Every week I am posting about everything you need to know about hormones. This weeks topic is about gut health.
Did you know …
- Hippocrates once said ‘all disease begins in the gut’.
- Which makes sense since 70 % of the immune system is situated in the gut.
- The gut contains approx. 3.9 trillion microbes approximately 300 to 500 bacterial species, comprising nearly 2 million genes.
- That means the number of bacteria is approximately of the same order as the number of human cells.
- That’s makes us half bug half human.
- Your gut flora is as individual as your finger print, one perfect microbiome doesn’t exist.
- The name for all this genetic material is the gut microbiome previously called gut flora.
- Gut dysbiosis is when the balance of the gut microbiome is disturbed and is associated with a wide range of chronic inflammatory diseases including skin conditions, obesity, diabetes, liver disease, neurological disease, autoimmune, anxiety, depression.
- We fart in general 5 to 15 times every day.
- Much of a GP’s working life is spent consulting patients with digestive disorders.
- Which is no surprise as 60 to 70 million people in the U.S. have digestive issues.
- 25% of people never think about looking after their digestive system.
- Women are more likely than men to consider digestion as part of their overall health.
- In fact 73% of women experience digestive issues.
- Men tend to ignore their digestive health.
- Women experience more constipation than men more bloating, flatulence and tummy pain.
- Men poop more often than women.
- Pooping 3 times a day is considered normal even optimal.
- Most people are not aware of how they can look after their own digestive system and what symptoms may need professional guidance.
- Up to 61% of those with gut symptoms never go to the doctor or seek professional help.
- Certain sleeping positions can encourage healthy digestion, and help avoid unexpectedly noisy night-time farts.
- People are more likely to think about their weight, teeth, sleep and heart before considering digestion despite the fact that nearly 50% of the UK population experience some form of digestive discomfort, according to.
- The most frequently experienced digestive symptoms include abdominal pain/discomfort, diarrhoea, bloating, flatulence and constipation.
- In general most people need more gut information in order to be able to manage their gut health.
- Knowledge is Power.
Meet Sally and get to know all about gut health
What screws up the microbiome
Signs & symptoms of gut problems
Farting is healthy
- The gut is a tube that goes from mouth to south (your anus).
- The tube is 5 – 7 meters long and covered with bacteria.
- As long as food is in the tube it has no direct effect on the body, but can create problems in the tube, such as dysbiosis and leaky gut which will affect the body directly.
- Small intestine / small bowel
- Large intestine / colon / large bowel
- Digestion of macro-nutrients – carbohydrates, fats and proteins
- Absorption of nutrients – mono-saccharides/glucose, fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals
- Elimination of waste
- Immune protection – sIgA
- Cross talk with microbiome in skin, brain, lung etc.
- Salivary glands of the mouth – produce saliva containing enzymes that initiate carbohydrate digestion.
- Pancreas – produces enzymes that break down fat, proteins and carbohydrates, as well as bicarbonate that neutralizes the hydrochloric acid from the stomach. And hormones insulin and glucagon that control blood sugar levels.
- Liver – produces bile necessary for the breakdown of fat and elimination of waste products. The liver also converts, burns and forms many of the body’s essential nutrients.
- Gallbladder – stores bile salts ready for immediate passage through the bile duct to the duodenum.
- Is defined as the microorganisms living on and in the human body.
- Previously used to describe the genes of the microbiota.
- Microbiota being the collection of microbes, also known as Microflora.
- Today microbiome is used to describe both
- Contains a variety of microbes, such as:
- 2 families or phyla dominate
How big is the microbiome?
- The short answer is big
- Can be evaluated in many ways
– number of organisms – 100 trillion bacterial cells
– total volume – 2.5lbs / 1.2 kilos
– species diversity – approx. thousand different species
– genetic diversity – human genome approx. 20,000 genes / microbiome genome approx. 8,000,000 genes
Where is the microbiome?
