A good digestive system is the key to good health, this involves two core components which are the absorption of nutrients and elimination of waste materials. But what happens when something goes wrong with this system?
More and more scientific research has focused upon the interrelation of problems of the gastrointestinal system and other body systems. In many cases there is significant involvement of the digestive system at the centre of immune, hormone, skin and mental health problems. Most people associate digestive problems with things like diarrhea, constipation, reflux and bloating; sometimes there maybe problems with your ability to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste without these typical problems or warning signs.
One of the most prevalent problems suffered is what is known as dysbiosis which is also sometimes called “leaky gut”. Intestinal dysbiosis is a disruption of the normal microflora within the intestinal tract. These microflora are beneficial bacteria that play an important role in the production of vitamins, the regulation and action of the immune system, the protection of the intestinal barrier system, the production of short chain fatty acids and the lowering of neurotoxic components. In other words, our immune system! Our general health relies on the healthy functioning of the gastrointestinal system to avoid many of the acute and chronic illnesses that affect us everyday.
The Symptoms of Dysbiosis
There are a myriad of symptoms associated with dysbiosis, but the common symptoms are bloating, flatulence, fatigue, headache, weight gain or difficulty losing weight, chronic joint pain, hormonal irregularities, skin complaints, food allergy symptoms and general malaise.
Dysbiosis and Mental Health
Dysbiosis leads to impaired metabolism of fat, carbohydrate, protein and B vitamins and a reduction of these and other precursors necessary for neurotransmitter synthesis. Without these integral co-factors, neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine can be placed out of balance and lead to depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances.
The Causes of Dysbiosis
The main causes of dysbiosis can be attributed to modern lifestyle.
Stress also has an impact upon gut function.
A Naturopathic consultation will seek to identify contributing causes of dysbiosis and the attending symptoms as part of a full case history.
Treatment of Dysbiosis
Treatment is then tailored to address these underlying causes. In the case of low stomach acid (an initial state that can lead to dysbiosis) certain herbs, nutritional supplementation and dietary treatment is prescribed to help increase upper digestive function. Food sensitivities are addressed where necessary, beginning with the administration of a gut healing treatment protocol and a low tolerance diet. In all cases, dietary changes are introduced along side nutritional supplementation. The use of high quality and high dose strains of acidophilus are also used to replenish and bring bowel flora back to balance. The aim is to restore adequate function of the gastrointestinal system initially with herbs and supplementation but the long term goal is to help bring back the body’s capacity to hold itself in balance.
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Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen