Understanding Irritable Bowel Syndrome & Functional Medicine Treatments

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is much more than just a gut disorder. It causes chronic discomfort, anxiety, social limitations (especially where food and drink is involved), and a decrease in quality of life. There are a variety of contributory factors leading to IBS including but not limited to altered bacterial microbes in the gut, inflammation from the immune system, inflammation of the bowels, stress: emotional and physical, food sensitivities, and chronic microbial infections (viral, bacterial, protozoan, etc).
Are you struggling with:

  • Chronic bloating, even when you eat a seemingly healthy diet?
  • Are you chronically constipated without the help of fiber supplementation or laxatives?
  • Do you have pain and cramping in your stomach after eating?
  • Are you chronically fatigued even after getting a “good night’s rest”?
  • Do you suffer from anxiety and/or depression?
  • Struggle with social eating, not knowing how your body will react to food?

IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a gastrointestinal motility disorder of the intestines. IBS is defined as a widespread condition involving recurrent abdominal pain and diarrhea or constipation, often associated with stress, depression, anxiety, or previous intestinal infection. Common symptoms of IBS include: recurrent abdominal pain, change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea, or both), indigestion, bloating, weight gain/loss, nausea, chronic foul smelling gas, urgency of needing to empty the bowels, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, anxiety and depression.

Approximately 11% of the population are diagnosed with this condition by their primary care physicians, many suffer silently and go undiagnosed. There are self-help and support groups, popular searches relating to IBS, and general gut cleanses offered all over the web. We see patients frequently trying to control this condition on their own using different diets, oregano oil and probiotics, to no avail. Many people come to the conclusion that this is just their “new normal.” To the contrary, just because these symptoms are common in the general population, they are not normal!

IBS is a tricky condition to diagnose as there is no “gold standard” test. IBS is often a diagnosis of exclusion; meaning, you can rule out all the scary things like cancer, Crohn’s disease or internal bleeding, then what you are left with is a blanket diagnosis for a long list of digestive and systemic symptoms.

What Causes & Contributes To IBS?

    • Microbiome imbalances: We’re talking gut flora.
      • Dysbiosis
      • SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth)
    • Adrenal health/chronic stress. When the nervous system is in a dominantly sympathetic state it shuts down the rest and digest mechanisms. This leads to poor digestion and malabsorption, which in turn causes anxiety and moodiness from blood sugar swings.
    • Blood sugar dysregulation will often cause oxidative damage to nerves in the gut and bowels further damaging digestive function and creating inflammation.
    • Increased and decreased gut motility depending on the portion of the gastrointestinal system.
    • Chronic infections/with biofilm. Often, this will happen after a bout of Gastroenteritis. In fact acute gastroenteritis accounts for 30% of all IBS cases.
    • Food sensitivities.
    • Stress: Both emotional and physical – History of abuse (physical, emotional, chronic, anxiety). We often see that the less support people have in their lives, the more severe their IBS can be.
    • Visceral sensitivity aka rectal pain sensitivity – Perceived pain in the rectum – this pain is lower for patients in IBS. IBS patients notice more gas and discomfort in the bowels. IBS patients show changes in the brains esp in afferent pain signals in the brain.

Let’s look at some of these in greater detail:

  • The Microbiome

Dysbiosis

Why is the microbiome, or the bacteria in your gut so important? Did you know that some of your neurotransmitters are made in your gut? That’s right, the bacteria in your gut can determine how well you break down and utilize your food, and even how happy you feel. Did you know that the enterocytes in the intestines are one of the main producers of serotonin (your happy neurotransmitter)? Having imbalanced bacteria can lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety. Furthermore, neurotransmitters in your gut regulate your perception of pain and digestive function.

Bacterial Overgrowth

You can read in more detail about small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) here. SIBO in essence is having too much bacteria in your gut. With SIBO healthy foods, especially slow digesting carbohydrates actually feed the overgrowth of bacteria. This perpetuates symptoms like gas and bloating – especially as the day goes on and seemingly no matter what you eat.

The Immune System

The immune system is very important in the pathogenesis of IBS. Your immune cells, primarily Mast Cells, are important in the motility of your gastrointestinal tract. When these cells are activated, they cause inflammation in the gut wall affecting peristalsis (contractions of the gut wall moving food through the gastrointestinal system).

