Gut Feelings —Digestive Healing
Digestive disorders cause enormous suffering in America and throughout the world. Sixty to 70 million Americans (2% of the population) have been diagnosed with a digestive disorder. A recent study showed that in a single year there were 33.3 million visits to doctors in an outpatient, office setting and 15.7 million visits to emergency rooms for digestive disorders. Infectious diarrhea affects about one-third of us. There are close to 100 million new cases of infectious diarrhea each year. (this figure shocked me, so I checked it from numerous sources).
The most common symptoms we think of regarding gastrointestinal (GI) disorders are: gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, pain, heartburn, dyspepsia, nausea, vomiting, and acid reflux. If you don't suffer from any of these, you're lucky. If you do, you know how these symptoms can disable your life and cause terrible pain and suffering. Associated with these symptoms is a long list of medical diagnoses. The more serious GI illnesses kill, on average, 230,000 people per year.
Where to Start?
There are two main issues to think about:
1. Diagnosing digestive disorder symptoms and treating them. In addition, a formal diagnosis should be made.
2. Addressing the fact that GI disorders often cause problems with digestion and absorption of the food you eat. This is an issue rarely dealt with by conventional gastroenterologists. But it is a fact that, if you are having a hard time breaking down your food, you have a good chance of being protein deficient and/or having imbalances of essential fatty acids. After I do comprehensive nutritional testing, I frequently discover (based on Amino Acid Analysis) that the individual is deficient in protein. People often are surprised and tell me that they eat a lot of protein. The problem is that, although they are consuming enough protein, it is not getting into their bloodstream.
Let's look at the anatomy of the GI tract. Food enters the mouth, proceeds down the esophagus to the stomach, where gastric acid and digestive enzymes pour in. The mixture of food and enzymes churns around for a couple of hours and then enters the small intestine, which is 25 to 30 feet long. The initial meal may take up to 48 hours to make its way to the colon, which is 3 to 5 feet long. The colon absorbs water back into the body from the totally digested food, and then finally you're ready to have a formed bowel movement. The amazing thing to ponder is that you may eat a piece of protein like chicken, fish, or tofu . . . something approximately one square inch. By the time food is absorbed, it has been totally broken down into single molecules. From a piece of protein, eventually individual amino acids are absorbed in your small intestine.
If you've had a serious enough digestive problem to see a doctor, most likely he or she ordered a stool test. That test was a tiny smear of stool on a slide, for which the lab looks for any signs of blood, ova or parasites. Maybe, you've had an endoscopy, and swallowed a tube that allowed your doctor to have a direct look at your esophagus and stomach. If you are totally cured, you don't really need to read any further.
Comprehensive Stool Analysis
In 1982 I introduced nutritional and metabolic testing into my practice and began routinely ordering Comprehensive Stool Analysis and Amino Acid Analysis. For the last few years, I have examined the state of a person's GI tract through a test called the GI-2, performed by Diagnos-Techs Lab in Washington State . The GI-2 is part of my baseline testing, whether you have a digestive problem or any other chronic health challenge. The amount of information gained is tremendous compared to the standard “smear on a slide.” Here are some of the 20 different things the GI-2 tests for:
Intestinal health is really the battle of the bacteria. We have about 2 pounds of bacteria in our GI tracts, and we want to have lots of acidophilus and bifidus (good bacteria). The GI-2 reports abnormal bacteria like Klebsiella and Citrobacter. These are not pathogens like the ones that send you to an emergency room, but they disturb the intestinal balance of bacteria. An imbalance is called “Dysbiosis.” It is important to supplement with high quality probiotics (friendly bacteria). I've checked out some of these in health stores and noticed that the number of bacteria per capsule is less than a billion. The products I recommend contain 15 to 20 billion friendly bacteria per capsule. This is one way the battle of the bacteria is won. We can also use various herbs to kill abnormal bacteria.
There are many different kinds of yeast, all of which can be tested for. Candida is an epidemic and a major cause of digestive problems. In order to get a “real” picture of candida, I also order a blood test for Anti-Candida Antibodies. The blood test is the gold standard. It provides accurate information about whether a person has candida overgrowth in their GI tract, throughout their body, or in both places. This blood test reports the quantity of candida, a numerical value, which tells me if we should begin aggressive treatment of candida. If I repeat that test after three months of treatment, it tells me if the candida is gone, back in balance, or if we need to continue treating it.
3. H. Pylori
The bacteria responsible for ulcers
4. Intestinal Immunity
The GI tract is our first line of immune defense. Anything that compromises the health of our GI tract can impair our immune response. The GI tract should be lined with healthy antibodies that are prepared to fight infections. The “marker” for intestinal immunity is frequently abnormal, and so part of my recommendations will include ways of boosting intestinal immunity. If you have impaired intestinal immunity, it is more difficult for your GI tract to overcome parasites, bacteria, yeast, or viruses.
