Toronto Naturopathic Medicine
Problems with proper digestion are very common in Canada today, with many people suffering from chronic constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux & heartburn, gas, bloating, nausea, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Celiac disease, Ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and ulcers. Whether you have a pre-diagnosed digestive concern or you’re experiencing uncomfortable abdominal symptoms and don’t know their cause, we can help.
Upon your initial consultation, Dr. Guthrie will assess whether you’d benefit from our 4R Digestion Program Using nutritional therapy as a foundation, we support, heal and regulate your digestive tract using a combination of herbal medicine, nutritional supplements, acupuncture and lifestyle counselling.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the most common gastrointestinal diagnosis worldwide and is estimated to affect 13-20% of Canadians. It is more common in women than in men and while it can be found in children, it is often first identified in adolescence.
IBS is a chronic functional gastrointestinal syndrome with symptoms that include abdominal pain, bloating, cramping and altered bowel habits such as constipation or diarrhea, or alternating between the two extremes. We call it a “functional” disorder because there is no sign of disease when the colon is examined, even though patients certainly experiences uncomfortable symptoms.
What Causes IBS?
IBS is not caused by a singer factor; it is a complex disorder with many potential underlying causes including: infection, unbalanced gut bacteria, food allergies or sensitivities, certain medications, surgery, low-grade inflammation, childhood nutrition and emotional trauma. Persistent stress, depression or anxiety often exacerbate and intensify IBS symptoms.
What Causes IBS Symptoms?
1. People with IBS have altered patterns of intestinal muscle contraction (motility).
There are many triggers that cause dysfunction of the intestinal muscles. It has been found that the intestinal muscle of a person with IBS begins to spasm after only mild stimulation. People with IBS seem to have a colon that is more sensitive and reactive than usual, so it responds strongly to stimuli that would not bother most people. Ordinary events such as stress, eating and distention from gas or food can cause the colon to overreact in people with IBS. Certain foods and medicines, such as antibiotics, may trigger spasms in some people. Sometimes the spasm delays the passage of stool, leading to constipation, and sometimes the spasm causes increased movement through the colon resulting in diarrhea.
2. People with IBS are more sensitive to pain within the digestive tract.
The brains of people with IBS tend to process sensory information from the digestive tract differently than people who don’t have IBS. Additionally, stress, anxiety and depression influence the perception of pain.
How is IBS Diagnosed?
IBS is diagnosed based on a detailed inventory of your symptoms and a careful physical exam. In some cases, further testing may be required to rule out more serious illness.
How does Stress Affect IBS?
Stress is one of the most common triggers of IBS symptoms. The colon is controlled by the brain and nervous system and therefore stress management often helps relieve IBS symptoms. Numerous therapies can help you better manage stress including: lifestyle counseling, cognitive therapy, acupuncture, nutrition and herbal medicines.
How does a Nutrition Help IBS?
For many people, eating a proper diet lessens IBS symptoms. Before changing your diet, it is a good idea to keep a journal noting which foods seem to cause distress. If particular foods cause your symptoms to flare up, you may need to avoid these foods. Dr. Guthrie will help you discern which foods may be aggravating your digestive tract and will make recommendations on how to safely change your diet.
In summary, most people with IBS are able to minimize their symptoms and increase their quality of life through dietary modifications, stress management, acupuncture, nutritional supplements and standardized herbal medicines. Dr. Guthrie will prescribe specific therapies for your unique digestive concerns.
Crohn's disease is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The most common areas of inflammation for people with Crohn's disease are the last part of the small intestine (ileum) and the colon. Inflammation may be confined to the bowel wall, which can lead to scarring, or inflammation may spread through the bowel wall.
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of Crohn's disease can range from mild to severe and may develop gradually or come on suddenly, without warning. You may also have periods of time when you have no signs or symptoms (remission). When the disease is active, symptoms include: diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, bleeding with bowel movements, ulcers in the intestines or mouth, reduced appetite, unintentional weight loss, fever and fatigue.
What Causes Crohn’s Disease?
A number of factors, such as heredity, a malfunctioning immune system, and imbalances in the “good” and “bad” bacteria that reside in the intestines play a role in the development of Crohn's disease. Diet and stress may aggravate existing Crohn's disease, however they don't cause it on their own.
What Complications can Crohn’s Disease Cause?
