Case Study: Naturopathic Treatment of Non-specific Gastrointestinal Complaints

The following is a comparative analysis of two naturopathic treatments of non-specific gastrointestinal complaints. Functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID) affect more than one-third of the general population and contribute a considerable burden on the health and wellbeing of the community and the economy. This study, published in Integrative Medicine Research aims to examine the treatment approaches and outcomes of naturopathic management of individuals presenting with a non-specific FGID.

Methods/ The researchers report a comparison of two clinical case studies of patients being treated by a naturopath for a functional gastrointestinal disorder. The care was provided by two different student practitioners under the supervision of an industry qualified mentor within a multidisciplinary academic clinic at the Endeavour College of Natural Health. A student practitioner and student observer conduct consultations under the supervision of an industry qualified mentor. The outcomes of care were measured by the Gastrointestinal Symptom Rating Scale.

Case 1 “Jane”/ “Jane is a 21-year-old female Caucasian with a main presenting issue of moderate generalized digestive complaints experienced as a reaction to certain foods. Jane reported a general feeling of being unwell when using the bathroom over the last five years. Initially, Jane identified a brief history of severe painful constipation (approximately one week), intermittent uncomfortable diarrhea, abdominal discomfort with stabbing pain in the upper stomach, indigestion, increases in flatulence and bloating with a sensitive upper stomach causing issues with passing stool and fluctuations in stool quality. Further, Jane also described increased levels of stress, recurrent common colds, slow wound healing scarring badly and bruising easily, hay fever, fatigue, brain fog, irritability, and menstrual difficulties. Jane identified specific foods as causing either uncomfortable diarrhea (dairy) or constipation (grains).”

Case 2 “Rona”/ “Rona is a 21-year-old female Caucasian with main presenting issues of constipation and abdominal discomfort also acknowledging issues of fatigue, feeling sleepy after lunch napping during the day and taking up to one hour to fall asleep. Rona often wakes after the night’s sleep unrefreshed, she also has a history of recurrent common colds plus hay fever. Rona stated she had consumed no gluten for a three-year period due to constipation and tiredness. All meals were causing bloating, except specific foods including cereals and gluten-free toast, constipation and stomach pain near the belly button within ten minutes of eating and dissipating between thirty minutes and two hours following eating. Rona confirmed her bowel movements are once per day, in the morning, however, she does not feel fully evacuated unless cof- fee is consumed. Without coffee, considerable straining is required to pass stool. The maternal side of Rona’s family is gluten sensitive with her mother suffering from IBS.”

Summary of the therapeutic recommendations

  • Each patient was prescribed unique herbal formulas including a proprietary formula prescribed to Jane and individualized formulas prescribed to Rona.
  • Jane was given digestive enzymes and a proprietary nutritional formula designed to assist with stress responses. “Examinable on a case by case basis, the pharmacological synergistic effects of phytomedicines may explain the therapeutic superiority of herbal drug combinations compared with single constituents,” the researchers noted.
  • To aid digestive functioning and alleviate stress levels, lifestyle changes were prescribed by the clinicians, in both cases, incorporating mindful eating practices, meditation, exercise and sleep hygiene practices.
  • Dietary changes recommended by the clinicians treating the individuals within our studies predominately emphasized plant-based foods. In both cases, increases in complex carbohydrates, fruit, and vegetables plus a variety of whole grains and prebiotic-rich foods were prescribed.
  • A low FODMAP diet coupled with specific high fiber foods were further prescribed for Jane.

To see the specifically prescribed formulations and the individualized naturopathic therapeutic recommendation, click on the link below for the full text.

The study notes that the “individualized nature of care observed in these cases, reinforces the value of a pragmatic naturalistic trial design which rejects protocols and enables clinicians to prescribe to the needs of the patient.” They add that these cases document clinical outcomes from naturopathic care in an under-researched condition and as such may provide the foundation for future clinical research on this topic.

Conclusion/ “These cases underline that the holistic and individualized approach core to naturopathic medicine practice is also informed by traditional methods, research evidence and the pragmatic needs of the patient. The emphasis within naturopathic treatment approaches on dietary changes and lifestyle prescription alongside other ingestive therapies such as herbal and nutritional medicine underscores the need for clinical research designs which support evaluation of complex interventions in real-world settings. Without such research, the efficacy, effectiveness, and safety of naturopathic care will never be well understood.”

Click Here for Full Text Study

Source: Tristan Carter, Joshua Goldenberg, Amie Steel. An examination of naturopathic treatment of non-specific gastrointestinal complaints: comparative analysis of two cases, Integrative Medicine Research. Volume 8, Issue 3, September 2019, Pages 209-215.