Welcome Part Two in my series on gastrointestinal (gut) health and function. In Part One, I covered several ways that the gut supports overall health, explained common factors that can impair gut health and function, and described obvious and not-so-obvious symptoms that can arise when gut health is compromised. In this part, I turn my focus to testing for gut dysfunction and restoring and optimizing gut health and function.

Graphic for Digestive Repair Protocol

Testing to Rule Out or Confirm and Identify Gut Issues

Based on our initial consultation and examination, I may suspect that the health issues you are experiencing are related to your digestive system. However, testing is required to confirm any suspicion I may have (or rule it out) and to identify more precisely what is going on. If I suspect that gut dysfunction may be at the root of your symptoms, I will recommend one or more of the following tests:

  • GI Map Stool: This comprehensive study of bacteria, viruses, parasites, and digestive function checks for leaky gut, inflammatory bowel disease, gluten sensitivity, blood loss, and pancreatic enzymes.
  • Microbial Organic Acids Test (MOAT): This urine test checks for overgrowth of potentially harmful bacteria and yeasts, levels of beneficial bacteria, and metabolic issues. Organic acids are metabolic intermediates involved in several processes, including energy production, detoxification, and the breakdown of neurotransmitters. Levels of specific organic acids serve as valuable indicators of digestive function.
  • SIBO Breath Test: This test measures gases produced by bacteria in the small intestine. Results can help identify a bacterial overgrowth.
  • Abdominal/Liver Sonogram: This exam is often used to check for fatty liver, which can disrupt metabolism and detoxification pathways. Results reveal any signs of inflammation or indications of any blockage of bile flow from the gallbladder. Based on the results, I may refer you to a gastroenterologist for an endoscopy or colonoscopy and follow-up treatment.
  • Pelvic Sonogram: This exam may reveal uterine fibroids or cysts that can cause abdominal discomfort, pain, and altered digestion. If I think a transvaginal sonogram is required, I will refer you to a gynecologist.

I may also recommend the elimination of certain inflammatory foods from the diet, such as dairy, sugary foods or beverages, alcohol, fried foods, or refined carbohydrates to determine whether certain foods or classes of foods trigger or worsen symptoms.

Targeting the Three Factors That Impact Gut Health and Function

Gut health is complex but can best be understood by examining the following three factors that play a pivotal role in gut health and function:

  • Intestinal permeability (leaky gut): The intestinal barrier, consisting of a single-cell-thick lining, serves as a gateway for nutrients to enter the bloodstream, while simultaneously confining potentially harmful elements within the confines of the intestines. When there is an abnormal widening of gaps in this lining, it permits the passage of toxins, bacteria, parasites, and incompletely digested food into the bloodstream. This has the potential to initiate inflammation and foster the proliferation of unfavorable bacteria or fungi (such as yeast).
  • Dysbiosis: An imbalance in microbial composition, known as dysbiosis, can manifest as an overabundance of certain bacteria or fungi within the small intestine. This scenario can lead to the development of conditions like Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) or Small Intestinal Fungal Overgrowth (SIFO).
  • Impaired digestion: Several factors can influence the digestive process, encompassing aspects like the volume and potency of gastric acid, the synthesis and discharge of bile, the performance of pertinent nerves and muscles, as well as the generation and release of digestive hormones.

My four-part Digestive Repair Protocol addresses all three of these factors and then builds resiliency — strengthening the body’s digestive system to enhance overall health and protect against future assaults.

My Four-Part Digestive Repair Protocol

My Digestive Repair Protocol is four-part treatment plan designed to restore and optimize gut health and function:

  • Part 1: Combat inflammation
  • Part 2: Improve digestion
  • Part 3: Fight infection
  • Part 4: Build resilience

Part 1: Combatting Inflammation

Inflammation can cause leaky gut, which then allows foreign substances to enter the bloodstream, triggering an immune response that exacerbates the inflammation. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken.

