By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
November 16, 2012
- What’s really going on in your gut?
- Why you should take probiotics indefinitely
- Botanicals that fight bacteria, fungus, and parasites
Many in the medical world would hail antibiotics as one of the top medical miracles of our time. And indeed, there is no arguing, they’re important when they are truly needed.
But they have also wreaked havoc on our GI tract, upsetting the delicate balance passed to most of us as a onetime life-gift from our mother at some stage in our journey into the world. This gift is the microbiome (what a super word!) one of our internal protectors, and intended by Mother Nature to stick with us for life and shield us from harm.
But pharmaceutical antibiotics – not to mention a steady diet of processed foods that are toxic to a healthy gut… and chronic stress… and nutritional deficiencies and… well you get the picture – changed that plan. If you’re like the majority of people, your gut no longer has enough of the necessary expected flora to stay healthy, and has to fend for itself.
Judging by the ever-escalating rate of gut disorders (IBS, GERD, Food Intolerances, etc.) and the numerous other symptoms finding their root cause in the digestive tract, your gut could use some help.
The first step is to better understand how your gut works. This is a tough step, considering how much misinformation is out there.
Non-medical aside: That’s not the problem exactly. Louis Pasteur said “Opportunity favors the prepared mind” and so many of our colleagues out there still hold onto what they learned thirty or twenty or ten years ago and are not prepared to leave their comfort zones.
The information is freely accessible in our peer review journals, but they are lost to memory because no one can patent them/make money from them. The half life of medical knowledge is… 5 years or so.
If the knowledge we are basing treatment of our patients on is 3-25% current information it’s no wonder people are taking their health into their own hands and choosing alternative/holistic/integrative or functional medical physicians who not so much “think outside the box” as “expand the box’s boundary”.
The second step is to maintain a healthy balance of flora, and use natural botanicals and fermented foods (like kefir or kim chee… just google them, you can make them at home) to combat bacteria, fungus or parasites when necessary. So you can get back to having a healthy functioning gut as quickly as possible…
Gut problems are indelicate matters to discuss. They are usually accompanied by unpleasant symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and indigestion. But these symptoms are actually just the tip of the iceberg. And if you’re experiencing these, deeper issues usually reside.
For example, many people with IBS have small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), also known as dysbiosis, a gut infection that often goes untreated. People with GERD may also have SIBO, or low stomach acid, or bile acid reflux, or an h. pylori infection. People with ulcerative colitis/Crohn’s disease have immune system disorders.
Which means you can’t heal IBS, GERD, Ulcerative Colitis or any other gut problem, without addressing these underlying causes.
Plus, identifying gut problems is further complicated by the fact that the symptoms often have nothing to do with your gut, and don’t affect your digestion in obvious ways. Rather, they show up in the form of allergies, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, skin diseases, dementia, cancer, and more.
Not only do the pharmaceutical drugs in our arsenal not address the underlying digestive problems most of us have, they can make it worse. And conventional medicine has yet to make the connection between antibiotic use and digestive system dysfunction.
So patients continue to get prescriptions for antibiotics without any accompanying information about how to handle the number one side effect…
You see, most gut dysfunction begins when you take your first round of antibiotics – and it wipes out “good” bacteria in your gut. Then, when new bacteria grow, it is most likely the “deep seeded potential pathogenic” bacteria. Those were kept in check by the others which are now gone. And the only way to get the right stuff back is by taking probiotics.
Considering that antibiotics are routinely prescribed by doctors, not to mention found in our food, everyone – and I mean everyone, even children – should be taking probiotics regularly. They are the best way to reintroduce and maintain a healthy colony of friendly, digestive bacteria that helps you to get the most nutrition from your food, and protection against infection and inflammation. Probiotics also help regulate your appetite and immune function, regulate your bowels, and maintain a healthy metabolism.
I recommend a blend of probiotic types, including:
• lactobacillus sp.: reuteri, casei, rhamnosus, acidophilus
• streptococcus sp.
• bifidobacterium sp.: infantis, lactis, longum, breve, bifidum
• s. boulardii (nonhuman)
But honestly, there are at last count over 500-1000 species coexisting within. The top two listed should make up a large part of what you take.
Different probiotics play different roles in the gut. Some produce digestive enzymes. Some are the key to producing essential vitamins and nutrients. By taking a probiotic supplement with a variety of types, you are more likely to achieve the all-important pH balance the body needs fight off infection and stay healthy.
And here’s something important to know…
It’s important to note that some gut infections do require the use of antibiotics – such as a bad case of h.pylori. If you’ve tried a mastic gum, zinc carnosine combination supplement for a few months and retesting is positive, it’s important to go ahead and take the round of antibiotics as prescribed. However, it is equally important that you take probiotics and carefully cultivate friendly bacteria after the antibiotic round is over. I would suggest artichokes, asparagus, garlic, onions and olives… sounds a lot like a Mediterranean diet.
And for milder cases of “bad” bacteria, parasites (which are much more common than most people realize, even in First World countries … especially if you eat sushi regularly), or fungus infections in your gut, there are natural ways to treat them.
For example, black walnut hulls, wormwood, bitterwood, and olive leaf extract, are all possible natural treatments for parasites. Garlic, goldenseal, and oil of oregano work against parasites and are also antifungal treatments. Garlic, goldenseal and wormwood are also natural antibiotics, along with thyme, clove, echinacea, curcumin – to name a few familiar friends.
The difference between these natural approaches and their pharmaceutical counterparts is the length of time for treatment to be effective. A round of pharmaceutical antibiotics might take 7-10 days. Natural treatment can take 4-6 weeks or longer. However, natural approaches come with far fewer side effects, and are not likely to wipeout whole species of the microbiome you have left as they do their job.
My recommendation is to first, visit with a physician who is knowledgeable about underlying gut problems, and is familiar with the 5R Functional Medicine approach. Get tested and determine what is – and is not – in your gut. And then, create a plan of action to go from riding on empty to a flora-full gut.
You will be amazed at how many “symptoms” you’ve had of digestive dysfunction – and have not even known you had a problem. And if you’re one of the millions who have struggled with unresolved (and unidentified) gut problems for years, you’ll be even more amazed, and grateful, when the embarrassing, indelicate challenges you’ve had to endure – disappear.