Digestive issues are a very common problem these days. According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, “Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder with worldwide prevalence rates ranging generally in the area of 10–15%.” There are several other major types of digestive orders, and many with minor digestive complaints do not seek care, so we could estimate that upwards of 20% or more of the population suffers from some sort of digestive issue. That’s 1 out of every 4 to 5 people!
Common complaints from people with digestive issues include bloating after meals, heartburn, excessive lower abdominal gas, constipation, diarrhea, or a combination of all of the above. Most of the time people see their family doctor or even a gastroenterologist. This is good as they can rule out more serious health issues. However, a vast majority of time people are diagnosed with a general condition called irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS. IBS is a syndrome or collection of symptoms not attributed to a specific pathogen or structural issue. It’s non-specific and the treatment often involves symptomatic care. Rarely does the doctor or patient look further to find the root cause of the issue.
Once all issues that require urgent medical attention are ruled out (infection, malignancy, inflammatory autoimmune disorder,etc.), functional medicine can be vital to finding out the cause and correcting any issues found. Let’s take a look at some of those possible causes.
A review of a person’s social habits and lifestyle can give clues as to potential causes of digestive issues. Poor diet, eating foods not right for the person’s body, history of antibiotic use, excessive stress, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive NSAID or prednisone use, and several other factors can lead to changes in the gut. These changes affect the function of the gut and its ability to maintain balance, detoxify the body, and absorb nutrients from our food.
A full assessment of these potential causes and many more is done as part of the functional medicine consultation. Modifying health damaging lifestyle habits is vitally important to each person’s care plan.
Underlying Root Causes
In addition to investigating a person’s daily habits, specialized testing can be done to identify any issues that may be affecting the gut and to what degree the gut is damaged.
Here is a list of common underlying causes of digestive issues that can be exposed by testing.
- Inadequate amounts of the beneficial bacteria that live in the gut
- Inadequate production of stomach acid due to stress and/or nutrient deficiency
- Nutrient deficiencies (especially omega 3’s, certain amino acids, vitamin D, B-vitamins, short chain fatty acids)
- Chronic infections (abnormal gut bacteria, parasites, yeast, virus)
- Toxic exposure/poor detoxification (mold, chemical exposure, heavy metals)
- Hormone imbalance (especially excessive stress/cortisol)
- General poor gut function and integrity, leading to leaky gut syndrome
If you are suffering from digestive issues, schedule a consult today to find out more about our program. Our approach is simple. Modify lifestyle factors and test and address any issues that are interfering with the ability of your body to function optimally. Often when this is done, the body will heal itself and correct the dysfunction.