Scientific research increasingly reveals the importance of the digestive system to our overall wellness. While it is not surprising that people with digestive symptoms can be helped by focusing on restoring gut health, it is becoming clear that digestive disorders may underlie many other chronic conditions that could be diagnosed with natural digestive treatment.
The core roles of the digestive system are to:
- Protect the body from ingested toxins
- Absorb the nutrients that are essential to the body’s core physiological functions
- Eliminate toxins generated by our own metabolism or by excessive exposure
When this system is not working well, immune, energy, mood, pain and detoxification problems often manifest.
Some common digestive issues include:
Dysbiosis: the gut’s microbial ecology is easily imbalanced by poor eating habits, alcohol, stress and certain medications, especially antibiotics and antacids. The resulting overgrowth of ‘bad bugs’ (fungi and bacteria) in the intestine creates a cascade of negatives for the body, including loss of nutrients produced by the ‘good bugs’ that are part of a healthy gut and accumulation of toxins that are the byproducts of the life cycle of the ‘bad bugs’. Additionally, nutritional deficiencies develop when these organisms get “first dibs” on dietary nutrients. Iron appears to be a common example.
Leaky Gut: a breakdown in the perfect filter that usually characterizes the lining of the intestine causes the inappropriate absorption of large protein molecules. This usually elicits an immune response that can cause many symptoms.
Inadequate Digestive Products: low levels of stomach acid are not uncommon, even in individuals having symptoms of heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux. The pancreas or liver may produce inadequate amounts of bile or pancreatic enzymes and thus certain foods are inadequately digested – leading to nutrient malabsorption.
Poor Nutrition: highly processed foods and low levels of certain minerals and vitamins in some commercial foods may combine with extra high requirements (caused by stress and toxin exposure) to limit the body’s ability to cope with what would otherwise be a time-limited illness. The result may be chronic conditions that have no “diagnosis”, such as symptoms of fatigue or chronic pains or mood disorders.
Inflammation: both leaky gut and dysbiosis can result in increased activity of the GALT (gut-associated lymphoid tissue). The resultant swelling, edema, and inflammation may further impair the intestine’s ability to fight dysbiosis and absorb nutrients. These factors rarely occur in isolation. Gut repair and restoration of normal function often relies on a comprehensive and coherent plan to correct the specific combination of factors playing a role in each specific patient.
The digestive system is central to our wellbeing. It is important to listen to its complaints when they arise because the complaints are likely to be signaling that its primary purpose of digestion and absorption of nutrients and protection from (and elimination) of toxins is compromised. Long term compromise in these functions can have serious, even life threatening implications for your health.
Here is a list of issues that qualify as digestive system complaints: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, leaky gut, dysbiosis, SIBO or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth – an alteration of the normal bacterial flora of the digestive system, bloating – uncomfortable abdominal distension, chronic diarrhea, chronic constipation – associated with feelings of incomplete evacuation or frank discomfort, chronic abdominal discomfort and pain, nausea and loss of appetite, recurrent vomiting, sugar cravings, gastrointestinal reflux (GERD), painful and aching joints, autoimmune illness, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), disorders of mood including anxiety and depression, chronic unremitting inflammation, painful mouth and tongue, chronic sinusitis, food sensitivities and allergies, fatigue, chronic headaches, hemorrhoids, slow digestion – stomach won’t empty also called gastroparesis, frequent yeast infection, Candidiasis, painful bladder syndrome, Chronic Interstitial Cystitis (CIS), fibromyalgia, brain fog, recurrent hives or urticaria, undigested food in stool, and blood or mucous in stool, and skin rashes of a variety of types.
Digestive problems can compromise your ability to engage in a meaningful and joyful life. For many of you reading these pages, we don’t need to tell you how debilitating problems of the digestive system can be. Many of these symptoms cause intermittent and sometimes constant discomfort or pain that distracts and drains us of energy to be with our work and those we love. Some of our clients are limited in their ability to leave their homes. Over time these problems can lead to depression and loss of hope forever achieving a “normal life”. Sleep can be compromised and of course, sleep is when our bodies are refreshed, renewed, and restored. Loss of sleep then leads to a host of other issues. Our ability to exercise, make good choices for foods that are healthy for us, and to engage in the powerful healing activities of joyful relationships is undermined.
After years of being compromised in these many ways, there is a cascade of negative effects on our immune, energy production, and tissue repair systems that can have devastating effects on us. These can undermine our mobility and ability to protect ourselves from other harmful forces and put us at risk of early aging and the development of other life-threatening diseases including those affecting our mental alertness and cognitive abilities. There is abundant reason to believe these processes increase our risk for cancers, autoimmune illness, and the degenerative diseases.
How Do We Holistic Digestive Treatment to Diagnose These Problems?
Dr. Sharp has been on a quest for over forty-five years to explore the many approaches to understanding and healing core breakdowns in people’s health. The work of functional medicine and natural digestive treatment are to discover what’s going wrong. Conventional medicine is concerned with making a diagnosis and treating with pharmaceuticals – which often amount to only the treatment of symptoms and not root causes. Our approach with each person that comes to us for help is individualized. We begin with a comprehensive, in-depth medical history reviewing the evolution of each person’s illness. This allows us to recommend a number of diagnostic tests that are rarely performed in mainstream medicine and allow us to identify where the normal physiological processes of the body are breaking down. For individuals with sleep problems, the testing process includes in-depth biochemical and electrophysiological sleep studies at home.
We have built a team of professionals, including a functional medicine physician, a dietitian/nutritionist, a digestive doctor, and a stress resilience coach. Together and collaboratively, we seek first to understand and address the root causes of illness, including the use of nutraceuticals and botanical supplements rather than prescription medication. For many of our patients, past traumas are playing a role in persistent health problems. Our collective skill set includes help for resolving the impact of past traumas and releasing obstacles to healing.
We focus on the process of true healing. The holistic digestive treatment process means that address every lifestyle element that influences health:
- Diet and correcting nutrient deficiencies,
- Learning and practicing the skills of stress resilience,
- A rational and individualized plan for exercise and fresh air,
- Attention to healthy sleep,
- Elimination of toxins from our immediate environment and from our bodies.
Beyond understanding and addressing the roots of unwellness, we provide active support for building skills and habits for a healthy diet and stress-resilient lifestyles.
It is our mission to actively support and guide each client in building skills and habits for a healthy and sustainable life in the long run, free from the restrictions that poor health can impose on achieving our most cherished goals. Contact us for your digestive treatment today!