Gut Health = Great Health

Do you have frequent indigestion and burning in your stomach or chest after eating? Is constipation a frequent problem? Do you almost always get a cold or flu at certain times of the year? Do you lack energy and feel worse, even after eating “healthy” foods? Do you have high cholesterol? Are you losing weight for no apparent reason? Have you often felt overwhelmed with depression or ever taken anti-depressants?

All of the above could be due an unhealthy Gastrointestinal Tract (GI Tract). The health of your gut influences all bodily systems and all aspects of your health.

I’ve Got a Gut Feeling About This

There is bi-directional communication between the brain and the gut. Research confirms that a component of depression is in the gut, and a component of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is in the brain. Nutrients or drugs influencing brain function will influence gut function, for better or for worse, and visa versa. 95% of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone is produced in the gut. Anyone with an anxiety disorder, depression, insomnia, or even dementia should have GI tract function consult a Functional Medicine trained doctor who understands the neurological and biochemical associations between the gut and the brain.

Something’s Bugging Me

A healthy GI tract has trillions of beneficial microscopic bacterial species lining the entire gut. Within a healthy gut, there are about 400 microbial species. These beneficial bacteria come in different strains, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, L. casei and various strains of Bifidobacteria. When they come an outside source, such as from yogurt, vegetables or nutritional supplement, they are called “probiotics”. When they reside inside the gut they are called “microflora”. Both serve multiple purposes, including: 

  1. prevent the overgrowth of yeast such as Candida
  2. resist disease-causing bacteria and fungi by producing antimicrobial substances
  3. inhibit disease-causing antibiotic resistant, bacteria-laden films lining mucous membranes called “biofilms”
  4. produce enzymes which help with detoxification
  5. produce some B vitamins and vitamin K
  6. aid in digestion and absorption of nutrients
  7. combat diarrhea
  8. assist in proper immune system balance between innate and acquired immunity
  9. help fight cancer
  10. help maintain the tight-junction lining of the intestines
  11. participate in processes that prevent depression

Thus, when the balance of the gut microflora is disrupted it will profoundly affect gut health and overall health.

Recurrent Colds or Flu? Check Your Gut

60% of your immune system resides in the GI tract. Upper respiratory and parasitic infections are more likely to occur with inadequate beneficial bacteria and impaired sIgA in the small intestine. Many people with constant sniffles and runny nose may actually have imbalanced GI microflora. This is very often the result of the overuse of antibiotics.

High Cholesterol? What’s Gut Got to Do With It

Also more likely to occur with imbalanced GI flora is a regional inflammatory condition in the small intestine called Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is characterized not only by abdominal symptoms (pain, diarrhea or constipation, vomiting and weight loss), but also skin rashes, arthritis and eye inflammation. Because intestinal inflammation is a hallmark of Crohn’s disease, inflammation elsewhere commonly occurs. Inflammation within the circulatory system is associated with increased cholesterol. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for elevated cholesterol to occur with Crohn’s disease. Many people with Crohn’s disease are given cholesterol-lowering drugs.  However, the underlying problem causing elevated cholesterol may be the inflammation.  Using herbal substances such as Turmeric (Curcuma longa) which supress systemic inflammation,  and probiotics can be an option for decreasing elevated cholesterol with Crohn’s Disease.

Acid Stomach? Take Antacids. Don’t!

The stomach produces stomach acid, called hydrochloric acid (HCL), to break up large food particles into smaller ones. HCL also prepares food for delivery to the small intestine. It also helps close the lower esophageal sphincter to prevent gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD), prevent food allergies, and kill pathogens.  Too little, not too much stomach acid is often the cause of an acidic feeling in the stomach and indigestion. Frequent antacid use hinders secretion of HCL and the hormone gastrin. This results in predisposing to low tissue amino acids (with immune system impairment and muscle tissue wasting), acid reflux, low vitamin B12 (with elevated blood cholesterol and homocysteine levels), greater propensity of food allergies and other allergies, and an increased chance of parasitic and bacterial infections. The solution to most problems of GERD is to use supplemental HCL and digestive enzymes.

For a more complete explanation of gut function and the diagnosis and treatment methods we use, please see the article from my December 2007 newsletter.

I’ve treated many patients with various health problems that significantly improved by clearing up gut dysfunction. Here’s a good example:

“… I started seeing Dr. Husbands with the initial intention of addressing what western medicine classified as “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” or IBS (that’s the code when they have no idea what is wrong with your gut). Dr. Husbands was able to address my IBS by changing my eating habits, and introducing high quality and relevant supplements, all of which he recommended after taking several diagnostic tests. What I didn’t expect, was that by changing my diet and supplement intake, I would reap other benefits as well. My husband and I had decided that we wanted to try and have a family. Based on my history, I was petrified to go off the pill. However as per Dr. Husbands recommendation, I did, and I couldn’t have been happier or more surprised. My cycle was exactly 28 days, cramping was minimal, and menstrual flow was completely ordinary. Even though the results were so great, I still didn’t believe Dr. Husbands that I would get pregnant quickly. After only 3 months though, that is exactly what happened!! My husband and I couldn’t be happier. Hearing the baby’s heartbeat is the highlight of every month. Dr. Husbands thank you for giving me my health back, and for affording us the opportunity to have a family of our own!” – patient from Redwood City, CA

Contact Dr Husbands for solutions for health problems associated with gut problems.

Dr Husbands is a Chiropractor, a Certified Clinical Nutritionist, an Anti-Aging Healthcare Practitioner and a Functional Medicine Doctor. For more information, visit http://www.holistichealthbayarea.com.