Low Grade Infection & Inflammation

Ever had a parasite? Montezuma’s Revenge? Mononucleosis (Also known as Epstein Barr Virus)? Chances are you still have it! We like to refer to these as subclinical chronic infections. The reason for that is you might not be experiencing swollen lymph nodes and fever, but maybe you are chronically fatigued, or your digestion hasn’t been quite right since the initial infection. This can be an indication that though you don’t have an acute infection, you might have a low grade and chronic infection. These infections can create biofilms that make them virtually untouchable by your immune system. Without breaking these biofilms down, these pathogens continue to wreak havoc on your immune system and gut. Biofilms can be attributed to lingering symptoms like chronic gas and bloating, diarrhea and constipation, chronic fatigue, and poor immune function.

Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities are not an allergy. Though they do not create a life-threatening, immediate response like a true food allergy, they stimulate and up-regulate your immune system, creating symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, acne, fatigue, blood sugar swings… the list goes on. The only way to control these symptoms is to eliminate or minimize the foods creating these symptoms to allow your body to heal and regulate. The tricky part can be figuring out which food(s) are the triggers. Simply eliminating one suspect food might help dampen your symptoms, but if there are multiple foods triggering you, your symptoms will not completely go away; leading many to the conclusion that that wasn’t their food sensitivity and continue eating it. For this reason elimination diets like the Whole30 have been designed to cut out the most common food sensitivities to “reboot” your system in a sense, and then slowly reintroduce said eliminated foods.

The most common food sensitivities for the majority of the population are gluten (sometimes all grains), eggs, dairy, soy, corn, and seafood. However, because everyone is so individual, even a healthy food like bananas or sweet potatoes might be creating your symptoms. If you find an elimination diet is not doing the trick, it could be because you are still eating something you are sensitive to. Always start with the foods you are eating most frequently. This might be the culprit. Diet diaries are also a great way to track your eating habits. In our office we highly recommend food sensitivity testing – these tests help cut out the guesswork and also identify foods that might be cross-reactiving in your system.

Leaky Gut

If you aren’t familiar with leaky gut, it is when the wall of your intestine becomes compromised and permeable, allowing for particles of food to get into your bloodstream, thus activating the immune system to respond to the alien “invader.” Over time you can become sensitive to more and more foods. Making you reactive to foods that you were once not sensitive to. As you restore your gut wall, many of these new sensitivities will resolve.

Stress

Stress is all to common among our society. From traffic jams to long office hours while raising a family. It can be hard to find time for yourself, period. Forget simple self care like meditation, exercise, breathing, you’re lucky to get a shower in 4 days a week. Sound familiar? Stress has a huge impact on your physiological processes. It slows and makes your digestion less effective (perpetuating IBS), causes inflammation and blood sugar swings and lets not forget anxiety, insomnia, depression and pain. Practicing techniques to help your body adapt and calm down from stress are incredibly important. Taking breaks from drinking stimulants like coffee and substituting adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha, Reishi mushroom, and Maca can be incredibly beneficial.

How We Treat Differently from the Traditional Model

Much of what is commonly done for IBS in the Traditional Medical model is symptomatic relief. More and more this is changing, which we Love to see! However, where antibiotics, laxatives, anti-diarrheal (or antispasmodic medications) and long-term elimination diets fail, we do our best to pick up the slack.

We use functional medicine to evaluate your blood work. We use different values than the standard to evaluate for optimal health and see where your body might be starting to struggle. Through this model we find we get to the root cause of the issue to resolve symptoms rather than treat the symptoms.

    • After blood work confirms the presence of infection/co-infections we will treat the pathogen(s) PLUS eliminate biofilms
    • After blood work confirms any and all food intolerances, or leaky gut, we will treat the permeability of your Small Intestine as well as recommend which food or foods to avoid or substitute.
      • Elimination diets
    • Lifestyle changes
      • Exercise regimens
      • Identifying stress factors, and how to properly adapt
      • Treating depression and anxiety through supplementation and exercise
    • Detoxifying your system and supporting your microbiome
      • Liver
      • Gut
    • Reset your metabolism
  • Manual modalities such as Visceral Manipulation to decrease pain and inflammation

Fits And Epilepsy: A Guide To Treatment And Diagnosis

Epilepsy is a condition well-known for centuries. Maybe you recognize it by its more common name ‘fits’. No matter what name you use, epilepsy is a condition that affects the lives of millions of people all over the world. It is the most common neurological condition. It is estimated that 1-3% of the global population is affected by seizures, with men being more likely to have epilepsy than women.

