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Melissa was so great to work with! Extremely knowledgeable and always eager to assist and guide the way when needed. I always felt she made the time for me and any questions I had during my protocols (Liver Detox, Parasite Cleanse and CBO Protocol). She made it all so much easier to manage. I highly recommend working with Melissa on your health care journey!

Krista Yates

Whitby, ON

Chronic disease doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Unfortunately, it is running rampant these days, and it is caused by three main factors, your high toxic load, your low nutrient uptake, and high stress. When I work with my clients, I address all three of these factors, and today as we start talking about gut health, and its importance to your overall health, I want to go back in time back to over 2000 years ago, when Hippocrates said that “all disease starts in the gut.”

I personally prefer to say that all health starts in the gut. You may not know this, however, in your gut, your microbiome, there are:

  • 40,000 species of bacteria
  • 5 million species of fungi
  • 300,000 species of parasites
All disease starts in the gut

This is six pounds of living species and over 100 trillion microbes all working together symbiotically for your health, breaking down your food and getting the nutrients out of that food and into the cells that need them so that you can have the energy you need to get through your day, and you can thrive in your life.

Let’s talk about why we need to look after the health of our gut. First off, let’s focus on digestive health.

Digestive Health

A healthy gut promotes efficient digestion, reducing the likelihood of digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and constipation. None of these are normal or should be tolerated. They are all signs of your gut being out of balance and they are symptoms, which is your body’s way of letting you know that something is amiss, and that you should do something about it. Your digestive system, when it is efficient, uses 30% of your energy every time you put food in your mouth. If it’s inefficient, it can be using more energy than that or simply not breaking down your food so that the nutrients aren’t getting to your cells and therefore you don’t have the energy that you want and need. Either way, you want a healthy gut to have efficient digestion.

Nutrient Absorption

A well-functioning gut can absorb those essential nutrients effectively, ensuring that your cells are getting the energy production and that cellular function is happening well for your body. If your cells aren’t getting the nutrients, then they can’t function the way they’re supposed to. Tied in with both of those is your energy level.

Energy Levels

I see so many people that are struggling with their energy dragging their butt at the end of the day, you know, struggling to make it through the afternoon or waking up exhausted.Well, a healthy gut helps optimize energy production by aiding in the breakdown and absorption of nutrients, leading to improved energy levels, and reduced fatigue. Can you see the connection here, right? If you want to have the energy and the vitality you want, it all starts in a healthy gut, and making sure your digestive function is working well.

Immune System

The other thing you may not know is that 70% of your immune system is housed in your gut. Therefore, a balanced and healthy gut helps protect against infections and supports the immune system doing its job. Your gut brain axis connects the gut, and the brain, obviously, and this influences your mood and mental health.

Mood Regulation

A healthy gut microbiome is associated with improved mood, and reduced risk of anxiety and depression. In fact, 90% of all serotonins is made in the gut, so if your gut isn’t functioning well, it can’t produce enough serotonin. You might be struggling with depression, then you go to the doctor, and they put you on an SSRI, which can then further negatively impact the health of your gut. Why not start looking at the health of your gut as the starting point, because we know that all disease starts in the gut, as Hippocrates said. I think it’s incredible that he knew that way back then, over 2000 years ago, without all the access to the science and research we have today!   When our gut isn’t healthy, it leads to all these different potential health issues. One of them is causing anxiety or depression, which too many people are struggling with that today.

Are you looking at the health of your gut as one of the solutions on your healing journey, and if not, you might want to start looking into that. A healthy gut is important for inflammation control as well.

Inflammation Control

Chronic inflammation is linked to various diseases, some people say it’s the root cause of all disease. I don’t buy into that as I want to know what is causing the inflammation.. However, a healthy gut helps regulate inflammation levels, reducing the risk of inflammatory conditions. When we reduce the risk of inflammatory conditions, we’re also reducing the risk of diseases that we are genetically predisposed to, and that’s science of epigenetics.

Epigenetics

Epigenetics science is that it’s only 5% – 10% of all diseases that dictate your health outcomes genetically. We used to get told that if your mother had breast cancer, you’re going to have breast cancer, if your father had heart disease, you’re going to have heart disease. We now know that isn’t actually true. It’s only 5% – 10% of diseases where that might hold true. The other 90% – 95% of that equation is the lifestyle that you live. You might have some genes that predispose you to breast cancer, or heart disease or something else, however the other 90% – 95% of that “dis-ease” being diagnosed is determined by your lifestyle factors.

