Treating potty problems is one of my specialties. If you’re bloated all the time or have frequent gas or find yourself constantly running to the toilet with diarrhea or battle with constipation, I’m your guy.
Maybe it seems like a funny thing to center my practice around. Generally, we don’t like to discuss our bathroom habits and problems. No one is going to show up to dinner with friends and ask for moral support for a tough bout of constipation. Instead, we suffer alone.
But when you remove all the stigmas and embarrassment that surrounds this topic, you will quickly find that potty problems and toilet troubles are some of the most important indicators that something deeper is going on in the body. Digestion is the body’s process of acquiring necessary nutrients to stay alive and healthy. It’s a basic function that is fundamental to our humanity.
So when problems occur during this process, it sets off a chain reaction. Maybe you think it’s just constipation or just stomach cramps or just bloating. But if you’re dealing with any of these things on a regular basis, it’s likely affecting a lot of other areas in the body.
If you have poor gut health or are facing a significant digestive issue it probably means you are dealing with one or more of the following:
- Skin breakouts
- Chronic fatigue
- Brain fog
- Unwanted weight gain or loss
- Intense unhealthy cravings
Many people suffer in silence for years without relief. Others work up the nerve to talk to their doctor about their potty problems and it results in a prescription for MiraLAX or a referral to a GI specialist. In most cases, people go with the MiraLAX solution or whatever the easiest “fix” is to manage the symptoms. In more serious cases, people agree to a colonoscopy. And while it is incredible that medical advancement has given us the ability to take a quick peek into the world that lies beyond the butt, colonoscopies can only reveal visibly apparent things like colon polyps or, God forbid, bowel cancer.
This leaves the wild and invisible universe of the gut microbiome, made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes, untouched and unaddressed. That’s an unfortunate fact because this internal universe is at the very center point of health.
Bacterial imbalances could be a key player to causing a whole host of unwanted symptoms. Your microbiome contains a delicate balance of bacterial and fungal species that live in symbiosis with you. Maybe it sounds strange to think of the fact that you have a whole little universe of bacteria and fungus living inside of you but it’s true. But they’re not all good guys. Some of those species are pathogenic and can cause health problems if they are allowed to overgrow, crowding out more beneficial species – a condition called gut dysbiosis.
This can lead to health-damaging conditions like Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) which has been linked to a wide variety of health problems - from irritable bowel syndrome to autoimmune disease.
Ironically, when someone with dysbiosis or SIBO starts to eat healthier, by increasing vegetable intake for example, it can cause an increase in gut symptoms like constipation and bloating. So, if you’ve ever opted for a plate of raw veggies and hummus for lunch and suffered from gas and bloating behind your desk at work all afternoon, you’re not crazy. But it is the underlying microbiome issue, not the vegetables that is the root problem.
So now we come to the most important question: How do you know what you’re dealing with?
Is there bad bacteria overgrowing where it shouldn't be? Are parasites taking over and wrecking havoc? Have the good probiotic bacteria been depleted (perhaps due to rounds of antibiotics) thus weakening your immune system and ability to absorb nutrients well?
Unfortunately, a colonoscopy isn’t designed to provide conclusive answers on these types of issues. That means that the majority of gut related problems are left undiagnosed. Some of the most important and very curable root causes of hundreds of symptoms and discomforts related to the gut are completely overlooked.
The test that I most frequently recommend to my clients is the gold standard stool test called a GI Map. This test analyzes the stool via DNA analysis and paints a very clear and accurate picture of underlying microbial imbalances that contribute to GI inflammation and issues. In contrast, a colonoscopy is useful to see anatomy, detect polyps and cancers which are all very important; BUT a good stool test shows a well-trained practitioner more about microbial imbalances and the overall environment of the GI.
In a nutshell, the GI Map is the one you need if you have chronic GI problems. It determines the underlying cause of issues like SIBO, IBS, celiac, Crohn’s and colitis by accurately testing for specific bacteria, fungus, candida, viruses, parasites and even normal flora (aka probiotic bacteria). The GI Map is the test that helps me, and other functional medicine practitioners create a strategic action plan to help address your GI issues.
When it comes to chronic digestive issues, most are familiar with the standard of care which includes endoscopy- a diagnostic test that shows the anatomy of the GI, whereas a GI Map gives a very detailed representation of what’s living in the gut - good and bad.
The GI Map test is number one in terms of determining the underlying reasons for GI symptoms such as reflux, gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
It’s also considered the gold standard for determining root causes of chronic inflammatory or autoimmune problems of the GI. If you’re unhappy taking immunosuppressant meds and/or steroids for your inflammatory/autoimmune GI condition, the GI Map can help you dive deeper so that the root cause can be addressed.
Also, if you suffer from h. Pylori symptoms such as: abdominal pain after eating, bloating and nausea, again the GI Map is recommended. If you’re masking the symptoms by popping acid blockers, you’re just using a band aid that never addresses the root problem.
The other type of stool test that I use at times is the Viome test. This test is beneficial for those who’ve already improved GI health and now want to optimize overall health and wellness. Viome is more of a general overview and not recommended for determining the cause of chronic digestive problems. It does not test for specific bacteria, virus, fungi or parasite infections. The Viome test can provide insight into foods to consume and foods to avoid for better health. Different people tolerate different foods and Viome can provide some individual guidance for you here.
The point is that if you’ve spent years doing standard tests, excluding food groups, or trying new supplements at random to clear up digestive issues, it’s time to change the game. It’s time to get conclusive answers and form a strategic nutrition and supplementation plan based upon hard evidence. And there are tests designed to do just that.
Test, don’t guess.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
If you’re interested in getting conclusive answers and kicking off a proven and strategic treatment plan, click here to set up a free consultation.
You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll begin to see changes when you aren’t playing the guessing game any more.