“My Gut hurts and my Brain isn’t Working!”

My gut hurts and my Brain isn’t working!

 

Have you ever felt this way? Janine certainly knows what this is like! “ I have had chronic digestive issues since I was a little girl. And when things are especially bad I would forget simple words, and forget about remembering names! I am only in my mid-40’s! I can’t fathom what my memory and cognition will be like as I reach my 50’s and 60’s! I used to be really sharp, but now not so much! As my digestive issues have worsened, so has my brain! I also have severe mood swings now that I never used to have. I had my hormones checked and they are fine so it must be related to my digestion! Dr. Tara, can you help me?”

 

For many years I have noticed this brain and cognition connection in many if not most of my gut health patients.   I would do my usual work of identifying gut pathogens through stool samples and correcting the imbalance with the correct blend of probiotics. Other more mainstream scientists happily are also noticing this connection too!

 

“Scientists have also gathered evidence that gut bacteria can influence anxiety and depression. Stephen Collins, a gastroenterology researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, has found that strains of two bacteria, lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, reduce anxiety-like behavior in mice (scientists don’t call it “anxiety” because you can’t ask a mouse how it’s feeling). Humans also carry strains of these bacteria in their guts. In one study, he and his colleague collected gut bacteria from a strain of mice prone to anxious behavior, and then transplanted these microbes into another strain inclined to be calm. The result: The tranquil animals appeared to become anxious.” From The Atlantic (When Gut Bacteria Changes Brain Function)

Scientists at UCLA also did a study where they had a group of healthy women consume 1 cups of yogurt per day and the yogurt eaters had a calmer reaction to stimulatory images than non-yogurt eaters.

Why and which neurotransmitters are affected has yet to be determined through further scientific research, but I can definitively say that improving gut health will also improve brain health, and worsening gut health drives worsening psychiatric health as well as cognitive functioning

 

Functional medicine testing can really pinpoint the imbalance so that treatment can be specifically targeted to balance the gut microbiome which helps to insure that the body is producing enough of the right neurotransmitters for improved wellbeing.

 

Diet also plays a significant role in proper neurotransmitter production. A diet high in refined foods, preservatives, and for many people grains and especially gluten can contribute to brain fog. Dr. David Perlmutter, a reknowned neurologist’s book, Grain Brain, describes the staggering effects of carbs on the brain. Whole grains can cause dementia, ADHD, anxiety, chronic headaches, depression, and much more. This is super great news because this also means that getting certain health symptoms under control can happen through diet modifications rather than prescription medications! The removal of grains from the diet also is very helpful torwards reducing digestive issues such as cramping, bloating, and IBS!

 

Increased carbohydrate intake, especially grains and gluten, increases the amount of inflammation in the gut lining and the entire body. Increased inflammation also has a very strong effect on neurotransmitter levels.

Inflammation in the gut lining and in the body also correlates to brain inflammation. This can also increase such symptoms as brain fog, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and lack of mental clarity. So one of the first goals of any sort of protocol is to reduce inflammation in the entire body, and improved brain function usually follows suit once inflammation is dealt with.

 

Exposure to toxic chemicals also contributes to overall inflammation as well as brain fog and changes in neurochemicals. It is therefore important to limit exposure to environmental chemicals in your food and water. And if you live in an area where there is more environmental exposure, making sure your detoxification channels are open and functioning properly is also important!

So… in summary, heal the gut lining, balance the microbiome, make some dietary changes to lower carbs and grain intake, and make sure that you regularly avoid toxic chemicals and detoxify (sweating is the most effective least invasive method) when indicated. Regular physical exercise is very helpful to support detoxification.

Many if not most of my patients that I treat for chronic digestive issues also unwittingly improve their brain function and cognition as a nice useful “side effect” of adopting a healthier lifestyle and correcting any imbalances in the gut that may be occurring. Clarity of thought and emotional balance is a very nice desireable side-effect of living a healthy lifestyle and avoiding toxic exposures!

 

After working with me for several months, Janine noticed that her brain fog symptoms and cognition gradually improved as did her digestive issues! She was very pleased about this as was I ! We had gotten to the root of her chronic inflammation, her gut health, which was affecting her neurotransmitter balance as a side result. Her overall mood also improved as did chronic anhiness and joint pain.

 

If you have chronic digestive issues with or without associated brain fog, working with me one on one can really help to improve and restore your health. I offer a FREE 15 minute phone consult to see if we are a good fit for each other and a time when you get to ask me questions about my approach to healing. You can schedule this consult by calling (303) 443-2206 M-F 8:30-5PM Mountain time, or online using this link: https://intakeq.com/booking/NaURW8

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I hope to connect with you soon!

Running on Empty? Help for SIBO-D

SIBO-D

Barbara was very very sick. She was having bad diarrhea 10-15 times per day. She was feeling wiped out and isolated as she was too sick to go out. Working was nearly impossible as she could barely concentrate due to severe brain fog not to mention the multiple trips to the bathroom.  She had already taken 2 rounds of antibiotics with no change and this constant chronic diarrhea had been going on for months. She had already seen her doctor multiple times and there had been no change in her health , which was really sad because she actually liked her doctor. She was also suffering from intense bloating which made her look 6 months pregnant. “It feels like something is alive in there!” she told me as she cried in my office.

Chronic diarrhea is almost always caused by either an infectious agent, a chemical agent (chemotherapy)  or a reaction to foods. Her doctor had taken a stool sample but I thought that perhaps the test was not sensitive enough to detect the cause of her problem so I ordered another one from a reputable Functional Medicine Lab. With this particular test I would get a full genetic reading on Barbara’s microbiome (gut bacterial flora) as well as detecting any   fungal or parasitic infections. I also decided to run a SIBO breath test as well as a Food Allergy test, my usual testing trifecta. Before the test results were back, which would take weeks, I had her eliminate all grains and processed foods to see if that would offer temporary relief.

There are several possible causes for the chronic diarrhea. Crohn’s Disease, and autoimmune disorder of the GI tract may be a culprit, as well as untreated Celiac Disease. As well as a bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection.  She had never been tested for any of the autoimmune causes and had been actively consuming gluten so we decided to go ahead and test for Celiac disease too. Often certain foods are a major trigger.

While we were waiting for the test results she was finding some relief with the Paleo/GAPS diet. The bone broth was soothing and allowed Barbara to get some nutritionally dense and beneficial for gut healing food into her system. Her bowel frequency diminished and her stools began to be a bit more formed. She was thrilled!

Meanwhile Barbara’s SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) breath test came back positive. These tests measure Hydrogen produced by the bacteria as well as methane. Her Hydrogen levels were off the chart!   I then knew that we were dealing with a bacterial  overgrowth situation. We started her on a good protocol based upon the stool sample test results and her improvement was marked.

