Digestive Disorders

 
Coping with chronic digestive disorders can be frustrating and negatively impact a person's quality of life in a profound way. Not only that but digestive disorders can affect the health of the rest of the body.
 
It's a fact: we are what we eat and absorb. Our stomach and intestines provide nutrition for every cell in our body and play a critical role in our immune system. As any person who has dealt with chronic digestive problems can tell you, a sick digestive system cannot do its job digestive problems often cause poor absorption of the nutrients our bodies need to maintain good health. The resulting nutritional deficiencies contribute to an increased risk of chronic disease. Resolving GI problems does not just improve your immediate quality of life by eliminating unpleasant symptoms it can also promote long-term health.
 
Many Americans struggle with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and acid reflux on a daily basis. They are tied to long-term medication, refusing to abandon it in fear of the symptoms returning, all the while neglecting the underlying cause of the disorder. Many people feel they have no choice: they would rather take medication every day than have the awful symptoms associated with IBS and acid reflux.
 
But did you know that holistic medicine has been treating digestive disorders naturally for thousands of years? All in a manner that addresses the whole body and the underlying conditions, using medication only as needed, not as a catch-all. Let us address two of the most common complaints: indigestion and IBS.
 
 

Acid Reflux and Indigestion

 
Acid reflux and indigestion occur when the stomach does not empty its contents normally and stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, causing burning pain and nausea. If you have suffered from this, the normal treatment is an acid reducer, which can quickly alleviate symptoms. But did you know that indigestion can be caused by conditions such as dysbiosis, hypochlorhydria, gastro-esophageal reflux, and lactose intolerance? In these conditions, an acid reducer may not be the best answer.
 
Let's break down a couple of these big words.
 
Dysbiosis is an imbalance of intestinal flora. We have trillions of bacteria in our gut, most of which are beneficial and perform important functions. In dysbiosis, basically the bad bugs or bacteria in your intestines overwhelm the good bugs (probiotics). When some of the probiotics are killed, the bad bugs can overgrow (such as H. Pylori) and produce toxins which can results in damage to the thin lining of the stomach wall. This can be treated by supplementation of probiotics such as lactobacillus.
 
Hypochlorhydria is a condition where the amount of stomach acid is too low or not acidic enough. Stomach acid normally breaks down food, helps with absorption of calcium and iron and controls the growth of bad bugs. When there isn't enough, food ferments in the stomach causing bloating, vitamin deficiencies, and multiple food allergies. Hypochlorhydria can be caused by stress and anxiety, overuse of antacids, excess sugar, overeating or nutrient deficiencies, and is treated accordingly under the supervision of an integrative physician.
 
Both of these conditions result in indigestion, but as you can see, acid blocking medication may not be the final answer.
 
 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

 
Irritable bowel syndrome affects millions of Americans, diagnosed in as many as 20% of the adult population. IBS is characterized by abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and altered bowel function (diarrhea, constipation, or both). All this happens with no apparent structural defect to the intestine. It is so widespread and difficult to control that many doctors have thrown up their hands trying to manage this disease.
 
Fortunately, there are effective holistic approaches to manage IBS. Dietary management includes increasing fruit and vegetable based fiber and eliminating allergic foods and refined sugar. Studies have shown that two thirds of people with IBS have at least one food intolerance, the most common being diary and gluten. Supplements, such as partially hydrolyzed guar gum, probiotics , L-tryptophan, and peppermint oil have been shown to be beneficial.
 
Irritable bowel syndrome also has a psychological component: stress can stimulate colon spasms in people with IBS. An integrative approach would include stress management with yoga, adequate sleep, and addressing any adrenal or other hormonal concerns.
 
The cause of a digestive abnormality can be difficult to elucidate, and can require a multifaceted approach. An integrative practitioner can work with you to help you cope with a chronic digestive disorder and take steps to support healthy gastrointestinal function.
 
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