Natural Healing from Crohn’s, One Mom’s Story

Adapted from episode 60 of The Perfect Stool podcast and edited for readability.

Lindsey: 

How old your son was when he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and what were his symptoms that led doctors to suspect a Crohn’s diagnosis versus just calling it something that was normal for growing kids? Like with my son [when he had stomach pains] they said, “it’s just normal, rather than getting headaches, some kids get stomach aches.”

Heather Hausenblaus:

He was 16 when he was finally diagnosed, and it really was a process. Looking back, we could see it almost years in the making. But it was in the fall of his junior year that he really became quite sick. We honestly just thought it was a virus. It wasn’t until he finally said, “Mom, Dad, I have diarrhea all day.” He was really trying to hide it and live in isolation about it, because it really is something you don’t tend to talk about. We don’t tend to talk about how many times we go to the bathroom. It was my husband and I pushing and pushing and pushing through health care, when we weren’t happy with answers that we were getting. That’s really how we came to finally getting his diagnosis. We were not accepting that he’s going to be okay in a few days, he was not okay, there was something really, really wrong. It was us being an advocate for him and not giving up and having many, many doctor’s appointments until we finally got the diagnosis.

Lindsey: 

Was he having pain as well? Or was it just the diarrhea?

Heather Hausenblaus:

He was having pain. It really became around the last month that he was having excruciating pain. It was really, if you can believe it, in his throat. He was saying that he had never experienced throat pain like that. We honestly thought he probably had strep or something along those lines. It wasn’t until we finally got the diagnosis we had the realization that he had ulcers because of his Crohn’s disease.

Lindsey: 

Now that’s interesting, I’ve never heard of that. Were there Crohn’s ulcers all the way that high up, or was it that it was pushing up acid?

Heather Hausenblaus:

It was pushing up acid and being in the constant pain that way that was causing those ulcers literally in the back of his throat.

Lindsey: 

When did it start?

Heather Hausenblaus:

The problems got really, really bad in about middle of October, and he got his official diagnosis, the beginning of December. It got to the point where we knew something’s wrong. He began to eat dinner, and then not eat anything until about lunch the next day. He would skip breakfast in hopes to get through a period or two at school. And then it became almost clockwork where I get a call from him asking me to sign him out from school, he’d come home for a couple hours, literally lie on the couch, try to eat a little bit and then get back to school for the last period. We just thought he had some weird kind of virus and we couldn’t figure it out. This went on for a few weeks. And then it was finally us going to the doctors and not leaving until we got answers. We were actually beginning to get what we felt were tests that needed to be run; not your standard tests. We said we need more. There’s something wrong. We need a stool test. We need this, we need that. And it was finally at that point where we had his pediatrician finally really listen and say, “okay, there is something wrong.”

Lindsey: 

Had this been going on since he was like five or was it just a relatively new problem at 16?

Heather Hausenblaus:

Looking back, we could see signs and symptoms when he was really really young, where he would have these emergency trips to the bathroom. I have vivid memories of us leaving a restaurant, getting in the car, pulling out of the parking lot, and him speaking up in the backseat saying he had to go to the bathroom. And my husband would say, “let’s just wait till we get home.” Well, he couldn’t wait till we got home. It got to the point when he was really young, that we would always say before we leave the house, “you have to go to the bathroom.” He’d go to the bathroom, and still, almost like clockwork, we were in the car for a couple minutes and he would have to go. It usually happened after he ate. It seemed like he would go from feeling great to all of a sudden having strep or having pneumonia or having bronchitis. It was this recurring pattern with him. It seemed that stress would often trigger it. Things like the start of a school year, we could almost guarantee that he would be sick for at least a couple of days at the beginning of every school year. Looking back I can see the signs and symptoms growing over time. This didn’t happen overnight.

Lindsey:  

It sounds like you started out with his pediatrician, within the traditional medical care system. Did you eventually move to seeing a naturopath or a functional medicine doctor?

Heather Hausenblaus:

We did do the traditional route with health care. He had his pediatric gastroenterologist that we felt did help with getting the diagnosis and some medical tests that he needed, but it pretty much stopped there because they really the pushed for medicine. I felt it wasn’t working. I was able to, with my background, search the drug that he was on and realize that it really was not efficacious. So, it was me using my connections within the health and wellness and functional medicine area to seek out these experts and meet with them and talk with them and realize that there’s many ways to become healthy. What we did almost instantly after he was diagnosed was dramatically change his diet. We feel that in large part was what led him on the road to recovery quickly,

Lindsey: 

Had you already done your PhD? Were you already in this field?

Heather Hausenblaus:

I got my PhD about 25 years ago. So, I have been in this field of health psychology and health behaviors for a long time, doing a lot of research. My research largely focused on the psychological effects of physical activity and moving, and honestly came from the training in the background that if you exercise, you’ll be healthy. Well, it really wasn’t until he was diagnosed and we changed his diet that I realized that diet is the most important thing with this disease and with many, many diseases or conditions. If you don’t change your diet, it’s going to be very difficult to be healthy or maintain health.

Lindsey: 

It’s interesting you say that, just because I do see a lot of people, my husband, for example, has a perfectly good diet for somebody who doesn’t have any health issues. But there’s this idea that if I exercise a lot, it’s okay if I eat an entire bag of potato chips (not that he does that that often). Because I’m exercising and because my weight is stable, I should be able to eat what I want to eat, no matter how junky or crappy it is.

Heather Hausenblaus:

Exactly. It’s really interesting. I fell into that category, and this is what I researched. I really felt that exercising and moving was one of the most important things we can do for our health. If you exercise, then you’re fine. My son played varsity baseball, so he was extremely active and we ate healthy. But when you do a deep dive, you realize it’s shocking, honestly, how disturbing our food actually is.

Lindsey: 

Yeah, so tell me about the diet changes that he had to make and that you made as a family.

Heather Hausenblaus:

The family was a challenge, because we have three boys and Tommy’s our oldest. I’m lucky to get one meal on the table, let alone making different meals for everybody. So that became a bit of a challenge and the running joke with his younger brothers became if Tommy could eat it, then they didn’t want to eat it because they felt that it was just too healthy. We’ve come a long way. What happened when Tommy was first diagnosed, I immediately reached out to a friend whose son also had Crohn’s disease. At this point, I didn’t even know what Crohn’s disease was. She met me the following day. I talked with her and she talked about diet. She put her son on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. I’d never heard of this diet, but I went home and began to research it. I really needed to grasp onto something and that was something that I could grasp onto. I read up on it. There was minimal science on it, but there was enough for me to say, “I need to do this,” it intuitively made sense. We went bare bones with him and followed this Specific Carbohydrate Diet for several months. Now, you fast forward two and a half years later, and he eats what I would consider a very clean diet. We’re talking about organic, lots of fruits and vegetables, grassfed meats, eliminating pretty much all sugars, anything that’s processed. Basically, if you look at an ingredient label and you can’t pronounce it, we’re not buying it. Also, he’s eating as much as possible in the house as opposed to eating out.

Lindsey: 

I know that one of the things that’s particularly bad for people with Crohn’s are these gums and emulsifiers. Is that something that you had to focus on a lot with him?

Heather Hausenblaus:

I did in the sense of just going bare bones with his diet, so cutting out all sugars, all types of additives and really taking a deep dive into ingredients and honestly spending hundreds of hours trying to find products out there that we trust and didn’t have all these basic added chemicals in them. That in and of itself took so much time, and I was lucky because I was able myself to take medical leave for work because of a sick family member. I was able to take a medical leave to get my son healthy and a lot of people don’t have that opportunity. It almost became my full time job, and it’s just not right for other people not to have these opportunities to be healthy. So, my goal is to try to create awareness and make it ally’sa little bit easier for people to regain their health or the health of somebody that they love if they become sick.

Lindsey: 

I may be wrong on this, but I think under the changes to the Family Leave Act that came under Clinton, we all got the ability to leave for six weeks for a family illness. Maternity leave, for example, I was able to do six weeks of that and use my sick leave time. So I think if you have a workplace of above 50 people, that applies.

Heather Hausenblaus:

I believe that is the case also.

Lindsey: 

So this Specific Carbohydrate Diet, people may not be familiar with what that entails. Can you just dig a little deeper on what kinds of things are included and excluded that diet?

Heather Hausenblaus:

Yes, it’s a restrictive diet. It’s based largely on eliminating your processed foods, clearly a focus on organic, but it went much more beyond that with focusing largely on fruits and vegetables and meats. There is a list for the legal and illegal foods, and I would almost use this as a Bible and continually go back to this list to determine what are legal foods. So, foods that somebody with IBD could eat on this Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Interestingly, what continually kept coming up on this SCD or Specific Carbohydrate Diet was yogurt. Not just any type of yogurt, but a homemade fermented yogurt. I learned to make this yogurt myself, and that was something that my son was eating multiple times a day because it was almost comforting on his gut and didn’t hurt him. He ate this continually for several months. Now, you fast forward to two and a half years later, and he can’t stand the yogurt. He ate so much at the beginning. This probiotic yogurt played a really, really big role. I began to make a lot of things from scratch. For example, almond milk. I bought almond milk, because I thought it was healthy, from the grocery store but then if I looked at the label, oftentimes it was made just with almond extract, there wasn’t even almonds in it. There were all these added preservatives. So I began to make almond milk from scratch, orange juice from scratch. If I could figure out how to make it from scratch, even coming down to salad dressings, I would do that. Knowing that I had control over the ingredients, and then what he would be eating, I almost felt like I was becoming the sneaky chef and trying to sneak healthy things into the food to try to make it taste a little bit better. With this diet, you cut out all types of sugar except for natural sugar from honey, so that was a sweetener that was used in his food.

Lindsey:   

When I think about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and I was talking on one of my previous podcasts with Dr. Steven Sandberg Lewis about this, that it’s essentially some combination of low FODMAPs and Specific Carbohydrate, right? I think it was low in a certain type of fiber, soluble or insoluble? That points to the fact that at the root of Crohn’s and Colitis may be overgrowth of bacteria. That, in essence, you’re starving out some of those bacteria by pulling out some types of fiber.

Heather Hausenblaus:

You know, it is a good question. We really don’t know enough at this point, because unfortunately, when you take a look at the research, the medical research, meaning things typically with drugs and surgery, dwarfs research within diet and nutrition, but that is changing because there have been some pretty interesting studies that are recently coming up on these different types of diets, including the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, maybe the FODMAP diet, a gluten-free diet and testing to see if this actually is an efficacious treatment for individuals with IBD. In part, they’re showing that yes, diet does play a role. Does it need to be the Specific Carbohydrate Diet? Is that the only diet to follow? No, that was the one that we grabbed onto at the beginning. It’s a difficult diet to maintain in the long term. Once he began to feel better, we loosened up a little bit and increased the number of legal foods. Now that he’s at university, and he’s on his own a lot more, he has a little bit more freedom. He’s at a point where he tells me, “Mom, I try my best to eat as healthy as possible, but sometimes it’s a little bit of a challenge.” That’s where he is right now.

Lindsey: 

Was he gluten-free as part of that?

Heather Hausenblaus:

We did start off with him being gluten-free for the first couple of months. He came to me saying, “I think I can eat gluten, I don’t think that’s the problem.” So we slowly began to introduce gluten into his diet, and when I say we introduced gluten back in, we were eating really healthy to begin with. It was oftentimes sourdough bread from the local bakery that I would get that he really, really liked. So even though I say he was eating gluten, he was eating really, really high quality food. And I think oftentimes, the whole gluten thing gets couched within a lot of unhealthy foods as well.

Lindsey: 

We have a local baker here and I was talking to him about the bread and he told me they use this sourdough rising process. It’s a complete process that eliminates most of the gluten from the bread by the time you’re done with it. So, right at the end, the bread that you have is a lot healthier than maybe a quick-rise bread that didn’t ferment for 24 hours or 48 hours or however long.

Heather Hausenblaus:

I even began to make my own gluten free bread for a while as well at the house. Luckily I found a bakery that was making this type of sourdough bread that you’re talking about, which was excellent for him to eat. So it’s a process. I think the take home message is that everybody is different. No one diet is necessarily going to fit everybody. So it’s trial and error, and you need to figure out what’s going to work for you. What worked for was, I don’t want to say going bare bones but, really stripping out additives and then slowly beginning to reintroduce foods to see if he could eat them. Then staying completely away from sugar and fast foods and trying to eat at the house as much as possible, because that’s where you really have control over what you’re putting in your mouth.

Lindsey: 

So you said you did eventually get some more complex testing? Was there anything they found on that testing like candida overgrowth or bacteria, like SIBO or anything like that?

Heather Hausenblaus:

It was eventually treated with the testing that we did, it was a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, and then getting the inflammation out of his body and to a level where it was normal. The cause we’ll never know 100%. Looking back, I think that it was related to early antibiotic use. I really think that’s what the cause was, because as a very young child, I remember before the age of one, he had an ear infection, and he got an antibiotic. Many times when he was young, he was getting antibiotics for different illnesses that he had. And I think that threw him off and then it was becoming worse and worse until the point where he was diagnosed.

Lindsey: 

Just looking at the one pager from your book, you mentioned some simple tips that people suffering with autoimmune disease can follow to find their way back to health. What are some of those tips?

Heather Hausenblaus:

You have to listen and trust your body. Go and take a close look at your diet and what you’re eating, what you’re putting in your mouth first and foremost. If we take a look at what makes us healthy, about 50% of our health is related to our health behaviors, with the top three being our diet. Whether you smoke or don’t smoke, how much you exercise, your environment counts for about another 20%, your access to health care only accounts for about 10% and then your genetics account for about 20%. So that encompasses what makes you healthy, but the bulk is our health behaviors, making up 50% of why we’re healthy.

I want people to know that they have a lot of power over their health, because we can control our health behaviors. You have control over what you eat, you have control over how much you exercise, whether you smoke or not. Also, your sleep, which is something that we tend to forget about, but sleep is vital and it is so important to make sure that you’re getting enough sleep and keeping your stress level down.

There’s many different simple health tips. You need to take a look at your diet, how much you move or exercise during a 24-hour period, how you’re sleeping, and your stress level, as well what is causing you stress or anxiety. We saw this with our son firsthand when he was experiencing stressful periods during the school year. We saw his symptoms increase, especially when he was first diagnosed. One example was, he was supposed to take the LSAT one night. He was in pain, he wasn’t feeling good, he was running to the bathroom. It was the stress caused by having to take the LSAT, so we ended up canceling it and he took it at a later date. He finally came to us and said that he was really worried that if he had to go to the bathroom during the LSAT, what was he going to do? We never even thought about this, but then we got paperwork done so that he could get a “stop the clock.” If he did have to go to the bathroom, they would stop the clock on his LSAT, so if he was in the bathroom for 10-15 minutes, he wouldn’t lose that time on his test. These were things that we began to do for him. Getting these types of accommodations done, not only when he was taking the LSAT, but also at his high school and university as well. If he does need it, it’s in place. That actually reduces his stress, knowing that there is that opportunity for him and that if he does get stressed, or if he has to go to the bathroom during an exam, that he’s not going to lose any time on his on his test.

Lindsey: 

You know, I imagine there are a lot of people who don’t think like, “oh, I’ve got this gastrointestinal thing, that’s a disability.” They could go to the Disability Services office at their school or their counselor at their high school and get those accommodations.

Heather Hausenblaus:

You’re so right. You tend not to think that this is a disability, but there are things in place to help if you’re in pain, or you’re spending that much time in the bathroom. There’s even Ally’s Law, for example, that was passed where if you’re in a store, and they have a restroom, if you have the Ally’s Law card, then you’re able to use that restroom. A lot of people don’t realize that when some people say they have to go, they have to go. There’s no waiting till later. It is an emergency.

Lindsey: 

I’m totally not familiar with this Ally’s Law. Where do you get the card?

Heather Hausenblaus:

You can apply online and you’ll get it in the mail. It’s an interesting story of a girl named Ally and she had Crohn’s disease. She was shopping with her mother in a retail store, she had to go to the bathroom and she had to go right away. There were no restrooms anywhere close outside the store, so they asked to use the employees’ restroom. They were denied access and she had an embarrassing accident in the middle of the store. Her mother advocated that this would never happen to anybody else. She went through the steps to get this passed as law; it’s passed as a law in many states. You can get this card, you keep it in your wallet, and when you’re out saying, “I need to use this washroom, it’s an emergency, you can’t deny me access,” and you show the card.

Lindsey: 

So, one of the topics that you seem to be passionate about is journaling for health. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Heather Hausenblaus:

It was a process for me when our son was first diagnosed. I was experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety and having a difficult time sleeping at night because I’d wake up in the middle of the night trying to think about what I needed to do to keep him healthy and keep some level of normalcy. This began my routine of keeping a gratitude journal or a thankful journal. It would literally only take a couple minutes, not a lot of time. It was a simple process, but it actually set my day off on a more positive note and reframed how I thought about things.

What I also immediately started to do for my son is tracking his food. I kept a food sensitivity log, basically keeping track of everything that he was eating during the day, how many times he was going to the bathroom, if he was having any symptoms and how he was feeling so that I could try to pinpoint if there were certain foods that were triggering his symptoms. I feel that was so important, to be able to track and look back at his diet and see what potential symptoms were there. That really helped him on his road to recovery. I began then, of course, as I do with most things, to dig into the science. There is a great deal of science showing that keeping a gratitude journal is extremely powerful for people’s overall health, making them more productive, putting them in a better mood and just being kinder and overall healthier, and the same thing with a food sensitivity log as well. I’m a very strong advocate for these because they are really, really simple to do. They don’t take an extreme amount of time and they’re not expensive. You can create your own journal if you want, or you can go on Amazon and buy a journal for less than $10 that will last several months. I’m a really big fan of science-based health techniques that are easy for people to do and are not overwhelming. To me, journaling and health journaling is a very simple thing to do that can create a lot of positive health effects.

Lindsey: 

You know, it’s interesting, because when I began my training as a health coach and launched my business, one of the questions that they suggested we asked new potential clients is, “what are five things you love about your life?” At first, it just felt fluffy to me at the end of the questionnaire, but I left it on there because I liked hearing the answers.  I’ve noticed as time has gone on, that there are people who are really suffering, and yet can still find five things that they’re very thankful for and that they love about their life. Then there’s some people who are just so down in the dumps, that they can’t find a single thing to put there. You know, I think about what the prognosis is for someone who’s got not a single bit of hope to begin with, if that it’s almost the necessary precursor to healing.

Heather Hausenblaus:

I love that you said that. You said you felt like it was almost hokey to do it, it almost seems fluffy. The simplicity of it is so brilliant, and that it does work. I know for myself, especially at the beginning, when our son was really sick, I’d have to dig deep some mornings to find even a couple things that I was thankful for. As simple as my morning cup of coffee. Over time it grows and becomes bigger, and you realize that you do have so many things to be thankful for. By keeping this gratitude journal, it really reframes how you think about things, you begin to find the silver lining in a lot of things. We do know the power of the mind, and the power of positive thinking has an incredible effect on our health.

Lindsey: 

After I went through sciatica, just feeling so thankful for having my body back, and being able to walk, I’m still constantly just amazed that I’m not in excruciating pain every day, and how thankful I am for that. How thankful I am to be able bodied and, it’s one of those things that sometimes you have to have lost to understand what it is to get it back.

Heather Hausenblaus:

It’s not until we’ve lost a piece of our health that we really appreciate it. We take things for granted. A gratitude journal reframes how you think so that you’re not taking these little things for granted. You’re not taking your health, your wellness, maybe it’s your walk with your dog, your morning cup of coffee, sitting quietly or peacefully, or watching your favorite TV show, whatever it may be, that you begin not to take those things for granted.

Lindsey: 

Every night before I go to bed, I just thank God for each of the things that I’m grateful for. And some of it’s just the basics, that I’m in a safe house and that I have a warm bed. I think about refugees and people who have none of that. I try and keep my perspective to be thankful for even the very basics, and we tried to do this with our kids too, we tried to have a gratefulness circle going around the dinner table. For the life of me, I couldn’t get them to look at the simple things and just be thankful. Whatever they were currently unhappy about was what they wanted to complain about rather than find something to be thankful for.

Heather Hausenblaus:

We do tend to focus more on the negative, but you bring a great point about around meals around the dinner table. When you actually do finally slow down and sit down, it’s a great opportunity just to take a couple minutes, even just a minute, to express what everyone is thankful for the day. It just kind of sets the mood and sets the tone and makes everybody sit back and say, “okay, we do actually have a lot to be thankful for.” We get just so caught up in the stress of our day-to-day, thinking we need to do more and more and more. That’s not the case, we need to really slow down and reset.

Lindsey: 

And the impact on your health, I mean, what is it? What does the science say about the impact of gratefulness on your health?

Heather Hausenblaus:

It’s really quite impressive. There are hundreds of studies now showing that individuals who express gratitude, whether it’s journaling every day, being thankful, has incredible health benefits for them. It’s so simple and easy to do. It’s something that I recommend people do, whether you want to create a journal yourself or buy one that’s out there. All you literally need is a pen and some paper and you start doing your journaling.

Lindsey: 

Are there any other lifestyle practices that you found were helpful for your son?

Heather Hausenblaus:

The main one was this incredible change in his diet. Trying to eat at the house as much as possible, jumping onto a diet that we felt was going to work and going bare bones and then beginning to lessen up on it over time and include more of these legal foods. I recommend people get support, you need help. I was somebody that was able to reach out to individuals within the health and wellness community and to find other parents that were going through similar things that I could meet. I actually meet for lunch or talk on the phone or go for a walking meeting. To have that type of support is extremely important not just from your health team, but also from family members or friends or people that you can relate to that are going through something that’s really, really similar. There’s so often you feel really alone, and by having or creating this community, then that will lessen. I know there’s incredible support teams now out there on the internet as well, so there is that type of support as well. My husband and I, we joined the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and join their walks and try to create awareness and raise money for the organization as well so that we can help other peers who are going through this.

Lindsey: 

Is that foundation functional minded? It’s not just traditional medical?

Heather Hausenblaus:

There is some functional-mindedness in it, there is a large medical focus as well. You do see a focus on the diet and importance of exercise. They really do have some great outlets for family members and even for young kids who are suffering.

Lindsey: 

Did you have some mentors or authors around the topic of Crohn’s disease or autoimmunity in general that you’ve followed?

Heather Hausenblaus:

At the beginning, no. When he was first diagnosed, I’d heard of Crohn’s disease, I couldn’t have even told you exactly what it was. I was really starting almost at ground zero to try to learn the disease. It was connecting with individuals, connecting with organizations. I reached out to a medical doctor, David Susskind. He actually responded to my email, and I talked with him because I was really impressed with what he was doing. He’s a medical doctor who deals with pediatric issues, in particular IBD and IBS, and he was researching SCD. I was really impressed with the fact that he listened to his patients when they came in, and as patients’ parents were saying that diet does play a role, he began to hear them talking about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. So, he began to research it. Now he’s a very strong advocate for it, because he knows that diet does play a really big role in the help of healing from this disease. He also realizes how difficult a strict diet is to follow. He’s doing some really cutting edge research on modifying the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, meaning, what happens if you include some illegal foods? Are you going to be okay? He actually has a clinical trial going on right now that hopefully will be published sometime in the near future that will bring even more light to this. I’m a big advocate of that. I began to read, honestly, everything I possibly could on Crohn’s Disease, buying a lot of books on IBD, IBS, reading people’s stories and listening podcasts. I was just trying to soak in as much information as I possibly could to try to understand what would be the best path for us.

Lindsey: 

Besides David Susskind, were there books that you found particularly useful?

Heather Hausenblaus:

I think the books that I was drawn to the most were from these health, wellness, functional medicine, more naturalistic doctors’ books that were out there. In particular, I became a very big fan of Dr. Mark Hyman, he’s a functional medicine doctor.

Lindsey: 

Cleveland Clinic.

Heather Hausenblaus:

Yes, I love what he has done. The books that he has written, his podcast are phenomenal. Dr. Josh Axe was another individual. I went to his website, knowing that things were going to be science based. His books are phenomenal. An individual who’s a big leader in the health/wellness industry named Naomi Whittle, as well, who’s done a lot and written some New York Times bestsellers on specific diets and how they help with overall health.

Lindsey: 

Yeah, those are great resources. I hadn’t heard of Naomi, I will have to check her out. Tell me about the research that you’re doing now.

Heather Hausenblaus:

My research most recently is focusing on sleep and how sleep affects our overall health. Focusing on whether there’s a supplement, potentially a type of music, that can help us sleep better. Most recently, I’ve actually begun to take a look at some of the health effects of journaling, and how keeping a gratitude journal or keeping, for example, a movement journal, how that will help people overall on their health path, whether it will help them move more, to sleep better, to be more thankful, to be more productive or to lower their stress.

Lindsey: 

On the topic of sleep, what do you find are some of the biggest obstacles to people getting good sleep and what are some of the solutions related to these obstacles?

Heather Hausenblaus:

I would say one of the biggest obstacles right now is how much we’re plugged in during the day with our life. Sleep is a behavior that we do every single day, so you would think that we’d be experts at it. Most of us are not very good sleepers. A few simple tips to help with sleep, get your electronics out of your room and do something quiet before you go to bed, read for a couple minutes. You want to create a sleep environment where you’re sleeping in a very quiet dark room and begin to have this consistent bedtime and this consistent wake time. Try to go to bed at about the same time every night and also try to wake up at about the same time every morning because we have our circadian rhythm, a circadian clock that resets every day. We’re creatures of habit. I know myself, I used to fight this for years, because I’m really more of a morning person, I love to get up around five in the morning. On the weekends, I would feel this pressure to stay up till midnight or beyond. I just stopped doing that. It didn’t work for me and would really throw off my health. For people to say, “my sleep is important and I need to make it a priority during my day.”

Also, know that what you do during the day is going to affect your sleep at night. If you don’t move enough during the day, you’re probably not going to sleep as well at night. You should try to exercise every day. You should be getting outside every day and getting that natural light, which is so important. You do need to watch what you eat as well, because certain foods can throw off your sleep, especially eating a large meal right before bedtime. These are things that people have control over. People think about sleep as a really, really important health behavior, and if they don’t get a good quality of sleep, it’s going to affect everything that they do the next day.

Lindsey: 

I’ve talked to clients who are completely exhausted and they have brain fog, and they’re only getting five hours of sleep at night. That seems like it’s probably the first thing you need to address because it may not be because of the gut issue that you’ve got brain fog. It may be that the five hours of sleep are a bigger culprit.

Heather Hausenblaus:

It’s all related, your body’s going to have a hard time healing properly if you’re not getting adequate sleep. It is really, really critical. It’s important for people to say, “I’ve got to take my sleep time and know that it is so important for my health. If I’m not going to sleep well at night, it’s going to affect everything. The next day, I’m not going to be as productive. I’m going to be grumpy, or I’m probably not going to eat as healthy.” Have you ever noticed what type of foods you begin to crave when you’re tired?

Lindsey: 

Oh, yeah. An instand pick me up with the carbs.

Heather Hausenblaus:

Exactly. People need to realize that sleep is important. There’s many things that I can do to sleep better that are in my control that I do have control over.

Lindsey: 

One thing that I hear a lot from clients is, “I don’t have any trouble getting to sleep, but I’m waking up at three in the morning.” Is there a solution for that one?

Heather Hausenblaus:

Oh, gosh, I wish there was a simple solution to that. It’s really common that people say, “my problem is I wake up in the middle of night, have to go to the bathroom, or I just wake up and then my mind goes into overdrive, I begin to think about everything that I have to do. And it will take me an hour or two to fall back asleep. And by the time I fall back asleep, it’s time for me to get up.” Once again, take a look at your entire sleep environment. If you do wake up and you begin to get a little bit anxious, you’re having a difficult time falling asleep, don’t just lie there for an hour or two. Get up out of your bed, go somewhere quiet, pick up a book begin to read or listen to some really relaxing music. You’ve got to do something just a little bit different until you begin to get groggy again, and then go back to bed. I find for myself, that’s what works.

Lindsey: 

You need to associate your bed with sleep not with agonizing over the details of your life.

Heather Hausenblaus:

Exactly. You don’t want your bed and your bedroom to be this stressful environment that provokes you. There’s many individuals who almost dread going to sleep because they fear that they are going to wake up in the middle of the night, it’s going to be the same routine and they won’t be able to fall back asleep. You have to ask, “what can I do about it?” Maybe it’s as simple as picking up a journal and writing in it for a few minutes; that may make you tired. Again, don’t turn on the TV. You certainly don’t want to do that. Do something quiet, and what’s often recommended is reading or listening to soothing types of music. We do know that listening for example to relaxing types of music, like classical music or like something like wholetones, does actually promote sleep.

Lindsey: 

I had a yoga nidra CD I scanned in ages ago and I will put that in my earphones if someone else is in the room or just out loud if not, and that will be my go back to sleep or at least if not go back to sleep do something relaxing that is supposed to be somewhat equivalent to sleep.

Heather Hausenblaus:

That’s so important to do and I know this might sound a little kooky, but I now typically sleep with a sleep mask on so that everything is dark in my room. Sometimes I’ll even put in earplugs, because I can hear the noises, my kids may still be up or whatever, because I do tend to go to bed a little bit on the earlier side.

Lindsey: 

Speaking of circadian rhythm and going to bed early, I think that’s a battle that many people struggle with, which is, waking up at 5 in the morning, well, then you’re going to have to go to bed at like 8 at night, right? There’s only so many ways to add up to 8 or 9. And it’s not going to be going to bed at 11 and waking up at 5.

Heather Hausenblaus:

That’s a good point that you bring up because not everybody needs the eight hours of sleep, some people can actually operate on less sleep, some people may need a little bit more. But that’s on average, the average person needs between seven, eight hours of sleep. What I recommend people do is, if you wake up without your alarm clock, that means that you’ve had enough sleep. If your body wakes up naturally, then that’s telling you’ve had enough sleep. If you’re waking up with an alarm clock, then you didn’t have enough sleep that night. I know, we can’t do this every day, but potentially on the weekends, try to see when is that time or when is that point that you wake up naturally, and then count back and say, “this is how many hours I seem to need on a regular and consistent basis to get an adequate amount of sleep.” We’ll say it’s seven hours of sleep. Then take a look at that and say, “if I need to get up at five in the morning, then this is the time that I should be going to bed so that I get those seven hours of sleep.

Lindsey: 

You have to keep in mind too, that you’re not falling asleep instantly, and that you may be lying in bed for a few minutes after you wake up. So you have to add in a little fat, you can’t just go to bed seven hours exactly before you’re going to wake up.

Heather Hausenblaus:

Factor in that buffer period. Typically, it doesn’t take us too long to fall asleep, it shouldn’t be taking more than five to 10 minutes. When your head hits the pillow you should be out and then when you wake up in the morning, you should pretty much be ready to go if you’re waking up without an alarm clock.

Lindsey: 

For me, if I don’t take melatonin, then I can’t fall asleep within five or 10 minutes. It’ll take me 15 to 30 minutes.

Heather Hausenblaus:

Everybody is so individual. Maybe it’s, you know, a hot cup of chamomile tea. One of the tricks that I have that I learned from Dr. Michael Bruce, who’s a sleep expert and has written some wonderful books on the science of sleep, recommends hot water and you put a banana in in the hot water and just let it seep for a couple minutes. The banana still has its peel on, you just cut the ends off of the banana, put it in a cup of hot water and just let it seep for a couple of minutes. And then you take the banana out, you drink this hot water that has a hint of banana. It’s actually enjoyable to drink, but it’s the potassium that’s in it that actually helps with sleep. And that’s a really simple easy thing to do.

Lindsey: 

Organic banana, unless you want a glass of pesticides.

Heather Hausenblaus:

Yes, exactly. Good point.

Lindsey: 

I appreciate you sharing your story about your son with us. I know there’s probably a lot of parents out there struggling to help their kids get back to health. Crohn’s is a very serious diagnosis, I know someone whose child died of this, so I’m glad to hear about your story and that it turned out so much better and that you’ve written a book to help other people. Where can people find you and your book?

Heather Hausenblaus:

They can find me at https://www.heatherhausenblas.com/. That’s where the book is. For information that I have on journaling and health and blogs that I’ve written, people can go to https://www.healthymovesjournaling.com/.

Lindsey: 

Any final thoughts for our readers?

Heather Hausenblaus:

If anything, I want to tell people that they have the power to be healthy and to really take control of what they’re doing and to critically take a look at their diet and how much they’re moving and sleeping at night and really take a look at journaling as a  positive health thing that they can do.

Lindsey: 

Great. Well, thank you so much for talking with us today.

Heather Hausenblaus:

Thank you so much for having me and thank you for everything that you do.

If you’re struggling with Crohn’s Disease or any type of gut health problem and are ready to get some professional help, you’re welcome to set up a free, 30-minute breakthrough session with me. We’ll talk about what you’ve been going through and I’ll tell you about my gut health coaching 5-appointment program in which I recommend lab tests, educate you on what the results mean and the protocols used by doctors to fix the problems revealed. Or if you’re ready to jump in right away or can just afford one appointment at a time, you can set up an 1-hour consultation with me.

Diverticulitis Deep Dive

Adapted from episode 59 of The Perfect Stool podcast and edited for readability.

What are diverticulitis, diverticulosis and diverticular disease?

Today we are going to be doing somewhat of a deep dive into the world of diverticulitis, diverticulosis and diverticular disease. While people tend to use all of these terms interchangeably, there are distinctions between them. Diverticulosis simply means that there are pouches that are present in the large intestine (see image further down this page). The presence of pouches alone isn’t necessarily a problem. When these pouches become inflamed or infected, it is referred to as diverticulitis. Diverticular disease is a broad name of all of the symptoms that can be experienced due to these pouches forming. And this is, in fact, a super common condition as we age, with over 50% of people over the age of 60 and 60% of people over the age of 80 having colonic diverticula.

But let’s back up a little bit and talk about what exactly diverticular disease is, in case you haven’t heard of it. If you are diagnosed with diverticular disease it means that there are pouches, known as diverticula, in your colon or large intestine. They’re kind of like bubbles or bulges in the weaker areas of the wall of the colon. Just having them is called diverticulosis. Most people with diverticulosis are asymptomatic, so that alone isn’t cause for concern. However, when the diverticula become inflamed or infected by bacteria, this is called diverticulitis, which used to be estimated to happen in about 10 to 25% of people, although more recent estimates are around 5% of people with diverticulosis. Diverticulitis can be accompanied by fever, chills, tenderness over the affected area, nausea or vomiting, leukocytosis, or an increase in the number of your white blood cells, cramps, rectal bleeding and pretty severe discomfort in the lower left part of the abdomen. The pain will often be bad enough to necessitate significant lifestyle changes, or even a trip to the hospital.

About 25% of those suffering from this illness will see complications such as perforations, peritonitis or inflammation of the peritoneum or lining of the abdominal cavity, abscesses or collections of pus from bacterial infections, colonic fistula (which is when a diverticular abscess extends or ruptures into an adjacent organ such as the bladder, vagina or small intestine), or an intestinal obstruction. So if you have consistent pain on the lower left side of your abdomen, which may get worse over the course of several days, you should definitely see a doctor and determine if diverticular disease is at play. But I should also mention that there are some case studies of attacks of diverticulitis that mimic the symptoms of appendicitis, if the infected diverticula are on the right side in the cecum.

Something that makes this disease complex is that it is difficult to know when to seek medical help, and it is even somewhat difficult for doctors to diagnose. A diagnosis usually comes when a person has an acute attack, which requires a CT scan. Short of that, a blood test to reveal a high white blood cell count, a stool sample to check for abnormal bacteria, or a digital rectal exam may be done. Other possible tests that may be warranted include a barium enema with x-rays, a sigmoidoscopy (like a colonoscopy but of your sigmoid colon where most diverticula form) or a full colonoscopy.

One thing I learned while researching this is that diverticular disease is frequently accompanied by Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which may be coincidental, but there also is evidence to support diverticular disease leading to the development of IBS. In one study of acute uncomplicated diverticulitis, one year after the attack of diverticulitis, 45% of participants reported abdominal pain and 30% had altered bowel habits. Another study found an almost 5-fold increased risk of a diagnosis of IBS following an attack of acute diverticulitis. Of course what they may be seeing is an infection with pathogenic bacteria, which causes both the attack of diverticulitis as well as the subsequent symptoms of IBS, or perhaps the result of antibiotics often taken for diverticulitis attacks.

What causes diverticulosis and diverticulitis?

Researching this topic changed many of my preconceptions. For example, I found out the surprising fact that in two cross-sectional studies involving a total of over 2000 participants who had colonoscopies (second study link), constipation was not found to be a risk factor for diverticulosis. In fact, compared to people who had <7 bowel movements a week, those with >15 bowel movements a week had a greater risk for diverticulosis.

Some of most agreed-upon risk factors include aging, obesity, smoking, use of NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or aspirin, opioids, and a sedentary lifestyle.

The more disputed claims are that a diet that is very high in red meat but very low in fiber is to blame. The two cross-sectional studies I mentioned above did not support that claim, as there was no correlation between those factors and diverticulosis, as confirmed with colonoscopies. The author of those studies criticized the methodology of studies that did support it, but I’m still a bit on the fence after reviewing it all. The author also found that those with hard stools had reduced odds of diverticulosis.

Another theory is that the seated position of defection in western societies, on a toilet, leads to a lack of support of the colon, incomplete evacuation and backup in the sigmoid colon, where most diverticuli occur, due to ongoing pressure on this part of the colon. Squatting while defecating, like other primates do, might alleviate this problem.

Another popular theory that emerged was that diverticular disease could be a result of eating nuts, corn, popcorn and seeds. However, there have been studies that nullify this theory completely.

How do you treat diverticulitis?  

In the allopathic medical world, the common treatment for an attack of diverticulitis is antibiotics. In severe or recurrent cases, laparoscopic lavage to wash out the diverticula or surgeries like bowel resections and colostomies may be necessary. Of course this depends on the type and severity of your symptoms. Someone dealing with a mild case would most commonly be prescribed antibiotics, including Rifaximin, an antibiotic commonly used for SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth).

How do you prevent or reverse diverticular disease?

While there is some controversy around this recommendation, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to start by trying to gradually add more fiber from fruit and vegetables to your diet, as this is helpful for health overall and gut health in particular. A study of almost 48,000 men found that those who ate the most fiber (>32 grams/day) had a 42% lower risk of developing diverticulitis than those who ate the lowest amount of fiber. The risk was also higher in men who had a higher intake of fat and red meat along with low fiber. But I want you to take that in context. Knowing what we do about how ketogenic diets produce butyrate naturally in the colon and often help people resolve bowel issues, I wouldn’t want you to lump a ketogenic diet into this category. I’m assuming that the people in the study consuming this low fiber, high fat, high red meat diet were on more of a Standard American Diet, where the fat was coming from processed seed oils used for deep frying the fries that went along with the burgers and their buns, not from grassfed, high quality red meat, prepared at home and accompanied by healthy oils coming from avocados, as well as avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil, ideally atop a nice big salad with a healthy carb like sweet potato or winter squash accompanying it.

All of this makes sense to me because in the end, to have an infection in the diverticula, you may need an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria, and pathogenic bacteria are kept in check by commensal bacteria, which feed on healthy foods that are high in fiber.

Historically, as I mentioned before, a common recommendation for people with diverticulitis was to avoid nuts, seeds, popcorn and corn. This was debunked, at least for corn, popcorn and nuts, in the Health Professionals Follow Up study I mentioned before with the 48,000 men. In fact, popcorn and nuts were actually found to be beneficial.

As always though, you should take your time when you eat and chew your food well, especially if you are eating nuts and seeds.

Dietary approaches you can take include eating more probiotic foods, again to continue providing beneficial bacteria to your system, drinking bone broth, which provides healing nutrients to your intestines and eating an anti-inflammatory diet (which for my personal bias tends more towards a paleo diet).

Reducing alcohol consumption is also a solid recommendation not just for your general health, but also because one study showed a 2.2 times great risk of developing diverticulosis in drinkers versus non-drinkers.

Supplements that may be helpful in soothing the gut lining include slippery elm, aloe vera, marshmallow root extract and DGL or Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice Root Extract. There’s a supplement with those four combined I often recommend to folks with H Pylori called DGL plus made by Pure Encapsulations. You can find that in my Fullscript* or Wellevate* Dispensaries.

And I checked and my new favorite supplement, butyrate, also has evidence supporting its use for diverticulitis, which makes sense because it helps feed and heal the your gut colonocytes, or the cells lining your large intestine, especially when you’re using forms of it like Tributyrin* that definitely get down to the large intestine, which we talked about in my last podcast. In one study of 52 patients with diverticulosis, patients in the experimental group who received 300 mg of sodium butyrate a day, which is a pretty low dose in my experience, had significantly fewer episodes of diverticulitis than those in the control group. While I don’t personally have diverticulosis, to my knowledge, I take butyrate for other reasons, including great stool quality, and currently take 2-3 500 mg pills a day of Tributyrin-X*. Now if you’re constipated, you should only start with one pill every 3 days – just a warning. Check out my last podcast or the blog/transcript version for more details on that. Those links will all be in the show notes.

