love your gut - heart

How good is your first line of defense?

I’m talking about the importance of stomach acid! This article will let you know why you should care and I’ll also give you an easy test you can do at home to give you an idea of your stomach acid levels, so read on…

Stomach acid, otherwise known as hydrochloric acid (HCl), plays a pivotal role in the breakdown of food, a healthy balance of bacteria in our gut, and the prevention of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and so the prevention and treatment of IBS. As it’s becoming widely accepted that a healthy body depends on a healthy gut, this is important stuff for your health.

When we eat food, digestion begins in the mouth through the process of mastication (chewing to you and me) and the release of enzymes, such as salivary amylase which starts the digestion of carbohydrates. Chewing our food sets the digestive process off to a good start!

Food is further broken down in the stomach by HCl (PH 1.0 to 2.5) and more enzymes. This kills harmful microorganisms and helps create favourable conditions for enzymes such as pepsin which helps to break down protein.

Stomach acid

HCl also makes nutrients such as Vitamin B12, Calcium, Zinc, Iron, and Magnesium available from our food..

If the stomach is too alkaline, the system of the digestive tract does not work well and you end up with up complications further along the tract such as SIBO.

Also, it is often a lack of acid in the stomach, not an excess, that causes reflux as food is not being properly digested and is causing acid to flare up into the esophagus.

But the amount of acid produced is also affected by the amount and type of food you are eating, and also how you are feeling!

Pause for a second, and let that sink in …

If you are stressed and eating on the go, your body is likely to be producing less HCl and your digestion just isn’t going to be great, whatever you are eating. A good tip is to take three, deep mindful breaths whenever you sit down to eat, and to eat away from electronic devices or your office desk.

How to Test for Stomach Acid Levels at Home for Free
Now, I’ll show you the simple test you can do from your home with just bicarbonate of soda and water, to give you an indicator of your HCl levels (remember this is just a guide!).If you are taking NSAIDs, Corticosteroids, or have other concerns, please speak to your GP first.

  1. First thing in the morning drink (in one go) a mixture of 1/4 tsp of bicarbonate of soda mixed in 150ml of room temperature water
  2. Set a timer and measure how long before you belch
  3. Repeat for several mornings to check the results

Ignoring tiny little burps, the test tends to show the earlier you burp, the more stomach acid you have

  • 0-2 Minutes: You have plenty (& possibly, though rarely, too much) HCl
  • 2-3 Minutes: You have about the right amount of HCl
  • 4 Minutes upwards: This may suggest you have low HCl

What Next?
If you suspect you have low HCl, you can encourage its production by mixing a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, or some lemon in about 200mls of water before you eat.

Eating bitter food or drink may also help digestive secretions and prompt HCl production. Bitters include a bitter tonic such as the traditional Swedish bitters, and foods such as rocket, chicory, dandelion (including tea), radicchio, endive, and artichoke.  HCl + pepsin is also available as a supplement if required.  

And if you unlucky enough to already have an ongoing gut issue such as digestive discomfort, IBS, IBD, bloating, leaky gut, or just want to improve your gut health, drop me a message and I’ll see what I can do to help…


Stephen Ward (MSc) is trained in assessing the root cause of your health issues and together, we can work this out. 

Call 0491611043 or BOOK ONLINE.

Alternatively, send me a message and I’ll get back to you ..

Women with a healthy gut running

Fed up with digestive discomfort? Four steps to gut health

IBS isn’t an incurable disease, and it is possible to find the root causes of IBS and regain gut health. In this article, I’ll explore how that process might look.

There are four logical steps to work through to regain gut health. It is possible to do this on your own, and Dr Ruscio offers a protocol in his book. However, I offer this information with caveat that I would suggest working with a Functional Medicine practitioner to provide expert guidance and support which can be invaluable during this process.

1) Remove

In this phase, we remove everything that may be stressing your gut and causing inflammation. To start with, we need to know what your personal stressors are …

If it’s suspected that you have Candida, bacterial or protozoa overgrowth, Helicopter Pylori, or a virus, I recommend the GI Map test offered by Nutripath in Australia. It’s a stool test that can be done from the comfort of your home. It analyses the DNA of the microbes in your stool and so is very precise. It also analyses markers for leaky gut, IBD, and gut inflammation, making it a very complete test. SIBO testing may also be appropriate.