Epilepsy is a neurological condition characterized by abnormal electrical activity in the brain. This abnormal electrical activity results in convulsions or fits. The most recognizable type of convulsion is one in which the person experiences rapid and violent jerking movements of the body. However, there are many other types of fits or convulsions that do not look like this and may sometimes be so small or so fast that even the patient does not notice them. Convulsions can be very varied and are different from person to person and sometimes varies in the same person at different times.

Epilepsy can affect anyone at any point in their lives. Contrary to popular belief, epilepsy does not mean that a person is incapable or mentally comprised. A seizure or fit generally lasts for less than a minute. If a person has a seizure for more than five minutes or if they remain unconscious for a prolonged period of time after the fit has stopped, call for emergency services.

How Is Epilepsy Diagnosed?

For a diagnosis of epilepsy to be made, a person must experience two or more unprovoked seizures. For a seizure to be called unprovoked, it means that there should be no environmental or detectable cause of the seizure such as overdose, hypoxia, infections, etc. A neurologist will diagnose epilepsy based on a thorough medical examination and medical history. It is important to be as honest as possible about symptoms so that you can receive an accurate diagnosis.

A neurological examination is a way to test for the motor, sensory, balance, mental functions, and other higher brain functions. A doctor may also ask for certain blood tests to paint a clearer picture of the situation and rule out other conditions. Neurophysiological tests such as an electroencephalogram (EEG) and imaging tests such as MRI help in the diagnosis of epilepsy and convulsions.

An electroencephalogram (EEG) measures the electrical activity of the brain. Metal electrodes covered with a conductive gel are placed over the scalp and these measure the electrical potentials generated by neurons in the brain. This is a painless procedure that can provide valuable insights into the functioning of the brain. This is the most commonly used test for epilepsy. If a person experience fits or convulsions, there is an electrical disturbance in the brain that can be detected with an EEG. By studying the patterns and types of abnormalities seen in the EEG, a specialist can determine the type of epilepsy. This will dictate further treatment and prognosis for the patient.

Imaging tests like CT and MRI help in visualizing the brain structure. This helps in detecting any structural damage or abnormalities that may be causing the fits.

Treatment Of Epilepsy And Convulsions

Once epilepsy has been diagnosed, a person may have to take medication every day. The type and frequency of medication depend on the person, their condition, and their doctor. Medications used to treat fits are called anticonvulsants. They are also called anti-seizure medications or anti-epileptic medications. Finding the right anti-epileptic can be a long and drawn out process. Some people may even need more than one anticonvulsant or may require additional medication apart from anticonvulsants. Remember to be patient, health can be an arduous journey.

Some people may not respond to medications. In such cases, specialists may suggest other treatment modalities such as surgery and novel therapies such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). Surgery for epilepsy is not as scary as it sounds. It is grounded in sound medical and scientific work. Epilepsy surgery is usually recommended to people with focal seizures (a single, clear, defined area of abnormal electrical discharges) which are not controlled by adequate drug therapy. The aim of surgery is a complete cessation of convulsions.

In people who are not candidates for surgery, newer neurostimulation techniques like TMS can be tried. Other ways to control and reduce the severity of convulsions is getting enough sleep, eating regular meals, following a ketogenic diet, exercising, reducing stress, and other lifestyle modifications.

Epilepsy is nothing to be scared of. It can disrupt normal life but with correct diagnosis and treatment, a person with epilepsy can live a full, safe, and satisfying life. Epilepsy may not always be completely curable but it can be controlled. Don’t be afraid of a diagnosis; it is the first step in a journey towards better health.

What Are the Main Causes of Kidney Disease?

