Your Complete Guide to Causes of Constipation and Finding Relief – Part 3: Dysbiosis

Your Complete Guide to Causes of Constipation and Finding Relief – Part 3: Dysbiosis

Your Complete Guide to Causes of Constipation and Finding Relief – Part 3: Dysbiosis

Defined as fewer than three stool movements per week, constipation can be uncomfortable or downright painful for anyone. Feeling stopped up, bloated, uneasy, full or as though everything isn’t passing when going to the bathroom can distract from your day and negligence can lead to worse health issues.

Constipation shouldn’t be taken lightly. When stool doesn’t pass fully through your digestive system it’s preventing new food and nutrients from fully entering digestive system.

If you regularly suffer from constipation, you’re not alone. Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal problem in the United States, literally impacting nearly 20 percent of the population.

Even though constipation is an incredibly common condition, many still don’t know how important it is to obtain a proper diagnosis to treat their condition long-term.

When you’re suffering it’s easy to reach for fast relief through laxatives or stool softeners. But these quick fixes could cause you to overlook an underlying condition that may have future health consequences.

In this six-part series, we are looking what causes constipation in order to find you true constipation relief. In the first two parts, we looked at low hydrochloric acid and low bile blow.

In part three of this series, we are going to look at a condition called dysbiosis – a microbial imbalance in the gut. We will examine what causes dysbiosis, suspicious symptoms that may indicate dysbiosis, and constipation remedies when it’s caused by dysbiosis.

Part 3: Dysbiosis

While nearly everyone experiences constipation at some point in their life, constipation becomes a problem when it happens for longer than 10 days or more and when it’s a chronic or recurring condition. How to get rid of constipation completely, depends on correctly identifying the underlying cause.

Dysbiosis refers to when there is a microbial imbalance somewhere in the body, which can be internal or external. In the case of constipation, dysbiosis is referring to an imbalance of your gut microbiota – or your gut flora.

Constipation caused by dysbiosis is most commonly caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO) but it can occur anywhere in the intestinal tract where colonies making up your microbiota are thrown out of balance.

Your gut microbiota contains tens of trillions of microorganisms. Comprised of over 1000 species of known bacteria, which together contain three million genes (150 times more than human genes), your gut microbiota can weigh up to four pounds!

When your gut microbiota is thrown off balance it can lead to a cascade of health problems. Constipation is a common indicator of an unbalanced microbiota that needs attention.

The Importance of Your Gut Microbiota

Your gut microbiota is so important to your overall health, that it is now considered an organ. Interestingly, babies are not born with a microbiota at birth. We acquire this organ as we grow. From the moment you are born, your gut microbiota begins to develop. Colonizing from the birthing process, breastfeeding, and through life exposures. By the age of three, your gut microbiota is similar to an adult’s but it continues to evolve throughout life.

Everyone has a unique microbiota composition but each are composed of similar elements and responsible for the same physiological functions. Some of the most important functions of your gut microbiota include:

  • Aiding in food digestion, especially items your stomach or small intestine haven’t been able to fully breakdown
  • Production of vitamins, in particular vitamins B and K
  • Combat invading microorganisms
  • Maintaining the integrity of your intestinal mucosa
  • Acts as a barrier in the immune system
  • A key factor in an overall smooth digestion process

When your gut microbiota is off balance, you can experience a myriad of uncomfortable and sometimes life impacting symptoms, such as:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms – belching, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, greasy stools, abdominal pain, indigestion, heartburn
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Mental fog
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Low libido
  • Joint pain
  • Sugar and alcohol cravings
  • Weight gain
  • Skin problems
  • Yeast infections
  • Thrush
  • Poor nail health
  • Depression
  • Hyperactivity
  • Iron deficiency
  • Malnutrition

When your constipation is caused by dysbiosis – an unbalanced gut microbiota – not only are you directly uncomfortable due to the constipation but it’s probably causing other conditions. Additionally, dysbiosis can also contribute to nutritional deficiencies, even if you’re eating all the right things.

If you are experiencing constipation, it’s important to find out the underlying cause through a diagnosis. If your constipation is caused by dysbiosis, rebalancing your gut microbiota is the only way to truly treat your condition permanently.

