Of all the patient complaints that have come into my office during the past 45 years, bowel disorders top the list. These include inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Also on the list are irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) featuring chronic diarrhea or constipation, diverticulitis, various infections with viruses, bacteria, fungi like Candida and parasites, celiac disease and others.
All of these bowel disorders can affect digestion of nutrients from foods and cause symptoms such as malabsorption, bloating, abdominal pains, cramps, incontinence, gas, diarrhea and constipation.
Some doctors say that death begins in the colon. The small and large intestines can be affected leading to complications such as joint inflammation, and skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and other forms of dermatitis. Other long-term complications can be malnutrition causing weight loss and deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. Anemia, anxiety, insomnia and depression can also result. In the long term the worry could be severe anemia and cancer. You all may have heard about the gut-brain connection. What happens in the gut can translate into what results in the brain and lead to mental illness.
1) IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS) is one of the most common gut diagnoses, affecting an estimated 12% of the population. Common symptoms include abdominal pain or discomfort that comes and goes, diarrhea or constipation or a change in bowel habits. These symptoms can be caused by stress, food intolerances, bowel infections as well as more serious conditions involving chronic inflammation or tumors.
Gastroscopy and colonoscopy may be required to get an accurate diagnosis, as well as other tests such as abdominal ultrasound, food intolerance testing, and testing for gluten intolerance. Treatments depend on lab test results. Infections such as SIBO (small intestinal bowel overgrowth), Candida, or other infections like H. Pylori need to be ruled out.
Food intolerance testing can be done by the elimination technique or through the IgG RAST blood test that measures antibodies against at least 200 foods. Diet changes, digestive enzymes, oregano oil, probiotics, L-glutamine and berberine can all be helpful in many cases depending on the findings.
2) INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE (IBD) includes Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Once either of these conditions is diagnosed the usual medical advice consists of prescriptions for immunosuppressive drugs. Or in more advanced cases surgery is prescribed to remove severely inflamed bowel tissue. Conventional medicine usually gives no advice on diet or nutritional supplements.
From a more natural approach, using the Specific Carbohydrate Diet that avoids grains and grain products, sugar, and lactose can be very effective at reducing gut inflammation. I first heard of this diet from the book by the late Elaine Gottschall called “Breaking the Vicious Cycle” which is an excellent resource for anyone suffering from either condition or one of many chronic diarrhea concerns.
3) CELIAC DISEASE is an autoimmune disease that can usually be reversed by avoiding gluten, by taking digestive enzymes, and by improving vitamin D levels in the body. Common symptoms of this condition involve abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, anemia, fatigue, joint pain, depression and anxiety. Weight loss or weight gain can also occur with celiac disease, but that depends on the individual.
Blood testing can diagnose the condition but a trial of a gluten-free diet can often reverse the condition in many cases. The book by Dr. William Davis called “Wheat Belly” is a good one to read for more information on this increasingly common condition. Also recommended is Dr. David Perlmutter’s book “Grain Brain” which details the gut-brain connection.
4) DIVERTICULOSIS is a condition usually detected by colonoscopies when a weak area of the colon gives way to pressure creating a little sac or pouch. Constipation can make this condition worse and needs to be prevented. This pouch can become clogged leading to inflammation and damage to the large bowel. Antibiotics are often prescribed to prevent spread of infection (diverticulitis) into the blood and sepsis.
Following a high fiber diet and using magnesium citrate and vitamin C regularly can help prevent the condition. Optimal doses of these two supplements vary from person to person. L-glutamine supplementation helps heal the lining of the gut. In rare cases, surgery might be needed.
5) HEMORRHOIDS – This is a common lower bowel disorder affecting at least half of all people during their lifetime. When enlarged, hemorrhoids an cause itching, mucous discharge, and bleeding. The blood from hemorrhoids is usually bright red in color. This bright red colour distinguishes it from blood that originates from higher up in the intestine which is usually much darker and more alarming as it could represent inflammatory bowel disease and possibly bowel cancer. Colonoscopy is usually needed to make a diagnosis whenever blood loss is seen. Chronic blood loss can lead to anemia and its complications.
