Love your gut
Your gut (GI system) plays an essential role in good health and comprises some interesting components. Imbalances in the digestive system can underpin issues felt in other parts of the body, including the nervous system, immune system, skin, hormones, blood pressure and kidney issues.
Trained to treat the whole person and address the root causes of symptoms, Naturopath’s excel at treating GI conditions.
Known as “the second brain” of the body, the lining of your GI system houses hundreds of millions of nerve cells that manage the digestive process from swallowing to nutrient absorption to effective elimination. Cells in the gut lining also produce 95 percent of the serotonin in our bodies. The lining also contains billions on beneficial (and sometimes not so beneficial bacteria) that play a role in regulating how we feel and how our bodies respond to the outside environment.
One of the roles of the GI system is that it acts as a communication centre to the brain. When we’re stressed, scared, or nervous, our brain notifies our gut, via the vagal nerve mainly, to shut down digestion until we are out of harms way. If the gut has been put into ‘background mode’ too many times, it can alter the bacteria in the gut and we may start to experience symptoms such as digestive complaints, wind, bloating, fatigue and inflammation. Many other symptoms can ensue as well.
Additionally, the gut lining houses more immune cells than the rest of the body, defending us against viruses and bacteria.
The health of this complex and essential body system relies on a combination of whole-body variables, including nutrient absorption, bacteria or microbiota (the body’s natural microorganisms) balance, enzyme function, tissue health, and elimination of waste.
The ultimate goal is to have a poo you are proud of. On the Bristol Stool chart, you should be a number 4, with no bloating, minimal wind and a bowel movement that leaves you feeling light as a feather and a smile on your face. This means that your bowel is functioning optimally.
Naturopaths assess whether the GI system is performing at a level of optimal function, essential function, or dysfunction. We can run comprehensive tests to help evaluate what is happening for a person’s digestive system and general health:
- A comprehensive health history. A good and comprehensive history is taken to gain information about physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. Having this history can help identify the impact on the GI system. This is a simple and effective way of looking at how food choices, or surgical history or other impacts can help to uncover an unrealized association or cause for your current health issues. Naturopaths can also perform a physical exam with the patient consent.
- Targeted labs test – blood and stool testing. Naturopaths have a wide array of tests and evaluation strategies to help determine what may be causing a health issue. Tests may include stool testing to look at the proportion of healthy beneficial bacteria to overgrowth of bacteria or disease-causing bacteria or yeasts. The stool test can also assess markers of inflammation, if you have blood in the stool, your pancreatic enzyme levels, and immune markers. We can also order tests for food intolerances/allergies, coeliac disease, hormone and inflammatory markers, nutritional deficiencies, diabetes indicators, liver function, heavy metal analysis and more. There is also the option to take salivary or urinary measurements of stress hormones, reproductive hormones, and others. If there is concern about a more serious underlying condition you may be referred to a medical practitioner to assess your health via endoscopy procedures or other diagnostic imaging work.
- All this will be discussed at your appointment.
PROBIOTICS TO HELP IMPROVE DEPRESSION AND IBS
Probiotics are now being tailored for many specific health conditions. For example, Psycho-biotics are probiotics that have an effect on the gut but also helps improve the Psyche of the person and help to lift mood and reduce anxiety.
So much research is being done on the gut and the microbiome. This is exciting news. As a Naturopath, the gut has been the underpinning principle of Naturopathic Medicine and how to frame good health. ‘Treat the gut and health will follow’ says one of the many Philosphers of the 18th century. However, in this complex world, we have plenty of things to activate and disrupt our delicate gut balance.
It is only in recent history that the existence of bowel microflora has been known by the medical world. With this new found knowledge came a wealth of research investigating and building on our ancient knowledge and practice of Naturopathic principles and how the gut impacts the function of all aspects of the body.
Along with diet, probiotics are now being researched and selected to help with a wide range of health conditions. It will become quite common over the next few years for people to take a probiotic to help with certain health conditions, particularly depression and IBS. However, a simple pill is not going to do all the work. We need to think about Pre-biotics and probiotics along with a healthy diet and lifestyle. As always, taking a pill does not get you across the line in many cases because the flood of food people are eating, or the life situations they are in, might outweigh the effect of the pill/probiotic. As clients and people we need to work in a whole health model to gain traction on our health issues.
However, in research papers such as the Journal of Gastroenterology certain probiotics showed a benefit in reducing depression and increasing quality of life for a good percentage of the people on the trial. ‘The improvements were associated with changes in brain activation patterns’, stated researchers. Previous studies have shown that certain probiotics improve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome but had not assessed their impact on the other symptoms of IBS such as depression and anxiety.
The strain of probiotic studied was Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001. While a diverse array of commensal bacteria is ideal for a healthy GIT microbiome, research shows that particular strains have specific actions in the body that aren’t replicated by another probiotic strain. When choosing a probiotic it is therefore important to check that the patented strain used in a study is noted on the bottle. Without the correct numbers after the name of the strain the consumer cannot be sure that they are actually receiving the strain written on the bottle.
There are a range of probiotics that can be used for various health issues. It is important to make sure you get the one that will suit you. Otherwise you could end up with more wind and bloating as the bacteria compete for space in the gut
Could Probiotics and prebiotics be part of what you need in a comprehensive, evidence-based naturopathic treatment plan for irritable bowel syndrome and mild depression and anxiety?
Phone to find out how we can help you or your family gut issues and look at detailed testing results to help you back to good health. Phone us now on – 9792 4248