Total Digestive Repair: In the Treatment of Rheumatological Disorders

 In Autoimmune/Allergy Medicine, Gastrointestinal, Pain Medicine

Carrie Louise Daenell, ND

Although there are variations along the way, the basic structure of the GI tract is the same throughout its entire length. A good example of this variation is found in the lining of the stomach. This dense layer of cells continually sacrifices itself to protect the deeper stomach lining tissue. Every minute, the lining sheds 500,000 cells, completely replacing itself every three days. Some people, genetically, are unable to replace those shedding cells as quickly as others. This is due to a down-regulation of the enzyme responsible for the conversion of glucosamine 6-phosphate to N-acetyl D-glucosamine – the “building block” of the protein glycocalyx that serves as the structural backbone of the mucous membrane. As you can imagine, those with this genetic “weak link” are the same people who are unable to take digestive “hits” as gracefully as everyone else. This explains why some people have breakdowns in this core system while others seem to cruise along without incident.

The GI tract also is home to 70% of our immune system’s cells – and the primary reason that many health problems, syndromes, conditions and degenerative diseases are directly related to how well our digestive tract is functioning. At the very least, this means that if our digestive system is compromised, our immune system is compromised. It is impossible to separate the two – they are so very connected. Even relatively minor GI dysfunction can lead to problems, such as:

  • Malabsorption
  • Malnutrition
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Celiac disease
  • Autoimmune problems
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Systemic toxicity challenges.

If the immune cells in the GI tract are struggling to stay healthy, we are at a higher risk for developing serious GI illnesses, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Chronic skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema are also often founded in the digestive tract. Poor digestive health can cause crossover autoimmune and systemic inflammatory diseases. Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia (CFS/FM) are inflammatory disorders intrinsically linked to the GI tract.

Leaky Gut Syndrome

Research has shown that CFS/FM often start when inflammation is triggered falsely by undigested foods, intestinal parasites or H. pylori infections. Our body’s natural inflammatory response becomes overwhelmed, causing leaky gut syndrome and consequently CFS/FM. Once the gut becomes leaky, our intestinal lining is no longer able to keep those undigested aspects of our diet away from the blood stream. Once those undigested components make it to the bloodstream, they interact with our systemic immune system. Further, toxins and pathogens can also easily cross into the bloodstream and trigger the systemic immune system to mount a response against these invaders that would otherwise be considered normal, were they to stay where they belonged.

Intestinal permeability can be equated to an internal eating disorder, where the immune system sees perfectly healthy food as the enemy. The systemic immune system makes such an overabundance and variety of antibodies that some of those antibodies serve to attack tissues by accident. This is the definition of “crossover” autoimmunity. Those antibodies were not made genetically/specifically to bind to our own tissue, but it is a “close enough” scenario where they bind anyway. This begins a cascade of immune problems that fuel systemic inflammation and crossover autoimmune challenges. Once this cascade begins, no quick fix or bandage medication is going to heal this very broken scenario. The good news is … the autoimmunity was never meant to be, and is therefore repairable. Return the digestive system to normal and you return the immune system to normal. Shore up the systemic immune system’s exposure to undigested food, pathogens and toxins, and the systemic immune system no longer mounts an over-reactive response to that which would otherwise be normal. Clinical problem solved.

Treatment Protocol

As a physician, I have heard that CFS/FM are incurable. In my experience that is a sad underestimation of what is possible in the face of natural medicine, when used not as “green” bandages to treat the symptoms, but to “treat the cause” in order to restore normal function to the body. I know that using “the digestion approach” to treating and preventing CFS/FM works, and works well in many cases! Why? Because in many cases we are sincerely treating the cause in order to restore the digestive system and the body’s immune system to normal function – which is optimal health.

To reverse the cascade of GI tract inflammation and systemic immune dysregulation that occurs in CFS/FM, I begin with the accompanying basic protocol. If I were to make one important point about this material: Avoid the temptation to pick a favorite portion in an attempt to shortcut the protocol with “the most important” aspects. There is no “most important” aspect. It is a comprehensive approach to treating the whole system, very much akin to “treating the whole person.” Every aspect of the organ system must be supported all day every day at the same time over time in order to yield permanent and optimal results. Obviously, I individualize it for each patient as indicated.

Since I presented this material at the AANP convention in the fall, many people have requested the “Carrie Louise Protocol.” Without branding the products I use, I submit the following:

  • Utilize Protocol 1 for three months to establish healthy intestinal permeability and optimal microflora balance.*
  • If, after three months of utilizing Protocol 1, significant support of the intestinal permeability is not demonstrated (via urine intestinal permeability baseline comparison), conduct comprehensive stool testing.* If testing reveals that additional support for microflora or yeast balance is required, proceed with Protocol 2 for six to 12 weeks.*
  • Upon completion of Protocol 2, return to Protocol 1 for an additional six weeks, then re-test the stool to determine if another round of Protocol 2 is required. When microflora balance has been established, proceed with Protocol 1 for an additional three months before repeating the urine intestinal permeability study.* Compare test results to baseline results for confirmation of restorative progress.*
  • Maintain Protocol 1 until all parameters are optimal (e.g., urine intestinal permeability study – “green” range on one brand test, “optimal” range on other brands. Simply getting to “yellow” or “normal” doesn’t mean that you have met your goal. You must get to “green” or “optimal.”)

DaenellCarrie Louise Daenell, ND specializes in women’s health, digestion, inflammatory conditions, surgical support and hepatitis C. She earned her doctorate in naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University. Previously she served as managing editor of the Journal of Naturopathic Medicine, president of the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and on the Board of Directors for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. She currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for Integrative Therapeutics Inc., is a co-author of Better Breast Health for Life!, and is a frequent contributor to professional and consumer periodicals in the natural health field.

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