What are gastrointestinal disorders?
Living with gastrointestinal disorders is very painful and distressful for children and heartbreaking for parents especially when a child has limited language to express how they feel. One thing is certain; the faces of children with G.I. disorders tell the true story. Some of the common pediatric G.I.disorders are constipation, abdominal pain, diarrhea and malabsorption, clostrium difficile infection, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), enterocolitis, failure to thrive, helicobacter pylori, inflammatory bowel disease, vomiting and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), intestinal pathogens, growth and nutritional deficiencies, lymphoid hyperplasia, colic, intestinal permeability and inflammation, ulcerative colitis, malabsorption syndromes and food allergies such as gluten and casein intolerance, food selectivity, narrow food preferences, and specific food/texture preference. G.I. disorders will inevitably affect the child’s behaviors, mood, sensory, nervous, neurological and immunological systems if left untreated.
What your doctor will tell you about gastrointestinal disorders?
Most pediatricians will refer their patients to a gastroenterologist if gastrointestinal disorders are suspected. The doctor will initially collect information from doing a general patient intake, physical exam, requesting parental information on the child’s gastrointestinal history, and doing screen tests such as blood, urine and stool, ultrasounds or e-rays. Further testing such as a colonoscopy, EGD (upper endoscopy), pill cam study (which is a tiny camera in a capsule that takes photos of the small intestine), G.I. lower scope or even a biopsy may be needed in difficult cases. Medication is the most common form of treatment by a G.I. specialist and diet is usually not recommended as a contributing factor, unless it is determined that there is a need for dietary intervention such as celiac. In the case of abdominal pain, doctors will give medication to treat and manage the pain but may not have a long-term solution if your child’s G.I. condition is chronic. If your child has a developmental disorder, the G.I. specialist may tell you that your child’s disorder and behaviors are a separate issue from the gastrointestinal disorder with which your child has been diagnosed.
Another way to think about gastrointestinal disorders:
When your child has a gastrointestinal disorder the first thing we must think of is “microbiome”. The microbiome was discovered in the late 90s as part of the gastrointestinal system and is home to trillions of bacteria. The human gut “microbiota” is the name given to the colonies of microbes that live in our digestive system. These gut microbes are vitally important for communication with the brain and the immune system. It is believed that 70% of our immune system is located in the digestive tract. Canadian researcher Derrick McFabe PhD has demonstrated how changes in the gut bacteria affect brain functioning and behaviors; thus proving the theory of the gut/brain axis. He has shown how specific bad gut bacteria can alter the gut/brain connection as demonstrated in children with autism.
Also in our brain are chemical messengers that transmit signals from one neuron to another telling the brain and body what to do. These messengers are called “neurotransmitters” and they are also located in our gastrointestinal tract which allows for communication with the brain. If the G.I. tract develops a common condition called the “Leaky Gut Syndrome”, then this means there has been too much foreign matter that has permeated the gut lining. As a result, many bad pathogens, bacteria, viruses, yeast, fungus, parasites etc. will populate the G.I. tract and disrupt communication with the neurotransmitters in the brain causing the neurotransmitters to misfire. This process begins the development of an autoimmune disorder and if this happens, your child may experience many problems such as developmental delays, muscle tone issues, mood swings, aggression, sensory overload, sympathetic dominance of the nervous system (fight or flight), high anxiety issues, inappropriate behaviors, self-injurious behaviors, inability to cope, focus and concentration issues and so on. Therefore, no matter what gastrointestinal disorder your child may have, begin with healing the microbiome.
Gastrointestinal disorders checklist to start:
- Make dietary changes. Eat whole foods; buy organic. Remove all GMO, fast and processed foods and those with colors, artificial ingredients, preservatives, phenols, salicylates and inflammatory foods such as casein, gluten, soy. Strictly limit sugars, salt, and white refined carbohydrates. Join the Feingold Association www.Feingold.org to learn more.
- Include plenty of good quality fats, such as coconut and olive oil, avocados, wild salmon, organic chicken and turkey, ghee, eggs, etc.
- Heal the gut with GAPS, PALEO, or (GF/CF) Gluten Free/Casein Free, Body Ecology Diet, Modified Atkins Diet (replaces the Ketogenic Diet) are all possible diets depending on the needs of the child.
- Clean up your environment. Remove animals (both live and stuffed!), carpets. Use non-toxic cleaners, building materials. Green your home!
- Ask your pediatrician to run some laboratory tests that give information about possible food sensitivities and allergies, Test for Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) IgG,IgA,IgE and IgM. Other testing could show deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, bacterial overgrowth and gluten and casein sensitivities.
- Use homeopathy specific for gastrointestinal conditions (Nux Vomica, Carbo Vegetalis, Lycopodium,China Officinalis, Argentum Nitricum) Consider using Schueller’s cell tissue salts which can be effective as well. Sequential Homeopathy can also be specific for gastrointestinal symptoms if needed.
- Add fermented foods and probiotics daily to keep the gastrointestinal system and microbiome healthy and strong which in turn will keep the immune system strong. Eat keifer yogurts and fermented vegetables, umeboshi plums(very alkalizing) and miso soup. Some good probiotics are VSL#3, Gut Pro, Dr. Ohirra’s Live Cultured Probiotics, Garden of Life, and Culturelle.
- Use herbs, essential oils and natural supplements such as zinc and L- carnosine, L-glutamine, biocidin, Restore (Leaky Gut Syndrome), MCT oil (coconut), olive leaf extract, oregano oil, charcoal, peppermint, fennel, lemongrass, ginger, monolaurin, aloevera, marshmallow root, slippery elm, and kudzu.
- Digestive Enzymes such as betaine hydrochloric acid, Vitalzyme Complete with DPPIV for gluten and casein intolerances, proteolytic enzyme, BiCarb, bromelain and papaya,
- Take Vitamin D3, Vitamin C and sulphur – N’acetylcysteine (NAC) (sulphur) helps with detoxification process and healing of the G.I. tract, MSM transdermal cream and Epsom Salt Bath.
- See a well-trained acupuncturist to help strengthen the small and large intestines, liver, kidney and lungs.
- See a NAET or Bioset practitioner for an allergy elimination treatment to eliminate food allergies.
- See a Chiropractor for spinal cord adjustments for gastrointestinal disorders and treatment of the vagus nerve and ileocecal valve.
- See a CranioSacral practitioner for cranial and vagus nerve soft tissue treatment
If you’ve addressed these issues and are still dealing gastrointestinal disorders:
- Test OAT (Organic Acid Test) by Great Plains Laboratory for yeast overgrowth and Candida, oxalates, and other microbial infections
- NutrEval by Genova Diagnostics Labs covers the following areas: malabsorption & dysbiosis; cellular energy & mitochondrial metabolism; neurotransmitter metabolism; vitamin deficiencies; and toxin exposure & detoxification need.
- Comprehensive Stool Analysis by Genova Diagnostic Labs to identify malabsorption, maldigestion, altered G.I. Function, bacterial/fungal overgrowth and chronic dysbiosis
- Homeopathic or Naturopathic physicians can diagnose and treat gastrointestinal disorders naturally so that the child’s immune, sensory, neurological and nervous systems develop without being compromised.
Still looking for answers?
Visit the Epidemic Answers Provider Directory to find a practitioner near you.
For further references:
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Chutkin, Robin. The Microbiome Solution: A Radical New Way to Heal Your Body from the Inside Out. Avery, 2016 https://www.amazon.com/Microbiome-Solution-Radical-Heal-Inside/dp/039957350X