In years past, medicine excelled at compartmentalizing its knowledge and treatments of different body systems to help understand them more completely. A growing body of knowledge has cemented the realization that different systems of the body are interrelated and cannot be understood or treated in isolation. If you are a resident of Knoxville who has digestive complaints, newly discovered science behind the brain-gut connection may help lead to treatments in Knoxville for your condition using something called integrative medicine.
The Brain-Gut Connection
Medicine has tended to think of organs and body systems in isolation. This has led to a boom in specialization that has many benefits for patients. However, sometimes we ignore how different parts of the body are actually connected, often in unexpected ways.
Your brain and digestive system definitely have a relationship. Your brain is constantly sending signals to your gastrointestinal tract using your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. For example, the signals from these two systems can determine the rate at which ingested food is transported throughout your digestive system. Brain signals can also impact things like the secretion of digestive juices, nutrient absorption, and inflammation levels in your digestive tract.
Did you know that your digestive system has its very own nervous system? Comprising around 100 million nerve cells, the enteric nervous system is found in your gastrointestinal tract. Although it can receive signals from the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, it is also able to work independently of them.
Your enteric nervous system is delicately intertwined with millions of immune system cells that govern your digestive system, relaying information like the presence of an infection in your gastrointestinal tract, stomach bloating, or lack of proper blood flow. This information is constantly being relayed back to your brain, and this communication flows in both directions.
Since your brain and digestive system have a close connection, stressful and negative emotions like depression, anxiety, sadness, and anger can actually have an impact on your digestive system. These strong emotions can act as triggers that affect the rate that your digestive system works and can impact the contents of your gastrointestinal tract. This can result in pain signals or your digestive system being prone to bloating. In turn, it may allow bacteria to more easily cross the lining of your gut and trigger an immune system response that causes digestive system inflammation.
It has been found that stress and negative emotions can exacerbate a number of gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
The Brain-Gut Connection: A Two-Way Street
Not only can your brain affect your gut, but your gut can ultimately affect your brain. Stress and strong emotions can also affect what is known as your gut microbiome. Most people think of bacteria as being completely harmful, but your body actually relies upon beneficial bacteria that are found in your digestive system. They help support your immune system, process food and waste, and even assist in forming neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that govern things like your appetite and mood.
One study located two different strains of bacteria that appear to reduce anxiety in mice. Humans also harbor these types of bacteria in their guts. The study involved the collection of these strains of gut bacteria from mice that exhibited anxious behavior. The scientists transplanted the bacteria into normal mice. The result was that the normal, calm mice became more anxious.
The Gut Microbiome
The microorganisms found in your digestive system are constantly evolving over the course of their lives. They are impacted by a number of factors like your dietary habits, environment, intestinal pH, environmental temperature, microbial interactions, immune system response, and drug therapy.
What is going on your gut can also impact your energy levels. It has been found that the microbiome can affect your metabolism. Research is still new in this area, but it appears that the way that the body utilizes glucose, or blood sugar, as fuel can impact the microbiome in your gut.
Integrative Medicine in Knoxville and Gut Health
If you are dealing with any of the problems that are typically caused by poor gut health, you should consider treatment with integrative medicine in Knoxville that is based upon the recognition that your gut health influences your health and the way that you feel.
Enzymes are substances that are responsible for breaking down nutrients into their digestible components. If you support your digestion with digestive enzymes, you should be able to help relieve symptoms like bloating, indigestion, and gas. Be sure to carefully consider each type of digestive enzyme. Specific enzymes can help with the digestion of different types of foods. For example, bromelain is a type of enzyme found in pineapples that helps to digest proteins.
People get tired of hearing it, but maintaining adequate hydration is vitally important to your health. Drinking plenty of fluids allows your body to flush out waste products that could otherwise lead to gas and bloating. A good rule of thumb is to drink about half of your body weight in water ounces daily. If you are very overweight or have kidney problems, consult with your physician.
