Gut Imbalances

Gut– The human gastrointestinal tract is an amazing organ.  It has an incredible absorptive and digestive capacity with a surface area equivalent to the size of a football field.  A healthy intestinal tract is vital to our overall health.   Normally it is lined with over 3 trillion beneficial bacteria.  These beneficial bacteria have many health-protective effects in the GI tract and are crucial to our overall health.  Some of the benefits of adequate good bacteria include vitamin synthesis, maintaining a healthy pH, digesting proteins and carbohydrates, and synthesizing anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory compounds.  The beneficial bacteria also manufacture essential fatty acids, boost the immune system, and break down bacterial toxins.   By maintaining a healthy pH, the good bacteria prevent overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast.

People who have used antibiotics, have been under significant stress, or have been treated with traditional medications for stomach and intestinal problems often have low beneficial bacterial counts.  They may present with chronic symptoms such as delayed gastric emptying, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, gas, chronic fatigue, headaches, autoimmune diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis), and sensitivities to a variety of foods.

Yeast–  Many factors can lead to an overgrowth of yeast including frequent use of antibiotics (leading to insufficient beneficial bacteria), synthetic corticosteroids,  birth control pills, and diets high in sugar.   Although there is a wide range of symptoms which can result from intestinal yeast overgrowth, some of the most common symptoms include brain fog, fatigue, recurring vaginal or bladder infections, sensitivity to smells (perfumes, chemicals, environment), mood swings/depression, sugar and carbohydrate cravings, gas/bloating, and constipation or loose stools.

Q:  Can I be checked to see if I have enough good bacteria?  Can I be checked for bad bacteria?  What about yeast?

A:  Yes, yes, and yes.   One of the best tests available today in our opinion is the Comprehensive Stool Analysis offered by Drs. Data.  This test not only answers all three of the above questions with extensive explanations, it gives much more information.  If, for example there are harmful bacteria that culture, Drs. Data will automatically perform sensitivity testing on each strain of bacteria and/or yeast.   What this means is we now know what we can use to treat it.  They will test each strain for susceptibility to natural compounds  and medications.   Many bacteria and yeast are developing resistance to traditional antibiotics and antifungals, as well as resistance to natural and herbal treatments.  Knowing what agents will still kill the harmful yeast or bacteria in your body is extremely helpful.

Q:  Can you check if I am digesting my food properly?  Can you see if I am absorbing what I am eating?

A:  Yes.  Drs. Data’s Comprehensive Stool Analysis evaluates digestion and absorption of fat, carbohydrate,  protein, and vegetable, and measures four markers of inflammation.  This can help differentiate inflammatory bowel disease from irritable bowel syndrome and monitor inflammation levels during active and remission phases of IBD.

In addition to the above markers, we test for various other intestinal health markers, immune function, and short chain fatty acid breakdown.   Treatments for imbalances in the gastrointestinal tract are actually very straightforward, well tolerated, inexpensive, and very effective.   If there are bad bacteria, we may use one or more herbal treatments based on what the test shows.  If there are yeast we may use an herbal antifungal, often concomitantly with an actual prescription, depending on the severity.  We also will treat the intestinal lining with several natural agents including L-glutamine which helps to restore a healthy intestinal wall, giving the good bacteria a stable environment to promote its regrowth.  We also may test for which foods are causing inflammation and have you avoid them for a period of 3-6 months to help calm down the inflammatory process.  Remember the GI system is intimately enmeshed with the immune system and is the size of a football field.  If you have a football field sized, potentially inflammatory organ, and it becomes irritated, you are going to know it.  The symptoms and the resulting problems with the rest of the body are literally endless.  Therefore, we strongly advise any of our patients with GI complaints, autoimmune complaints, achiness, or rashes, to have a digestive stool analysis as part of their comprehensive work-up.

As an aside, low level chronic inflammation is gaining more and more interest from the medical research community as a possible cause or aggravating factor in heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.   We will surely be hearing more about this in the near future.

TGA- or Tubless Gastric Bypass is another helpful tool when it comes to assessing and treating gastrointestinal problems.  We have the ability to accurately and immediately assess whether you are producing too much stomach acid or too little.  People incorrectly assume that if they have a stomach problem it is because of too much acid.  Many times it is just the opposite.  If you already lack stomach acid and you are prescribed Nexium, Prilosec,  or some other acid reducer,  you will make the problem worse, not better.  Sometimes the problem is a hidden infection.  You may end up with delayed stomach emptying and protein putrefaction which might feel like reflux but is a different problem all together.   TGA is a great way to easily, accurately, and quickly assess what’s going on in the stomach.