What Is Parasite Dysbiosis?

One of the most common complaints I encounter in my practice is gut related conditions, ranging from a ten year old, who have suffered his whole life with stomach pains, to a frail elderly woman unable to digest and absorb nutrients properly. One thing I would consider in these circumstances is if there is some kind of parasite infection in the gut flora. This is where a normal gut flora has been disrupted by infection by one or many types of parasites.

Some parasites cause an acute condition, that may be life threatening. This could be infections with parasites such as Entamoeba histolytica or Giardia lambda. Often due to its severity, these infections usually need a swift therapy to prevent a severe outcome.

What is less evident are all the chronic conditions where parasites do not give a clear picture of what is going on, where symptoms such as chronic fatigue or diffuse stomach ache is the presenting complaint.Nonetheless, these parasitic infections can have a debilitating effect over time.

bed sleep

Imagine having a kid who is in constant pain from his very first years of age. You go to the doctors, hoping that they will figure out what to do. Your family GP can’t find anything wrong, and after repeated visits, where “everything is normal”, your son is refered to a specialist. You have great hopes, but even here no one can find anything wrong. You and your son is left with your problems, and over several years the symptoms persist. Most of his time goes to lying in bed, not being able to do normal activity like other kids in the block. You then eventually come to a functional medicine practitioner, who, due to a different framework of though, manage to find possible solutions. Upon investigation the practitioner find a parasite in the kids gut flora. Your son is given a short antibiotic cure, and after only a few weeks his symptoms starts to fade away, and after a few months he feels completely fine. You are thrilled, and wonder why this hasn’t been addressed before.

Now consider this frail elderly woman coming in to the clinical office. Her health has deteriorated over a course of several years, where she has noticed a gradual wasting, even though she has a good appetite and eats plentiful. Apart from her energy being low, she doesn’t have any other symptoms. Upon seeing her physician, she is told that there is nothing wrong with her. She then comes to a functional medicine practitioner, who, upon a thorough investigation discoveres a parasitic dysbiosis. Also here, her symptoms gradually improves after a gut flora cure, using antibiotics and antibiotic herbs, in combination with other nutritional therapies.

Old tired

These cases are not uncommon for a functional medicine practitioner to encounter. In fact, I have had many similar cases in my practice. It is therefore very touching when they, upon the follow up consultation, have flowers in their hands and crying because of how happy they are of being cured.

Now, why hasn’t this been addressed more in clinical practice. The reason is basically that some of these “gut dysbiosis” are not considered detrimental for ones’ health, and often is difficult to diagnose. One place where a lot of study has been undertaken on the matter of chronic parasite dysbiosis is at Centre for Digestive Disorders in Sydney, CDD. Amongst others, they have found two common parasites called Blastocystis hominis and Dientamoeba fragilis, that may be important to treat if there are chronic and diffuse symptoms that may be related to the ailments.

What usually follows a diagnosis of these parasites in someones gut flora, is the question “How they managed to contract this parasite in the gut flora”. The answer for this is multifocal. First, usually the beneficial gut flora is weakened. Then there may have been a period of stress, or poor diet, that have weakened the gut functioning. Then there follows an infection with one or more parasites, maybe also accompanied by intestinal worms. The parasites is commonly contracted fecal-oraly, meaning the hygiene of someone has been poor, whereupon someone else eats or drinks what has been handled by that person.

What is tricky with these parasites is that there are several subtypes of them, whereas some om them can cause disease, while other types are asymptomatic (and will therefore not cause any harm). Centre for Digestive Disorders have come to the conclusion that if the patient has symptoms that can be related to the parasite located in the gut flora, it is adviced to treat it.

Thinking

What is also tricky is how to treat these parasites. In a smaller study there was evidence that using the herb oregano extract, caused half of the patients to be relieved of the symptoms. What is important if you are to use oregano extract is to use the emulsified form, so that it doesn’t erode and irritate the gut lining.

Centre for Digestive Disorders are very much aware of treating patients with antibiotics. Often, a combination therapy using various antibiotics, including antibiotic herbs, are the best way to rid someone of these parasites. I find it essential when clearing away unwanted parasites, to also make sure to build up with beneficial flora. There are many beneficial probiotics that have a good effect, such as VSL#3/Vivomix, or other probiotics with a broad spectrum effect.

