Reactions to foods are increasingly common it seems, with a large portion of the population experiencing some reactivity or sensitivity. There are several distinct types of food reactions, so I’m going to outline food allergy versus food intolerance to help distinguish. Often in Western medical circles, only a true food allergy is recognized, whereas many reactions may not fall into that category and ignoring other sensitivities can lead to ongoing symptoms that could be avoided.
Leaky gut is a condition that involves changes in the integrity of digestive tract, compromising its function and immune protection. It has a variety of different causes, but it is clear that eating gluten can contribute to leaky gut via increasing the production of a substance called zonulin.
Hydrochloric acid (HCl) is normally secreted by the stomach to enhance the breakdown and subsequent absorption of the food and nutrients that we consume. HCl also serves a protective function, killing various pathogenic microorganisms that might otherwise cause infection in the gastrointestinal tract. Hydrochloric acid impacts your digestion significantly through these two factors – break down of food, and protection from external threats.
People with low HCl (hypochlorhydria) or absent HCl (achlorhydria) may be asymptomatic, or more commonly, may experience symptoms of impaired digestive function including gas, bloating and excessive fullness after meals. Interestingly, what seems to be excess acid in reflux or GERD is often a sign of low hydrochloric acid, but faulty regulation of the valve that divides the esophagus and stomach. [Read more…]
Herbal teas are a great way to get water in without the caffeine of green and black tea, and they usually have medicinal properties that can be utilized for your health. There are many herbal teas for digestive health, that are beneficial whether you’ve just eaten too much dinner at your favorite restaurant, or if you have digestive ailments that need support. Here is a list of some of my favorites: [Read more…]
During this time of year it’s definitely easy to overindulge in all sorts of food and drink – eating larger portions than we normally would, and eating “treat” foods that wouldn’t normally make our menu. Having just done exactly this yesterday, I thought today I’d share five simple remedies for overindulgence, that can help you feel like your normal self again.
Well it’s that time of year again – the kids are going back to school, summer is coming to an end, vacations are now a collection of photos and good memories. For some this is a fun and exciting time, for others, filled with angst and dread. I’m still trying to figure out where the last year went – it seems like just yesterday we started Valentina in preschool, and now she’s moving up to the next class, with new teachers and a new classroom. I’m counting on sending her back to school with essential oils to help us with the transition. [Read more…]
Happy Monday everyone, let’s talk about parasites! Are intestinal parasites messing with your digestion? How would you even know? What could you do about it if they are?
I work with a lot of people who experience digestive difficulties. Sometimes they have been present for many years, other times they come on suddenly out of the blue. As part of my workup in these cases, I always test for intestinal parasites.
Candida overgrowth is a very common problem, leading to symptoms such as gas, bloating, irritable bowel, constipation and/ or diarrhea, lethargy and fatigue, brain fog, neurological issues and many more. Candida is a yeast that occurs in our large intestine – it is supposed to be there, and serves a good function as part of our natural microbiome. However, if Candida becomes overgrown, which can happen secondary to antibiotic use, a high-sugar diet, or other irritants in the gut such as food allergens or intestinal parasites, problems can arise. So how do we know if Candida levels are too high? There are three ways to test for Candida that can help us to see whether it is an issue.
Some people know when Candida is flaring up for them by their digestive symptoms, or by seeing a thick white coating on their tongue. I have known parents of kids on the autistic spectrum who know when their child’s yeast issues are flaring up because of the dramatic changes in their behavior. Most of the time, though, we do want to run some laboratory tests to see what is going on. Here are the three tests that I will look to – I have my favorite one (which I’ll talk about first), but in a perfect world we’d do at least two of the three:-
- Microbial organic acid test – this is a urine test that I run through The Great Plains Laboratory. It measures a number of markers associated with yeast, but to me the most useful one is called arabinose – this is a metabolite of Candida that shows up in the urine. I like this test because it is easy for parents to collect the sample at home – just a single morning urine. There are pediatric collection bags available for kids who are not potty trained, that go inside their diaper. I also like it because it really quantifies the problem. If the level is supposed to be less than 29, and it comes back at 35, then we know we have a slight problem, but not a massive problem. If the level comes back at 140, we know we have our work cut out for us! It’s also a great marker to check throughout treatment to make sure it’s going down in response to anti-fungal therapy.
- Comprehensive stool analysis – the comprehensive stool analysis checks for many things, not just Candida. It is not my favorite for Candida itself, the microbial organic acid test is; but what is nice about the comprehensive stool analysis is that it can give us some clues as to what else is going on: Are there parasites in the gut? Is the bacterial overgrowth? Are there any pathogenic bacteria showing up at high levels? How are secretory IgA levels? That gives a window into the immune health of the gut itself. Are there elevated levels of inflammatory markers? The comprehensive stool test can show if there are moderate or abundant levels of yeast in the stool; but I haven’t found it to be as reliable over time as the urine test for that specific thing. In a perfect world, we would have both of those tests run (Great Plains also offers the comprehensive stool analysis).
- Blood antibody markers for Candida – IgG, IgA, IgM. Immunoglobulins are immune cells that will show elevated on a lab test in the presence of a certain pathogen. This is often how infectious diseases are diagnosed, through immunoglobulin levels. For instance, if you have acute mono, you will likely show IgM antibodies for the Epstein-Barr virus, indicating active infection. If you had mono five years ago, you are still likely to show IgG antibodies, as protective/ memory cells to the infection. I have found Candida antibodies to be less sensitive than the other tests in trying to establish whether there are yeast issues in the gut. I have seen cases with high arabinose and other yeast-sensitive markers on the urine test, but no elevations in the blood immunoglobulins. The Candida problem needs to be quite systemic before blood immunoglobulins are going to rise, where I think the urine and stool tests are more sensitive to intestinal overgrowth itself. Also, this test requires a blood draw which may not be a favorite thing for our kiddos. The pluses are that any lab can run these tests, and insurance is more likely to pay for them.
These are the three tests that I run for assessing Candida overgrowth, listed in order of my most favorite to my least favorite. I have done tons of the microbial organic acid tests and continue to find that one the most helpful, cost effective and easy to implement. If there are major gastrointestinal issues I’ll also want to see a comprehensive stool analysis and an IgG food sensitivity test to try to get a complete picture of what is going on.
SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, is a health condition where certain bacteria in the small intestine can grow beyond normal levels, leading to gastrointestinal symptoms such as malabsorption, maldigestion, abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea and a host of other GI symptoms. It has also been associated with more chronic, systemic illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis, anemia and fibromyalgia. Antibiotics such as rifaximin are commonly used to treat SIBO, but there are natural treatments for SIBO also that have been researched to be as effective.
Enzymes are molecules that facilitate and potentiate every single biochemical reaction in our body. They act as catalysts for those reactions, without them we would not survive – all our systems would come to a grinding halt! Every single organ, every muscle, every system and every cell are dependent on enzymes. Enzymes also help us to utilize our vitamins and minerals more efficiently – they can impact our energy levels, our digestion, our brain function and how we manage inflammation in our bodies.
There are many different kinds of enzymes – most produced within the body, and most of them function without our even knowing it, for example, to break down our food, and to help manage inflammation. Today I’m going to focus on the role of digestive enzymes.