Those of you who have been following this blog know I’m interested – for personal reasons and also just because it’s fascinating – in how the state of the probiotics in our gut microbiomes affects our health in general.
That’s not so easy to answer for two reasons: First, the whole field of gut bacteria is quite new. And second, many if not most doctors don’t know a whole lot about the gut microbiome and its role in keeping us healthy or making us sick.
That doctors often don’t know much about the gut microbiome is clearly related to it’s being a new field – but the situation is also made worse by the enormous pressures the pharmaceutical industry and what is sometimes referred to as the “medical–industrial complex” exert on doctors to continue along the current path of treating symptoms with drugs and/or surgeries while ignoring the symptoms’ underlying causes.
Let’s hope the paradigm will shift.
MY MEDICAL JOURNEY – AND PERSONAL BIAS
It took me many decades to identify the underlying source of my own gut microbiome imbalance and autoimmune conditions and figure out how to correct them. On this journey, the types of professionals who were the most helpful have been Chiropractors who do Applied Kinesiology and know how to support health with nutrition (foods and nutritional supplements), Functional Medicine docs, Integrative Medicine docs, Naturopaths, Energy Medicine practitioners, and Nutritionists.
I’ve pretty much stopped relying on mainstream MD specialists – except for the rare ones who understand that pharmaceuticals only suppress symptoms but don’t correct any underlying problem.
When I have blood work done by my Internist (who’s a devoted doctor and a lovely man whom I enjoy seeing), I know I’m probably not going to take any pharmaceutical he might prescribe so ask to be emailed the results and take them to the Chiropractor who’s my main health care provider. She reads the report, discusses the meaning of the results with me, and recommends what I can do about any problematic findings. For example, I have an under active thyroid (hypothyroidism) and sometimes Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune thyroid problem). She has successfully regulated my thyroid functioning with nutritional supplements for many years.
Before asking my Internist for blood work, I also get my Chiropractor’s recommendations for exactly what blood work will be helpful. The Internists and Endocrinologists I’d seen in the past were likely to order only the basic thyroid tests. My Chiropractor orders those to see if my thyroid is under functioning, tests to measure whether my pituitary and adrenals are involved, and thyroid antibody tests to see if my thyroid is also having an autoimmune problem again.
So that’s where I’m coming from as I try to answer the question about what tests to request from a traditional medical doctor.
INCREASED GUT PERMEABILITY – AKA LEAKY GUT
When your intestinal mucosal lining (the place that’s home to your gut’s good bacteria and other probiotic micro-organisms) becomes abnormally permeable (a condition known as intestinal hyperpermeability), tiny leaks develop from your intestines into your bloodstream. These openings allow things (bad bacteria and their toxins, incompletely digested proteins and fats, and other substances) to pass through the intestinal walls directly into your bloodstream instead of being propelled further along your GI tract to where they can be neutralized and/or excreted.
Your immune system reads these substances leaked into your bloodstream as dangerous invaders, triggering an autoimmune reaction. As the leaks continue to allow more and more substances through the gut lining directly into the bloodstream, your body becomes chronically inflamed … and chronic inflammation is a precursor to autoimmune diseases and a long list of other serious health problems. (Axe, 2016) & (Weil, 2005)
DR JOSH AXE’S RECOMMENDATIONS
Dr Josh Axe’s article What Kind of Leaky Gut Test Should You Take? may help you figure out what tests to ask for if you suspect you have a leaky gut that’s causing various chronic autoimmune conditions and diseases – including dark circles under your eyes. Dr. Axe is a Doctor of Natural Medicine, a Clinical Nutritionist, and a Chiropractor.
The tests he recommends are:
See Dr Axe’s article for more information on these tests.
TESTS FOR ADRENAL FATIGUE
In an article called Testing For Adrenal Fatigue, Wellness Coach and author Fawne Hansen discusses the types of tests needed to measure adrenal functioning. Among them are:
A series of cortisol measures
An ACTH Challenge
A variety of thyroid tests
Hansen says, “Diagnosing Adrenal Fatigue from a single test or symptom is impossible. To make an accurate diagnosis, doctors and naturopaths need to look at a range of tests, sometimes conducted multiple times, and take note of every symptom. This requires experience and a thorough knowledge of the various systems in our bodies, as well as some patience too. It may require two or three visits to the doctor before you can be sure that you have Adrenal Fatigue.” (Hansen, 2016)
Chronic inflammation in the body is a precursor to most kinds of diseases. C-reactive protein (CRP) is a substance produced in the liver that increases when there’s inflammation in the body.
There are two blood tests for elevated CRP: One test can detect a general elevation of CRP, associated with general inflammatory changes in the body and considered a non-specific marker for disease. The other test, called hs-CRP (highly sensitive CRP), is a measure of inflammation in blood vessels and is used to help establish heart disease risk.
Integrative Medicine doc Andrew Weil, MD’s article Elevated C-reactive Protein (CRP) explains the meaning of elevated CRP, its symptoms and causes, how it’s diagnosed, how conventional medicine treats it, and how he treats it with an anti-inflammatory diet. (Weil, 2016)
Gut dysbiosis (sometimes called gut dysbacteriosis) is the technical term for a microbial imbalance in the digestive tract. MaryAnn Copson, who has worked in the Alternative, Functional, Holistic, and Energy Medicine fields for over 35 years, offers a DYSBIOSIS METABOLIC MARKERS KIT for comprehensive testing of gut dysbiosis.
