Dr Dingle's Blog / IBS
Arguable the biggest health problem facing us today is gut health rivaling the current obesity crisis and tobacco smoking in its impact on our health. Every health condition is linked to gut health and gut healing either directly or indirectly through inflammation and oxidation. Historically every culture understood this and were involved in extensive practices of gut healing and even our own up until 60 or so years ago. The first thing health practitioners throughout history would do is to start to fix the gut.
Until recently the positive effects of the gut microbiome on our digestive system and health has been severely under rated. Wisdom of Chinese doctors from centuries ago, who somehow knew that the intestines were not merely a digestive organ, but the centre of health and wellbeing. Hippocrates was recorded as saying that all illness begins in the gut. Throughout history from the Egyptians till around 80 years ago medicine and the bowels were frequently mentioned in the same sentence and good health revolved around gut health.
Even today the nomadic Maasai tribes in Africa attribute most illnesses to the effect of “pollutants” that block or inhibit digestion. In these communities the plants are used to cure diseases served mainly as strong purgatives and emetics; they "cleanse" the body and digestive system from polluting substances.
With thousands of studies released each year the gut is known to play a major role in many health conditions including mental health issues, cardiovascular disease, allergies and asthma, autoimmune diseases, some cancers and even diabetes and weight gain. Many of these conditions which are now reaching epidemic proportions have been linked to a dysfunctional gut. Studies have shown a strong link between mental health issues including depression and what is called the gut brain axis. We also know the gut is the centre of our immune system and is strongly influenced by the gut microbiome. As a result the gut has a strong link with allergies and asthma. Peanut allergies for example are not caused by peanuts they are brought about by a dysfunctional gut microbiome.
Antibiotics and many gut medications used for controlling acid reflux have been shown to be devastating to gut health a healthy gut microbiome, as well as many of the chemicals we use around the homes and even the personal care products we apply to our skin. Even our activities either promote gut health and gut healing or harm it. Stress sends messages to the opportunistic (bad) microorganisms in the gut to tell them to start to take over from the good ones. Exercise promotes gut health and healing while no exercise or too much exercise does the exact opposite.
Fortunately, in animal studies we know that many of these conditions can be improved and even reversed if the gut microbiome is repaired. 50% of Parkinson’s Disease has been directly linked with poor gut health while improving the gut microbiome has been shown to dramatically improve symptoms.
The research also shows that while probiotics can be useful in gut healing, repairing the gut microbiome requires an understanding of what encourages a healthy gut microbiome in our diet and lifestyle as well as what causes a dysfunctional microbiome. We now know that all the healthy foods we eat, the vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices and fruit all feed the gut microbiome which then feeds us and looks after our health. All the studies on healthy diets from the Mediterranean to the original Japanese or the low inflammatory diet (DII) benefit us because they work through the gut to promote gut health and subsequently our health.
Irritable or Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects an estimated 14.1% of the US population and 11% of the global population. IBS is characterized by chronic abdominal pain, gas, cramping, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. More than one-half of all patients with IBS suffer from depression or anxiety. Missed work, social interactions, and travel are among the top stressors for these individuals. Many studies have shown a compromised gut microbiome to be associated with IBS.
In this study a 53-y-old Caucasian patient had signs of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS; gas/bloating, gastroesophageal reflux), fatigue, and sleep disturbances. He also noted a history of chronic sinusitis, seasonal allergies, multiple chemical sensitivities, and right knee pain (3 surgeries).
Over the course of 6 mo, the patient was treated using an elimination diet, lifestyle modifications, botanicals, and dietary supplements to address the underlying cause of issues. His symptoms decreased and quality of life increased, resulting in the resolution of his IBS symptoms, improved sleep, and increased energy levels.
This case illustrates the usefulness of diet and lifestyle changes to improve and eliminate chronic gut issues.
Here is a quote from the patient
Patient Perspective. “I feel better than ever—even better than in my 20s. I went into this process with a high desire to feel better since my gut symptoms and fatigue began to impact everything I enjoy in life—golf, cycling, and the outdoors, but I was a little hesitant knowing it would involve so many changes. I thought it would be a difficult process, but it really wasn’t once I established my lifestyle, diet, and supplement routines. The hardest part of treatment was going 100% gluten free. Had I known I would feel this good, I would’ve done this long ago. Finding the root causes and making lasting lifestyle changes are the key to health. Working with a knowledgeable practitioner makes all the difference!”