By Dr. Jenna Dye, Naturopathic Physician
In naturopathic medicine, gut health is a primary focus. Bowel movements are discussed at every visit. Are they daily and well-formed? Is there constipation or diarrhea? Is there cramping, bloating or gas? These are all common symptoms that patients experience with a digestive disruption. It is healthy to have at least one well-formed bowel movement each day and it is not normal to experience discomfort.
Many patients have some sort of digestive symptom, and the goal is to identify the root cause, regulate bowel movements, eliminate discomfort, and support healthy digestion and absorption of nutrients. This is how we start.
Food is one of the most common causes of inflammation in the digestive system. We focus on the diet in detail to find any foods that could be aggravating the system. Common foods that upset the digestion are wheat, diary, and eggs as well as artificial sweeteners and other food additives. We can further investigate specific foods with a food sensitivity test, specifically IgG sensitivity testing. When we identify the foods that could be causing some upset, we can eliminate them for a certain period of time, heal the gut, and then try the foods again. Sometimes it just takes a little break from those aggravating foods to heal the gut. It is like wearing a shoe that causes a blister, you have to stop wearing the shoe for a little while, let it heal and then try the shoe on again.
Imbalanced Gut Flora
This can be a major cause of digestive symptoms. Our gut requires a harmonious balance of bacteria. Stress, food sensitivities, and other health conditions can all disrupt the flora and lead to a change in digestion. Prolonged or frequent use of antibiotics can also affect gut health and lead to yeast and/or bacterial overgrowth. It is important to support the gut during and after any antibiotic use to ensure that the good bacteria are replenished. We are able to identify any bacterial or yeast overgrowth with specific testing and then treat with proper probiotics and additional support that are tailored towards each patient.
Other Underlying Causes
Underlying illnesses and other conditions can also affect the digestive system. Thyroid disease can have a direct effect on the digestive system causing constipation or loose/frequent stools. Autoimmune disease such as inflammatory bowel disease can also cause a disruption in the digestion and lead to symptoms of gas, bloating, and irregular bowel movements. Stress levels play a huge role in the digestive system, so lifestyle changes are essential as well. Certain medications can also be a culprit and are investigated if symptoms arise. Those with skin conditions such as eczema typically improve with digestive support as well.
A complete history, physical, and appropriate testing will allow us to piece together all aspects that may be affecting your digestive health. Treatment is always individualized and tailored to your specific needs.
Dr. Jenna Dye is a licensed naturopathic physician. Her role is to support the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health. Together with her patients, this is achieved by identifying and removing barriers that may be impacting health while creating a healing environment. For more information visit drjennadye.com.