With SIBO-D the purpose of the initial phase of the protocol is to kill off the offending organism – whether it is a bacteria, fungus or parasite. This can take several weeks with an herbal protocol. Usually the patient notices improvement before that phase is complete. But it is very important not to stop there!  The second and third phases have to do with regulating the excessive motility and peristalsis of the gut as well as healing the nerves so that the movement of the colon is down and out through the rectum and anus and not “backwashing” up into the small intestine. When bacterial overgrowth occurs in the small intestine, you often get gas, bloating, fatigue, brain fog, and it can also exacerbate inflammation in the joints as well as other areas of the body.

Barbara found amazing relief with the protocol. The entire active phase of the protocol took about 6 months, even though she felt better within days. She is now on the maintenance part of the protocol where she eats a very low carb paleo and FODMAPS diet and uses specific herbs as needed.

If you have been suffering from chronic diarrhea or loose stools along with bloating and brain fog and have not yet found relief, and if you are interested in working with me one on one, I offer a FREE 15 minute phone consult to see if we are a good fit for each other. You can schedule that by calling my office M-F 8:30-5 Mountain Time at (303) 443-2206 or you can also schedule online at your convenience by clicking this link https://intakeq.com/booking/NaURW8

Be well and I look forward to connecting with you!

Constipation: Are You Clogged?

Jennifer was getting frustrated. No matter what she tried, she was only able to have a small hard bowel movement every 3-5 days which only offered a slight improvement in how she felt.  In between bowel movements she was horribly uncomfortable. She felt like her intestines were full of cement!    She tried various laxatives as well as changing her diet to no avail. The only thing that reliably cleaned out her colon was having periodic colonics (colon hydrotherapy).   But that was getting expensive and Jennifer couldn’t help but think that there was a better way for her move her bowels more naturally without an expensive treatment.

 

Constipation is a growing problem. There are many causes, including increased levels of stress and the Standard American Diet (SAD). The Standard American Diet is full of processed foods which contain little to no fiber. And stress stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. Our sympathetic nervous system evolved to help us run fast (fight or flight) to escape a predator, and when you are running from an attacking lion, there is no time to stop and poop, is there?   However most modern day stresses are psychological rather than escaping from an imminent danger. The problem is that our body creates an identical physiological response to outrunning a predator as it does trying to meet a deadline or commuting in traffic! So it is still difficult to poop! And with chronic stress, you will often have chronic constipation.

 

The intestines are a primary way the body processes and absorbs nutrients as well as eliminates waste products of metabolism.   When the bowels aren’t moving properly, the body incomplete in its detoxification of metabolic byproducts. Chronic constipation causes these toxic by-products to build up in the body. When toxic metabolites build up, one can experience skin problems, fatigue, brain fog, headaches, mood issues such as depression, irritability and apathy, muscle and joint inflammation as well as an overall malaise. And let’s not forget to mention the bloating and clogged feeling that is always causing discomfort in the gut!

Sometimes the fix is very simple. Sometimes it is a matter of forgetting to drink enough water. In that case all that you need to do is to be more conscious and mindful of hydration levels . And sometimes a little bit of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium helps the person to hold the water in their colon longer so that the stool is not so hard. When the solution is this simple, drinking more water is an amazing transformation! Most people just don’t drink enough water. One should ideally drink 64 oz of good purified water per day. Or 2/3 of your body weight in oz.

 

Sedentary lifestyle habits also contribute to the bowels not moving regularly. Think of it: if you are sitting in a chair all day, then your bowels are getting reduced movement and bloodflow. Peristalsis, the involuntary movement of the gut muscles slows down. If you sit all dain front of a computer and forget to drink water, or drink more soft drinks and caffeinated drinks which are diuretics (increasing urination) then you may not be moving your bowels often enough which hinders detoxification.   It comes as no surprise that “sitting is the new smoking” according to recent research studies!

 

Eating more water- soluble fiber (as in fruit pectin) is sometimes a quick fix for chronic constipation. Water-soluble fiber is found in most fruits and vegetables. While grains and legumes also contain fiber, some people find them to worsen to a bad case of constipation, while others find grains necessary. Increasing water, dietary fiber and moving your body can be a crucial first step to preventing constipation.

 

Emotional holding patterns also contribute to chronic constipation. Imagine the physical control that it takes to hold back anger, sadness and other negative emotions. Young children often hold back their stool as a method of control. If you are expending all of that extra energy to hold back emotions, it can also translate into extra tension in the abdomen or bowel area.

 

Sometimes the problem is bigger, deeper and more complex. There are difficult cases where drinking water, taking magnesium, eating fiber and moving the body doesn’t do enough to correct the problem. These cases may be due to SIBO (Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, undetected food allergies, Celiac disease (especially when also accompanied by bloating and stinky gas). This is the sort of case where Functional Medicine testing to uncover the root of the problem is usually necessary. I like to order the following trifecta of tests, SIBO test (Bacterial Overgrowth of the Small Intestine), a Comprehensive Stool Analysis and a Food Allergy test. And if the patient has been actively eating gluten I will also test for Celiac Disease. Once I have done the research I have a good idea about how to approach a complicated case. Sometimes the gut flora is off kilter and a great probiotic is helpful, sometimes a diet change is helpful. Sometimes the nerves in the intestines have been damaged and repair and restoration of the nervous system is indicated. This may involve prokinetics which are substances that improve peristalsis, or the involuntary movements of the small and large intestines.   Various supplements may be required to repair and restore the function of the nervous system .   Chronic gut motility problems may take several months or years to resolve.

In Jennifer’s case she had developed SIBO-C (constipation) and the protocol took over 6 months to really consistently resolve her constipation. She noticed a significant amount of improvement immediately, thankfully, so she was very motivated to continue the protocol. She is currently on a maintenance plan to help prevent a recurrence of the SIBO-C. Much of our work together was eliminating the overgrowth of bacteria using natural substances and then taking several months to heal her nerves in her GI tract.

If this sounds familiar to you, first try basic things such as making sure you are hydrated and consuming enough fiber. Also be sure that you are adequately managing your stress. Maybe add in some probiotics. If the problem is persists, you probably want to work with someone like me.   We can get to the root of the problem. If you are interested in working one on one with me, I offer a FREE 15 minute phone consult to see whether we are a good fit for each other. I can work with you whether you are local to Boulder/Denver or long distance through secure video conferencing. You can schedule either by calling my office M-F 8:30-5 at (303) 443-2206 or by scheduling online anytime using this link. https://intakeq.com/booking/NaURW8

 

Be well and be in touch so that we can keep it moving!

