February  2015

Is your gut healthy?  

This is a question that we all should ask ourselves.  Before we discuss gut health issues, let me take a minute to define for you what I mean when I refer to your gut.  Although many people think we are talking about our stomach when we say gut, what we are really referring to primarily is the intestinal system.  If you include the stomach when talking about the intestines, it should be referred to as the Gastrointestinal System.  It is my experience that patients don’t want to talk about their bowels (gut) however, a healthy gut is one of the most important things you can strive for to stay truly healthy.  Why is it so important you ask?  The reason our gut health is so important is because 80% of our immune system resides in the gut!  Anyone can understand that this fact makes the gut tremendously important to our overall health.

So how are we doing as a nation when it comes to having healthy guts?  Gastrointestinal issues plague approximately 75 million Americans.  There are almost 50 million doctor visits and 21 million hospitalizations for gastrointestinal problems each year.  With this in mind, I would say that we aren’t doing well at all in this area of health.  To say the American gut is not healthy is an understatement!  Most of these gut issues are self-induced due to our exceptionally poor diets and the enormous amounts of pharmaceutical products that we consume. 

Reflux

One of the most common complaints voiced by patients when visiting their doctor is heartburn, also known as “Acid reflux” or G.E.R.D. (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease).  When taught about heartburn in medical school most doctors, including myself, were taught this is the result of producing too much acid.  We were then taught to prescribe antacids for the condition. 

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I have seen very few patients over my 39 years in practice who produce too much stomach acid.  The real problem is many individuals fail to produce enough stomach acid, and as a result, suffer from recurrent reflux symptoms.  Because of this lack of stomach acid, much of the food we eat just sits in the stomach too long and begins to ferment. As this undigested food begins to travel upward into our esophagus (especially when we lay down after a meal) we start getting the characteristic burn in the stomach and chest.

Most patients I explain this to are not easily convinced.  I then ask them to take 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (a mild acid) with 3 or 4 ounces of water before each meal.  The majority of these folks suffering from reflux return and report that their symptoms are easing off as they follow this advice.  If this simple remedy doesn’t help this gives us information that allows us to take a different approach.  Other common gastrointestinal complaints besides reflux include; bloating, poor digestion, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and colitis. 

Gluten and Dairy

Like most doctors, I was not taught in medical school how common food allergies are in the American public.  The two most common food allergies that plague patients are dairy and gluten.  By far dairy is more common than gluten.  Any patient complaining of bloating and poor digestion should consider going dairy-free for at least two months.  It is easy enough to be tested for dairy and gluten allergies with a simple blood test. 

If avoiding dairy doesn’t give the relief that you desire, then a two month avoidance of gluten would be advisable.  For those who may not know, gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye and barley.  Today, our food supply has much higher gluten content than 40 years ago because of the use of genetically modified foods.

Gluten--- Wheat, Rye, and Barley

In extremely difficult cases, a patient may need 6 to 12 months avoiding gluten to see positive results. 

How Important are Bacteria to Our Overall Health?

Our gastrointestinal system contains more than 100 trillion microorganisms.  These bacteria help us digest food, protect us from infection, enhance the immune system, help us to digest carbohydrates, regulate metabolic functions, and even produce many different vitamins.  They also enhance the absorption of minerals such as iron and magnesium, and help prevent allergies, both from food and environmental sources. 

Based on the facts, I would say that the health of your gut is one of the most important factors in staying healthy.  My patients wonder why I spend so much time questioning them about their digestive symptoms.  As you can see there is a very important reason for this if I am to having a chance to truly give them the best nutritional health care advice. Probiotics have also been found to help with cases of diarrhea, urinary tract infections, vaginal infections, and eczema in children. 

Probiotics

I recommend a quality probiotic supplement to many of my patients in order to optimize the bacterial effects of the gut and thus improve their overall health status.  People ask me how they can know if they are taking a quality probiotic supplement.  I have excellent quality supplements in my office (see the products below) I use for patient treatment plans, but there are a few important things you should know when you are picking a supplement. 

·        Make sure the probiotic product is gluten-free.

·        Severely allergic people should avoid probiotics made from dairy. 

·        Make sure the supplements have at least 20 billion live microbes per capsule. 

·        Good products will have at least 7 different microbes in each capsule.

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BioDoph-7 Plus from Biotic Research Corp and ProSynbiotic from Standard Process Laboratories are among some of the best available.

There isn’t any one probiotic supplement that is perfect, so if you have tried one brand of probiotic without success don’t give up.  If I can be of any help finding you a better product just call me.

If you would like to have a personal discussion about the subject matter of this newsletter you may reach me at (386) 956-1668.

If you have found this Health Times Newsletter helpful in your quest for good health please visit my website at www.drstephenhayman.com where I have all of my previous Newsletters archived.  You may find a topic there that may be of help to you, a family member, or a friend.

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Healthy Transformations
820 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL. 32720

I am currently accepting new patients for nutritional assessment and dietary coaching. 

Have a Healthy Day!

Dr. Stephen W. Hayman