Her extensive training includes:
Neuro-Reproductive Endocrine Certification
Certified Licensed Nutritionist
Robertson Research Institute Level II Verified Biochemical Profile Clinician for the Brain Chemistry Optimization Program
Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner
Practitioner Byronomics Energy Management and Diagnosis
Nutritional Treatment for Mood Disorders
Metabolic Typing and Nutritional Planning
Supplements and other Natural Remedies
Vitamin D Deficiency Assessment and Nutritional Treatment
Genetics of Mood Disorders
See Testing for Dysbiosis to read more about the causes and effects of gut dysbiosis and to purchase a test kit. You collect the specimens in the privacy of your home and mail them in the kit directly to the independent medical lab she uses. She’ll forward a copy of your results to you when she’s received them and you then schedule a time for the two of you to talk. She’ll interpret your results for you and discuss their implications along with possible nutritional and lifestyle treatment programs for re-balancing your gut flora.
From Copson’s site (Copson, 2014):
“Why test for Dysbiosis?
“Dybiosis can be a significant factor in many health problems. The Dysbiosis Metabolic Marker Test, because it measures the by-products of microbial metabolism which are excreted in the urine, is particularly useful in detecting the presence of pathogenic microbial overgrowth and in guiding and monitoring therapy.
“Treatments for dysbiosis may involve removal of the offending organisms with anti-microbials. Dietary changes and food supplements are used for replacement of beneficial bacteria, restoration of digestive function, and mucosal repair.
“A repeat test should show improvement within 90 days.”
The Dysbiosis Metabolic Marker Test measures the following:
“All of the above compounds reported are produced by bacteria, yeast, fungi and protozoa that may colonize or grow in the small intestines. Dysbiosis involves overgrowth of one or more species leading to increased production of these compounds that are absorbed and excreted in the urine.” (Copson, 2014)
I don’t know if the kit, the lab work, and working with her (via phone or in person – she’s in Shipman, Virginia) on what to do about your results would be covered by your health insurance (if you’re lucky enough to have any).
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON TOPICS MENTIONED IN THIS POST
In autoimmune diseases and conditions, the immune system misreads healthy cells as if they were dangerous invaders and attempts to destroy them. An autoimmune process can affect one or more types of body tissues and organs.
If you wish to learn more, here are two lists of autoimmune diseases and conditions:
There are autoimmune conditions and diseases that don’t appear on these two lists.
I was searching for a helpful article on autoimmunity to include here and was only finding ones claiming that autoimmune diseases are incurable but their symptoms could perhaps be reduced by pharmaceuticals. Then it occurred to me to google “autoimmune diseases alternative” and found this article by Functional Medicine doc Mark Hyman, MD: How to Stop Attacking Yourself: 9 Steps to Heal Autoimmune Disease. (Hyman, 2015)
Dr Hyman is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine.
From Dr Hyman’s article:
“INFLAMMATION IS A “HOT” TOPIC IN MEDICINE. It appears connected to almost every known chronic disease — from heart disease to cancer, diabetes to obesity, autism to dementia, and even depression.
“Other inflammatory diseases such as allergies, asthma, arthritis, and autoimmune disease are increasing at dramatic rates. As physicians we are trained to shut off inflammation with aspirin, anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil or Motrin, steroids, and increasingly more powerful immune suppressing medication with serious side effects.
“But we are not trained to find and treat the underlying causes of inflammation in chronic disease. Hidden allergens, infections, environmental toxins, an inflammatory diet, and stress are the real causes of these inflammatory conditions.
“Autoimmune diseases, specifically, now affect 24 million people and include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and more.
“These are often addressed by powerful immune suppressing medication and not by addressing the cause. That’s like taking a lot of aspirin while you are standing on a tack. The treatment is not more aspirin or a strong immune suppressant, but removing the tack.
“It you want to cool off inflammation in the body, you must find the source. Treat the fire, not the smoke. In medicine we are mostly taught to diagnose disease by symptoms, NOT by their underlying cause.”
Autoimmune conditions are connected by one central biochemical process: A runaway immune response also known as systemic inflammation that results in your body attacking its own tissues.
– Functional Medicine doc Mark Hyman, MD
INFORMATION ON THYROID FUNCTION TESTS
See Thyroid Function Tests for what the American Thyroid Association says about commonly ordered thyroid tests. (American Thyroid Association, 2014)
Chiropractor and Nutritionist Dr David Dahlman’s article Thyroid Tests discusses how the thyroid works, which tests are needed to assess its function, and how to interpret those tests. (Dahlman, 2015)
See MEDICAL-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX for more information on how and why the US’s health care industry remains wedded to its focus on using pharmaceuticals and surgeries to treat symptoms rather than helping us stay healthy.
From the article:
“The concept of the medical-industrial complex was first introduced in the 1971 book, The American Health Empire (Ehrenreich and Ehrenreich 1971) by Health-PAC. The medical-industrial complex (MIC) refers to the health industry, which is composed of the multibillion-dollar congeries of enterprises including doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, insurance companies, drug manufacturers, hospital supply and equipment companies, real estate and construction businesses, health systems consulting and accounting firms, and banks. As employed by the Ehrenreichs, the concept conveys the idea that an important (if not the primary) function of the health care system in the United States is business (that is, to make profits) with two other secondary functions, research and education.”