I talk about bowel habits a lot in my practice, whether it be a primary concern or not. Why? Because regular, normal bowel movements are a crucial part of health, as a whole. Gastrointestinal concerns can range from constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel, bloating, gas, reflux or pain. As I seek to determine the underlying cause of any such symptom, there are a few factors to consider.
- Bacteria. The gut contains over 100 trillion bacteria! Some good, known as probiotics and some, not so good. Helicobacter pylori is a common “bad” bacteria found in the stomach of up to 35% of US adults. It is known to cause ulcers. New research has confirmed that nutritional supplementation, namely vitamins C, E , and B12 can increase the rate of eradication and have been shown to be deficient in those with h. pylori infection.
- Yeast. A yeast, known as candida albicans, is a normal part of the GI tract, but can become problematic when overgrown. Studies have shown that after a course of antibiotics, candida can be overgrown in 50% of adults. Other cause for concern are sugar cravings or constant hunger. If the food you eat is being eaten up by hungry yeast, cravings and appetite can increase.
- Stomach Acid. One of my favorite books, titled “Why Stomach Acid is Good For You,” explains in detail why you NEED stomach acid and long term acid blocking medicines may do more harm than good. If your not as excited about this book as I am, the summary is this: you need acid to breakdown proteins, absorb vitamins and minerals, and kill potentially pathogenic bacteria. Think immune system, brain and nervous system, bone and muscle health. If there is a problem in any of these systems, surely the digestive power (ACID) of the stomach is worth a check.
There are many ways to determine the causes of digestive imbalances. Let’s figure out why and correct underlying imbalances.