand your body as a holistic and interconnected system. Your skin rashes didn’t start in your skin any more than your asthma originated in your lungs.
My treatment programme is:
- Personalised – we observe your unique health issues and life experience
- Preventative – we address the root cause and decide how best to avoid a continuation of your problems
- Participatory – you are very much involved in the programme and aware of each step you are taking and why
- Proactive – it is your participation through observing and sharing between consultations that leads to improvements in your health.
The Functional Medicine “Five Rs”
The approach I like to use with compromised gut health is the Functional Medicine “Five Rs” approach:
- Remove – pathogenic bacteria, parasites, fungi, foods to which you are intolerant or allergic, environmental pollutants, and stress (stress pays havoc on gut health) Laboratory tests enable us to identify what your gut issues are
- Replace – stomach HCL if lacking, digestive and pancreatic enzymes, fibre to support general gut function and avoid constipation (which causes toxicity)
- Reinoculate – support your microbiome with lactobacillus and bifidobacterium
- Repair – maintain and heal the lining of your digestive tract
- Rebalance – explore stress management, healthy eating, exercise recommendations
Together we work through all five stages. Your symptoms guide us to a treatment programme that best suits you. I often use laboratory tests to guide us. If you have symptoms from dairy you may lack lactobacillus. If you bloat after eating wheat products maybe you lack the bifidobacterium further down your gut. Sporadic and itchy skin rashes often indicate yeast infection. Asthma and eczema speak of dysbiosis.
Depending on your symptoms treatment can take from six months to over a year.
A naturopathic approach to digestive problems and the Microbiome
You could think of your gut as an internal tropical forest full of diverse living organisms on which your health depends.
Microbiota or the Microbiome refer to the community of microorganisms or beneficial gut bacteria that share your body space. It refers to the 100 trillion bacteria that inhabit your gut.3
Your microbiome carries out many tasks essential to your health:
- Provides a physical barrier against toxins
- Produces antibiotic-like substances that work against invasive pathogenic organisms
- Engages the immune system to respond appropriately to invaders
- Produces organic acids reducing your pH and creating an acidic environment in your gut that prevents growth of pathogenic bacteria
- Carries out digestion and absorption of proteins, carbohydrates and fats1
For example, if you lack lactobacillus and beneficial e-coli you cannot digest lactose from milk products and will suffer from adverse symptoms when you do. You will be unable to produce a host of key vitamins K2, B1, B2, B6, and B121.
It is important that the balance of beneficial to pathological bacteria remains at around 75/25%.2 When an imbalance in your microbiome occurs, such as an increase in pathological bacteria and the presence of parasites, then an increasing number of symptoms start to appear and your health deteriorates.
So what damages your Microbiome?
Your gut bacteria can be damaged by the following:- based on table by Dr. Mercola2:
|Refined sugar, especially processed high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)||Genetically engineered (GE) foods (extremely abundant in processed foods and beverages)||Agricultural chemicals, such as herbicides and pesticides. Glyphosate appears to be among the worst|
|Conventionally-raised meats and other animal products; CAFO (caged) animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics and GE livestock feed||Gluten||Antibiotics (use only if absolutely necessary, and make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a good probiotic supplement)|
|NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) damage cell membranes and disrupt energy production by mitochondria)||Proton pump inhibitors -drugs that block the production of acid in your stomach, typically prescribed for GERD, such as Prilosec, Prevacid, and Nexium (rob you of all nutrients and lead to pneumonia7 and pathological infection8 because these drugs alter the pH of the gut5)||Steroids and Hydrocortisone Creams6 (compromised adrenals, high blood pressure and muscle weakness. They can also cause muscle wasting, hyperglycemia, water retention, skin atrophy, bruising and stretch marks, insomnia, serious mood changes, symptoms of schizophrenia or manic depression (“steroid psychosis”), osteoporosis, cataracts or glaucoma, menstrual problems, impotence, loss of libido or even allergic shock, recurrent thrush of the mouth, and diabetes)|
|Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water||Stress||Pollution|
|Antidepressants5 (MAO inhibitors rob you of Vit B6; Tricyclics rob you of CoQ10, Riboflavin; SSRIs rob you of Iodine)||Statins (heart failure9 since they block absorption of CoQ10 essential to healthy functioning of heart muscles, diabetes10, irreversible muscle breakdown, muscle pain, blood disorders, diabetes, skin disorders and stomach problems11)||Chemical hormones5 – contraception (The Pill, implants, the Merena Coil) and HRT (damage your gut flora, rob you of magnesium, zinc, most minerals, B vitamins, Vitamin C)|
Our microbiome has a profound effect on intestinal function, immune function, and on the leakiness and level of inflammation in the intestinal lining. Dysbiosis, or lack of beneficial gut flora or microbiome can cause food, environmental and chemical allergies and sensitivities. Dysbiosis is also behind:
- Pathological bacterial overgrowth (e.g. Klebsiella, Clostridium, Helicobacter and Citrobacter, e-Coli, streptococcus, staphylococcus)
- Candida or systemic fungal overgrowth
- All digestive issues
- ADD / ADHD / Autism / Asperger’s
- Glue ear and constant ear infections
- Muscle and joint pain / fibromyalgia
- Leaky gut (one of the main causes of allergies and intolerances)
- Hyperacidity: – also called hyperchlorhydria, GERD, gastric reflux or oesophageal reflux1
- All auto-immune diseases
How could functional medicine help you?
Get in touch to set up a time to discuss your situation on Zoom. I offer a free 20 minute chat so you can find out more about naturopathy and whether it might be the right approach for you.
Further Viewing on Digestive Health
- Microbiome TED Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af5qUxl1ktI&spfreload=10
- Animated Video on importance of beneficial gut flora, suitable for adults and children: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DTrENdWvvM
- Sugar Animated uTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFlnlGx0B5U&spfreload=10
- Gut Bacteria Balance and your Health: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIYZGKSoQzw&spfreload=10
- The Effects of Grains, Legumes and Dairy on Your Body: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59bg55YMYN4
- GAPS Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, Medinform, 2010
- Drug Muggers, Suzy Cohen RPh, Rodale 2011, pages 92-94
© TARA ALEX ZENKER • CREATED BY KERI WILLIAMS
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