If parasites are found, then there are a number of options including herbal antimicrobials, specific probiotics, and antibiotics. I work with the first two options but you always have the option of talking to your GP about the antibiotic option once we’ve identified the issue.

Particular foods can also be a stressor for some people. This can include trigger foods such as gluten, dairy, and added sugar. When working with a client, I often start with dietary change. Encouraging digestive enzymes and stomach acid production is also important to ensure our food is digested properly.

I find the Low FODMAP diet helps many people with IBS. The first phase of the diet removes types of sugar which may be causing your gut symptoms. After two to six weeks, we systematically re-introduce these foods. This allows us to identify your trigger foods which can be selectively avoided in the future. If you need help with a Low-FODMAP diet, I also offer one-on-one Low-FODMAP coaching.

2) Repair

When there’s inflammation in the gut, you can also expect there to be increased intestinal permeability, commonly known as Leaky Gut. A leaky gut allows toxins, larger food molecules, unwanted bacteria, and viruses to enter the bloodstream. When these foreign substances pass through the gut barrier, the immune system is called into action to defend us from the invaders and inflammation results. This is bad news and can lead to a diverse range of symptoms such as food sensitivities, fatigue, brain fog, and nutrient malabsorption.

To heal a leaky gut, you also need to consider your lifestyle such as stress levels, making time for yourself, and getting enough sleep. Bone broth and stewed apples, as well as polyphenol-rich foods such as blueberries, blackberries, purple sweet potatoes, purple carrots,  may also help. Supplements such as Colostrum, L_Glutamine, and Zinc or Mega Mucosa from MicrobiomeLabs can also help.

3) Reseed

This phase is all about encouraging a diverse range of ‘good’ gut bacteria. This is vital as, without it, your gut issues are likely to return. Time needs to be spent fixing your gut microbiome. It’s a necessity for ongoing gut health!

We reseed our guts through probiotics, fermented foods, and also soluble fibres known as prebiotics. Our gut bugs love almost all veggies and whole grains such as flax seed, chia seed, buckwheat and other non-gluten containing grains.

By this stage, you should be able to handle more prebiotics than you could in stage 1. Healthy high FODMAP foods and resistant starches can be introduced to feed your ‘good’ gut bacteria. Remember high FODMAP foods are often healthy foods and we want to be able to eat them without problems.

For the probiotic, there a number of options including a Lactobacillus / Bifidobacterium blend, Saccharomyces Boulardii, and soil-based probiotics. Different types of probiotics work for different people, and I urge you to experiment with different types if one type is not helping.

Saccharomyces Boulardii and Lactobacillus GG have also been found to combat Candida and pathogenic bacterial overgrowth.

4) Rebalance

This final stage is all about preserving the gains from the previous stages. We pay particular attention to lifestyle choices such as sleep, exercise, and stress.

Of particular interest is that when we eat, as well as what we eat. Nowadays, we tend to eat all day (16 hours) and fast for just 8 hours overnight. It’s during this fasting period that the gut lining repairs itself and the body can clear out unprocessed foods and bacteria from the small intestine. This helps prevent small bacteria overgrowth or SIBO through a process known as the ‘migrating motor complex’.

Spending longer periods without food, say 12 or even 16 hours overnight, and reducing snacking, may help your gut health, improve your overall health and prevent chronic diseases.

Everyone is different

These four steps provide a framework for regaining gut health. But that doesn’t mean everyone should follow exactly the same steps, and that’s where the experience and training of a practitioner can be invaluable.

If you have any questions, I’m always happy to help so please get in touch. To know more about how you can work with me, you can find out more here.


Stephen Ward (MSc) is trained in assessing the root cause of your health issues and together, we can work this out. 

Call 0491611043 or BOOK ONLINE.

Alternatively, send me a message and I’ll get back to you ..

High FODMAP Foods

How to use the Low FODMAP diet to heal your gut

The Low FODMAP diet is now commonly recommended to ease a range of digestive symptoms associated with small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It works by removing foods that commonly cause digestive discomfort from the diet, allowing the gut to heal. Foods are then re-introduced systematically so that trigger foods can be identified. It may be used as part of a gut healing protocol.

FODMAP is an acronym for:

  • Fermentable
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Disaccharides
  • Monosaccharides
  • Polyols

Eek! So what is that in plain English? These are types of sugar that are poorly absorbed by the small intestine and are fermented by bacteria to produce gas. They can cause IBS type symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea in some people.