Kidney disease (also referred to as renal disease) is quite common and impacts nearly 1 in 7 adults in the US. Having a basic idea of the root cause of this disease can make it easier to take betting control of the health of your kidneys. Also, if it is possible to take early action, there is the increased likelihood of being able to maintain the kidney function before the disease gets too serious.

What are the main causes?

There are a many different causes that can lead to kidney disease, including:

Diabetes – the most likely reason for a person to experience this disease is diabetes, which is known to relate to about 45% of all kidney failure cases. Even though diabetes is a risk factor, there is no reason to believe that everyone with this disease will eventually have kidney failure. For the diabetic patient, it is necessary to take extra care of the kidneys by having a regular microalbumin urine test performed to monitor the movement of protein and also to control blood sugar levels. In the event of developing kidney disease, there are several treatment options that can be recommended by your doctor to help prolong the function of this major organ.

Hypertension (also called high blood pressure) is the next most reported reason and accounts for nearly 28% of cases.

Other typical causes include birth defects, exposure to chemicals, autoimmune diseases, polycystic kidney disease (PKD), and glomerulonephritis which relates to inflammation of the kidneys.

It isn’t contagious

Kidney disease isn’t something that can be caught from someone else. However, a few of the major reasons like high blood pressure and diabetes can run in the family. For this reason, if you know a family member with this disease it is worth having your kidney function, blood sugar and blood pressure checked by your doctor at the regular intervals.

Also, polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is an inherited condition that is not known to skip generations. This type of condition can lead to fluid filled cysts forming in the kidneys. In order to detect the cysts it is possible for your doctor to perform an ultrasound.

Preventing kidney problems

There are a variety of steps that can be taken to prevent issues with the kidneys. For instance, it can help to limit exposure to toxins or chemicals, such as pesticides, tobacco, and household cleaners. Also, take proper care with over-the-counter medication. A high dose of aspirin or a similar common drug can easily overload the kidneys due to high toxin levels.

Healthy Living – Managing Ongoing Fatigue

If there is one thing frustrating to just about everyone, it is ongoing fatigue. You feel tired, daily, and nothing you are doing seems to be fixing it. You may have tried medications at this point, only to see no results at all. What gives?

Sometimes, the problem with managing ongoing tiredness is we dial in too much on the fatigue and don’t look at the bigger picture. Let us take a look at some of the reasons you may be suffering from exhaustion and what can be done to help. Keep in mind everyone is unique, so you need to learn about your body and look at your lifestyle as a whole…

1. Stress. Perhaps the main reason for fatigue, apart from the lack of sleep, is a high level of stress. The thing with anxiety is unless you are hyper-aware of your body and thoughts, you might not realize you are stressed. You are going about your day, minding your own business, thinking things are fabulous. You don’t feel stressed?

However, stress could be lingering. Ask yourself, is there anything you are worried about? Once you start thinking about it, you might find there is. While you may forget about the problem during the day as you become busy, the problem is still there in the background.

Being busy is a cause of stress for many people. When was the last time you had a day with nothing on the agenda? Where could you go around, doing whatever you pleased at that very moment? Can’t remember? You are not alone. Being too busy can lead to stress. It is not the same form of pressure you would feel if you lost your job unexpectedly, but it is stress nonetheless.

2. Thyroid Disorder. When was the last time you had your thyroid checked? If it has been a while since you have had blood tests, this is one of the first areas to have checked.

If you have hypothyroidism, this will lead to tiredness and stress. Usually, if you see your doctor complaining of fatigue, they will check your thyroid. However, if your doctor doesn’t suggest this, be sure you request your thyroid levels are monitored.

3. Too Much Exercise. Are you someone excited about your workout program? Despite feeling tired, you push yourself daily because you know it is “good for you?”

Your workout could be causing your extreme tiredness. It is easy to overlook this because exercise does energize you and even in your state of exhaustion, you may feel better after a workout. However, this is the endorphins: once they wear off, you will be left more tired.

Rest days are crucial in any workout program. If you are not taking enough rest days, fatigue will be the price you pay. Please have a good look at your plan and make sure rest days are scheduled.

4. Lack Of B Vitamins. Finally, also consider B vitamins. B vitamins are essential for helping turn the food you eat into usable energy, so you don’t want to fall low on these. B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning you need to take them daily otherwise they will be excreted from your body leaving your levels low and ineffective.