When you live a healthy life, you have good nutrition, you keep your toxic levels low, you sleep well, your stress is balanced, you’re exercising well  and you have a great mindset, you can keep your inflammation levels at a balanced level. When you keep your inflammation levels at a balanced level, then they don’t trigger the switch to turn on the disease(s) that you may be predisposed to. That’s why inflammation control is so important. You might be predisposed to something, but that disease never has to turn on inside your body. 

Weight Management

Another benefit of focusing on your gut health is weight management. Gut health plays a role in metabolism and weight regulation and a balanced gut microbiome supports healthy weight and reduces the risk of obesity.

Skin Health

Then there’s skin health. I often find clients don’t realize this connection between our gut health and our skin health, there is actually a gut-skin axis. A healthy gut microbiome can improve skin health, reducing the risk of conditions like acne, and eczema. If you have eczema, acne, or other skin conditions, you do want to look at the health of your gut, because very often, it is triggered by an imbalance in the gut.

Brain Function

Our gut impacts our brain function, I’ve already mentioned that gut-brain access, and a balanced gut supports cognitive performance, memory, and concentration. The inflammation I talked about earlier is a factor here too because the foods that we eat are also impacting our cognitive performance. Of course, the foods that we eat are being broken down by our gut. When we’re eating a highly inflammatory diet, this can contribute to brain fog.. What is the health of your brain? Have you thought about that? In relation to the health of your gut, and vice versa.

Longevity

Lastly, we come to our overall longevity. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I intend to live to be a centenarian. In order to achieve this goal, I prioritize my health so that I can do that. Supporting gut health is associated with longevity and overall quality of life. A healthy gut microbiome promotes vitality and resilience as we age. Hopefully, those 10 reasons why you want to be focusing on your gut health have started you thinking. Now I want to talk about what causes an unhealthy gut in the first place.

Causes of an Unhealthy Gut

It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where our guts were always healthy, however, we don’t. In this article I want to go through the causes of an unhealthy gut, in case they relate to you so that you might have an “AHA moment” and think, okay, maybe I need to focus on my gut health because of these reasons.

Poor Diet

The first one is a diet high in processed foods, refined sugars, artificial additives, and low in fiber, these can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and lead to inflammation.

Chronic Stress

The second one impacts everyone. It’s chronic stress. Prolonged periods of stress can negatively impact the gut by altering gut motility, increasing inflammation, and compromising the intestinal barrier function and killing off our healthy microbes. We live in a stressed-out world, when we look around, we can see that everyone else is stressed out. We can be in chronic stress without even really realizing it because we’ve just lived that way for so long, that we don’t realize we should feel any different.  We don’t realize the negative impact that has on our health down the line. 

Antibiotics and Medications

The overuse or misuse of antibiotics and medications can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria leading to dysbiosis. Other medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like Advil and Tylenol and proton pump inhibitors can also affect gut health. Again, they’re killing off our good bacteria and causing an imbalance in the gut. In fact, one dose of antibiotics, not one treatment, one dose, can wipe out the balance in your gut. It’s important that if you are using an antibiotic, you also want to be using a probiotic so that you can be putting the good microbes back into your gut.

Now you don’t use them at the same time. If you do, they will cancel each other out. You want to use them at least one hour apart, ideally two to three hours apart, and obviously your ability to do that is going to depend on how many doses of the antibiotic you need to take during the day. Antibiotics were developed as a life saving remedy, yet now they’re being prescribed regularly, and they’re so widely used now that they’re in our water supply. Even though you might not be on an antibiotic, you might be getting the remnants of someone else’s antibiotics through your tap water and into your body which is negatively impacting the health of your gut. Hence probiotics can be great to use on an ongoing basis to protect your gut health.

However, if you have a yeast overgrowth, then a probiotic might feed that, and that would be a time when you wouldn’t want to be using a probiotic every single day. If you have symptoms of a yeast infection, or  your gut is not operating at its best, you’d want to get a lab test done first to find out exactly what’s going on, before you decide that you need to just start using a probiotic. I offer those lab tests, and they’re super helpful because they give us so much information as to what’s going on inside your gut, and then we know  what steps to take.

Lack of Sleep

Back to another common cause of an imbalanced gut is lack of sleep, inadequate sleep, or poor sleep quality can disrupt the gut microbiota and increase inflammation contributing to gut health issues. Again, like stress, poor sleep kills off our good gut microbes, and that creates an imbalance.

Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Another reason is excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol can irritate the entire gastrointestinal tract, disrupt the gut microbiota, and increase intestinal permeability, leading to inflammation and gut dysfunction, and by intestinal permeability, I mean, leaky gut, and by that, I mean, the lining of your gut wall which is basically this very long tube all the way from your mouth to your anus. What’s inside that tube is supposed to stay in that tube, except for the nutrients that are extracted by all your gut microbes, and then sent out to your cells that need them. However, we can get cracks in that tube, and holes, which allow things to get out into our bloodstream that should never be in our bloodstream, like microbes, like parasites, like antibiotics.  We don’t want that to happen. Yet, excessive alcohol consumption can be one of the reasons that we can get a leaky gut.

Infections

Bacterial, viral, or parasite infections can also disrupt the health of our gut and lead to conditions like gastroenteritis and SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Again, we can lab test and see if you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, so that we then know exactly what treatment plan to follow.

These lab tests that I’m talking about, get mailed to your home. It’s literally a first morning urine sample, it’s easy to do, you ship it back to the lab, and we get so much information about what’s going on inside your gut. That is helpful to you in understanding the next steps to be taking.

Chronic Inflammation

Systemic inflammation often associated with conditions like obesity, autoimmune diseases, and inflammatory bowel diseases can negatively in fact, impact our gut health as well.

Environmental Factors

Then there’s environmental factors such as exposure to environmental toxins, pollutants and certain chemicals that can disrupt the gut microbiota and impair gut function. Remember, at the very beginning of this article, I said three of the causes of chronic illness are low nutrient uptake, toxicity, and stress. All of those are on this list because they all negatively are impacting the health of our gut, and all disease starts in the gut, or all health starts in the gut.

Lack of Physical Activity

Leading a sedentary lifestyle can also contribute to imbalances in gut bacteria and increase the risk of gut related disorders.

Genetics

Lastly, genetic factors can also predispose individuals to certain gut related conditions such as IBS or IBD, inflammatory bowel disease.

10 Signs of an Unhappy Gut

So far, we have gone through reasons you want to look after your gut, we’ve gone through the 10 major factors that negatively impact your gut. Let’s now talk about 10 signs of an unhappy gut so that you can get an idea of whether your gut is unhappy or not.

Digestive Issues

Persistent digestive issues such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain can indicate an imbalance in the gut microbiome. As I said earlier, those are all symptoms that your body is trying to bring to your awareness that something is out of balance, and it’s time to investigate what you can do about it.

Food Intolerances

Developing new food intolerances or experiencing increased sensitivity to certain foods may suggest gut health issues. The more out of balance our gut is, the more food intolerances we are going to have. As we clean up the health of our gut, we can also lower the number of food intolerances that we have.

Chronic Fatigue

Feeling constantly tired or experiencing low energy levels, despite adequate sleep, and rest can be a poor sign of gut health. Remember, that a healthy gut uses 30% of your energy to break down your food. That’s a lot of energy every time you put something in your mouth, but an unhealthy gut is going to use even more energy and then you don’t have as much energy left for living your life the way you want to live your life.

Mood Changes

Mood swings, anxiety, depression, irritability or difficulty concentrating may also be linked to gut health issues because of that gut brain axis. It’s certainly a starting point that you can look at and address the health of your gut, using plant-based products in a really healthy way, and notice the improvements, and then if you need more support, then you could look at other options as well.

Skin Conditions

As I’ve said, acne, eczema and rosacea are indicative of gut imbalances. Something else that you want to consider if you have these symptoms and start thinking about what’s going on inside your gut.

Unintended Weight Changes

Unexplained weight loss or weight gain, despite no significant changes in diet or exercise habits may also signal gut health issues.

Weak Immune System

Frequent infections, colds or illnesses may indicate a compromised immune system, which of course is linked to poor gut health because 70% of your immune system is housed in your gut. Are you getting sick often, and if so, let’s take a look at the health of your gut.

Autoimmune Conditions

Autoimmune diseases are also very often triggered by leaky gut. These are diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or Hashimoto’s, and they can be exacerbated by gut imbalances. As we heal the gut, we can also reduce the symptoms of these autoimmune diseases.

Chronic Inflammation

If you’re struggling with joint pain, muscle aches or any other inflammatory condition, that can be a sign of an imbalanced gut. When I take people through my guided detox program, we’re bringing down the inflammation in the body as we start the healing process of the gut. People are always commenting that when we bring that inflammation level down, their joint pain goes away, their muscle aches go away, and this is why we’re bringing the inflammation level down and we’re starting to heal with that.

It literally can be as simple as that! You don’t have to suffer through the pain and using Tylenol or Advil to mask the pain which is simply causing more havoc on the health of your gut, than if you were to instead address the health of your gut and allow it to heal.