Can a low FODMAP diet help you?

Recent research found up to 86 percent of people with IBS saw improvements in their symptoms while on a low FODMAP diet. It has also been found to decrease inflammation, as measured by histamine in the gut, which may reduce neurological symptoms such as brain fog which may be associated with IBS.

A Low FODMAP diet can help you to isolate the types of foods that are causing your symptoms. Once your GP has examined you for other conditions, such as coeliac disease, this diet can help you get back to basics – I commonly recommend this diet as a first step when working with gut issues. It has not only been shown to help many people with IBS, but may also be helpful for other gut conditions such as coeliac disease, Crohn’s and Colitis. It is recommended that you consult with a health care consultant, dietician or Nutritional Therapist, such as myself, before embarking on a low-FODMAP diet.

FODMAPs can feed bacteria in the small intestine, which should only contain a small number of bacteria compared to the colon. This can lead to Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). Whereas in someone with a healthy gut, these sugars will pass through the small intestine until they get to the colon where they will act as a food source for beneficial bacteria that live there.

What is the low FODMAP diet?

The low-FODMAP diet helps you identify the foods that are causing your symptoms – this varies from person to person. You start by removing foods that are high in FODMAPs for 2-4 weeks or until symptoms ease.

There are many foods that are restricted but you have to remember why you are doing this – The long-term benefits far outweigh the difficulty of eliminating these foods for this period. Remember, everyone reacts to these foods differently so the Low-FODMAP diet allows you to find out which foods are problematic for you.

As a qualified Nutritional Therapist, I can guide you through this process, help you with tasty and tolerable alternatives to high FODMAP foods, and guide you through the re-introduction phase and help you to identify other causes of your gut issues

The main sources of FODMPs include (there are other high FODMAP foods not on this list):

Oligosaccharides: Wheat products, vegetables such as onions and garlic, all beans and pulses including chickpeas, lentils and soybean, and inulins added to foods such as certain yoghurts, protein bars, and milks.

Disaccharides: The main one is Lactose and many people are Lactose intolerant. Lactose is not the same as dairy: Cream, hard cheeses and butter contain a limited amount of lactose. Most people with malabsorption can handle 4g of Lactose before they encounter issues, and so a thin spread of butter or a dash of milk may be OK, but a Latte may not.

Monosaccharides: These are simple sugars with excess fructose being the main one. Examples of foods containing an excess of fructose include fruit juices, apples, cherries, watermelon, peaches, plums, nectarines, mango

Polyols: Mushrooms, fruits such as apricots, chewing gum, and added sugar alcohols 

How does the low-FODMAP diet work?

Phase 1 – FODMAP Restriction

Phase 1 is a strict restriction of all high FODMAP foods for two to four weeks, or until symptoms settle. The low-FODMAP diet originated out of research by Monash University and they have developed an app which can be used to know the FODMAP content of various foods. It has proven invaluable to many people.

Keeping track of how particular foods affect you is also recommended. That way, you can more clearly see patterns between what you eat and how you feel.

Phase 2 – FODMAP Reintroduction

During this phase, you methodically re-introduce foods that were restricted in Phase 1. Foods are re-introduced one-by-one and in a specific order. The idea is that at the end of this process you will have a better understanding of which foods trigger your symptoms, and you can continue to eat the ones, you do not react to. This process will take several weeks or months, and I suggest you work through this process with a Nutritionist, such as myself, or a dietitian.

Is this the perfect diet?

Like anything, there is a downside. When you do a restrictive diet like this, you run the risk of cutting out many nutrient-rich foods and good sources of fibre –  fibre is fuel for the beneficial bacteria in our colon, and is an important part of a healthy diet. For this reason, eliminating all high FODMAP foods is not a long term solution, and you should always work to re-introduce as many of them as possible. But for many people, this diet can be a lifesaver and is well researched.

What next?

You can, of course, do the low-FODMAP diet and re-introduction on your own, but many people prefer to work with a Nutritionist such as myself to help them identify what they can eat (that’s tasty too!), what they are reacting to, and to guide them through the re-introduction phase. We even have a coaching app for your phone so that I can support you through this process.  

Also, as the diet doesn’t necessarily help you find the root cause of your IBS, a practitioner can help you with testing for a bacterial or fungal overgrowth that may be causing your issues and work with you on other causes of your health issues.

