We experience a variety of problems with digestion: bloating and gas after eating, gastroesophgeal reflux disease (GERD), diarrhea, constipation, malnutrition. There are many causes of these conditions and a thorough workup is usually required. The workup begins with a consultation that involves a past medical and family history, and the actual development of your symptoms. We also want to know what you have already tried and treview tests that have already been done. It is important at the time of your first visit that you bring as many of you medical records as you can.
The following is a discussion of the causes and treatments for common digestive problems.
Constipation: is hard formed stools that are difficult to pass. It is usually caused by a slow movement of stool through the large intestines. The longer the stool remains in our large intestines, the more fluid is reabsorbed, hense the harder the stool.
Constipation is caused by:
- Dehydration. Not drinking enough water
- Sluggish bowel peristalsis caused by a lack of magnesium. Peristalsis is the smooth muscle activity that moves bowel contents through our intestines. When we are stressed we lose magnesium through our kidneys. Magnesium is key to proper smooth muscle contractility. Hence, lack of magnesium can be a main cause of constipation.
- Food allergies cause bowel inflammation which can cause either constipation or diarrhea.
- Bowel inflammation caused by improper bacterial balance.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Our bowel has as many, if not more, neuropeptide activity as our brain. We think and feel with our gut. Anxiety, stress and genetics propensities can cause IBS. However IBS is often the diagnosis given when no other obvious cause can be found. I find about 50% of women with this diagnosis actually have parasites, candida or food allergies.
- Other unusual causes. If you do not fit into the above categories there are other more unusual causes that we can investigate.
Constipation can be treated as follows:
- Drink more water. Drink enough water so your urine is a pale yellow in the toilet. I don’t believe in saying you need so many glasses or a gallon a day. How much water you need is affected by your adrenal function, level of exercise, salt intake, kidney function and outside humidity. Here in New Mexico, we evaporate about a quart of water from breathing because our air is so dry. Just keep your urine pale yellow. If you are concerned and unsure, pull the skin on the back of your hand. It should snap back into place. If it stays in a crease, you need more water.
- Magnesium supplements. I suggest magnesium citrate, sulfate or glycinate. Do not use magnesium oxide or milk of magnesia. In this form it acts as a laxative by irritating your bowel. Begin with 200 or 400 mg.of magnesium and work up to what you need to keep your bowel functioning. If you take too much it will cause diarrhea. We call this titrating to bowel function. You may need more or less on a daily basis. Stressful activities such as travel can worsen constipation thus requiring higher doses of magnesium. With a bit of practice you will find the dose that works for you.
- Test for food allergies. This is best done with a blood test. I suggest you not come to test for any food if you are avoiding it. If you don’t eat a food it may not show up as being an allergen. However if you know you are intolerant of any group of foods, there is no need to eat it and test for it. Regardless of the test results we already know you cannot eat these foods.
Diarrhea is loose, unformed stools to explosive liquid bowel movements . The most common cause of this is either a gastrointestinal flu or food poisoning, unless caused by a parasite such as Giardia. Diarrhea can be treated with over the counter Imodium or preferably the Chinese herb Curing Pills. You can also drink electrolyte water and eat mild foods that will help bind your stool such as cooked milk and rice products.
Chronic Diarrhea is a different condition. It is caused most frequently by bacteria, parisites, food allergies and IBS, Chrones disease or Colitis. If you have chronic diarrhea, you should see a practitioner. For an appointment contact us.
Treatment for diarrhea:
- Increase gentle fiber naturally found in steamed vegetables and well cooked beans and cereals. You can use mixed fiber products such as Psyllium powder.( My favorite fiber is Benifiber which is altered so it does not thicken in your throat or stomach.) If you use fiber products it is important to drink at least five eight ounce glasses of water through the day to keep the fiber flexible in your bowel.
- Curing or Curling Pills are a Chinese herbal preparation that soothes the bowel. You take one capsule after each loose stool. Not taking it unless you have a loose stool prevents a rebound constipation.
- Other herbal preparations exist and can be tailored to your condition specifically by a practitioner. For an appointment contact us.
- Quantum biofeedback- Indigo is helpful when other options are not or if energetic medicine is our preference of treatment. We may not get immediate results with biofeedback though results tend to be longer lasting.
Indigestion has been called GERD, heart burn, bloating after meals, nausea after meals and belching. Indigestion is caused by improper digestion in our stomach. Here is how digestion works.
- Chewing food to mush does two things. It breaks the food own into small fibers, making it possible for the acid in our stomach to do its job. It mixes the food with saliva and digestive enzymes. 80% of our digestive enzymes come from our parotid gland in our saliva. Proper digestion occures when food is chewed well. “Munch, munch, swallow” isn’t chewing. Food should be mush before swallowing. If you have indigestion, try this. It really works.
- Stomach acid. Digestion requires Hydrochloric Acid (HCL) to break down food fibers so the nutrients can be released and absorbed. As we grow older, we can have a problem producing enough HCL. If you don’t produce enough HCL, food in your stomach will ferment causing gas,bloating and belching of stomach contents back up into your esophagus. This feels like heartburn.
- It takes about one half hour for stomach acid to dissolve food. Then the stomach empties into the small intestines where sodium bicarbonate is released to neutralize the acid. Pancreatic enzymes and the bacteria in your intestines continue to break down the food so nutrients can be absorped. Drinking a hot liquid just after eating can stimulate stomach emptying prematurely. When food does not stay in the stomach long enough, does not have enough HCL, or not enough pancreatic enzymes, it can ferment in the intestines causing gas and bloating.
- Food allergies and daily use of over the counter pain killers and antiinflamatory NSAIDS (Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, etc.) cause intestinal inflammation. Inflammation changes the intestinal ecology and affect what bacteria can live there. An improper intestinal bio-culture can also cause fermentation instead of digestion.
Digestion is core to health. Indigestion is much more than an inconvenience. If you do not digest properly, you cannot assimilate nutrients. The long term result is ill health. If you are having problems with digestion come see us and let’s get this resolved.