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How Gastroenterologist Helps Treat GI and Bowel Disorders

Effective Treatment for Gastrointestinal and Bowel Disorders

When you see a primary care physician for chronic indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, or some other gastrointestinal issue, he or she is likely to prescribe medication to treat the symptoms. If those symptoms persist, you’ll probably get a referral to a gastroenterologist, who may prescribe other medications and possibly order an endoscopy, colonoscopy, ultrasound, or CT scan.

Gastroenterologist Tampa FL

Unfortunately, diagnostic digital imaging rarely turns up any evidence of the real problem because it’s looking at the wrong thing.

Gastrointestinal disorders usually are less about your body and more about what’s living inside your body — the trillions of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, and fungi/yeast) living in your gastrointestinal tract (your gut, for short).

When balanced, this diverse population of microorganisms (commonly referred to as your microbiome) is essential for breaking down the foods you eat and facilitating the absorption of nutrients. Some microorganisms even produce nutrients that your body doesn’t get from foods and cannot manufacture itself.

An imbalance in the microbiome is usually at the root of gastrointestinal illnesses (and many other chronic illnesses, as well). Unfortunately, such imbalances are rarely tested for or even suspected.

Common Gastrointestinal Diagnoses

Here at BioDesign Wellness Center — a Functional Medicine healthcare clinic in Tampa, Florida — we see patients with a wide range of gastrointestinal diagnoses. Some of the most common are these:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome-constipation (IBS-C)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome-diarrhea (IBS-D)
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO) — intestinal, oral, or esophageal fungal infection (usually candidiasis or candida yeast overgrowth)
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis

The patients we see for gastrointestinal disorders often already have a diagnosis, such as IBS-C, IBS-D, Crohn’s, or ulcerative colitis. However, in most cases, they also have an undiagnosed secondary condition, such as SIBO or SIFO, that’s causing or worsening their symptoms.

Patients often come to us for several months or even years after receiving a diagnosis from their gastroenterologist. They rarely have any test results outside of endoscopy, colonoscopy, ultrasound, or CT scan — none of which can detect SIBO or SIFO.

As a result, treatment is usually limited to prescribing medications to alleviate symptoms. These medications usually provide only temporary relief at best. That’s because the primary causes are being overlooked. Which also means they’re left untreated.

Example of GI Tract Overgrowth

Sandy, 32 years old, came to our Tampa functional medicine practice complaining of bloating, pain, and alternating bouts of loose stools and constipation. Her mom has a history of Crohn’s and has been battling digestive problems for many years.

Sandy was adamant about being proactive and felt that her bloating and erratic stools were not being taken seriously by her GI doctor, who ruled out Crohn’s in her case. Clearly, she has the genetic predisposition to that disease, and she wanted to feel well and avoid problems that might arise in the future if inflammation in her gastrointestinal system persisted.

After spending a half hour reviewing Sandy’s daily symptoms and diet, we decided to run a stool test. GI Map testing uses quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) technology to detect parasites, bacteria, fungi, and more by the presence of their DNA.

What we found was that Sandy had a candida yeast overgrowth in her GI tract. Based on her history, this likely started when she was eighteen years old and used multiple broad-spectrum antibiotics to treat acne.

The broad-spectrum antibiotics wipe out both bad and good bacteria, which allows opportunistic yeast to overpopulate the GI tract. It’s like a mass exodus from a neighborhood of law-abiding citizens, creating a vacuum for the criminal element to take over.

Traditional GI testing and digital imaging don’t detect candida yeast. In fact, the only time conventional medicine typically tests for candida is during late-stage immunosuppression resulting from chemotherapy.

Behind the Scenes with Gastrointestinal Issues

Gastrointestinal issues are complex and often involve diagnosing and treating two or more different but related conditions, including the following:

  • Dysbiosis: Dysbiosis is an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria or fungi in the GI tract. Diet, certain medications, stress/emotional trauma, birth by C-section (instead of vaginally), being bottle fed (instead of breastfed), and taking birth control pills all contribute to dysbiosis.

  • Helicobacter pylori: pylori is a bacterium commonly found in the stomach that causes belching, bloating and abdominal discomfort. It is a leading cause of stomach ulcers (peptic ulcers, left untreated, can cause stomach cancer.) H. pylori infections are often treated conventionally with antibiotics and antacids.

    Unfortunately, antibiotics can reduce populations of beneficial bacteria, leading to dysbiosis and candida yeast overgrowth. Antacids may also contribute to dysbiosis by reducing the acidity of the stomach, which is responsible for killing other pathogens before they can cause serious infection.

  • Candida yeast overgrowth: Candida yeast is a fungus that lives in the GI tract. Several factors contribute to candida yeast overgrowth, including dysbiosis, impaired immunity, diet, stress, and certain medications, especially antacids, antibiotics, and steroids.

  • Parasites: Parasitic infections can come from tainted drinking water, raw fish, or travel that increases exposure to certain parasites. It’s normal to have parasites, but some require treatment.