If you’d like to talk me to about the low-FODMAP diet, or your options for working with IBS or other health conditions, please contact me with any questions or give me a call.

What is Leaky Gut? And 12 signs you have one…

Did you know our digestive system has two purposes?

Of course, it allows us to break down food into smaller and smaller particles to be absorbed into the bloodstream and be used by the body. Naturally, we need those nutrients to live!

But also, it blocks larger particles known as macromolecules from being absorbed into the body. These macromolecules include toxins, pathogens, and undigested foodstuffs. This unseen barrier is vital to our long term health and wellness.

Leaky gut, or increased intestinal permeability as it’s known academically, allows the uncontrolled passage of these macromolecules into the body from the small intestine.

In the small intestine, the epithelial lining itself is only one cell thick. It functions like a cheesecloth with only small molecules intended to pass through the intestinal barrier. As food winds its way through the small intestine, it is broken down into smaller and smaller components until they are small enough to be absorbed through the cheesecloth.

Holes in a net

However, when there is inflammation in the intestine and increased intestinal permeability, larger macro-molecules, pass through the cheesecloth unchecked. It is as if the cheesecloth has tears in it which let the larger molecules through. This is bad news as the immune system recognises these molecules as undesirables and produces antibodies to these molecules, leading to inflammation, and the potential for a host of health issues.

The state of health or the state of disease is the combination between what we are – meaning what genetically makes us the way we’re engineered – and the environment that’s around us. And the gut is the point of entry in which these two elements meet

Alessio Fasano, MD

The gut lining and mucus layer work together

The good news is the epithelial lining is protected by a layer of mucus, known as the mucosal immune system (MALT). While the epithelial lining restricts access to the body of ‘troublesome’ macro-molecules and secretes antimicrobial substances, the mucus prevents unwanted organisms from sticking to the lining. The lining is where the good ‘good’ bacteria live, limiting the colonisation by unwanted organisms.

In healthy states, the MALT provides protection against pathogens but maintains tolerance against non-threating substances such as food molecules. In other words, the MALT should be smart enough to react to things that may be bad for us, but not react to other things which are harmless. Our microbiome plays a part in training our immune system to react in this way.

Luckily, there are dietary and lifestyle changes, as well as nutrients that can be taken to help repair this protective firewall and increase the diversity of our gut microbiome.

It is now recognized that the interface of the individual’s intestinal immune system with their gut microbiome has a critical effect on metabolism and immunity spanning the function of many organs and diseases including cancer, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, anxiety/depression, and autism.

Dr. J.Bland (Founder and PIONEER IN FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE)

How can I tell if I have leaky gut?

While there is testing that can be done for intestinal permeability, the truth is MOST people with a chronic health issue will have some degree of increased intestinal permeability.

And remember, you don’t have to have gut symptoms to have a leaky gut. Leaky gut can manifest as autoimmune conditions affecting the thyroid (Hashimoto’s) or joints (rheumatoid arthritis), mental illness, depression, skin problems like eczema or psoriasis and more.

12 signs you have leaky gut:

  1. Food sensitivities or intolerances – As food particles may enter the bloodstream through a leaky gut, the immune system of a person with increased intestinal permeability may react to a food (especially gluten and dairy). Leaky gut and allergies have been found to be linked.
  2. Poor Immune System Function: Including susceptibility to viruses and parasites
  3. IBS and bloating Particularly diarrhea-predominant IBS
  4. Candida, Parasites and Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth
  5. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  6. Chronic Fatigue – Inflammatory compounds, called cytokines are associated with increased intestinal permeability and can lead to fatigue
  7. Auto-Immune Diseasesread more here including Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  8. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – PCOS has been associated with increased zonulin, a biomarker of increased intestinal permeability
  9. Nutrient Malabsorption – This may be associated with fatigue
  10. Skin issues – such as psoriasis, acne, rosacea, or eczema
  11. Mood issues, Depression, Anxiety, and Mood Swings
  12. Brain Fog and Memory Issues

Now, the good news is intestinal permeability is completely reversible, and the mucosal firewall can be repaired. This may then improve health conditions outside of the gut so that you feel the difference.

But first, read the next article to find out how intestinal permeability is key to the development of an auto-immune disease. If are looking for the steps you need to heal your gut, you probably need to read this article.


