The Gut Rules!

Dr. John Briggs

The Gut Rules!

3 mins
February 15, 2021

When you boil down the majority of issues patients suffer from, it’s not hard to see that a dysfunctioning gut is usually the root of the greatest number of doctor’s visits, even when it doesn’t appear that way on the surface. 

Since we must nourish our body with food, disruption of the ability to receive, digest, and absorb vital nutrients will ultimately have an impact on our health and vitality. 

Acid Blockers and IBS

With acid blockers being a major component in so many people’s lives, it’s no wonder we see complaints arising from these areas. Top that off with various stressors in life, and now we double the potential. Add in foods with antibiotic content, and the destruction and alteration of normal intestinal flora tips the scale. 

Irritable bowel syndrome is a very common disorder where the enteric nervous system, (a division of your autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for governing the function of the GI) is altered. This includes the contraction of muscles in the bowel, secretion and absorption of ions, as well as blood flow through and to the GI tissues. 

Stress can trigger IBS. This stress can be anything which stimulates the GI tract including mental, physical and chemical, including dietary changes. These are seen to increase response of enteric nerve activity. 

Our liver is intimately connected with these functions. Liver enzymes like ALT and GGT are usually elevated in patients with IBS. These elevations are frequently seen when undigested, or partially digested foods decompose improperly in the intestines with the created toxins being shunted to the liver, causing various degrees of damage. 

The Importance of the Liver

Since the liver is important in creation of critical nerve repairing components like the phospholipids, neuronal damage without repair is a common occurrence. A poorly functioning liver is unable to remove toxins from the blood, ultimately affecting function of the nervous system. When the entire nervous system is impaired in its repair, there can arise increased hypersensitivity of the entire enteric nervous system as well as in the spinal cord and brain. This is why we often see issues of impaired memory, headaches, ADD, ADHD, anxiety, and depression when the gut is malfunctioning. Unfortunately, these issues are often addressed with symptom suppressing drugs. 

Bacterial infections of the GI tract or SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) is a major factor in the cause of IBS. This is caused primarily due to foods not being fully dealt with in the mouth and stomach. This leaves food matter feeding intestinal bacteria to a point of overgrowth. 

A statistical study showed that among examined IBS patients, 84% of them had SIBO and 66% of children diagnosed with IBS have SIBO. In SIBO or bacterial infections of the GI tract, the gut microbiome becomes altered, establishing changes of a pathogenic nature. 

Intestinal pathogenic or unfriendly bacteria and the resulting bacterial toxins often affects the enteric neural function leading to disruptions in the coordinated rhythm of the intestinal muscles which contract and relax as food moves through. Constipation is presented way too often in my office. 

Bacterial overgrowth produces a number of toxic compounds (peptidoglycans, D-lactate and serum amyloid A), which promote inflammation. The resulting inflammation can be systemic, affecting muscles, joints, nerves, and even the brain. This is why I often hear patients claim they experience relief in pain throughout the body when they finally fix the gut. 

Studies have shown increased levels of intestinal permeability in both small and large intestines in IBS patients, regardless of the sub-type. A leaky gut allows increased antigen loads to enter through the intestinal epithelium. This is the border that’s supposed to selectively allow nutrition into the bloodstream while keeping bacteria out. 

When these pathways are corrupted, it leads to altered gut function, minor inflammation, autoimmunity, and increased mucosal sensitivity seen in IBS patients. Leaky gut conditions allow bacteria and viruses to pass through the epithelium, resulting in irritated enteric nerves causing abnormal smooth muscle contraction with chronic diarrhea or constipation. 

Protecting your digestive function and elimination is critical to every cell in your body. If you can’t deliver nourishment to your cells, you’re bound to have problems.

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Dr Briggs is a 1980 graduate of the National College of Naturopathic Medicine and has been practicing naturopathic medicine in the northwest corner of Oregon since his graduation. His practice involves diagnostic and therapeutic modalities which have stood the test of time and the challenges of diverse disease. We believe that each person exists dynamically as a spirit being, possessing a soul made up of their mind, will, and emotions, living in a body which requires specific care and nutrition. To address only the physical needs is to ignore the real person, and frequently, the real issues. We strive to address all your issues (spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical) with compassion and wisdom.

This article was orginally reported by
Dr. John Briggs

Dr. John Briggs is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine.