Common Symptoms of a much Deeper Problem
In Naturopathic Medicine, proper digestion and assimilation are considered to be the cornerstone for a healthy mind and body. This is an area where Naturopathic Medicine truly shines by focusing on the optimal physiology of the digestive tract. Clinically, it is known that disorders of the digestive system can cause symptoms anywhere within the body from your mood to your endocrine system. It is also important to realize that as a human, we have 10 times more bacterial on and in our body as we do cells of our body. Your gut flora (microbiome) is looking to be an essential factor for overall health and wellness.
Digestive disorders may include:
Although western medicine is well versed in the diagnosis of various digestive disorders, it has very few effective options to offer the patient. Typically, medications are prescribed and aimed to control only the symptoms, which leaves the underlying causes remaining. In many cases, these medications need to be continued indefinitely in order to provide relief from the symptoms. By covering specific symptoms, we are under the assumption that a problem no longer exists.
Symptoms are the body’s way of warning you that something is wrong within the body. Symptoms are produced to warn you that an underlying pathology is occurring. I want to give you an analogy to provide a clear understanding of this concept. When your car is running low on fuel, the warning light comes on to alert you. This warning lets you know that you need to refuel very soon or you will soon run out of gas. Most people will then stop at the gas station and fill the tank. Prescribing for the symptoms of disease without addressing the underlying causes is similar to the warning light on your car coming on and instead of refueling you decide to cover the light with duct tape so it can no longer be seen. The light is still on, but it cannot be seen underneath the tape. The car will inevitably run out of gas. Is it all making sense now?
I will now give you a very common, digestion-related example of this principle. Heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a very common condition that many of our patients have been diagnosed with. Many of these patients have been taking prescription or over-the-counter antacids for long periods of time. Patients repeatedly tell us that when they discontinue these medications, they experience a complete recurrence of symptoms. Clinically, we find that over 80% of patients with the diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease actually produce very low levels of stomach acid. Low levels of stomach acid have been associated with brittle hair and nails, fungal infections, indigestion, heartburn, weight loss, mineral deficiencies, increased infections, constipation/diarrhea, and various autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, and lupus. Medications aimed at suppressing stomach acid could not only increase the incidence of any of these disorders, but also set the stage for chronic illness. Is this a risk you are willing to take?
It is our goal to support proper digestive function and prevent illness through the use of various natural medicine options. We typically find that patients who have been on medications for digestive disorders find that they no longer require them.* This makes for very happy patients. The moral of the story “Address the cause, not just the symptoms!”