Stephen Ward (MSc) is trained in assessing the root cause of your health issues and together, we can work this out.

Call 0491611043 or BOOK ONLINE.

Alternatively, send me a message and I’ll get back to you ..

Quit sugar: The effect of sugar on our guts

When we are stressed or tired, we automatically seek out something sweet to fill an urge. And many of us find it difficult to stop eating sweet foods such as chocolate once we have started.

It is as if, we are biologically hard-wired to crave sugar. In Paleolithic times, that sweetness was probably hard to find and the calories were valuable, and so our bodies today do not know how plentiful sugar is in today’s society and we still have that craving. It’s not your fault that you crave sugar, and it’s perfectly normal.

Sugar in Australia

Australia’s sugar intake has been described by experts as ‘alarming’ with the worst habits among children and adolescents. The 2011 Australian Health Survey of more than 8000 participants found 55% of people consumed more added sugars than recommended. The average American is eating somewhere between 130 and 152 pounds, or 58 to 69kg of sugar a year! 152 pounds of sugar equates to 52 teaspoons a day. If we could see this amount of sugar laid out, I’m convinced we would immediately do something about it. But as it is hidden away in many foods, we simply do not realise how much we are eating.

Sugar and gut health

But is sugar particularly bad when it comes to the gut? It sure is! The microorganisms that live in our gut, that is yeasts, bacteria, protozoa, act in a similar way to a metabolic ‘organ’. Sugar changes the gut microbiota in a way that increases intestinal permeability. It can particularly feed Candida (a type of yeast), and ‘bad’ bacteria that cause inflammation, damage the endothelial lining, causing leaky gut. This allows larger molecules to come into contact with immune cells, which react with further inflammation. These molecules then pass into the blood, and are transported to the liver via the portal vein.

And so the microbiome and intestinal permeability have been reported to be involved in the development of chronic liver disease and portal hypertension (high blood pressure). Intestinal permeability has also been associated with visceral fat (fat around the tummy), presumably as the body uses the fat cells to store the toxic macro-molecules that have entered into the bloodstream. So it seems, leaky gut can make you fat, and that’s not just from all the calories in all that sugar!

Because there is so much sugar in the typical diet, our blood sugar levels are soaring, and high blood sugar has also been shown to increase intestinal permeability directly, at least in mice. These sugar spikes trigger the centers in our brain associated with reward, pleasure, and seeking out the source of that feeling. Amazingly, these are the same areas of the brain that light up in people that are addicted to cocaine, heroin, and nicotine.

It’s not your fault that you crave sugar!

It’s clear that sugar has addictive properties and we need to put in the effort to de-normalize sugar, so it loses its group on us. We can then choose to eat it in small amounts, as a treat, and under our control 🙂. We may find that our energy is more even, our gut is healing, and we have lowered our type 2 diabetes risk.

Retrain your taste buds

You can retrain your taste buds, by eliminating all added sugar from your diet for four weeks

At the end of four weeks without added sugar, your taste buds will have adjusted, and you may find sweetened foods just too sweet for your new tastes. The tea you drank with two teaspoons of sugar, may now taste weird and kind of disgusting. Congratulations!You have now successfully de-normalized sugar!

Added sugar is any form of sugar or sugar alternative added to, or contained in, your food. This includes the raw sugar in your tea, coconut sugar, rice bran syrup, maple syrup, molasses, or agave syrup on your fruit. While there are some metabolic differences between the forms of sugar, your gut and its microbiome don’t discriminate between the type or source of the sugar, or whether it is refined or unrefined. It is all the same:

Sugar = Sugar = Sugar

At the end of four weeks without added sugar, you can introduce a little maple syrup or raw local honey if you want to…

Artificial sweeteners aren’t recommended either as they wreak havoc on the gut by altering the gut microbiota. Small amounts of stevia are probably the best option, although even that may cause gut irritation in some sensitive people.

croissants

What does the science tell us about gluten and leaky gut?

Catchy headlines poke fun at the gluten-free ‘fad’, and many GPs still do not believe non-celiac gluten sensitivity could be affecting their patients. But many people are finding that they feel better when they avoid gluten. So what does the research tell us?

In case you didn’t know, gluten is a family of proteins found in most cereals including wheat, rye, spelt, and barley. It gives dough a glue like consistency which holds it together. Gluten is not only found in obvious foods such as bread, pasta, and beer but also soy sauce, sweats, chips, hot dogs and battered fish!

