• Dr. Caroline Ricker

Let’s Get Gutsy! An exploration into your worst digestive symptoms!

Nobody really wants to talk about digestive issues. Except maybe small boys, they can’t be stopped! But seriously, so many people in the US and all over the world sit around suffering with digestive health issues because they just feel strange talking about them.

No worries though, we’ll talk for you. As it turns out, if you have gas, bloating, belching, heartburn, diarrhea, stomach pain, cramping, constipation, or any other tummy symptoms you are hardly alone. Recent research shows that one out of every ten people is diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), 60% of the population will at some point in their life will experience heartburn, 1.6 billion people have IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and a lot more than that simply aren’t diagnosed or haven’t even shared their stomach symptoms with their doctors.

These are HUGE numbers people! And despite modern testing for diagnoses and medications for treatments, the numbers of people with these conditions is on the rise and doctors are hard pressed to come up with the causes for these issues.

In my years of practice, we have been able to distill down what really truly causes many of these issues to occur. The part that keeps it complicated is that the causes themselves can have many reasons for being there, so treating each patient is truly unique in finding the root cause. So let's get down to what we feel are the top five causes of these digestive issues.

Top 5 Causes of Digestive Distress

1. Altered immune function. The immune system modulates or controls how your body reacts to everything that comes into the body. If the immune system is acting in dysfunction, then it may react to things that are eaten or come into contact with in an abnormal way leading to many of the digestive symptoms that people are experiencing. The real trick here is not just realizing that this is occurring, but then to help to get the immune system back online to restore digestive function.

2. Improper neurological function. The nerves in our body allow parts of our body to send signals to the other parts, which is how we regulate most of our bodily functions. If a nerve or group of nerves gets damaged, the signals normally sent could be lost, misinterpreted or even over produced causing the parts of the body they’re supposed to be regulating to become dysfunctional.

3. Imbalanced microbiome. Mmhmm, microbiome (my-crow-by-ohm). It’s a popular word these days. The microbiome is the term used to describe the immense ecosystem of microbes that inhabit our gut. Housed mainly in the large intestine, millions of viruses, bacteria and fungi all work together to help us not only to digest food, but to produce many of the chemicals required to keep our bodies working right. If there becomes an imbalance to these “bugs” then we may lose the ability to have proper gut function and symptoms occur.

4. Infection. While similar to an imbalance of the microbiome, an infection by a virus, bacteria or fungi can really wreak havoc on our digestive tract all on their own without having a largely disturbed microbiome. Yeast infection with Candida is a great example, or stomach infection of H. Pylori and a few more popular bugs who will seize the opportunity to hijack your belly. Treating these infections can really put someone’s digestive health back on track

5. Prolonged poor diet. Over time, eating foods that are damaging to the gut can really cause the lining of the stomach or intestines to break down. Common culprits can be foods high in sugar, alcohol, gluten, dairy, trans fatty acids (trans fats) and highly processed foods that contain difficult to digest or irritating ingredients. Finding ways to enjoy some of these things in moderation, while feeding our body much healthier foods can be a simple key to success for some.

As you can see, each of these “causes” is really its own can of worms. Like, why did my gut become infected? How did my microbiome get out of balance? How do we even find out if my microbiome is out of balance?? Who tests for this? How are each of these treated? How much gluten is too much? What do I do if my nerves are out of whack?? There are so many low carb diets out there, which one should I try? Does this mean I have an autoimmune disease? Wait, what exactly is an autoimmune disease?

If it sounds like quite the rabbit hole to dive down, I encourage you to take the red pill anyway. If this post has answered some questions for you, only to have more and more pop up as so often happens when looking for a root cause, I suggest you check back next week for next in this series where we will continue to explain how we find conclusions and answers where there were none!

Dr. Caroline Ricker has been passionately helping people avoid unnecessary medications and surgeries since 2009. She combines a very logical functional medicine approach to digestive disorders and more using a more alternative holistic approach, utilizing standard lab tests and in-office evaluations as well as nutrition, acupuncture and homeopathy.

Contact Us!

Whole Health & Wellness

10807 Big Bend Road

St. Louis, MO 63122

P: (314) 269-3847


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