Sticking to a regular exercise routine has been shown to improve gut microbiota diversity. Improving your fitness level by incorporating exercise into your routine will contribute to the balance of microbiota in your digestive system.
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Supplementation with probiotics and prebiotics is very helpful in promoting gut health. You need to consume foods that promote or contain healthy bacteria that foster a good gut microbiota environment that supports your general health. Lactobacillus is the main probiotic found inside of your small intestines. Foods that are rich in prebiotics include onions, garlic, chicory root, barley, and artichokes. Probiotic sources include cabbage, sauerkraut, and pickled ginger.
Two foods that are rich in probiotics are yogurt and kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that originated in Europe. It actually contains quite a few more friendly bacterial strains than yogurt, although yogurt is certainly quite effective as a probiotic.
Integrative Medicine Treatment Applications
Restoring your gut health can lead to an improvement in a wide range of health conditions. The microflora found in your digestive system is in a delicate balance that must be maintained to promote good health.
Allergies are an overreaction by your immune system to substances that are falsely perceived as foreign or harmful. These substances can be pathogens like bacteria or viruses, or some type of food that triggers an immune system response. Pollen, mold, or dust are also common allergens that stimulate your body into releasing histamine to stave off what your immune system perceives as an attack. Both your autonomic nervous system and immune system can be affected by allergies that create reactions throughout your entire body.
We know that allergies are triggered by an immune system that is out of balance. If you are suffering from allergies, you should be able to experience relief through our integrative treatments that help to correct any imbalance in your immune system. Diagnostic testing helps to identify your specific allergies, leading to the development of an individualized treatment plan that may include dietary changes, vitamins, or nutritional supplements to restore normal immune system functioning.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the GI tract. It often affects the small bowel’s endpoint and the entry to the large bowel. All intestinal layers may be affected by Crohn’s disease and sections of normal bowel may be found between patches of diseased bowel.
Integrative treatments have helped many people suffering from Crohn’s disease. Symptoms can often be mitigated through the use of fiber, fish oils, probiotics, vitamins, and herbal supplements. This approach can be combined with physical therapy like massage and meditation to enhance overall well-being.
Arthritis is a painful condition that is caused by chronic joint inflammation that can also lead to structural changes that are debilitating. Arthritis can be a result of infection or injury, systemic issues, or a genetic predisposition. Some common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, and gout. Some type of arthritis affects around 50 million people in the United States. Patients do not always respond to conventional medical intervention for arthritis.
Patients who are unresponsive to traditional medical techniques may benefit from integrative treatments. Arthritis symptoms are often alleviated by adopting a diet that is anti-inflammatory. This may involve increasing the intake of fish oil, taking nutritional supplements like glucosamine chondroitin, or taking up an exercise routine that incorporates stretching, heat, and motion.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex and debilitating condition typified by intense fatigue that does not improve following rest. It can grow worse through mental exertion or physical activity. Those suffering from CFS typically function at a significantly lower activity level after they are affected by this condition.
Treating chronic fatigue syndrome is often as complicated as the condition itself. Unfortunately, no cure is currently available, no specific medications have been developed for CFS, and the symptoms that manifest can change greatly over time. Although the disease is usually very challenging for conventional medicine, integrative medicine in Knoxville has helped many people dealing with this difficult condition.
The treatment approach for chronic fatigue syndrome works on two levels: It helps to strengthen the overall health of the patient, including the immune system. It also involves the elimination of any type of food that may be creating or exacerbating symptoms.
The integrative medicine approach for treating chronic fatigue syndrome may involve taking supplements like beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B5, magnesium, or zinc. Treatment goals focus on supporting a healthy immune system and maintaining functioning adrenal glands.
The Bottom Line
If you are a resident of Knoxville who is suffering from gut health problems that are unresponsive to conventional therapies, you should consider a fresh approach like integrative medicine. We invite you to reach out to us at Knox Wellness Experience in Knoxville, TN to learn more about integrative medicine. Contact us today to schedule your consultation!