The stomach mechanically churns food, breaks up and emulsifies fat and exposes the molecules to multiple enzymes such as hydrochloric acid and pancreatic juices. The surface area of the gastrointestinal tract surface is approximately the size of a football field and filled with friendly and unfriendly bacteria. Needless to say, a number of factors may go awry. Because the intestinal tract plays a key part in nutrient absorption, any problem there can affect the function of the entire body and our overall health.
Disordered intestinal ecology that actually causes illness is described by Dr. Leo Galland as dysbiosis. Organisms that are not usually overgrown in the intestines, such as unfriendly bacteria, yeast and protozoa, actually induce disease by altering nutrition patterns in the body. Dr. Galland and a number of others believe, as I do, that optimal health requires that the intestinal flora maintain a healthy balance between the more than 400 organisms that usually reside there and not an overgrowth of any particular one.
Signs and symptoms of malabsorption, parasites or low gastric acid
- Bloating, belching, burning, flatulence after meals
- A sense of fullness after eating
- Indigestion, diarrhea, constipation
- Systemic reactions after eating
- Nausea after taking supplements
- Rectal itching
- Weak or cracked fingernails
- Dilated capillaries in the cheeks and nose in the non-alcoholic
- Post-adolescent acne or other skin irritations such as rosacea
- Iron deficiency
- Chronic intestinal infections, parasites, yeast, bacteria
- Undigested food in the stool
- Greasy stools
- Easy bruisability
- Amenorrhea (absence of menstruation)
- Chronic yeast infections
- Chronic vaginitis (vaginal irritation) .
Some authors have speculated that other symptoms, such as impotence, loss of libido, infertility, muscle atrophy, cramps and joint pain, are also linked to malabsorption. A fair amount of research supports this connection.
The intestinal environment
Do many people really have parasites? How do they infect the intestinal flora? When I first began working with women with issues of bloating and gas, I never anticipated seeing the number of women with parasites that we do. My expectation was that parasites only occurred in third world countries. We know from a number of studies that in such countries, parasites affect up to 99% of the population. The problem in the United States is obviously much less, but it is growing.
In the U.S., because we have grown up with many sanitary conveniences, we assume that parasites are only encountered in other parts of the world. As one expert has written “…the United States citizen can acquire amoebas, Giardia, pinworms and other parasites, for example, without so much as a passport application.” More and more produce is being imported from third world countries that do not have the same regulations for growing mediums and fertilizer sources. Salad bars and the increase in the number of meals eaten out worsen your odds. Ironically, we often see parasite infections in “juicers” – people who have wonderful dietary habits. Other factors include the ease and frequency of world-wide travel, increased immigration, and contaminated water supplies. Although this has not yet been documented, we believe environmental pollution plays a role by suppressing the immune system on a number of levels.