Do you experience abdominal discomfort, gas and bloating after you eat? Do you go longer than 24 hours between bowel movements? Do your bowel movements alternate between diarrhea and constipation? If so, then read on because you don’t have to suffer. There are many reasons for gastric disturbance, but the most prevalent cause is a disruption in the balance of the microbes (bacteria and yeast, also known as the microbiome) in the digestive tract, which can be caused by:
Lack of exposure to beneficial microbes: Since infants obtain bacteria from their mother during the birth process and via breastfeeding, C-section delivery and formula feeding impedes the natural transfer of bacteria. Women who have taken antibiotics before giving birth can pass on pathogenic bacteria to their infants rather than a healthy array of beneficial bacteria. The hygiene hypothesis postulates that children who grow up in extremely hygienic conditions with less exposure to microbes have hyperactive immune systems as compared to children who grow up on farms where abundant exposure to dirt and animal microbes, which allows their immune system to attain a higher tolerance to potential antigens.
Stress: Hormones produced under stress lower the levels of good bacteria and increase inflammation of the digestive tract lining. In addition, stress diverts the body’s processes away from the process of digestion, allowing foods to remain in the digestive tract longer. Microbial digestion of food (otherwise known as fermentation) results in gas and bloating in addition to overgrowth of unfavorable microbes.
Food allergies: If your body is reacting to the foods you eat, your entire digestive tract can be inflamed. This can lead to “leaky gut”, which has been correlated with increased incidence of autoimmune conditions, in which the immune system starts attacking one’s own body.
Antibiotic Exposure: Overuse of antibiotics has led to antibiotic-resistant bacteria as well as reduction in beneficial bacteria in the body. University studies have shown that antibiotics destroy the cells that line the intestine, which results in nutrient malabsorption.
Acid-suppressing medications: Stomach acid is important for several reasons, including destruction of ingested microbes, breaking down proteins for absorption and stimulating the release of digestive enzymes from the pancreas. By blocking production of hydrochloric acid, anti-histamines and protein pump inhibitors prevent these important processes and create an environment that favors the development of microbial imbalances. Long-term use of these drugs can lead to nutritional deficiencies, increased inflammation, osteoporosis, neurotransmitter imbalances, and impaired metabolism.
Environmental Toxin Exposure: Toxins from the environment can destroy gut bacteria and lead to chronic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, disrupts the biosynthesis of amino acids; alters the balance between pathogens and beneficial bacteria; impairs absorption of important nutrients, such as selenium and sulfur; and inhibits an important detoxification pathway in the liver. Recent studies have shown the growing problem of celiac disease and gluten intolerance can be attributed to glyphosate in our foods, such as wheat and sugar. Glyphosate is just one example of a chemical that has been shown to have detrimental consequences to health. Since the industrial revolution, thousands of chemicals have been introduced in our air, water, food supply and homes. Unfortunately the burden of proof for safety is forced upon the living beings that inhabit this planet rather than the companies that produce the chemicals.
Eating a Standard American Diet (SAD): A diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed foods, unhealthy fats and meat raised in CAFO (confined animal feeding operations) and low in fresh organic vegetables and naturally fermented foods results in extreme imbalances of gut microbes. Consumption of artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda, has been shown to cause a significant reduction beneficial bacteria.
If you are suffering with digestive complaints, it’s important to see a doctor who is knowledgeable about alternative labs so that microbial imbalances can be identified and treated properly. There are several areas in the gut where microbial imbalances can be identified. Tune in next time for a discussion on testing methods that can identify the cause of your discomfort.
The information provided is for educational purposes only.