- Bowel obstruction
- Fistulas (an abnormal connection or ‘tunnel’ between the intestine to another part of the digestive tract, the skin, the bladder or the vagina)
- Abscess (a pocket of infection)
- Anal fissure
- Malnutrition and anemia (diarrhea and abdominal pain may make it difficult to eat and for your intestine to absorb enough nutrients to keep you nourished).
- Inflammation of the joints, eyes or skin
- Increased risk for colon cancer
How is Crohn’s Disease Treated?
When treating Crohn’s disease, the goal is to reduce the inflammation that triggers symptoms. Treatment should also improve long-term health by limiting complications that would otherwise arise without treatment. In the best cases, integrative treatment leads not only to symptom relief but also to long-term remission. Conventional treatment for Crohn's disease usually involves drug therapy or, in certain cases, surgery.
Naturopathic therapies can play a supportive role in improving your symptoms and quality of life. Naturopathic treatment of Crohn’s disease involves dietary modifications, stress management, acupuncture, nutritional supplements, specific therapeutic probiotics and standardized herbal medicines. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, naturopathic therapies are used on their own, or in combination with prescription drugs.
How Can Nutrition Help Crohn’s Disease?
Specific dietary recommendations can help reduce Crohn’s symptoms, aid healing of the intestines and replete nutrient deficiencies. Conversely, certain foods can aggravate Crohn’s symptoms, especially during a flare-up. We’ll help you determine which foods are best for you to eat and how to prepare these foods. Nutritional counseling is particularly important for people with nutrient deficiencies or who have lost an unhealthy amount of weight due to Crohn’s disease.
In addition, nutritional supplements may be necessary, such as: omega-3, multivitamins, iron, vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D, among others.
What Lifestyle Changes Help Crohn’s Disease?
Lifestyle Changes such as quitting smoking and reducing/avoiding alcohol and coffee are important for people with Crohn’s. As well, regular exercise can be very helpful.
How does Stress Affect Crohn’s Disease?
Stress management is a very important part of your Crohn’s treatment since stress can trigger flare-ups. Stressful events can range from minor everyday annoyances to a move, job loss or the death of a loved one. In addition, having a chronic illness like Crohn’s disease is often itself a source of stress and anxiety as you try to manage your symptoms while living a normal life. Stress induces changes in your normal digestive process as well as changes in the intestinal tissue itself, causing a worsening of symptoms. To learn more about stress management, please click here.
Ulcerative Colitis is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease that affects the innermost lining of your large intestine (colon) and rectum. It occurs through continuous stretches of your colon, unlike Crohn's disease, which occurs anywhere in the digestive tract and often spreads deeply into the affected tissues.
What are the Symptoms?
Ulcerative colitis symptoms can vary, depending on the severity of inflammation and which parts of the colon are inflamed. Symptoms range from painless bleeding with bowel movements to frequent bloody diarrhea. Painful abdominal cramping, an inability to have a bowel movement in spite of the urge to do so, unintended weight loss and fatigue may also be experienced. Typically, people with ulcerative colitis experience periods of exacerbated symptoms alternating with periods with very few symptoms (remission).
What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?
A number of factors, such as heredity, a malfunctioning immune system, and imbalances in the “good” and “bad” bacteria that reside in the intestines play a role in the development of ulcerative colitis. Diet and stress may aggravate existing ulcerative colitis, however they don't cause it on their own.
What Complications can Ulcerative Colitis Cause?
- Severe bleeding and dehydration
- Perforated colon
- Inflammation of your skin, joints and eyes
- Increased risk of colon cancer
How is Ulcerative Colitis Treated?
When treating ulcerative colitis, the goal is to reduce the inflammation that triggers your signs and symptoms. Treatment should also improve long-term health by limiting complications that would otherwise arise without treatment. In the best cases, integrative treatment leads not only to symptom relief but also to long-term remission. Conventional treatment for ulcerative colitis usually involves drug therapy or, in certain cases, surgery.
Naturopathic therapies can play a supportive role in improving your symptoms and quality of life. Naturopathic treatment of ulcerative colitis involves dietary modifications, stress management, acupuncture, nutritional supplements, specific therapeutic probiotics, and standardized herbal medicines. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, naturopathic therapies are used on their own, or in combination with prescription drugs.
How Can Nutrition Help Ulcerative Colitis?
