If you are experiencing digestive problems such as bloating, gas, heartburn, cramping, constipation or diarrhea, this is a wake-up call from your digestive system that it needs attention.
There are many causes of digestive discomfort that lasts more than a few days, which is how long it typically takes a virus or food poisoning to run its course. Some of the common causes of digestive ailments include:
- Parasites (giardia, tapeworm, H. pylori, etc.)
- Food intolerances and allergies
- Weakened integrity of the digestive system
- Microbial Imbalances
- Leaky gut
- Chronic Irritable Bowel Diseases
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s Disease
Digestive health isn’t just about what happens in our belly. Our ability to digest what we eat has a direct effect on all aspects of our health. If your digestive system is not absorbing nutrients adequately, you’ll have low energy. If what you are eating is triggering an immune response, you may be experiencing headaches, skin rashes or even asthma. For patients experiencing chronic and mysterious symptoms like these, I am quick to look at diet and digestive health.
There’s no cookie cutter prescription to heal chronic GI problems. Everyone’s gut is different, with a unique mix of various microbes and food tolerances. Even two people with the same diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease will vary in their symptoms, triggers and treatment. My approach to digestive health is very personalized, but typically includes three key parts: assessment, elimination and re-building.
Step 1: Assessment
Our first step is to evaluate what’s going on. We’ll talk about your history, assess your current state of health and I’ll review relevant medical records.
We may decide to run labs to evaluate the balance of bacteria in the gut, rule out viruses and parasites such as giardia, tapeworms and h pylori and/or identify food allergens.
Step 2: Eliminate Irritants To The Gut
Medicines may be required to clear infections and reduce the populations of harmful bacteria in your gut. As both an MD and L.Ac., I draw from both pharmacological and herbal medicine, always looking for what’s going to work best for the individual patient and case.
Dietary changes often help to clear up symptoms and give us a starting point to identify food intolerances. It’s important to eliminate anything that is irritating your gut. Elimination diets are a great diagnostic tool, but can be difficult for people to manage on their own. That’s why I provide detailed support to patients, including recipes to keep them eating well during the elimination phase and clear guidance for a focused reintroduction of foods.
Many of my patients have developed sensitivities to the wheat/gluten, dairy or processed sugar that is a part of the typical modern American diet. I’ve worked with patients who stopped getting the weekly migraine headaches from which they had suffered for years simply by eliminating a particular food from their diet.
Sometimes food intolerances can be reversed if the digestive system gets enough of a break to fully heal. But if you continue to eat food that inflames an already compromised gut, you will not only continue to suffer digestive complaints, but you risk developing a leaky gut that will tax your immune system.
Your Immune System on a Leaky Gut
The intestinal lining is porous—that’s how the nutrients that we eat are absorbed. In a healthy gut, the intestinal pores are big enough to let nutrients into the bloodstream, but small enough to keep toxins and waste material out. When the intestinal lining is chronically irritated, you can develop a leaky gut, whereby the pores grow big enough that waste material begins leaching into the bloodstream. This triggers immune responses such as X, Y and Z.
Step 3: Build Gut Strength And Health
Western Medicine is very good at identifying and eliminating pathology and pathogens. But it typically stops there and patients are simply instructed to rest and maintain dietary prescriptions to regain health.
Traditional Chinese Medicine, however, offers a variety of approaches to actively build and strengthen the digestive system. I use acupuncture and herbal supplements help to stimulate the body’s own healing. I prescribe medical food/supplements, prebiotics and probiotics help to re-establish the integrity of the gut.
With chronic digestive problems there is often a combination of pathology that needs to be eliminated as well as weakness that needs to be actively strengthened. As both an M.D. and a L.Ac, I’ve found that an integrated approach is most effective and patients feel better faster.
Every patient is different, but it’s typically a three month process to reset the digestive system.