Celiac Disease

In people with celiac disease, gliadin is a powerful trigger of zonulin release. Zonulin increases intestinal permeability by opening the tight junctions in the epithelial lining, and in people with celiac disease, an auto-immune response follows.  This is a serious condition, and full-blown celiac disease is associated with complete atrophy of the villi which line the small intestine and absorb your nutrients. If you suspect celiac disease, particularly if you have a family history of celiac disease, please speak to your GP about testing.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Whilst increased intestinal permeability in response to dietary gluten is most severe in those with celiac disease, zonulin, a marker for intestinal permeability, is also increased in people with what is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and also irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea.

NCGS is a term applied to people who experience symptoms in response to consumed to gluten consumption but do not have celiac disease. They may feel gastro-intestinal discomfort, fatigue or neurological symptoms. These people tend to improve on a gluten-free diet. Unfortunately, these people can be mocked for avoiding wheat and told that it’s all in their head.

But researchers have found that people with NCGS have increased intestinal permeability compared to healthy subjects. This should not be surprising as we know gliadin increases the release of zonulin, which can affect tight junctions. The opening of these tight junctions, our gateways. allows macromolecules to come into contact with our immune system and our bloodstream and explains why the group with NCGS also had a systemic immune activation on eating gluten.

Gluten increases Intestinal Permeability in All Human Tissue

In a 2015 study, researchers found tissue taken from the duodenum of humans became permeable, and there was increased inflammation when exposed to gliadin (i.e. leaky gut). As this study is in tissue taken from people rather than directly in people themselves, we have to be careful extrapolating the results. However, this backs up the experiences of many people .. they feel better when they don’t consume gluten.

In people with gluten sensitivity and NCGS, the damage did not clear after 36 hours, and what is most surprising, is that after five hours the tissue taken from ‘healthy’ people without celiac of NCGS, still had increased permeability.

Now, the epithelial lining of the small intestine is made up of the fastest growing cells in the body, creating a new lining every 3 to 7 days, and the gut lining would heal itself after exposure to gluten. But, if you have toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and pasta for dinner, it is never getting a chance to heal. Remember, I’m talking about people who aren’t celiac or don’t have NCGS here. If you consume gluten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, your gut lining never has a chance to repair and you leaky gut will develop.

Researchers refer to this as the loss of oral tolerance. Now, your body can not deal with the toxins you are exposed to, and it may also start reacting to foods you didn’t react to both, as your immune system fights to defend itself. You have pathogenic intestinal permeability or a leaky gut and this can lead to inflammation in the body and autoimmunity.

Although lab tests do exist to look at your sensitivity to gluten, it’s widely accepted that an elimination diet is the best way to test for gluten intolerance. If you have a chronic health condition, it may be a good idea to remove gluten from your diet and see if that is of benefit. If you want to go further with the elimination diet, a Low FODMAP diet may be the next logical step to improve gut health.

leaky gut and auto immunity

Calm Auto-Immunity by fixing a Leaky Gut

This is part of a series on “leaky gut” (intestinal permeability). In the first, I talked about what leaky gut is and 11 signs that you have it.

It’s very common for people eating the Standard Australian Diet, or other Western diet, to struggle with gut function and autoimmunity. This does not mean that it’s “normal” and that we can do nothing about it!

Leaky gut is one of the root causes of many of today’s chronic diseases and has been called a “danger signal for autoimmune diseases”…

How Auto-Immunity begins

When intestinal permeability is increased beyond normal, macro-molecules enter the bloodstream. The immune system, which is always on guard for potential pathogens, is waiting for them! As it doesn’t recognise these macro-molecules, it raises the alarm and the body then makes antibodies to these macro-molecules. If those macro-molecules are gluten, your body makes antibodies to gluten. If it’s dairy, your body makes antibodies to dairy.

OK, so now I have a reaction to a particular food, that’s it right?

That’s just the beginning, unfortunately… As human tissue structure appears very similar to the targeted macro-molecule, components of the body’s immune system target one or more types of your own tissue e.g. the thyroid. This is known as molecular mimicry and results in human tissue being damaged as collateral damage, and the process of autoimmunity begins.