Take a Pause and Do the Research

Take a Pause and Do the Research

 

She called my office on a Friday afternoon. And urgently wanted me to call her back that day. She was not a current patient of mine but I called her back anyway because she sounded so scared and so desperate and wanted me to help her. Even my receptionist was concerned. She said she didn’t think she could last through the weekend and wanted to know what she should do. I gave her very basic guidance,   but in my opinion she really needed to be hospitalized or at least go to the Emergency Room and I strongly told her so.

 

I often get very complicated cases in my practice. I am sometimes the next of a succession of practitioners the patient is seeing for their complex problem. Patients are desperately looking for answers and are often in crisis. They want me to fix their problem right there on the spot. This is difficult if not impossible. Now it may be that the patient has been tested out the wazoo with various functional medicine tests and they are now on about 18 (or more!) different supplements. In these cases I usually like to simplify their protocol and “clean out” and try to eliminate many of the supplements because obviously they aren’t working or the patient would be seeing improvements. The fact that they are now bringing me onto their health care team usually means that they aren’t getting better.

 

It is especially difficult for any practitioner when patients come in crisis and want advice right then on how to handle an acute situation. Counter-intuitively that is often when we all need to take a pause and do the research. Otherwise I just feel like I am throwing various supplements and herbs at them without any evidence of efficacy to put out a fire.   And often, if emergency treatment is not needed, the fire is put out by simplifying the protocol. Especially with digestive and autoimmune issues too many herbs in the mix can complicate and exacerbate the situation. When the digestive system is already compromised, adding in very strong herbs to treat a concurrent condition such as Lyme can exacerbate the situation and cause a whole lot of misery.

 

So I often take a break from creating a protocol and giving out supplements and run laboratory tests. I want to know exactly what is causing the symptoms before I treat so that I can treat much more effectively and efficiently, saving patients both time AND money.

 

Why the rush? Many patients by the time they enter my practice are really at the end of their rope. They are desperate. They don’t want to waste any more time or money on something that doesn’t work. While I wish that I was a magician or wizard and could wave my magic wand and make all their symptoms quickly go away, I am not and I can’t. Guesswork has really no place in treating chronic disease. So instead I like to do the research through functional medicine testing. This takes time to do the testing, and second of all get the results and thirdly to interpret the results and create an effective protocol.

I have said before that cookie-cutter medicine is rarely effective. Each patient is unique so even for a disease of the same name, why would 2 different patients need the exact same approach? Sure, there are usually similarities that are measurable through science, but a more nuanced approach for each individual is mostly what patients who seek out my expertise want and need. They want the problem fixed and nobody else has really helped them work through the maze of the illness towards their healing. Many times, especially after taking a massive amount of pharmaceutical drugs, their condition is much worse than it would have been had they just stayed home and done nothing! Pharmaceuticals in the right situations are absolutely lifesaving, but all too often they are ineffective for chronic diseases, which is mainly what I see in my practice. I see patients whose gut flora has been completely decimated from repeated dosages of strong antibiotics. I see patients with fibromyalgia and adrenal exhaustion from chronic stress who are placed on multiple antidepressants, and don’t get me started on pain medications and opioids. The appalling frequency they are prescribed has directly contributed to the heroin scourge affecting many urban and suburban areas.

 

Stress is a major contributor for chronic digestive issues as well as most other chronic diseases. Americans have a much higher level of stress than other developed countries due to relative economic instability and lack of social safety nets. This must also be taken into account when treating the chronically ill. A big part of healing is learning how to develop strength and resilience when it comes to dealing with life stresses. Diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as well as Depression and Mood Disorders all have chronic unremitting stress as a major contributory factor.

 

To unravel and treat their complex illnesses, when there is so much going on at once often takes prioritization and research. How do you deal with the complex digestive issues when their stress levels are chronically high? And which came first? The stress or the digestive problems? They feed into each other and worsen each. Digestive issues make you stressed and stress worsens the digestive issues? What is going to be the lynchpin that breaks the cycle? That is what the research is for. Find what is most pressing and work with that and the idea is that eventually the crisis lessens and real deep life healing can occur.

I don’t think I was able to help the woman who called that day. She cancelled the appointment we had squeezed into my packed schedule because she was “too sick” and again I thought she really needed emergency intervention and hopefully she went that route. Had she come in sooner, and had we had time to do all of the testing and the research needed there would have been an increased likelihood that I could have helped her.

 

So if you have something chronic going on with your health and you are hesitating and procrastinating addressing it, OR if you aren’t getting helped with the care you are currently receiving, don’t wait until it is a crisis! Do it now! Make that call! And if you are interested in seeing if you and I are a good fit for each other, you can schedule a FREE 15 minute phone consult by calling my office at (303) 443-2206 Mountain time 8:30-5, OR you can schedule online using this link https://intakeq.com/booking/NaURW8

Be well! And again, don’t procrastinate with your health or those little whispers in your body may become screams.

Do all People with IBS have SIBO?

Do all people with IBS have SIBO?

 

The first time it happened was when I was pregnant. I was visiting my parents and I had just eaten a cookie my mother had served. My belly suddenly filled up with air and I was in intense pain. I drank some peppermint tea and the air moved through and I chalked it up to pregnancy doing weird things to my body. It happened again a few years later during a Thanksgiving gathering with friends. I had just enjoyed a nice dinner with friends when suddenly my gut filled with air. The pain was so bad that I could not stand up all the way! Again, peppermint tea and it passed. Then it started happening after almost every meal, not right away sometimes but a few hours after. And sometimes immediately after eating. I eventually got my food allergies tested and discovered I had a major case of leaky gut and food allergies.   Once I eliminated the allergens and started repairing my leaky gut, these episodes stopped. Did I have SIBO? Probably not. I didn’t test for it and since it went away without antibacterials it doesn’t  fit the pattern of SIBO.

 

Fast forward a few years and lately I have been reading a lot of misinformation about SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) and that it is actually considered by some to be synonymous with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) , or more famously, the blanket statement that “all people with IBS actually have SIBO”. I thought this would be a great opportunity to clear up this gross misconception. To put it in a nutshell, IBS is a waste -basket diagnosis. It means that the person has chronic digestive issues but nobody really knows what caused it or how to treat it. A diagnosis of IBS doesn’t actually elucidate any specific cause. IBS symptoms can in fact be due to parasites, bacterial overgrowth (yes SIBO), infection, candida overgrowth, any imbalance in the gut bacteria, food allergies, leaky gut, celiac disease (before diagnosis, because after diagnosis you would simply call it “Celiac Disease”)and many other conditions.  With functional medicine testing for “IBS” we can pinpoint the exact cause and treat the cause. And then IBS actually gets a new name!