If you are not eating a varied diet which is found in fresh produce and meat, then consider a vitamin C complex supplement. It may just make a difference to how you feel.

Keep these points in mind and use them as you evaluate what could be happening in your life causing you to feel fatigued. The sooner you can get it straightened out, the quicker you will be leading the life you want.

Although managing Type 2 diabetes can be very challenging, it is not a condition you must just live with. Make simple changes to your daily routine – include exercise to help lower both your blood sugar levels and your weight.

This Family Turned to Cord Blood After Diagnosis

Today, the miracles of cord blood cell or stem cell treatment are making rounds globally! It has saved the health of adults and children suffering from life-threatening diseases, with less to zero chance of recovery. The likes of autoimmune diseases and leukaemia are few to name. 1998 was when the first stem cell transplant occurred. This was the starting point that encouraged families across the globe to have faith in cord blood stem cells to treat irreversible diseases back to normalcy. Success stories are a plenty today. One such story of a family who turned to cord blood cells to save their daughter is heart-touching and motivating.

Jesus and Karina DeLeon, today, consider public cord blood donation to be the blessing that helped them save their little daughter Valentina, who is 7 years now and is leading a healthy life. However, things used to be very grim before.

Valentina post 5 months of her birth was experiencing excruciating health conditions which propelled her mother to completely stop breastfeeding. The little one, all of a sudden developed digestive problems in the body. By 9 months of age Valentina was diagnosed with an acute lung infection. Her parents have been attempting have their baby for a decade and now that they have their little one, they feared the deteriorating health condition and were concerned if they would be able to save her.

Reflecting back on those dark days, Karina shares that she instinctively knew something was wrong with her kid and she used to record low-range fever almost every day. When Valentina was taken to the hospital her reports appeared shockingly abnormal. Both the diagnosis and prognosis shocked them. Post many blood tests along with a bone marrow biopsy, it was evident that the little one was affected with SCID, Severe Combined Immunodeficiency which is an uncommon genetic disorder making the immune cells function abnormally. With this Valentina’s survival chance was not more than 30%.

In their relentless attempts to save their daughter and also a bone marrow match, the family chanced upon a public cord blood bank located in San Antonio. They learned that cord blood cells comprise of hematopoietic stem cells that has the capacity to get converted into almost any kind of blood cell. On transplanting these cells to the bone marrow, they work as proper, functional cells and thus start to heal diseases, for instance immune deficiencies, blood imbalances, metabolic abnormalities, life threatening cancers and other unusual genetic disorders, even the one that Valentina was suffering from.

The process of cord blood storing is very easy and secure for both the mother and the baby. It has no adverse effect on either the labor or the delivery. Also, the DNA specimen that is required to procure the match can be managed with just one easy swab examination. The parents of the concerned child are required to inform the obstetrician that they want to donate. When no family record of genetic disorders is found, the cord blood which otherwise would have been discarded would be used by families that genuinely require it.

When it comes to public cord blood banking there is a higher chance that the donation is going to be used to treat some or the other critical medical condition. This is what Dr. Joanne Stone, Maternal Foetal Medicine Specialist, Mount Sinai Health Care, New York had to say as opposed to private banking, where only one family has the chance to use the cord blood cells, that too if ever there arises a need.

Parents like Karina and Jesus DeLeon has benefited with public cord blood banking. According to them, it’s always a great choice to simply go ahead and donate an infant’s cord blood cell for the sake of saving someone in this whole wide world. It’s the best humane gesture a human can show for humanity.

Guide on the Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by the deer tick bites. The tick gets this bacteria after sucking the blood of a deer that has this infection. It is a spirochete bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi that is responsible for spreading the infection. When your body is infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, you will see symptoms which may appear in as fast as 3 days – 1 month.

The first symptom of a Lyme disease is the bull’s eye rashes. It has a red dot in the center that is surrounded by a large red circle. It is a sign that the bacteria which causes the disease is multiplying at a fast rate in your body. The rash is not itchy or painful. It only occurs temporarily and will disappear by itself even if you are not treated.

