You may be so excited to have your appointment with your doctor for what seems to be a very irritating case of irritable bowel syndrome. After 10 minutes of inquiry by the doc, PA, or NP, you are given a prescription for a colonoscopy. This may be intriguing because what if there is a demon in your gut making you a little cray-cray? Or, perhaps the doc (NP or PA) gives you a prescription for an anti-spasmodic and tells you to call if you if you have any adverse effect to this medication. Or, maybe you go to your natural/holistic doc and they listen intently to your symptoms and past medical history for a full hour but at the end of the visit, they hand you a prescription for Rifaximin? Now what? You may also get recommendations for several tests such as SIBO and possibly a stool test (or more holistic testing from your holistic practitioner). So you may wonder…is this itt? …and in the back of your mind, other questions may be looming such as what about my nutritional status? my current level of activity? my anxiety? what I am eating? what I shouldn’t be eating? my supplements, my sleep? my bowel movements? the heavy metals found in my blood or urine?
Does it now just come down to a few prescriptions and being told that you should meditate to get rid of that nasty stress you may suffering from? Oh but wait – it gets better, if your GI problems come back once your prescription is done, you can take it again. New studies support this practice (1) and in fact, you can take it every day, every week or every month. You can be on a lifetime dose of an antibiotic and it could take years before any research shows the malfeasance of this practice.
What’s missing from these scenarios? You – and that is not a what, but a who! GI issues are often multi- factorial and often can’t be remedied with with a single herbal or prescription medicine. A good practitioner will deeply consider how you may have ended up in your situation. Did you know that part of the real healing process from IBS/SIBO is a restoration of natural hydrochloric production? This simply does not mean taking a HCL pill. This means retraining your body with natural food compounds to produce it’s own HCL. Once your hydrochloric acid is functioning better, it can enhance your nutritional status because HCL is responsible for helping you absorb important nutrients like iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium and vitamin B12 (2).
Keep in mind that your body wants to heal and when you give it the right tools, it can get on the path to do that. Healing correctly is so hard to navigate however when you read contradictory advice on the internet and/or your provider is insistent that you follow their tips such as only eat every 4-5 hours. Eat every 4-5 hours so your peristaltic movements can gain traction? This advice can actually backfire as the adrenals are often already overworked when dealing with GI issues. Eating every 4-5 hours pressures adrenal glands to send signals to the liver to deliver more sugar to your system. By eating more often, your adrenals will thank you and you may find that you no longer have blood sugar fluctuations and/or hypoglycemic episodes (3)
Moving on to what YOU as Whole person needs – dreaming of vegetables, juices, smoothies and fruits? Thinking that your heavy meat diet is weighing part of you down? It worked in the beginning, so why does it feel different now? Well, let’s go ask one of the most important organs in our body that has to deal the most with what you eat – your liver. Eating fat and meats all day will further burden your liver -which is already most likely overwhelmed dealing with any environmental toxicity, prescription medicines, pathogen waste and food additives.
Pathogen waste you say? Who are those invaders? Most likely some bad bacteria if you have IBS. Good bacteria in the wrong place? Maybe that’s what you’ve heard but then why do antibiotics make people feel better? Because the real culprits are some bad bugs that you may have picked up throughout the course of your life. You doc or healthcare provider may go on nutty rampage of testing to see what squatters are inhabiting your pipes and if they are found, look out for the nukes. Many anti-microbial regimens are full of strong artillery that will also cast out good bugs. Remember that our own populations of good bacteria in our “microbiome” have been dwindling over the last few decades -which makes people more vulnerable to illness.
Ultimately, your body is a complex system and it might have taken a multitude of events to get you in the unhappy place you are in now. A simple prescription won’t cut it. Your hard work and the correct information – a comprehensive plan from a qualified professional can be the much-needed combination to put you in a better place. Feeling better can’t possibly happen overnight or even in a few weeks but when you learn and implement what your body needs on multiple levels, it’s only a matter of time before you do.
Tammy Russell, MS, RD is an integrative dietitian based in Portland, OR that has dedicated her practice to helping individuals and families recover from GI conditions. She provides comprehensive recovery plans that address the whole system via in-person or phone counseling.