Jobs of the microbiome
- Ferment undigested food particles
- Assist the immune system
- Stop the growth of the ’bad bacteria’
- Protect against ‘bad’ microbes, such as fungi
- Produce neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and GABA
- Produce SCFA used to produce energy in the cells of the colon
- Produce vitamins, such as biotin and vitamin K
- Assist in the absorption of Ca., Mg., and Iron
- Prevent ”leaky gut”
- Regulate hormones that store fat
- Regulate the uptake of sugars from the diet
Want to know more about the microbiome? This article is excellent.
Typical symptoms of poor gut health
- Bad breath.
Atypical Symptoms of Poor Gut Health
- Skin problems
- Brain fog
- Depression / the blues
- Chronis inflammation, ie. phlegm in the lungs and airways
- Joint and muscle pains
- Non-alcoholic Fatty liver
- Chronic liver disease
- Kidney disease
- CVA problems
Gut Diseases & Imbalances
Disease and imbalances can occur in all areas of the gut
- Problems with teeth and gums, cold sores, thrush, carries to cancer
- Problems with oesophageal sphincter – the muscle that separates the oesophagus from the stomach. which acts like a valve that normally stays tightly closed to prevent contents in the stomach from backing up into the oesophagus.
- Anything from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) to cancer.
- Problems with stomach acid, ulcers, h.Pylori, to cancer.
- Problems with SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), malnutrition, celiac, ulcers, Crohn’s, to cancer.
Large intestine aka bowel
- Problems with IBD (irritable bowel syndrome), ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, chronic diarrhoea, constipation, appendicitis to cancer
- Crohn’s is inflammation anywhere in GI
- UC inflammation and ulcers only occur in colon
- Problems with haemorrhoids, polyps, IBD, to cancer.
Gut Symptoms – Self-Management or Professional-Management
- Mild or occasional respond well to lifestyle changes, such as
- avoid eating late meals
- avoid smoking
- avoid excess bending
- avoid lying flat
- avoid excess alcohol
- Moderate or severe symptoms seek professional help.
Flatulence and bloating
- Reduce fibre intake – (bran, wholemeal bread)
- Reduce / remove plant foods, especially if you eat 5 a day which may be too much for some people
- Probiotic may relieve bloating
- Sudden / severe / progressive abdominal distension of the abdomen seek professional help
Abdominal (tummy) pain
- Mild or occasional respond well to food elimination, such as
- Excess sugar
- De-stress if stress related
- Persistent or severe seek professional help
- Only on the toilet paper may be piles or haemorrhoids
- Are you constipated?
- Increase water intake possibly fibre but it may make symptoms worse for many
- Blood in stools seek professional help
Acute, short-lived diarrhoea
- Sit tight but stay hydrated
- If more than 6 bowel movements per day, abdominal pain or significant thirst, dizziness or light-headedness – seek professional help.
Chronic, long-term diarrhoea
- Up to 3 bowel movements per day is normal.
- More than 3 bowel movements per day with liquid stools and or bloody diarrhoea – seek professional help.
Difficulty in swallowing
- Mild or occasional can be due to stress – reduce stress if stress related
- Moderate or severe symptoms – seek professional help.
- Is this due to diet and lifestyle changes?
- Continuous weight loss yet eat a healthy balanced diet – seek professional help.
What Screws up your Gut Flora
At birth the gut is sterile, but colonizes as the baby passes through the birth canal and (hopefully) receives breast milk.
This means we all inherit the basic gut microbes from our mothers.
- C-sections and bottle feeding can negatively affect the formation of the gut microbes.
- Environmental pollutants and toxins in face creams and makeup, toothpastes, water bottles, cans, foods preservatives, etc.
- Antibiotics and other medications, such as statins, NSAID, PPI, and SSRI.
- Pro-inflammatory foods, such as lectins in pulses and grains, phytates in leafy greens, gluten in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, flours – see the article on anti-nutrients
- Foods and drinks that contain excess/added sugars and sugar substitutes, such as most processed foods and sodas.
- Persistent eating.
- Stress – especially emotional, such as worrying.
- Lack of sleep.
- Lack of exercise and movement.
