Beach Metro Community News
As healthcare practitioners, some of the most common conditions we encounter are digestive disorders. Digestive complaints account for over 40% of patient visits to medical doctors every year. In my practice, I would estimate that 80 to 85% of my patients have some degree of digestive distress, ranging from gas, bloating, and mild constipation, to more serious conditions such as Leaky Gut Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease, or Ulcerative Colitis. Research has indicated that one in four Canadians is affected in his or her day-to-day functioning because of digestive problems. This is significant, in light of the fact that the root of many other illnesses (e.g. allergies, auto-immune disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis and other inflammatory disorders) can also be attributed to a dysfunctional digestive system.
One man’s food is another man’s poison
One of the main causes of digestive problems is food sensitivities, which often go undiagnosed, since conventional allergy tests do not pick these up. A specialized blood test which can identify IgG-mediated (delayed) food reactions will be able to determine whether or not one has food sensitivities that they are not aware of and which may be contributing to their symptoms. Even foods which may seem to be healthy, such as certain nuts, beans, grains or vegetables, may be harmful to someone who consumes them without knowing that they have an intolerance to these foods. Eating problematic foods can lead to inflammation of the digestive tract, which can then contribute to symptoms such as digestive discomfort, migraines/headaches, itchiness, mood swings, sinus congestion, joint and muscle pain, and poor memory and concentration.
Eradicate those bugs
In dealing with digestive disorders, we must also rule out any infectious agents, such as parasites, protozoa, bacteria or yeast which may contribute to symptoms such as diarrhea, gas, bloating and abdominal cramps. An individual can be infected with these microorganisms, even if he/she has not travelled abroad or consumed any exotic foods. Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA) tests can help to identify these pathogens, as well as any compromise in the intestinal tract. If remained undiagnosed and untreated, these tiny microorganisms can wreak great havoc on our systems over time, not only affecting the digestive system, but also potentially compromising the immune system, nervous system, and even the hormonal system.
Stress and emotional factors
Stress, lifestyle habits, and mental/emotional factors can also aggravate digestive problems. Have you ever had stomach cramps/diarrhea before a stressful event or constipation when under prolonged stress? This clearly indicates that stress can directly affect the digestive system. Implementing stress management techniques such as exercise, deep breathing, meditation, Qi gong/Tai chi, massage therapy can be very beneficial for those whose bodies react unfavourably to stress. Certain vitamins, minerals, and herbs can also help to replenish nutrients lost through stress.
Proper elimination is essential
We all encounter toxins every day from many different sources (food, water, air/environment, etc.) and one of the main ways we excrete these toxins is through our bowels. A normally functioning digestive system is essential for optimal health. Problems such as chronic constipation (infrequent or hard stools) should not be taken lightly. If we do not eliminate toxins properly through our bowels, these toxins can accumulate in our bodies and circulate throughout our system, creating more serious problems in the long run. Constipation can be due to many causes, including food sensitivities, lack of fibre, water, and/or exercise, hormonal imbalances, stress or certain medications.
Identify and treat the cause
As with treating any other condition, the role of the naturopathic doctor is to identify the cause of the illness and to use treatments such as nutritional counselling, acupuncture, lifestyle counselling, botanical medicine and homeopathy to bring about healing in the patient. Due to the fact that digestive dysfunction can be the underlying cause of many chronic diseases, it is important to address any digestive issues as they arise, before they turn into more serious conditions.
Note: This article is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace proper diagnosis and treatment by a qualified healthcare professional.