5. Digestive Enzymes
The pancreas produces enzymes to break down protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Those enzymes pour into the stomach when we eat. If we are deficient in digestive enzymes, we are going to have problems breaking down food, and that means we will not be absorbing the nutrients we think we are getting from our diet.
Any part of the GI tract can become inflamed. The most serious inflammatory bowel diseases are Crohn's Disease and ulcerative colitis, both of which affect the colon, but can affect the last part of the small intestine. The GI-2 detects inflammation and helps the doctor figure out which part of the GI tract is inflamed.
7. Food Intolerances
The GI-2 tests for intolerance to dairy, soy, egg, and gliadin (a close relative of gluten). These problems are not the same as food allergies. A food that we are intolerant to irritates the lining of the GI tract. We can have a food intolerance for several reasons, including a deficiency in the digestive enzyme that breaks down that food. Lactose intolerance is the most widely known intolerance. Not all food intolerances are equal. In general, dairy and soy intolerance cause much worse intestinal irritation than do egg and gliadin. However,severe gliadin intolerance can indicate that more testing needs to be done to look for gluten intolerance. If the test shows food intolerance, it is best to remove that food from your diet for 4 to 6 months. I have treated people whose intestinal problems disappeared simply by removing a food they were intolerant to. For those who won't give up cow dairy, I recommend that they switch to goat milk and cheese, which causes much less of a reaction.
By the way, our understanding of soy has gone through several incarnations. For a long time we viewed it as a terrific health food. Now we find that it is one of the main irritants to the GI tract. Furthermore, soy can act like estrogen.
There are 2 main kinds of parasites: 1) single-celled parasites are called “amebas” and they only live in the GI tract and related organs, such as liver and gall bladder, 2) Helminthes, or worms, are larger, longer, multicelled critters that can live anywhere in our body. Diagnos-Tech's GI-2 tests for Blastocystis Hominis, Giardia, Ascaris Lumbricoides (roundworm), Toxoplasma Gondii, Cryptosporidium, Trichinella, Entamoeba Histolytica, and tapeworm (Taenia). It is estimated that 80 to 95% of people living in North America has at least one parasite living inside their body. Most municipal water supplies in the U.S. contain protozoa like Giardia and Cryptosporidium and one in five Americans drinks water that violate federal health standards. Every year, nearly one million North Americans become sick from water-borne parasites and about one percent die. A study of 7 major rivers on the US Pacific Coast showed that all 7 rivers tested positive for the parasite cryptosporidium.
When it comes to parasites, I am pretty aggressive in treating them. By definition, parasites live off of our nutrients. Some of them like B vitamins. Some of them like calcium and live in (and on) our joints. In addition to depleting certain specific nutrients, they cause inflammation in the GI tract and throughout the body.
The GI-2 provides more useful information than any other lab test I have worked with. Genova's Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis is terrific, but the GI-2 is providing information that I find to be more helpful.
Amino Acid Analysis is one of the 3 most important nutritional/metabolic tests. One of its 40 sub-tests tells me if a person has leaky gut syndrome. There are other tests that can be done to further evaluate the GI tract. But, with the GI-2 I have a wealth of data that usually helps solve digestive problems that had previously been called “untreatable.”
I could add more and more information to deepen your understanding, but I won't. Let me share one “factoid.” Stress is a big trigger of digestive problems, especially irritable bowel syndrome.
Stress causes our adrenal glands to get out of balance in their production of cortisol and adrenalin, and these hormonal imbalances will affect the GI tract, especially affecting the motility (rhythmic, peristaltic movement of the GI tract) and the immunity of the GI tract.
The Mind-Gut Connection
The GI tract is hard-wired to our brain and spinal cord. We have an enormous number of nerves that go from our spinal cord to different parts of the GI tract. This is why people literally “feel something in their gut.” If you have just experienced a personal tragedy, you may double over with abdominal pain. Your “guts” are feeling the emotional pain. More than any other body part, our GI tract is closely “hard-wired” with our central nervous system, making that part of the mind-body connection an inseparable unity. That's why it's important to learn to trust our gut feelings.
In order to heal a digestive problem, information is our most powerful tool. The GI-2 gives us the facts (data) that we need to work together and come to logical, reasonable treatment strategies.
While steroids are lifesaving for an attack of ulcerative colitis, and proton-pump inhibitors, like Prilosec, relieve heartburn and acid reflux, the information we gain from truly comprehensive digestive analysis helps us move from “temporarily keeping symptoms at bay with medication””— to treating underlying causes and finding a lasting cure.
