01.09.2012 Naturopathy

Making Changes

Resolving leaky gut syndrome may need major life changes, advises naturopath Lyn Craven

For optimum health and wellbeing, you must have an efficient digestive system that can absorb all nutrients from your diet. If your digestion is impaired in any way, such as with leaky gut syndrome, then, regardless of the quality of your food or supplements, you will not absorb your nutrients efficiently.

Many natural therapists look upon the stomach as the 'seat of disease', while the colon is 'the seat of nervous energy'. All efforts to eliminate and manage stress in your life should be addressed, introducing a variety of options into a daily regime such as stress management, meditation, yoga and Tai Chi. Lifestyle changes are often required in many cases.

We need to learn that in order to obtain optimum health and resolve illness we need to sacrifice. If we are not prepared to make a sacrifice and want to bargain it will never work. It could be as simple as giving up one or two of your favorite foods, maybe forever, but that is not a big ask if you wish to get well. I have had people bargain with me and try to stick to what they like, yet they complain when things are not improving. So if I asked, "What are you prepared to sacrifice in order to get well?", give that some serious thought - it could even be a complete lifestyle and/or work change.

Leaky gut syndrome is quite easy to resolve. The key thing here is consistency and perseverance with your remedies. Since each person is unique and requires individual attention, I recommend that you see a naturopath who is experienced in treating this problem and who can prescribe the correct remedies to help resolve this disorder. Specific herbal and homeopathic remedies, along with appropriate live bacteria are taken over a period of time, the person is monitored and remedies will be changed in accordance to progress. There is not a quick fix solution here. The treatment will focus on treating the whole person, not just the stomach.

There are many live bacteria on the market and it can be confusing. So it is really best to leave the selection to a professional who knows the correct live bacteria to administer and so ensure you obtain optimum results, since some are specifically capable of restoring integrity to the gut mucosa. A change of diet will also be required in all cases, as some of the foods you may have eaten over time are more than likely to have contributed to leaky gut syndrome manifesting. Other factors are likely to include any stressful situations, alcohol, or other substances that the body finds toxic. Continuing to consume any of the offending foods or beverages that trigger reactions will only compound the existing symptoms and slow the healing process of the gut lining considerably.

People often ask me, "How long will I need to take my remedies?" This question is not easy to answer due to the length of time you may have had this disorder and the capacity for your body to heal. However, I must say I have seen many people resolve and enjoy perfect healthy digestive function, gaining more energy and a positive outlook on life, providing they are consistent and comply with doses and remedies prescribed. You cannot expect to easily resolve an illness or imbalance the body is experiencing when you have suffered for a year or longer. The human body is remarkable in its capacity to cleanse, regenerate and restore balance and heal if we provide it with the correct support, nutrition and patience.

If your body is toxic you cannot expect to experience optimum energy, lose weight and maintain a positive outlook. A sluggish digestion and bowel can contribute to depression, anxiety, irritability, anger, mood swings, chronic fatigue and complete lack of motivation and joy in life. Some people suffering from anxiety disorders may not have had their digestive health assessed.

I aim to keep things simple for people when treating them, which also enables them to feel less anxious and pressured by any remedies they are presently taking over a given period of time so they obtain optimum health. No two people are treated the same - the holistic view is that everyone is unique even if presenting with the same health issues.

If you feel that you have any of the above symptoms you may wish to investigate to ensure that no further health disorders manifest over time. Remember, prevention is paramount to optimum health, vitality and emotional wellbeing! Medical doctors are not trained in nutrition, enzyme therapy, or herbal and homoeopathic remedies. It is the use of these safe and non-toxic, non-addictive, non-irritant remedies that helps you achieve improved gastrointestinal health and more efficient metabolism. There is no quick fix for chronic health issues and no magic pill to take your problem away and allow you to continue eating the offending foods. This is not how your body works.

Do not disregard any symptoms that manifest in the digestive/bowel system. In addition to medical advice, seek professional naturopathic advice and aim at resolving it before things get worse. A qualified naturopath is also a fully qualified nutritionist, medical herbalist, homoeopath and often iridologist. They are well equipped to guide you with diet and food therapy, prescribe relevant supplements of all types, and herbal and homoeopathic remedies - all highly effective in helping you resolve a wide variety of health disorders without side effects. Side effects are more likely to occur through self prescribing and taking pharmaceutical drugs and inexperience at administering correct dosage.

Herbal remedies have been criticised by scientists and many medical people for their ability to convey effective results. We should all remember that the first drugs to be manufactured came from constituents in plants. Aspirin is a prime example. It derived from the most powerful active constituent extracted from willow bark, salicylates. Aspirin is now being hailed as a wonder drug for its blood thinning properties in preventing cardiovascular disease. However, this active constituent can also be very irritating when taken over lengthy periods - hence bleeding of the stomach occurs in many people. It can also interfere with the gut lining and digestive process. Taking willow bark will not cause these side affects! Why? Because nature is far cleverer than many would like to admit. Willow bark has other active constituents within the plant that counteract the irritating component. In fact, in all herbal texts it is quoted as an anti-inflammatory and a bitter digestive tonic! This is the case in all medicinal herbs. Each plant has the correct actives naturally within it that work in harmony with each other so irritations do not occur. Professional dispensing by trained herbalists and naturopaths is important since the key to effective results is the dosage.