 

So much in medicine is not absolute. The treatment of almost any disorder needs to be nuanced and tailored to the individual. Treatment decisions are often made in haste especially with insurance based practices due to time limitations.  The tendency is to treat all people with a certain named condition with an identical protocol . There is the human desire to want to make something absolute and one –size- fits- all using a cookie cutter diagnosis and a cookbook protocol for all people with a similar condition. Those broad sweeping diagnoses are dangerous and ultimately they fail. Just glance at health forums online for almost any condition and you will see thousands of chronically ill people frustrated with lack of progress in their healing

 

Enter SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) . SIBO is really a thing , it DOES exist, AND it needs to be positively identified through breath testing, not guessing. Not because it MAY be SIBO and the doctor THINKS it is SIBO. Only a definitive breath test can discern this. And the best treatment is certainly not throwing strong expensive antibiotics at it. I can understand the tendency to want to deal with symptoms this way. Give a magic drug and the problem is solved! End of story! They just needed that drug! Tragically, too many people who have been given this approach will tell you how it just didn’t work for them and they are back to square one searching for a new practitioner.

 

Treating digestive issues is complex and the Western medical community has often been stymied when they don’t get their desired results.   When the latest diagnoses comes along – such as SIBO, then EVERYONE with a digestive disorder suddenly gets that diagnosis has and are prescribed gobs of antibiotics, which doesn’t always solve the problem and often creates new problems that are even worse.

 

The trouble is not all bloating or gut disturbance is SIBO, it is sometimes something else. And SIBO isn’t always gas and bloating (though it often is!)

 

Traditional medicine treats SIBO (real and suspected) cases one way only. They prescribe strong antibiotics. And when the course of antibiotics is finished and the next breath test (if there is one) comes back negative, they declare it “cured”. The only problem is often patients still feel sick in their gut. Or if they get relief it is only temporary. Recurrence is common with SIBO especially when diet changes are not adhered to. Many practitioners don’t make any nutritional or diet recommendations, or they put patients on a plan so stringent that it is not sustainable. It is important to work with a practitioner who will give you a nutritional plan as well as a protocol to help with peristalsis or the movement of the bowels ( a prokinetic) as well as rebuilding the damaged nerves of the digestive system. When the nerves that control peristalsis are damaged from long history of stomach inflammation, you will have a higher risk of the gut bacteria migrating into the small intestine. In an ideal world, the gut bacteria stays in the lower intestine and does not migrate up. When it does, people often experience cramping and bloating.

 

IBS on the other hand by definition means that the patient experiences digestive difficulties for no apparent reason. So IBS as a diagnosis is useless in itself to determine the proper therapeutic path to healing, IBS is often used in insurance coding but after that it becomes pointless. All SIBO is considered to be IBS but not all IBS is SIBO.

 

If you have had chronic, baffling or treatment resistant digestive issues I would love to help you feel well again! I have been in practice for over 26 years and have helped many patients get well as fads came and went. I stick with what is real while keeping up with the latest research. Together we can find an accurate diagnosis for your problem and target it with an individualized plan of action. I can work either in person if you are local to Colorado or I can consult long distance. If you are ready to take action on your health issues and are interested in working with me one on one you can schedule a FREE 15 minute phone consult using this link https://intakeq.com/booking/NaURW8  or you can call my office M-F 8:30-5 at (303)443-2206.   Hope to hear from you soon!

 

When a Flare Happens: Stress and Autoimmune Disease

When a Flare Happens : Stress and Autoimmune Disease -.

 

Maureen had been working with me for about 6 months for her Crohns disease and we had gotten her to a pretty stable place and she was able to incorporate the diet changes into her life and was happy with the results. However, she had recently taken on some new stressful work projects, plus was having some trouble with her teenaged son and not surprisingly she had a flare of her autoimmune disease.

 

Flare-ups happen with autoimmune diseases. They do. And they are worse when there is stress involved. OR stress actually causes the flares. Not surprising that Maureen would have a flare with the added stress in her life. Though most of my patients who have a flare will find that if they are still on the protocol, their flares will be less frequent, less intense and shorter in duration. And then it becomes a bit easier to pinpoint what contributed to the flareup. Those cookies you ate while you were having an emotional eating session, the extra hours of work you have taken on, the loss of needed sleep due to crazy work and travel schedules? The relationship or financial stress all can contribute to having a flareup. All of those things that can happen in your real life.

 

Increased emotional stresses, such as anxiety, depression or even the adrenaline rush of a time crunched deadline increase your adrenal gland’s secretion of adrenalines and cortisol. Cortisol is the main hormone that is increased when the body goes through a fight or flight response. While humans evolved with this fight or flight response in order to be able to outrun a predator or deal with an attack, these days most people living in the modern world have to deal with chronic day to day stresses of deadlines, relationship stress, working sedentary jobs that do not allow for proper movement of the body to discharge the stress and to create endorphins.

 

Increased cortisol levels in your body will increase overall inflammation in the body which in turn can aggravate an autoimmune situation such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, Lupus, and other autoimmune diseases. Because at this point, inflammation makes the body feel like it is under attack so it creates more opportunity for antigen antibody complexes to form. And in turn antigen-antibody complexes also trigger even more inflammation. So a high level of stress in your life will increase inflammation and it will flare your autoimmune disease.

 

Recently I was caught in an airline glitch while picking my son up from camp.

It took us over 2 days to get back home from my son’s camp which was an 18 ½ hour drive away. Since I had driven him all the way out there and back,

I reasoned that flying would be somewhat easier and shorter, and on the way out there it was! It was like a dream compared to the long drive and I was congratulating myself on making such a smart decision! But as they say “Pride goeth before a fall” and the airline glitch was certainly a fall because it was exhausting, stressful and full of unknowns because since we missed our connection, we kept getting bumped from Standby. We finally did get home in the middle of the night /early morning after the 2nd day, but we were exhausted!

 

Where am I going with this? I consider myself pretty aware of stress and its effect on my body so I do a lot of practices to manage my stress and cortisol levels. I eat an optimal diet , avoid my allergens, get plenty of sleep, practice yoga and meditation which are ways that I have learned to self-sooth my anxiety and tendencies to worry. I packed plenty of snacks and supplements for the 4 days I was expecting to be away from home.

But I got caught.

I ran out of said snacks and supplements, had no time to do yoga or meditate in a busy airport full of fellow cranky stranded passengers. I did my best to avoid allergens while we ate airport food, but I know I got glutened because I could feel it ! I am usually a very calm person who radiates equanimity (or so I’ve been told!) but after we got bumped from yet another flight, after 2 cancellations, a 2-3 hour taxi ride to the next closest airport, a missed connection and a flight I didn’t even know if we could get that was in itself delayed 3 hours, I was a little bit cranky! I think that gate attendant knew that she had to get us on the next flight or we might throw a fit… so finally we got on. God bless that gate attendant because I know that she had been working really long shifts for the 2nd day in a row! Dealing with cranky customers with complicated stories just like us hour after hour couldn’t have been fun. Stress brings out the worst in people’s moods and their bodies, and we cannot always avoid stress because… life happens!