So I hope that was helpful for those of you suffering from diverticular disease. As always, if you’re struggling with any type of gut health problem and are ready to get some professional help, you’re welcome to set up a free, 30-minute breakthrough session with me. We’ll talk about what you’ve been going through and I’ll tell you about my gut health coaching 5-appointment program in which I recommend lab tests, educate you on what the results mean and the protocols used by doctors to fix the problems revealed. Or if you’re ready to jump in right away or can just afford one appointment at a time, you can set up an 1-hour consultation with me.

*Product links are affiliate links for which I’ll receive a commission. Thanks for your support of my podcast and blog by using these links.

Back to the Basics of Optimal Gut Health

Adapted from episode 58 of The Perfect Stool podcast and edited for readability.

Lindsey:                                                                                                                      

So you want to start by just telling us all a bit about your gut health journey and what brought you to found healthygut.com?

Steven Wright:

Yeah, love to. First, I just want to say that I love the name of your podcast and what you’re doing here. I think we need a lot more levity. We need to bring levity and seriousness to this work. So thank you for doing what you’re doing here. And I love the name of your podcast. So, I feel like some people identify with me, which is I’m a “from birther”, or I had a birth defect that caused intestinal issues, right from the start. And other people are what I would call trigger people. They, they have some sort of life event, they go to Mexico or something, and then everything changes. So, I’m a from birther. And then of course, things just compounded with dermatologists prescribing four years of antibiotics, animal house college experience, and then a high stress consulting job at a big four accounting firm. I sort of realized along the way that I wasn’t normal. When I talked to other people, I wasn’t normal. But at that job, I actually got called to my boss’s office and told that I was stinking up the place and that I was probably going to lose my job if I didn’t fix my gut. And, of course, I knew this. Every meal that I ate, I would bloat up so bad that I would cry softly in my cubicle. I tried chicken breast and salad and I tried beer and burgers, nothing really worked. I saw a bunch of Western medical doctors in Chicago. And basically, they told me that I have a family history of IBS. And that I should suck it up, essentially.

Lindsey:  

Can I ask what the birth defect was that that gave you gut issues?

Steven Wright:

So I was born with a hydrocele hernia, which is where the ball sack doesn’t necessarily close. And you can get a bunch of the abdominal cavity kind of stuck in the layers there. They didn’t catch it. And so I was in pain from zero weeks to 12 weeks, and my mom kept asking for someone to take a look at me. And they just kept telling her that she’s a new mommy, she doesn’t know what she’s doing. And then at 12 weeks, I had only gained one pound. So, I was now in the failure to thrive category. Luckily, finally, someone gave me a manual exam, they found the hydrocele, and they gave me an antiemetic drug to help me basically keep food down because I was literally spitting up everything.

So yeah, it’s been a long journey that, you know, I don’t wish it on anyone. And I do know that people have had it much worse than me. When Western medicine said, “there’s not much we can do for you, if you’re not eating your whole grains, we can’t help you,” That’s when I just got really mad. I thought, well, I earned a degree in problem solving. Electrical engineering, this is my college degree. You can’t touch electricity, you can’t really see it. It’s this thing that’s in a box, and you just have to monitor inputs and outputs.

And I was just really angry, up all night having diarrhea, and I was like, “the body’s no different.” I can figure this out. I just have to find mentors and people who have helped problems that I have, and then I’m going to reverse engineer this. That kind of launched me on this different trajectory of my life in which I changed my diet and immediately started seeing improvements and gaining confidence. And then, writing about it because I was so angry that I wasn’t given any other options. You know, this was 2009. The internet was nothing like it is today; we don’t have amazing podcasts like this one. So yeah, that kind of kicked off Healthy Gut and then as I fixed one thing or got partial benefit, it just kept driving me down the rabbit hole deeper to be like, well, why does my skin still react? Why do I have mental health struggles? Why am I still overweight? And that’s how you spend $400,000 in like 12 years

Lindsey: 

I see that you trained under Daniel Kalish. He’s one of my mentors as well, so I’m curious how you thought that training was.

Steven Wright:

I thought it was amazing. I really appreciate Dan’s work and models. I think he produces some of the best clinicians out there versus IFM and some of the other functional medicine schools. I think it’s mostly because he’s really good at some simple things that a lot of other schools make really complex. I’m not saying that the Kalish Institute is the place if you have super complex issues or gene-related things, but for basic and some really solid protocols that work on 90% of people? I think he knocked it out of the park. He’s got the, you know, 20-40 years of experience to back that up.

Lindsey:  

Yeah, I just finished his amino acids and B vitamins course, and we even had a webinar with Richard Lord.

Steven Wright:

Oh, man, he is so smart.

Lindsey:  

Yeah! I’m still trying to work my way through the text materials from Laboratory Guides to Health for  the relevant chapters. And it is definitely more of a reference guide than a novel.

Steven Wright: 

I bet that guy’s IQ is off the charts.

Lindsey:   

Anyway, at least when I tell people, “this is the recommendation that Richard Lord, who invented the test and wrote the textbook for it, says,” I feel pretty confident that I’m making a good recommendation.

Steven Wright:

Totally!

Lindsey:   

Okay, wow, that must have been a super awkward conversation when your boss had to complain about your gas. Was that a long time coming? Until like the entire office was about to mutiny.

Steven Wright:

Yeah, I mean, I guess so. It was super uncomfortable and embarrassing for me. I have plenty of other embarrassing stories about commuter buses and being locked in certain places where I’ve had issues. I think what’s true is that the majority of us who have a chronic health issue who break out of the pharmaceutical model, we have an emotional breaking point. Where the pain gets so strong there’s an opportunity for a new paradigm to come through, and that was one of the biggest ones in my life. I’ve had multiple, but that was a big one. I don’t think he enjoyed it. I didn’t enjoy being the stinky guy. That’s not what I want to be.

Lindsey: 

So looking back on it, do you think it was hydrogen sulfide SIBO? Or what do you say you had?

Steven Wright:

Well, I have positive stool tests from within a year of that. A positive stool test for Candida, and I immediately responded to the specific carbohydrate diet. Obviously, I was not absorbing or malbsorbing all the carbohydrate groups or FODMAP groups, or both of them. I had low stomach acid, because betaine HCl supplementation just almost immediately changed my life.

Lindsey:  

You just had a whole messed up gut.

Steven Wright:

Yeah, heah, I had all kinds of things. I had a history of head injuries. I had leaky gut, couldn’t eat any dairy. Taking dairy out allowed me to smell again. I just thought you walk through life congested, I didn’t know any different. I was in a bad place with a host of things. I didn’t see a functional medicine provider until years later. Had I seen someone that graduated from the Kailash Institute and they did an Organic Acids panel, a GI test and, some basic blood chemistry; it would have been two hours’ worth of material there.

Lindsey:   

I’m curious, did you settle then on digestive enzymes, betaine HCl and butyrate as the three products to heal the gut.

Steven Wright:

I don’t know that those are the only three, I just want to start with that. But I think they’re really core to gut healing. It started from my experiences. On one hand, I think I have this brilliance, but this brilliance comes with a downside. I believe every claim, I believe every miracle. You tell me about açaí juice, I’m going to buy some açaí juice. You tell me about some jungle herbs, I’m going to try it. That’s me. It started when I was buying MLMs with my first $20 when I was 13 years old. I just believe everything, therefore I fall for everything. But I’ve done it hundreds and hundreds and probably thousands of times now. I take recommendations very seriously, because of how much I’ve been burned. I’ve tried all the latest stuff on myself. One of the things I ended up realizing is that this idea that it’s just prebiotics, or probiotics or things like that, it’s not working! You have a certain class of people who react to them, and right off the bat they can’t even process them. So that drove me back to my engineering principles. What are the first principles? Well, the first principles is, if you eat it and you cannot absorb it or break it down, it is toxic to you. It doesn’t matter how “good” it is. It just kept driving me nuts. Why are there so many SIBO recurrences? Why are there so many lifelong gut people? It drove me back to the naturopathic principles of terrain. I guess, with this new engineering model of building an ecosystem that is super uninhabitable for the things that we don’t want, we have to determine what the prerequisites to that ecosystem are. One of the prerequisites is great stomach acid. Another prerequisite is proper enzymes at all three levels; at the pancreatic, brush border and microbiome. Another prerequisite is short chain fatty acid production, especially butyrate. It seemed like as I looked at the marketplace over the last 10 years that no one was focused on these boring things that have been around for 30-40 years. They’re really focused on the new exciting probiotics, which I also am excited about. So I decided if no one’s innovating, I’m going to go innovate on this. To build the best products for creating the great ecosystem, you need to have a great gut.

Lindsey: 

You mentioned that you don’t think those are the only things. Do you think that most people would maybe need a round of antimicrobials or two, if they have SIBO or Candida prior to using the products that you have?

Steven Wright:

Definitely need them, not prior to but in combination with. In my opinion, we want the body’s defense mechanisms up and working when we use antimicrobials of any type, whether it’s antibiotics or herbal. I think that’s one of Kalish’s principles that he drove home for me in my class. If you just keep throwing antimicrobials at the body, but the body’s defense mechanisms never support you in that process, why would you be surprised if the infection comes back? It’s going to come back. And so I think they’re in conjunction with a program that needs to happen for that person.

Lindsey:   

Okay. So are you familiar with Lucy Mailing? I interviewed her in Episode 25, and she wrote a great article summarizing the whole gut oxygen dysbiosis hypothesis.

Steven Wright:

Yeah, yep.

Lindsey:

Okay, so I tend to think of butyrate as a stool hardener. I’m assuming that it’s related to making the gut more hypoxic or less hospitable to facultative anaerobes, like proteobacteria, and increasing the anaerobic bacteria, as a consequence of it becoming more oxygen free. Those anaerobic bacteria tend to be butyrate producers. So in theory, I think that it should turn things around to take butyrate for a while. And then ultimately, you have more of this anaerobic bacteria that sort of supports itself. Because of that, I feel like I should be able to get off butyrate. But each time I go off it, I regret it. And I have to go back on it to keep up with my podcast namesake of the perfect stool. I do have a reputation to keep up. Do you find that after being on butyrate for some time that people can wean off it and stay in good health? Or is it something you’re finding that people need to stay on for life at some dose?

Steven Wright: 

Number one, I think the oxygen hypothesis is so fascinating. There’s one study now on mice involving butyrate and antibiotics and how, basically all the probiotic studies taking probiotics with antibiotics to recover from microbiome have failed. The one butyrate study has so far been a success. So I hope they do more of that, because I think the oxygen hypothesis-

Lindsey:

Oh, I’m not familiar with that one.

Steven Wright:

It’s really cool. I think the oxygen hypothesis that you and Lucy talked about is really, really fascinating. And I cannot wait for more work on that. I do think it’s going to end up holding out because again, it’s setting up the conditions for a healthy microbiome. That’s what we want. Now personally, I don’t know if these are “lifelong supplements,” I highly doubt it. I’m going to be working over the next five to ten years to make sure that we have a roadmap for someone like yourself who wants to bridge off of a butyrate product or tributyrin product on to maybe prebiotic, probiotics, fruits and vegetables, whatever your belief is or what you need for the perfect stool.

There’s a few things that could be holding people on a butyrate supplement. One, is the microbiome actually recovering? For instance, when you’re on the supportive crutch of a butyrate supplement, can you introduce higher and higher loads of specialty prebiotics that are known to increase butyrate producers? And then maybe after three months of that, could you bridge off of it slowly? With that higher prebiotic load that would be one possibility and also coupling that with probiotics. That’s the hypothesis I have on how to get people from a tributyrin or butyrate product bridged off onto something else. I think the other thing that’s fascinating that kind of works counterintuitive to that, or maybe not counterintuitive, but butyrate is a lot like magnesium in that. Basically wherever researchers look, they find butyrate acting systemically. And so if we’ve been depleted for long time due to dysbiosis. For myself, my whole life I’ve had messed up short chain fatty acid production. There might be a nutrient deficiency that has to be filled systemically before it’s time to get off. And again, total hypothesis, but these are the things that I think about, late at night when I can’t sleep.

Lindsey: 

Do you know of special prebiotics for butyrate producers?

Steven Wright:

There’s several studies out there. Research is kind of new, but they’re typically really, really brightly colored fruit. So certain types of grapes, pomegranate, cranberries, green kiwi fruit. I’m missing another one or two, but in general, really brightly colored fruits seem to be preferential. Also, lacto rhamnosus GG, LGG, is one of the most popular longest standing probiotics. There is one or two studies on that increasing the butyrate producers.

Lindsey:   

I’m always on so many different things, because people are sending me free products to try and I’ve got new theories I want to try out myself. And I have that on my list of things to try next when I’m done with the current thing, because you can only take so many pills in a day, you know. That’s good to know, though. I mean, at least I can certainly think about including more of those foods in my diet. On another podcast, I heard you talking about butyrate for constipated people, not just people with soft stools, or diarrhea. And I found that surprising! As I was saying, when I tend to ramp up the butyrate, I’ll get to the point where I start getting rabbit pellets, and then I’ll back off. That usually does the trick of getting back to more of a perfect stool. I’m curious about using it and the dosing and the mechanism of action that you’re using when somebody is constipated.

Steven Wright:

This is also something that is going to take me another six to twelve months to really wrap my head around. At this point in time, there’s been a few human studies showing that in constipated people, you have low butyrate production. And there’s been one intervention trial, I believe, with sodium butyrate 300 milligrams once or twice per day, I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I believe it, I would assume it’s once per day. In that trial, only a certain percentage of those people got help. But in general, their pain and bloating went down. What I’ve seen in practice with our Tributyrin *, which is a totally different compound, and we can get into the specifics of that later, is that I believe there’s something around constipated people in this sort of oxygen microbiome hypothesis. And I don’t know what exactly would be happening over eight to twelve weeks. But what we’ve been seeing is that people who have been extremely dependent on laxatives of all types, if we can get them to take the Tributyrin-X* once every three days for about a month, and then they go to every other day, somewhere between eight and twelve weeks, a seismic shift tends to happen inside of their GI environment such that they are tolerating new foods, they’re going every day. It’s really weird. There’s an unlocking that happens. And I’m assuming or hypothesizing that it’s creating a shift in the GI tract, probably in the microbiome, such that it maybe gets that oxygen balance right, finally. But you have to go so slow, like you said, because the number one side effect or really the only side effect of butyrate supplementation is you can slow the motility down too much.

Lindsey: 

I think of butyrate as an intervention for the large intestine because it feeds the cells lining the large intestine. I’m curious about why you don’t have a product with l-glutamine to feed and heal the small intestine?

Steven Wright:

I’m not against l-glutamine at all. In fact, I wrote a really long blog post on it many years ago; it’s been helpful for myself and for many others. I think, unfortunately, too many people out there are under dosing it, you know, most of the studies suggest 30 to 80 grams is what you really need to be at to see some benefit.

Lindsey: 

30 to 80 grams a day?

Steven Wright:

Yes.

Lindsey:

Wow. That’s pretty hefty.

Steven Wright:

It is from the functional medicine perspective, but not if you look at it from a bodybuilding or a burn unit perspective. So if you want to be on l-glutamine for the rest of your life, then you can take it at three grams a day or two grams a day. But if you want to have a quick intervention for someone who has small intestine issues, or leaky gut issues, and they don’t convert it… the other thing with glutamine is that some percentage of people, I don’t know if it’s 10%, or 20%, seems like it’s going to follow the 80/20 principle. That’s my observation. But some people preferentially convert it right to glutamate, and it causes all kinds of neurological issues. I don’t know how to screen for those people based on a test or symptoms at this point in time, maybe you do. But because of that, I don’t like it when you get people in that state of mind where they’re ready to invest as much money as it takes and emotionally change their life. And then you give them something; they have a big adverse reaction from just one scoop. So, I’m not against l-glutamine in any capacity. It’s just that butyrate to me seems better tolerated and has just as profound impact. Used in combo, they could be amazing. I haven’t even done it yet.

Lindsey: 

Okay, so why do you think that so many people need supplemental stomach acid? Shouldn’t we as a species have what we need to digest our food if we’re in good health, and we’re eating a healthy diet?

Steven Wright:

That’s if we don’t take into effect aging. The thing that people are often overlooking is that, for instance, ovaries and testes are literally going into organ failure. Potentially the stomach is too. So there’s been a really cool paper that came out showing that in 90% of people over the age of 60, they don’t necessarily lose their ability to produce stomach acid when they test it without any food or in a fasted state. But they seem to really lose their ability to regulate and produce stomach acid after the introduction of food or some sort of nutrient. That ability to acidify and then re-acidify the stomach tends to really drop as we age. I don’t know if you’re stressed but I’m very stressed. I struggle to make sense of the world today; there’s a lot going on. And when we’re in a sympathetic state, we can’t make as much stomach acid because we need to be in the parasympathetic state to actually produce that stomach acid. So I think between the increased use of technology and stress, and then just general aging, I think we’re often overlooking those two really important principles.

Lindsey: 

And so with your betaine HCl product, I noticed that it had an intrinsic factor in it, which is what we need to digest vitamin B12. I was intrigued because I had, at one point, gotten the diagnosis of pernicious anemia, which means I had some autoimmunity against the cells in the stomach that produce intrinsic factor, although my latest test was actually negative. But at the time, I couldn’t digest B12. And I had to either get injections or take sublingual pills. When I saw the intrinsic factor in there, I thought, that’s genius. Because by doing that, you’re basically saving someone one more pill to take, or at least covering your bases for the digestion of B12 just in case somebody has undiagnosed antibodies. So I’m curious how you came to decide to put that in there, and what kind of customer feedback you’ve gotten.

Steven Wright:

Well, it basically just came from exactly what you said, honestly. I didn’t really want to start a supplement company. I mean, I love supplements, I told you earlier I buy every miracle pill out there. But I thought the world needed something different from me. There’s already 1000s of supplement companies out there, but I had been wanting an intrinsic factor HCl product for six or seven years now and none of the big name practitioner-grade supplement companies would build it. I would tell them at conferences, “hey, what do you think about adding intrinsic factor,” but I guess it’s just not a product that people wanted to innovate on. So that’s part of what I want Healthy Gut to do; take some things that just biologically make sense. We know that the intrinsic factor may be low if we have to replace stomach acid, kind of like including pepsin in there. That was just what I thought is supposed to happen biologically, and then there appears to be a difference. I would say that the number one thing that practitioners report to me about HCl Guard*, is that it’s working better than anything they’ve ever tried. They’re not sure exactly why but in general, people report using two to three less capsules than whatever other brand they’re using. And they actually get the results, such as regulated motility, less burping, less gas, less heartburn and different symptoms that would suggest that your stomach acid is regulated.

Lindsey: 

And do you recommend people take it in the same way that a typical HCl challenge would go?

Steven Wright: 

Same way, same ramp up dosage, starting with one pill. One other big misconception is that everyone’s always trying to find burning or some sort of uncomfortableness and I’ve observed that 20 to 30% of people never really feel that. What they do feel is loose stools or some sort of speed up in their symptoms. I would encourage people to try to find their dose, whether they use a different product or our product. You do need to find that ideal dosage because one pill too much or one pill too little from any brand, and you’re really not getting the perfect change in your ecosystem that you’re hoping to.

Lindsey: 

Okay, what’s the dosage of one pill of your Betaine HCl?

Steven Wright: 

We have 550 milligrams of Betaine HCL in our pills, 30 milligrams I believe of pepsin, 15 milligrams of intrinsic factor, we have the organic ginger at 100 milligrams and DGL at 50 milligrams.

Lindsey:  

Why the ginger?

Steven Wright: 

Well, the other thing that kind of annoyed me is that one of the biggest drivers of peristalsis is your stomach acid, the pH of the food as it moves through the body, that’s a huge signal. It seems like in today’s world, that prokinetic usage and prokinetic support has just gone through the roof. I was trying to think about that, and I think it’s related to the stomach acid issue. But I also bet that the cells are getting a little weaker in there, and maybe even forgetting how hard to contract. There could be so many factors, I mean, who knows, it could just be low thyroid; there’s a lot of variables that could be at play there. But with the up-regulation of prokinetic use, it just seemed natural to me to use a strong prokinetic like organic ginger in the formulation to help people get their GI tract regulated. Also, ginger has a long history of use for anti-inflammatory possibilities, healing the gut lining and all those types of things. So to me, it was just a natural herb to add in there. There was a study done with ginger extract for producing a peristaltic wave, so it is backed up by studies in humans, which is the other thing that I really try to do.

Lindsey: 

Speaking of prokinetics, that’s my current fascination since I have now had a positive IBSsmart test* for the anti-vinculin antibodies. I’m on a mission to discover the best prokinetics, do you have any experience with this?

Steven Wright:

I’ve never tried any other prescription prokinetics. I’ve tried many of the supplemental forms; you’ll probably be more up on it than me. 5-HTP, and the amino acids can be really, really helpful for brain related things and mood related things. But I’ve never really seen them do much for prokinetic related issues. I’d be curious to hear from you what you’re excited about?

