February 2003, Volume 26 Number 1 , p 41 - 44
The origins of many chronic health problems can be traced to compromised digestive function. Bowel disease is a condition that fits very well into the patient-oriented format used in integrative medicine ( Bock, 2000 ). Many functional bowel diseases may be caused by exposure to toxins (free radicals), intestinal permeability defects, or parasitic infections. These common afflictions are associated with gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction and may independently, or in combination, lead to a cascade of chronic illness (Bock).
There is a growing body of research showing that nutritional factors and lifestyle may be significant in the prevention and management of chronic disorders associated with compromised digestive function ( Wagner, 2000 ). If lifestyle and dietary changes do not effectively reduce symptoms, pharmacologic therapy may be warranted.
Approximately 3,000 chemicals are used by the food industry during processing ( Wagner, 2001 ). Toxicity due to foreign chemicals, called xenobiotics, can damage virtually all systems in the body. Free radical destruction, a hidden factor in the body, cannot be easily measured and thus is rarely discussed when assessing parameters of health. We are all exposed to a barrage of free radicals every day: chemicals, pesticides, pollution, stress, smoking, drugs, and the greatest of all, radiation. I am particularly concerned about the chemicals in our food (steroids, hormones, and antibiotics lace our meat, milk, and eggs) and in our environment because of the likelihood of free radical destruction ( Lyon, 1998 ).
Unfortunately, the GI tract is the most common route of exposure to xenobiotic toxins and, as a result, the integrity of the mucosal barrier is a major factor in limiting absorption and elimination ( Tyler Encapsulations, 1998 ). Xenobiotic toxicity is manifested by common symptoms such as immune suppression, liver disorders, fatigue, neurologic disturbances, and most commonly, dysbiosis (a common ...