Young man with strong stomach pain isolated on white background.With an estimated 23-35% of the U.S. population affected by gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GERD) and 10-15% reporting symptoms of IBS, the prevalence of gastrointestinal imbalance is shockingly common. IBS and GERD are two of the primary reasons people pay visits to their gastroenterologist each year, frequently leaving with a “band aid” medication without an answer as to what is causing their discomfort. The reason being that these conditions often have a multifactorial etiology, making it difficult to pin point a single, exact cause. However, upon delving a bit deeper than surface symptoms we can gather more information on what might be going on.

IBS:

With continually progressive research into gut imbalance, it is becoming quite clear that IBS is one of the most ambiguous and somewhat complicated conditions to treat. However, once we step outside of the actual diagnosis of IBS (which is usually a “bucket diagnosis” when no other conclusion can be reached), the picture of the imbalance becomes much larger to encompass not only the gut (enteric nervous system), but also the mind, the stress response, and the sympathetic nervous system as well.

GERD:

Classically known GERD symptoms include a burning sensation in the chest or throat, sour taste in mouth and regurgitation of food or sour liquid, but there really is anything but a “classic” presentation or cause. Cough, asthma, nausea, hoarseness and excessive saliva can all be indications of GERD, and, much like IBS, GERD often has several contributory factors.  While it is often assumed that reflux is a result of having too much acid, this is only one of many possible causes. Certain bacteria, poor esophageal tone, a stressful lifestyle, even not having enough stomach acid can all lead to GERD indicating how important to look at each case individually.

When addressing IBS or GERD (or any gut imbalance, really), we often look at several contributing factors: lifestyle, stressors, diet, emotions, mental state, and the whole constitution of the person.Intestines Vector Character The gut has an entire nervous system (called the enteric nervous system) that functions autonomously from the brain, and on average, the gut is sending up 9 messages to the brain for every 1 message the brain sends to the gut. A huge chunk of the immune system resides in the gut, and a vast network of probiotics (some 3-4 pounds!) regulates the absorption and health of the epithelial lining of the intestines and colon. A large majority of your hormones are produced within the gut as well (including the ever important serotonin). Receptors for serotonin are found on the enteric smooth muscle, enteric neurons and epithelial cells, so serotonin influences almost every aspect of gut function. Serotonin also plays a role in clinical depression, which is often why people presenting with IBS also struggle with symptoms of depression as well. It all comes down to the gut.

Gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS and GERD also have an undeniable psychosomatic relationship with the brain and our learned emotions. This is a classic example of a “mind/body” imbalance, where our conscious (and sometimes subconscious) emotions affect the motility and visceral sensitivity of the gut. This is quite often why people presenting with a diagnosis of IBS or GERD cannot pin point particular food triggers. It’s not always a certain food that causes pain and digestive upset, but a combination of hypersensitive large intestine spasms, weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter, mental and emotional stress, dysregulation of the gut flora (probiotics) and overall motility of the gut.

RNM’s Approach

It is clearly imperative to get a whole understanding of the individual before we can embark on support plans for IBS, GERD or any other gastrointestinal disorder. Along with nutrition and dietary modifications, we recommend specific strains of probiotics in the appropriate potency, as well as lifestyle and self care practices that help to bring balance back to an unbalanced digestive (and psychosomatic) system. Occasionally, we do further testing for hormone imbalance or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Herbal medicines can be enormously helpful to build the integrity of the gut lining, sphincter tone and also act as antispasmodics for oversensitive digestive systems and adaptogens (to help the body adapt to stress). Homeopathy is a powerful tool targeted toward stimulating the body to heal from within and is often recommended after identifying the very specific way IBS or GERD shows up for each person individually.  With time and a personalized support plan, IBS and GERD can be healed and the gut can repair itself.

Meet Our Practitioners that work with Gastrointestinal Concerns and Digestive Health

Dr. Bridget Casey

Dr. Bridget Casey, ND

Naturopathic Doctor

Areas of concentration: Digestive Health, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Children’s Health, Autoimmune Support, and General Wellness

I became a Naturopathic Doctor in order to help others achieve health in a real way – something I was able to do only after discovering this medicine in my personal health journey. While struggling with my own health issues, I experienced a lack of health-promoting interventions within conventional medicine. Through this, I found my interest in natural health and nutrition grow – to the point where I considered making it a second career.

taylor_pagano

Dr. Taylor Pagano, ND

Naturopathic Doctor

Areas of concentration: General Wellness, Gastrointestinal concerns, and Women’s Medicine

In early adulthood, I discovered the connection between your diet and your health.  Upon being exposed to the truth behind factory farming and the food industry I made a huge lifestyle change.  I did a complete overhaul on my diet and I learned how to eat in a way that would nourish my body, mind and soul. In doing so, I found a new passion for nutrition.  I had dealt with digestive issues and acne through all of my teen years and this change in my diet lead to increased energy, healthier skin, and better digestion.

Dr Mandy Reckers ND

Dr. Mandy Reckers, ND

Naturopathic Doctor

Areas of concentration: Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Autoimmune, & Women’s Health

It wasn’t until I was in the midst of naturopathic medical school that I realized one of my favorite games as a child was to pretend I was some sort of medicine woman.  I would imagine that there was someone who was very sick and needed my help and proceed to forage in the back yard, filling one of my mom’s old jars with various weeds, sticks, and rocks, topping it all off with water from the hose.  It seemed that it was normal for most of the adults in my life to be in and out of the hospital, taking medications, and never getting better.

Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN

Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN

Clinical Herbalist & Licensed Nutritionist

Areas of concentration: Sleep physiology, Circadian rhythm imbalance, Gastrointestinal disordersFood Intolerances

Following a passion for the natural word, Lindsay received her Bachelors of Science degree in Horticulture and Landscape Design at Virginia Tech where she sought to get people outdoors and experience the rhythms of the seasons. She is passionate about designing and developing sustainable landscapes that are both biodynamic and organic while also offering a sensory and medicinal experience.

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