The digestive system is an intricate and extensive part of the body. It ranges all the way from the mouth to the rectum. The digestive system is responsible for absorbing essential nutrients and getting rid of waste.
The disorders and diseases of the digestive system vary in severity, from minor annoyance (such as mild heartburn) to potentially life-threatening illness (such as a perforated ulcer).
Naturopathic medicine tends to excel at treating gastrointestinal conditions. Our treatments work very well for common complaints often so well that mainstream medications can be avoided or discontinued. For more severe conditions, naturopathic medicine (paying due diligence to not interfere with mainstream medication) can improve the patient’s quality of life and even reduce some symptoms.
The best way to treat these digestive disorders from a naturopathic point of view is with nutraceuticals, plants and acupuncture. A Food Sensitivity Test is usually required to rule out potential inflammatory-causing foods that might contribute to the patient’s condition.
Acid Reflux (GERD)
At the entrance to your stomach is a valve, which is a ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Normally, the LES closes as soon as food passes through it. If the LES doesn’t close all the way or if it opens too often, acid produced by your stomach can move up into your esophagus. This can cause symptoms such as a burning chest pain called heartburn. If acid reflux symptoms happen more than twice a week, you have acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
One common cause of acid reflux disease is a stomach abnormality called a hiatal hernia. This occurs when the upper part of the stomach and LES move above the diaphragm, a muscle that separates your stomach from your chest.
The most common risk factors for acid reflux disease are:
✓ Eating large meals or lying down right after a meal
✓ Being overweight or obese
✓ Eating a heavy meal and lying on your back or bending over at the waist
✓ Snacking close to bedtime
✓ Eating certain foods, such as citrus, tomato, chocolate, mint, garlic, onions, or spicy or fatty foods
✓ Drinking certain beverages, such as alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, or tea
✓ Being pregnant
✓ Taking aspirin, ibuprofen, certain muscle relaxers, or blood pressure medications
Celiac disease (also known as celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy) is a digestive and autoimmune disorder that results in damage to the lining of the small intestine when foods with gluten are eaten. Gluten is a form of protein found in some grains. The damage to the intestine makes it hard for the body to absorb nutrients, especially fat, calcium, iron, and folate.[/arrow_list_three][/one_half][/columns]
Symptoms of celiac disease vary among patients and include:
✓ Digestive problems (abdominal bloating, pain, gas, diarrhea, pale stools, and weight loss)
✓ A severe skin rash (called dermatitis herpetiformis)
✓ Iron deficiency anemia (low blood count)
✓ Musculoskeletal problems (muscle cramps, joint and bone pain)
✓ Growth problems and failure to thrive (in children)
✓ Tingling sensation in the legs (caused by nerve damage and low calcium)
✓ Aphthous ulcers (sores in the mouth)
✓ Missed menstrual periods
The Candida Albicans is an opportunistic fungus, part of the gut flora, a group of microorganisms that live in your mouth and intestine. When the Candida Albicans population starts getting out of control it weakens the intestinal wall, penetrating through into the bloodstream and releasing its toxic byproducts throughout the body.
As they spread, these toxic byproducts cause damage to your body tissues and organs, wreaking havoc on your immune system. The major waste product of yeast cell activity is acetaldehyde, a poisonous toxin that promotes free radical activity in the body. Acetaldehyde is usually broken down into acetic acid within the liver. However, if this process is not working efficiently then it can circulate through your body and cause unpleasant symptoms like headaches and nausea.
To diagnose this condition, our clinic uses a blood test from Rocky Mountain Analytical called Candida Panel which measures levels of IgG, IgA and IgM antibodies to Candida plus Candida antigen in a blood strip sample.
No one likes to think – let alone talk – about constipation, but most everyone has it at one time or another. So if you’re dealing with tummy troubles, you’re not alone. Most of the time it doesn’t last long, and simple changes can help your digestive system run smoothly again.
To understand how to prevent constipation, it helps to know what causes it. As food passes through your colon, your body absorbs the water from it, and what’s left forms into stool. Your muscles move it through the colon to the rectum, where you pass it. When this movement slows down, your colon draws too much water. Stools get dry and hard to pass, causing constipation.