 

Someone with an autoimmune disease who has chronic stress due to lifestyle, diet, a challenging job or relationships   is more likely to suffer flares with increased frequency, intensity and duration. A flare can happen during a major stress, immediately after or even several months and years after a stressful period.   Most of my patients can report the start of their autoimmune disorder following a major life transition or loss.

 

Grief also plays a large part in the development of a chronic illness. One of the paths to healing is to unwind the sympathetic nervous system trauma through some sort of stress management practice or therapy.   Some people burn off steam through exercise which is great at creating endorphins. Yoga, tai chi and a mindfulness practice where you learn to self regulate your emotions is an invaluable transformative way to help reduce autoimmune flares. Diet is also key to reducing inflammation in the body and during a flare I often make very specific recommendations to my patients. When they can control their inflammatory responses, they can begin to heal their body and mind from the inside out. My practice tends to focus on ways that one can heal biochemically. Through diet and getting to the root cause of autoimmune disease by healing the digestive system and leaky gut syndrome as well as dealing with imbalanced gut flora one begins to calm the flare. But I also need to strongly emphasize that having a regular practice to manage stress and to activate your parasympathetic nervous system is also instrumental. Even something as simple as sitting, closing your eyes in a quiet room and taking 10 -20 long deep breaths can settle your nervous system down enough to help your body heal through the mind/body connection.

 

If you are in the middle of a flare, the best things you can do for yourself are:

 

  1. Tighten up your diet. Some of my patients have to go pretty hard core and get really strict. Most of my patients have some sort of a maintenance diet that they are doing once they are well and sometimes they can add in more foods and still do fairly well, but if you have a flare, it is time to tighten things up and take a step back to the original therapeutic diet.
  2. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep. Sleep is instrumental in the recovery from an autoimmune flare, so if sleeplessness is part of your flare picture, that needs to be handled so that you can rest and recover.
  3. Manage your stress through practices that sooth your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and increase the activity of your parasympathetic nervous system ( massage therapy, yoga, meditation, prayer)
  4. Try to pull back from your activities if you can. Many of us are doing way too much stuff all of the time, and during a flare things like housecleaning, errands, etc. can perhaps be outsourced even temporarily so that you can get back your health. Can you reduce your work hours temporarily without losing your job? Can you pull away from stressful relationships if they do not support your healing? Can you cut out some of your obligations and delegate them to others? How can you simplify?

 

Getting through a flare as quickly and easily as possible is often assisted by working with a Naturopathic Doctor along with your Medical Doctor who may need to adjust your prescription medications (if you take them) .   This, in my many years of experience is the best way to shift a flare back to healthy functioning of your body. But many of my patients have opted away from prescription medications and are managing their flares which are more and more seldom, with naturopathic medicine alone!

 

Maureen was able to take control of her flare relatively quickly (compared to past flares) by delegating responsibilities to others on her work project , cleaning up her diet again as well as dealing with some of her relationship difficulties that were contributing to her increased stress loads. She and her partner learned more skillful ways to communicate with each other regarding her health care as well as how to navigate keeping the home and finances going while she needed to pull back on her obligations. She recovered and with new awareness is able to live a satisfying happy life.

 

If you are interested in working one on one with me for your gut health, inflammation and/or autoimmune disease issues, I work in-person if you live local to the Boulder/Denver area, or I also can consult long-distance for those living far away via secure HIPAA compliant video or phone. I offer a FREE 15 minute phone consult if you want to have the opportunity to ask me questions to see if we are a good fit for each other. You can schedule that either by calling (303)443-2206 M-F 8:30-5 Mountain Time or anytime online by using this link: https://intakeq.com/booking/NaURW8

I hope to connect with you soon!

 

 

 

 

 

Why does Gut Health Affect so Many Things? Especially Autoimmune Diseases?

Why does Gut Health Affect so Many Things? Especially Autoimmune Diseases? 

Evelyn, age 51, sat tearfully in my office. Her hands were in constant pain and she had trouble buttoning her clothes and typing on the computer.  She had just been diagnosed with a debilitating autoimmune disease and her rheumatologist had prescribed some heavy duty immune suppressing pharmaceuticals for her condition. He told her she was to be on medications for the rest of her life. Evelyn found me so that together we could unravel the cause of her autoimmune disease and hopefully find a way for her to heal and at the very least manage her condition. When I asked her about her digestion, she mentioned having lots of gas, cramping and bloating every time she ate. This was still happening even after she gave up eating gluten on the advice of a friend!

I personally have skin in this game against autoimmune disease! I watched my mother suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis for over 30 years! At the end of her life she was utterly dependent on opioids and naproxen to manage her pain. And it still didn’t manage it very well. I have lots of other family members with arthritis, Celiac, Hashimotos and my maternal grandmother died at age 37 from kidney failure, probably from Lupus, but since it was the 1920’s and she was a poor immigrant, she did not receive good medical care and I will never know for sure. So I have some skin in the game of dealing with autoimmune diseases. My genetics were stacked against me and with my childhood filled with gut health issues, I had to turn the tide so that my family members and I could be healthy! So this became my practice specialty!

 

It all starts with GI irritation When the GI tract gets inflamed due to foods that one has eaten, celiac disease, infections, medications, stress and other triggers, you can develop what is known as Leaky Gut. This means that macromolecules of foods that you eat commonly can permeate the gaps between the cells (loose tight junctions) that cause you to react to new foods. This list of foods that one reacts to unfortunately can become quite large. This can trigger even more inflammation and even more propensity to develop even more food allergies.

In the news we are reading more and more about Glyphosates. Glyphosates are most commonly known by its brand name Roundup which was developed by Monsanto. Glyphosates have long been known as a gut irritant and more and more scientists are connecting the dots as to why we are seeing more Celiac Disease clinically than we used to. Glyphosates could be the gateway chemical to Autoimmune Diseases! Many European countries are banning the use of Glyphosates due to it now being classified as a known carcinogen. However here in the United States where I live and practice, they are commonly used in agriculture and on lawns to control weed growth. One could be eating an organic foods diet but still be exposed unknowingly due to its use in public parks and other grassy areas.

If Glyphosates were completely the culprit in why we are seeing more people with gluten issues, then one would think that eating organic grains would not cause the same symptoms. Sadly this is not the case and many people also react to organic grains. Perhaps exposure to Glyphosates and other agricultural chemicals open the floodgates for more intestinal villi injury to occur which triggers leaky gut which triggers developing more food allergies which leads to more inflammation in the body.

