What Does Your Gut Say?
by Dr. Michael Jurgelewicz
Gastrointestinal dysfunction manifests in common digestive diseases such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It is also necessary to recognize that gastrointestinal dysfunction can manifest as dermatological symptoms, allergies, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and other autoimmune conditions.
We have 100 times more bacteria cells in our body than human cells and how they interact with us is often overlooked. Scientists have come to regard "the bacteria in our gut" as an additional organ of the human body. Our modern diets contain so many easily-digestible processed foods, which may be reducing the populations of gut microbes.
Dietary solutions provide the most effective means to returning balance within the gastrointestinal system. We may need antimicrobials, botanicals, enzymes, prebiotics, and probiotics to optimize the gastrointestinal environment. Certain diagnostic tests may be beneficial, including stool testing, organic acid testing, food antibody testing, as well as gluten-sensitivity testing. Eliminating gluten from the diet may also help. Many autoimmune conditions need to be addressed by optimizing gut health.
Environmental triggers are what integrative doctors mainly assess in functional medicine. These can be food triggers such as gluten or food sensitivities that can provoke inflammation as well as anything coming in with the food, such as toxins or molds.
Gastrointestinal Support Following the 4-R Approach: Remove, Replace, Reinoculate, Repair
Many botanical extracts have a long history as natural antimicrobials. They offer a broad spectrum of activity against common pathogens in conditions of dysbiosis and are relatively sparing of normal flora. Tribulus extract influences the entire immune system and has been shown to have antibacterial and antiviral properties. Berberine sulfate has antimicrobial effects against bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoans, helminths (worms), and chlamydia. Sweet wormwood demonstrates significant antimicrobial effects and is used in cases of parasitic infections. Black walnut extract also has a long history of use as an antiparasitic. Grapefruit seed extract specifically reduces fungal overgrowth such as candida and geotrichum. Bearberry extract is a diuretic, astringent, and antiseptic, and is used in the treatment of urinary tract and gastrointestinal infections. Caprylic acid is helpful with candidiasis and bacterial infections without adversely affecting the growth of beneficial bacteria. The product GI Microb-X™ is a blend of these effective botanical extracts.
Saccharomyces boulardii is a unique, nonpathogenic probiotic yeast with multiple uses. S.boulardii is used to support gastrointestinal health in a wide variety of conditions. It has profound effects on protecting the intestinal epithelial cells, maintaining intestinal barrier function, inhibiting colonization of harmful bacteria, protecting normal gastrointestinal function during antibiotic therapy, and restoring normal intestinal function in children and adults with diarrhea. In addition, it increases sIgA secretion. S. boulardii is also used with Candida. It has been found to inhibit translocation of Candida and can disrupt all the factors necessary for Candida virulence, filamentation, adhesion, and biofilm formation. S. boulardii is also effective as an adjunct to antimicrobials in the treatment of parasites.
It is important to use digestive enzymes to support optimal digestion of food. Individuals who do not secrete enough proteases suffer from multiple food allergies and can lead to issues such as various other food allergies, leaky gut, colitis, and autoimmune diseases.
Proper probiotic supplementation helps to assist with food and nutrient assimilation, inhibits harmful bacteria, and replaces beneficial bacteria lost to antibiotic use, disease, poor diets, and stress.
Glutamine is the most important nutritional substance for healthy intestinal cells and the main fuel of the colonocytes of the large intestine. Glutamine is essential in maintaining proper gastrointestinal function and in helping to prevent "leaky gut." N-Acetyl Glucosamine also supports proper mucosal health and reduces intestinal permeability. In addition, it inhibits the growth and function of abnormal T-cells that incorrectly direct the immune system to attack specific tissues of the body, such as in autoimmune disease. GI-Revive™ is a synergistic formula that contains L-glutamine, N-acetyl glucosamine, and several mucilaginous relaxing herbs (DGL, slippery elm, marshmallow, chamomile, okra, and cat's claw) that soothe and coat the intestinal lining and promote healing of inflamed tissue.
What appears to happen with most autoimmune and gastrointestinal disorders is there are multiple triggers chronically stimulating the immune system over a long period of time in multiple ways. As a result, our immune system gets into an overloaded, overwhelmed state and loses its ability to function. Lifestyle choices and environmental exposures filtered through genetic predisposition are fundamental factors in the expression of disease, and a successful treatment approach must address these factors.
Integrative Gastroenterology. Gerard E. Mullin 2011
Scientific American. Rob Dunn. September 2013.