PART IV: DIARRHEA AND UNKNOWN SYMPTOMS
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? Loose stools that are often accompanied by gas and bloating.
What it could mean: Diarrhea is frequently associated with stomach viruses or bacterial infections. Food intolerances, certain medications, intestinal diseases, and parasites can also cause diarrhea. Certain foods and drinks such as alcohol, caffeine and dairy products, and even stress, produce diarrhea in some people. On the more serious side, inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer, or an intestinal blockage can trigger diarrhea and demand the immediate attention of your doctor or an emergency room physician, Dr. Bilstrom says.
What you should do: It’s normal to experience diarrhea occasionally, but if you have loose bowel movements for longer than two days, or if you have pain, fever, or blood in your stool, don’t wait to call your doctor. Extended diarrhea can cause you to lose more fluids than you’re consuming. Ensure you’re drinking enough clear fluids to stay hydrated.
Call your doctor: “If you’ve been experiencing diarrhea for more than a couple of days,” says Dr. Bilstrom. “It’s time to seek help.”
Often times the gut may be dysfunctional, but “gut symptoms” don’t exist. They could present as many things though. “Symptoms of a dysfunctional gut may show up as an immune system dysfunction, a hormone imbalance, or even a low attention span in a child, which could in turn be diagnosed as ADD,” says Dr. Bilstrom. “Also, if the gut isn’t functioning properly, this could affect someone’s memory and their concentration may not what it used to be. Again, our guts are considered a second brain, and now I’m sure you can understand why.”
What can be done? There are some great tests that have been developed in the past few years that can really help to pin-point what exactly is happening with someone’s good and bad bacteria. These tests also look at nutrient absorption, inflammation, and many, many other things. There are simple, advanced, life-changing tests and treatments now accessible to everyone.
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.