Trusting your gut and how to decipher the messages your body is sending
Keeping Your Gut in Check
Part I: Constipation
February 9, 2016 -- We have a lot of good, healthy bacteria that live in our intestines. And really, this good bacteria does so much for us that we take it for granted—until something goes wrong. If your gut bacteria is not doing what it’s supposed to, you won’t be able to digest food properly and get the daily nutrients you need, your body won’t get rid of harmful toxins, and your hormones won’t balance properly.
“The gut is often referred to as the second brain because it has so much to do with brain function,” says David J. Bilstrom, MD—the Director of the Bingham Memorial Center for Functional Medicine and International Autoimmune Institute. “The gut is an organ of production. Our guts create serotonin (a feel good neurotransmitter) and it also produces the hormone insulin, which helps to control our blood sugar. The gut controls so many things.”
If your serotonin levels aren’t balanced, you could experience depression, and if your insulin levels aren’t right, this could lead to prediabetes or even type 2 diabetes. When your good-gut bacteria isn’t functioning properly, this can also turn into many gastrointestinal troubles, such as constipation, gas & bloating, heartburn, or diarrhea. However, these symptoms could also be a red flag that something more serious is wrong.
“The majority of Americans have had one or more of these problems,” says Dr. Bilstrom. “The general trend in our society is to self-manage these complaints, because they are so common. But that means people need to be extremely aware of what is serious—and what isn’t.”
If uncomfortable digestive symptoms are disrupting your daily activities (or are just a pain in the you-know-what), read on to learn what they may indicate and how you can find relief. During our four-part series, Dr. Bilstrom will provide a general guide as to what your symptoms might mean and which demand a prompt visit with your doctor.
What is it? Infrequent or difficult-to-pass bowel movements, often accompanied by the feeling of a full and bloated abdomen.
What it could mean: Constipation has many causes, including not eating enough fiber, lack of exercise, taking certain medications, pregnancy, dehydration, and certain diseases and conditions such as stroke.
What you should do? “To have regular bowel movements, it’s important to exercise regularly, drink enough water, and eat a diet with enough fiber,” Dr. Bilstrom says. Gradually incorporate more fiber into your diet by eating whole grains, fruits and veggies, and amp up the exercise.
Call a doctor: If you notice blood in your stools, lose weight without reason, or feel tired more often than usual. These can be red flags for colon cancer. Also, call your doctor if constipation is new and unusual for you or has lasted three weeks or more, despite in-home treatment. Ask your doctor if constipation could be a side effect of medications you are taking.
David Bilstrom, MD, is the Director of the Bingham Memorial Center for Functional Medicine & International Autoimmune Institute, which is the first medical center in the country to treat all types of autoimmune diseases. It is also the first to use nature, and its ability to improve human health and well-being, as an integral part of a wellness program.
Dr. Bilstrom works closely with experts in a number of medical specialties to evaluate, diagnose, and treat chronic and autoimmune diseases. He is always welcoming new patients at his office within the Bingham Specialty Plaza in Blackfoot. Appointments can be scheduled by calling (208) 782-2444.
Taking the mind, body, and spirit into consideration, Dr. Bilstrom understands firsthand the benefits integrated medicine can provide to patients. He is triple board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Functional and Regenerative Medicine, and Medical Acupuncture. He has extensive experience in Anti-Aging & Regenerative Medicine, Acupuncture, Integrative Medicine, and Complementary and Alternative Medicines.