Lindsey: 

Well, I’m trying Iberogast right now. It’s hard to say if it’s going well, it’s one of these things where you have these issues and they come and go. I think those of us who have these kinds of either inborn errors or acquired problems, in my case, food poisoning, that we may likely always be off and it’s always going to be sort of an ongoing battle. I haven’t tried any prescription ones. I’m working to try and find a gastroenterologist who will actually listen to me and not blow me off and try and get me to a colonoscopy like my last one. Anyway, the digestive enzymes that you produce, is the theory behind that, that if you’re digesting more while everything’s in the stomach and small intestine with the help of those enzymes, even if they aren’t deficient, that the less you’ll send on to bacteria that will then overgrow in your gut and ferment the food?

Steven Wright:

Yeah, that’s one of the big issues. If you want to have a healthy microbiome, we have to send it the right types of food particles and the right sizes for it to ferment. Then the other thing is, we don’t want the wrong size food particles or food in general sitting around in the small intestine, which I think is driving a lot of the SIBO, Candida, SIFO, all these different sorts of overgrowth in the small intestine. I think one of them is just mal-absorbing food due to poor enzyme production, release or activation. So Holozymes*is my answer to all of these carbohydrate malabsorption issues with FODMAPS, as well as just the generalized issue that people have with stomach acid. I think, potentially, if you have any inflammation from the SIBO/SIFO/etc., you’re in this loop where you have inflammation probably shutting off your brush border enzyme release at some level, or inhibiting it at some level. How do you dig yourself out of that spiral where it just gets worse and worse? I think Holozymes can be a solid intervention for that type of situation.

Lindsey: 

Can you just elaborate a little bit on the different types of enzymes, I think that might be helpful to people?

Steven Wright: 

Going from top to bottom is the best way to visualize it. But there’s a little amylase in your saliva. There’s pepsin in your stomach, a super important proteolytic enzyme. The three most important enzymes for digestion, in my opinion, are the pancreatic enzymes, which are protease, lipase and amylase. Protease is protein. Lipase is fat. Amylase is carbohydrates. That’s coming in at the top of your small intestine from your pancreas. Then you have at the brush border, the villi In the crypts area. They’re releasing brush border enzymes. These are typically things like lactase for lactose absorption. A lot of people “lose” their lactase over time. Who knows if it’s inflammation at the brush border, or if it’s actually happening; you have other ones there like sucrase and maltase. These break down the last bonds of disaccharides, down to monosaccharides. And then in the microbiome, you have all these crazy cool enzymes. And I bet we’ll learn about hundreds more in the next decade. Specific ones that people have probably heard about are things like cellulase, which breaks down the cell wall components of your vegetable and fruit matter. Alphagalactosidase, which break down raffinose, it’s an oligosaccharide part of the FODMAP fructan group that often is found in cruciferous vegetables, beans and lentils. Those traditional “gassy foods,” if you will. If we start going back up the chain, if you have dysbiosis, you might not have the right bacteria classes, or the right enzyme production from those bacteria to break down the last part of your food. This would be the vegetable matter, the fibrous stuff and the prebiotics. In the small intestine if you don’t have your brush border, that’s where you’re going to be really feeding SIBO/SIFO. You’re not going to be able to break down, for instance, sucrose, which is two molecules of monosaccharides combined. You won’t be able to break that down, and that’s going to cause an easy meal for some bacteria. The pancreatic enzymes are the heavy lifters at the top, so they really need to be happening to begin the unfolding of the big complex molecules that we eat.

Lindsey:  

Is there any situation in which digestive enzymes might be contraindicated? If you keep on taking them past the point when you really need to, are you in danger of eating up your own stomach wall?

Steven Wright: 

If you have active gastritis or if you have active ulcers and you take any enzyme product, ours or anyone’s, and you have pain, then that is contraindicated. Work with your provider to do something to heal your mucous lining and whatever is happening with your gastritis. Beyond that, I don’t believe so. I’ve looked for this; I bought almost every book that’s ever been made, ones that are out of print. I’ve tried, I found every paper I can on this, and I have yet to find anybody with a theory even on what a negative feedback loop would be basically that would turn off our internal production of enzymes, if you take them exogenously. Everyone’s pretty familiar that if, for instance, males take testosterone replacement, it shuts off any internal production of testosterone in a ratio based on how much they’re taking. That sort of feedback loop I have not yet found, and I haven’t found anybody even with a theory on it.

Lindsey:   

How about for HCl?

Steven Wright:  

I haven’t found that either.

Lindsey:  

It’s the opposite, isn’t it? You take it for a bit and eventually your production comes back on?

Steven Wright:  

Right, right, that’s what I was going to say. In fact, I’ve experienced that personally. I’ve seen that in our community quite a bit. And people like Dr. Jonathan Wright and Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis say that you can typically bridge off of your HCl usage, at some point.

Lindsey:  

Yeah, that’s what happened for me. At first when I started taking it, I seemed to need it. And then after a while, I started getting that burning sensation. Now at this point, if I try even one, I get that sensation. I kept thinking I needed it, until I got my negative intrinsic factor and parietal cell antibody test, and now I know I don’t.

Steven Wright:   

Well, that’s great. That’s awesome healing.

Lindsey: 

Yeah! And what might people see that indicates that they’re not digesting their food well, that they might need digestive enzymes?

Steven Wright: 

I do want to touch on my last point on enzyme usage. I, coming from the functional medicine world, thought that I should probably only take two or three or four, and that seemed like a lot to me. Then my fiancée was diagnosed with breast cancer. So we’ve been on a journey for a couple of years. She has no evidence of disease at the moment. She’s recovering very well, but the fight is not over. In our journey through the cancer underworld of medicine, there’s a whole class of cancer doctors who have successfully used high dose systemic enzyme therapy for this and they take like 130 to 160 capsules a day. When I realized that people were dosing enzymes systemically, at 100 times more what functional medicine people were doing, I realized we’ve fallen for a few myths here. I really started to experiment with that and check in with other doctors and practitioners. It does seem like, as the integrative and functional medicine community has been trained, that we might be under dosing. It doesn’t matter what brand you’re using. And if people are not responding, they’ll still continue to have symptoms like undigested food in your toilet or in the stool, oily toilet or experiencing food sensitivities to certain classes of foods. All of these things suggest a lack of ability to break down the food. Gas and bloating are the top symptoms, other than the pieces of food and food sensitivity. That’s kind of the main driver of your inability to break down your food. It is real and it’s live and it’s happening. Now, of course you can run tests like fecal elastase, but as far as I know, there’s no real test for microbiome enzymes, or brush border enzymes. That makes it more, I think, symptom driven, at least at this point in our understanding of testing and the body. And so if people are having those issues, I don’t care what brand you have, double or triple the dose. The safety profile of enzymes in humans seem to be extremely robust.

Lindsey:  

Speaking of that, using enzymes on an empty stomach systemically, I’ve done that with the proteolytic enzymes for Hashimoto’s because there was a study around that.

Steven Wright:

Did it help?

Lindsey:

I assume so because my Hashimoto’s is completely reversed. My antibodies are completely negative, or normal.

Steven Wright:

That’s amazing!

Lindsey:

Yeah, it all works!

Steven Wright: 

With the Holozymes, there’s been six pilot trials on our product, and the patent behind it, and they were looking at both systemic and digestive use. The dosage was two per meal, and then two before bed, and we routinely get comments around improvements after exercise. Some people can only exercise once a week or twice a week, and they get really, really fatigued, right? Because they’re trying to come back from all these issues. Immediately, their exercise tolerance doubles, or triples, and they can work out every other day. We have people who have joint stiffness and aching, which could be related to things like arthritis or getting old, and they’re moving. They’re walking four or five miles again. Also, things related to gout, pain, and high uric acid pain. Lots of anecdotes, again, this is not treating any of these diseases. This is just anecdotally, when you use the whole enzyme systemically and adjustably. I’m just a huge fan, whether you’re using ours or somebody else’s for systemic enzyme use.

Lindsey:

That’s interesting about the gout because my husband has gout and refuses to take anything or do anything. When he has a flare, he takes the prescription stuff you’re supposed to take, but I should try to get him on that.

Steven Wright: 

Yeah, and this is just anecdotal usage. This is not indicative. Our product does not treat gout or any of these things. But I developed high uric acid at 32 after about six or seven years on a paleo, gluten-free style diet. That was five years ago. And I was just mortified, right? Like I’m supposed to be this healthy guy. And I’m trying to set the bar, and here I am hobbling around the house. I tried to suck it up. I tried all kinds of cherry this cherry that, and other stone breaker thingies, anything related to uric acid I could find out there. I got nothing and nowhere and I almost had to give up working out and being out in the mountains, because it would hurt so bad when it was flaring. Then I met the PhD behind whole designs that I partnered with on this formula. He was telling me, “oh, we did these six pilot trials.” Well, two of the pilot trials were on high uric acid and gout patients. And I was like, “okay, give me your miracle pills, buddy.” Basically about 14 days of higher dosing, I did a loading dose, and I have not suffered the big toe issues that I did since. It’s been over three years now.

Lindsey: 

Are you talking about taking them on an empty stomach or both with meals and then on an empty stomach?

Steven Wright: 

With meals and on an empty stomach. That’s how I use them. So I did a loading dose of six per meal and six before bed for two weeks, and then I cut back. On average now I use three to four per meal, depending on the meal. And I use three to four, depending on the day, before bed.

Lindsey:  

Do you find now that you have these few products that are helpful that you can limit yourself to those?

Steven Wright: 

Yes and no. I still believe that one of the most important things for aging and for our longevity and for our immune system health is microbiome health. And so I am regularly testing probiotic brands, probiotic strains, I take probiotics on a regular basis and I cycle through all different kinds. I don’t just limit it; every once in a while I throw some immunoglobulins in there, because especially in today’s world we don’t want to catch anything. So I’m hyper vigilant on taking my products and testing out new things. The product lineup at Healthy Gut right now, which is just the HCl Guard, Holozymes and the Tributyrin-X, are the basics. Those are mechanically what a gut needs to do its job and then everything else beyond that is the really fun, fancy stuff. Very exciting stuff. I want both worlds, basically,

Lindsey: 

I really liked the Tributyrin-X* because it’s a small, easily swallowable pill. And with three of them, you’re getting 1500 mg. I like Probutyrate too, but it’s only I think 300 per pill. So if you take four, you’re getting 1200. That’s one reason I really like yours and chose to get those, just to take fewer pills at the end of the day and get a higher dose.

Steven Wright: 

I’m glad that you’re testing it. Are you noticing a difference at all between the two?

Lindsey: 

The impact is roughly the same, but the difference is that I can take one fewer pill. I think that the goal for people who’ve been through these high supplement regimes, as many of my clients have, is to get off of as many pills as possible and get back to just eating food and being able to digest it and live a normal life. I think for some of us, it’s going to be a lifelong battle where you have to take something to help out. If that something is digestive enzymes, that makes sense, because if you’re not fully digesting your food, because you have a tendency to have SIBO and overgrown bacteria that are going to steal some of your nutrients, then it makes sense that perhaps digestive enzymes is the thing that helps you to not have to take the other things.

Steven Wright:  

100%. That’s my only thing that I try to tell people. I see people spending thousands of dollars and many, many hours trying to source organic grassfed beef or wild caught salmon or organic vegetables from a local farm. And then they can’t utilize the nutrients from that food. It’s just sad to me, it’s really heartbreaking at some level, because I’ve been trying to optimize every single variable in my diet, only to mal-absorb it. I think enzymes, especially as we age, have this sort of pancreatic theory of aging. I can’t remember the exact term on it. It’s basically that you only have so much pancreatic enzymes, just like you only have so many stem cells. As you age, they’re running out. So I think enzymes as you age should be thought of like magnesium or vitamin D. It’s what you need to be healthy in today’s world. We have products like butyrates and tributyrins. Again, if that is a lifelong thing, it’s better than losing a colon or ending up with a worse diagnosis, in my opinion.

Lindsey: 

I mean, at the end of the day, if all you have to do is take some digestive enzymes while you eat… I find that three butyrates once a day pretty much does the job for me.

Steven Wright: 

That’s awesome. At healthy gut, I really want to support people and their dosing because I know that a lot of people have dosing challenges and most supplement companies really don’t want to talk about that. Whatever the back of the bottle says, may not be true for you. We do know that based on studies and talking with clinicians that around 1000 to 2000 milligrams a day of tributyrin should be where 80% of everybody falls. I personally only need one per day, but when I started I needed three per day. I wouldn’t be surprised if over time, Lindsey, you reduce down and need less. We have some people who haven’t had a formed stool their entire life. They’ve tried almost everything, and they use you know, four butyrates three times per day. And they’re finally having regulated, perfect stools. It’s very dependent upon the person, genetics, epigenetics and the environment.

Lindsey: 

Are you seeing butyrate useful with people with ulcerative colitis?

Steven Wright:   

We have some amazing testimonials from people with ulcerative colitis. I think one of our most famous was a father who during the pandemic, his wife got pregnant. You got a pandemic happening and your wife gets unexpectedly pregnant. That’s very surprising and awesome, but also very stressful. He already had IBD and was just on the verge of being out of a UC flare. He was super super concerned. He bought the product and sent us an amazing review. He told us that his prayers had been answered, he’s able to take care of his wife and child and he’s not flaring. That was unheard of for him. I think it’s super exciting for the IBD crowd. Butyrates in general, whether it’s our product or anybody else’s

Lindsey: 

Any thoughts about dosing that people should know? I too think the dilemma is that people think, “I get this bottle and in theory it should last me at least a month,” but the reality is it may not. Especially at the beginning, right?

Steven Wright:  

Some people are going through a bottle a week and other people are going through a bottle every 90 days. I think the one thing that’s not being talked about in integrative medicine and functional medicine is that you cannot escape statistics. I don’t care how quantum you want to talk, statistically speaking, 34% of the people you see will fall on the long tail of a bell curve. That means they’re either going to need a lot more or less of whatever product. I mean there are studies showing that some people do not respond to vitamin D3 supplementation until you crank it up to like hundreds of thousands of units, which for other people would be potentially a fatal dose if they took it for six months or a year. We actually do a very similar thing for our product as the HCL challenge, which is start low, start slow, especially if you consider yourself a sensitive person. Then, ramp up until you notice things like really good Bristol stool chart poops, your bloating is going down or your reactions change. The number one thing that we see is histamine, mast cells and food sensitivities are the biggest thing beyond stool regulation. So whenever they stop reacting to perfumes, environmental toxins, dogs, foods, all those types of things. I tell them, “you’re really close to your dosage so stay around that dosage, because obviously something important is happening.”

Lindsey:  

That’s really good to know because that is an area where I have felt I needed assistance. I just use over the counter allergy pills for this type of histamine reaction, and of course, diet changes, but that’s good to know butyrate is useful in that case, too.

Steven Wright:  

Well, it’s got to be an tributyrin product. Sodium butyrate is absorbed extremely fast. Calcium and magnesium butyrates are absorbed extremely fast in the upper GI tract. So you want to get a tributyrin, which is more of a delayed release just because of the compound, it needs lipase to begin to break down. Any tributyrin product from any company, you want to spread it out. The reason why is that you want to spread it out across the mast cells all the way through the GI tract as far as you could go. So if you slowly coat the GI tract from the top of the small intestine down, the farther you can get it, the deeper into the small intestine and potentially even into the large intestine. That’s your ideal delivery zone. But you want these slow release ones so that wherever you have mass cells that are over activated, you’re sort of like putting a nice weighted blanket on them or something to kind of see, you know, calm them down a little bit and regulate them.

Lindsey: 

Are you the only tributyrin product or are there others?

Steven Wright:  

There’s others! I think the second best product on the market is SunButyrate* by Pure Encapsulations. It’s a liquid. It’s like a blueberry-lemon flavored tributyrin liquid and it’s packaged in a liposomal. All butyrates smell terrible, whether it’s tributyrin or sodium butyrate, but also you have got to protect the tributyrin from the stomach acid. Sun went with a liposomal package that gets about 90% of it through the stomach acid. I think that is what their practitioner handouts say but it might be 92%. What we did is we found an amazing enteric release capsule that’s patent pending right now. Our capsule failure tests are showing zero. Of course if you left them in acid all day they would fail at some point. So it’s not that it’s perfect. We just put a gel cap that is enteric coated rather than gastric resistant. There’s a lot of other capsules out there that are not enteric capsules, they’re gastric resistant. That’s kind of the difference between an iPhone 6 and an iPhone 11. You drop an iPhone 6 in the water and you have a few seconds to get that thing out, but you can drop an iPhone 11 in the water and it’s totally chill, it’s not a big deal.

Lindsey:   

I’m surprised there’s a liquid. I wasn’t aware of the liquid tributyrin product, that’s interesting. So you could give that to a child.

Steven Wright:  

It’s a great option. There are powdered tributyrin products as well. Now the unfortunate thing is that to powder something, you always have to dry it with something. As far as I know, all the powdered tributyrins are roughly 30% standardization by weight. If you think about that dosing of getting to 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams a day, now you’re talking at like 5000 milligrams to get roughly into that payload range of actual tributyrin delivered. I’m not a huge fan of powdered tributyrins at this point in time in their technology.

Lindsey: 

Any further thoughts about the products before we talk about some offers that my listeners can get for buying them?

Steven Wright: 

People should be skeptical of everyone that’s coming on and talking about supplements. Be skeptical. That’s why we have a 60-day money back guarantee. That’s why we’re growing slow, because people are skeptical. Could you really make digestive enzymes better? Could you really make HCl products better? Is Tributyrin-X really that much better than a sodium butyrate that’s been studied in 15 plus human studies? The answer is yes, actually, and the benefits are meaningful. We have doctors signing up left and right to be wholesalers. That being said, I know without a doubt from being the sick person who’s tried a lot of things, and with working with a lot of people one on one, that not everything is right for everybody. If you don’t get that dose right, it’s definitely not good for you. We offer that money back guarantee and we offer free health coaching. If you have a dosing issue, you can hop on the phone with one of our health coaches and try to work through it. We still refund around three to five percent of purchases, because at the end of the day, you might just not need it. You might not have low stomach acid, you might not have an enzyme issue or maybe a different brand is better for you. I want to respect people’s time and money. They gave us a shot, and I don’t want to slow them down from healing. You can read more about our products online, and about how we’re different and how we’ve innovated on things. But I think you feel the difference; that’s why people stay with us.

Lindsey: 

So they can find you and the things that you sell at healthygut.com?

Steven Wright: 

Yeah, but they should go to healthygut.com/perfectstool if they want to support your show and also save $15 and get free U.S. shipping. That’s our main site, but we want to make a perfect stool community offer. Save some money and reduce the risk, and also get free U.S. shipping.

Lindsey:  

My understanding is you’ve got a code “perfectstool15” for $15 off. I’ll put those all in the show notes so people can find them easily enough.

Steven Wright: 

Again, I tried to do a lot of different things in my brief time on the planet here, but for some reason I just keep getting directed back to supplements. I bought my first supplements off the internet at 13 and my mom was like, “you just got our credit card hacked, and you’re going to die of cancer from that.”

Lindsey: 

I think we have the same mom.

Steven Wright:  

So I mean, I’ve been using products from all over, all the weird stuff, my entire life. I enjoy it. If I can be the guinea pig, and then back it up with research and trials and good formulations with the smartest PhDs I can find, and then offer the dosing and guarantees that I think a reputable company should offer, I guess that’s what Healthy Gut is. And I’m very excited about the results. I’m most proud about the stories of our users. That’s what gets me excited and keeps me going.

Lindsey:  

Thanks so much for sharing all this information with us. I think it’s really useful to think about some of the basics of gut health. I focus a lot on the more complex interventions and these are just your basic digestive function interventions. And that’s what’s important for a lot of people.

Steven Wright:  

Yeah, yeah, I hope I can make that sexy again.

Lindsey: 

Great. Well, thanks so much for being with us.

If you’re struggling with any type of gut health problem and are ready to get some professional help, you’re welcome to set up a free, 30-minute breakthrough session with me. We’ll talk about what you’ve been going through and I’ll tell you about my gut health coaching 5-appointment program in which I recommend lab tests, educate you on what the results mean and the protocols used by doctors to fix the problems revealed. Or if you’re ready to jump in right away or can just afford one appointment at a time, you can set up an 1-hour consultation with me.

*Product links are affiliate links for which I’ll receive a commission. Thanks for your support of my podcast and blog by using these links.

Restoring Your Relationship With Food

Adapted from episode 57 of The Perfect Stool podcast and edited for readability.

Lindsey:  

So your approach to gut health is a little bit different than my approach, and I know it’s very diet focused. Which is not to say that I don’t address diet with my clients, but it sounds like you use it as a primary vehicle for change. Can you tell me more about that?

