What is Gastrointestinal Distress?
Gastrointestinal Distress may be caused from a variety of reasons. More acutely, these reasons may include the “stomach flu”, food poisoning, traveler’s diarrhea, parasite infections, antibiotic therapy, fecal impaction/constipation, cancer, or as a reflex from another area of the body that is distressed. If this distress is chronic, then typical reasons for symptoms may include Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohns, Ulcerative Colitis, Diabetic or Neurologic gastropathies, Celiac Disease, Food allergens or sensitivities, chronic yeast in the gut, thyroid disease, other chronic medical conditions in other parts of the body, or malnutrition.
What are the Symptoms?
Typical symptoms of gastrointestinal distress may include abdominal pain, cramping, gas, bloating, heartburn, flatulence, diarrhea, bloody or mucus-type stools, constipation, weight gain or loss, and fatigue. The root cause generally dictates the symptoms, but unfortunately there is a lot of crossover of symptoms from different root causes.
What is the big deal about chronic gastrointestinal distress?
The gastrointestinal system plays a central role in our immune system. There are a huge number of immune cells that live within our gut and give us 70% of our immunity. There is also an intricate balance of good and bad bacteria that give us a healthy immune system.
The gastrointestinal system is the main route of contact with the external environment and is overloaded every day with things that may be harmful, like bacterial/viral/fungal pathogens, toxic substances, unhealthy diets, and medications. Furthermore, our gastrointestinal health is intricately connected to our mental health and our perception of stress. All of these things can, therefore, affect the healthy bacteria, or microbes, that live in our gut, as well as affecting the immune cells. When these get out of balance, we get out of balance and begin down the road of poor health. The longer the symptoms and their root causes go untreated, the worse it is for our immune system and we can develop more substantial medical problems, including autoimmune diseases.
What is the Treatment?
At The Health Center for Integrative Medicine, Dr. Janine Rihmland will thoroughly discuss your story of gastrointestinal distress. She will explore all possible contributing factors and all symptoms present. She may order blood work, stool tests, breath tests, and appropriate scans or scopes. Treatment will be an integrative approach and will probably involve some dietary changes, toxin elimination, treatment of pathogenic organisms, and elimination of allergens. The next step will then be to replace good bacteria, repair the lining of the stomach and intestines, and begin to restore some immune function.