If you’ve found this page, chances are you’re experiencing common symptoms of gut health problems like constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, flatulence or nausea.
You may even have been diagnosed with a condition like Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis or Diverticulitis. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is also common. You may have been prescribed some heavy duty drugs to stop the pain. And you’re wondering if there could be a different solution than taking drugs, possibly for the rest of your life and risking known side-effects and complications, like stomach ulcers, nausea, vomiting and lowered immunity (see page 13-14 of this brochure from the Crohns and Colitis Foundation for a useful summary of medications and side-effects) .
We’re here to tell you that yes, there is another way that many people choose, and it DOESN’T involve taking medication for the rest of their lives.
If you’re concerned you are currently only suppressing your symptoms rather than fixing the root cause, then keep reading. I’ve been treating clients with gut health problems for over 25 years, both for minor digestive problems and for full-blown auto-immune conditions like Crohn’s disease. In fact, gut pain and discomfort is the second most common reason people seek my help.
Why Naturopaths believe gut health is the key to all-over health
Our clinic has a special focus on stomach and bowel health, because we know that the key to the body’s health is good absorption of nutrients and good elimination of wastes. Our bodies need key nutrients to heal, and if our digestion isn’t working properly, our body can’t get what it needs and finding long-term relief becomes an uphill battle.
Recent research proves a strong connection between the brain and the stomach. Did you know that your gut contains over 100 million neurons?! And it has its very own nervous system (the enteric system). Maintaining a healthy gut is absolutely crucial to having a healthy body and mind.
Furthermore, between 70 to 80 percent of your body’s immune cells are located in your gut! This has huge implications for auto-immune diseases such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. Although antibiotics and other pharmaceutical medications may provide some relief, they do not necessarily address the cause of the problem. It is well-accepted now that antibiotics damage the microbiome, the vast community of intestinal bacteria that we now know impacts the health of the entire body, including the immune system.
Whether your symptoms are diarrhea, constipation, bloating, flatulence, nausea or incontinence, we look for the underlying cause of your digestive issues.
Our starting point for treating any state of ill-health is to look for what caused the ill-health to occur in the first place. This does not mean we diagnose you with a particular condition – rather, it means we use a range of non-invasive testing procedures to analyse the nature and location of the imbalances and deficiencies in the body, as well as any toxins that may be impacting health. From a naturopathic perspective, these imbalances, deficiencies and toxins are usually at the root of most health conditions. We believe that rather than simply treating symptoms, we in fact need to correct these root causes so that the body can truly begin to heal.
Digestion takes place from the top down, and so when looking at healing the digestion, we follow the same path. This is because each stage of digestion depends upon the efficacy of the one before it, so if one link in the chain is less than optimal, all subsequent processes will be compromised. Come with us on a journey through your digestive process!
“Mmmm…. that smells good!” Digestion starts with your nose!
The first part of digestion is the Central Nervous System, where you smell food and it triggers a nervous response to stimulate saliva and gastric secretions. If there is stress occurring, this can inhibit the body’s ability to produce the hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes it needs.
In stressful situations, your body is designed to pump all its energy into the muscles and heart so you can run from sabre-toothed tigers or fight to protect yourself and your loved ones. In such situations your digestive system is temporarily put on hold so that your body’s energy can be channeled into fight or flight. Nowdays, of course, we no longer need to fear becoming a tiger’s lunch, however our fast-paced twenty-first century lifestyle means that many of us are placed under a constant low-grade stress. If you are such a person, your digestive system as a whole can suffer, starting with your ability to anticipate a meal through appreciating its aroma. If we don’t help the body cope with the stress it’s suffering, then hydrochloric acid and enzyme production is compromised and we can never permanently heal other digestive dysfunctions.
Chew, chew, chew…
The second stage of digestion is mastication – that is, chewing our food and generating sufficient saliva. Food begins to be broken down during this stage, and if there is a problem in this area then your stomach is put under unnecessary stress, as it needs to work harder. We find that often people are in such a rush now days they don’t chew their food well, therefore inhibiting this second stage of digestion. Also, sometimes people can have a lack of enzymes in their saliva due to nutritional deficiencies, endocrine dysfunctions or stressed salivary glands. Additionally, one of the main digestive enzymes requires an alkaline environment to function, so the pH of the saliva needs to be within a particular range when your appetite has been stimulated.
An acid bath in your stomach comes next
The third stage of digestion occurs in the stomach. Your stomach’s main job is to break down proteins, soften and disinfect the food. Your stomach has a high hydrochloric acid content, and also pepsin content (which is activated through hydrochloric acid). If the hydrochloric acid has become weak then your body isn’t softening food properly, you’re not breaking down the proteins your body needs to heal and repair itself, and you’re more likely to get bad bacteria and parasites taking hold. Optimum hydrochloric acid levels are therefore key, and they begin with smelling and anticipating your meal and proper mastication. We have certain tests to find out the hydrochloric acid levels in your stomach.