  • Leaky gut: Leaky gut is an increased intestinal permeability that allows bacteria, food proteins, inflammatory proteins, and more to pass through the intestinal lining into the bloodstream. It can cause myriad problems impacting digestive and immune system health and function.

    Left untreated, leaky gut can cause allergy and asthma symptoms and contribute to the onset of a host of autoimmune disorders. Leaky gut occurs on a cellular level and can’t be detected with scopes or digital imaging. It can be detected only by running a stool test to check for proteins indicative of a leaky gut.

    Leaky gut isn’t treated with conventional medicine, but many functional and integrative treatments are available, including probiotics, prebiotics, diet modification, supplements to repair the intestinal lining, and diagnosis and treatment of the root cause.

These conditions are commonly present together with or separate from other GI diagnoses. The absence of IBS or irritable bowel disease (IBD) does not rule out the presence of dysbiosis, H. pylori, candida yeast overgrowth, parasites, or leaky gut.

Physiological Factors Impacting GI Health and Function

Physiological factors — those related to biological functions of the body — can also impact GI health. These factors include the following:

  • Estrogen dominance: Having a higher-than-normal estrogen-to-progesterone ratio can cause problems with bloating and bowel movements. Several factors can cause or contribute to estrogen dominance, including genetics, obesity/weight gain, birth control pills, and diet.

    Also, estrogen is processed in the liver and excreted from the gallbladder into the digestive tract for removal from the body. Impairment of the liver’s ability to process estrogen can result in bloating and irregular bowel movements.

  • Surgical removal of the gallbladder or sluggish bile flow: Gallbladder removal or impairment can impact digestion and bowel movements.

  • Cortisol and adrenaline: Stress influences cortisol levels and adrenaline, both of which play a large role in GI inflammation. Excess or low cortisol has an influence on the immune system within and beyond the GI tract.

  • Gastroparesis: Gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying, is a medical condition involving weak muscular contractions of the stomach, resulting in food and liquid remaining in the stomach for a prolonged period of time.

    It occurs in patients with diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and in patients who have exposure to mold toxins at work or home.

These physiological factors often result in constipation or loose stools. In some cases, they can be easily managed with natural supplements, adding fiber to the diet, and addressing any medications that may be having an impact on the liver.

Lifestyle Factors That Can Impact GI Health and Function

Several lifestyle factors, alone or in combination, may cause or contribute to GI dysfunction, including the following:

  • Diet
  • Acute or chronic stress
  • Lack of physical activity/exercise
  • Environment

Diagnosing and Treating GI and Bowel Disorders and Dysfunctions

Gastroenterologist Tampa FLGiven the complexity of GI and bowel disorders and dysfunctions, all possible factors need to be considered and addressed.

Here at BioDesign Wellness, we begin by asking questions to develop a complete understanding of each patient’s symptoms, medical history, family history, diet, lifestyle, potential exposure to mold and other toxins, and so on.

We then proceed with targeted testing to identify exactly what’s causing or contributing to the patient’s ongoing symptoms. If we suspect GI or bowel dysfunction, testing is likely to include the following:

  • GI Map stool testing
  • Candida blood test
  • Urine test for yeast overgrowth
  • Urine test for mycotoxins
  • SIBO breath test

Depending on a patient’s symptoms, test results, medical history, family history, and so on, treatment for GI and bowel disorders is likely to include a combination of several of the following interventions:

  • Antibacterial or antifungal medications –we provide holistic options that are natural to try and avoid the side effects of prescription medications. In doing so, a patient can heal their gut flora and reduce intestinal bacterial or fungal overgrowth.

  • Probiotics and specific prebiotics restore a healthy microbiome and crowd out opportunistic or pathogenic bacteria and fungi.

  • Detox to reduce the patient’s toxic load – the liver serves as a metabolic and digestive organ. In many cases, it is important to provide treatments to address the health of the liver.

    This can be done with a gentle detoxification protocol using glutathione, milk thistle, DIM, and bile salts to enhance bile flow in the liver.

  • Diet modifications to starve the harmful microbes while feeding the good ones

  • Lifestyle modifications to increase activity/exercise and reduce stress

  • Hormone therapy for patients with estrogen dominance or other hormonal imbalances. Balancing hormones has an impact on digestion and brain health. The gut communicates with the brain and vice versa.

    This is known as the gut-brain axis. Hormones and peptides, including BPC 157, can be used to support healing and repair. Our patients are often surprised at how balancing hormones can provide relief from bloating and constipation.

If you’re experiencing any issues related to digestion or bowel irregularity, we urge you to take a functional and integrative approach, especially if you’ve already received a conventional diagnosis and treatment with little or no relief.

Functional and integrative medicine takes a more comprehensive approach, examining and treating all possible causes and contributing factors. A good functional medicine-trained doctor will track down the root cause of whatever is ailing you and provide a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan that works.


Disclaimer: The information in this blog post about gastrointestinal and bowel disorders is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect current medical thinking or practices. No information contained in this post should be construed as medical advice from the medical staff at BioDesign Wellness Center, Inc., nor is this post intended to be a substitute for medical counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate medical advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed medical professional in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.