Part 1 of my Digestive Repair Protocol targets inflammation, specifically through the use of a supplement called MCT Butyrate. This is a four-carbon short-chain fatty acid produced through microbial fermentation of dietary fibers in the lower intestinal tract. It is the main fuel for colonocytes — the cells that line the gut. It can reduce inflammation in the gut and brain, and it promotes the presence of beneficial bacteria.

Part 2: Improving Digestion

Part 2 of my Digestive Repair Protocol addresses all factors that affect digestion, including the following:

  • Diet: I help you identify and address any food sensitivities and provide recommendations for a healthy, nutritious, gut-friendly diet. Diet recommendations are highly individualized. Gut-friendly for one person can be an irritant for another.
  • Stomach acid: Many patients I see are taking medications to reduce stomach acid when they really suffer from low stomach acid. Based on the results of your tests, I can determine whether you have too much, too little, or a healthy amount of stomach acid and recommend treatment, if needed.
  • Physical activity: Physical activity can play a key role in digestive health, so during your evaluation, we will visit this topic and discuss whether increased physical activity could help.
  • Stress and the stress response: Psychological and emotional stress trigger the fight-or-flight response, which can slow digestion while accelerating elimination — both potentially disruptive to the digestive process. During this part of the protocol, we will discuss stress reduction and options for improving your body’s stress response.
  • Microbial balance: Through the use of probiotics, prebiotics, and other trusted and proven medical-grade supplements, we can begin the process of restoring populations of beneficial bacteria.

Part 3: Fighting Infection

Part 3 of my Digestive Repair Protocol involves using antiparasitic, antifungal, and antibacterial, and medications and botanicals to eliminate any parasites and address any overgrowth of potentially harmful bacteria or fungi (yeasts).

Natural antimicrobials such as oregano or garlic may be combined with medications such as nystatin, itraconazole, or other prescription medications to eliminate fungal or bacterial overgrowth when necessary.

Part 4: Building Resilience

Resilience is the key to preventing relapse. My Digestive Repair Protocol builds resilience by guiding you in best dietary practices for your unique digestive issues and concerns. Using therapeutic peptides, protective foods, and medical-grade supplements creates better long-term outcomes.

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) can be especially useful in building resilience. NAD+ is a coenzyme that fuels energy production at the cellular level, repairs DNA, and supports cellular health. You can increase your NAD levels through diet and supplementation. For more about the benefits of NAD+ supplementation, check out my previous post, “Get Energized: Increase Your NAD+ Levels.”

If, after reading this two-part series, you suspect that the symptoms you have may be related to compromised gut health, I can help. However, it’s up to you to take the first step. Contact me to schedule your initial consultation. Regardless of whether your health issues are related to your gut or something else entirely, our initial consultation can put you on the path to identifying the root causes, receiving effective treatment, and restoring your health and vitality.

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About the Author: Dr. Matt Lewis, D.C., DACBN, CFMP®, specializes in diagnosing and treating the underlying causes of the symptoms related to chronic and unexplained illness through nutrition, lifestyle, chiropractic, and other natural approaches to whole-health healing in Tampa, Fla. Dr. Lewis has 20 years of experience practicing nutritional and holistic medicine. He earned his B.S. in Biology from Shenandoah University, his Doctorate in Chiropractic from Life University, his Diplomate status in Clinical Nutrition from the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, his CFMP from Functional Medicine University, and his certification as a Digestive Health Specialist (DHS) through the Food Enzyme Institute. Dr. Lewis’ passion for health and wellness stems from his own personal experience. With a family history of autoimmune conditions and diabetes, and his own lab tests showing his genetic susceptibility to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (autoimmune thyroid), Dr. Lewis has learned how to restore his own health and vigor to prevent the onset of these and other illnesses and live an incredibly active life. Through this process, he acquired a deeper understanding of health and wellness, which he now offers his patients in Tampa and elsewhere.