Laura Martin:  

Not so much, I focus more on the gut-brain connection. There’s two different ways that I do that. A lot of people get wrapped up in food sensitivities and elimination diets and things of that nature, when really, when it comes to IBS, it has to do more with the nervous system. So the foundation of Healing To Happy, is, okay, what’s the mindset first? If you think of a triangle, the foundation is mindset. So what are the daily habits? What are things that are impacting that? Where did that start? And then the things that come together are lifestyle and nutrition, because you can’t have those two built on an unsteady foundation. Really what we focus on is the gut-brain connection to get balance back in. And then also we focus on restoring the metabolic function. That looks like, what are your core body temperatures, what organs aren’t functioning properly? Instead of focusing on what foods to take away, we’re focusing more on what nutrients need to be added back in so that we can really optimize the body to start taking in food normally again.

Lindsey:  

So it’s interesting that you mentioned core body temperature, because I know that’s a factor in fungal overgrowth. And I know personally, I have a low core body temperature. And I’m curious what foods help bring that up.

Laura Martin:    

When it comes to core body temperature, we look at more of the lifestyle practices; just a simple bubble bath will help bring that up. So it’s getting more into, how do we balance the circadian rhythm? Because people that struggle with anxiety or struggle with food sensitivities or depression, their entire body’s core temperature is all thrown out of whack. So we focus more on what it is throughout the day that’s throwing that off. Yes, we need some root vegetables. We need some heartier foods. Oftentimes, when we think of, “healthy,” we’re thinking of salads and smoothies and things that are very light. When our body is telling us it’s not functioning optimally, and things like our body temperatures, or our pulses are not really being optimized in the way that the body needs to be using it, we’ve got to work our way backwards. So we need heartier foods. Think of more of the fall kind of foods; stews, eggs and potatoes; things that have more sustenance to them. We often shy away from them because of a weight thing or we don’t like to feel full, which over time actually decreases our body temperature. And when we’re talking about metabolism, a lot of people will refer to that as skinny-ish people. But really what I’m talking about is core body temperature. What is the temperature of your body? And how is that impacting the rest of your health?

Lindsey:   

So when you say hearty foods, are we talking like meat?

Laura Martin:   

In my practice I’m doing organ meats, because we’re not really eating those as much anymore. We’re talking about fish, seafood, fatty fish, more of the salmon, the fatty tuna, sardines, mackerel, oysters, depending on where we are in our hormone cycles. Things of that nature, and just kind of playing around from there.

Lindsey:   

So organ meats are a tough sell. I can tell you I tried my darndest to make some edible pâté out of chicken livers. And I could not do it. Although my friend who was a chef did make chicken liver pâté that I loved, I wasn’t able to pull it off and have multiple jars of pâté sitting unused in my freezer.

Laura Martin:  

100%. It’s one of those things where I can’t even stomach it. So that’s actually one that I do supplement from a certain company. When I was living in Thailand, I was like, “well, this is easier.” It’s in everything. You don’t have to think about it, it’s just in curries, but here, we don’t use it. We don’t use all of the animal anymore. I was doing a panel the other day and someone mentioned that you can get ground organ meats inside of ground beef, but again, that’s not a common thing people are out there looking for. It’s definitely an acquired taste. So I personally just take a supplement form of it.

Lindsey:   

Yeah. So is that a beef liver supplement?

Laura Martin:   

Yes! It’s this company called Ancestral Supplements* (use code TRIBE10 for 10% off), not sponsored or anything, I just genuinely like them. It’s pasture raised, locally grown, it’s sustainable, all that stuff that we’re all into nowadays. I have not had any side effects and my clients have not had any side effects from it. And so I just kind of go that route as opposed to being like, “well, here’s some iron here’s some vitamin K.” Just eat the organ you’re trying to support at the end of the day.

Lindsey:   

I’ve sent people to look for various and sundry organ meats, especially people who are dealing with autoimmunity and those types of things. Sometimes they’re out of stock though, I think they get into hot demand when people catch on to that being a good one. I buy from a local farm, and I wrote to them and suggested they do that, try to mix in some organ meats [into their ground beef], and they took that into consideration but I have not yet seen a product. So we’ll see. I’ve also heard of people cutting up pieces of liver out of the freezer and swallowing them whole.

Laura Martin:     

Yeah, I saw people do that, but I like to enjoy my food.

Lindsey:   

Yeah, that’s challenging. So how many beef liver supplements you have to take in a day to make it worthwhile.

Laura Martin:   

So it says six, I take three. Because it’s one of those things that after you do it for a while, your body starts to catch up and you don’t need that stuff as much anymore. As time goes on, I don’t really need that many B vitamins in my body. I’m pretty wired when that happens.

Lindsey:   

So back to core body temperature, what should we be shooting for? And are we talking about basal body temperature, when you take your temperature right after you’ve woken up and not done anything?

Laura Martin:   

Correct. For any of my ladies that are trying to get pregnant, test your temperature right when you wake up just to see if you’re fertile or not. You want it to be around 96.8 when you wake up. By the time you go to sleep, you want it to be around 98.8, because it’s supposed to get hotter as you go throughout the day. And then you take it again 30 minutes after you eat to make sure that you are increasing the temperature of your body, because that shows that your body is actually using the food. For a long time that was not my case, that did not happen. I do see that quite frequently in a lot of people with IBS and anxiety. It’s just our body temperature’s all over the board, and really, it actually goes down. This is when you’ll see cold toes and fingers all the time, your hair’s falling out, you’re getting hangry. We normalize these things, but they’re really not normal. You really want to aim for getting this back up. Oftentimes that means getting more nutrient-dense foods into our body while also working on lifestyle practices that downregulate the nervous system.

Lindsey:   

My niece was doing some type of thing, I think the person she was following was named Ray Peat. It involved carrot salads. Are you familiar with that?

Laura Martin:   

Yeah, the raw carrot salad binds to estrogen dominance. That’s a big thing for migraines, or PCOS. I suggest that in one of my programs, but it’s interesting because it doesn’t work if it’s a cooked carrot. It’s only a raw carrot that binds this excess estrogen fiber to get it out of the body and helps really balance it out. The study was started based off of migraines, and then it caught onto the metabolism world and restoration and kind of ran wild there.

Lindsey:   

So 96.8°, that would be pre-ovulation, right? Post ovulation, you’d have a higher temperature, correct?

Laura Martin:   

Correct. Right.

Lindsey:   

So that would be more in the 98 range.

Laura Martin:   

That’s what we’re looking for.

Lindsey:   

And for men, what should they expect?

Laura Martin:   

I don’t study them as much, so I can’t give a full answer on that. I really do dedicate my time to women.

Lindsey:   

Fair enough. You were saying a bubble bath would bring up body temperature, are there any other lifestyle practices that tend to bring it up? And by that, I don’t mean at that given moment, but bring it up over time?

Laura Martin:   

Yeah, it’s just slowing the body down. How do we get the circadian rhythm of our body back into balance? That’s essentially what it is. It’s just thrown off all the time. We’re not in balance. It starts with how you start your day. Are you up? Are you jumping? Are you snoozing? Slamming a cup of coffee and booking it out the door? Or, are you slow to rise? Letting your body really adjust to getting out of those brain waves at that moment? Or is it this fight or flight response right away? And then out of the day, are you moving? Not going to cross fit. Are you going on a walk? Are you moving your body? Are you downregulating? Are you getting in nature? Are you seeing the sun? Are you breathing air? Now we’re working from home and we don’t go outside that much. It’s not a common thing. You have to actively add it into your routine. And then, do you keep all the fake lights on throughout the day? Are you turning them off, getting by candlelight? Or, are you rising and falling with the sun and really adjusting with that so that your body can get into that rhythm as well?

Lindsey:   

So what mindset obstacles or issues do you find tend to be related to IBS?

Laura Martin:   

Oh my goodness, that low FODMAP is the only solution, and elimination diets and restriction! You know, of course it feels better at first, but then people cling to it, not realizing that the longer they cling to it, the more damage they’re actually doing. I will get on calls with people and they’re like, “I have been doing [low FODMAP] for like 25 years.” I’m like “what? It was supposed to be six weeks!” It’s definitely not supposed to be that way. I sit down with doctors, cardiologists or endocrinologists, and they’ve even said low FODMAP was just a way to distract the clients. “As long as you just tell them that, then they’ll be hooked on food.” And that just breaks my heart. That’s what they’re taught. This is just a distraction. So a really big roadblock is then getting off of that, because this is the only thing that makes them feel safe. This is the only thing that makes them feel like they have any type of control. Restrict what you want for the time being, but do the work on restoring why your body isn’t digesting those foods to begin with.

Lindsey:   

So when you have somebody who has restricted their diet severely down to the point where they have very few things that they can eat, how do you work with them to expand what they eat?

Laura Martin:   

That was my own personal experience. So I focus more on, do you have the right resources where you’re also repairing your relationship to food? It doesn’t matter what diet I give you, we’ve got to do that psychological work around food. I think it’s called food re-intake disorder, which often we see a lot with children where they don’t eat something because it’s a color or a texture, but then they generally grow out of it. People with IBS, oftentimes it’s gluten or dairy, or whatever showed up on the food sensitivity test, that they’re now afraid to consume. That fear is actually what’s spiking up their relationship with food. I have multiple different master classes and programs because I personally went through that as well. But at the same time, if it’s so deep, we need to do psychological work and we need to get you help around that arena. And then we can start addressing nutrition. But if we don’t heal the relationship with food, it really just isn’t healthy to throw anything else on top of it. They’re just going to become obsessed with it and go the whole orthorexic route.

Lindsey:   

And how do you heal your relationship with food?

Laura Martin:   

A lot of work, and everyone is different. Oftentimes, it started when we were younger. I have been on a diet since I was 13. I had to realize that my relationship to food was my sense of belonging, and then, really challenging what I knew. A lot of times we think we’re doing our best and we don’t realize how disordered it actually is and how it’s stressing the people out around us. When we take radical responsibility over that, we have to be able to be honest with ourselves. It’s not like it just goes away, it’s not ideal, but it stays with us for a lifetime. I know how many calories are in a banana, I know how many calories are in a tomato, that doesn’t leave my brain. I know what’s made up of these different foods. Going out to eat, I know what oils they cook with. That’s in your brain. It doesn’t just go away. But the way you let it impact you changes. You’re able to sit there and be like, “I’m gonna be okay.” Even if they’re using polyunsaturated fats, it’s fine. I do the majority of the work 87% of the time, and I’m good. If something bad happens somewhere along the line, my body’s okay to clean up that mess. It really is learning how to radically trust that your body, given the right tools; doing the work of restoring your metabolism, healing the mindset, doing the lifestyle stuff, trusting that you got you; can really carry yourself through that. Even if there is gluten or dairy or something in the food, your body is going to be smart enough to taper that off because you’ve done the work over this time period.

Lindsey:   

And so are you finding that people are able to eat things like gluten and dairy after they’ve worked with you?

Laura Martin:   

Oh my goodness, yes! That’s the coolest thing! Of course it’s not an everyday thing, but they’re able to go out to dinner again, they’re able to go on dates, to family parties. That is what the whole purpose of this work. People sit there and they’re like, “yeah, I’m a little bit bloated but I’m not running to the bathroom like ripping off my pants on the way. This is a lot better.” We’re making that progression.

Lindsey:   

Yeah, I got to the point where I can now have gluten or dairy, probably a little more often than I do, maybe every four to six weeks. It doesn’t feel good, I get a sore throat from the dairy, and a little acid reflux. I get bloated if I overeat, because, invariably I overeat because it’s good and I don’t get to have them very often so I’m just like, “forget about it, I’m just having as much as I can because this is it for the next six weeks!” But yeah, it’s not the end of my world. It’s not like my entire health is destroyed or my Hashimoto’s came back, that doesn’t happen.

Laura Martin:  

Exactly. Your body is going to be like, “well you don’t normally eat this.” It’s like going to the gym and thinking that you’re going to pick up 100 pound weight and it’s going to be perfectly fine. That’s not how that works. If you don’t have the digestive enzymes, it’s going to give you a little bit… Like for me, I probably eat dairy every day. Whether it’s Greek yogurt or it has some cheese, my favorite meal is charcuterie board. I know that’s not what you were expecting. With gluten, I know that does affect a little bit of my cognitive function because I am more prone towards depression. So that will slow the synapses in my brain a little bit but I still have it probably once a week. I’m dating a New Yorker. He loves his pizza. I’m not going to always be like, “no, we’ll opt for cauliflower and opt for gluten free.” Sometimes he wants a regular pizza. I can’t win all the battles. It’s one of those things where, my body’s fine, I just wear a looser pair of pants that day.

Lindsey:  

That’s practical. So I understand you deal with the issue of hypothyroidism. And I’m curious what diet changes, if any, or what lifestyle changes that you’ve found particularly effective in reversing hypothyroidism, both in the context of Hashimoto’s, and autoimmunity, as well as non-autoimmune hypothyroidism.

Laura Martin:  

It would be the same thing as restoring the metabolism, because the whole reason we have autoimmunity responses is, yes, we have the gene in our system, right. But for some reason, somewhere, that light switch got turned off and on. And so we have to work our way backwards. And that’s often because of those temperatures. That’s also because of our metabolic function. The gut isn’t absorbing the right kind of food, so that starts to set off an alarm response to the rest of our organs. And they aren’t replenishing where they need to replenish. So we’re working our way backwards from there. When it comes to hypothyroidism. It really is, what is that iodine? What is the copper? What’s the vitamin K? How is that really working? It really is just kind of supporting the thyroid, the adrenals, different areas like that, so that it can start to function out of this fight or flight response, and really start to actually absorb the nutrients again.

Lindsey:  

So are there particular foods that are nourishing to the thyroid?

Laura Martin:  

Same thing, it’s those organ meats. I’m so repetitive of it, because a lot of people are like, “okay, so what’s the supplement? What’s this raw carrot salad thing?” Where it’s like, no, not really, it’s the organ you want to support, which I can list off the vitamins and things, but then you’re going to be a walking pharmacy. Or you can go and choose the organ you’re trying to replenish. Or there’s things like making sure you’re getting your weekly dose of oysters, because that’s the zinc, the selenium, the magnesium. It’s your multivitamin, and you just get it that way. So it’s just using whole foods in that direction. If you have to supplement and do things like that, you run that by your doctor and you have to run those things. But from there, you want to continue to restore the metabolism so that the organs start to function in a steady calm state.

Lindsey:   

And what if you don’t like oysters?

Laura Martin:  

People keep asking me that! But I’m like, “put extra hot sauce on it!” I don’t know, I do believe we can train our taste buds, but you can do things like sardines, which again, I know, aren’t the hot topic. But they really are just so nutrient dense. I don’t want to give any alternative because it’s just so good.

Lindsey:   

Yeah, no, that’s a tough one. I am not a fan of fishy fish and not a fan of slimy things. But who knows, who knows. I have trained myself to like a number of things as an adult and it’s not impossible. I can train myself to like oysters but in the meantime, I’ll just take my zinc supplements.

Laura Martin:   

Exactly.

Lindsey:    

So I remember hearing a really interesting podcast where they were talking about how corn, well I think all the phytates, deplete zinc. Oysters have like a ridiculous amount of zinc in them, I can’t remember if it’s like 800 milligrams (Note: It’s actually 74 mg in a 3 oz. serving) or something like that. But if you eat that with corn chips, basically that’s all gone. That corn will take away all the zinc you just ate.

Laura Martin:   

Really?

Lindsey:   

Yeah.

Laura Martin:   

I did not know that. I don’t know why I would eat corn chips with oysters.

Lindsey:  

Maybe it’s like an oyster ceviche, or something? I don’t know.

Laura Martin:   

But yeah, that’s interesting. You do see a lot of people, in the PCOS world specifically, downing oysters like it’s no one’s business. They’re like, “just put it on a chip and eat it if you don’t like it.” Maybe that’s why that study came out, because it stemmed from a lot of people being like, “I can’t stomach it, let me put it on a chip.”

Lindsey:   

So in terms of supporting the organ with the organ meats with the thyroid, I mean, I know they sell desiccated thyroid. Do you recommend that ever?

Laura Martin:  

Yeah, I mean, you could. But really, it’s a plethora of things. It comes from the liver, if our body isn’t processing, or detoxing what is ever being overloaded that’s causing the inflammation, that’s usually because of our liver. It comes from wherever the alarm bells are going off, but really the main focus is our liver because it’s our main organ of detoxification. So I always aim for that one and work from there because it’s how we get the nutrients back in our body. At the same time, yes, we’re focusing on the liver, as well as the nutrient dense foods, the things that are just darker in color, the things that are a little bit harder, the root vegetables, the things that look hearty. We want to add that back into our nutrition routines.

Lindsey:  

So tell me about the root vegetables you really like and how you prepare them. Because I’ve struggled to get into root vegetables to some extent, because I just love grains so much.

Laura Martin:   

I love potatoes, every single form, whether I make homemade French fries, or I do an air fry, mashed potatoes, I love them. They’re easier to digest than a sweet potato. I know sweet potatoes are super fun for everyone, but potatoes are where it’s at. Especially when you have gut issues, it’s just easier. And then beets, carrots, turnips, different kinds of things. I honestly just roast them, I just put a whole bunch in the oven. And then the whole name of the game is, what sauce are you putting on them today? Just sprinkle on the salt and pepper. So then the rest of the week, it’s not the same vegetable. They’re the same vegetable, but they don’t taste the same. You just make some fun sauces to dip them in or pour on top of them.

Lindsey:   

Yeah, roasting makes everything delicious.

Laura Martin:   

Oh, 100%.

Lindsey:   

I understand that you use the normal blood test people get from their doctors rather than stool tests to guide people. Can you tell me a little bit more about what you can discern about a person’s gut health from their blood tests?

Laura Martin:   

Yeah, again, I look at inflammation. Because at the core, I think when we’re getting those stool tests, yes, we want to know if you have SIBO. Yes, we want to know, if you have some type of Candida or parasite. That’s why you should go run those and make sure your doctor is checking that before you do anything. Otherwise you’re just wasting your time, because you’re going to keep getting trapped in that cycle. When it comes to matters of guts, you want to test, not guess. But then we’re looking at, where’s this inflammation? How much inflammation? Where’s that stem from? And usually, that’s back to the thyroid and how it’s functioning optimally and making sure we’re getting a full thyroid panel. How is that re-uptake? You know, beyond just, “are things normal?” No. Get a full panel, look at it. Is it optimal? Not normal? Where is our C reactive protein? How high? How low? What’s that going on there? And just diving into what their hormones are doing and why they aren’t functioning in the way that they are. Because, again, when it comes to IBS, it’s not a food thing, you know? Yes, if it’s SIBO, yes, if it’s a parasite, yes, if it’s Crohn’s, or things of that nature, that matters. But when it’s IBS, they push you off to the side and get you obsessed with the food thing. Let’s bring it back. Let’s look at what is happening with our body. How inflamed is it? And where do we start to have to replenish from there. Which, again, at the root, it’s just metabolism in the gut brain connection to downregulate the nervous system.

Lindsey:  

So let’s talk a little bit about the thyroid, and the normal reference ranges versus the optimal reference ranges.

Laura Martin:  

Yeah, I mean, when we’re looking at it, I mean, it’ll say on there, right? Like, if it’s low, and they’ll tell you and that’s when you have to ask your doctor, just like, what is the optimal range? The thing is, I’m not qualified to be reading things as I go over them with people. And I look and I go, and I go, okay, so it says “low”, what did your doctor say about that? And we start to build from there because I’m not a doctor, you know, that’s not my zone to be in. It’s, what did the doctor tell you in there like that, really, but it’s low. Okay? So go back, ask them these questions, tell them like you want to know what the optimal numbers are. Because some of them are way different spans than is printed and talk to them about them and see what that diagnosis is, what they have to say. And then we come back and we build out a plan from there.

Lindsey:   

Right? So I’ve gone through Hashimoto’s, so I’m pretty familiar with all this. Basically, my understanding is that the standard reference ranges for a TSH can go up until 4, sometimes even 6 for some labs. But the optimal reference range is really between 0.5 and 2. So above that, you should start to think about, well, I should probably get my antibodies tested and see if this is not Hashimoto’s rather than just plain old hypothyroid. But my understanding is about 80% of hypothyroid is from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Laura Martin:   

Hmm. Yeah, exactly.

Lindsey:   

I understand that you do group coaching programs around sensitive issues like gut health and anxiety. So I’m wondering how that works in terms of confidentiality and people’s comfort and speaking up in a group setting?

Laura Martin: 

Yeah, so when it comes to the anxiety courses, I realize a lot more people are willing to talk about that. But when it comes to poop, people don’t really talk about that too much.

Lindsey:   

Go figure! I love to talk about it, I’m not sure why other people don’t!

