Fire in the Gut Part 2

The Neighborhood does not do well when it is on fire!

Other burn patterns in other gut neighborhoods keep the inflammatory fires burning hotter at the local level. They primarily work on the gut landscape.   An inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s Disease will burn the gut lining to the point of visible ulcers and redness.   Predominantly in the small intestine, Crohn’s fires burn brightly attracting a large crowd of immune cells.  These cells are literally fired up looking for some action.  The problem is that they seem to do more damage to the gut lining landscape -ulcers ensuing from their firestorms.  At times, the ulcers burn clear through the whole wall.  They may even perforate the gut spilling all kinds of inflammatory poison into the normally sterile abdominal cavity.   The inflammation of Crohn’s Disease localizes the intensity of the fire.

In the same neighborhood as Crohn’s, the ulcerative colitis intensely targets the large intestine landscape.  The burn pattern is triggered by something yet unknown -possibly bacteria, possibly toxins- that sets off an inflammatory cascade.  Ulcers scorch outs wounds so deep that bleeding often ensues within the gut lumen.  Without some fire extinguishing work, the neighborhood burns up.  Both conventional and functional medicine search for ways to put out the fires of this disease process.  Delving for root causes, the Functional MD broadens his cadre of firefighting options by including many natural treatments.  Though in a slightly different landscape than Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis still localizes the intensity of the fire.

Another landscape altering condition known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) also localizes fire damage to the gut.  Conventional medicine doctors initially dismissed IBS counting it as a mood disorder not an inflammatory gut issue.   Less intense flames left few visible marks on the gut.  Most prescribed anti-depressant medications for the supposed psychiatric disorder.  Recent studies show that at least some IBS patients actually have low grade inflammation after all.  Having found various inflammatory immune cells in the gut wall as well as increased levels of immune chemicals, the studies confirm that the gut landscape is affected.  Patients are experiencing more than a mood disorder.  The Functional MD works to repair this dysfunctional landscape using various treatment modalities.

The Functional MD takes the firefighting to the next level.  To fight the fires amidst a gut microbe neighborhood in peril, Functional MDs keep an open mind when utilizing treatment options.  Patients benefit from the approach.  Rather than focus only on the next pharmaceutical firehose with its exorbitant costs, functional medicine doctors look at the interplay between foods and the person’s gut. Knowing that foods frequently contribute to the gut fires, they order and interpret tests looking for food allergenic antibodies in the gut.  They recognize that if enough antibodies work against foods an inflammatory cascade ensues.  Because inflammatory foods like gluten and processed foods may lead to fire damage, Functional MD’s patients counsel patients in making healthy lifestyle choices.  Knowing that specialized testing can reveal bacterial imbalances and bad neighbors, patients receive personalized and focused therapy based on their particular gut bacterial community issues.  Functional medicine individualizes therapy options.

Since good microbial neighbors make for good firehoses in the gut, functional medicine doctors encourage probiotics in supplements and foods.  Countless studies (see below) point out that a balanced gut produces anti-inflammatory benefits. Other studies reveal that encapsulated strains of specific probiotic bacteria contribute to that anti-inflammatory benefit by helping balance the gut neighborhood.  They cool down the fire of inflammatory bowel disease.   Some even show promise in closing the leaky gut open door.  To further the benefits of these nifty firehoses, Functional MDs also promote and educate on how to feed them.  The good probiotic express their appreciation when we chomp down some pre-biotic foods such as the following: fibers, resistant starches, and various polyphenols (from berries).  Feeding the probiotics or firehoses with pre-biotics, chills the flaming bowel disease.

When indicated, another important firehose the Functional MD utilizes to tailor therapy to the individual includes genetic testing information.  With this understanding, the Functional MD can help optimize the human hosts ability to both fight the bad bacteria and to control collateral fire damage to the landscape in the neighborhood.  For example, the status of the FUT2 marker gives the Functional MD an indicator of the individual’s ability to promote good gut neighbors.  Immune system chemical messengers like Interleukins and Tumor Necrosis Factors may respond differently in a fire fighting job based on single letter changes in their DNA sequences.  More inflammation may result or sometimes less ability to control the bacterial arsons who set the blaze off in the first place.  Genetics can be used to more accurately aim the firehose and restore community relations in the gut.

Finally, Functional MD’s utilize specialized testing.  In a firefighting endeavor of considerable size, the professional requires a means of measuring both the fire activity level and the progress of abatement procedures.  Standard labs often either don’t provide a suitable measure or the tests don’t answer the questions in a timely manner.  Therefore, specialized testing is employed on the patient’s behalf.  For example, by looking at stool testing or organic acid testing in the urine and the blood, Functional MD’s can better understand the particular individual’s digestive shortcomings, inflammatory markers (calprotectin, lactoferrin, lysozyme, etc.), and actual bacterial measurements. These crucial details help measure fire activity levels and abatement progress as treatment is more targeted and informed.  Individuals will vary on need for testing, but the Functional MD knows what to order and how to interpret the test to the patient’s benefit.

A hit reality drama series about the gut neighborhood firestorm raging in so many remains dubious.  However, the drama is real life.  Between the fiery caldron of the standard American diet, the obsession with hygiene, and the overuse of antibiotics in treating viral illnesses, many find they are a powder-keg of inflammation. The gut bad guys are taking over the neighborhood, the gut pathways are in flames, the gut landscape is changing for the worse, and the human host is suffering.  Having a Functional MD as a firefighting strategist opens the door to critical support for those experiencing acute inflammation originating in the gut. In addition, a Functional MD offers foundational knowledge for those looking for that proverbial ounce of prevention.   At Sanctuary, we aim to provide both so that you can live a healthier more abundant life.

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