Dr.Claire concludes her series by summarizing the most common digestive health issues that occur among many individuals.
Tag: digestive health
Written by Dr. Claire Arcidiacono, ND
For further questions or concerns email me at firstname.lastname@example.org†
We started talking about the important blood and breath lab tests for digestive health. Today we will continue with talking about lab work, diving into stool tests and any more physical type of tests that are commonly done.†
Stool tests are a fantastic way of seeing what is going on in the digestive tract. They look for blood in the stool, which can come from different parts of the digestive tract. Blood in the stool can be a possible symptom of colon cancer, diverticulitis and/or diverticulosis, ulcers, fissures, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, hemorrhoids, or polyps. †(1)
A stool culture can also show any bacteria present in the stool. Many labs will offer comprehensive stool analysis where you find out more information. Stool cultures can be used to test for fungus (Ex: yeast such as Candida Albicans is a type of fungus), bacteria, and parasites. Unfortunately, parasite tests are rather inaccurate since there is a tendency toward false negatives, giving them a poor reputation despite being beneficial tests to take.† (2)
Stool analysis can also test the immune health of the digestive tract. This tests the total intestinal Secretory IgA (SIgA), the main antibody or type of immune cell in the digestive tract. Research has indicated that high SIgA can indicate parasites or food sensitivities, causing the immune system to work harder than it should. Unfortunately, the test doesn’t indicate the cause of the higher than normal immune response, but it can help point a medical practitioner in the right direction. Lifestyle changes such as stress or poor nutrition can cause a decrease in SIgA. (3) The immune system in the digestive tract also includes calprotectin and myeloperoxidase. These can also be found by doing a stool analysis.†
Alpha 1 antichymotrypsin and lysozymes are also markers found in stool that are indicators of inflammation in the digestive tract. (4) Chymotrypsin is a marker in the stool for pancreatic enzymes. (5) Fecal elastase is one of the important tests to rule out pancreatitis. (6) Cologuard is a new test that is being marked for those at low risk of colon cancer. It is basically a stool test that looks for DNA markers associated with colon cancer as well as blood. Just an aside here it is very important to read all the instructions that come with the kit. Certain foods can cause a false positive. Ironically I had a private client do this test and she ate all the foods on the list and had a false positive. (7) Surprisingly there is a great deal of information in the stool. These tests mentioned are very comprehensive and basically tell us if there is blood in the stool, an overgrowth of pathogens, how our digestive enzymes are working and if there is inflammation in the digestive tract.†
Structural tests are more physical in nature. These include endoscopes, colonoscopies and physical exams. Endoscopes and colonoscopies are similar, utilizing an endoscope, a tube with a camera, to look inside of the body. The main difference between an upper endoscopy and colonoscopy is an endoscopy goes through the mouth while a colonoscopy goes through the rectum. Endoscopes and colonoscopies look at the structural integrity of the digestive tract. (8) Colonoscopies rule out issues such as colon cancer, polyps, ulcerative colitis, Crohns, diverticulosis or diverticulitis, and hemorrhoids. It can also rule out severe celiac disease, which can show damage to the digestive tract. (9) Endoscopes are important to rule out GERD, Barrett’s esophagus, a result of long term GERD, hiatal hernias, ulcers, gastritis and even certain cancers. † (10)
Your annual physical exam from your primary care provider (PCP) is also important. Conditions such as external hemorrhoids and hernias, gallbladder issues, pancreatic issues, liver dysfunction, high blood pressure, certain cancers and other conditions can be found by a routine physical exam. (11) If you are having any issues with your digestive tract it is very important to talk with your doctor or get an annual physical exam if you have not yet gotten one. The doctor can then recommend next steps which can include any of the tests covered.†
Additionally, it is always a good idea to look at your stool if you feel something may be going on. Your doctor will most likely ask you to describe your stool so they can make an informed decision on next steps. Next week we’ll be covering the topic of constipation!†
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Written by Dr. Claire Arcidiacono, ND
For further questions or concerns email me at email@example.com
Digestive Health affects practically everyone who eats and goes to the bathroom. But what is a healthy digestive system? It’s important we start at the beginning.†
What is the Digestive System?
The digestive system is a separate system from the rest of the body. It has its own immune system, nervous system and enzymes. Anything you consume, such as food stays in the digestive system. For example, if you eat an apple, it stays in your digestive system and doesn’t float around in your blood somewhere. The digestive system is made up of a “roadway” called the gastrointestinal tract or GI tract. The GI tract is made up of the liver, pancreas and gallbladder; pictured below. (1) Since this is a complex topic, I will focus mainly on the digestive tract.†
The Gastrointestinal tract starts in the mouth. Our teeth are the first and important part of the digestive process. They help the salivary glands in the mouth help to breakdown food, especially complex carbohydrates. If you chew on a cracker for long enough, the enzymes in your mouth will break it down so it will taste sweet! (2) It is important to keep your mouth healthy and clean by brushing your teeth twice a day! Once you break down your food, you swallow it, where it enters the next part of the digestive system.†
The swallowed food travels through the esophagus. A gateway called the lower esophageal sphincter, separates the stomach form the esophagus. When you eat or drink, this triggers the sphincter to open; so the food can enter the stomach. However, sometimes there is an issue with the sphincter not closing properly; causing acid in the stomach to flow into the esophagus leading to “heartburn”. (3) Once you’re done eating, the sphincter closes, entering the stomach.†
The stomach is basically a blender, containing digestive enzymes and acid. The acid in the stomach is important for the enzymes to work properly. (4) It mixes the food, enzymes, and acid together to breakdown the food; killing any pathogens that may be present.†
After the stomach, the food travels to the small intestine which is only small due to its width; its length being 22 feet long! Much like the stomach, the small intestine (SI) continues to breakdown food. The SI receives enzymes from the pancreas and bile from the liver. Unlike the stomach, the SI is also in charge of the absorption of nutrients. It’s broken down into the following parts: duodenum, jejunum and ileum, pictured below:†
The duodenum or first section of the SI is responsible for the breakdown of food. While the jejunum and Ileum are mostly responsible for the absorption of nutrients. In other words, semi solids enter the small intestine and get mixed with water, bile, enzymes and mucus to become semi liquid.†(5)
From there, the food will travel to the Large intestine or LI. This is also known as the colon. The colon (pictured below) is made up of the cecum which is connected to the SI, the ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon and the sigmoid colon which connects to the rectum and then finally the anus.
The colon absorbs water and produces waste material known as stool or feces; which is food debris and bacteria. Good bacteria in the colon help us by making certain vitamins and protecting us from pathogens. The rectum is connected to the anus, the final part of the digestive tract. The anus has sphincter muscles that allow us to control bowel movements. Normally, they allow us to hold stool until our body is ready to release it.† (6)
The GI tract is just one part of the digestive system. Next week we will move on to the organs outside of the digestive tract; which will include the pancreas, liver and gallbladder.†