Laura Martin: 

I mean, I facilitate them. They show up every time but, okay, whatever it is. I feel like when we’re talking about anxiety, there’s more of a, “oh, you feel that way too.” Like a calming, especially with women, we love to nurture. When it comes to matters of the bowels, people want to learn, but they’re not so vocal in being like, “I don’t poop or I can’t stop pooping.” And all the time people say, “sorry, if this is TMI.” This is literally my job, it’s never TMI! This is the point! It’s totally fine. In group settings, the reason I like my containers is because it is confidential, it’s what I missed when I was going on this journey. I thought I was alone, I thought it was this foreign thing. Any of my personal friends, if I did bring it up to them, they would say, “no, that doesn’t happen to me,” and then I felt even more isolated and misunderstood. When I started to realize there are so many women that struggle with gut issues, and so many people that struggle with anxiety, I realized we just need to facilitate a conversation around it that doesn’t feel so crunchy. That really is open and communicated. And so it’s growing in that conversation, people will see it. But most often, on the back end, people will message me and then I will answer that in a group setting because if one person has a question someone else has that question somewhere. So we facilitate it that way. Also, the sisterhood in it. I think it’s just a missing thing inside of the healing world. Things beyond just, “what am I eating?” And, “what am I doing?” But like, “how am I feeling about this?” And, “how is this affecting my relationship?” Being able to facilitate and hold conversations around it. That is really important. That’s why I’m currently studying to become trauma certified, to learn how to hold space for things like that. A lot of times it is a trauma response, when our bodies are fighting against us, it’s a scary thing. And we don’t have the words to express it a lot of the time, we don’t have the people around us. And so how can I, myself as a facilitator, hold space and ask the right questions and create an environment where people feel safe enough to really explore the continuation of starting these conversations and truly healing?

Lindsey:    

It’s true that you really feel in your body, if you’re willing to stop and take the time to do it, your body speaks up for you in a way that sometimes your mind doesn’t. And, if you’re a person who is like me and is totally in your head, on the Myers Briggs you’re much more of a T than an F. So if you’re very in your head, you may not take notice. But your body will tell you something’s not right here. You are nervous, you’re tense, you’re something, because something’s not right. Something that’s happened is not sitting right with you, and your body will tell you. It’s just a matter of giving it a chance to listen.

Laura Martin: 

Exactly. And that’s why we get so scared of doing that, that’s why I said it goes back to childhood. When did we start disassociating from our body and start going cerebral? As opposed to being like, “my heart is beating really fast right now,” or, “my shoulders are super tense, I’m clenching my jaw, my back is hurting in this way, I’m feeling like I’m sucking in my belly, and I’m tensing my gut.” It’s in these ways that our body tries to subtly tell us something is wrong, but because we’re so cerebrally thinking, we don’t feel any of that.

Lindsey:    

Yeah, you really do have to stop and give a second to notice. But you do notice when it comes out the other end. That is sort of unmistakable. So when do you send people out for additional help versus dealing with what they are dealing with in a group or individual coaching context?

Laura Martin: 

Usually they come to me after they’ve been to so many people, and then it’s more of the mental coaching side of stuff. But when I start to see people respond to things, or the way they’re not responding to things, that’s when I’ll be like, “okay, so talk to your doctor about getting additional blood work here.” They’ll get PDFs of how to talk to their doctor, because I realized a lot of people don’t know how to and don’t like having a voice with their doctor. I realized that was a big thing for me. I can’t tell you how many doctors told me I was frustrating, and I told them, “thank you, do your job and figure out what’s wrong with me.” I’m not making this easy. But a lot of my clients don’t feel they can vocalize in that way. So I coach them on how to talk to their doctor. If there needs to be further testing, if there’s a parasite or there’s SIBO, if they need to go get more testing there, or if there’s things that they just need to continue the conversation about. It’s really just giving them confidence, that is how they talk. This is what we need to ask.

Lindsey:    

That is a totally challenging issue. I mean, I’m obviously somebody who’s well informed about gut health. I saw a gastroenterologist, and I was determined to go in there and say, “listen I’m somebody who knows a lot about this stuff, I know I’ve got this, this is what I want.” And I mean, I got three sentences out. And then I got a 12 minute lecture about how I knew nothing, how I should be getting a colonoscopy, I could have inflammatory bowel disease! Okay, there are blood and stool markers that will tell me whether I have inflammatory bowel disease, I do not need to get a colonoscopy to discern that. Now it’s possible I could have colon cancer, totally within the realm of the possible, although my Cologuard garden was negative. Obviously, there are false negatives. But that being said, I hardly needed to get a colonoscopy to deal with the symptoms I was having. And it was so frustrating. She was so condescending. I left there, so completely furious. And I thought, “well, maybe I will get a colonoscopy to make sure I don’t have colon cancer, but I sure as hell won’t be getting it with you! I wouldn’t trust you in a million years to put a scope up my butt, thank you!”

Laura Martin: 

Exactly, because you know it, you can come in and say things. More often than not, people don’t know the words. So they just sit there and then they’re scared out of daylights about their health and their body and their medical bills are through the roof. And it’s like, all this showed was you have a little bit of inflammation. That’s it. It breaks my heart to see the discouragement that comes and then oftentimes, the blame is shifted to them! They need to be more strict when they already have such a disordered relationship with food that they’re hardly eating anything. What do you want them to be more strict about? That’s not actually the problem. They just don’t have enough diversity and explanation of what’s going on. And now you’re blaming them, which is going to let that eating disorder brain or disordered eating brain come into play, because you’re just using fear. That is not the way we need to be talking to anyone, we’ve really got to break it down. Explain it, give people directions on how to really have conversations. Now, keep doing the digging, because believe that no matter what someone else is trying to tell you, follow through with that and make sure you feel healed and whole, until you get to your answers.

Lindsey:    

It can be very frustrating. Obviously, you have doctors that have a lot of expertise. You have doctors who are compassionate. And sometimes they do not cross paths, especially when it comes to gut health, right? So there are doctors who truly understand and of course, functional integrative doctors, naturopaths, etc. know typically a lot more about that health. But if you’re trying to stick to insurance, and you’re trying to see somebody who’s covered, then finding somebody who’s both knowledgeable and compassionate, and will listen to you and take you seriously, that combo is pretty rare. I feel for people out there who are in that situation, because I mean, I have the luxury of sort of self-treating, and I have the luxury of taking my time. I can wait another three months for the next referral and see somebody else and see if I like that person better. In the meantime, there’s plenty of things I can do. But not everybody has that option. So I’m curious how you help people to speak up and train them to do that in a way that actually results in some other outcome.

Laura Martin: 

I think when we start to be around people that get it, we stop feeling so desperate when we go to the doctor. Once you have someone that’s there being like, “we’ll get PDFs, we’ll print things out, we’ll go get these tests done, ask them more about what this is so that you can understand it a bit more.” When I’m coaching people I ask, “what do you want the outcome to be? How do you want to feel at the end of your doctor’s appointment? What’s usually come up that made you not succeed in that feeling? Okay, so what can we do now?” Questions we need to ask so that by the next time you feel supported, I mean, that’s what the coaching that I do is in between those three months. Over time, we start to learn how our body works, we stop fearing it so much. We can easily be those people that walk in and say, “this is what I need to know, this is what I need to ask.” It’s through our radical responsibility of educating ourselves, right? Like that doctor isn’t there to fix you entirely or learn about your family history, learn about your lineage, learn about your response to food, learn about all these different things. You get 12 minutes with them, right?

Lindsey:    

12 would have been great. I would take 12 minutes in a million years. That’s amazing. I got like three minutes. Six minutes, maybe for an annual physical. That’s what I got.

Laura Martin: 

That’s it right? They can’t give you that. So we have to do the work outside of the doctor’s offices to then be able to optimize those six minutes.

Lindsey:    

Exactly. My goal now with allopathic doctors, as I walk in I’m like, “these are the tests, I would like you to order.” And I’ve moved to writing them on a page, because sometimes it gets awkward as you’re like, “and then this one, and then this one, and then this one.” So I just hand them the page so they can just go down the list and go, I can order this one and this one, but this one you’re going to need to go to a specialist.” Okay, fine. But at least we got them done, eventually.

Laura Martin:   

Exactly.

Lindsey:    

Our Medical system. My favorite thing to gripe about. . .

Laura Martin: 

I was reading something that talked about how the healthcare system is about sustaining, or “managing,” a disease until it becomes unmanageable. Then we need it even more. So that’s when they give different kinds of medications. Because it’s just a management tool. It’s not a healing modality, and that’s at the root of the problem. And it’s not their fault, right? I’m not bashing doctors here. It’s just that’s not what they’re trained for, so they stick to one lane. So even if they’re busy professionals, they don’t really have the time to also sit down and do this other kind of stuff. They’re working 18 hours a day.

Lindsey:    

Oh, yeah, no, they’re working way harder than I am. Let me tell you.

Laura Martin: 

They don’t have the mental capacity to sit and read the journals and the studies and do an extra education system unless they truly, truly seek it. We all have our different arenas; that’s why you can’t go to one person for everything. You can even compare it to our relationships. We can’t just have our partner be our only friend and only best friend and lover. We can’t do that either. In our life spectrum, we have different friends for certain things, we have our partner to do certain things. We have different doctors for certain things. We have different coaches for certain things, we have different specialists. Not everything is going to be that one thing, we have to look at all spectrums and be okay with that. And yes, it might require a little bit more balancing of the organization system on our calendar, but it gives you the actual answers and fulfillment that we’re desiring, right?

Lindsey:    

Yeah, no, I rag on doctors, but I shouldn’t as much because they are part of a broken system. And that broken system requires them to spend very little time with their patients, because of the insurance reimbursement and everything. So I understand that they’re part of a system and I see this sort of helplessness and frustration in my own doctor who wants to be compassionate, who wants to be a good doctor, and simply does not have the expertise or the time to address the kinds of things that I’m bringing up because I’m getting deep into it. She’s a primary doctor.

So, I know you’re about to launch a group coaching program. Can you tell us a bit about the length and the format? And how do people find out more and sign up?

Laura Martin: 

I run two programs. One is the Gut Recharge program, and one is the Labyrinth, so it depends on what you are looking for. So this is where we are focusing on what is going on. Why do we have food sensitivities for daily practices? What are the new nutrition routines we have to implement? We talk about supplements, we talk about things like that. And it really gives you the foundations so that you can go talk to your doctors with confidence. That’s a four week program. The modules are automated, but we have our live coaching because I do think live coaching is so valuable. On Fridays, we have a live Q&A. And then, for anyone that’s struggling with anxiety, I have the Labyrinth which is focusing on the gut brain connection, and really optimizing our mental health and healing our relationship with food in our bodies in our life so that we can gain back control.

Lindsey:    

You described two different programs there?

Laura Martin: 

Yes I did, Gut Recharge is the metabolism program.

Lindsey:    

Okay. Then the Labyrinth was the anxiety.

Laura Martin: 

Correct.

Lindsey:    

Is one of them starting soon? Or are they both starting soon?

Laura Martin: 

Yeah, we just started the Gut Recharge program. We are on week one, we just finished. So we’re coming into week two right now. And then the Labyrinth starts at the end of October.

Lindsey:    

And that was also four weeks?

Laura Martin: 

That one is five weeks.

Lindsey:    

Five weeks, okay. And you have weekly group coaching calls?

Laura Martin: 

So the Labyrinth is all live. So it’s kind of just like you’re facetiming me inside of a Facebook group. And you get to ask your questions live.

Lindsey:    

I do occasionally hear people say, “I’m not on Facebook. How do I do this?”

Laura Martin: 

You can make a pop up Facebook group. You don’t have to use it for social media purposes. But that is where I host that program.

Lindsey:    

And what time of day do you do your group calls? What day of the week?

Laura Martin: 

Our Gut Recharge Q&A’s are on Fridays at 1pm Eastern Standard time. The labyrinth, that’s not until October, but that’ll be 2pm Eastern Standard Time on Tuesdays, I believe.

Lindsey:   

So it’s a once a week call?

Laura Martin: 

Correct!

Lindsey:    

So the link to sign up for The Gut Recharge Program is https://www.healingtohappy.com/highdeserthealth*, and the link for the Labyrinth is http://www.healingtohappy.com/labyrinth (enter “High Desert Health” in promo code spot so Lindsey gets credit for sending you)*. Do they receive any sort of one-on-one in the context of the group programs, or how does that work?

Laura Martin:

No, that’s my Gut Accelerator program. My one-on-one three month mentorship.

Lindsey:    

Can they email you?

Laura Martin: 

Yeah! They drop questions either through email or through the group, and then I answer them live.

Lindsey:    

Okay, so there is some chance to ask questions.

Laura Martin: 

Oh, definitely. That’s why the live aspect is so important.

Lindsey:    

Right, right. Anything else you would like to share with my readers?

Laura Martin: 

Just wherever you are, know that the harder we fight our bodies and the more we fear it, the longer the healing journey is going to be. We need to ask our bodies, “what are you trying to communicate with me, how can I honor that and where can I go?” To change the trajectory of the story of being, not stuck in this, but the journey. It’s a journey of a lifetime to learn how your body works, and what it’s trying to tell you. And we can’t be at war with it when that happens.

If you’re struggling with any type of gut health problem and are ready to get some professional help, you’re welcome to set up a free, 30-minute breakthrough session with me. We’ll talk about what you’ve been going through and I’ll tell you about my gut health coaching 5-appointment program in which I recommend lab tests, educate you on what the results mean and the protocols used by doctors to fix the problems revealed. Or if you’re ready to jump in right away or can just afford one appointment at a time, you can set up an 1-hour consultation with me.

Schedule a breakthrough session

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Revisiting My Gut Health Journey: SIBO, GERD, Hashimoto’s and Pernicious Anemia

Adapted from episode 56 of The Perfect Stool podcast and edited for readability.

Today I wanted to revisit something I haven’t done since the end of 2019 and give you an update on my gut health and health journey, as I think it may have pieces that will speak to a lot of you and also because I’ve referenced it in various podcasts at this point, so I wanted to make sure you had it all in one cohesive whole. Also, I kind of wanted to put it all together for myself as well so I could make better sense of how things went downhill.

So I just want to start by saying that this story may not be the same one you may have read elsewhere on my web site, or the same one you have heard me mention in podcasts, because I got some information recently that has changed my perception of how everything came to pass. So this is my re-interpretation of events in light of that information. So that new information was that I have autoimmune IBS, which is something I found out from taking something called the ibssmart test about a month and a half ago (thank you ibssmart people for the free test). They call it post-infectious IBS because it follows on a bout of food poisoning, of which I’ve had three pretty memorable in my life.

But at the end of the day, it is autoimmune in nature. The ibssmart test tests two types of antibodies – anti-vinculin and anti-Cytolethal Distending Toxin B or anti-CdtB for short. So the most common bacteria that cause food poisoning, including Shigella, Campylobacter, C. difficile, Salmonella and E. coli, release CdtB toxin into your body, which your body fights as it would any other invader, by creating an antibody. So if you’ve had a recent infection of that type, you’ll see the anti-CdtB antibody elevated on the ibssmart test. My anti-CdtB antibodies were not elevated, but then again, my food poisoning was a long time ago.

Now vinculin is a protein in the gut that helps nerves migrate and interconnect. And as is common with most other types of autoimmunity, when you have a reaction in the body to some type of invader, you often have some other protein in the body that looks like that invader. Well vinculin, unfortunately, looks like CdtB, which means that your body can create antibodies against vinculin as well, and start attacking that. And so my anti-vinculin antibodies were elevated. The result is damage to the nerves lining your gut and/or motility issues, or more specifically, improper functioning of the Interstitial Cells of Cajal and the Migrating Motor Complex.

The Interstitial Cells of Cajal are involved in the communication between the autonomic nervous system and smooth muscles and injury to them can create dysrhythmias, or an abnormality in a the rhythm and movement of the GI tract, a slow intestinal transit time or gastroparesis, which means problems with the stomach emptying itself of food in a normal fashion, which can cause heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and feeling full quickly when eating.  

Now the Migrating Motor Complex is what clears food out of your small intestine, which normally happens every 1.5-2 hours for about 30 minutes. During that time, you may hear your stomach gurgling – this is a good thing. It means you’re having peristaltic contractions starting in the stomach and moving food through the small intestine, clearing the food out so it doesn’t stagnate. 

Now if you’ve ever seen a stream drying up or a stagnant pond, you know what happens – it gets covered with algae. Well the same sort of thing happens in your gut when it gets stagnant, except it’s bacteria that overgrow. The result is bloating from those bacteria fermenting the food you eat, a premature feeling of fullness, and then typically soft stool, diarrhea or a mix between constipation and diarrhea.

Now don’t assume that because you have problems with small intestine motility that this means you will be constipated. Not necessarily. What happens with the stagnation is the overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, aka SIBO or Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth, or also possibly SIFO, or small intestine fungal overgrowth, in the form of candida overgrowth. And those two typically will leave you with diarrhea, soft, messy stool, or a mix between constipation and diarrhea. Constipation alone is also possible, but that tends to be more from an overgrowth somewhere in your intestinal tract of methanogens, or methane-producing bacteria.

So anyway, back to my story, I had two incidents of food poisoning before I started having any diagnosed health issues that I think are important in how things went south for me. The first was during a study abroad program in Costa Rica in the summer of 1993. I don’t know what I got in particular, but it involved me having no appetite and stomach pains and ultimately it required special antibiotics. I remember this distinctly because I had traveler’s insurance and the antibiotic cost like $70 American but they misconverted the currency and sent me $700, which was of course absurd, that any antibiotic would cost $700 in a country like Costa Rica, but would have been completely believable in the US context. But I was a good citizen and returned the money. So that may have been a parasite; I’m not really sure.

The next and most memorable food poisoning incident was when my future husband and I were living in Costa Rica about a year and a half later and we went on a weekend trip and decided to defrost our very much not frost-free refrigerator. We had a weird washing machine that had a separate compartment for washing and spinning clothes, and the spinner part was the closest thing we had to a cooler, so we put all the food in there with ice and left it for 2+ days. By the time we came home, the food was completely warm. Now if my mother hadn’t gifted me with an almost pathological aversion to wasting food, I may have just thrown that mayonnaise out. But no, instead, that very evening, I used it to make tuna salad. Within 90 minutes my husband, whose system is on a hair trigger, was throwing it up. I was up all night with the runs. So that may have been when it all started.

The other possibility is an incident on our honeymoon to Italy. I probably ate some bad food or drank some bad water there as I spent about a week of the trip not really being able to enjoy food and having stomach pains, not unlike the first incident in Costa Rica, although I never took anything for it that I recall.

But what I do remember is that after that, while working at the University of Georgia as A Study Abroad Advisor, which incidentally was my previous career, I remember distinctly that my stool quality changed for the worse, as I ended up having to use those “flushable” wipes that eventually ended up clogging up our pipes as they weren’t really flushable. I remember at that time I couldn’t leave home without a pack of them.

So just a brief interlude to tell you that if this is you, this is not normal stool. Your gastroenterologist may not call in the cavalry when you tell him you have soft stool, but I will, because normal stool is solid and continuous, a 3 or a 4 on a Bristol Stool Chart, and comes out cleanly, such that when you wipe, there’s nothing on the toilet paper most of the time. But honestly, I never thought to talk to a doctor about this. And I had had bloating every time I ate out for most of my life, so when it became more common, I don’t think I noticed it that much or thought it was something to tell a doctor about.

Now I just want to stop to say that the diagnosis of IBS was never given to me at any time by a doctor, and I feel a little uncomfortable owning it, because I never had diarrhea six times a day, or accidents because I couldn’t get to a toilet. But I’ll tell you this, when I had to go, I had to go. And that was different from my husband who could put it off. But I thought that was just me and how my body worked. And now I know the difference. When I’m having a bout of SIBO, I will have urgency that gives me about 5 minutes warning and sometimes I’ll have full on diarrhea several days in a row. But when it’s under control, I can hold it for a good 30 minutes if necessary. It’s not fun, but I can do it.

So anyway, to continue my story, I was in Georgia for about six years, and I don’t think I saw a doctor about GI issues at all. I was too busy trying to get pregnant in those latter years and experiencing infertility.  Which was likely related to the dysbiosis in my gut, as I believe in retrospect that I was estrogen dominant. And I was ultimately diagnosed with endometriosis, but that was long after I had succeeded in getting pregnant and had my older son.

So after Georgia, my husband and I moved to Australia, and again, I never saw anyone about my gut, but soldiered on with bloating, premature feelings of fullness and soft stool. I did my Doctorate in Education there at Griffith University in Brisbane, by the way, which was awesome. While I was there I did go through infertility again and was diagnosed with endometriosis. I had an operation to remove it in order to try to get pregnant. And then I did get pregnant but unfortunately lost my baby at 10.5 weeks, which is why I ended up adopting my second son from Thailand.

