Digestive disorders have been given many names in Allopathic Medicine, but they all essentially relate to one thing: The Microbiome.
Your gut Microbiome is a collection of bacteria that live in your intestinal tract. Everyone has a combination of good bacteria and bad bacteria. The bacteria are no different than any other living being – they all are fighting for power and dominance. The group with the most power will set the stage for the health of your gut. One person may present with symptoms such as acid reflux, while another will experience IBS. Left untreated, these conditions can lead to more serious gut complications, such as Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s disease.
It’s important to note that your digestive tract houses 80% of your immune system, neurotransmitters that dictate your emotions and mood, and hormone receptor sites that regulate your endocrine system. Therefore, a poor gut environment does not just result in bloating or constipation, but can literally affect the most important systems in your body, and even your personality.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis are the most common forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Both are considered an autoimmune disease, meaning that your immune system mistakenly attacks cells in your own body that it considers a foreign invader. While Crohn’s and Colitis focus on different parts of the intestinal tract, they have very similar symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, weight loss, and fever. Less serious conditions, such as IBS and diverticulitis, can eventually lead to Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
Treating IBD starts with removing inflammatory foods and substances and stabilizing the gut. At the same time, we need to discover what the underlying condition is that caused these symptoms in the first place, find out where the imbalance is in the microbiome, and how this imbalance is affecting the rest of the body. This is a step-by-step process that involves lab testing, detoxing, as well as dietary and lifestyle changes.
Reflux, GERD, Ulcers
It’s important to understand that acid reflux is NOT a disease of too much acid being produced, but rather it’s a condition related more commonly to a hiatal hernia – a condition in which the acid is coming out of your stomach, where it’s supposed to remain. After food passes through your esophagus into your stomach, a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) closes, preventing food or acid to move back up. Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when the LES relaxes inappropriately, allowing acid from your stomach to flow up into your esophagus.
The use of antacids and proton pump inhibitors may relieve symptoms temporarily, but further aggravates the digestive tract in the long run. You need stomach acid, not only to break down your food, but to kill off pathogenic bacteria and parasites. Your stomach acid is your first line of defense against these invaders. Plus, hydrochloric acid (HCL) is responsible for breaking down your food. Failure to break down the food makes it near impossible for your small intestine to extract any of the nutrients. The more medication you use the less HCL you’ll produce.
With an environment lacking in stomach acid, the bacteria H Pylori can thrive. This bacteria is responsible for ulcers, as well as a tremendous amount of bloating. With the overgrowth of this bacteria, the microbiome is thrown completely out of balance and becomes a breeding ground for H Pylori, Parasites, and Candida. The result is more pressure on your digestive tract, causing a hiatal hernia, which increases acid reflux symptoms. Ulcers continue to form, and pathogenic bacteria flourishes, damaging the immune system, and leading to more serious digestive complications.
As you can see, this can turn into quite a mess! Can this be fixed? Yes! It’s a step-by-step process of detoxing the gut, addressing the hiatal hernia, rebuilding the proper stores of HCL, weaning off medication, and treating the bacteria overgrowth of the microbiome.
IBS is a rather generic label given to patients who have digestive complaints. Symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and cramping are all signs of IBS. What IBS really means is that your microbiome is housing different forms of pathogenic bacteria, which could range from candida to parasites, and everything in between. Therefore, treating IBS is really about addressing these underlying conditions through detoxification, as well as dietary and lifestyle changes.
Small pouches called diverticula can form anywhere there are weak spots in the lining of your digestive system, but they are most commonly found in the colon. When food doesn’t properly breakdown and move through your digestive tract, pieces of it can get stuck in these pockets and cause an infection. This causes the lining of the intestinal tract to become inflamed and can lead to symptoms such as bloating, cramping, abdominal pain, fever, and even bleeding. Unfortunately, the most common way to treat diverticulitis attacks is with antibiotics, which only exacerbates the issue in the long run, leading to more bacteria overgrowth in the microbiome. We like to take a different approach and address the underlying issue itself, which starts with addressing the microbiome and healing the intestinal lining.
Leaky gut syndrome (also referred to as increased intestinal permeability) is the result of a damaged intestinal lining. When your intestine becomes permeable, it means that there are tiny ruptures in the lining large enough for food molecules, bacteria, and toxins to “leak” out and pass into your blood stream. The particles that leak out are viewed as foreign invaders to your immune system and it goes into full on attack mode! This triggers an autoimmune inflammatory response where your body is literally attacking itself.
What makes the intestines permeable to begin with? Anything that is an irritant to the gut lining. The pesticides and chemicals that cover our food irritate the gut lining. GMO’s and processed food are foreign to our body and are difficult to digest and break down. Frequent antibiotic and steroid use has destroyed the good bacteria in the gut that promotes the integrity of the gut lining. An overgrowth of Candida, which feeds on sugar, creates porous openings in the lining of the intestines. Environmental toxins, such as mercury and BPA’s from plastic containers wreack havoc on our digestive system. And, of course, stress (who doesn’t have that) promotes a state of chronic inflammation.
Individuals experience the side effects of leaky gut in different ways. For many, there is gastrointestinal upset, bloating, IBS-like symptoms, food allergies, cramping, and inflammatory bowel disease. Another common reaction is a worsening of allergies, asthma, congestion, sinus problems, and headaches. Others can actually see their symptoms as they will break out into hives, develop a skin rash, or acne. It can even affect your mind, causing depression, ADHD, and anxiety. If leaky gut goes untreated for a longer period of time, more serious conditions can occur. Autoimmune diseases, such as MS, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, and psoriasis can all be the result of leaky gut. While there may be other contributing factors to the development of these conditions, leaky gut is a common component in all of them.
It’s safe to say that if you have any of the above conditions, you have leaky gut as well, which is why it is so important to address these issues and not just mitigate symptoms by taking a pill. As stated in the description, a poor gut environment can have a detrimental affect on the rest of the systems in your body. This is also why, before we treat any disease, we always have to start with addressing the gut. Healing digestive disorders is a matter of rebalancing the microbiome so that the good bacteria outweigh the bad. We suggest that everyone starts with a digestive cleanse. From there, we continue to detox the gut, eliminating candida, parasites, and other forms of pathogenic bacteria. Lifestyle and dietary habits are addressed to reduce inflammation and stress. Specialty products are given on a case by case basis to ease symptoms and strengthen the microbiome.
Genova GI Comprehensive
“Down 9 lbs, which wasn’t my goal. My goal is health.. I had Ulcerative Colitis, and now I don’t have that anymore. That pain is gone!” –Amy