The scientific and medical world is challenged here because plant constituents may vary a little depending on time of day or season the plant was picked and even where it grows, with different soil types and hours of sunshine playing a role.

All these factors play a role in the plant's activity, medicinally. Of course, some plants like foxglove we all know are poisonous and must be avoided, but herbalists and naturopaths train for years to acquire the knowledge needed to help you safely. We need to know what actives are in any plant we dispense.

When people talk of herbs clashing with pharmaceutical drugs, it is really a case that the drug will clash with the herb and sometimes with other drugs. As mentioned above, pharmaceutical drugs either contain the powerful active from the plant extract or now, more than ever, the molecular structure of the drug is synthetically copied in a lab to match that of the plant. This is why many drugs cause gastro-intestinal tract problems.

So please do not put off uncomfortable symptoms in your digestive system - go and seek professional help no matter how minor the symptoms may appear. Always 'nip it in the bud' - your body will thank you in the future!

Case Study 1

One example was a woman diagnosed with coeliac disease approximately two years ago. Medically, she was told to return in a few months for further testing and advised to contact the Coeliac Association to get advice on the correct foods to eat and what to avoid. She was quite diligent in doing this. No medication or remedies of any type were prescribed. Follow up tests showed a very slow improvement, but once she became aware of how leaky gut syndrome could well have contributed to this disorder she began taking specific herbal remedies and colostrum formulated with the correct live bacteria for this disorder, which assisted in restoring integrity to the gut lining. Her intestinal villi began to improve quite impressively and her gastroenterologist remarked on this improvement.

Stress can also be a huge contributing factor to leaky gut syndrome and this was certainly the situation with this woman.

Case Study 2

A second example was a woman diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I treated her with Bowen therapy on a regular basis, while establishing a dietary regime for healthy eating, avoiding all gluten (even though she had not been diagnosed as gluten intolerant) and all acidic foods (except lemons that are alkaline once digested). I also administered appropriate herbs and supplements. She had been diagnosed with IBS with bowel movements varying between constipation and diarrhea. Once the appropriate herbs were given to heal the intestinal lining and large colon along with correct live bacteria, she began improving. She experienced less muscular pain, more flexibility and less fatigue. Anti parasite herbs were administered later in the program due to her long-standing bowel problems, which can provide a breeding ground for parasites and worms to take up residence. Over time, she improved on scale of 1-10 from her description of 2 when she first came to me to 8 or 9. Live blood analysis indicated leaky gut had resolved approximately 4 months into her regime. Remedies are assessed over the course of treatments and some may cease once improvement occurs, while others are continued at different dosage for ongoing maintenance. This is usually the case when chronic or autoimmune disorders are present. The beauty of natural remedies when prescribed professionally is that long-term maintenance is less likely to contribute to side effects.

Case Study 3

Another woman was advised she had leaky gut syndrome after receiving a live blood screen analysis. She also had stool analysis for a medically diagnosed colitis. The leaky gut appeared to have been present for some time. Her symptom profile, which she shared with me, conveyed this, despite the test results.

After taking herbal remedies and a live bacteria combined with colostrum, along with mineral supplements, she started to improve dramatically. Bloating, wind and a general state of feeling "too full" resolved. The colitis condition also improved although specific remedies were also given for this. The aim was to heal the mucous membranes of the intestines and restore healthy gut/intestinal flora.

Over time, the remedies change as they should when people begin to improve or if the condition is not resolving; this is an important part of naturopathic care. Specific amino acids to improve liver function, along with enzyme activity such as methionine and several others in combined formulas can be included.

This woman has not only restored vital energy and feels more alive with clearer thinking, but her sleep patterns and digestion are both greatly improved.

Hair mineral analysis was also performed to seek a clearer picture of mineral imbalances - general blood tests only show what is in the blood, not how the body is utlising these minerals and how certain organ functions could be affected by lack of appropriate minerals. It is always minerals first and vitamins second. Minerals are extremely important, but not necessarily in mega dosages, as many people believe. Trace minerals are absorbed far more efficiently, which is why I use them more than any other type.

It is important to note that just taking one of the abovementioned remedies will not resolve your problem. This applies to all health disorders. To obtain the results you would like you often need to combine several remedies to bring about a healing and resolve many of the symptoms at the root cause. A good naturopath would not simply treat your symptoms as people do when they self prescribe; the source of the disorder needs to be addressed otherwise you are simply masking the symptoms.

Sydney-based Lyn Craven is a practitioner of naturopathy, nutrition, medical herbalism, Bowen therapy, Reiki energy healing and meditation, and is a corporate health presenter/consultant with 18 years' experience in natural therapies.

DISCLAIMER : This column provides general information on a naturopathic approach to maintaining intestinal health and wellbeing. It is not intended to replace medical advice and readers should always be guided by their own healthcare professionals.

Lyn Craven

Lyn Craven is a practitioner of Naturopathy, Bowen Therapy, Energy/Reiki therapist, meditation teacher and Corporate Health Consultant. She is also a health researcher/writer and has produced a meditation CD assisting people to manage anxiety and stress. She runs a private practice in Sydney and can be contacted on +61403 231 804