New agricultural chemicals are being utilized each month without sufficient testing to determine their impact and danger on humans and the environment. This may also be a contributing factor to the epidemic of autoimmune diseases we are seeing.

Antibiotic use also initiates gut inflammation. There is a lot of research lately on the microbiome, and how different strains of bacteria in the gut can cause or prevent various illnesses. Harvard is one of the institutions leading this research! While antibiotics have saved a myriad of lives due to their ability to kill pathogenic bacteria that used to kill scores of people in the past, they were overused even for viral infections (for which they would be completely ineffective). Many people developed gut issues after taking too many rounds of antibiotics because their healthy gut flora was killed off and not replenished! This is why so many people get diarrhea after they have had antibiotic treatment! Antibiotics can also in themselves trigger autoimmune disease since sometimes the body reacts permanently to a drug and that bad drug reaction can be difficult to reverse! Like all pharmaceutical drugs, they should be used with mindfulness and awareness of the risks versus the benefits!

Back to Leaky Gut and its effects:  I digressed a little bit, in case you didn’t notice! I wanted to return to the idea of leaky gut and how the body starts forming allergic reactions to various foods that you eat! When you eat a food that you are allergic to, Antigen-Antibody Complexes form and they lodge in your various organs. This causes inflammation in the organ that they lodge in. Where they lodge will be different for different people. The Antigen-Antibody complexes may lodge in your Joints (Rheumatoid Arthritis), your Brain (Multiple Sclerosis, Brain Fog, Mood Disorders), your Thyroid (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis), Colon ( IBS, Irritable Bowel Disease, Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease), Kidneys (Lupus), and sometimes as in the case of Lupus, more than one organ system.

How do I prevent these Antigen-Antibody complexes from forming so I can heal from Autoimmune Disease?

 

I was hoping that you would ask that! Because this is something that I work with every day at my office!

First of all, you must identify and eliminate Food Allergens from your diet

I do this mainly by running IgG food allergy testing. This is a blood test that looks for delayed reactions to various foods. Mainly when people think of food allergies they think of IgE reactions which can cause anaphalaxis, but there are other types of immune system reactions to foods and things in the environment. Often when one develops a new allergen from leaky gut, it is of the delayed type (but not always!)

I usually uncover the allergens with a blood test. Once you know which foods you are reacting to, they need to be strictly avoided for at the very least 3-6 months. After that you may (but not always) be able to add the low level allergens back in very slowly, one by one, but ONLY after you have made a concerted effort to heal the leaky gut with targeted supplements!

Second of all, I like to run a comprehensive stool test where I can get a thorough look at the health of your gut flora, and your microbiome and treat according to what we find in the test. Sometimes parasites or other bowel flora issues can contribute to gut inflammation, and they need to be corrected in order to fully heal leaky gut.

Once gut healing is initiated, the antibody titers often decrease and my patients start feeling relief from joint pain, fatigue and whatever symptoms were kicked up while they were still eating their allergens. This is happening for Evelyn also! She is feeling better and she is having less flareups and when she has an autoimmune flare, it is milder and of shorter duration. She was even, with the help of her

Rheumatologist, able to significantly reduce the dosage on her prescription drug. Perhaps with increased progress and her doctor’s OK, someday she may be able to eliminate the drugs entirely. Her digestive issues are much improved too which in her mind is bonus, since she was mostly very frightened and concerned by the autoimmune diagnosis and treatment.

But what if I don’t actually have stomach aches or digestive issues? But I have still been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease?

If you have an autoimmune disease, your body is attacking itself for some reason. It may be environmental exposure, but the trigger is usually something you are eating. And what we eat is something that is under our control! With our modern agricultural practices exposing us to hundreds of untested pesticides and environmental chemicals each day it could also be environmental exposure, though a research study showed that levels of toxins dramatically were decreased after only 2 weeks on an organic foods diet!So let’s look at other foods that are common in your diet!    So to reduce the antibodies formed against your own body I look to diet modifications and gut health to manage this condition. It may be hard to wrap your brain around the fact that not eating bread (for instance) will have an effect on your joints, or your moods or your energy levels, but after 26 years of clinical experience, I have found this connection in the vast majority of my patients with autoimmune and inflammatory disorders.

I work with lots of patients near and far with these inflammatory and autoimmune health issues. If you would like to work one on one either in person if you are local, or long distance through video or phone, I am still accepting new patients. You can also opt to have a FREE 15 minute phone consult with me to see if you and I are a good fit for each other! To schedule any appointment, you can do this online at https://intakeq.com/booking/NaURW8 or by calling my office M-F 8:30-5 Mountain time to speak with my receptionist. I hope to hear from you soon! Be well!

 

How Stress and Lack of Sleep Makes You Fat!

How Stress and Lack of Sleep makes you Fat

Ellen, a 44 year old IT specialist with 2 kids had been putting in long hours at her job. She wanted to prove to her boss that she could do a good job so she took on extra projects and as many of you know, salaried positions often really require that you work over 60 hours per week anyway. So her exercise by necessity had to be reduced due to work and family commitments, and her stress levels and the means she used to deal with her stress levels had exponentially increased.   Then she found that within 6 months she had gained 30 lbs! And her digestion was also really suffering! While a 30 lb weight gain is hard enough on your health, Ellen’s self esteem took a very big hit because she felt less physically attractive, felt exhausted and completely overwhelmed by the thought of losing all of the weight that she had gained.

She also found that with increased stress, even though she was utterly exhausted trying to balance her life, she had trouble sleeping too! She lacked the energy needed to be a good parent to her children, and the family dynamic was suffering. And to add to her stress, her husband had recently been laid off from his job so her income was crucial to the wellbeing and support of her family.

“I really need your help” she said.” I am down to my last nerve and I just want to feel like myself again. I will do whatever you recommend. I will eat what you tell me to eat and not eat what you tell me not to eat. I just want my body and my life back again!”

And with this story we began to unravel the causes of her health crisis. Let me break it down for you!

With extra stress your body secretes more cortisol. Cortisol is one of our “fight or flight” hormones secreted by the adrenal glands. While we evolved so that when fear and adrenaline kicked in, we could outrun a mountain lion, what we seem to have more of these days is chronic lower levels of modern day stresses. Deadlines, time constraints, financial and work stress, childcare without the help of an extended family, and long evening hours in front of a computer screen catching up with work (I am guilty of this myself!). These stresses can eat into our natural circadian rhythms disrupting sleep. And when cortisol increases, the body says “Whoa! I had better hold onto this fat just in case I need to outrun that wooley mammoth!” At least that is what our genes tell us to do. They haven’t yet caught up to the modern world. Don’t they know that one should be able to maintain a healthy weight sitting 60 hours per week in front of the computer screen and living on jelly donuts and coffee? Perhaps they forgot to read that memo! Alas, we are stuck with the fact that evolution has not caught up with our natural world so we are seeing these problems!