So after about 3¼ years, we came back to the US and ultimately moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where we lived for 5 years. Again, never saw anyone about all this. I ate everything, never really changed my diet. I just took lactose digestant tablets when I ate dairy since about age 22 or so as I realized I was lactose intolerant, and I racked up my symptoms to that. I did have GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease, and I took Omeprazole for about 10 years, which may have been a contributing factor to things going downhill, but I can’t be sure of that.

So after being in Tallahassee for 5 years, we moved to Washington DC. Soon after arriving, the doctor noted that I had what felt like an enlarged thyroid and low levels of platelets on a blood test, maybe just below normal, and perhaps I was also having symptoms of B12 deficiency, namely tingling in my extremities. So she sent me to an endocrinologist and a hematologist. The endocrinologist did an ultrasound and diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is autoimmune thyroid disease, from the damage she could see on the ultrasound, although at that point I wasn’t hypothyroid; my TSH levels were normal. But my thyroglobulin antibodies were elevated. By the way, if you have had only your thyroid peroxidase antibodies tested but you suspect Hashimoto’s, make sure you get your thyroglobulin antibodies tested too, as my thyroid peroxidase were never elevated, although I’ve heard those tend to elevate first.

And then the hematologist diagnosed me with ITP (an autoimmune condition where your body attacks its platelets) because of antibodies and low platelet levels. And he also diagnosed me with pernicious anemia, which is an autoimmune attack on the cells lining the stomach that help absorb B12, called parietal cells, which produce the protein intrinsic factor, which helps you absorb B12, because of my low levels of B12 and originally positive parietal cell and intrinsic factor antibodies. But in my most recent visit to a hematologist, I have found out that my platelet levels weren’t really that low and that the antibodies they thought related to ITP no longer are considered accurate for that, so that doctor has told me he thinks I never had ITP. So who knows if I ever had it or not?

But for sure at one point I had elevated parietal cell antibodies and intrinsic factor antibodies, which meant that I couldn’t absorb B12 in my stomach and had to either get B12 shots or use sublingual B12 tablets. Now in theory, this is not a reversible condition, other than through getting B12 injections. I only ever had one injection and have used sublingual B12 and progressively healed my gut, and I just had both the parietal cell antibodies and intrinsic factor antibodies tested, and both were negative! So there medical establishment!

And my Hashimoto’s antibodies have been normal in my last two blood tests. So three autoimmune diseases down, one to go!

So now that I know that the SIBO was autoimmune in nature, I might rethink the role of antibiotics in my disease process. While I do think it’s best to avoid them whenever possible,  I had a couple of rounds of Cipro one year before my diagnoses, but honestly, each time I took it, my stool got solid and I felt better gut-wise. And of course I did because it was killing the overgrown bacteria. But I didn’t make the connection and neither did the doctor I eventually saw and talked to about it. I didn’t feel worse on the antibiotics. Now it’s possible they were bringing up my candida levels, because when I did ultimately take an Organic Acids Test, I did have two elevated fungal markers, but I don’t see them as a primary causative factor for me. And I should mention that at some point in DC, I did see a gastroenterologist about the bloating and soft stool and he did an upper endoscopy, which was normal, and then just gave me some hycosamine, which is an IBS medication that stops stomach cramping, which I used very sparingly. In fact, I’d only take one about every 4-6 months when I’d go out to eat and gorge on gluten and dairy and feel terrible. That would take away the pain. They were like magic pills. But I only finished one month’s prescription like 2 months ago and it was easily 5 years old. I was very sparing in my use of prescription meds, other than the acid reflux meds, which I eventually went off after I stopped eating dairy, which got rid of the main symptom of my acid reflux, a chronic cough.

And the other thing I’m rethinking is how the Hashimoto’s came to pass. I’m thinking that it was most likely the SIBO causing leaky gut, as gut infections do, that led to the Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto’s is often attributed to molecular mimicry involving the body attacking your thyroid because it looks like gliadin, one of the proteins in gluten. And there is also a strong correlation between Hashimoto’s and pernicious anemia, with Hashimoto’s often preceding pernicious anemia. So I’m thinking that the food poisoning may be at the root of all of this.

So onto how I got better.

First of all, I started with an elimination diet and felt a whole lot better on it. I started with gluten, dairy, seed oils, corn, alcohol, sugar, caffeine and processed food. I stayed off of gluten for a time and dairy I think more solidly after that. That’s always the first step in my opinion on these gut and autoimmune issues, because even if the food isn’t the cause of the problem, it’s contributing to you not getting better by slipping out of your leaking gut into your body and then your body is starting to attack your own cells when it sees proteins that resemble them floating around where they don’t belong. And side note, if you have SIBO, your gut is most likely leaky. I also started taking fiber, psyllium husk in particular, in my smoothies, 1 tbsp./day, to help solidify my stool. That was also helpful but not a complete solution.

Then I saw a functional medicine doctor (who was an MD with functional medicine training) in DC who gave me a SIBO breath test, which was pretty marginally positive for Hydrogen but given my symptoms, he put me on antimicrobial herbs for 6 weeks along with a low FODMAPs diet and Betaine HCl to bring up my stomach acid. Then when the bloating wasn’t gone yet, I requested Rifaximin, the prescription antibiotic that only impacts your digestive tract. If you can get it covered by insurance, it’s very expensive but, it’s a lot quicker route to the same endpoint (except that it doesn’t kill fungi too like antimicrobial herbs). Rifaximin only takes two weeks. At the end of that I felt much better, my stool was starting to get back to normal and the bloating was gone. They also put me on Monolaurin for candida in case that was an issue. But they didn’t really know what to do about the Hashimoto’s, so I had to figure that out on my own with research.

What I ultimately did for that was another elimination diet like my previous one for a bit longer and a bit more strictly, a series of detoxifying supplements, and then I just stuck to being gluten, dairy and soy free for about a year, before retesting myself. My antibodies kept going down, and I ultimately ended up reintroducing soy since I never felt any concrete problems with it, but that was many years later, because after one attempted reintroduction, my antibodies rose, which was how I tested things since I didn’t have big, obvious symptoms.

So all the while I was learning more and more about gut health and ultimately, began my training as a health coach and got more and more advanced training on gut health. Once I gained some of the knowledge I have now, especially regarding many of the neutraceutical products out there to treat these conditions, I knew how to deal with my issues myself.

So since that time, I have gone through three rounds of antimicrobials herbs to deal with both the bacteria and fungi, and have done low FODMAPs once more and a keto diet for one month while treating for candida after doing my Organic Acids Test. Each time I start to get bloated again or have ongoing diarrhea or soft stool, I do it again. But now, armed with the knowledge that what I have is autoimmune in nature, I know that I have to help my migrating motor complex with something called a prokinetic, which is like a motility activator for the small intestine so things don’t stagnate and I don’t get SIBO again. I’m currently using Iberogast*, which is an herbal supplement that you take before bed and has some good research to back it up. I’m also using butyrate, because I have done stool tests showing an elevated level of proteobacteria and because it works beautifully to firm up the stool by slowing motility in the large intestine and promoting a hypoxic or oxygen-free environment in the colon and helping make that mucus layer healthy, which will favor the anaerobic bacteria that produce butyrate, rather than the facultative anaerobic bacteria like the proinflammatory proteobacteria. I like Tributyrin-X* (coupon code highdeserthealth15 will get you $15 off and free shipping) as the pills are higher dose and smaller to swallow. I went up to 3 pills twice a day for a while, and when my stool started to turn into rabbit pellets, I backed down to 3 pills once a day and now 2 pills once a day and just keep adjusting based on stool quality.  Another good butyrate option is Probutyrate which you can find in my Fullscript Dispensary* and is less expensive but lower dose per capsule, so you may have to take more, like 3-4 pills per dose once or twice a day. The same company also makes something called AuRx, which is a powdered butyrate supplement, which could be mixed in applesauce for kids, for example. That’s also available in my Fullscript Dispensary. Note that these forms of butyrate are different from less expensive sodium butyrate supplements, which may not make it to the large intestine and have the same effect on stool quality and gut hypoxia.

I’ve also been taking digestive enzymes partly because someone sent me them for free and partly, after talking to the guest who sent them to me and will be on my podcast in episode 58, I realized that the more I can quickly digest and absorb my food, the less there is for the bacteria to ferment.

So with all of that, I have been consistently enjoying Perfect Stool, which makes me very happy. Funny how something like that matters so much, but for me it just reflects what’s working in my body and is like another vital sign, so it is important.

Anyway, I hope sharing my health journey will help some of you. And if you’ve been hacking at your problem and haven’t been able to get to a place of wellness, or all of this seems a bit too much to you and you need some professional guidance, I’m happy to offer a free, 30 minute breakthrough session to any of you kind readers. I can hear what you’ve been going through and let you know if I think I can help you. I have a 5 appointment gut healing program that may be right for you. I also offer single appointments.

*Product links are affiliate links for which I’ll receive a commission. Thanks for your support of my podcast and blog by using these links.

Schedule a breakthrough session now

Metagenomic Gut Sequencing with Dr. Robin Rose

Adapted from episode 55 of The Perfect Stool podcast and edited for readability.

Lindsey: 

So my first question is just since you are a DO or a doctor of osteopathy, and not a naturopath like many of my guests, I’m curious what it’s like to be amongst your DO and MD colleagues, but focusing on functional medicine; do you encounter a lot of skepticism?

Dr. Rose:

Interesting, it’s a good question. My colleagues, yes, I will encounter skepticism. However, from the people in the surrounding area where I’m starting to practice, they really are searching for this type of medicine. You know, I look at it as more of precision healthcare, precision medicine. It’s still driven by science. And it’s very data driven. And you know, there’s a lot of scientific basis behind it. So it’s just as good if not better than conventional medicine. And that’s what I have to say to my colleagues that don’t believe.

Lindsey: 

So today, we were going to focus on this Biome FX test, that’s Microbiome Labs’ gut health test. And I was just wondering why you like this, as opposed to the more traditional diagnostic tests in the functional medicine realm, like the GI Map or the GI Effects?

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, I like that there’s actually whole genome sequencing of the gut microbiome; I think that they do a little bit of a deeper dive. It’s a metagenomic test. And I just like that Microbiome Labs is so driven by R&D; there’s just so much research and development, and they put so much money into it. And a lot of their tests and their products are all backed by peer reviewed studies.

Lindsey: 

And do they give you the raw data? Or do you just know that they’re sequencing the whole microbiome?

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, I know who they use. I know the company that they’re using. And they’re really the only one that can do it. We’re not given the raw data, but I trust that it’s the real deal.

Lindsey: 

That you’re given the relevant data, right? Yeah, because I’ve seen Onegevity or what’s now the Thorne GutBio test. And that was really just a straight up Excel chart of everything in the gut. And now apparently, they’re not giving that anymore.

Dr. Rose:

Well, they’re not supposed to. But same with MBL. They’re not really supposed to give the raw data.

Lindsey: 

Why not?

Dr. Rose:

I don’t know.

Lindsey: 

Like, if people have information, they might do something with it.

Dr. Rose:

Well the contract that they have with the lab that they use. Actually, it’s the same, you know, Onegevity has the same issue. Right. And so it’s not something that I have – it’s proprietary information. I wouldn’t, I don’t know the legalese around it. But I don’t think that they should be sharing it based on that.

Lindsey: 

Do you know what the retail cost is to the consumers for this test?

Dr. Rose:

I pass the charge on to my patient. So we pay $299. And that’s what my patient pays. I don’t know if some doctors, you know, they might retail it differently. But that’s what the cost is. And that’s what I charge.

Lindsey: 

That’s pretty reasonable; that’s comparable, or less than some of the other gut tests. Okay. So I have a Biome FX report. And it’s going to be on my website for people to pull up. So let’s start looking at this test. And I’ll just ask you some questions about it.. So it starts with this summary and gut microbiome index, kind of amorphous. What does that mean?

Dr. Rose:

So the microbiome index score takes into account three factors. And that’s your alpha diversity, your beta diversity and your resistance. So let me explain that. So your alpha diversity is what your species richness is, so when you talk about your gut microbiome, and you’re looking at microbial diversity, right? So we have trillions of bacteria, friendly and unfriendly. And then we have about 250 to 300 different species, right. So how many species do you have occupying your microbiome? Okay, so that’s your alpha diversity. So what is your your individual species richness, then we look at beta diversity. And beta diversity is basically okay. So based on that richness, how do you compare? How does that compare to the US adult healthy population or people that are living in your geographic area? And so whatever is there, maybe your alpha diversity, isn’t that great? Or maybe it is fantastic, but whatever is there, how does that compare to the other people living around you?

Lindsey: 

And so wait, the alpha diversity is compared to what?

Dr. Rose:

It’s the norm, it’s norm of other people, right? Like, what their richness looks like.

Lindsey:

Like worldwide, then?

Dr. Rose:

No, it in the US or North America. I’m not really sure. You know, I always mean to ask them that question. I think it’s North America, I think it includes Canada as well. So for example, if I took you, and I put you into the Amazon rain forest, okay, you would likely still have good alpha diversity, but your beta diversity would likely be close to zero, because you haven’t been living there for long enough to accumulate that same type of microbial diversity that the Amazonians have. So does that make sense? So that’s how I explain it to my patients. Okay. And then, based on your alpha diversity and your beta diversity, so based on your species richness and your stability and the stability of your gut microbiome, how prone are you to perturbation? So if you get sick, you know, whether it’s the flu or you have a stomach bug, or a gastrointestinal virus, or you eat something that doesn’t agree with you, you know, how well does your gut handle it? How resilient is it? Right? How well does it handle those things? And so this person’s resistance is really terrible. They’re 1.71. Normally, they’re actually changing the test, it really should be out of five. Nobody I’ve never even seen, no patient was above 3.8. So this person, you know, they’re struggling. I see most people cluster in the threes, maybe I’ll see some people under two, barely ever under one. And so that’s what makes up that index score. So that person’s index score is 23.64. Right? At a 40 again, it’s a little skewed. I’ve never seen anybody’s over 28. I would say most people cluster between in the mid 20s, like this score. And then some people I will see under 20, as well. But most people cluster in the mid 20s.

Lindsey: 

And would it be safe to say that the people you’re seeing have gut issues?

Dr. Rose:

Well, I mean, here’s the thing, Lindsey, we see everybody, okay, and this is a really good point that you’re making. So I would say that the majority of people probably have some sort of gut complaint, okay. But there are a lot of my patients that have no complaints, but they have autoimmune disease, or they have a history of anxiety or depression or migraines or a skin disorder. And so we know that the gut is the guardian to your health and the gateway to disease and there’s so many connections that fan out from the gut, the gut-skin, the gut-brain, gut-hormone, gut-thyroid, like I could go on and on and on. Right? So everybody I feel, unless they live in a bubble and eat plants all day, I think that they have an element of leaky gut and dysbiosis. And I think that’s why the vast majority of people have some sort of struggles, I will see them struggling somewhere, or if not in many places on this test, because of the way we live our lives. I mean, whether it’s the standard American diet, obviously, which most of us eat, which is horrible, and that doesn’t feed our gut microbiome. And what destroys it from alcohol that we drink on a daily if not weekly basis to the tap water we consume to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories we take on a regular basis, the antibiotics we’re prescribed, the air pollution that we breathe in, I mean, I can go on and on and on. And all of that is going to affect and chip away at the health of your gut microbiome. Right?

Lindsey: 

Right. So it may be that the sample you’re working with is a less healthy  sample and that their test is based on a group of healthy people?

Dr. Rose:

Right.

Lindsey:

Or some mixture?

Dr. Rose:

There’s a range; nobody’s test is the same. Every person is different; that’s the whole idea. Right? We’re all uniquely different, right? We all have our own unique biochemical individuality. And this is just another piece to that puzzle when we’re trying to figure that out so that we can really create bespoke health care plans for people and really treat them for their unique needs.

Lindsey: 

Yeah. Okay. Well, let’s go down to the next part of that same page, which is page two, and look at the pathogens. So the Clostridia difficile is high. So I’m just throwing this out, because you know the patient of yours, what actually was going on, but say this person was not suffering from explosive diarrhea seven times a day. Would you go ahead and treat C difficile?

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, so the vast majority of people are overgrowing it, they’re not pathogenically colonized with it. And so and I see a lot of people that have high C diff. I do not treat them with antibiotics. What I do is, is I restore, I repopulate and restore balance to the gut so that that C diff gets crowded out.

Lindsey: 

So you’re more using probiotics and foods and such.

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, the idea is, is that we’re all, and this is a summary page. So when you go down, you’ll see each one of these things is going to be teased out. But basically, that what we’re doing, like these pathogens, this pathobiome that you’re seeing in this patient, the C diff, the E. coli and the Bilophila, you will pick this up in many people. And even if you don’t pick it up, they’ll have very small amounts of this in their gut. It’s just when it becomes problematic is when it starts to overgrow, and it’s outside the reference range and it’s too high. That’s when you want to deal with it.

Lindsey: 

Okay. And just by chance, I happened to be thinking about this Bilophila Wadsworthia. And that’s one that tends to promote constipation, isn’t it?

Dr. Rose:

It’s actually consistent with SIBO because it’s a small intestine colonizer. And so that’s where we want to see Bilophila living, so when we start to see high amounts of it in the colon, that means it’s overgrowing. The small intestine spilling over into the colon. There’s two main characters that Bilophila, it increases secondary bile acids, which are very toxic to the gut lining. And they’re also hydrogen sulfide reducers. So anything that you eat with sulfur in it gets reduced to hydrogen sulfide. That’s what it wants to eat up and then, when it reduces hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen sulfide is extremely toxic to the gut lining as well.

Lindsey: 

So this is like a hydrogen sulfide SIBO bacteria? Okay, that may have been what was sticking in my head.

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, it’s really affecting your gut barrier dysfunction when you have Bilophila. So we want to definitely deal with that. And a lot of patients will say, yes, I have flatulence that is consistent with a rotten egg smell. They may get bloated a lot more. And although we love our cruciferous vegetables, and they’re very important for feeding our gut microbiome, while we try to treat and rebalance this person’s gut, we might have those people maybe eat those in much lesser quantities and maybe eat the other colors of the rainbow instead, while we’re trying to heal them.

Lindsey: 

Okay, so let’s scooch down since this stuff goes into more detail below and let’s look at page four and the Bilophila.

Dr. Rose:

Okay, so this is the analogy I make with my patients. You have basically four major phyla in the bacterial kingdom, okay, sort of like if you think of the animal kingdom. I don’t know if I can come up with four but you know, your amphibians, you have your mammals, your reptiles, right? So it’s the same thing in the bacteria, like four main players. And you have your Bacteroides and your Firmicutes and they are supposed to balance each other out. And then you have your Proteobacteria and your Actinobacteria and they are supposed to balance each other out. Okay. And so if you look at the adult US healthy population, you should have about 64% Bacteroides, 27.8% Firmicutes, and then you should have about 2.86%, proteobacteria and 4.21% Actinobacteria.

Oh, so now let’s look at this person. Okay. First of all, there’s so dysbiotic in the fact that they’ve flipped that Firmicutes and Bacteroides. They have like almost half of what they should in in the Bacteroides, which is not good. They have a little bit more than what they should in the Firmicutes and they have so much Proteobacteria and Proteobacteria tend to be much more inflammatory also. Then if you scroll down a little more, you can see the percentage of Actinobacteria that they have. It’s on the chart below, it doesn’t come up on the pie chart, but if you scroll down a little bit I can show you right here. Yeah, so they have about only 1.82% Actinobacteria. So that’s not great.

And then if you scroll right back up, again, Lindsey, I can show you one other thing on this chart, right here, this chart on this bar graph on the right, so as you can see, it has the four main phlya there, the Bacteroides, Firmicutes, Actinobacteria and it’s showing you the percentages. And then, what also is populating here, these are other phyla, but they’re just much more rare.

And we will pick them up in in people and so like for example, the Euryarchaeotas you know, underneath where it says bacteria_u_p, they’re methane producing organisms. The synergists are basically bacteria that are normally found populating the oral mucosa. And so if they are populating the colon that means that there’s likely an issue with low HDL or stomach acid or things being broken down above because it’s escaping. And it’s getting into the colon and colonizing there. The Ascomycota are associated with fungus and Candida and the Eukaryotas are like protozoa and parasites and fungi. Okay, so those are the main things; you’ll see people growing those out. I’ve never really seen anyone grow out the Fusobacteria or the Chloroflexi, so not really.

Lindsey: 

So one thing I’m noticing on here is that they do not have unknown listed. And I have seen in the metagenetic raw data that there’s a whole huge section, something like half of the bacteria

Dr. Rose:

I think that that’s what the bacteria_u_p is. It’s bacteria of unknown . . . I forgot. Yeah.

Lindsey: 

Okay. Got it. So, what’s the highest you’ve seen of Proteobacteria on someone’s report from these?

Dr. Rose:

This.

Lindsey: 

This is it? Hmm. Okay. Have you ever used Biohm? Their test?

Dr. Rose:

No. No.