The tissue that is the target of the antibodies depends on that person’s weakest link. For instance, gluten cross-reacts with neurological tissue in some people, thyroid tissue in others, and so on. Remember though, the underlying process of auto-immunity is the same whether it is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, or pernicious anemia.

This process continues until the targeted tissue starts to lose function and you go to see the doctor and are then diagnosed with an auto-immune condition. But the actual process may have started years early when the body first started creating these antibodies to the macro-molecules and human tissue.

Dr. Alessio Fasano, the chair of pediatric gastroenterology at Massachuesetts General Hospital looks at Celiac disease as a model of auto-immune conditions; The three underlying factors these conditions share are:

Three causes of autoimmunity: Leaky Gut, Genetics, Environment

Less than 10% of those with increased genetic disposition progress to a pre-disease state, illustrating the importance of intestinal permeability and environmental triggers, such as gluten, in the development of auto-immune diseases.

Intestinal permeability has also been reported to often precede auto-immune diseases.

Why monkeys don’t develop auto-immune diseases…

In 2000, researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine identified a protein, called zonulin, which opens gateways, or tight junctions, in the small intestine to let macromolecules into the bloodstream.

Mechanism of Intestinal Permeability

As is typical in the history of immunology, zonulin has been further clarified and renamed as haptoglobin 2 precursor.

“While apes, monkeys and chimpanzees do not have haptoglobin 2, 80 percent of human beings have it… Apes, monkeys and chimpanzees rarely develop autoimmune disorders. Human beings suffer from more than 70 different kinds of such conditions. We believe the presence of this pre-haptoglobin 2 is responsible for this difference between species.”


ALESSIO FASANO, MD

To heal your gut and repair leaky gut, you will need to follow a plan that includes steps to remove the cause of your issues, repair leaky gut, and then reseed your gut bacteria.


If you are ready to get your health and vitality back so you can lead a better life but need a little bit of help, I offer one-to-one consultation plans. I will help you get to the root cause of your gut issues, and address it with an effective personalised nutrition and lifestyle plan, that is manageable and sustainable, without nasty side effects.

Call 0491611043 or email info@fairfieldnutrition.com.au NOW!

Is IBS an incurable disease?

As anyone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome already knows, IBS is a condition that can severely limit what you can eat, what you can do, and can strike at any time!!.

Your GP may not be able to help either and doesn’t know what is causing your condition. After a few months or years with IBS,  you may come to believe that there is little that can be done to help you. That it’s not possible to find out what is causing your symptoms. If you have had IBS for a while, you know what I’m talking about, and I really do feel for you!

This belief may have started when your GP told you that little can be done. And this makes sense from a GP’s point of view: Doctors call IBS a ‘functional gastrointestinal disorder’ which means the gastrointestinal tract doesn’t show any physical abnormalities but functions abnormally.

A doctor usually gives an IBS diagnosis using a process of exclusion. This means that once all their tests come back normal but symptoms persist, the diagnosis is given. As the underlying cause isn’t known, a GP can then only treat the symptoms using drugs or surgery or you may be told there is nothing that can be done or told simply to eat more fiber or Metamucil.

But this is NOT the final answer. Most of these treatments don’t work well, because they don’t address the underlying causes of your digestive disorder.

If you take one thing away from this post, I want it to be the hope and understanding that is possible to improve your IBS. You can increase the diversity of foods you eat. It is possible to lessen the constant worry about your digestion and improve your wellbeing and quality of life.

 

What is causing my IBS?

As a Functional Medicine practitioner, I aim to get to the root cause of health issues. This is important! Only by finding the root cause, can we weed out the health issue for good. Imagine you are pulling a tough weed out of your garden. The weed breaks and leaves the roots behind. By addressing only the symptoms, it’s as if you are pulling this weed out of your garden. When the roots remain, the weed will grow back.

Some of the possible causes of IBS include bacterial and fungal overgrowth, possible parasites, slow digestion, food intolerances, gluten disorders, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth  (SIBO), emotional wellbeing and stress, and carbohydrate maldigestion. For example, in some people, toxins released during an infection may damage nerves, which in turn can cause abnormal muscular contraction of the bowel, especially when stressed. This is a disruption of the gut-brain axis which I’ll talk more about later in this article.

 

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

We normally have about 1.5kg (3 lbs) of bacteria, about 500 species, in our gut. Usually, most of these bacteria live in our large intestine and our small intestine is relatively sterile. But bacteria can also take over our small intestine and then SIBO develops. These bacteria then ferment food in the small intestine causing bloating, gas and belching, diarrhea, and constipation.

