Optimal Digestive Health
Optimal Digestive Health
With the fast paced lifestyle that we live it’s no wonder that gas and indigestion are commonly experienced symptoms. Certainly, fast foods and optimal digestive health are mutually incompatible. This is one good reason that many cultures do not consider fast food a reasonable dietary option. Recent surveys show that the average family is lucky to spend even one meal together. Dedicating 30 to 45 minutes to consume a leisurely meal with family or friends is a good place to start! The next area to consider is the food choices we make. Often the foods we crave or “comfort foods” are ones that we are actually sensitive to. Typically, symptoms that we have experienced most of our lives like indigestion, bloating, and sleepiness often are considered to the affected individual. Only when they are perceived to be more serious like diarrhea, constipation, or a rash do we seek a physician’s advice.
NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH
Years of consuming foods that we are sensitive to causes our digestive lining to get irritated and inflamed. With the destruction of our digestive lining larger particles of food and microorganisms pass freely into our body and activate our immune system. This now sets the stage for chronic inflammation and medical conditions such as gastritis, irritable bowel disease, colitis, and even cancer.
Our complex immune system has various ways to defend against foreign substances or antigens. Over the years various antigens have been discovered and given names like IgA (digestive lining), IgE (allergy symptoms), and IgG (sensitivity symptoms) each having unique actions. There are a number of ways to evaluate for food sensitivities. Historically, a skin test performed on the skin of your back called the RAST was done.
DIVIDING BETWEEN FRIEND & FOE
Two effective ways to evaluate for food sensitivities are a food IgG blood test and through a food elimination diet. The IgG food allergy test is the most widely used in nutritional circles because it is felt that the more delayed IgG reactions to foods are more closely related to patients symptoms. These delayed symptoms occur hours after eating such as tiredness, brain fog, hyperactivity, sinus congestion, and unrefreshed sleep making them harder to relate to food intake.
Food elimination and challenge testing is still the “gold standard” in evaluating food sensitivities, but is more cumbersome taking longer and needing patient participation. With a food elimination diet you first eliminate one food group at a time for a week to see if you are feeling better. Next, you reintroduce the food group back into your diet for 2 to 3 days to see if your symptoms are aggravated.
HEALING THE BURN
The best place to start for improving your digestive health is with a vegetable centered whole food diet while avoiding sugar and any foods you might be sensitive to. It is both aggressive in killing off and starving undesirable microorganisms as well as being hypo-allergic by avoiding all common foods that one might be sensitive to. This gives your gut that all-important time it needs to heal. Similarly with a sore on our skin, if we keep on picking and irritating it then it will never heal.
Good digestive supportive therapy that I consider are nutritional supplements containing Aloe Vera, Turmeric, or deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) to help reduce inflammation. A stool culture is another consideration especially for those with a chronic condition. Here we often see a combination of bacterial, fungal, and often parasitic organisms. We get our best diagnostic results using a lab that specializes in bacteriology. In these cases it is not unusual to prescribe an antibiotic, antifungal agent and/or anti-parasitic agent for 1-3 months to successfully eradicate the infection.
WHEN SHARING IS NOT SO GOOD AN IDEA
Chronic infections can be passed on to others that we live with especially with intimate contact. In such cases we will recommend that these individuals be treated also. Additional considerations are the use of rectal and/or IV Ozone therapy. Ozone therapy has proven quite effective on a wide range of infections whether viral, bacterial, fungal, or parasitic. My primary objective is to identify and remove any offending agents that degrade the digestive lining. A healthy and intact digestive lining allows optimal absorption of foods as well as acting as a primary defense against any microorganisms that we might be exposed to.
HOW STRUCTURE AFFECTS FUNCTION
For some people postural imbalances can be a primary problem. This can be caused by chronically poor posture or a trauma such as an auto accident, which causes a shock and sudden loss of breath. This then causes constriction of the diaphragm and postural muscles, which surround and support the esophagus and stomach. In fact, just under our diaphragm are 60% of our digestive organs: stomach, duodenum, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and the transverse colon. I have come to look at the diaphragm as having as much effect on digestion as with our breathing.
Fortunately, osteopathic myofascial therapy can significantly improve such postural imbalances including those caused decades earlier. Of course, longer and more complex problems can take several treatments before you see and feel improvements in function. One good example responsive to myofascial therapy is acid reflux or GERD where typically there is a history in the past of having an incident that “knocked the wind out of you.” I have found with patients having symptoms of GERD that after 6 treatments of myofascial therapy one is able to eliminate the use of their acid blockers.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
In the case of gastritis and acid reflux conditions, we want to reduce prescriptive medications as soon as possible since they interfere with optimal food absorption. The normal acid produced in our stomach helps kill any microorganisms present in or food breaks down protein, and helps assimilate minerals. Chronic use of acid blockers allows us to be more susceptible to GI infections, malnourished, and adds to dementia from vitamin B12 deficiency along with plaque accumulation in the brain.
In a similar way, acupuncture has been shown to help various digestive symptoms by optimizing blood, nerve, and meridian flow to the digestive system. I find that the best results are obtained when sensitive points are selected according to the patient’s condition. Some patients have even noted a change and reduction of food cravings as they undergo acupuncture treatment.
In conclusion, many factors should be considered with upper digestive problems. We might actually be sensitive to those very foods we crave, there could be an imbalance of microorganisms, and/or there may be long-term postural problems interfering with our digestive functioning. Health problems that last a month or more are NOT likely to resolve without medical intervention and the best medical intervention treats the cause NOT just the symptoms!
For what is life without good health?