Chronic Gut Problems
Everybody has normal variations in their digestion depending on their diet, their general state of health, and how active they are. Occasional bouts of diarrhea or vomiting are probably due to mild cases of foodborne illness and nothing to worry about. Likewise, occasional constipation may occur naturally, if the diet is not balanced with plenty of fiber. If these symptoms occurs chronically, however, it may indicate that there are more serious digestive issues that potentially require medical attention to avoid risk of complication.
Risks of Chronic Gut Problems
Dehydration is one of the biggest risks of untreated chronic digestive problems that involve either vomiting or diarrhea. Some may be tempted to reduce liquid intake, but keeping hydrated is important, particularly for children and infants. Fevers should also be monitored in children displaying these symptoms, as excessively high body temperatures could lead to seizures.
Occasional constipation does not pose a significant risk, though it does potentially indicate dietary imbalances (not enough roughage). Chronic constipation can potentially lead to the formation of hemorrhoids, however, if there is frequent straining during bowel movements. In severe cases of constipation, the bowel may become impacted, blocking any release of digested material. This can be a very serious condition, causing a bowel obstruction that may need to be resolved with the help of a doctor.
The Four Main Causes
Patients Medical has determined that the digestive problems that cause chronic diarrhea, constipation, and other unpleasant symptoms, are caused primarily by four different conditions:
- 1. Food allergies. Our immune systems are normally focused on keeping our bodies clear of pathogens, by recognizing and responding to these foreign proteins and eliciting a cellular response to eliminate them from the body. It is unclear why, but some people also develop immune sensitivities to the proteins in food. In these cases, the immune system mounts an unusually intense response to something that is actually harmless. Some of the symptoms of food allergies include abdominal pain, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Should any of these things occur directly after a meal, or consistently following consumption of particular food, the gastrointestinal distress you are feeling may be due to a food allergy.
- 2. Leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut system is a health disorder in which the gut lining becomes more permeable than normal. This change may be caused by infections or ingestions of toxins, opening the opportunity for deeper infection or absorption of the toxins themselves. The damages that occur to the gut lining can also trigger an immune response, causing painful inflammation of the gut lining, resulting in abdominal pain and diarrhea. The inflammation may also make the gut lining more susceptible to other infections, and eventually interfere with absorption of nutrients, including critical vitamins and minerals. Although it may initially present itself as merely a gastrointestinal disorder, leaky gut has the potential to worsen, causing other systemic effects, leading to chronic fatigue and other seemingly unrelated disorders.
- 3. Serotonin and other peptide deficiencies. Much about how our body reacts when we eat is controlled through complex signaling circuits between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. Sensory cells in the gut send messages to the brain through hormone signals to stimulate feelings of hunger and fullness. As these molecules circulate through the body, they also direct metabolism, keeping a record of how much nutrient energy the body has coming in. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that, among other things, modulates the appetite, controls metabolism, and stimulates vomiting. An imbalance in serotonin or any of these signaling molecules could also disrupt eating and digestive patterns.
- 4. Gastrointestinal infections. The gastrointestinal system has a rather sophisticated set of obstacles to prevent ingested microorganisms from surviving as they pass through the gut. The entire length of the gastrointestinal tract, from oral cavity to rectum, is inhabited by friendly bacteria which not only helps digest our food, but hinders the growth of other organisms by its very presence. The acidity of the stomach is also an excellent defense, as most microorganisms that might contaminate (or be a normal part of) our food cannot survive the low pH. Still some bacteria and parasites are able to survive, causing the body to react violently to try to rid itself of the bacteria.
Please see our articles on Food Allergies, Leaky Gut Syndrome, and Gastrointestinal Infections, or contact our offices to learn more about the specific therapies we offer that can help you recover from your digestive ailments.
Supplements for Good Digestion
As part of our treatment programs, we may recommend natural supplements specifically designed to improve your digestive health. Probiotic therapies such as UltraFlora IB™ may help keep your gastrointesinal tract populated with friendly bacteria, for example. Each capsule contains Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis, which can help improve digestion and relieve abdominal discomforts. We may also suggest SpectraZyme®, an enzyme supplement that can help relieve bloating and gas by aiding digestion of sugars, carbohydrates, and proteins. To reduce nausea, reflux, and indigestion, we may recommend Zinlori 75®, a zinc-rich supplement that helps support maintenance of healthy cells in the gut.
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