Known Medical Conditions are Associated with Microbiome Dysbiosis
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Crohn’s Disease
- Mood Disorders
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Celiac Disease
- Liver Disease
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Insulin Resistance
Heal your gut in a nutshell
Healing the gut is an integrative process, which takes time, so patience and persistence with the necessary changes are the key to success:
- Address any pathogens & dysbiosis – see the article in this blog
- Diets – see the article in this blog
- Supplements – see the article in this blog
- Lifestyle – see the article in this blog.
The 4 L’s of Gut Health
Learn – to understand your digestive system:
- keep a food diary
- be aware of your bowel habits
- how does the food you eat impact your level of wellbeing
- recognise specific triggers that may lead to digestive discomfort.
Listen – to your own body – everyday:
- stomach rumbling
- could be important signals that may indicate changes to your digestive system, rapport these in your food diary.
Look – out for things:
- altered bowel habits
- blood in stools
- bloating or distension that doesn’t go away overnight.
Live – there are things you can do that may help you to improve digestive function:
- eat regular meals
- take time to eat, sit down, relax, be present and enjoy your food
- avoid eating large meals late at night
- regular exercise
- drink 1.5 – 2 litres of water per day
- eat fruit every day
- take a probiotic.
Farting Is Good for You
- May be embarrassing but farting is a normal and natural occurrence.
- Farting is the by-product of a healthy digestive system at work.
- The body produces gas when breaking down and processing food.
- As well as the air swallowed when eating, chewing, and swallowing.
- The gas needs to be released in some way – as a fart or a burp.
- Without a fart or a burp gas builds up causing discomfort and pain, even bloating.
The Benefits of a Fart
- Reduces abdominal pain
- Improves colon health – holding on to a fart may irritate the colon.
- Reduces bloating
- Identifies food allergies or intolerances – excess gas after eating certain foods, may be the body telling you are intolerant to that particular food. Try an elimination diet
- Signifies a healthy gut – a thriving colony of bacteria produce more gas.
- Sounds a health alarm – excess ‘smelly’ farting may be signs of a potential medical condition or issue.
How many Farts are normal?
- The average person produces 5 – 20 farts every day.
- Most times farts are odourless, even undetectable.
- Sometimes farts may be smelly and or louder than usual
- Excessive farting may be due to diet, such as excess fibres from plant foods
- Excessive farting is rarely cause for concern unless combined with pain, nausea, vomiting, and or diarrhoea – see a health professional.
Test your Gut
If you have a chronic medical condition I recommend you to test your gut, even if you don’t have classic ‘gut symptoms’, such as bloating, pain, cramps, diarrhoea, constipation, bad breath
Happy Gut Diets
Food Elimination Diets
Various diets that remove potential toxic foods from the diet. Chose the one that best suits your needs and follow it for minimum 30 days.
- Removing all or some of the following: Gluten, lectins, phytates, oxalates, tannins, grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, greens, dairy, eggs, refined sugars, omega 6 oils and processed foods
- Low histamine diet. Removing fermented drinks and foods, such as vinegar containing foods, cured meats and aged cheese, dried fruits.
- Gluten free
- Nickel free
- Autoimmune protocol AIP diet. Removing eggs, nightshades, nuts and seeds, caffeine and alcohol.
- Meat & Bone Broth Diet. Only eating/drinking bone broth for 7 days then gradually introducing more foods.
- Carnivore’ish Diet. Eating organ and muscle meats, bone broth, animal fats like butter and beef tallow, least toxic plants, such as olives, avocado, squash, some fruits and honey
- Wikipedia state that ‘Antinutrients are natural or synthetic compounds that interfere with the absorption of nutrients.’
- So we may be eating foods that are potentially blocking the absorption of nutrients from other foods, such as vitamins and minerals, mmm that doesn’t sound good.
- Not only that, but they are also the underlying cause of many gut issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and leaky gut syndrome.
Types of anti-nutrients
Where are these Anti-nutrients?
- Anti-nutrients are highest in grains, seeds, legumes, beans and nuts but are also in plant roots, stems, leaves and their fruits.
- However not all plant foods are bad and we don’t need to eliminate every single one from our diets as that leads to very restrictive, even boring meals.
- Some of these plant anti-nutrients can actually be beneficial, acting as antioxidants or having anti-cancer effects so avoiding them completely is not necessarily the best recommendation, but it is important to be selective.