Hemorrhoids can be caused by being overweight, lifting heavy objects often, aging, pregnancy and delivery, heredity, constipation or chronic diarrhea, the overuse of laxatives or enemas, and spending excessive amounts of time sitting on the toilet.
To avoid surgery and relieve symptoms of hemorrhoids, eat more high fiber foods (30-40 grams) like avocados, figs, lentils, nuts, flaxseeds, psyllium husks, chia seeds, quinoa, apples, plums and prunes. Drink at least two liters of water daily if you are an adult without heart or kidney health issues, and use magnesium citrate and high dose vitamin C if you have a chronic constipation problem.
Other natural remedies that have proven effective include horse chestnut extract, witch hazel or aloe vera applied topically, and pycnogenol. Also helpful are various hemorrhoid creams containing turmeric and tea tree oil. Avoid alcohol and spicy foods and supplement with a broad spectrum probiotic. Avoid straining at stool and carrying heavy objects.
6) LEAKY GUT SYNDROME – According to Harvard Health, “An unhealthy gut lining may have large cracks or holes, allowing partially digested food, toxins, and bugs to penetrate the tissues beneath it. This may trigger inflammation and changes in the gut flora (normal bacteria) that could lead to problems within the digestive tract and beyond.” The lining of the gut is just one layer thick and easily damaged, leading to greater permeability.
This condition is not recognized by conventional medicine but can be uncovered with Live cell microscopy. Treatment depends on the diagnosis and signs of toxicity and deficiencies. Common causes include inflammatory bowel disease, HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, NSAIDS like ibuprofen, as well as food allergies and gut infections.
7) SURGERY OF THE COLON can lead to scar tissue that can cause intestinal obstruction and blockage. Commonly referred to as abdominal adhesions, symptoms can include cramps, abdominal pain, and constipation. The most important thing to do is use a high fiber diet, vitamin C, and magnesium citrate to prevent accumulation of waste material. L-glutamine supplementation is also helpful.
Determining the causes of digestive signs and symptoms can be difficult. Doctors use ultrasound, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, stool cultures, biopsies, endoscopies and colonoscopies to make their diagnoses.
From a more natural point of view, live cell microscopy can pick up the effects of gut conditions such as leaky gut syndrome (malabsorption, deficiencies of enzymes, iron, folic acid and B12, and chronic inflammation caused by bacteria, fungi and parasites). This is a great test that can be done on fingertip blood samples which are observed under a special dark field microscope projected on to a video monitor.
A live cell microscopy test is best done by a naturopath or holistic doctor, although many of you have seen it also done at health conventions and in health food stores. For sorting out functional gut problems and determining nutritional status, this test is extremely valuable. It, however, cannot make any diagnosis.
Conventional medical therapies for many of these conditions include immunosuppressants, corticosteroids, antibiotics, biologics, laxatives, or antidiarrheal drugs or even tranquilizers.
Most natural therapies can safely be done even if prescription medications are used simultaneously. These include avoiding gluten and foods found to be positive on food intolerance testing, as well as regular exercise, stress reduction techniques, and even psychotherapy. See a natural health practitioner for personalized advice.
Specific Carbohydrate Diet: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/23543-scd-specific-carbohydrate-diet
Elaine Gottschall: Breaking the Viscious Cycle: https://breakingtheviciouscycle.info
William Davis: Wheat Belly: https://www.amazon.ca/Wheat-Belly-Lose-Weight-Health/dp/1443412732
David Perlmutter: Grain Brain: https://www.drperlmutter.com/books/grain-brain-by-david-perlmutter/
Leaky Gut Syndrome: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22724-leaky-gut-syndrome
Axe on Hemmorhoids: https://draxe.com/health/how-to-get-rid-of-hemorrhoids/
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