Specific dietary recommendations can help reduce ulcerative colitis symptoms and aid healing of the intestines. Conversely, certain foods can aggravate colitis symptoms, especially during a flare-up. We’ll help you determine which foods are best for you to eat and how to prepare these foods. Nutritional counseling is also very important for people who have lost an unhealthy amount of weight due to colitis or have nutrient deficiencies, such as iron.
In addition, nutritional supplements may be necessary, such as: omega-3, multivitamins, iron, calcium and vitamin D, among others.
What Lifestyle Changes Help Ulcerative Colitis?
Lifestyle Changes such as reducing/avoiding alcohol and coffee and getting adequate sleep each night are important for people with ulcerative colitis. As well, regular exercise can be very helpful.
How does Stress Affect Ulcerative Colitis?
Stress management is a very important part of your ulcerative colitis treatment since stress can trigger flare-ups. Stressful events can range from minor everyday annoyances to a move, job loss or the death of a loved one. In addition, having a chronic illness like ulcerative colitis is often itself a source of stress and anxiety as you try to manage your symptoms while living a normal life. Stress induces changes in your normal digestive process as well as changes in the intestinal tissue itself, causing a worsening of symptoms. To learn more about stress management, please click here.
Celiac disease is a condition triggered by the consumption of grains containing "gluten". Simply put, in celiac disease the immune system reacts negatively to the presence of gluten in the diet causing damage to the inner lining of the small bowel which reduces your ability to absorb nutrients.
The gluten-containing grains that trigger celiac reactions include wheat, durum, spelt, kamut, barley, rye, and triticale. Therefore, many commonly eaten foods trigger intestinal damage including bread, pasta, cookies, muffins and pizza crust.
What are the Symptoms of Celiac Disease?
The symptoms of celiac disease vary greatly from one person to another, making diagnosis difficult. Infants and children often have diarrhea, abdominal distention and symptoms of malnutrition such as short stature, anemia (weakness or low stamina), defects in teething, failure to thrive, or developmental delay.
In adults, digestive complaints are common including: abdominal pain, bloating, gas and diarrhea. Weight loss is most common, but symptoms of weight gain and constipation are not unheard of. Only some individuals with celiac disease suffer typical digestive symptoms, while others may display no visible symptoms at all.
Further symptoms vary and can include mouth ulcers, extreme fatigue, depression, bone pain and others. A serious skin condition (called dermatitis herpetiformis) that results in an itchy rash with bumps and blisters is sometimes a result of celiac disease.
Other conditions associated with celiac disease include osteoporosis, depression, infertility, type 1 diabetes, thyroiditis, arthritis and neuropathy. If celiac disease is diagnosed early and treated, the damaged tissues can heal and the risk of developing many of the long term complications of this disease can be reduced.
What Causes Celiac Disease?
It remains unclear as to what exactly causes celiac disease. Closely related family members of celiacs have a greater risk of developing the disease; however, not all individuals carrying the celiac genes will develop the disease. Therefore, in addition to genetics, other environmental factors have also been implicated in its development.
How is Celiac Disease Diagnosed?
Diagnosis involves a combination of blood tests and a biopsy of the small intestine. It is important not to try a gluten-free diet on your own before being tested. In order for celiac tests to be accurate, you must eat gluten regularly leading up to testing. While the gluten-free diet can help you feel better, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis first.
How is Celiac Disease Treated?
The #1 treatment for celiac disease is to continually maintain a strict gluten-free diet for life. Dr. Guthrie can give you advise and support in adjusting to your new diet.
Once you've removed gluten from your diet, inflammation in your small intestine will begin to subside, usually within several weeks. Although you may start to feel better in just a few days on the gluten-free diet, complete healing may take a few years.
What Else Can I Do to Support Healing and Reduce Celiac Symptoms?
In addition to the gluten-free diet, specific nutritional supplements, herbal medicines and acupuncture can be used to support intestinal healing.
As well, nutritional supplements may be needed to correct nutrient deficiencies that are common in celiacs such as: calcium, folic acid, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin K and omega-3 fats.
A healthy gluten-free diet aids healing and corrects nutritional deficiencies; however the damage in the intestines may make it difficult to absorb nutrients from many foods, not just gluten. Therefore, in the initial stages of healing it is often beneficial to avoid other foods, such as dairy products. Different food groups may worsen symptoms in some celiacs and not in others, therefore Dr. Guthrie can help you figure out which foods are best for you. Making dietary changes can be stressful and challenging, so it’s important to receive good education, help and support.