 

Elevated cortisol levels increase insulin secretion which causes you to be even MORE hungry. So you eat MORE jelly donuts and drink even MORE coffee to get all of that work done. Especially to deal with that energy dip in the late afternoon! (You know what I am talking about, don’t you?) While caffeine was a modern miracle that ushered in the Renaissance era with advanced levels of higher thought and coffee smells amazing, there is a BIG price to pay, and that price may be your waistline, and your fasting blood sugar levels. With increased carb consumption and weight gain comes an increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

Did you know that there is a prediction that by the year 2021 1 in 3 Americans will have Type 2 Diabetes? Shocking! And much of that has to do with our food supply and stress levels.   But mostly elevated stress levels are associated with weight gain because of wacked out insulin levels!

 

I mentioned earlier that increased cortisol levels are associated with a decrease in sleep quality. Conversely, a decrease in quality sleep also leads to carbohydrate craving (just to get you through the day) and weight gain. Many of my patients start losing weight when they decrease their carbohydrate intake (including alcohol for many) and their sleep quality improves. There may also be underlying issues interfering with quality sleep that need to be addressed. Many of my patients with autoimmune disease also have difficulty sleeping, and there is often an underlying adrenal fatigue issues. So adrenal fatigue issues can also eventually cause a decrease in thyroid functioning which can make losing weight even more difficult.

So back to Ellen. First of all I put her on my weight loss program, so we worked with her nutrition. She went on a very structured Ketogenic Paleo type diet. Paleo means pretty much meats and vegetables and Ketogenic means fat burning, so that you preserve muscle mass which is your fat burning engine.  So there were very limited carbs in her diet. We also tested her Adrenal Function and found that her Cortisol levels were very high. Not surprising since she has 2 young children and a demanding stressful job! Then we treated her adrenal issues, which helped her thyroid issues. She made a concerted effort to get more exercise, which helped with the stress levels as well as increasing her energy and helped her lose some weight. It took Ellen about 3-4 months to lose the extra weight but she was super motivated and adhered strictly to the plan! She found that her energy, digestion and sleep also improved.   She is now back down to her “happy weight”, has more energy and feels that she concentrates better on the job now.   While we can’t at this time do anything about her stressful job, besides finding her a new job (not MY area of expertise!), she is handling it better because she feels so much better and has implemented strategies to promote her health!

 

If you would like help losing weight as well as sorting out your fatigue , sleep and digestive issues, (or joint pain which often goes along with all of this) I offer a FREE 15 minute phone consult where you can see if you want to work one on one with me! It is a chance for us to see if we are a good fit for each other! You can schedule that by clicking this link https://intakeq.com/booking/NaURW8 or by calling (303) 443-2206 M-F 8:30-5:00 Mountain Time. I can work with long distance people by phone or video as well as in-person with local to Boulder Colorado patients.

I look forward to hearing from you soon! Be well!

Are you Wondering Whether You have Celiac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity?

7163022 - an assortment of freshly baked breads.  shallow depth of field.

7163022 – an assortment of freshly baked breads. shallow depth of field.

Are you Wondering Whether You have Celiac Disease  or Gluten Sensitivity?

You were just minding your own business and living your life when you went to a picnic on the 4th of July. You knew something was wrong as soon as you ate the cous cous salad. You felt sick to your stomach, or maybe you felt a nap attack coming on, or maybe some brain fog kicked in. Or you joints started hurting… Oh wait!!!! Cous cous has GLUTEN in it right? “D’oh! I did it again! I got cous cous mixed up in my mind with quinoa!”. “Maybe”, you think, “I just can’t handle any wheat or gluten at all, even a little bit!”

Janine, a 45 year old mother of 3 noticed worsening gas and bloating after she ate wheat. She had read online about celiac disease and asked me about it. Does this sound familiar? It seems like a lot of people are reacting negatively in their guts to wheat and gluten products. She did notice that she felt better when she took gluten out of her diet entirely. Her stomach didn’t blow up so much but she also wondered how strict she really needed to be to maintain her health. Couldn’t she have some birthday cake or some great bread once in a while?  Celiac patients can have serious health repercussions even with trace cross contamination and can manifest in more serious issues such as malasorption, anemia, liver involvement, and an increased risk of developing cancer. So for Celiac Disease sufferers the answer is an unequivocal NO! And some people with gluten sensivity also have severe reactions so for them the answer is NO also. As well as for those with an autoimmune disease, but for others, they won’t make the change without further testing, so this is for them!

Gluten is a protein that is found in many grains. It is the protein that makes dough stick together so that you can have nice chewy breads, flaky crusts. If you have had many gluten free baked goods, you will notice that the breads tend to crumble a lot. That is because they don’t contain gluten! And a lot of gluten free baked goods contain a lot of added sugar because sugar also helps foods stick together. Gluten is found in wheat, spelt, barley, kamut, oats and rye, as well as things you may not think of such as soy sauce. Caramel coloring and other food additives.

The problem is that many people now, not just people with Celiac Disease, are reacting to gluten. Why this is, we are not sure, but it could have to do with modern agricultural practices such as the use of Glyphosates and GMO’s which make the protein in the grain pretty indigestible. Gluten is often implicated in worsening autoimmune diseases as well as exacerbating inflammation and joint pain. There is also some ridiculous backlash among more conventional docs who say that gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease is a made up disease and all in your head. Though for practitioners like myself who do Naturopathic and Functional Medicine, we know that many of the illnesses we see in our office everyday have a relationship to gluten as part of the cause or trigger. And also we see miracles happen every day when people change their lifestyle and diet and start to heal!

So how do you determine whether what you have is run of the mill gluten sensitivity or the more serious Celiac Disease?

There is a simple blood test, right? Well not really. Because if you are like me and have been avoiding gluten for decades the test will come out as a false negative. In order to have a positive Celiac test, you need to have been consuming gluten at the rate of 4 slices of bread for the 6 weeks prior to testing. That is a LOT of bread, right? If you are like most gluten sensitive and celiac patients, that would make you quite ill.   Who needs that?

I am going to break it down for you, so that you can decide how and if you want to test to rule out Celiac Disease. Because knowledge is power!

