Let’s just jump right in here.
There are two common problems that cause digestive symptoms: food allergies/sensitivities, most commonly to gluten and dairy (milk and cream). Consuming foods to which you are allergic is essentially like taking a blow torch to your lush green lawn, leaving it barren and charred. It completely destroys the villi (lining) of your gut, and the lining becomes inflamed. When this lining becomes damaged, food particles can leak through and become tagged by the body as antigens, and the body mounts an immune attack, seeing the food as an invader (after all, food is not meant to escape from your digestive tract). This is leaky gut! When you eat the food, you experience an immune response, and this is one way food allergies develop. If you are repeatedly eating foods to which you’re allergic, your immune system is running on hyper-drive and can begin to run amok and attack itself: an origin of auto-immune disease.
The second issue that causes digestive symptoms is pathogens or low-grade chronic infections in the digestive tract such as parasites, overgrowth of “bad” bacteria, and yeast. Either of these two issues causes tissue damage and inflammation in the digestive system, and that leads to constipation, gas, bloating, diarrhea, heartburn, or indigestion.
Conventional medicine only looks at extreme symptoms and therefore only recognizes acute parasitic infections, meaning it’s present right now and isn’t going away: chronic and severe diarrhea for 3 weeks after trip to Mexico = parasite = treatment. Outside of this model, no thought is paid to a parasitic infection and it is usually misdiagnosed as colitis, heartburn, IBS, etc. The misdiagnosis can be detrimental, as seemingly unrelated problems begin to crop up, such as hormonal imbalance. Because your immune system is stressed constantly fighting the infection (that you may not even know you have), your cortisol levels rise in response to stress and female hormone levels therefore drop since your body is using all raw materials it uses to make hormones to produce excess cortisol. Weight gain, infertility, and menstrual irregularities can occur.
It’s not really possible to test yourself for parasites. You need to see a practitioner and do a stool sample to test for giardia, amoeba hystolitica, blastocystis, and cryptosporidium. These tests can also check for pathogenic infections like c difficile, klebsiella, h pylori, e coli overgrowth, candida, etc.
We do a lot of digestive testing and repair at our Mill Valley office and can consult over the phone and send out the test kits that you can do at home. Call 415 383 9903 to make an appointment if you want to test.
If you do suspect a parasite, it’s easy to do an herbal cleanse on your own, as I’ve written about previously, but the treatment won’t work unless your lifestyle factors are in place. First off, you need to minimize digestive inflammation by cutting out potentially allergenic foods such as gluten, soy, and dairy. Focus on whole foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, cultured/fermented foods, and protein. Work on stress management, getting to bed by 10:30pm, and exercise.
Depending on the degree of infection, you can choose antibiotics, herbs, or both to kill the parasite, followed by a round of probiotics to recolonize the gut. This takes about 6-8 weeks.
It’s also advisable to follow up with a candida treatment after the parasite cleanse because candida is almost always a secondary infection to a parasite. This can be a similar herbal cleanse using goldenseal, berberine, oregano oil or leaf, caprylates, and pau d’arco, among others. A candida cleanse diet should be followed as well: in addition to gluten, cut out anything with yeast or mold such as beer, cheese, mushrooms, and also minimize fruit and starchy veggies. If you suspect candida, test for parasites too since they go hand in hand.
Parasites are little bugs that cause big damage. Check back often, as they’ll come up again.
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