Digestive issues are all too common in today’s society. In fact, 10-15% of the U.S. population has Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) affects 2-3 million people in the US. These chronic symptoms of abdominal pain, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, food sensitivities, and fatigue can be debilitating and extremely frustrating. I get it. I’ve been there, and I’m still recovering. I spent years seeing numerous doctors and undergoing a plethora of tests only to be told there was nothing seriously wrong. I just had IBS, and I needed to manage my stress, drink more water, and eat more fiber.
Well, as many of you know, it’s just not that simple. In fact, many people with chronic GI issues or autoimmune conditions often have some type of gut infection.Unfortunately, conventional medicine fails to thoroughly test for these types of infections, and instead gives you medications to manage the symptoms.
Gut infections can include parasites, bacterial overgrowth, Candida (yeast overgrowth), and bacterial infections. All of these infections are extremely common and often overlooked. If you’ve been eating a very clean, real food diet such as Paleo, SCD, or GAPS, and you still don’t feel 100% better, then a gut infection is highly likely. Infections will not go away with diet changes alone. It will require an herbal or pharmaceutical protocol along with a healthy diet to rid your body of an infection.
Parasites consist of bugs such as protozoa and worms. The most common and most difficult to detect are protozoa. It’s surprisingly easy to contract a parasite through contaminated food or water, not washing your hands, or traveling overseas. They are microscopic organisms that take up residency in your colon. When diet alone is not working for my patients, the first test I recommend is a comprehensive multi-day stool analysis. This is the best and most accurate way to test for intestinal parasites. You may have already done a stool test from your conventional practitioner, and it came back negative. This does not mean you’re in the clear. Not all stool tests are created equal, and parasites can easily get missed with certain tests.
SIBO is extremely common and is thought by many to be the cause of IBS. SIBO is a bacterial infection; however, it’s good bacteria that is residing in the wrong place. Our body is made up of more bacteria than living cells, and that’s a good thing. We require a healthy balance of bacteria in our colon (large intestine) to keep us healthy. Some bacteria should reside in the small intestine, but it is a different type than that in the colon. In the case of SIBO, the bacteria in the colon start moving upward to the small intestine. At this point, there is too much bacteria residing in the small intestine. This causes many uncomfortable IBS symptoms. The best way to test for SIBO is a 3-hour Lactulose Breath Test.
Candida is a commensal fungus, meaning it’s a non-pathogenic fungus that should be present in our bodies in small amounts. The problem occurs when it begins to overgrow and colonize. The healthy bacteria in your gut typically keep the candida levels in check, but several factors can cause it to get out of hand. Factors such as eating a high sugar and refined carbohydrate diet, consuming a lot of alcohol, taking antibiotics, and living a high stress lifestyle can all cause candida to take over. The best test for candida is an Organic Acids Profile which looks at the metabolites, or byproducts, in your urine. Bacteria and yeast produce byproducts which can be both toxic and non-toxic. The Organic Acids Profile is able to measure the overgrowth of yeast to diagnose candida.
Pathogenic bacterial infections are another type of gut infection. Two of the more common types are H. Pylori and C. Difficile, both of which are serious and need to be treated quickly. H. Pylori has been linked to gastric cancer, and severe cases of C. Difficile can be life threatening. Both of these infections can be detected through a comprehensive stool analysis.
I highly recommend working with a functional medicine practitioner to conduct the necessary testing and undergo the appropriate treatment. Many gut infections can be treated with a natural anti-microbial protocol. In certain situations, pharmaceuticals may be required. It’s best to determine exactly which type of infection you have, so you are able to treat it with a customized protocol.
Again, if you have any of the symptoms listed above even after cleaning up your diet, then there is a good chance a gut infection is the underlying problem. Killing off your infection could be the first step in healing your body and feeling better.
Originally published on Underground Wellness