Digestive disorders have become increasingly common as our food supply has become more adulterated with antibiotics and other chemicals that both disrupt the microbiome and stimulate the immune system. This can set up hormone imbalance, immune disorders, chronic inflammation and musculoskeletal degeneration as well as digestive symptoms. Conventional approaches to managing digestive disorders largely revolve around suppressing symptoms such as acid suppressive medicines and laxatives or anti-spasmodic medications. Though this approach can quell the symptoms, the underlying cause continues to cause problems in the body that are then left untreated. 80% of the immune system is in the digestive tract. The immune system is the inflammation system. When we talk about chronic inflammation in the body it is largely due to chronic immune stimulation happening in the digestive tract. When the digestive tract itself becomes inflamed, malabsorption of nutrition ensues and patients not only have chronic inflammation but they also develop nutritional deficiencies that make the underlying condition more difficult to resolve. With increasing recognition of the importance of the microbiome and digestive health there has been a surge of paraprofessionals (health coaches, Acupuncturists, Chiropractors, nutritionists, etc) rushing into the field to attempt to interpret stool tests and order food sensitivity tests that may have high rates of false positive and false negatives. Starting this process and not seeing results can be dejecting but it may be that the wrong tests were ordered, wrong interpretation and treatment protocol were used or that there is simply more to the digestive condition than the digestive system. Diagnosing and treating digestive disorders involves a robust approach that integrates deeper analyses of the microbiome (organisms living in the digestive tract) and specific validated food sensitivity tests with the larger picture of hormone balance, nutritional status and other confounding medical conditions. This requires a complete understanding of human health that only a D.O., N.D., or M.D. has the training to be able to do. Examples of the necessity for the a complete understanding of the interrelationship of integrative and conventional medicine include the following: Zinc or vitamin A deficiency can prevent the immune system from clearing chronic infections of the digestive tract no matter how many herbs or antibiotics practitioners will use to treat these conditions.
Fatty acid deficiency may be part of the body’s inability to repair the lining of the gut or produce immune cells necessary to clear chronic infections.
Hypothyroidism can be the reason why the patient has impaired gut motility causing stagnation and overgrowth of the wrong strains of bacteria. Understanding both conventional and integrative treatments for hypothyroidism can be essential in some cases.
Testosterone or Estrogen deficiency can cause excessive catabolic hormones like Cortisol to dominate the landscape of the body, which will suppress the immune system and disrupt the microbiome.
Medications used like over the counter anti-inflammatory medicines or other prescriptions medicines can be the main cause of leaky gut. Knowing other validated options for treating the conditions that a patient is using these medicines for requires a medical degree in most cases. Identifying these medicines and medical conditions and their relationship to digestive disorders requires an understanding that can only be obtained by training and experience practicing conventional medicine.
Looking deeper that environment a patient is living in can be essential to solving some digestive disorders. Understanding how environmental mold exposure from leaky pipes in the apartment above the patient’s bathroom may play into an array of digestive and other medical symptoms and how to best address this takes experience in Environmental Medicine.
Sleep apnea may be the primary cause of chronic stress causing a propensity for food sensitivities or imbalances of the microbiome. Treating these conditions can take a multifactorial approach that may require understanding when to refer to a dentist specializing in TMJ or an ENT specializing in sleep apnea.
Taking a thorough history and understanding the patient’s complete medical history and how that relates to their digestive disorders can be essential to making an effective and lasting intervention. At the San Francisco Institute for Integrative and Regenerative Medicine, we integrate cutting edge diagnostics tests, integrative treatment protocols and a robust understanding of 21st century modern medicine in order to provide complete approach and achieve optimal outcomes. Book an appointment today to learn more about how this approach can help you achieve better digestive and immune health.