Monthly Archives: February 2010

Divine Digestion

I feel that there are a few disorders that are nagging. And a few that make us absolutely miserable. Then there are things like diabetes and heart disease, which while causing great health problems and costing our country billions, don’t usually present with physical symptoms.

The more miserable, the more likely people are to make prescribed changes.

This is why I love helping people who suffer from digestive disorders. I find that people who have discomfort on a daily basis will often head my advice.

Digestive problems are also a good thing for naturopathic medicine, as many of the therapies work better and are safer than what we see offered in conventional medicine. One of the governing philosophies of naturopathic medicine is to find and treat the underlying cause of illness. Leaning heavily on this ideal, I find that patients tend to improve quickly once we do a little deeper investigation. Naturopathic doctors also have a large range of treatment options, that can be used to facilitate cure or just act as a bandaid while we search for the true cause of illness. From diet changes and stress management, to nutrional supplements, to botanical medicine and homeopathy, the treatment options are nourishing and beneficial.

Starting at the top of “the tube” we can look at problems in the mouth as harbingers of health throughout the body. There is an association in people with gum disease to heart disease. This may be general inflammation or possibly nutrient deficiency. Cold sores are a virus and are often eliminated with natural antivirals, while also fortifying the immune system of the individual.

Moving on down, even when a patient does not complain of sore throat, I always like to take a look at the posterior pharynx. Swelling of the tonsils in the absence of any frank infection, is a sign that the immune system is keyed up and fighting something – usually chronic. (Often food allergies.). These people may have post nasal drip, a tickling cough, or sleep disruption from snoring.

One of the most common digestive complaints in the US is GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease). Now being diagnosed even in infants, and being treated with a variety of prescriptions which may have long-term consequences. One study showed that people who enter the hospital on these medications are more likely to get pneumonia while they are in the hospital. This is likely because the drug eliminates the natural stomach acid, and this is one of our first lines of defense against pathogens. If that were the only way to deal with the intense discomfort of reflux, I could be more accepting of the treatment. Therapies I find successful include finding underlying food allergies and improving overall digestion. This may include prescribing digestive enzymes or helping people with nutrition choices. An effective and safe “bandaid treatment” is chewable deglycyrrhinated licorice.

Nausea has to be one of the  most uncomfortable and debilitating of digestive issues. It is critical to find and treat underlying causes, such as identifying ulcers, pregnancy, lactose intolerance, medication reactions or food allergies. Once we have properly diagnosed “gastritis” down to the actual cause, we can find many natural and effective treatments. Even nausea and vomiting of pregnancy can be greatly improved with safe natural therapies.

Lower gastrointestinal problems may include diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, diverticulitis, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Similar strategies as above apply in terms of digging deeper to find and treat underlying cause of symptoms. Testing may include looking for overgrowth of bacteria, fungi, and parasites, as well as ruling out food allergies and digestive enzyme insufficiency.

If you are not already eating a whole foods diet, free of coffee and excess sugar and refined carbohydrates, that is a good place to begin.

Regardless of the problem, there are many effective naturopathic strategies for improving digestive function, eliminating pain and discomfort, and finding true health.