In addition, there are many folk remedies that will possibly have a good effect on treating these parasites. Most commonly garlic. Also, I would consider using lemon water or cold pressed extra virgin apple cider vinegar as well, as this benefits the general gut flora.

herbs gut flora

I think the main message from this article is: Do not give up if you have chronic ailments and are told there is nothing to do. There may be a solution under the next rock, if you look hard enough.

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What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

It is estimated that about 20% of the population have symptoms associated with irritable blowel syndrome (IBS). Irritable bowel syndrome is not accounted to be a disease, but rather a disturbance in the normal intestinal function.

Patients with irritable bowel syndrome usually suffer from a range of stomach related ailments. Even so, conventional investigations can’t find a specific reason for their suffering. That means that even though they have real symptoms, extensive investigations will not find any abnormalities. In colonoscopy there may be seen an irritated mucosal lining, but no real damage that can explain the patients suffering.

Because conventional investigations can’t find any abnormalities, patients are often told that there is nothing they can do about their suffering. They may be told that the reason for their ailments are psychological, which can often be very frustrating.

Symptoms that are often associated with irritable bowel syndrome include stomach pain, gas/flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, slimy feces. The gastrointestinal discomfort often come after intake of food, or in accordance with stress. It is also very common for irritable bowel syndrome patients to have psychological problems such as anxiety and depression (often as a bi-effect of longterm ailments), as well as other problems such as tiredness and joint pains. The symptoms can vary from mild to so severe that they influence the patients’ quality of life.

Irritable bowel syndrome is different from diagnoses such as Ulcerous Colitis, Chrons, Coeliac Disease, Cholecystitis and other gastrointestinal problems where one can see real physical abnormalities by standard investigations.

Through extensive research and experience in functional medicine we see that complicated and chronic intestinal problems often have a multitude of underlying causes and triggers. Only through an extensive investigation through the functional medicine scope will it be possible to unravel the real reasons why patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome have developed their ailments, and consequently what to do about it. The reasons for irritable bowel syndrome can be about gut flora imbalances, food intolerance, irritation on the gut/mucosal lining due to an irritant, and psychological issues. Irritants such as heavy metal exposure or ingestion of other chemical irritants can be a reason for irritation to the gut lining.

Treatments in functional medicine follows the “5R” Method, not necessarily in this order:

  • Remove:
  • Replace:
  • Reinoculate:
  • Repair:
  • Remain:

This means to remove the irritants (from food or chemicals), allergens and/or dysbiotic flora. Then replace and make sure that there is enough beneficial stomach acid, digestive enzymes, gall and so forth. Then reinoculate with beneficial flora, and repair the mucosal lining and gastric functioning. Here the diet plays a major role, and also correct other imbalances such as a lack of essential vitamins and minerals. Less stress and focus on physical activity also play a major role in repairing and treating the gut. The last step is by far the most important, and that is to maintain a good digestive functioning once it has healed.

 

 

How To Lose Those Extra Kilos

After having had a merry Christmas holiday I am sure there are plenty of us who ponder how we can lose those extra kilos we gained after stuffing ourselves with lots of delicious savoury foods. Here is a list of the most important points in this regard:

