How to fix your gut by addressing our stress

I got sick a few years ago, with IBS type symptoms, that turned out to be due to parasites in my gut (Blastocystis Hominis and Dientamoeba Fragilis to name names!).

Nowadays, I’ve cleared up the parasites but that doesn’t mean I don’t get gut symptoms anymore.

Occasionally I get a flare-up of symptoms, and what I’ve noticed is this happens at the times when I’m the most stressed out, even when my diet is still good. And this happens for many other people.

We can have our diet dialed so that it’s perfect, and we can be exercising regularly and getting enough sleep, but if we are constantly stressed out, this can be causing us problems.

And this is backed up by research in mice, that have found stress affects the gut microbiota to the same degree as a poor diet.

From what we know, when we are stressed out and in flight or fight mode, blood is redirected from our gut and digestion to the muscles so we are ready to run away from a perceived threat. In the body’s view, digestion is just not important at that time. As the gut is serviced by a multitude of neurons, it makes perfect sense that stress and our modern hectic lives affects our gut.  

What this means is that if we are our stressed, our attempts to treat small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), parasites, or IBS may not be effective, or they appear to work, but symptoms soon return after treatment. We need to address our stress to balance our gut microbiota and the messages the gut sends to the brain via the gut-brain axis.

And yes, this can be hard!

It can be easier to pop a pill, or change your diet, rather than address stress which can seem to be just a result of a modern lifestyle. We may need to take a step back, and deeply see how we relate to ourselves and all aspects of our lives.

Everything is Information

Our brains are constantly monitoring all aspects of our physiology, including our breath hormones, nervous system and gut, as well as the outside world. Every situation we find ourselves in and every thought we have affects our body’s chemistry on a molecular level.

The brain is always calculating am I safe or am I under threat

One of the big issues with the way we treat stress today is that we tackle it from only one angle. Whereas our stress levels are built up by many small stressful events throughout the day. We can’t tackle overwhelm from work stress, solely by meditating for 15 minutes in the morning or having a glass of wine after work.

It is better to work with stress in all its forms: psychological, emotional, technological, dietary, physical and chemical stress.

Want to know more? Free webinar

If you’d like to find out more, I’m running a free online webinar on ‘How stress affects our health and what we can do about it’ at 6:30 PM AEST on February 20th.

Reserve your spot at

Or see you in Melbourne …

And a Melbourne event on the same topic with a guest speaker of Jabe Brown from Melbourne Functional Medicine on February 25th at 5:30 PM.

To book:

IBS Diagnosis

What’s causing your IBS?

Dr Rangan Chatterjee has said he can make diseases disappear!

He’s certainly not some type of magician so what is he talking about?

It seems that some people who suffer from chronic conditions, such as IBS, and may have been suffering for an extended period believe that little can help them beyond easing their symptoms through drugs or being permanently on a restrictive diet such as the full low FODMAP, and then often seeing a partial improvement.

And I understand where they are coming from.

IBS is a group of symptoms, including diarrhoea or constipation, bloating and abdominal pain. Doctors call it a ‘functional gastro-intestinal disorder’ which means the GI tract doesn’t show any physical abnormalities but functions abnormaly.

An IBS diagnosis is given by a doctor using a process of exclusion, meaning that once all tests come back normal but symptoms persist, the diagnosis is given. As the underlying cause isn’t known, a conventional doctor then can only treat the symptoms using drugs or surgery or the patient is told that the condition is all in their mind or there is nothing that can be done.

Find out what’s causing your IBS

As Functional Medicine practitioners however, we aim we get to the root cause of a health problem.

For example, with IBS, we look at possible bacteria and fungal overgrowth and why this may have occurred, parasites, slow digestion, food sensitivities, gluten disorders, emotional wellbeing, carbohydrate maldigestion.

Monash University, one of the pioneers of the low FODMAP diet, say the diet should be used for 2-6 weeks and not for life. After the elimination phase, the re-introduction phase monitors your individual response to the re-introduction of a high FODMAP food. This allows the identification of specific foods that that person has a sensitivity and may be leading to IBS.

This can lead to a less restrictive diet than the full low FODMAP diet but symptoms may still unexpectedly occur as there may be an additional cause such as small intestinal overgrowth (SIBO).

A follow-up post on SIBO as a common cause of IBS will be following soon..

Assorted anti-biotics, pills, and pharmaceuticals

Should you take probiotics after anti-biotics ?

It’s a commonly held belief, including among health professionals, that you should.

But in a recent study, probiotics significantly delayed the return a healthy gut microbiome after taking anti-biotics.

Huh. What gives?

After the initial surprise, and thinking about this further, it actually makes sense..

We can think of the gut microbiome as an eco-system, with antibiotics causing a mass extinction.

After a mass extinction, the probiotic may be filling the gap in the eco-system at the expense of our existing microbiota. Without the probiotic, our existing microbiota may return to its original state quicker as it doesn’t have to compete with the probiotic.

While this is just one study and needs to be replicated by others (that’s just good science), it does call in to doubt the recommendation for all people to take probiotics after anti-biotics. Sometimes, we just need to let go of widely accepted beliefs when the evidence indicates that they are not valid anymore!

The study was also conducted in healthy adults, so these results can’t necessarily be extrapolated to children, the elderly, or those with gut pathologies. It may still be a good idea to take probiotics in high-risk people, who are at risk of parasites, diarrhea, or the dangerous Clostridium difficile. In these people, taking pro-biotics after anti-biotics may still be the best option to prevent overgrowth by unwanted types of bacteria or parasites.

So are probiotics useless?

Certainly not!

It must be remembered that this study only shows the effect of taking probiotics after a course of anti-biotics.

It does not mean probiotics are useless in all situations as some popular media’s headlines have stated following this study.

Probiotics generally have been found to reduce inflammation, improve leaky gut (intestinal permeability), mood, skin and digestive conditions and improve liver function for example.

Here’s an interesting article from Chris Kresser’s team on this