What is purpose of antinutrients?
- You’re probably thinking why do plants contain antinutrients?
- The simple answer is ’they don’t want you to eat them’.
- These ‘nutrient-sapping phytochemicals’ essentially protect the plants from being ‘attacked’, from bacterial infections and from being eaten by bugs, even big bugs like humans.
- Since plants can’t ‘outrun’ their predators, anti-nutrients are essentially the plants’ only means of defence, it’s their way of fighting back.
The least toxic plant foods
- Squash family
- Fruits like dried fruits such as dates, fresh fruit such as apples, pears, melon, papaya, mango, kiwi, berries etc,
Can anti-nutrients be deactivated?
- The short answer is yes, they can.
- Processing plant foods is something our ancestors where very particular about. They knew that all plant foods (less in fruits) contained molecules that were not advantageous for the body, even toxic and therefore plant foods were in one way or another always processed, such as
– Fermenting / Pickling
– Combinations of the above
Possible symptoms connected to antinutrients
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms there’s a good chance that plant foods are the cause.
- Brain fog
- Bloating & gas
What to do?
- Remove as many plant foods as you possible for 14 – 28 days
- How do you feel?
- If your symptoms are less or removed you know plant foods are the cause
- Next step is to re-introduce one plant food, one by one, once every week
- Be aware of your symptoms and which plant foods trigger symptoms and which don’t. In this way you can establish your own particular plant food sensitivity program
Happy Gut Lifestyle
- Intermittent fasting
- No foods after 6pm
- Quality sleep from 10pm
- Regular exercise
- Manage stress
- Avoid environmental toxins
Intermittent Fasting and No foods after 6pm
- Fasting stimulates a cleaning mechanism in the stomach and small intestine called ‘migrating motor complex’ which is a wave of muscle contraction sweeping undigested foods and bacteria into the large intestine. This process is halted by eating, where constant eating sets the stage for SIBO-small intestine bacterial overgrowth.
- Fasting also gives the digestive system a break where it’s cells can repair and regenerate.
- Keeping an eating window of 8 – 10 hours is very beneficial for gut & skin wellness and health. For more information read my article
- No foods after 6pm fits in with the intermittent fasting and increasing migrating motor complex time and all the benefits they bring.
Quality sleep from 10pm
- Chronic sleep deprivation alters gut microbes, increases permeability and systemic inflammation and decreases skin barrier function.
- Getting a good night’s sleep does so much more, and the function of the gut microbiome is central to many of these functions.
- Exercise is important for muscle strength and endurance but studies show that exercise also affects the gut microbiome.
- Moderate exercise can reduce inflammation and intestinal permeability and promote positive changes in the microbiome composition.
May decrease histamine levels, which indicates a positive effect on the immune system.
- Intense exercise can increase gut permeability which may contribute to the increased inflammation.
Intense exercise can increase microbiome diversity towards the bacterial species involved in amino acid biosynthesis and carbohydrate/fibre metabolism, consequently producing more short-chain fatty acids.
- Stress delays the emptying of the stomach, which can lead to stomach-ache, indigestion, heartburn and nausea
- Stress causes increased motor function in the large intestine, which can lead to bowel urgency or diarrhea.
- Stress can increase gut barrier permeability called ‘leaky gut,’ which allows bacteria and other undigested proteins to seep into circulation, producing an inflammatory response.
Avoid environmental toxins
- Did you know that the average woman applies a 100 or so different chemicals to her body every day from cosmetics alone? Men a little less. Then there’s the food additives and preservatives and the water you drink and the air you breathe
- Many of these chemicals are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors also affecting gut and skin microbiomes. Look out for names like:
– Polyethylene glycol
– BPA and other plastics
Many of these are for sure in your personal care products and makeup.
Happy Gut Supplements
NB! – always best to get as many nutrients as possible from foods (and sunlight), but sometimes supplement support is necessary
Following are my favourites for optimal gut health.
