Have you had gut symptoms for some time without knowing the root cause? Or perhaps, you have figured out some of the root causes, but if you cheat on your diet or travel, you find that your bowels change and you get symptoms?
Many people that have bloating, constipation, gas and diarrhea are given the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome. Unfortunately, irritable bowel syndrome is just a fancy medical way of saying that you have symptoms and we have no idea why.
So what can cause these symptoms?
In order to truly be holistic and change things in a deep and profound way, it is important that we examine the true causes of irritable bowel syndrome and digestive disorders. Here are some examples of common causes:
How do we figure out what the problem is?
In functional medicine, we used advanced lab testing to determine the cause. We are not just looking for diseases with these tests. We are looking for optimal health. Therefore, the tests that we use are different than that which is used in conventional medicine. For example, people sometimes get stool cultures run by conventional medicine to look for bacteria and parasites. Western medicine looks for the really severe microorganisms such as salmonella and c. difficile. Since they have a different lens than we do in functional medicine, they are usually not looking for microorganisms that can cause less severe disease such as blastocystis hominis.
The problem allies in that while blastocystis hominis is not likely to send someone to the emergency room because of how acute it is, it can still cause symptoms that are really intense for someone. Let’s explore a little bit about blastocystis hominis as an example.
A little more information on Blastocystis Hominis
Blastocystis hominis is an intestinal protozoan contracted by fecal oral transmission through contaminated food or water. An infected individual will release thick walled cysts into the stool, which can easily be transmitted from individual to individual. It is found in patients with IBS. Common symptoms are diarrhea and abdominal pain although many other symptoms are possible.
There is some debate in the community as to if blastocystis hominis is pathogenic or is actual a normal part of the gut flora as many people have it with no reported symptoms. Research is showing that the pathogenic nature of blastocystis may be connected to the specific subtype involved. Subtypes ST, ST1, ST2, ST3, ST4, and ST 6 have all been found in symptomatic patients, with ST3 being the most common for discovering symptoms.
Blastocystis has the ability to morph, forming many various forms. This includes a cyst form, an amoeboid form and a granular form. Some of these forms are typically overlooked in lab testing and therefore blastocystis hominis infection may easily be missed in a stool culture. When blastocystis is outside of a host, it is in cyst form. Once ingested by a suitable host it will form a vegetative form and make a home. Once in the vegetative form, in the large intestine, it will switch into a vacuolar from. From here, it can morph into many different shapes.
Another aspect that may contribute to the virulence of blastocystis hominis is different reactions of the subtypes. The subtypes that appear to create the most symptoms are those that are able to take an amoeboid form and secrete a protease. These proteases have been shown to alter the cytoskeleton of the epithelial cells causing apotosis. This apoptosis has been shown to lead to an increase in intestinal permeability. In addition, the proteases can cause an increase in IL-8 production by the intestinal cells leading to fluid loss, which in turn causes diarrhea.
In addition, research on the ST 7 subtype has shown that this type of blastocystis will secrete antimicrobial properties that disrupt our microbiome. In addition, ST7 will disrupt the mucosal lining, exposing the inner epithelium for better adhesion. ST7 has been shown to disrupt tight junctions of the gastrointestinal tract leading to increased permeability.
Blastocystis will increase IgE secretion through the stimulation of TH2 cells. In addition, blastocystis and activate the compliment cascade leading to mast cell activation. Skin disorders are a common symptom of this process. Blastocystis can also cause iron deficiency anemia (81).
The CDC recommends that at least 3 separate samples are taken before a negative result is confirmed. Case reports find blastocystis infections worldwide, but there is a high frequency of occurrence in less developed countries. Human to animal transmission is debatable. However, reports show that a higher number of cases are found in pet owners or those living on farms.
You can hopefully see by this information that blastocystis can cause many symptoms. Clinically speaking we see it related to gas, bloating, autoimmune processes, constipation and or diarrhea. All microorganisms share something in common with blastocystis. The common factor is that they can cause widespread symptoms all over the body and not specifically linked just to the gastrointestinal tract.
The solution is to do lab testing to determine if there is blatocystisis to find a functional medicine doctor. We would be happy to work with you at our clinic. If you do not live locally, we have options for working with those who live far. In addition to blastocystis, we would look into the other root causes as described above.
What is the best diet for gut symptoms?
The truth is that there is not one fit diet for everyone. Many people do very well on paleo type diets. But we see a handle of people that this makes them worse. Some people have success on the specific carbohydrate or fodmaps diets, while others do not. One of the things that labs help us determine is what food choices are best for your current medical situation. In addition to this, it is important to eat a healthy diet, usually diet alone is not enough to kill microorganisms that someone may have. Basically, we cannot starve microorganisms.
Many people feel that if they just get off of sugar, it will take care of the problem. While getting people off sugar is great and is important, it is usually only one piece of the puzzle. Sugar will downregulate (essentially decrease) the production of neutrophils (a type of white blood cell). This will cause our body to not be able to fight infections as well.
Jeremiah, Ss, and Subhashchandra Parija. "Blastocystis: Taxonomy, Biology and Virulence." Tropical Parasitology Trop Parasitol 3.1 (2013): 17. Web