One of the most common bacterium that causes many problems in the upper digestive tract is Helicobacter Pylori. This is an infection and so it causes an immune response. Unfortunately, the infection often lodges in the lower part of the stomach and so the immune system has trouble getting to it, because the hydrochloric acid in the stomach kills the white blood cells, which have been sent by the immune system to kill the Helicobacter Pylori. In itself, this can cause major problems as when your immune system is on alert, it’s more likely to overreact to other things – therefore you may also find you have allergy symptoms. An inflammatory response in the stomach is also common, and this can ultimately turn into ulceration. We can test for the presence of Helicobacter Pylori.
Fungal infections are also more prone to occur if the hydrochloric acid is deficient, because the hydrochloric acid kills any fungus in your food before it gets to your digestive tract. One of the most common infections is Candida Albicans overgrowth, which can cause a range of digestive symptoms as well as blood sugar imbalances.
Tests we can use to assess this stage of digestion are:
- Hydrochloric Acid Challenge
- Hydrochloric Acid String Test
- Urinary Sediment Test (Uric Acid) – tests for protein metabolism
- Helicobacter Pylori Test
- Microscopic Blood Analysis
The dynamic duodenum
The fourth stage of digestion occurs in the duodenum. In the duodenum, the pancreas secretes enzymes to digest carbohydrates and sugars. This needs an alkaline environment to occur. To create this environment your body secretes bicarbonate soda, which is highly alkalizing, into the duodenum. It will only do this sufficiently if there is enough hydrochloric acid coming out of your stomach to trigger this event to occur. If this is not occurring and the environment is not sufficiently alkaline, there is additional stress on your pancreas to try to break down these carbohydrates and sugars.
Another process that occurs in the duodenum is the breaking down of fats by bile, which is secreted by the gall bladder. If your gall bladder has blockages or is inhibited in this secretion, you will not have proper fat metabolism. If you do not have proper fat metabolism your body cannot heal and rejuvenate the mucus membranes in your body, because one of their major components of these membranes is fatty acids. Also, if your ability to metabolise fats is compromised and you’re taking an essential fatty acid supplement, then you may as well be flushing it down the toilet! We have certain tests to see how well the gall bladder and pancreas are working, such as a Urinary Sediment Test (Calcium Phosphate) which tests for pancreatic deficiencies and a Urinary Sediment Test (Calcium Oxalate) which tests for fat metabolism.
Bacteriological warfare in your small intestine
The fifth stage of digestion is the breakdown of nutrients through bacteria in the small intestine. The bacteria continues the digestive process and also produces certain vitamins that your body needs. If, at this stage, you have food particles that have not yet been properly broken down because the upper digestive system isn’t working properly, then the environment in the small intestine changes, and you become prone to having an imbalance in bacteria. This is where the so-called ‘bad’ bacteria starts taking over and is called ‘dysbiosis’.
Another risk is that bacteria from contaminated food is more likely to get into the small intestine if the hydrochloric acid is not disinfecting the food as effectively as it should.
When dysbiosis occurs, the ‘bad’ bacteria produces toxins which are absorbed into the bloodstream, and this in turn can cause a range of other problems in your body. These toxins get metabolized by the liver and excreted by the kidneys, and we can test for the presence of these toxins in a urine sample. Also, this bacteria can cause inflammation to the small intestines and ultimately the large intestines, which inhibits the absorption of nutrients and thins the lining of the intestinal wall. This can then result in hyperpermeability (‘Leaky Gut’). This hyperpermeability allows undigested food particles in the small intestines to pass into the blood, and waste particles from the large intestines to pass into the blood. A whole gamut of problems can subsequently occur. We have certain tests to see whether hyperpermeability is occurring and to see what effects it is having on the body. In this case, taking probiotics may help the condition, but it will not fix it unless you fix the initial problems such as stress, low hydrochloric acid etc.
Tests we use to assess this stage of the digestive process are
- Gut Toxicity Test
- Microscopic Blood Analysis
- Specific blood marker tests
In summary, the key for permanent healing in the digestive system is to know exactly where an what the imbalances are, and the only way we can possibly do this is through our comprehensive testing procedures, and by treating from the top to the bottom of the digestive process. Only through doing this can identify the underlying problems and properly treat Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) like Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, as well as conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Diverticulitis.
I sincerely hope this has given you some insight into your digestive condition.
If you’d like to undergo professional treatment for your digestive issues, please contact us or book online today (see the links below).
Finally, please be aware that despite many successes with past clients I can’t guarantee success with every client (no health practitioner can). Nevertheless, I am confident enough to offer a First Visit Guarantee, where we give YOU $30 (in addition to refunding you the full cost of our services to you) if you’re not satisfied with your first appointment. Full details are below.
Naturopath & Chinese Medicine Practitioner