- Glutamine is utilized for fuel by gut and immune cells
- Butyrate is produced by gut bacteria and utilized for fuel by the cells of the colon
- Zinc helps maintain the structure of cell membranes and thereby reduce gut barrier permeability.
- Betaine HCL & Pepsin for replenishing stomach acid and pepsin enzyme both essential for proper digestion and nutrient absorption.
- Digestive enzymes to assist the breakdown of proteins, fats and carbs, to their smaller molecules, amino acids, fatty acids and mono-sugars.
- Berberine can reduces glucose absorption in the gut and regulates gut bacteria.
- Probiotics can help rebalance gut microbes and other microbes.
- Prebiotics are undigested sugars and sugar alcohols and fibre from the diet used as fuel by the microflora. Be aware that for some they can cause bloating and excess farting.
- Postbiotics also known as metabiotics are molecules excreted by the microflora during their metabolism, ie. a type of waste product which benefits the host, such as SCFA Short Chain Fatty Acids, which are important for energy produced in the cells of the colon, skin hydration and immunity.
- Topical probiotics such as creams, serums and face masks are also proving to be beneficial in the treatment of inflammation even acne.
Use the code HEALTHYSKIN and get 15 % rabat.
- A colonic, also known as colonic irrigation or colon hydrotherapy, is a procedure done by a practitioner, who streams litres (approx. 80) of water into your body through a tube inserted into theyour rectum.
- A colonic is touted as a procedure to cleanse toxins from the body.
Good or bad?
- Practitioners of colon cleansing claim numerous benefits, such as:
– removing the toxins from your digestive system
– weight loss
– better digestion
– increased energy
– clearer thinking
– clearer skin.
- Unfortunately most of these claims lack scientific support
- Risks could be:
– Electrolyte imbalance
– Bacterial imbalance
– Bowel perforation.
Faecal Microbiota Transplants
- Stool transplant is the new kid on the block, which is the transfer of faecal bacteria and other microbes from a healthy individual into another individual.
- FMT is an effective treatment for CDI – Clostridioides Difficile also called C. Difficles Infection. Many say that for recurrent CDI, FMT is more effective than antibiotics. CDI is becoming more common and FMT is gaining prominence. Some experts say it should be the first-line therapy for CDI.
- Side effects may include a risk of infections, therefore the donor should be screened.
- FMT is the infusion of stool via colonoscopy or enema, or by mouth in the form of a capsule with freeze dried faeces.
- FMT has been used experimentally to treat other gastrointestinal diseases, including colitis, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.
- In the United States, human faeces has been regulated as an experimental drug/biological product since 2013 and to date, there are no FDA-approved FMT products available in the United States.
- In the UK FMT is considered a medicinal product, whereas in parts of Europe, it is considered a human cell/tissue product.
- Regulation seeks to improve quality and safety, but lack of standardisation creates confusion.
- Overly restrictive regulation hampers widespread access which makes research difficult.
Addressing Gut Pathogens and Dysbiosis
Establish which pathogens and the extent of the dysbiosis
Treat with a targeted combination of supplements and if necessary medication.
- Herbal antimicrobials:
The ‘migrating motor complex’ is a wave of muscle contractions sweeping undigested foods and bacteria into the large intestine.
– Fasting – increases migrating motor complex contractions, eating halts it. Constant eating sets the stage for SIBO-small intestine bacterial overgrowth.
Antibiotics may be necessary, but should be avoided if possible as they create further dysbiosis.
For best results professional guidance is important.
- The gut is intimately connected to skin, brain, lung, liver, kidney – called gut-… axis
- One of the main regulators in these axes is based on how the gut flora communicates with these organs
- This is done mostly via intricate interactions with the immune system that regulate systemic and local inflammation.
- Gut disorders are often accompanied by:
– skin manifestations
– alterations in emotional / mental state
– lung function
– liver disorders
– kidney disorders
- Hippocrates was right – ‘all disease begins in the gut’.
How your Gut communicates with your Brain
In short – the gut and brain are connected
– Physically through millions of nerves, most importantly the vagus nerve.
– Biochemically via the microbiome that make various compounds that can affect brain health, control gut function, inflammation and much more.
- Have you ever had a gut feeling or butterflies in your stomach?
