Early Detection and Treatment of Digestive Disease with Dr. Scott Freeborn, ND – Part 1
Dr. Scott Freeborn of Native Naturopathics is my Naturopathic Doctor in Ketchum, Idaho. Dr. Freeborn has practiced Naturopathic medicine for over 25 years. I was inspired to interview Dr. Freeborn about gut health and preventing digestive disorders after I was contacted from an old friend from high school – Pauline – who was recently diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
Pauline’s story is similar to thousands of people – including their MDs – who are unaware of the early symptoms of digestive disorders. Nearly ALL digestive disorders and more advanced pathologies begin as candida overgrowth and/ or parasitic infection. Left untreated, candida overgrowth and parasitic infections develop into a chain of other digestive disorders, such as leaky gut, gastritis, acid reflux, food allergies, auto-immune disorders like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and eventually more serious pathologies like colon cancer. All of these conditions can be prevented with early insight, treatment, and implementation of dietary and lifestyle changes.
Sadly, MDs frequently misdiagnose and mistreat digestive disorders, inadvertently causing the condition to worsen because the root causes are not correctly identified and addressed, nor the correct dietary changes prescribed. In Pauline’s case, her MD misdiagnosed her with severe hemorrhoids and prescribed surgery. An early colonoscopy was “clean” and justified postponing surgery. Nine months later, with her symptoms far worse than before, Pauline desperately scheduled hemorrhoid surgery. A procedural colonoscopy confirmed she had only mild to moderate hemorrhoids – no reason for surgery – and ulcerative colitis had become visibly evident in her colon.
The tragedy of Pauline’s case is the auto-immune component of her digestive problems was preventable with appropriate insight at an earlier stage of her condition – like nine months ago when her symptoms were limited to blood and mucus in her stool, and fatigue.
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Why Digestive Disease Is Not Caught Early
There seems to be a huge gap between the early stages of a digestive disorder and its progression into an auto-immune condition like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Why do MDs have such a poor record of identifying digestive disease before it becomes an auto-immune condition or worse?
First you must consider, “What is the definition of a disease?” A disease in Western medicine requires either blood parameters or microbiological parameters to fall outside of normal. Alternatively, Naturopathic medicine is what we refer to as “functional medicine”. When a person comes in and says, “I’ve got something going on, I don’t feel right”, an MD may run blood tests, perform a physical or other exams and determine nothing is out of normal.
In the western model of medicine, diagnosis and treatment cannot occur unless some part of the system has gone into a failed state. The best tool of all for addressing health issues prior to reaching this failed state is the patient’s subjective assessment of their health, sleep, attitude, and emotions. Health is far more than the absence of a diagnosable disease. Western medicine views observations like, “I don’t feel right; something has shifted in the last four to five months;” “I don’t have the energy I used to have; I have anxiety, I am not sleeping well, and I am getting headaches;” as nebulous symptoms that could be the body’s response to hundreds of things. Other medical practitioners like acupuncturists, nutritionists, and Naturopathic Doctors can help those who are interested in resolving digestive issues at an earlier stage of development.
Gastro-intestinal (GI) health is the most significant factor to overall human health. In my practice, I mostly treat people with conditions that fall within the functional norm – they are not ideal, but they are also not in an advanced “diseased state” where a blood test has came back positive. My focus is on treating parasites and candida overgrowth, prescribing enzymes and probiotics, modifying diet, and moving people away from antibiotic- and hormone-laden animal products, and teaching people about good and bad fats.
In other words, MDs typically do not have tools with the sensitivity to identify digestive issues at a lower stage of decompensation.
Exactly. People can have an imbalance where they are not functioning ideally, where they feel symptomatically different, but they have not gone into such a state of dysbiosis of the gut that their parameters fall outside of the norm enough to become a “diagnosable disease”. Functional medicine assists in the early detection of chronic disease when it is more easily treated. In Western medicine, treatment cannot legally be offered unless something is objectively demonstrating a need for it. Treatment cannot be based on the patient saying, “I am gassier than normal, I have abdominal cramps, I am tired and have low energy, and I am getting frequent headaches.” If a doctor cannot demonstrate the presence of pathogenic organisms in stool analysis (which are notoriously inaccurate with false negatives), or advanced inflammation or nutritional depletion in any aspect of someone’s blood work, then they don’t know what to do.
At least with digestive disorders, the disconnect between Western and Naturopathic medicine seems to go beyond an MD’s toolbox being too coarse to catch these conditions at an earlier stage of disease, it also seems to be a basic lack of understanding of the GI system. Based on my personal experience overcoming digestive disorders, practitioners of Western medicine did not appear to possess even a basic understanding of the chain of events that occurs in the GI system starting with chronic fungal (candida) overgrowth. In my case – a very common story – my digestive disorders began as a chronic, unaddressed candida infection (caused by antibiotics), which made me more prone to parasitic infection, which then lead to gastritis, esophagitis, leaky gut, and then food allergies. Left untreated, this likely would have developed into an auto-immune condition such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis because only at that advanced stage would a colonoscopy pick up ulceration of the colon.
I tend to agree because Western medicine typically looks for the reductionist idea of the one cause. Human beings are so complex therefore chronic disease, like digestive disorders, is almost always multi-factorial. In addition to chronic fungal overgrowth, long-term environmental exposure to chemicals and heavy metals often gradually accumulate in the body to the point where the system experiences decompensation.
Are auto-immune digestive diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis preventable?
Yes, they are completely preventable when the root causes – almost ALWAYS candida overgrowth and parasitic infection – are identified and addressed early along with implementing lifestyle and dietary changes.
It seems like the term “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” (IBS) is code for “I don’t know what is wrong with you”.
IBS is like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue – it’s a diagnosis by exclusion. Everything else has been ruled out and it’s the only thing we have left. IBS is basically a bucket term that someone falls into even though it almost ALWAYS starts out as a candida overgrowth and parasitic infection. These may develop into leaky gut, food allergies, and auto-immune disorders if left unaddressed. IBS – and all digestive disease – almost always begins as fungal overgrowth.
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