Causes of Dysbiosis

 Since dysbiosis occurs when your gut microbiota has become unbalanced, the causes can be anything that would interfere with healthy bacterial and fungal growth of the gastrointestinal tract, including:
  • Antibiotics
  • NSAIDS use (Ibuprofen, Aspirin, etc.)
  • Stress
  • Diets high in sugar and carbohydrates or low in nutritional quality
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Intestinal infections
  • Parasite infections
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Exposure to different bacteria or viruses from overseas travel
  • Environmental exposures such as mold, fungus or heavy metals

If you suspect your constipation is caused by gut microbiota imbalance, this should be taken seriously – make an appointment with your certified functional medicine doctor to accurately diagnose the cause of your constipation so it can be properly treated and relieve your symptoms once and for all.

Home Remedies for Constipation Caused by Dysbiosis

What helps constipation completely depends on the underlying cause. Keeping this in mind, here are several natural remedies for constipation caused by dysbiosis that you can incorporate into your habits immediately, including:

Eliminate sugar and simple carbohydrates (completely – at least for a period of time)

Stop drinking tap water because of the fluoride and chlorine damages the good microbes

Avoid antibiotics whenever possible

Don’t casually take medications such as Advil and Aspirin

Add gut healing foods to your diet such as bone broth, raw cultured dairy, fermented vegetables and variety of root vegetables

These changes are a great way to support a healthy gut microbiota but doesn’t replace the advice of a functional medicine doctor. Your doctor can help you incorporate new habits, foods, and supplements so as to fully heal your gut flora. If you experience long lasting or chronic constipation take care of it early, so you can prevent the myriad of illnesses that can occur when dysbiosis goes unchecked.

When to See Your Certified Functional Medicine Doctor for Constipation

Treating symptoms does not tackle the underlying cause of constipation. Taking stool softeners or laxatives may work temporarily but can leave you struggling with discomfort and other health consequences down the road. If your constipation that lasts longer than a couple of weeks, it’s time to schedule an appointment with a certified functional medicine doctor. We emphasize the fact that a functional medicine doctor should be certified because it means they’ve fully completed their training.

If diagnosed with dysbiosis, your doctor will walk you through the Four R Program – Remove, Restore, Repair, Renoculate. Here’s how this program treats dysbiosis:

Remove – First, it’s important to remove everything that’s contributing to your dysbiosis to give your gut flora a chance to heal. This includes sugar, simple carbs, alcohol, antibiotics, and anything else that may throw your microbiota out of balance. This step may require a proper gut flora restoration treatment — “Weed and Seed”

Restore – Through adding dietary changes and supplements, you can begin to restore your gut.

Repair – Through vitamins such as A,C, and E, zinc, fish oil, and the amino acid glutamine you can support your GI tract as it begins to repair itself. In my practice I use healing the gut treatment — “Heal and Seal”.

Renoculate – Probiotics and prebiotics will help your gastrointestinal tract rebuild it’s microbiota and return the needed balance for a healthy gut.

Constipation caused by dysbiosis is a serious health condition that can complicate other areas of your health. Your functional medicine doctor will work closely with you to identify the exact cause of your constipation and create a comprehensive treatment plan.

Click here to read more about treatment of dysbiosis on our blog. 

Click here to view a video about dysbiosis.

Your Complete Guide to Causes of Constipation and Finding Relief – Part 1: Low Stomach Acid (Hydrochloric Acid)

Your Complete Guide to Causes of Constipation and Finding Relief – Part 1: Low Stomach Acid (Hydrochloric Acid)

Your Complete Guide to Causes of Constipation and Finding Relief – Part 1: Low Stomach Acid (Hydrochloric Acid)

Constipation can be uncomfortable or downright painful if left untreated. You may experience few bowel movements, the sensation that everything isn’t coming out, small and hard stools, a swollen belly, pain or throwing up.

But you’re not alone – an estimated 42 million Americans suffer from constipation, making it the most common gastrointestinal problem in the United States.

When you experience constipation, it may seem like a good idea to reach for fast relief like a stool softener or other common constipation remedies such as prune juice – but these are usually just a quick fix that doesn’t solve the underlying cause.