 

  1. Blood Testing – This blood test is testing for Serum Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies, otherwise known as the tTG-IgA This is often the first line of Celiac Disease testing that doctors order. If positive, you will usually  be recommended to go on to the gold standard Celiac Test, which is the biopsy, but more on this later. Your serum tTG-IgA will come back negative if you have been actively avoiding gluten so there are a lot of false negatives out there with this test so take with a grain of… something gluten free!
  2. The Biopsy – An endoscopic biopsy of the small intestine is often done next. This officially confirms the diagnosis of Celiac Disease. It is , as I said above, the GOLD STANDARD in Celiac testing, but again, there will be false negative if you are actively avoiding gluten, and… Geez! Who really wants to go through with that! But if you had a positive serum test and you pinky swear to avoid gluten for the rest of your days, you may just decide to skip this test. Many people do just that. If you have been actively eating lots of gluten and you have to know you are Celiac in order to completely avoid gluten you most certainly should do this test. It is usually covered by insurance and if you won’t give up your delicious pasta and bread unless this test comes back positive then you should go ahead and do it. Because, like I said, knowledge is power!
  3. Genetic Testing for susceptibility. This is for those of us (I fall in this category!) who have symptoms when we consume gluten, but have felt so great off gluten, that we just aren’t going to start eating it again for a lousy test! We just won’t do it. So for us, there is genetic testing. The culprit gene in this case is the HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8 People with celiac disease carry one or both of the HLA DQ2 and DQ8 genes. Having one of both of these genes does increase your risk of developing Celiac Disease or at the very least having gluten sensitivity. Those of us off gluten who weren’t already tested may never really know if we have Celiac or not, but at the same time you lessen your chances of going on to develop Celiac Disease, and other autoimmune diseases , if you don’t eat gluten.

If you have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease or you have other gut issues that aren’t responding to removing gluten from your diet, just know that gluten is really just the tip of the iceberg! Often there is an associated Leaky Gut Syndrome that occurs as a result of the damaged villi of the intestine (tiny finger like structures in the intestine where your food gets absorbed) so you may also react to other foods also. Obscure foods that aren’t common allergens. So in order for the treatment to be very effective, more comprehensive testing is in order. Testing for delayed food allergies, a comprehensive stool analysis which would also test for inflammatory markers, maybe even a SIBO breath test if the other tests are inconclusive and there are still issues. And then a concerted full plan with various supplements is the best way to heal the gut.

If any of these issues ring a bell, and you wish to explore them further with me, I am available for a FREE 15 minute phone consult. You can now schedule that online at https://intakeq.com/booking/NaURW8  or the old fashioned way by calling (303) 443-2206 M-F 8:30-5 Mountain Time. Whether you are a current patient, or someone I haven’t seen in quite a while, or brand new to my practice, I would love to connect!

Hope to hear from you soon!

How to Get Rid of Bloating, Gas and Cramping

How to Get Rid of Bloating, Gas and Cramping

22158660 - young woman in pain lying on bed

Many many years ago I was experiencing horrible bloating and cramping a few hours after eating. This is way before medical school and years before I know anything about food allergies and sensitivities, gluten, or any of the stuff people normally try on their own to heal their digestive issues. I was fresh out of college and I was living in a remote location doing an internship for a PhD student and I did not even own a car yet. I would make a foray to the closest health food store (in a borrowed car) 100 miles away and buy copies of all of the herbal medicine books I could find. I was making a huge batch of homemade bread with 2 rises and ate slices of them regularly slathered with butter! (They were delicious).   My stomach was killing me but I could not figure out why because, after all, I was “eating healthy foods” like whole grains, tofu, veggies…. Why did I have so many problems? And then…. I went camping!!!! And brushed my teeth with water from the creek. And got even sicker. Now I had giardiasis on top of the problems I had already!!!!! After weeks of trying to cure it myself (I had my herb books and knew just enough to be dangerous) I finally got a ride to the nearest clinic (40 miles away) and got some antibiotics. I was better for a little while but the problem did not really go away. In fact, it would be years before I really got a handle on things.

Here is what I’ve learned from years of schooling and 26 years of practice

 

  1. Identify and eliminate food allergens and intolerances. This is usually done through and IgG blood test which tests for delayed hypersensitivities to foods. A traditional allergist only tests for IgE antibodies or the type of allergic reaction which can cause hives or anaphalaxis. Most digestive issues are caused by Delayed Hypersensitivies which are a different reaction.   Another way to test is through the Elimination Challenge Diet which for some people is preferable if they cannot afford a lot of functional medicine testing. However the Elimination Challenge Diet is time consuming and can also be confusing and frustrating. Most of my patients want the information quickly so they can utilize the information and start to feel better sooner so usually (unless they are on certain medications which will change the test results) we order the blood test.    Often this is the main diet tweak you need to make to help with your digestion.   Other people need to go more deeply into a Paleo or GAPS diet in order to get great results.
  2. If the above diet changes have not helped to improve bloating or cramping, many patients find some relief with a FODMAPS The FODMAPS diet eliminates certain fructose sugars from the diet which in some people can exacerbate bloating and cramping. FODMAPsis an acronym (abbreviation) referring to Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are complex names for a collection of molecules found in food, that can be poorly absorbed by some people. The diet is hard to wrap your brain around. A bit more complex than “Avoid Grains” which is a big part of Paleo or GAPS diets.   If you would like to see a list of foods that aren’t allowed on the FODMAPS diet look here: http://www.ibsdiets.org/fodmap-diet/fodmap-food-list/
  1. Check the health of the microbiome and gut flora and also test for SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth). I use certain specific functional medicine tests to those ends.   Based upon the results that I get from these tests, I will treat accordingly. I also run a sensitivity to both herbal and botanical products. Testing will also let me know if the good healthy gut bacteria are in balance or whether they are growing in the proper amount in a patient’s GI tract.
  1. For immediate relief from bloating and cramping, certain herbs can be vey helpful in supporting gut motility and relieving cramping and bloating. Especially if it feels like the air is just stuck in there and won’t move through. These herbs are known in botanical medicine as Carminatives. Some examples of commonly used carminatives are: Pepperming, Spearmint, fennel, caraway, cumin, and ginger.

Because some reactions to herbs can vary in some people,  it is recommended that you use  under a practitioner’s recommendation.

As always all herbs should be used under supervision as individual reactions may vary.

  1. Chicken soup and bone broth is the bomb! Try going on a bone broth fast when you are in the throes of an attack. It can really help set things right.

If you have been suffering from intractable bloating, cramping, or gas, or have already been diagnosed with SIBO and are not getting the results you would like on your own or with your current practitioner, consider working with me one on one. I offer in-person naturopathic medical support as well as long distance phone or video consulting. I offer a FREE 15 minute phone consult where you can ask me questions and get a feel for whether we would be a good fit for each other. You can schedule the consult over the phone by calling (303) 443-2206 M-F 8:30-5 or online 24/7 by clicking here: https://intakeq.com/booking/NaURW8

Be well!