Anyone who has ever visited a WholeHealth Chicago Functional Medicine practitioner knows that lots of questions focus on digestion. The reason for this goes all the way back to the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, who is alleged to have said “All disease begins in the gut.” This concept is not at all taught in medical […]
Rich in soluble fiber, psyllium seeds and their husks have long been enlisted to ease constipation and digestive system upset. During the Middle Ages, Arab physicians regularly recommended a formula for constipation that included psyllium as a principal ingredient. Today, a number of studies suggest that psyllium may also be effective in lowering cholesterol, promoting weight loss (it makes you feel full), and aiding numerous other conditions.
Raspberry leaf tea (not ‘raspberry flavored’) has been a household remedy since ancient Greece. Leaves from the readily available shrub contain a variety of valuable therapeutic compounds, including astringent tannins and key nutrients.
From generation to generation, the majestic oak tree has provided shade on sunny days, timber for furniture-makers and ship-builders, and even food in times of famine. Many Native American tribes relied on its acorns for nourishment.
Not surprisingly, medicinal uses for the oak tree have a long history as well. Of the hundreds of Quercus species found in the northern hemisphere, Quercus alba is most valued in North America for medicinal purposes. Europeans rely more heavily on Quercus robur and Q. petraea.
The prickly stemmed, flowering blackberry bushes that grow wild across parts of Europe and North America yield plump, blue-black berries for eating as well as for healing. Ancient Greeks called the plant “goutberry” because it was relied upon to lessen gout-related joint pain. Traveling salesmen of yore were known to tuck a flask of blackberry brandy into their bags to treat the loose stools that often occurred after eating unfamiliar foods. Today, blackberry is probably best known for this very use–as a soothing remedy for diarrhea.
The yellow, star-shaped blossoms of Agrimonia eupatoria, an herb found throughout the northern hemisphere, have long been used as a remedy for diarrhea and a host of other ailments. Legend has it, for instance, that the ancient Greeks soothed eye problems with agrimony, and the Anglo-Saxons treated wounds with it as well.
Poison control centers often recommend activated charcoal to treat accidental poisonings, making it a useful supplement to keep in the home. Activated charcoal is made from organic materials such as wood pulp and then treated to further enhance its absorptive powers. Once ingested, it binds with certain chemicals in the digestive tract, preventing them from being absorbed into your system and causing harm.
By far the most common reason patients visit gastroenterologists is for help with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, also known as spastic colon. Although the condition is not dangerous, nor does it lead to anything serious, IBS is a real challenge to treat effectively. In fact, conventional medical textbooks advise doctors to tell their patients that the condition is incurable, and many patients have come to believe that the best they can expect from conventional medicine is only limited relief. All doctors, including myself, hesitate to use the word “cure.” But at WholeHealth Chicago, we’ve found that a more integrated medical “toolbox” has dramatically improved our success rate.
We don’t understand a lot about Crohn’s disease, but we do know that more and more young people are being diagnosed with it. Crohn’s is a chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. It strikes mainly adolescents and young adults, and manifests itself as abdominal pain, fever, diarrhea, and weight loss. The small intestine is primarily affected, and the patient develops real problems in absorbing important nutrients. Physicians use the anti-inflammatory drugs sulfasalazine and steroids to reduce the inflammation. As the disease seems to be related to alterations in the immune system, they sometimes add medications to suppress immunity as well. Unfortunately, the disease often progresses despite drug therapy, and surgery is frequently needed for infections and intestinal obstruction.
At least once a week, a patient comes in, saying, “You’re the fourth [or seventh or tenth] doctor I’ve seen. I feel simply terrible but am always told that my tests are normal, and there’s nothing wrong with me. Recently I read about yeast overgrowth, and the symptoms seem to fit my case exactly. The doctors, however, all tell me there’s no such illness.”