The Many Faces of Digestive Problems: How Naturopaths Can Help

At Synergetics Health and Wellness, I am visited by many patients experiencing different forms of digestive stress.  Your digestive system is the workhorse of the body.  It’s always on the job and has to process quite a bit in a day, from the food you eat to the alcohol you drink (if any) to the medicines you take (both over-the-counter and prescription). 

It’s important to keep your digestive system performing at its best, but for some people digestive problems just don’t seem to go away no matter what they do. 

According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, about 20% of the world’s population suffers from some sort of digestive disorder.  As people consume increasingly more processed foods, that number only seems to be going up.  

Fortunately, I am able to provide both long-term and short-term solutions to help my patients get their digestion back on track and feel better than ever!

The GI System (Gastro-Intestinal)

Like a lot of naturopaths, I think of the GI System as the body’s second brain. Much can be learned from paying attention to this vital system. It houses a complex array of organs that carry a very heavy workload.  

Our GI system consists of the colon, small intestine, large intestine, liver, gallbladder, pancreas and appendix. They’re necessary for digestion, absorption, immunity, and protection against foreign invaders such as parasites or bacteria or other microbes. Many of these microbes are utilized within the large intestine, but when they migrate out of the colon and into the upper gut, they find their way into the bloodstream, creating toxicity, inflammation and acidity..

The health of the GI system relies on proper enzymatic function, nutrient absorption, microbiota resources, tissue health and elimination of waste. 

There’s a lot going on.  When one or more of these areas is deficient, illness and disease can occur. While some GI illnesses are temporary or self-limiting and/or manageable with targeted nutrients or herbal remedies, others can require medical attention. 

The good news is that in my practice I am able to offer my patients treatments and remedies that help to mitigate GI issues without negative side effects of harsh pharmaceuticals.

Naturopaths work on digestive health differently than traditional medical doctors. We work to identify underlying challenges (root causes), such as leaky gut, hiatal hernia syndrome, food allergies, food combining, and more. We also address chronic stress and diet as factors that may be impacting the functioning of your digestive system. 

Leaky Gut

One of the ways a stressed digestive system will present itself is with what we refer to as a leaky gut.   When someone’s intestinal lining becomes inflamed, it can lead to increased permeability and leakage into the bloodstream.  This releases bacteria, food particles, undigested proteins, yeast, toxins and other substances that are normally confined to the colon into the bloodstream. 

There are several symptoms that could indicate a leaky gut.

  1. Burning in the stomach either with food or on an empty stomach.
  2. Diarrhea lasting more than a day or two.
  3. Frequent (possibly every meal) gas, bloating, belching.
  4. Fatigue immediately after eating. 
  5. Persistent abdominal pain. 

There are many things that can cause inflammation in the gut such as poor diet, excessive use of antibiotics or NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs), chronic infection with parasites or viruses, heavy metal toxicity and sensitivity to gluten or dairy, for instance.

That’s certainly a lot to take in but now that you’re aware of some of the symptoms and understand what a leaky gut is, you’ll be better equipped to notice what you may be experiencing and take appropriate steps early.  

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms I’ve mentioned here for several months with no improvement, a consultation at our office can help to determine whether or not leaky gut is to blame.

Hiatal Hernia

Any talk of digestive health must include the issue of hiatal hernias.

One cause of a hiatal hernia is an esophageal sphincter that is overly strong or weakly attached to your stomach. These weakenings can be brought on by obesity or pregnancy or even aging. Other causes can be due to poor digestion, causing inflammation of the stomach and pressure that can move part of the stomach upward into the ‘hiatus’ of the diaphragm. Another cause is dysfunction of a digestive valve in the lower right quadrant of the body. 

Most naturopaths work with hiatal hernia from a nutrient support point of view, however, that has limited benefit. I am one of the only people in Las Vegas who can correctly manipulate the organs involved in Hiatal Hernia Syndrome and teach the client how to more likely reduce the recurrence. 

Hiatal hernias are easily confused with heartburn but the naturopathic, holistic approach enables me to get the right diagnosis so I can offer the right treatment. They can however, CAUSE heartburn. We all want fast relief but in the case of hiatal hernias a holistic naturopathic approach is preferable to a quick trip to the drug store for a package of antacids, which do nothing but compromise the gut’s ability to effectively digest.

Eating to Heal the Digestive System

One of the common things I see with patients that present in my office with digestive distress is a history of experimenting with their diets in effort to find relief. It seems common sensical that we should be able to treat the digestive system with diet.  

But is that true?

The answer is yes and no. The intent with diet remediation is to reset the gut terrain, also known as the biome.  However, it’s important to restate that applying a treatment without first identifying a root cause may provide relief from symptoms while not addressing the underlying problem.  You can feel better without actually getting better, and it often doesn’t last.

That being said, a healthy gut environment provides an appropriate balance of organisms to regulate immune function, nutrient absorption, hormone production, digestion and metabolism. An imbalanced gut will create symptoms such as bloating, pain after eating food, fatigue or brain fog due to leaky gut syndrome.

Many people have found some relief by eating such foods as :

Fermented foods (live yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kefir, kimchi… not store bought versions).

Fresh, raw, organic almonds which have probiotic properties.

Olive oil. Microbes in the gut prefer a diet of fatty acids. Studies have shown that it reduces gut inflammation.

Peas. When the digestive system needs dietary fiber, the more high fiber and low glycemic fruits and vegetables one consumes, the better. That’s why peas, including soup, are so effective for digestive system imbalance, due to its high content of soluble and insoluble fiber.

If you are partial to garlic, you are in luck as it may help to balance bacteria or fungus in the digestive system.

Finally, ginger assists in the production of stomach acid and assists with movement of food through the digestive system.

At the end of the day, it’s important to listen to your body when it comes to digesting food. If you feel good when you eat beans but are sick afterwards then maybe your body doesn’t tolerate them well; not all foods are created equal!

The Final Word…

I encourage you to visit Synergetics Health and Wellness in Las Vegas if you are experiencing digestive distress. After a thorough consultation and examination, I’ll provide you with a treatment plan tailored to suit your specific needs and symptoms. The dietary changes may be complemented by botanical medicine therapy, homeopathy, energy healing therapies, or hydrotherapy treatments such as detoxifying baths and lymphatic drainage massage therapy. Long-term digestive distress is not necessary. For digestive wellness, contact us today.