If you're reading this blog, you are already taking the steps you need to achieve intestinal (gut) health by cutting out grains and processed foods. Sadly, many people aren't aware of the brain:gut connection or that an unhealthy gut can adversely affect other areas of health. So I’ve asked my Naturopath, Dr. Melody Wong to guest post regarding gut health today. When I was in one of my worst flares, Dr. Wong helped me immensely by identifying trigger foods for me and placing me on a strict protocol of gut healing supplements and things to balance out my intestinal flora. Please welcome Dr. Wong to the blog today and feel free to leave any questions you have as she will be doing one more guest post as a Q&A. If you missed her introduction to Naturopathy last time, you can find it here.
Here are a few types of patients I commonly see in my practice. Do you identify with any one of them? If so, which one sounds like you?
Patient A: Frequent colds and flus : As a child – colds or ear infections came on one after another, causing many missed school days. As an adult- frequent colds turn into sinus infections leading to numerous antibiotic intakes
Patient B: Over worked, fatigue and exhausted : Career driven. Has long working hours. Doesn’t have time to cook. Eats out daily. Doesn't eat on time nor eats well. Possibility of having type A personality; a perfectionist who is frequently overly anxious and stressed out
Patient C: Food and environmental allergies : Has seasonal hayfever symptoms such as itchy eyes, nose, throat, or red watery puffy eyes. Reactive to common food items such as dairy and wheat. Symptoms can include indigestion after eating, abdominal pain, irregular bowel movements, etc.
Patient D: Difficult to concentrate and too tired to get through the day : Craves carbohydrates. Experiences Mind fog, fatigue, headaches, itchy rashes/eczema.
Patient E: Nervous Stomach : Colicky baby can’t seem to keep milk down and grows up looking pale with dark circles under the eyes. Any food intake doesn’t quite agree with the stomach. Irregular bowel movements. Never feels satiated nor has the appetite
What do all of these patients have in common? Whether these patients get ill frequently, are not taking care of themselves, have a history of all kinds of allergies, unresolved eczema, or stomach issues: most will end up having some kind of gastrointestinal (GI) conditions. All of which may include symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, belching, stomach aches, heartburn, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, etc. Now does this start to sound more familiar? Is this happening to you? If so, you may now wonder how symptoms from the immune, nervous, endocrine, respiratory, and skin (integumentary) systems, lead back to the digestive GI system. Or perhaps does it start from the gut?
It’s really hard to say which came first. But nonetheless, healing and treating the GI is my primary focus in many of these cases. The GI tract makes up about 60-70% of the immune system. Once the immune system is compromised, it starts a chain of reactions. Initially, the nervous and endocrine systems will be overworked producing too much cortisol (an adrenal hormone), and later will produce too little. Neurotransmitters (excitatory and inhibitory chemicals) become imbalanced and indirectly cause a nervous stomach. Under stress, the GI system can become inflamed causing leaky gut, indigestion, and malabsorption of nutrients. Since histamine is stored and released in the gut, over production of histamine can cause inflammation and allergy symptoms in the digestive, respiratory and the skin systems. With all of these overlapping symptoms, patients frequently will have more than one GI condition. Here is a list of common GI conditions and symptoms I see in my practice.
Besides listening to the patients for signs and symptoms, there are specific GI tests to differentiate between the types of GI conditions. Gastroenterologists would perform endoscopy and or colonoscopy to diagnose a patient for ulcers, IBS, IBD, or celiac disease, etc. Furthermore, the following lab tests are commonly done in a Naturopathic practice to provide possible causes and guidance to the appropriate treatments.
Conventional medicine typically will use pharmaceutical medications to manage the GI conditions some of which are antacid or H2 blockers for acid reflux or immunosuppressant for IBD. Naturopathic treatments that I would usually recommend, but not limited to, are the following:
There are a plethora of supplements available for GI support, but I have put together a list of the most common ones I use for my patients.
This is plenty of information to digest and absorb in one sitting. I hope breaking it down in a chart format will give you a clearer picture. Ultimately for the best outcome, you need to find, treat, and heal the underlying cause of your symptoms. It is important to not self diagnose and treat. The Internet is a wealth of information, however, too much information may be confusing or even conflicting. I highly recommend seeking professional care from a licensed practitioner where you can be diagnosed and treated appropriately. I will be coming back as a guest one more time to answer your questions in a Q&A format, so please feel free to leave them below in the comments section.
About Dr. Wong
Upon graduating from the renowned Naturopathic Medical School, Bastyr University, I returned to California and have been in practice for ten years. I believe the body has an innate ability to heal itself with the proper natural guidance. Most common conditions I treat in my practice are food and environmental allergies, gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, hormonal imbalances, and asthma/ eczema in pediatrics. Please refer to my website, www.banmc.com, for more information.