causes of gastric distress

Last time we discussed how the bacteria and yeast, collectively referred to as the microbiome, can become imbalanced leading to gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, burning and generalized discomfort. As promised I’ll explain how the microbial imbalances can be identified and touch on various treatments are causes of gastric distress.

A breath test can be used to diagnose Heliobactor pylori overgrowth. H. pylori is a bacteria that inhabits the stomach of most humans and is the organism that is responsible for most ulcers if conditions allow overgrowth. Symptoms of burning or discomfort in the upper abdominal area that is made better by eating, may warrant testing for H. pylori overgrowth. Several antibiotics are used to eradicate the organism and herbs and nutritional supplements can be used to help heal the gut tissue.

Small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO) is an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. SIBO can result from chronic constipation; food borne illnesses; consumption of foods, such as sugar and refined carbohydrates that support growth of unfavorable microbes, and/or impaired digestion of foods. Symptoms of SIBO include gas, bloating, flatulence, belching, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, and nausea. SIBO may be the cause of irritable bowel symptoms if the following indicators are present: symptoms are made worse by consuming fiber or probiotics that contain prebiotics; patients with celiac do not improve with gluten-free diets; symptoms improve after a course of antibiotics; and/or if use of opiates causes constipation. The diagnostic tool for identifying SIBO is the lactulose breath test, which measures hydrogen or methane gas production in the small intestine. If testing is positive, specific antibiotics, herbal medicine and specific food types can help to rebalance the microbes and eliminate overgrowth.

A Comprehensive stool analysis (CSA) can be used to assess overall gastrointestinal health. CSA can provide information regarding digestive enzyme function and effectiveness, as well as microbial inhabitants of the large intestine. Microscopic analysis of stool can identify meat or vegetable fibers, which indicates of improper digestion. Macroscopic exam may also identify a parasitic infection. Presence of fecal fats can indicate impaired transit time, insufficient absorption or lack of enzymes or bile acids. Symptoms indicating a CSA is needed to evaluate gut health include diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, excessive flatulence, nausea, reflux, and suspicion of leaky gut. Antibiotics, hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes, herbal medicine and ox bile can help to rebalance the microbes and eliminate overgrowth if testing is positive.

Fecal matter transplant (FMT) has been used very successfully as a stand alone or adjunctive treatment for people who are suffering with gastrointestinal disorders. Currently, the FDA allows FMT to be performed in doctor’s offices only for Clostridium difficile infections. “Poop pills” have been developed and proven to be effective for treating even large intestinal microbiome imbalances. It sounds like a disgusting way to obtain relief of symptoms, but people who have been suffering with severe digestive complaints will do anything to feel normal again and this treatment is effective for many.

If you are suffering with digestive disorders, don’t cover them up with over-the-counter symptom relieving medications because this can lead to additional health issues. For example, food sensitivities, toxin exposure, and microbial imbalances that cause intestinal permeability can result in chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, cancer, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.

Finally, even though microbial imbalances are the most common causes of gastric distress, other conditions, such as food allergies, pancreatic insufficiency, insufficient bile acids, impaired liver function, gallbladder stones, appendicitis, adhesions, intestinal blockage, endometriosis and cancer can lead to abdominal discomfort. Some of these are life threatening, so don’t delay in finding a doctor who is familiar with traditional and alternative labs and who understands the importance in finding and treating the cause of your distress.

The information provided is for educational purposes only.

Hi, I’m Dr. Cheryl Hamilton