Love your gut
Your gut (GI system) plays an essential role in your overall health. Often, imbalances in the digestive system 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 GI system 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, and we may experience abdominal symptoms.
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 minimal bloating, wind and a bowel movement that leaves you feeling light as a feather. This means that you are 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 to gain information about physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors, can help identify the impact on the GI system. Often, simply taking the time to sift through deeper details related to symptom onset, food choices, or surgical history can be enough to uncover an unrealized association or cause. Naturopaths can also perform a physical exam.
- Targeted labs and tests. Naturopaths have a distinctly large toolbox of evaluation strategies. Tests will be individualised, and may include: stool testing for healthy or disease causing bacteria, yeasts, markers of inflammation, blood, pancreatic enzyme levels, and immune markers. We can also order tests for food intolerances/allergies, coeliac antibodies, hormonal and inflammatory indicators, nutritional deficiencies, diabetes indicators, liver function, and more. There is also the option to take salivary or urinary measurements of stress hormones, toxins originating in the gut, reproductive hormones, and others. Concern for a more serious underlying condition may result in a referral for colonoscopy or other diagnostic imaging work.
- All this will be discussed at your appt
PROBIOTICS TO HELP IMPROVE DEPRESSION AND IBS
Probiotics are now being tailored for specific health conditions. For example, Psycho-biotics relate to probiotics that have an effect on the gut that helps improve the Psyche of the person
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 Naturopathic principle of Naturopathic Medicine, framing good health. Treat the gut and the health will follow. 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?
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