Many people take breath mints regularly in hopes to cover foul breath. Others experience bloating and discomfort after meals, but never wonder why their body is sending them this message. Loose or unformed stool (diarrhea) alternating with periods of constipation is rather common for busy people living in Hong Kong and other metropolitan cities. If you’ve visited your doctor for these complaints, you may have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a rather vague diagnosis… So now what? Must we live uncomfortably after every meal? Are digestive enzymes the answer? Can we cure bad breath? How can we restore proper function of our digestive tract? Consider the following:
1. Masking is different from restoring. You may think that taking a digestive enzyme or a breath mint solves the problem, but a digestive enzyme merely does the job of digestion for you (meaning without it, you are back at square one) while a breath mint masks an underlying problem. On the other hand, a combination of a healthy diet, simple lifestyle changes (such as taking the time to eat and CHEWING each bite of food thoroughly), nutraceuticals and medicinal herbs can help to repair your digestive tract, ultimately restoring proper digestive function. Many patients, after months or years of symptomatic “management”, are amazed at how naturopathic medicine can restore their bodies’ natural ability to digest food and absorb nutrients. Treatment typically takes one to six months, depending on the severity of the condition.
2. For a significant number of people, bad breath is related to digestion. If you’ve been to the dentist and your problem is not due to oral hygiene, chances are it’s due to maldigestion and toxicity in the gut. Try basing your diet on fresh vegetables/ foods, whole grains, beans and pulses. Avoid processed (additive-laden), deep-fried and fatty foods. If you eat well but are still plagued by bad breath, read on to find out more about food intolerances and toxins in the digestive tract.
3. Food intolerances, loosely defined as undesirable reactions to food, may be to blame. Some people find that eating certain foods may trigger symptoms such as bloating, gas or diarrhea. Others may experience headaches, or feel that their skin condition (e.g. eczema) worsens. Unlike the “classic allergic reaction” where your lip swells or your throat closes up after contact with an allergen, food intolerances produce more subtle, delayed reactions. If your body reacts to these foods, regardless of the severity, continuously eating these foods will put a burden on your digestive tract. In order to heal your digestive tract, the first step in the restoration process is to avoid giving your body excess burden, meaning you need to avoid foods you are intolerant to. Since it is difficult to pinpoint which exact foods are the culprit, a simple IgG blood or finger-prick test is usually used to check for food intolerances. Note that this is different from testing for food allergies (IgE testing), which is often done in conventional medicine.
4. Further lab testing is key for optimal gut repair and restoration. People coming in often say they have already done numerous blood tests for digestive-related issues, but no cause of illness was ever identified. Dr. Ardyce Yik ND offers additional tests such as the food intolerance test and SIBO test, a breath test that determines whether or not you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. It turns out that a number of IBS sufferers have infections in their intestines, often in the small intestine. Some experts believe that irritable bowel syndrome is actually caused by an infection called SIBO- a small intestine bacterial overgrowth. Another test Dr. Yik often orders to investigate digestive ailments is the organic acids test (OAT), a urine test that provides a snapshot of metabolism. The OAT is based on the byproducts that the body discards through the urine. These discarded organic acid molecules can indicate metabolic disorders including energy production, bacterial overgrowth or the presence of yeast (Candida) in the gut, which lead to toxicity and many other issues. Often times, patients come in without any outward signs of yeast or bacterial infection, yet when their test comes back being positive and treatment is given, their digestive symptoms improve significantly.
The OAT urine test can help:
- Detection of intestinal yeast or bacterial toxin overgrowth
- Assessment of neuro-transmitter levels relevant to anxiety, addiction or depression
- Assessment of central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, nerve) function
- Detection of nutritional and antioxidant deficiencies
- Evaluation of energy production by the mitochondria
Not only does the OAT aid in the investigation of gut issues, but also in determining possible causes of other health conditions.
But first things first. When we remove barriers to health, when we repair the digestion system, when we replenish our bodies with proper nutrients, our gut will naturally function the way it was designed to. And when our gut is functioning properly, we will no longer need breath mints or digestive enzymes!
Stay tuned for Dr. Yik’s next article to find out how seemingly unrelated health conditions (ADD/ ADHD, anxiety, learning disorders, weak immunity, etc.) may be linked to your gut!