If you want long-term constipation relief it’s a good idea to get to the root of what’s causing your chronic constipation.

There are a number of causes of constipation, which we are going to address in throughout this six-part article series. First, we are going to take a closer look at low hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach – an often-overlooked cause of constipation.

Part 1: Low Hydrochloric Acid

Your stomach acid is made up of three parts: hydrochloric acid (HCl), potassium chloride (KCl), and sodium chloride (NaCl). Hydrochloric acid is the primary acid in your stomach and it plays important roles in keeping the digestive tract running smoothly. Often, stomach acid and hydrochloric acid are used interchangeably.

When your body isn’t producing enough hydrochloric acid, it can cause serious and chronic constipation. Also called achlorhydria or hypochlorhydria, low stomach acid can disrupt several important bodily processes.

The Importance of Stomach Acid

Why is stomach acid so important? Stomach acid frequently gets a bad rap because an overabundance can cause heartburn or ulcers, but it’s just as problematic to have low stomach acid. Your stomach acid is involved in many critical roles, including:

  • Completely digesting food
  • Supporting the immune system
  • Encouraging the pancreas and intestines to produce necessary enzymes and bile
  • Ensuring good absorption of vitamins and minerals
  • Activating pepsinogen – a protein-digesting enzyme
  • Helping to kill unwanted bacteria, viruses, and parasites

When your stomach isn’t making enough hydrochloric acid, you can experience an array of unpleasant and sometimes painful symptoms, such as:

If your stomach has low hydrochloric acid levels, you might experience constipation but also nutritional deficiencies, even if you’re eating a healthy diet. This can make identifying your health issues difficult. In fact, low hydrochloric acid is a condition that is often misdiagnosed or overlooked.

Causes of Low Hydrochloric Acid

Low levels of hydrochloric acid can make you constipated and uncomfortable but it can also be responsible for a cascade of health consequences, which is why it’s important to address constipation with techniques that treat the root cause and not just the symptom.

Understanding some of the causes of low hydrochloric acid can give you clues to help you determine if low HCl is causing your constipation. Some causes of low stomach acid include:

  • Medications – Some prescriptions and over the counter drugs suppress HCl production.
  • Chronic stress – This is when HCl secretion is inhibited by chronic low-grade worry (acute stress may cause overproduction of HCl, which is associated with ulcers).
  • Older age – Your body tends to decrease HCl production levels as you get older.
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiency – In particular, low zinc and thiamine levels can contribute to insufficient hydrochloric acid levels.
  • H. pylori infection – When there’s an overgrowth in the stomach, H. pylori can cause low HCl levels.
  • Processed foods and refined sugars – These foods are mineral deficient and cause inflammation of the stomach, which alters your gut microbiome and can reduce stomach acid production.
  • Chronic illness – Some chronic illnesses have an increased risk of low HCl production.
  • Antacids – Antacids interfere with your acid levels and can be the cause of low HCl production.

If you are experiencing constipation – other related symptoms – and also have any of the above contributors to low hydrochloric acid, you should test yourself for low stomach acid. There are three simple ways you can test your HCl levels at home before you make a trip to the doctor.

How to Test Your Stomach Acid (HCl) at Home

These three easy ways to test for low hydrochloric acid production in your stomach are much cheaper than a conventional HCl test administered by many doctors. Keep in mind a negative test result for these techniques is not an absolute diagnosis. These methods are simply for seeing if your constipation is caused by your stomach’s inability to produce enough stomach acid.

Self-Exam for Low Stomach Acid

A quick method for checking low hydrochloric acid levels is an old homeopathic trick. Take both your hands and find your xiphoid process – the bottom of the sternum where it meets the ribs – marked in red in the image below.

Then, with both hands slide along the rib cage in both directions while pushing in and under your ribs – on your left and right side of your body.

In people experiencing low levels of stomach acid, it’s common for the left side to be more tender than the right side – this area is marked in blue in the image below. It can be so tender it may cause you to jump when you find the right area – if this occurs you likely have low hydrochloric acid levels.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Low Stomach Acid

Another test you can try at home is taking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar when you experience temporary symptoms after eating, such as indigestion or upset stomach. If your symptoms are relieved after taking apple cider vinegar, that could be a sign of inadequate hydrochloric acid production.