Sleep Disturbances

Are you having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or are you experiencing poor sleep quality in general? This may also be attributed to disruptions with gut brain access and gut health problems. It may not be the only reason, there are many reasons for sleep issues aside from the gut, however, again, the gut is one place that you can look, aside from looking at blue light, and how late you’re eating in the day, the timing of going to bed, your bedtime routine, the comfort of your room, et cetera. If you want to learn more about sleep, you can certainly go all the way back to my early podcasts. I believe it was podcast number five, and number seven, where I talked in detail about sleep.

Let’s also talk about antacids, because they are the second most frequently purchased over the counter medicine, after the pain relievers, Tylenol, and Advil, and how damaging they can be to the health of our gut. When we are struggling with heartburn, and acid reflux, we are often told that that’s because we have too much stomach acid in our stomach, and therefore we need to take an antacid to block our production of stomach acid.

Now, that kind of makes logical sense. Except that here’s the thing, when we are in our stress state, our digestive system is shut down, because our body is doing everything it can to produce more cortisol and more adrenaline for you to be able to run and get to safety, or fight and get to safety. What’s supposed to happen then is once you get to safety, that your system naturally drops down into your rest and digest system, your parasympathetic nervous system, and of course, that system when you’re in that state is when your digestive system is turned on.

However, because most of us are living in chronic stress, our digestive system is not turned on when we eat. If our digestive system is not turned on, it isn’t producing saliva in our mouth, and salivary enzymes in order to support the digestive process. It is not producing stomach acid to help break down our food, or any of the digestive enzymes in the rest of our entire digestive tract. What happens is, we’re putting food into our mouths, and our body isn’t able to digest it properly, which again, is not good in the long run. I’m explaining this to you, because I want to show you that you do not have too much stomach acid.

What happens structurally under high stress is the flap at the bottom of the esophagus that opens so that food can go into the stomach cavity, gets lose and floppy and over time and  is it doesn’t close up properly after the food passes through. So there’s a gap, and then what happens is that the stomach acid that you do have can escape up into your esophagus and you get heartburn or acid reflux, and then you think I have too much stomach acid I have to take an acid to block it and you go to the store and you buy some.

The reality is that you do not have too much stomach acid, instead your lower esophageal sphincter is not functioning properly because you have too much stress. When we have too much stress, what is the body not doing? It is not producing stomach acid; it is not producing your enzymes to break down your food, so even though that antacid might help you in the short term, in the long term, it is causing further struggles with your digestive health, because you are continually stopping your body from producing the stomach acid that it needs in order to break down the food that you’re still eating, and over the long term that is not healthy for your gut. 

If you read the instructions on the back of the bottle, it says do not take this for more than two weeks at a time, and yet I have people that will tell me I’ve been using it for two years. We must work on getting them off the antacid, and we can then start healing their gut. Then they don’t need it anymore and they feel so much better.

I just want to bring that to your attention because it is an over-the-counter medication. You can just walk in and buy it and people do and have no idea how that is negatively impacting the long-term health of your gut. 

Now if you are struggling with gut issues, what can you do? Well, as I’ve mentioned earlier, you can run lab tests that get mailed to your home, that will show you whether you have a yeast or bacterial overgrowth, whether you have H, pylori, or parasite. The tests will show you more than just that one. The urine sample one that I mentioned earlier shows the health of your mitochondria function, it shows your neurotransmitter function because of that gut brain axis. So now we know that your neurotransmitters are being produced properly and at the right levels. It shows the health of your detox pathways, and it shows your vitamin levels so we can see if you are absorbing enough vitamins from the foods that you are eating, so this is a very helpful lab.

Once we have all this information, I create a wellness plan to guide you through healing your gut, and it’s completely personalized to you and what we see in that lab. We heal your gut using plants and herbs, rather than antibiotics that further damage your gut. Mother Nature has literally given us everything that we need to be able to heal. That’s why I love to work with our natural plants and herbs to start the healing process.

Now going back to Hippocrates, he said something else. He said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” and that’s exactly why I prefer to use the plant-based products whenever possible. I want to invite you, if you’re interested in gut health, or if you know someone who’s struggling with the health of their gut, or if you’re struggling with the health of your own gut, to consider all of the different reasons that I’ve provided in this article as to why we need to look after the health of our gut, what can disrupt the health of our gut, and know that there are steps that you can take through at home functional medicine lab testing, that you don’t get through your medical doctor. These labs show the root cause, and they help us then truly heal your gut.

Please share this article with somebody that you know that needs to hear it. I know many, many people are struggling with their gut health and don’t know what to do.

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you enjoy or would like to hear more about as it will support me in my effort to bring the possibility of natural healing to a wider audience and help disrupt the sick care system we have today and make human health a global priority. Health is your true wealth.