A “lifetime sentence” of gas, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, or acid reflux is usually really “temporary””— once we have the right data to look at.
David Gersten, M.D. practices Nutritional Medicine and Integrative Psychiatry out of his Encinitas office and can be reached at 760-633-3063. Please feel free to access 1,000 on-line pages about holistic health, amino acids, and nutritional therapy at www.aminoacidpower.com, and information on earthing at www.EarthingUSA.com.
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I'm a 58-year-old woman and thought I had a mild case of snoring up till now. Two years ago I found out that I have sleep apnea, and I use a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine every night. I'm totally embarrassed by this. A doctor friend of mine said that I shouldn't be. What might be the core issues that have contributed to this condition? Is there an affirmation I can use to help?
K.C., Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Sleep apnea usually means that a person is feeling guilty about expressing themselves so they hold back and almost suffocate themselves in the process. What is it that you need to express? Who are you afraid of? You need to know that you are safe and have a right to be yourself. Tell that person what you need to tell him or her, and you'll feel so much better afterward. On the physical side, most people with this condition are overweight and need to ingest a more cleansing diet. If this applies to you, I suggest that you eat lots of vegetables and protein, and very little sugar and starch.
Affirm: I love my body. I take loving care of my diet and my thoughts. I choose foods that support my health, and I think thoughts that make me feel good. My healing has begun. I sleep peacefully.
I have had a second back surgery for a herniated disk at the same location (L5, S1), which is at the base of the spinal column. The surgeon performed a laminatomy on this twice now. The herniation was on the left side with extreme lower back pain and pain shooting down the left leg.
Can you help me with what might be the issue here, and an affirmation for strength regarding this area?
T.C., Chicago, Illinois
Or bodies are always talking to us—trying to get our attention, wanting us to heal our thinking. The lower back is like a balance beam for the whole body. It anchors the body for action. It also represents the support of our upper body. So when we have back problems there's a part of us that doesn't feel supported by Life. I would suspect that you're worried about finances. There's a part of you that doesn't trust Life to support you financially. All of us need to trust Life more. An affirmation I like to use is: The Power that brought me this far will take care of me the rest of the way. Since you write that this condition is on the left side of your body, you might go through your old resentment file and see if there's anything left that you need to forgive your mother for (or a woman who was/is of influence in your life). Unforgiveness often holds the pain of guilt somewhere in our bodies.
Affirmations to use: From this moment on, every hand that touches my body is a healing hand. I release all guilt. My loving, forgiving thoughts bring healing to my body.
I am a 31-year-old male and am single.. I have a photograph of you, and I look at it every day. I like you, your books, and your ideas. I have a problem in my job, and I'm hoping you can solve it. I want to transfer to another branch of the company where I work, but my boss doesn't agree with me. Would you please help me? As I'm writing this letter, I feel very sad and hopeless. Thanks a lot.
S.S., Tehran, Iran
Thank you for reading my books! Your letter to me is so vague that I suspect that you're also very vague in knowing what you want in life. Many people look at Life in this way. I suggest you sit down and write exactly what you do want to have happen in your life. Be specific. We can only change things in our life in the present moment. If you don't clear your thinking now, you'll just find the same circumstances in the other branch of the company.
Also, try these affirmations every morning when you get up and are preparing for your day: I forgive everyone in my life who has ever harmed me. I am free of the past. I deserve to have a good life and allow that to happen now. I am filled with gratitude and thanksgiving. All is well in my world.
I was just told by my doctor that I have something called Candida. This was news to me! I've never even heard of it. Do you have any suggestions for how to heal this condition? Thank you so much.
A.G., Vancouver, B.C.
Candida is a very common condition but rarely diagnosed properly by medical doctors. Women who take antibiotics and eat lots of sugar often have this condition. If you want a lot of good information about healing this problem, get the book The Body Ecology by Donna Gates. You can also go to a good nutritionist and have an eating plan created just for you. Candidia is easily healed if you will follow the dietary suggestions.
Affirm: I lovingly help heal my body by choosing foods that are best for my special body. Perfect health and wholeness are mine. All is well in my world.
Louise L. Hay is a metaphysical teacher and the bestselling author of numerous books, including You Can Heal Your Life , Empowering Women, and I Can Do It! . Subscribe to the Louise Hay Newsletter! Call for a Free Issue: (800) 654-5126. Questions for Louise? Write to: Dear Louise Column, c/o Hay House, Inc., P.O. Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100 (letters may be edited for length and clarity). Visit Louise and Hay House at: www.LouiseHay.com or www.hayhouse.com.
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