Betaine HCl Test for Low Stomach Acid

The betaine HCl is another at-home test you can use to check for low stomach acid. Take a betaine HCl capsule during or right before your last bite of a meal containing protein and fat. If you experience indigestion or burning, then you have plenty of HCl and shouldn’t take any more of that supplement. But if you don’t experience any burning, your stomach isn’t producing enough hydrochloric acid.

Home Remedies for Constipation Caused by Low Hydrochloric Acid

The best choice of remedy for any individual’s constipation always depends on the underlying cause. If you’ve determined the underlying cause of your constipation may be low stomach acid, here are a couple of changes you can make:

  • Add fermented vegetables to your diet
  • Reduce processed food consumption
  • Increase zinc intake
  • Reduce chronic stress in your life, especially at mealtime
  • Have a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in warm water before each meal
  • Add betaine HCl supplements to your diet

These are a couple of remedies that may give you constipation relief. But if you continue to struggle with constipation, you should see your doctor so you can have a comprehensive diagnosis made as early as possible.

When to See Your Doctor for Constipation

As with many conditions, using temporary fixes that relieve symptoms only prolongs the underlying issue. Waiting to treat your condition can cause complications and make it more difficult to treat. If you are experiencing constipation that lasts longer than a couple of weeks, or if one of the three at-home self-tests for low stomach acid appears positive, it’s a good idea to see your doctor.

There is a myriad of ways to treat low hydrochloric acid levels naturally. By working closely with a holistic physician, you can restore balance to your stomach and relieve uncomfortable and widespread symptoms.

Elena Klimenko, MD, a certified functional medicine physician, will help you choose the right course of action to identify the root cause and relief your unsettled symptoms. Call today to find out more about functional medicine and speak with Dr. Klimenko at 212-696- HEAL(4325).

If you want more information about Functional Medicine, contact us to receive a FREE copy of Dr Klimenko’s E-book.

Probiotics

Probiotics

With 80% of your immune system located in your gut, having balanced intestinal flora is a major factor in defending your body against disease. Balanced gastrointestinal (GI) flora is critical to the functioning of the immune system, synthesis of nutrients, and detoxification. Balanced GI flora is also necessary for regular and normal bowel movements.

Flora imbalances can be caused by poor diet, illness, infections, use of antibiotics, and stress. Symptoms can include persistent gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. To maintain or rebalance GI flora, consider adding probiotics to your diet.

Probiotics are live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to the beneficial microorganisms naturally found in your GI tract. The most common probiotic bacteria come from two groups, lactobacillus or bifidobacterium, although many other types of bacteria are also classified as probiotics. Scientific evidence shows these boost the immune system by enhancing the production of antibodies; support the synthesis of vitamins and other nutrients; relieve the effects of, and treat, intestinal illness (diarrhea, constipation, IBS); prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections; and may reduce the risk of colon or bladder cancer.
Two ways to boost healthy GI flora are to take a probiotic supplement or add probiotic-containing foods to your diet. Probiotic supplements come in liquid and capsule forms and many are sold refrigerated. However, not all probiotics are the same. Studies show that some strains are effective in specific medical issues and some are completely ineffective. That is why it is important to take clinically proven types of probiotics which are not always available in the retail stores. Check with your functional medicine health practitioner to be sure you select a product that meets your personal health needs. It is important to follow the storage instructions for your supplement–failure to do so could kill off the live, healthy bacteria it contains.

If you shop for adequate probiotics in the retail stores look at the label. Ideally three main criteria should be met:

1. Look for multiple species organisms presented in a single dose – 4 to 8 types of bacteria and beneficial yeast.

2. Look for the units specification: professional grade probiotics are measured in colony forming units (CFU).

This is a unit of measurement of live bacteria at the time of EXPIRATION. Mediocre probiotics will have different measurement measure and refer to that “at time of manufacturing”. As you understand it is different from the above.

3. Look got adequate quantity of probiotics, it should be around 10 to 20 billion in a single dose (sufficient in most cases).