The problem often happens because of a low-fiber or high-fat diet, lack of exercise, and not drinking enough fluids. Certain medications, not going when you feel the urge, laxative abuse, and pregnancy can also lead to constipation.
INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISORDER (Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis)
The term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) covers a group of disorders in which the intestines become inflamed (red and swollen), probably as a result of an immune reaction of the body against its own intestinal tissue.
Two major types of IBD are: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. As the name suggests, ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon (large intestine). Although Crohn’s disease can involve any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus, it most commonly affects the small intestine and/or the colon.
Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease usually run a waxing and waning course in the intensity and severity of illness. When there is severe inflammation, the disease is considered to be in an active stage, and the person experiences a flare-up of the condition. When the degree of inflammation is less (or absent), the person usually is without symptoms, and the disease is considered to be in remission.
Diarrhea is an increase in the frequency of bowel movements, an increase in the looseness of stool or both.
Diarrhea is caused by increased secretion of fluid into the intestine, reduced absorption of fluid from the intestine or rapid passage of stool through the intestine.
Symptoms associated with diarrhea include abdominal pain, especially cramping. Other symptoms depend on the cause of the diarrhea.
Diarrhea can be defined absolutely or relatively. Absolute diarrhea is defined as more than five bowel movements a day or liquid stools. Relative diarrhea is defined as an increase in the number of bowel movements per day or an increase in the looseness of stools compared with an individual’s usual bowel habit.
Diarrhea may be either acute or chronic, and each has different causes and treatments.
Complications of diarrhea include dehydration, electrolyte (mineral) abnormalities, and irritation of the anus.
GAS & BLOATING
Though gas and bloating can be painful, they are normal conditions that often occur during digestion. Certain foods and beverages may cause you to experience these more than others. Medical conditions such as lactose intolerance and medications may also cause gas and bloating.
The Food Sensitivity Test is highly recommended if you have chronic gas and bloating after eating.
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a type of bacteria. These germs can enter your body and live in your digestive tract. After many years, they can cause sores, called ulcers, in the lining of your stomach or the upper part of your small intestine. For some people, an infection can lead to stomach cancer.
Infection with H. pylori is common. About two-thirds of the world’s population has it in their bodies. For most people, it doesn’t cause ulcers or any other symptoms. If you do have problems, there are medicines that can kill the germs and help sores heal.
As more of the world gets access to clean water and sanitation, fewer people than before are getting the bacteria. With good health habits, you can protect yourself and your children from H. pylori.
For decades, doctors thought people got ulcers from stress, spicy foods, smoking, or other lifestyle habits. But when scientists discovered H. pylori in 1982, they found that the germs were the cause of most stomach ulcers.
After H. pylori enters your body, it attacks the lining of your stomach, which usually protects you from the acid your body uses to digest food. Once the bacteria have done enough damage, acid can get through the lining, which leads to ulcers. These may bleed, cause infections, or keep food from moving through your digestive tract.
Gastritis is an inflammation, irritation, or erosion of the lining of the stomach. It can occur suddenly (acute) or gradually (chronic).
Gastritis can be caused by irritation due to excessive alcohol use, chronic vomiting, stress, or the use of certain medications such as aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs. It may also be caused by any of the following:
✓ Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori): A bacteria that lives in the mucous lining of the stomach; without treatment, the infection can lead to ulcers, and in some people, stomach cancer.
✓ Pernicious anemia: A form of anemia that occurs when the stomach lacks a naturally occurring substance needed to properly absorb and digest vitamin B12
✓ Bile reflux: A backflow of bile into the stomach from the bile tract (that connects to the liver and gallbladder)
✓ Infections caused by bacteria and viruses.
IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the intestines. It causes belly pain, cramping or bloating, and diarrhea or constipation. IBS is a long-term problem, but there are things you can do to reduce your symptoms.
Your symptoms may be worse or better from day to day, but your IBS will not get worse over time. IBS doesn’t cause more serious diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease or cancer.