Significantly, up to 80% of people with IBS, have SIBO.  That’s far more than in the general population. Therefore, in people with symptoms, it makes sense to test for SIBO. The most common test is a breath test which measures gas production by the bacteria in the small intestine.

If SIBO is found, anti-biotics or diet, anti-microbials, and probiotics maybe used to resolve it. This is great news for people with IBS! A natural approach may also focus on increasing motility (i.e. the speed at which food passes through the small intestine) to clear out the bacteria in the small intestine. Proper digestion is also important. Digestion requires enough digestive enzymes and stomach acid. Eating mindfully in a low-stress environment (not at your desk) also helps. 

 

Food sensitivities

But unfortunately, the causes of IBS in everyone aren’t the same. Candida, or a parasitic protozoa such as Blastocystis Hominis and Dientamoeba Fragilis can cause IBS type symptoms.

Another major cause of IBS is food sensitivities. These are not true allergies but low-grade reactions to foods that may not be seen until several hours or days after eating. British medical journal Gut found that eliminating foods identified through delayed food allergy testing (IgG antibodies) resulted in dramatic improvements in IBS symptoms.

When working with an individual, I may start with diet, removing the possible trigger foods for IBS. This may take the form of a low FODMAP diet. FODMAPs are sugars that are fermented by our gut bacteria and this may cause bloating and IBS type symptoms in some people. 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 that removes high FODMAP foods from the diet, the re-introduction phase monitors the individual response to the re-introduction of a high FODMAP food.

But even when trigger foods are identified, I’m still looking to find out why that person has an issue with that food. FODMAP foods tend to be healthy, fibre rich foods, that feed our good gut bacteria, and so we work towards being able to re-introduce these foods.

So overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine and food intolerances are two major causes of IBS but there are others. These include poor digestion, parasites, stress or previous trauma.

 

What if I’ve looked at these causes, and I still have IBS?

In many cases of IBS, our guts have become overly sensitive. Certain foods or a build-up of gas (bloating) affect us more than in other people, even when eating a healthy diet and doing all the right things. 

If you have improved your diet,  ruled out food sensitivities, and parasites, then your IBS likely involves disturbed neural functioning of the gut-brain axis. In which case, you may need to work with the brain as well as the gut (see what do I do next?).  

 

What do I do next?

In most cases, it is possible to identify your personal causes of IBS – It doesn’t have to be just a label attached to untreatable symptoms. Solutions can be found if you look at the underlying causes and address them.

  1. Try taking digestive enzymes with meals to help break down food while your gut heals. Also, try eating in a mindful way to reduce stress and aid digestion. Once healed, eating bitters before eating will stimulate the release of these enzymes without a supplement
  2. Try an elimination diet for 30 days such as a Low FODMAP diet, or a diet which removes the common triggers of gut issues: dairy, gluten, added sugar, alcohol, yeast, eggs, corn, soy, and peanut. Dairy, gluten, added sugar and excessive alcohol are the most important triggers to remove. After 30 days, re-introduce foods systematically one by one to isolate which foods are causing your symptoms.
  3. Test for SIBO, food sensitivities, parasites or other gut issues through a practitioner to help identify your root causes. A practitioner can help you identify which tests, if any, may help you. They will also be able to help identify your root causes by taking a detailed health history and symptoms analysis. I often recommend the GI Map test.
  4. Work with the brain If no cause for the IBS can be found in the previous step, then pay attention to the brain. This can involve a variety of approaches and modalities, ranging from activation of the rest and digest arm of the nervous system (parasympathetic),  stress reduction, exercise, blood sugar balance, acupuncture, counseling, or hypnotherapy.
  5. Repair the gut once the cause of IBS has been removed through repopulation with good bacteria and repairing increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut)

By taking steps such as these, and seeking out the underlying causes of IBS, you can really improve your health and finally overcome your digestive disorder.

 


Stephen Ward (MSc) is trained in assessing the root cause of your health issues and together, we can work this out.  We will also look at improving other areas of your health as we assess your health status using the Functional Medicine model.

Call 0491611043 or BOOK ONLINE to arrange a time for Free 20 Minute Intro consultation.

Alternatively, send me a message and I’ll get back to you ..

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