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May 26, 2021 • read
How a naturopathic doctor can help with gut health
If you feel like the impact of your gut health goes beyond how well you digest your food, you’re not alone. Nearly 70% of your immune system resides in your gut, and science is beginning to discover how gut health impacts overall wellness. From skin concerns like rosacea to digestive complaints like constipation, many chronic health issues may have their roots in the internal microbiome. Here’s how a naturopathic doctor can help with gut health.
What’s really going on in your gut
Each of our bodies plays host to about 100 trillion microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. They’re so prevalent, that scientists think the ratio of these microbes to our own cells is one-to-one. The number one spot these little guys congregate is in our gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). So many are present there, that it contains somewhere between one to two kilograms of them. These gut microorganisms play crucial roles in our bodies’ functioning. They’re instrumental in everything – from how our digestion and immune systems operate, to regulating our moods and inhibiting inflammation.
What’s involved in a naturopathic consultation?
Your first consultation with a naturopathic doctor will begin with an in-depth discussion of current health concerns. They’ll also cover other relevant topics like your diet, sleep, medical and family history, and stress levels. This allows them to gather the information they need to investigate the root cause of your concerns. Depending on what they uncover, your naturopathic doctor might recommend more comprehensive testing. They’ll also help you devise a treatment plan. This may include supplements, herbal recommendations, dietary modifications, and lifestyle support such as stress management techniques.
Are you living with unwanted intestinal guests?
While each of us hosts a diversity of microorganisms, there are certain ones that shouldn’t be part of our microbiome. When we find ourselves invaded by, say, a parasite, it can wreak havoc on our gut health. If you spent part of your 20s drinking tap water in Bolivia, or eating from a roadside vendor in Thailand and developed digestive complaints afterwards, this might be applicable.
Luckily, stool tests are part of a naturopathic doctor’s arsenal. These tests can look for things like parasites, or undesirable bacteria, or viruses that may be residing in your gut. Hosting a parasite or a malevolent bacterial colony may sound distressing. Once you know, however, your naturopathic doctor can devise a treatment plan. With the right antibiotic or naturopathic prescription, you can say goodbye to any unwanted gastrointestinal tenants.
What your breath says about your gut health
Your microbiome is affected by many different factors, including how you’re born, and whether you’re breastfed, which medicines and antibiotics you take, as well as which foods you eat. Naturopathic doctors focus on balancing the microbiome. One of the ways they do this is by looking at which bacteria are present in your gut. One tool at their disposal is a breath test. This at-home diagnostic test kit looks at the different gases present in your exhalations, and can showcase which bacteria may be present in your GI tract.
A common issue easily diagnosed with a breath test is SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. SIBO is when a species of bacteria becomes too prevalent in your small intestines. When this happens, the bacteria often emits high levels of hydrogen. This can cause uncomfortable issues like bloating, loose stool, gas, diarrhea, nausea, feeling uncomfortably full, and in severe cases, malnutrition — basically every digestive symptom you don’t want. If your breath test indicates SIBO, your naturopathic doctor can prescribe a treatment plan to eradicate the bad bacteria and heal your gut to rebalance your inner microbiome.
How your saliva can impact your gut
Like your gut, your mouth is also home to a plethora of different bacteria species. Since what you swallow ends up in your gut, your mouth bacteria is potentially tied to your gut health. The bacteria associated with gingivitis, for example, is implicated in dysbiosis (imbalance) of the gut bacteria in susceptible individuals. Although more research is required, some scientists believe that some kinds of oral bacteria may even play a role in the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). If you’re experiencing gut issues, saliva tests are another tool naturopathic doctors can use to assess what may be going on.
Gut health and your immune system
Leaky gut could be a term you’ve heard at some point – maybe as an explanation of an autoimmune condition, or even depression. While the research is still out on the full details, preliminary evidence suggests that certain bacteria and food can traverse the lining of the gut. From there, they enter the bloodstream, sparking inflammation. This inflammation can play a part in a number of conditions, like depression, multiple sclerosis, and certain forms of arthritis. Your naturopath can work with you to determine if you may be experiencing a leaky gut as the result of food intolerances or other factors, and help you devise a treatment plan.
If you’re experiencing digestive difficulties, a naturopathic doctor can help you track down the root causes. From chronic constipation to diarrhea, and everything in between, digestive issues can be pretty uncomfortable. The good news is you don’t have to resign yourself to living with uncomfortable GI symptoms. Speak to a naturopathic doctor about how they can help you rebalance your microbiome for a healthier gut.