Chronic digestive symptoms can make one’s life miserable. We all love to eat, but when eating inevitably leads to diarrhea or constipation (or both!), it certainly detracts from the experience. Many of us brush off loose stools, constipation, gas and bloating with a laugh or an excuse. However, persistent digestive issues can indicate a more serious underlying condition. They can also lead to malabsorption which in time points us down the path of chronic degenerative disease. Chronic diarrhea or constipation is a red flag that needs to be addressed!
Some people think straining to poop (with ample reading material nearby) is normal. However, a bowel movement should last seconds, slide out easily, and require no straining at all. Stools should not be too hard or too small; they should be mushy to formed. Other people poke fun at their gassy spouse, but once again, gas and bloat are both commonly signs of pathogenic bacteria in the gut.
The causes of constipation can be as simple as chronic dehydration and lack of movement, to more complex such as food sensitivities, or problems with bile production (bile salts play a key role in proper elimination). Certain foods often cause constipation, such as gluten, dairy, white rice, bread, and pasta, as do certain medications such as antidepressants, narcotics, and iron pills. Constipation can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as SIBO. SIBO, or Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth, is a condition where otherwise beneficial bacteria end up in the small intestine instead of the colon. This extremely uncomfortable, and highly common, disorder causes chronic bloating, gas, and either diarrhea or constipation depending on the type of bacteria involved.
What about diarrhea? Food intolerances can also be a significant player, most typically dairy (lactose intolerance), as can conditions of fat malabsorption leading to loose and floating stools. Antibiotics, antacids, and blood pressure medications can alter the natural balance of gut flora, leading to diarrhea. Almost all of us have suffered through a bout of food poisoning; however, many do not know that the underlying pathogenic organisms responsible (such as Salmonella, Giardia, and E Coli) often do not get completely cleared and linger for years—a primary cause of Intestinal Bowel Syndrome or “IBS”.
Crohn’s, celiac, and ulcerative colitis are all inflammatory autoimmune diseases affecting the gut, causing frequent trips to the bathroom, diarrhea, and sometimes blood and mucus in the stool. It is important to get these conditions ruled out, as they can lead to severe malnutrition, which can lead to much more serious degenerative diseases, such as cancer or Alzheimer’s/dementia.
Antibiotics and steroids can provide temporary relief, but they will in most cases exacerbate and eventually worsen the underlying condition. At Vital Health, we take the time to identify the underlying causes, so that we can “treat to heal”. Acupuncture works powerfully to balance and strengthen the digestive organs, while high precision, food-based supplements create the environment in which the gut can repair.
©2021 Darcy Greenwald, M.S.O.M., L.Ac. and Vital Health