Probiotic-boosting foods include vegetables, fermented foods and cultured dairy products. Be sure the food labels state “fermented” or, for dairy, “live and active bacterial cultures.”

Resources

American Gastroenterological Association. “Probiotics: What They Are and What They Can Do for You.” Revised May 2013.
Kiani, L. “Bugs in Our Gut: How Probiotics Keep Us Healthy.” Cambridge Scientific Abstracts: Discovery Guide (October 2006).
Mayo Clinic. “Do I Need to Include Probiotics and Prebiotics in My Diet?” October 15, 2014.
Gut Dysbiosis

Gut Dysbiosis

Recently a new patient came for a functional medicine consultation complaining of frequent colds. Jonathan was a 35 years old singer with history of frequent colds up to 3-4 times per winter season. The nature of his profession demanded faster recovery to perform, therefore he had no time to recover on his own, so he was treated with multiple antibiotics and steroids courses. Jonathan also had multiple complaints related to digestive symptoms (bloating, heartburn and constipation) and recently he developed skin hives after eating certain foods. Jonathan had classical symptoms of food sensitivity as a result of dysbiosis.

Dysbiosis is a condition that involves imbalance of beneficial and harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract. This imbalance can take place anywhere from mouth to the stomach and further down to small and large intestine. In our practice we diagnose and treat dysbiosis of different areas of gastrointestinal tract. As a result, patients’ chronic medical conditions get better.

Multiple environmental factors such as antibacterial and pharmaceutical medications, pesticides and toxins, unbalance diet lacking of vegetables and healthy proteins and fats are some of the factors affecting our gastrointestinal microbiome. When we host unhealthy microbiome we can experience multiple symptoms outside of the digestive system realm. For example, eczema and asthma are strongly connected to imbalance in the gastrointestinal tract.

Back to Jonathan. Based on his history and symptoms we ordered several tests that revealed candida overgrowth. After appropriate treatment involving  4R program (see our previous blog) and specific diet his digestive symptoms improved and he was no longer sick with upper respiratory infections.

Our gastrointestinal tract is a gate keeper to our health. It is always the first place to start treatment if you have any chronic medical conditions. Feel free to call our office if you have any questions or think you may have dysbiosis.

Chronic Yeast Infection – Chronic Candidiasis

I recently had seen a patient, Katelyn, who is 29 years old lady and came asking for help. She is been seeing multiple physicians for the past 2 years who treated her for repetitive infections, mostly sinus and vaginal. The common denominator of those treatments was one factor – multiple antibiotics. Her current complaint was debilitating fatigue. She reported feeling like an old woman and falling asleep at any moment she sat down. That is in spite of good 8-9 hours of sleep every night, though she does not wake up refreshed.

She also complaints of foggy brain and short term memory loss, extreme craving for sweet foods and inability to lose weight,some joint pain and infertility in the past few years, though she had no problems to conceive twice in the past 5-7 years.She was trying to exercise but it did not help her to lose any weight. Her medical history and symptoms made me think of possible diagnosis of Candidiasis.

Candidiasis is a common yeast infection that can affect the skin, mouth, and the gastrointestinal tract. This yeast normally dwells in the digestive tract, but malnutrition, environmental toxins, and the excessive use of antibiotics, can allow the yeast to multiply uncontrollably. In many cases this infection presents itself in the mucous of mouth and genitalia, skin, and internal organs, but it can also affect your weight and metabolism. Yeast overgrowth creates an allergic response and triggers a hormonal imbalance. This can slow down the calorie burning process, inhibiting your body from burning fat, increase sweets craving. Watch the video to better understand the causes and mechanisms behind this debilitating condition.

If your story sounds like Katelyn’s you might be suffering from chronic yeast infection of Candidiasis. Feel free to call our office to schedule a functional medicine consultation.

While systemic yeast is commonly associated with obesity and skin infection, it can be treated naturally by stabilizing the growth of yeast in your body. With functional medicine approach which includes dietary modifications, homeopathic and natural supplements, we can help you to safely and effectively treat the obesity and restore a natural balance to your digestive system. Take the “Yeast Overgrowth” questionnaire by contacting our office at www.DrElenaKlimenko.com or calling 212-696-HEAL(4325).