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Gut Health 201: Search and Eliminate

What mystery culprits are causing your gut symptoms?

Is it the hidden lactose in the Pumpkin Spice Sauce in your almond milk Pumpkin Spice Latte?

Hidden gluten in your gluten-free oats?

The bug you picked up on your vacation?

Or maybe even your favourite fruit or vegetable! How could any of those be bad for your gut health?

The first step to solving your bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation and regaining your gut health is to identify what is causing the problem in the first place!

There are several layer of protection including stomach acid, healthy gut bacteria, enzymes to break down food, mucous to protect your intestinal walls, tight stomach and gastrointestinal cell junctions to keep undigested food where it belongs.

When your gut is weakened and overwhelmed by an invader - either a parasite, bacteria or food intolerance - the guts defences are overcome.

The only way to start to heal and strengthen is to remove the offender!

This could be through an elimination diet for food sensitivities or through medications or herbs for bugs.

How to Find the Offender

A good investigation starts with a clear history assessment.

Get clear on family history, past diagnoses and investigations, what symptoms you have, when they started, what you've tried in the past (did they work or not?) and when you last felt normal.

Keep a food and symptom diary for a week and see if there are any associations in time of day, food eaten, emotions, activities, and not only bowel symptoms, but also aches, pains, skin changes, stuffy nose, headache, and so on.

A good clinician will be able to help you get specific to target investigations instead of going on a wild goose chase paying for every lab test on the market!

Offender 1: Food

When recording your food diary there is only one rule: Be honest.

There is no benefit of leaving out the daily croissant you are picking up on your way to work every morning or the 5th espresso you are having before bed.

If you're able to easily link your symptoms to one of the major food offenders: Grains, dairy, nuts or red wine (hello sulphites). Then you're in business! Diligently eliminate the food group that you think is affecting you and see how you feel in a week.

For most people it is not so simple, and there may be several food offenders and hidden ingredients wreaking havoc.

The low cost choice is to undergo an elimination diet. This can take weeks to months to determine

Another option is to invest in some lab investigations that will quickly identify foods that are likely contributing to your symptoms.

For example, lactose intolerance testing, celiac testing, and food-sensitivity testing.

Food-sensitivity testing is controversial in the traditional western medical community, but widely accepted in functional medicine and other complementary practitioners. It works by identifying delayed sensitivity reactions to foods, medications and food additives that can contribute to a wide range of symptoms from skin changes to joint pain to headache. Once you have your results you have a clear guide for your elimination diet.

Offender 2: Bacteria

Most people are familiar with common offenders like Salmonella from undercooked chicken and Traveller's Diarrhea caused by E.Coli. These are easily identified with stool testing and can be treated with supportive therapy and/or antibiotics.

But, what about when your gut bacteria isn't balanced and the bad bacteria is out-of-contol? Maybe from a poor diet or use of antibiotics?

Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) occurs when bacteria in your small intestine gets out of balance and overgrows. These bacteria love carbohydrates and produce hydrogen and eventually methane gas that causes bloating, discomfort, and several other symptoms. Though not 100% reliable a simple breath test can identify SIBO.

Comprehensive stool testing can go into more detail about your balance of gut flora as there may be more than one overlying imbalance or invader.

Offender 3: Yeast

Comprehensive stool testing can also identify yeast or Candida overgrowth. Yeast commonly overgrows after use of heavy antibiotics and from carbohydrates, alcohol, or stress.

Are you ready to feel great again?

Take the first step to solving your gut problems for good!

Contact me on the home page and let's get started on regaining control of your gut through the functional medicine approach!

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