Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Intestinal bloating, pain and altered bowel habits may be coming from your microbiome…

“Death begins in the colon” This has been quoted numerous times throughout history.  It can be traced back to E. E. Metchnikoff, Russian pathologist and microbiologist in the 1900’s.  He was known as the father of Orthobiosis looking at microbes and their effect on health and disease. 

Human Microbiome Project

There have been a lot of pioneers since E.E.’s work but the biggest and most notable study was the Human Microbiome Project in 2007.  It was a five year $173 million dollar initiative funded by the National Institute of Health to better understand bacteria and their role in health and disease.  It involved over 200 researchers and 80 institutions.  Its completion included a genetic map of the microbes that live in our body laying the groundwork for how they affect health and disease.  We also learned that bacteria outnumber our human cells by 10:1.  We have 100 trillion bacteria compared to 10 trillion human cells. 

So if microbes out number our cells are they living within us or are we hitching a ride on them?

The Gut 

The GI tract has often been called a tube within a tube.  It acts as a barrier of protection between the external environment and our internal world.  This selective barrier allows nutrients to enter while keeping pathogens and toxins out. It’s approximately 25-30 feet in length and this length allows for slow breakdown and digestion of our food.   The human digestive system has many components but its main role is to convert food into energy.

Villi are finger-like projections that are on the epithelial cells lining of the GI.  They help us with absorption by increasing the GI surface area 10X.  On top of the villi we have even smaller villi called the microvilli which increase the surface area an extra 20X, equaling the absorption surface area to the size of a tennis court.  The villi are highly vascularized.   All of the blood is sent directly to the liver for filtration of toxins, nutrient distribution and storage. 

The Intestinal Barrier 

Intestinal epithelial cells lie on the inner surface of the GI tract and provide us with a barrier of protection.  This is what protects our internal structures from the outside world. The integrity of this barrier is maintained by a protective mucous layer, epithelial cells, immune cells and lymphatic cells.  We also have an immune system called the GALT; Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue, which accounts for approximately 70% of the immune system.  So the majority of your immune system is in your gut. 

The Root Cause of Gastrointestinal Disease

Disruption of this Intestinal barrier can contribute to IBS, food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease.  Some of the causes of intestinal barrier dysfunction are infections, medication, dietary proteins and peptides, gluten and inflammation.  Some call this barrier disruption “leaky gut.”  Regardless what you call it, intestinal barrier disruption can lead to food allergies and intolerances, IBS, increased immune responses, autoimmunity, blood-brain barrier dysfunction and brain abnormalities.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome affects 15% of the population and is a diagnosis based on clinical criteria or patient symptoms.  Although there are no definitive tests to define IBS, 92% of patients complain of bloating and pain; this is due to fermentation of bacteria converting hydrogen to methane and sulfide. Spasms of the muscle lining can also cause cramping pain.   

Symptoms of IBS include change in bowel habits, constipation, diarrhea, passing mucus, abdominal bloating, gas, abdominal pain.

Types of IBS

There are different types of IBS: IBS-D (diarrhea predominant), IBS-C (constipation predominant), IBS-M (mixed), IBS-A (alternating).  Different types have different impacts on patients with regard to anxiety, depression, fatigue and myalgia.  These are called extra-intestinal symptoms and are not usually the primary concern of the GI specialist.    

IBS Treatment

There are a lot of people suffering with IBS, GERD and Inflammatory bowel disease but the problem is that modern medical treatment is lacking.  As a matter of fact in a recently published article Int J Clin Pract. 2013;67(9):895-903, they state: “The current treatment for irritable bowel is suboptimal” and they go on to reveal how low FODMAP foods can prove to be extremely effective for treating IBS. 

The treatment that proves to be most beneficial:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment: 

1.  First look to the root of the problem.  You need to understand what’s actually happening at the level of the cell.  Is the lining inflamed? Do you have issues with your barrier integrity?  Do you have Gluten allergies?  Are you infected?  How many good bacteria vs. bad bacteria do you have in your microbiome?  The microbiome is the ecosystem of the gut (the bacteria and their environment).  You should have your microbiome analyzed through a stool sample if you have any gastrointestinal problem.  Stool analysis is the first thing you should do to see what you are dealing with.

2.  Address the physiology.  Once we know the integrity of the microbiome the next thing we need to do is address the current level of GI function.  Are you constipated?  Constipation will cause circulating toxins in your system and contribute to things like inflammation and oxidative stress.  You can also re-circulate harmful estrogens.  There are natural and non-toxic ways to correct constipation and restore normal bowel habits.  Every person is individual and what works for one person may not work for others.  Do you have diarrhea?  This will alter the osmotic gradient and contribute to fluid and electrolyte imbalances leading to an inflamed gut lining and nutrient loss. The traditional treatment for this is to use binders and anti-diarrhea medication but this is often a shot in the dark.  You need to look at the ecosystem and correct the problem at the level of the cell.  By restoring the microbiome we can change the physiology of the GI and this allows for normalization of bowel habits.      

3.  Address Food Allergies.  If your lining damaged you may have leaky gut syndrome.  One clue is that you’ll often have reactions to certain foods and have lots of bloating.  Or if you eat a certain food you may have to run to the bathroom shortly after eating it.  Once the tight-gap junctions (proteins that hold the epithelial cells together) are disrupted they allow a passage for toxins, food particles and pathogens into the circulation creating circulating-immune-complexes that ramp up your immune system and can lead to autoimmunity to various organs and tissues throughout the body.  The first step is identifying the food allergies through a simple blood test and avoid anything that shows positive for a certain time period.  While avoiding these inflammatory foods we can then give the gut a break and focus on healing the lining so you can regain your barrier protection back and ultimately restore your health.   Aside from eliminating the allergenic foods, other dietary changes are often made to low fermentable foods as seen with the FODMAP diet but again each individual is different and only a seasoned practitioner has the skill set to move you in the right direction with food and dietary choices.   

4.  Repopulate.  Once the source of the problem is identified and removed, the physiology is addressed and fixed and the lining is reestablished your GI tract can begin to heal.  Probiotics and prebiotics are then slowly introduced to restore the overall integrity of the GI tract.       

The Picard protocol is different for each individual.  I believe that each of us has a uniqueness; biochemical individuality, that makes standard cookbook treatments worthless. This is seen with taking fiber and fluids for constipation.  It doesn’t work for everyone and in some people it makes them worse.  I think it is nearly impossible for the average person to treat themselves because of the many variables that exist.  Only a doctor trained at this nutritional level of understanding GI disorders should be managing functional bowel disorders such as IBS.  There are specific steps on how to do this so the transition is smooth and flawless with minimal to no discomfort to the patient. 

A message from Dr. Picard: 

I have treated IBS, GERD, and Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis) successfully with diet, nutrition and natural medicine where traditional medical approaches have failed.  Often times patients don’t realize they have options for dealing with IBS or GERD and some end up taking medication for years never getting any better.  It is my opinion medication should only be used short term and other interventions such as diet and nutritional strategies should be employed.  Being symptomatic and taking medication is not the way to be living your life.  The transition to getting well is within your power.  Today you have a choice.  Only you can make the choice to get well again.  I am offering you motivation to pick up the phone and schedule a 15 minute free consultation with me and I will let you know if I can help you or not.  I encourage you to take control of your health and move in the direction of wellness.  I understand how bloating, abdominal pain, constipation and/or diarrhea can destroy the quality of your life.  I also know that some of you have been suffering for years.  Now is the time to take action and get your life back. Health and healing at the cellular level is within your reach!