  • Eat less sugar. Excess refined sugar is probably the main reason why people struggle to lose weight. Also, know that alcohol is considered a refined sugar and should be moderated. Eating more wholesome sugars from fruits and berries is much better. A small amount of wholesome sugars such as honey, raw cane sugar is much better than the refined beet sugar. Remember, less is more.
  • Fat is not the enemy: There is a crisp new study from the University of Bergen that show the beneficial effect of consuming more saturated fats, and how this may indeed lower one’s weight. Mind you, this is a small study, but still contradicts the theory that eating less fat makes one loose fat. Eating saturated fats such as butter in moderation may be better than eating those hydrogenated oils in margarine. Here I would advise to focus on the quality of fats. I also believe eating good quality oils such as extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil is generally good for one’s health.
  • Eat less refined starches such as that bowl of potato chips or floury foods that is so easy to eat too much of. Remember, the more wholesome the food is, the better it is for you.
  • Also, avoid refined starches such as Pepsi max or the equivalent. Many studies have shown how these artificial sugars will ”fool” the body into believing that sugar will arrive, and thereby increasing insulin production. The surge in insulin without being saturated by glucose cause the body to store more fat due to the insulin effect.
  • Regular workout: Physical exercise have a range of benefits, from boosting blood circulation (and hence oxygen transport and excretion of waste particles), improving mood and energy from an elevation of endorphins, balancing the lipoproteins in the blood circulation. Regular physical exercise, both endurance and strength workouts, will be beneficial to balance ones weight.
  • Stress down: Too much stress leaves excess cortisol levels in the body.and may consequently cause one to gain more weight. One of the best ways to stress down is to sleep better. Also, deep belly breathing and intervals of calming activities are very beneficial.
  • Lower inflammation: An increase in certain inflammatory markers called cytokines have been linked especially to abdominal adiposity.
  • Treat your gut flora: There are now coming out various studies on how the gut flora influence one’s weight. The balance between the two gut flora families Bacteroidetes and Fibricutes are of huge importance as to how one digests starches. Fibricutes bacteria’s cleave carbohydrates at a much greater extent than Bacterioidetes. We tend to see more of an overweight of Fibricutes to Bacteroidetes in the west in contrast to more ”primitive” cultures. Most probably this relates to the diet. An excess of Fibricutes in relation to Bacterioidetes is linked to overweight. Consuming more fibrous foods from vegetables and fermented foods may, as well as eating less refined starches, be a good way to balance these bacteria’s.
  • Check your thyroid: Oftentimes, when people see an abnormal increase in weight (For example, beyond eating several Christmas-style feasts for days), then it may be necessary to check your thyroid status with your doctor, as a thyroid imbalance may be the culprit!
  • There are some supplements that may have a good effect at lowering one’s weight. An Indian study show great improvement by consuming an Ajurvedic herb called Ashwaghanda.

Have a Happy New Year!

Ways To Improve Digestion

I consider the gastro-intestinal tract to be one of our most important organs. We could definitely not live without it, as it is here that digestion and assimilation of nutrients takes place. Therefore, to maintain a healthy gastro-intestinal tract is essential for proper digestion. Here are some general advice, that I consider sound:

  • Drink plenty of clean water throughout the day. The gastrointestinal tract is important in balancing hydration of the body, and excretion of waste particles. Consuming enough water will enable the gut to function optimally.
  • Start the day by drinking a lukewarm (tepid…under 42 degrees) glass of water, with juice from ½ a lemon. Alternatively you could use cold pressed apple cider vinegar in stead. This practice will hydrate the body (which is particularly useful after a good nights sleep) and get help prepare the gastrointestinal system for the day,
  • Cut back on coffee. Coffee contain caffeine, which overtly stimulates gastric emptying, and irritates the gut lining. Coffee works as a laxative, so people with obstipation might feel an improvement after consuming this. Even so, using coffee as a therapy for obstipation will just make issues worse over time. The key word here is moderation. Someone with very irritable intestines, with burning sensations, should probably evade drinking coffee alltoghether for a while. Mind you, caffeine is addictive, and cutting down on caffeine might lead to abstinence symptoms such as (forbigående) headache or fatigue. Some should also stay away from other caffeinated beverages for a while to alleviate symptoms.
  • Bitter herbs, including milk thistle, dandelion,  shisandra, burdock root are all herbs that are useful at helping the liver and gall bladder to function optimally. In my practice I often use tinctures of Bitterstern, as this will help cleanse the liver/gall bladder, and consequently allow for better digestion. Patients suffering from acid reflux may also benefit greatly upon taking this supplement.
  • Ingest lots of healthy, fresh vegetables, either in its raw form or as freshly squeezed juices. This contains lots of phytonutrients, nourishment that will leave cells more energized. The fibers and enzymes in vegetables are also very beneficial.
  • Stress down. This is particularly important for gastric acid secretion, and gut motility Calming down by deep breathing is a good way to increase the parasympathetic system, aka the relaxing part of the nervous system.
  • Active charcoal will mop up some of the toxins being unleashed in the gut. Toxins may come from excretion of waste particles from the liver, ingested pollutants, gut flora toxins and more. Better to take a small amount of this, over a longer period of time, to have the most benefit.
  • A good fiber mixed with water, taken on an empty stomach between meals is a good way to balance the motility in the intestines.
  • There is also the issue of possible gut flora imbalance. For more information  on this see my other post Our Little Helpers