- These sensations suggest that your brain and gut are connected.
- Studies show that the brain health affects gut health and gut health affects brain health.
- This communication is called the gut-brain axis.
- The Vagus nerve connects the brain and the gut and sends signals in both directions but mostly sensory signals from the gut to the brain
- Your gut and brain are also connected through chemicals called neurotransmitters, aka brain hormones.
- Neurotransmitters produced in the brain control feelings and emotions.
- Many of the neurotransmitters are also produced by gut cells and the trillions of microbes living there.
- 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut important for gut motility
- Gut microbes also produce the neurotransmitter GABA gamma-aminobutyric acid, which helps control feelings of fear and anxiety
- Certain probiotics may increase the GABA production and thereby reduce anxiety and depression
- The trillions of microbes that live in the gut also make other chemicals that affect how your brain works, such as
– SCFA – short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate, propionate and acetate
– SCFA are increased by fibre and protein in the diet
- SCFA affect brain function in a number of ways, such as
– reducing appetite
– reducing reward sensations from the intake of high-energy foods
– form the barrier between the brain and the blood.
- Gut microbes also metabolize bile acids and amino acids to produce other chemicals that affect the brain
- Bile acids are made by the liver and involved in absorbing dietary fats, but may also affect the brain
The gut-brain axis is also connected through the immune system
- Gut integrity and gut microbes play an important role in your immune system and inflammation by controlling what is absorbed and what is excreted.
- Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is an inflammatory toxin made by certain gut bacteria which cause inflammation if too much of it is absorbed into the blood.
- This can happen when the gut barrier becomes leaky, which allows bacteria and LPS to cross over into the blood.
- Inflammation and high LPS in the blood have been associated with a number of brain disorders including severe depression, dementia and schizophrenia.
Gut Health and Hormones
It’s a 2 way street, gut health affects hormone production and balance and hormone balance affects gut health
When gut health isn’t optimal, hormones become imbalanced
- The microbiome called Estrobolome plays a major role in estrogen regulation
- Dysbiosis in gut microbes increases the risk of Estrogen reabsorption, which increases the risk for the development and or severity of estrogen dominant-related diseases such as PCOS, endometriosis, even breast cancer.
- An imbalanced gut microbiome is also one of the causes of thyroid imbalances.
People with hyperthyroid, such as Graves have less bifidobacterial and lactobacillaceae and more enterococcus bacteria
- Insulin and blood sugar are in part regulated by the microbes Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Clostridium and Akkermansia
- Vitamin D3, which is a precursor hormone, is not absorbed well if gut health is not optimal. Vitamin D intake is negatively associated with abundance of Prevotella bacteria and positively associated with Bacteroides bacteria.
- Gut health also influences healthy cholesterol levels which is the precursor to all steroid hormones such as Progesterone, DHEA, Cortisol, Testosterone and Estrogen
- Gut bacteria produce and respond to neurochemicals, such as GABA, serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, acetylcholine and melatonin, that the brain uses to regulate mood and cognition
When hormones are imbalanced gut health isn’t optimal
- 90% Serotonin is produced and stored in the gut for gut mobility and immune function. As Serotonin production is affected by Estrogen, gut function reflects both the fluctuating levels of estrogen during the fertile years and lack of Estrogen after menopause. This is why the female gut is more unstable than male.
- When levels of progesterone and estrogen drop, transit-time of the gut slows down, which can lead to symptoms like constipation, gas and bloating, and even weight gain and changes in the microbiome, which may further aggravate symptoms. The slower the gut processes waste, the more water the body reabsorbs, making stools dry and hard and difficult to pass.
- Reduced estrogen and progesterone may also impact the production of stomach acid and bile.
- Low stomach acid can lead to symptoms such as heartburn or acid reflux, bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation.
- Low bile levels can lead to poor fat digestion and absorption and reduced detoxification.
- Low thyroid function can slow gut movement creating a change in the microbiome, constipation and bloating. As transit time is linked with diversity of gut microbes low Thyroid would suggest less diversity.
- Low thyroid function can contribute to inflammation and ‘leaky gut’.