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Local Doctor Changes Lives – One Gut at a Time

Local Doctor Changes Lives – One Gut at a Time

Jennifer Alinger found the physician she had been searching for after what felt like forever – within the health system she works for.

The Search

Alinger, a Health Information Technology support coordinator at Norman Regional Health System, is 53 years old and relatively healthy. She isn’t on any required medication and she takes her blood test offered free through the health system each year. Her results were never bad, but also never great. Recently she noticed herself creeping toward prediabetes.

She wanted a physician who could help her get on a better track to health with the least amount of prescriptions possible. She especially wanted to find a doctor who specialized in gut health due to a family history of colon cancer and food intolerances she thought she had, but had never been tested for.

Alinger happened upon a video interview of Castel Santana, MD, where he mentioned microbiome, which is the genetic material of all the microbes that live on and inside the human body. She immediately picked up the phone and made an appointment to see if he was the physician she had been looking for.

Gut Health Doctor

Dr. Santana is a board-certified family medicine physician who specializes in gut health and says the gut is the portal to everything else in the body. Dr. Santana said, “I try to practice in between being a minimalist in medicine and a realist. Let’s actually find the problem and fix it instead of putting a Band Aid on it.”

Prior to her appointment with Dr. Santana, Alinger received a call from his office staff reminding her to fill out her paperwork in advance so Dr. Santana could look over it before her appointment. She was pleasantly surprised when she arrived to her appointment and Dr. Santana had studied her paperwork in full beforehand and wanted to go through all of it with her to really get to know her.

“It felt like he was invested in me,” she said.

During her first appointment, Dr. Santana performed a RAST test, which looks at specific food intolerances, and GI mapping, which looks at specific microbiome and tells whether or not a patient has any bacterial/yeast overgrowth, parasites, good digestive function, proper immune system, and/or a “leaky gut.” Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged and undigested food, toxins and bacteria leak out of the intestines into the bloodstream. He also prescribed some hormone replacement therapy.

He told her he couldn’t make any determinations until the blood work came back and they could evaluate those results.

She said she left the first appointment crying tears of joy. She was relieved that she and Dr. Santana seemed to be on the same page and felt like he really listened to her. She was ecstatic.

“He was very calm and very reassuring. He was such a great listener and didn’t try to make any determinations without seeing the results first,” she said.

The Results

Prior to Alinger’s second appointment, she saw the results come through on her patient portal.

“It’s kind of concerning as a patient when you see all of that on your patient portal because I’m not clinical in nature at all and it’s a lot. It got me a little nervous, but when I got to my appointment, Dr. Santana went over all of it with me,” she said. “He was very reassuring that there wasn’t anything I needed to be super worried about.”

The results confirmed Alinger’s thoughts on her food intolerances and showed more. She was also diagnosed with a “leaky gut.” Dr. Santana recommend the Whole30 diet to reset the gut, which he recommends to all of his gut health patients. Whole30 is a 30-day meal plan that is designed to reset your gut, as well as your eating habits, by eating real food and cutting out added sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, junk foods, carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites.

“It’s hard not to make a change when you see those results,” Alinger said. “I want to be healthier and I want to be here longer for my family. It’s a financial investment, but it’s also a personal health investment.”

Two weeks into the Whole 30 diet, Alinger noticed a difference. She quit taking melatonin because she was sleeping better and she was able to cut back on taking ibuprofen. When she went back to Dr. Santana about 40 days since starting the diet, she said she couldn’t believe the amount of weight that came off and how much better she was feeling.

“It is a high maintenance diet. You have to cook. You have to plan. You have to prepare. It has not been easy, but it’s worth it. There is a reason and a purpose for this. I have to trust him and that’s what I’ve chosen to do. It’s been remarkable,” she said.

Alinger has lost 25 pounds and is looking forward to continuing on in her journey. She will see Dr. Santana again in January for a new round of blood work.

She also encouraged her family – so far her husband has lost 30 pounds, her daughter has lost 18, and her mother-in-law is healthier and feeling better.

“I feel very fortunate to have come across Dr. Santana’s video and that he is a part of Norman Regional’s new Wellness Clinic. I found him in a time in my life when I needed him. It’s a blessing,” she said.

Dr. Santana is located at Norman Regional Primary Care – Wellness Clinic, 2605 S.W. 119th St., Suite B in Oklahoma City. He offers a variety of wellness services and tests. Visit to learn more or call 405-912-3900 to schedule an appointment.