A recent survey found that 3 out of 4 Americans are living with a laundry list of digestive problems that affect their daily lives: heartburn, reflux, GERD, bloating IBS, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. To relieve the symptoms people are turning to drugs: Rolaids®, Zantac®, Tagamet®, or the more dangerous, PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) Nexium®, Prevacid®, Prilosec®, Protonics®, etc. Are you one of them?
Why Drugs Are NOT the Answer
For example, PPI’s are among the most widely used medications in the U.S. This class of drugs are used to treat chronic reflux, heartburn or indigestion. These are very dangerous drugs with multiple long-term side effects, including osteoporosis and dementia. Here’s more: A 2006 study published in JAMA found that people over 50 who take these drugs for more than one year have a 44% increase in the risk of a fracture! Why? The drug blocks the absorption of calcium, besides other nutrients.
These drugs have been linked to an increased risk for dementia. Research is now showing that these PPIs increase levels of beta amyloid, a damaging protein that accumulates in the brains of dementia patients. To add insult to injury, studies are now showing that the use of PPIs and even H2 blockers are leading to IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
My point here is that these drugs are not the way out of your troubling digestive problems. None of these drugs heal the underlying issues causing your digestive issues, so why not stop this madness? Want an alternative? Let’s look to an individualized Functional Medicine approach to your digestive disorders.
Treating the Underlying Causes Through Functional Medicine
Number one, poor diet and eating habits must be properly addressed if there’s any hope in healing digestive disorders. Secondly, you must be assessed for adequate digestive enzymes production by your stomach and pancreas through proper laboratory testing. If there is any insufficiency, then these enzymes must be supplemented. These are two primary culprits that lead to common digestive issues. However, new research is now showing that an imbalance or overgrowth of small intestine bacteria, called SIBO, may be the major contributing factor to these chronic digestive symptoms.
SIBO--What Is It and What Causes It
SIBO is best understood as ‘an overabundance of non-acute non-infectious GI microorganisms and/or a lack of beneficial bacteria, adversely affecting the human host’. Again, there are some telltale signs of SIBO: gas, bloating, reflux, abdominal pain or cramping, diarrhea or/and or constipation. The condition of SIBO is therefore often diagnosed as GERD and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and in some individuals, it can even lead to inflammatory bowel disease e.g., Crohn’s disease and colitis. The causes of SIBO are many and complex such as: low stomach acid, pancreatic enzyme insufficiency, multiple courses of antibiotics disrupting the small intestine microbiome, decreased gut motility and chronic constipation causing the bacteria to migrate from the colon into the small bowel.
SIBO-Proper Diagnosis and Treatment
Besides the telltale signs and symptoms found on a good history, the gold standard lab test for SIBO is a Challenge Breath Test. This test can be ordered by a doctor knowledgeable in its use and interpretation. Once diagnosed proper treatment must commenced if one is to find real healing. Part of the treatment involves specific dietary changes and antimicrobial herbs to remove the overgrowth of SI bacteria.
Have You Heard About ‘Leaky Gut’?
Some of the bacteria found in SIBO can produce toxins that damage the lining of the small intestine causing you multiple G.I. symptoms. These toxins can damage the intestinal cells and the “glue” that holds them together leading to what is called “Leaky Gut”. With this, toxins, microbes, undigested food proteins, can escape from your small intestines into the bloodstream. This leaking through of undigested foods proteins, that your immune system then reacts to, is a primary cause of food allergy reactions. The list of symptoms caused by food allergies and food sensitivities is endless.
About Dr. Greg Fors
Dr. Greg Fors, D.C. is a Board-certified Neurologist (IBCN), certified in Applied Herbal Sciences (NWHSU) and acupuncture. As the director of the virtual Pain and Brain Healing Center, he specializes in a functional medicine approach to fibromyalgia, fatigue, brain fog, digestive disorders, depression and anxiety. He is a sought after international lecturer for various post-graduate departments and state associations. Dr. Fors is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “Why We Hurt” available through booksellers everywhere.