How Gut Health Impacts The Whole Body

  • Tara Andresen

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Is Your Gut Health Compromised?

We are finding out more and more about how critical gut health is for overall health. Research over the past two decades has revealed how an unhealthy digestive tract can contribute to a wide variety of health issues. In this article, we will look at a variety of health issues that can be linked to an unhealthy gastrointestinal system. Then, we will review some specific digestion lab tests that are available through your Naturopath.

Part 1: Signs & Symptoms of Compromised Gut Function

Some symptoms of an unhealthy gut are obvious but others are less straight forward. Here are seven indicators that gut health is compromised:

(1) Upset Stomach

Digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and heartburn can all be more obvious signs of a compromised gut. A healthy gut will break down food and eliminate waste with little difficulty.

(2) Food Intolerances

A food intolerance is different than a food allergy. A food allergy reaction occurs immediately after digesting a food while with a food intolerance, symptoms are delayed and can occur within a few hours or up to 48 hours later. Digestive, skin and respiratory symptoms are the most common food intolerance reactions and indicate a compromised gut.

(3) Obesity & Food Cravings

An unhealthy balance in your gut microbiome may affect the signals from your brain telling you when are feeling hungry or full. Recent data shows a link between the diversity of gut bacteria and the way we store fat as well as how we regulate digestion hormones. This may be a reason our eating habits are so difficult to change. Some research has suggested that gut flora may generate cravings for foods they specialize in or those that will allow them to better compete for resources against other bacteria.

(4) Depression & Anxiety

There is increasing evidence of an important link between the gut and the brain. Dysfunction of the mind-gut connection has been implicated in stress-related disorders such as depression and anxiety.

(5) Eczema

Eczema is a skin condition that causes itchy, red skin. There is a growing body of research demonstrating that children with eczema have less diverse gut bacteria than those without eczema.

(6) Diabetes Research is now showing that people with Type 2 Diabetes have different gut microbiota than those without Type 2 Diabetes. It is hypothesized that certain bacteria incite an immune response. There are some microbes that produce toxins that can cause an inflammation throughout the body that can affect insulin sensitivity.

(7) Autoimmune Disease and Suppressed Immunity

Autoimmune disease happens when the body’s natural defence system can’t tell the difference between your own cells and foreign cells, causing the body to mistakenly attack normal cells. Scientists are currently studying the relationship between gut microbe health and the following autoimmune diseases: Lupus, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis), Type One Diabetes, MS and Rheumatoid Arthritis. While further investigation is needed, many researchers suspect that autoimmune diseases, as well as some other chronic conditions, could have their origins in the gut microbiome. Many believe that bacteria found in the mucus layer of the intestines may hold the key to understanding more about how the microbiome relates to health and disease.

Part 2: Specific Gut Health Tests

In addition to reviewing symptoms and conducted a thorough health history and physical exam, there are a number of specialized lab tests that may be ordered by your Naturopath to effectively assess your gastrointestinal health. A comprehensive assessment is a vital part of effectively treating digestive health concerns and improving gut function.

  • SIBO Breath Testing
    Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) is a digestive condition that results in excessive bloating and gas, especially after meals, as well as other symptoms that are often mistaken for IBS. The SIBO breath test can detect elevated hydrogen and/or methane gases that are produced by the bacteria overgrowth. Once identified, effective treatment can be targeted to normalize bacteria levels and correct excess gas and bloating.
  • Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CSA)
    The CSA test helps pinpoint the causes of gastrointestinal symptoms and chronic systemic conditions by assessing key markers of digestion, absorption and inflammation. It includes the following:
  • A comprehensive bacteriology & yeast cultures to identify the status of beneficial probiotics strains as well as the detection of problematic bacteria.
  • Assessment of gut function by measuring fecal levels of fat, muscle and vegetable fibers, and carbohydrates.
  • Measurement of inflammatory biomarkers called calprotectin, lactoferrin, lysozyme and secretory IgA. Increased inflammation can increase intestinal permeability and assimilation of nutrients.
  • IgG Food Sensitivity Blood Test

There is a growing body of evidence to support the clinical benefits of eliminating IgG reactive foods from the diet. In an IgG reaction, the IgG antibodies bind to food antigens creating antibody-antigen complexes. These complexes are normally removed by immune system cells called macrophages. However, if complexes are present in large numbers and the reactive food is still being consumed, the macrophages can’t remove them quickly enough. The food antigen-antibody complexes accumulate and can be deposited in body tissues. Once in tissues, these complexes can trigger inflammation, which may be responsible for a wide variety of symptoms.

  • Pylori Breath Test
    The urea breath test is a non-invasive test to detect the presence of an active H. pylori bacteria infection in the stomach. H. Pylori bacteria can cause stomach lining inflammation and ulcers.
  • Celiac Disease Serum Testing
    Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that occurs in genetically predisposed individuals, in which the ingestion of gluten leads to an immune attack of the villi of the small intestines. Healthy villi are essential for the digestion and absorption of both macro- and micronutrients. Individuals with undiagnosed celiac disease are prone to malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, and anemia.
    A celiac blood test detects and quantifies the presence of immunological markers formed against gluten.
  • Nutrient Deficiencies (iron, B12, folic acid, Vitamin D)
    The small intestine absorbs the majority of the nutrients in your food and then your circulatory system passes them on to other parts of your body to use or to store. Special cells help absorbed nutrients cross the intestinal lining into your bloodstream.
    Digestion issues can affect the ability of the small intestine to properly absorb nutrients. Blood testing for the nutrients can help identify deficiencies.
  • Intestinal Permeability Testing (Zonulin Blood Testing)
    In a healthy gut, there are healthy cell junctions and good nutrient absorption. In a leaky gut with compromised intestinal permeability however, the Villi of the intestinal lining are damaged, there is poor absorption and the cell junctions are loose. This means that bacteria and unwanted items can pass through the gut into the bloodstream.
    Increased intestinal permeability can be caused by food allergies and sensitivities, stress, infections, and low stomach acid, among other causes. Zonulin is a protein that is synthesized in intestinal cells and liver cells. It is a key biomarker for intestinal permeability and is the only regulator of intestinal permeability that is reversible.

Repair your gut! See a Naturopath.

To find out more about how a Naturopath assesses and treats gastrointestinal concerns, book a FREE 15 min Meet the Naturopath consultation with Dr. Tara Andresen today at one of her NDcare Naturopathic Clinics in Toronto. You can book directly online or call the clinic at (647) 330-1551.