It isn’t clear what causes irritable bowel syndrome. The cause may be different for different people. IBS may be caused by problems with the way signals are sent between the brain and the digestive tractcamera.gif, problems digesting certain foods, and stress or anxiety. People with IBS may have unusually sensitive intestines or problems with the way the muscles of the intestines move.
For some people with IBS, certain foods, stress, hormonal changes, and some antibiotics may trigger pain and other symptoms.
The main symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are belly pain with constipation or diarrhea. Other common symptoms are bloating, mucus in the stools, and a feeling that you have not completely emptied your bowels.
Many people with IBS go back and forth between having constipation and having diarrhea. For most people, one of these happens more often than the other.
IBS is quite common, but most people’s symptoms are so mild that they never see a doctor for treatment. Some people may have troublesome symptoms, especially stomach cramps, bloating, and diarrhea.
Because there are no structural problems in the intestines of people who have IBS, some people may think this means that the symptoms “are all in their head.” This isn’t true. The pain, discomfort, and bloating are real.
Parasites are organisms that live on or in a host. They subsist on the host’s nutrients at the host’s expense. Parasites can be found around the world. Infection symptoms vary depending on the type of parasite. Examples of parasites and their infections include lice leaving their larvae behind in hair, giardia causing severe diarrhea and stomach cramps, tapeworms causing the host to be fatigued due to a lack of nutrition and a poor appetite, and an infected mosquito‘s bite resulting in malaria, bringing about high fever, chills, and weakness.
Peptic ulcer disease refers to painful sores or ulcers in the lining of the stomach or first part of the small intestine, called the duodenum.
No single cause has been found for ulcers. However, it is now clear that an ulcer is the end result of an imbalance between digestive fluids in the stomach and duodenum. Most ulcers are caused by an infection with a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
Factors that can increase your risk for ulcers include:
✓ Use of painkillers called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn, and others), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, some types of Midol, and others), and many others available by prescription; even safety-coated aspirin and aspirin in powered form can frequently cause ulcers.
✓ Excess acid production from gastrinomas, tumors of the acid producing cells of the stomach that increases acid output (seen in Zollinger-Ellison syndrome)
✓ Excessive drinking of alcohol
✓ Smoking or chewing tobacco
✓ Serious illness
✓ Radiation treatment to the area
An ulcer may or may not have symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include:
✓ A gnawing or burning pain in the middle or upper stomach between meals or at night
✓ Nausea or vomiting
In severe cases, symptoms can include:
✓ Dark or black stool (due to bleeding)
✓ Vomiting blood (that can look like “coffee-grounds”)
✓ Weight loss
✓ Severe pain in the mid to upper abdomen
Poor digestion can have a big effect on a person’s daily life. From stomach aches to frequent trips to the restroom or having to avoid certain foods, indigestion is something that most everyone is conscious of daily. However, sometimes people suffer from bad indigestion and have no idea of the cause or even the extent of the effect it has on their body.
A common physical sign of poor digestion is hair and nail health. The quality of hair, skin, and nails directly reflects the quality of a person’s nutrition and their ability to absorb and digest nutrients. Specific traits of the nails or hair can sometimes reveal the digestion problem, but more often than not these signs are not diagnostic in themselves.
A Food Sensitivity Test is highly recommended for people experiencing symptoms of poor digestion.
Malabsorption syndrome is the inability to absorb nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream.
Causes of this syndrome may include:
- Diseases affecting the intestine itself, such as celiac disease.
- Absence or low levels of certain digestive enzymes.
- Diseases of the pancreas, such as chronic pancreatitis or cystic fibrosis.
- Diseases caused by parasites, such as giardiasis or worms.
- Changes in the bacteria normally found in the intestinal tract.
- Surgery (such as removal of the gallbladder) that alters or reduces the length of the intestinal tract.
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Symptoms may include:
- Gas, bloating, and vague abdominal discomfort.
- Frequent diarrhea and foul-smelling stools.
- Weight loss.