I have personally experienced bowel problems my entire life. I was first diagnosed with a pyloric stenosis at five weeks old, and this required surgery to repair. During my childhood years there were many foods I simply could not eat without experiencing a myriad of what were, in retrospect, intestinal related symptoms. During the 4th grade, I vomited every morning at about 10am for two to three months–until my dad accidentally changed my diet. In my teen years, I experienced ulcers and moderate to severe acid indigestion again. Throughout my high school and college years, I experienced a diagnosis of irritable bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis (in which six feet of my bowel was to be removed), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating after meals, burping/belching, B12, anemia, chronic heartburn, stomach pain and cramps day and night, alternating constipation and diarrhea, food allergies, dry skin, sinus congestion, mood swings and other symptoms that baffled standard medical model approach, as it was thought these were a wide variety of unrelated dysfunctions I had.
I received antacids, medications and was again offered the opportunity to remove six feet of my bowel as a possible solution to my problem. I declined the surgery, and nothing else seemed to work. I did notice that I would go through periods of improved symptoms relative to my dietary intake, but I could not pin down the exact food culprits, as I did not have the understanding of the complexities of the gut to do so.
The years went on and my symptoms gradually became more frequent and more severe. It is partly for this reason that the new paradigms of functional medicine, functional neurology and functional endocrinology began to interest me. While involved in the gastrointestinal assessment and evaluation module of the Functional Diagnostic Medicine Training program, my conditions and symptoms were reviewed for me regularly. But in addition to IBD/IBS and colitis, there were words and conditions like hypochlorhydria (too little, not enough, acid), H pylori, food allergies, gluten and grain sensitivities, bowel dysbiosis, intestinal hyperpermability (leaky gut), bacterial pathogens, parasites, yeast, fungus, Candida and Celiac disease, being discussed at great length.
In the functional neurological models, it pointed out that one or more of the six concussions I experienced in early life may have been playing a part in exacerbating my symptoms, or causing additional and new diagnostically confusing symptoms for the medical doctors to ascertain. It turns out that the brain is the single most overlooked cause of many metabolic conditions–most prominent of which can be bowel symptoms. It turns out that the autonomic part of the brain (the automatic part that controls heart beat, breathing, blood pressure, gut functions, and more) can–and for me did–play a huge part in gut problems that are generally diagnosed as IBS/IBD and Colitis. If that brain system causes an abnormal chronic slow down of your gut, you experience symptoms that increase gut motility (diarrhea), up gastric secretions (and indigestion), up HCL production (heartburn/ulcers) and more. If the sympathetic system increases, it causes again the opposite effect on your gut–trust me on this–and decreases gut motility (constipation), decreases gastric and intestinal secretions (poor digestion, malabsorbtion of nutrients, malnutrition, and more. If you experience vacillation between both, you will experience alternating constipation and diarrhea…all because of the brain! Who knew?
The world of the healthy gut, especially considering the gut/brain connection, is highly complex. It requires proper brain function to the area, proper amounts of acid, digestive enzymes, pancreatic enzymes, gallbladder function, liver function, bacterial flora (not too much, not too little), a proper gut wall that doesn’t leak, and an absence of inflammation and food allergies. Not such a simple feat to accomplish in today’s world of stress (which affects the above mentioned autonomic nerve function) and contaminated food supplies.
Now, after going through a complete functional medicine workup, it was found that an upper brain stem (autonomic nervous system) was firing too much, alternating with too little. I had too little hydrochloric acid. I had a celiac diagnosis, for which absence of gluten is the only treatment; but more than that, I had a leaky gut and numerous allergies to common foods that were causing me to not respond well to just removing gluten from my diet. My test showed an abnormal imbalance of bacteria, but not yeast, Candida, coysackle virus, or parasitic problems, contrary to what I had believed prior to learning the organized approach to chronic bowel diagnosis. The proper measures have been implemented, per the above findings relative to dietary changes, food restrictions, supplementation, etc. I have experienced a 95 percent resolution of all of the symptoms mentioned above. In addition, the brain fog, memory problems, and general body aches I experienced and never connected to gut dysfunction, are essentially gone as long as I follow the proper protocols.
The gut is complex. There are a complex set of multiple factors that must be assessed in an orderly fashion to determine exactly which factors are involved in creating that patient’s individual symptoms. The mantra of the Functional Medicine doctor is to treat the patient, not the diagnosis, and that is the key to success. IBS/IBD and colitis certainly exist–but the complex variety of causes is different for every patient. Success rests in proper testing (leading to proper non-drug methods of treatment) and patient follow through on recommendations.
If you are interested in finding out more or to schedule a free consultation with Dr. Rutherford please give us a call at 775-329-4402 or you can schedule an appointment online by clicking here..