Immunity and Gut Health
by Dan Gleason, DC
In the age of viruses such as COVID-19 and SARS and bacterial infections such as MRSA, monitoring gut health can reduce the likelihood of contracting these scourges. The human gastrointestinal (GI) tract is surrounded by 80 percent of the immune system; essentially there is a septic system down there that needs tending. Intestinal cells are in constant contact and “conversation” with the microbes that inhabit the gut. It’s a relationship that is the foundation for the function of both the immune system and the nervous system. Problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) are barometers indicating the health of these essential systems.
Often specified as either IBS-C for constipation or IBS-D for diarrhea, IBS is a term that can include many symptoms including:
• Stomach pain
• Body odor
• Gurgling, burps, flatulence
Like all other conditions, it is important to look for what is causing IBS. Likely, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is the leading cause. Many people find that cleaning up the diet relieves most or all IBS symptoms as they are sensitive to grains or commercial dairy products. Others have gut reactions to nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers) and there is a whole category of plant toxins called lectins. (Learn more about these plant-based anti-nutrients in a recent book by Steven R. Gundry called The Plant Paradox.) Some people are so sensitive to plants that they need to eliminate them almost entirely and eat primarily animal products. (Further explore this topic in a new book called The Carnivore Code by Paul Saladino, M.D.)
In addition to dietary interventions, there are nutritional supplements that can help IBS.
IBS-C is often helped by supplementing with magnesium citrate, paleo fiber or a combination of saccharomyces cerevisiae, L-glutamine, perilla and 5-HTP.
IBS-D can be helped with anti-microbial herbal combinations of artemisia, oregano, pau de arco and others, GI support formulas including NAC, MSM, DGL, slippery elm, okra, marshmallow, quercetin, cat’s claw along with high potency probiotics with at least 100 billion units per dose.
It is also important to distinguish IBS from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). IBS, while often inconvenient and painful, is seldom serious. IBD can be life threatening and includes more serious conditions including Crohn’s disease, infectious diverticulosis, ulcerative colitis and Celiac disease.
In addition to colonoscopy, there are other tests that can provide insight into bowel health. The common hemoccult test looks for hidden blood from GI bleeding. Many functional medicine doctors use Comprehensive Stool Analysis (CSA) for in-depth testing of GI function. CSA testing from the best labs include using a technique called PCR which uses DNA to test for disease-causing bacteria, friendly bacteria, yeasts and fungi, viruses, amoebic parasites and worms. CSA testing also looks at digestive function markers such as pancreatic enzyme output, gallbladder function, leaky gut syndrome, presence of gluten antibodies, inflammation and more.
The inflammation marker, Calprotectin, helps differentiate between IBS and IBD. It also can be used to establish a baseline that can help assess the effectiveness of dietary, nutrient and pharmaceutical interventions.
The GI tract functions to regulate the immune system. Stress reduction, sleep and exercise also regulate the immune system. Regular chiropractic adjustments have been shown to increase immunity and decrease the effects of infections. Look to the digestive system for indications of immune malfunction and take any symptoms seriously, looking for causation and ways to get to the root of any problems that may reduce immune function.
Dr. Dan Gleason is the owner of The Gleason Center located at 19084 North Fruitport Road in Spring Lake. For more info: go to TheGleasonCenter.com or call 616-846-5410. See ad page 16.