As your body is now under attack, its immune system will be weaker. Hence, you will experience fatigues and find yourself frequently in need of rest throughout the day. It is common for Lyme disease patients to suffer from inflammation problems such as swollen joints, bursitis, and arthritis. You may find yourself having flu like symptoms such as headache, nausea, vomiting, fever, and dizziness. At night, you may experience sleep disturbance as a result of cold sweats and chills.

The bacteria can also spread to your brain causing disturbance in your cognitive ability. For example, you find your brain not as agile as before and is processing information slower than usual. You have short term memory loss and you keep forgetting things that you have planned to do just a moment ago. You find yourself having problem concentrating on your work.

The infection can cause inflammation on your eye nerves causing your vision to be slightly blurry. The blurry vision may cause you to hit or trip over something when you are walking. In more serious cases, the eyes can have light sensitivity problem, forcing you to wear sunglasses indoor and outdoor in normal light.

From time to time, you will feel tingling sensations on the skin. You will feel like there are lots of tiny things crawling onto your skin but you don’t see anything at all. You will have dermatitis problems such as white patch, discolored patch and parapsoriasis.

If it gets to your heart, it can cause irregular heart beats. If you used to have a weak chest, the bacterial interference can trigger chest pain and breathlessness problem. It can be an excruciating chest pain that send you to the emergency room but the doctor will not be able to diagnose any cause.

Lyme disease has the tendency to trigger fluctuation in your mood. You will find yourself easily agitated over small irritations. You may also become anxious about the things in life.

Natural Treatment for Pneumonia Using Salt Therapy

Affecting over millions each year, pneumonia is still one of the most serious sicknesses there and should not be taken lightly. Pneumonia is an infection in either one or both of the lungs that causes the germs inhaled to settle in the air sacs, also known as alveoli, in your lungs. The alveoli will begin to swell up, filling up with pus and mucus. This stops the oxygen from reaching the blood stream and it becomes increasingly harder to breathe. Other symptoms of pneumonia include coughing, high fever, and chest pain. Not treated properly, pneumonia can cause permanent lung damage and eventually be life-threatening. Fortunately, there are many things that can be done to reduce this risk.

A common form of treatment is medication prescribed by a doctor. Yet if the infection becomes viral, the medication will be ineffective. More natural treatments include drinking soup and tea, in hopes of relieving the effects temporarily. A treatment that is gradually becoming more popular is salt therapy. Salt therapy is a natural treatment for pneumonia that will make breathing an easy task once again and provide a quick recovery. The salt particles in the air will help by killing the bacteria and not letting the infection spread or the condition to worsen. Salt also has the capability to reduce inflammation and draw water to the airways, allowing the body to liberate the mucus more smoothly.

Pneumonia is known to target vulnerable immune systems, like those of children or elderly. This therapy is safe for these age groups since it is completely drug free and has no harmful side effects. In addition, it can sometimes be hard for children or the elderly to take medication. With this natural therapy, there is no problem associated with that. All that needs to be done is inhaling the salt particles. Picky children who do not enjoy taking medication won’t even notice when they breathe in these microscopic particles.

Salt therapy can even be used to prevent getting pneumonia. The more often salt therapy is done, the more hygienic the respiratory system becomes. A clean respiratory system allows for more oxygen intake, extra energy, better sleep, and a stronger immune system. Pneumonia can also develop right after a cold. By the time the proper diagnosis is given, the symptoms can be very severe. With the constant use of salt therapy, the risk of getting this illness significantly decreases as it boosts the respiratory system immunity. Healthy airways make it harder for germs to settle in and start infecting the lungs.

Home salt therapy is a long-term treatment compared to other treatments. It is recommended that the patient undergoes home salt therapy on average around seven or eight hours. This may seem like a lot of time, but salt therapy is recommended to be done when asleep, so it does not have to alter daily schedules. Salt therapy has even been linked to better sleep. The clearing and expanding of the airways provide proper airflow, which in turn lets the individual have a more restful sleep and wake up even more refreshed in the morning.

When considering treatment options for pneumonia, salt therapy brings many benefits to the table. It’s non-invasive, natural, and also leaves you in better shape than before. This treatment also quickens the recovery process and decreases the risk of getting this illness again. Even on medication, it can be used in conjunction and will benefit you greatly. Try salt therapy today!