Some of them have been to their OB/GYN, general surgeon, gastroenterologist, family doc, pediatrician, etc and they still don't have an answer. Sometimes they get surgery to "see what's going on". Most of the time they have no idea what is causing their symptoms.
One patient started crying in my office the other day when talking about her pain was messing up her life.
However, it is far more common that people have some kind of 'gut problem' or impaired gut function and don't know it. Its fairly common in patients with fatigue, abdominal pain, gastroenteritis, insomnia, autoimmune disorders, and thyroid problems to name just a few.
When you understand what the gut lining is supposed to do then you begin to understand just how important optimal function really is!
Recall that the intestinal wall (gut) is a tube that extends from the mouth to the anus. Anything in the lumen (tube) of the intestine is technically outside the body until it is officially absorbed through the wall of the intestine. So, the intestinal wall is responsible for absorbing nutrients into the body.
There is also a bunch of stuff in the intestines (in the lumen) that needs to stay outside of the body and not get absorbed. You may already be aware that there are more bacteria in your intestines than there are cells in your entire body! Clearly, it would be a major problem if we absorbed these bacteria into our bodies.
The gut has the responsibility of getting good stuff (nutrients) in and keeping bad stuff out. That is a big job and it requires optimal gut health to ensure proper function. When this function is diminished the system begins to break down and we set ourselves up for problems such as those listed above.
Part of this normal function is the production of Secretory IgA (SIgA). This is an antibody that binds "bad stuff" so that it can be dealt with by the immune system. Adequate production of SIgA is dependent upon proper gut health. When SIgA is low it can be an indicator of poor gut health.
The functional (integrative) medicine approach to gut health centers around the 4 R's.
- Remove: most commonly, there is some insult to the gut lining. This insult is typically a result of a food intolerance, toxins, antigens, or infection. There are a number of common irritants and the Paleo Diet typically removes most of the common irritants. Thus, the very first thing to do is start a strict Paleo Diet for at least 30 days! Also, caffeine, refined & processed sugars and food, and alcohol can be irritants and we should eliminate these foods for 30 days as well.
- Repair: there is damage in the intestinal lining and we have to repair it. Intestinal cells turn-over (are replaced) frequently, like, every 4 days. They have a very high metabolic demand in order to carry out their functions properly as well as divide so rapidly. We want to make sure that we give them all of the nutrients they need. Therefore, I recommend the following supplements: aloe vera, quercitin, L-glutamine, tumeric, gamma linoleic acid (GLA), licorice root, and omega 3 fatty acids. You can get these supplements at most health food stores. However, I recommend MedCaps GI or GlutAloeMine.
- Restore: we need the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Unfortunately, over-use of antibiotics & the foods many people eat (fats & processed sugars) create a toxic soup of unhealthy bacteria that is detrimental to our health. In order to fix an unhealthy gut, we have to restore normal, healthy flora in it. That is where probiotics & prebiotics come in. Probiotics are the actual healthy bacteria such as Lactobacillus, Acidophilus, and Bifidobacteria. There is more information on these little guys below. Prebiotics are the foods that these bacteria eat such as fructooligosaccharides (FOS). MedCaps GI contains inulin, a prebiotic.
- Replace: another common cause of intestinal disruption is suboptimal digestive secretions (digestive enzymes, Hydrochloric Acid supplementation, bile salts). When these substances are insufficient or suboptimal our digestion is inadequate and inhibits absorption & utilization of nutrients. This leads to malabsorption and nutrient deficiency which is often manifested by symptoms of gas, bloating, fullness and diarrhea or constipation.
You can replace the healthy bacteria through a multitude of sources. Capsules, powders, Kefir, Kombucha, and fermented foods (such as sour kraut or Kimchi) are all good sources for these healthy bacteria. Kombucha & Kefir are symbiotic cultures of bacteria & yeast. I recommend probiotic supplementation with ProbioMax DF, ProbioMax Daily DF, or ProbioMax Plus DF.
- Paleo Diet - or other elimination diet to remove irritating substances
- Remove caffeine, processed sugars, alcohol
- Take supplements: MedCaps GI or GlutAloeMine.
- Take ProbioMax Daily DF, prebiotics
- Take digestive enzymes and/or HCl supplementation
Occasionally, there are some gut infections or issues that may require more drastic measures and these should be evaluated on a case by case basis by your doctor.
You can get your supplements from virtually any health food store or on the internet. However, I have given some recommendations based on quality, clinical trials, and cost. If you'd like to get your supplements from Xymogen then you'll need a physician code. Contact me for more information.