Lindsey:

Okay, because I did one of theirs. And mine was 50% Proteobacteria. You know Lucy Mailing? She questioned their test, because she said, I don’t think that that’s even physiologically possible to have that much Proteobacteria.

Dr. Rose:

That’s a lot of Proteo, yeah, that’s a lot. Biohm? What’s the full name of the company?

Lindsey: 

Biohm Health?

Dr. Rose:

The one that you don’t need a practitioner, you just order it and send it?

Lindsey: 

Yeah.

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, I’m very familiar with that company. I’ve never used the test though.

Lindsey: 

Anyway, I kind of wonder whether there isn’t like some grouping of the unknowns. I couldn’t tell you if it’s if it’s real or not. But that’s a lot of proteobacteria. And I waited until I felt like I was doing really well, like I was having a great gut health week. And I thought, now I’m going to nail it. I got rid of those proteobacteria. Nothing! So what do you do when someone has this many proteobacteria?

Dr. Rose:

I mean, I would retest, I would retest them six months down the road after we’ve really cleaned up the terrain, rebuilt the foundation and planted some seeds, sprinkled some fertilizer, you know, and did all those things to really get that person into a much better place. And then I would retest.

Lindsey: 

Yeah, I had done all that stuff.

Dr. Rose:

So we maybe I can get you a test – when you’re done with this recording, what I’ll do is I’ll send it over, I know the owner of the company very well. And I’ll give them this. I’m sure they’ll send you a complimentary test.

Lindsey: 

That would be lovely.

Dr. Rose:

I’m sure they will, and then you do the test and Lindsey, I’ll look at it for you. And we’ll go from there.

Dr. Rose:

(p. 5 of Biome FX) Now see this, I don’t pay too much attention to this, families, because it’s really just the breakdown of what we just saw. So it’s showing you the different families and then it will be broken down into further genus, of what those four main phyla were and so the percentages are going to basically stack up, be analogous to the percentages, we saw the other four, you know, so I don’t get too crazy about this page. I’m like, “uh, you know”, unless there’s something crazy jumping out at me, which there’s not so.

Lindsey: 

Okay. So, now we are now on page 6.

Dr. Rose:

Yeah. So now these are rare bacteria that grow out. Okay. And I just had two I did though in the past few days, and they had eight rare species growing out and someone had six rare species. I would say the average I see on most people’s is anywhere from two to four, maybe every once in a while someone will have one, but I usually see a couple. And again, that’s based on dysbiosis, your gut microbiome balance and what’s going on. And then, you know, maybe some of these rare characters are just sort of rearing their ugly head. Not that it’s that ugly, but you know, just because they got space to because  a lot of the commensal and keystone organisms aren’t in there, right? So Desulfovibrionaceae, this guy is also a sulfur-reducing organism, right, so this person is going to have issues with gas bloating, probably rotten egg smelling flatulence at times, depending on what they eat. And the Eggerthellaceae species, they have some good properties and bad properties, you know, it’s like neither here nor there. That’s why they’re not really classified as pathogens, right. They’re just these rare organisms that we’re learning more about, and that we’re seeing and, you know, we’re seeing it more of an abundance in some people and more so in some samples than others.

Lindsey: 

Yeah you know, back in the day, when I was getting my first gut test, and you will get one of these – your sample is particularly enriched for some random bacteria, you know, and curiously search it in all the scientific databases. And at the end of the day, I’d be like, there’s really nothing I can do about this. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. I don’t know how to kill it or help it either way.

Dr. Rose:

Right? So it’s all about when we’re restoring gut health and restoring balance, like after we are done with what we’re really doing with this person in particular, these species should really go away, or we really shouldn’t see them as much, right. That’s the whole point. That’s why you’re seeing it because there’s imbalance right now. Okay, that’s how I look at it.

Lindsey: 

So let’s go down to the dysbiosis, which shows on page 7.

Dr. Rose:

So yeah, first of all, this ratio the Firmicutes:Bacteroides, no surprise is within norm, this is falling within range, because even though they had a lot less Bacteroides, they had some more Firmicutes, but they didn’t flip it. It wasn’t like they tripled or doubled their Firmicutes and did the same with their Bacteroides in the opposite direction. So they sort of still were balancing each other out. So because again, it’s all about balance, right. So this one’s okay, but look at the next one.

Lindsey: 

Okay, before we do that, let me just ask, is there a type of diet that tends to bring Firmicutes into dominance?

Dr. Rose:

I would say probably when you’re eating less plants, and having more of an inflammatory type diet, that’s what I would say.

Lindsey: 

Okay. So next one is the Proteobacteria:Actinobacteria Ratio. And speaking of which, I have zero actinobacteria from my previous samples.

Dr. Rose:

There’s like four of them. So this one’s out of control. Let me tell you something. When I do these, I want to see everyone’s ratio less than one because that’s associated with a really good, healthy metabolism. Good cell turnover, stuff like that. So when you see it like this, even when I see 1.5, I’m like yeah, that’s not good, your dysbiosis; this person is at 14.75, so not good. Okay, we got to fix that.

Lindsey: 

Yeah. But I mean, is it possible, so just based on my previous samples, I literally think I had zero. Is it possible I’ve just killed them all off and there’s no getting them back?

Dr. Rose:

No, you can get them back. You’ve got it.

Lindsey: 

I’ve got small quantities hiding in my appendix?

Dr. Rose:

Right. Yeah,you’ll get them back. So then and this one (Prevotella:Bacteroides Ratio) I don’t pay so much to. Everyone is always around zero. Every once in a while, there’ll be somebody that has really high Prevotella, and that’s when the ratio gets a little wonky and high amounts of some of the Prevotella species have been implicated in autoimmunity and things like that. But for the most part, I would say most people fall, even the vast majority are zero.

Lindsey: 

In the US . . .

Dr. Rose:

Yeah.

Lindsey: 

Okay, so scooting down to page eight.

Dr. Rose:

There’s their pathogens that we were talking about. Okay. Yeah, these are really high. So I mean the E. coli is six. The highest, actually, the other day someone had 7.2. Again, unless the person is really, really symptomatic and had some crazy thing like bloody diarrhea, you know, this isn’t giving me like, oh, this is E coli 0157 or something, right. But there’s clearly something going on where they have an overabundance of E coli. And again, I’m going to go after the C diff and the Bilophila anyway. And as I do that, I’m assuming that the E coli is going to get crowded out as I get some of those good commensal,  keystone organisms repopulating the gut.

Lindsey: 

And yeah, will they tell you if there’s E coli 0157?

Dr. Rose:

If you scroll down a little bit, it gives you all of the pathogens here, just go down to the next page. And, I don’t know. No, it just gives you E coli. You know, it gives you that type of salmonella. That’s what it’s giving you, those exact species and genus.

Lindsey: 

There’s E coli Nissle and there’s E coli 0157.

Dr. Rose:

And you’re assuming unless the person is like, definitely, you know, they’re really ill and extremely chaotic, then it’s just again, this overcrowding this dysbiosis, imbalance, right? The pathogens are really winning over the commensals.

Lindsey: 

Yeah, it just it sort of bugs me that when they don’t give you the strain, and they don’t give you the raw data, it’s like, help me out here.

Dr. Rose:

It’s hard to do that, though, I think, because I mean, not everyone’s a physician looking at this. And then unless it’s a pathologic issue, then at that point, if you think it’s really pathological, then you should just do a conventional stool test and see what you’re growing out.

Lindsey: 

It’s just hard to know with these numbers . . . what number would it have to say? Or would it be more be symptomatic?

Dr. Rose:

I want to say that I did have a case where the C diff was really high. And I feel like they said, if it was greater than five or something with the C diff, which I’ve never seen, you had to choose antibiotics. Okay, but again, I would maybe then do a standard stool test. And check it out. Yeah, you should go to the last page. Because the way I look at this, I would go to the last page first and I’ll tell you why. I like to look first who’s taking up real estate before I get to structure and function. I want to say who’s there, who’s taking up real estate, what good guys are there and what bad guys are there? Because I feel like it sets up the story much better.

Lindsey: 

This page here? Page 20?

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, I told them to move this up. I think it should be up above. So yeah, this is pretty bad. So this person really lacks a lot of good stuff. So Akkermansia is like one of your big, big keystone species. Huge for short chain fatty acid production and metabolism. They have none.

Lindsey: 

Yeah, that would be me.

Dr. Rose:

Faecalibacterium prausnitzii again, like none, you want to have a good amount. That’s protective against colon cancer.  Ruminococcus bromii, Ruminococcus flavefaciens these are both cellulose degraders. So anything that’s like coming down through the upper part of the GI tract, middle part of the GI tract that’s not really broken down very well especially like fibrous foods. These guys are there to really get them to a place where the bacteria can utilize their energy, use them as energy resources and that’s not happening. So you you’re going to need some help above, so this person I would definitely put on enzymes for sure. Roseburia, another one not detected. Let’s see what else we got here. No Eubacterium no, Bifidobacterium, no Lactobacillus. They have like nothing basically. What else? And very little Butyricicoccus. So what do they have? Do they have anything? Hold on, go back up? Tell me that. Anything? Yeah, they’re lacking like pretty much in all of their commensals. So the issue here is that’s why there’s probably so much Proteobacteria because they just are so crowded out and there’s no good keystone commensal organisms.

Lindsey: 

So looking at this, you might think, Oh, this is a person who must have a terrible standard American diet and who knows what else? But I had a report that probably wasn’t a heck of a lot different except I had tons of Faecalibacterium Prasnitzii.

Dr. Rose:

And you feel like you meet pretty good?

Lindsey:

Yes. I mean, gluten-, dairy-free, healthy, you know really high in fruits and vegetables. I mean, I eat meat and stuff, but not excessive quantities. So, you know, once you’ve sort of gotten into this situation and diet doesn’t seem to be turning it around, and you’ve killed everything off and you’ve replaced it, you kill everything off and you’ve replaced it like. . . Well, I know the answer my own case, because I’ve got sort of recurrent SIBO. But what do you do?

Dr. Rose:

Well first, I always ask these patients, especially if they’re like, well, I’ve been eating really good. And I’m like, Alright, so what what’s happened, though, in the last few years, right? Like, have you had extensive antibiotic use for something? Were you in the hospital? Did you have surgery? I’ll ask them all these questions that could really have really affected the health of their microbiome significantly. I want to know what has happened, right? Because it’s so important, we always want to understand where the person has been, where they are, and then where they’re going with their health in the context of their life, so that we can interpret these a little bit better, you know. And so that’s important, a lot of people will give me an answer, they go, “Oh, my God!” And so that person, because they had a major surgery, were on antibiotics, or something else, but whatever. They’re really, really, really behind the eight ball. And so they’re going to need a lot more help getting across that finish line. And especially, I can’t say, I mean, you’re probably a lot more diligent than most people, but most people just aren’t going to eat like a cow. And really just eating like a cow. And eating plants all day long is really going to get your gut microbiome to where it is. And then even it might not. And that can take like a long time, like a year or more. So I always support the patient, especially Americans, we’re really impatient anyway. But I always support the patient, I want to lay the foundation, I want to start getting rid of the bad stuff. We inoculate it with the good stuff, and then giving them the fertilizer and the things that they need to get that all growing fast and stick. And it can be hard, it’s not always the easiest thing.

Lindsey: 

Okay, so I’ve pulled us up to page 10.

Dr. Rose:

You’re in the right spot. Okay, so let’s think about this page for a second, right? So we know that they’re severely dysbiotic, right, they have severe dysbiosis, they have an imbalance, we definitely have all of the good phyla that they should have. Plus they have good significant amount of pathogens, right. And as a result, those pathogens and the lack of the good commensal organisms are going to affect structure and function. So we know for a fact they have leaky gut, like screaming leaky gut, actually. So that gut barrier is significantly impaired. They definitely have gut barrier dysfunction. And now we’re going to look at the metabolic function, right?

And let’s see, let’s see how that’s probably destroyed systems. Because we already see who’s taking up real estate there. And it’s not a good situation, right. So now we’re going to look at metabolic functioning. And so the bacteria, there’s two different sources of fuel that they utilize, and it’s through either breaking down and eating carbohydrates, resistant starches or high fibrous foods, right? And that’s their preferred energy source. Okay, this is the saccharolytic fermentation is what they want. Proteolytic fermentation is like a backup that was evolutionarily developed by these organisms, because I guess when there was feast or famine, right, because we were walking along eating plants picking this but and I guess, if there was drought, you know, of some sort, and like, nothing was really growing, then they had game for food, right? So they had this proteolytic fermentation as a backup. But the problem is, it doesn’t prefer it, it doesn’t want it. And a lot of the byproducts of this fermentation process are toxic to the gut lining, you know, the amines, indoles, sulfides, and they do other things in your body that aren’t great. So when we are seeing these things, it’s okay if we see them in a certain amount. It’s like that Goldilocks theory, because some of them, the amines and the indoles particularly, they do some good things for us. But it has to be just the right amount, right? So let’s see what this person’s doing with their saccharolytic fermentation. So the major byproduct of saccharolytic fermentation is short chain fatty acid production, right. So let’s look at what happened here. So it looks like they’re doing pretty good, which is sort of interesting, let’s see. So there’s three short chain fatty acids they’re going to make.  

Lindsey: 

Page 11.

Dr. Rose:

Okay, wow, they’re making butyrate. And that’s good because this person is suffering in so many other areas, so whatever few commensals they have, or whatever is there, they’re really doing a good job spewing out and making some butyrate. Okay. And then proprionate, proprionate is really good for T cell regulation. And not terrible. I mean, it could be worse. I mean, it’s a little low, but it could be way worse. So that’s not so bad. And then acetate’s your third short chain fatty acid and when you have acetate, so if you have some of these species, if you have enough of them like Roseburia, and the Faecalibacterium prasnitzii, what they do is they convert the acetate into butyrate. Okay, so if you have enough of acetate, that’s maybe whythis person has some butyrate too, because they have enough of the acetate that’s converting it to butyrate. Alright. And you know, why butyrate is so good. It’s great for everything like oxidative stress, metabolism, your immune system, all those wonderful things that we need and obviously, to help with that gut barrier dysfunction, right, and keeping our gut lining intact.

Lindsey: 

So do you supplement with butyrate for people who are deficient?

Dr. Rose:

No, no. If people really have none, I do like one or two supplements that can give you back butyrate and/or proprionate. There’s a lot of stuff circulating about that and how good it really is. But I feel like people just need it – I’ll do it for just a short period of time. While I’m sort of again, like planting new seeds, right, and getting those good commensals to start growing back so that then they can start making the butyrate. But I’ll do it for just a limited amount of time if people are really that depleted in that division. Okay. And then this person’s lactate, I find that the lactate will be on the higher side. And to me, I don’t like to see people’s lactate really more than 40%.

Again, this makes sense because this person has a lot more lactate producers, and then they have a lower abundance of the lactate utilizers. And lactate utilizers tend to be the short chain fatty acid producers, which are those keystone commensal organisms. So you know, you don’t want to have too much lactic acid production, which was just like how we hear it being toxic to our muscles, it also is toxic to the gut lining. Okay?

Okay, here’s our proteolytic. So this is now using protein as their source of energy. And the byproducts includes amines, so you can go down and we’ll look at these guys. So there’s three different polyamines,  there’s putrescine, spermidine, and cadaverine. Now, putrescine, and spermidine are good; cadaverine can be sort of a bad guy. But these guys are important overall for helping us stabilize RNA and DNA. And so you want to have some of it, this person’s on the lower side, it’s okay rather than be lower than higher, but maybe get a little bit more be fine. This person has a high amount of phenols, which is not good, you know, it is extremely, extremely toxic to the gut lining. It impairs the intestinal barrier function, and P-cresol, which is the main byproduct. It can be very toxic to your skin, like a lot of people that have really elevated levels of phenols or P-cresols, they’ll have a lot of inflammatory skin conditions too.

Lindsey: 

So phenols are not the same thing as polyphenols?

Dr. Rose:

No.  

Lindsey: 

The names could get you confused. Now, P-cresol, is that not a marker on the Organic Acids Test?

Dr. Rose:

P-cresol. I feel like there is a P something; you’re right. Yes, I think it is. Yes. I think it is on the OAT, I wish I had it in front of me.

Lindsey: 

I could tell you right now, but I don’t if I could pull one up real quick.

Dr. Rose:

Yeah. Okay. So now look at that. Ammonia production is sky high in this person, likely because of the really high C diff, you know, although there’s a bunch of other organisms that also produce ammonia. This person should definitely not go on glutamine. That’s going to push even more ammonia production. So we’ll leave that person alone with the glutamine for now.

Lindsey: 

Interesting. Okay, so that gives you a good marker about whether that should be good for them.

Dr. Rose:

Hydrogen sulfide production: they’re having a little issue with their vendor that does all the raw data for them and the hydrogen sulfide hasn’t really been positive and people that have it negative, but this person definitely I can promise you is producing hydrogen sulfide based on their high level of Bilophina and also that they have that other rare bacteria, the Desulfovibrionaceae.  Wo I’m sure this person and again, hydrogen sulfide is so toxic again to that intestinal lining. And again, people that have high protein, low fiber diets and sulfate reducing bacteria are going to eat up that stuff. So you basically don’t trust their hydrogen sulfide marker at this point. Yeah, they’ve got to work out-they are working on it. I don’t know why. Okay, no, methane didn’t surprise me. They didn’t have any methanogen producing organisms. So that’s good.

Lindsey: 

Okay, other than Methanobrevibacter smithii, what might be the other ones you’d be looking for?

Dr. Rose:

Oh, there’s a lot of methanogens. I don’t have them committed to memory. They fall under the Eukaryota. There’s a lot of different species. Okay. Okay. Psychobiome.

Lindsey: 

So we’re on page 14 for the listeners.

Dr. Rose:

So now we’re looking at neurotransmitter hormone production. So GABA we know is a really important neurotransmitter, like a vast majority of it is made in the gut. And they’re using it as a psychobiotic. They use certain strains as a psychobiotic. Like, I know, Lactobacillus rhamnosis is one and I can’t really name the other species, but they potentiate GABA production. We know that GABA is the calming hormone, the hormone that helps us sleep. And it balances out glutamate and glutamate’s the excitatory neurotransmitter, right ,and so really important to have a lot of this around. So some people see that they have none. And but that doesn’t necessarily mean that correlates with the GABA levels that are found in their brain, right? We know that there’s this bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain, where even the gut is communicating, I think even four times more with the brain than the brain is with the gut. But still, we don’t know, we’re still teasing out all that information, right? So, but having a healthy gut is going to help us have a healthy brain.

Lindsey: 

So I am assuming that you must see low levels of GABA in people with ADHD?

Dr. Rose:

So the thing is, it doesn’t always correlate right now, not on this test.

Lindsey: 

But I mean, in general.

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, probably, absolutely.

Lindsey: 

Yeah, like I give it to my son to help him calm down. But he doesn’t want to take it much. I mean, I give him I also give him phosphatidylserine. He doesn’t want to take the GABA. But he seems to think that that it kind of makes him not be him. And it’s funny. So when I was I had sciatica last year, and I was so desperate to fall asleep that I was taking literally everything in the kitchen cabinet that I could find to make myself go to sleep since I would have excruciating spasms. And I was taking GABA for a bit, like I’m like, okay, we’ll do the GABA, we’ll do the melatonin, we’ll do the ibuprofen PM, I mean, it was everything. Anyway, I found that after some time, I was beginning to feel kind of depressed. Like I was sort of not taking a lot of pleasure in life. And I’m like, I think that GABA has dialed me down a hair, like that was not something that was out of whack for me.

Dr. Rose:

Yeah. The other thing too that for the listeners to know the difference. So basically, melatonin is what is going to help you go to sleep. So there’s different people, different types of insomnia, right? You know, people that have trouble falling asleep, people that have trouble staying asleep. And then a combination of both, right? Melatonin is what helps you fall asleep. It doesn’t help you necessarily stay asleep, although there’s some extended release versions, but don’t know how good that is. But GABA is what helps you stay asleep. So that’s the difference. So it’s good to always know that distinction.

Lindsey: 

Okay, that’s good to know.

So now we’re on to the glutathione and this person has a massive amount of this too, which is great. I mean, it’s the most powerful antioxidant in the human body. And it also acts as a hormone. It can potentiate the release of GABA and dopamine. And, you know, it does a lot of other amazing things in our body, like obviously gobbling up free radicals, helping with oxidative stress, all those things. So, this person has a lot of that, which is good. Not terrible. Okay, I’m not going to be like, that sucks. It’s good. So, let me say a few good things. Not many, but where else we go next.

Lindsey: 

Okay, so we’ll go to page 16.

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, so indoles. Again, it’s the Goldilocks so you don’t want too much of this. I would say this person might have a little bit too much. I’d want them more in the green. But again, the production of indoles, it’s through the degradation of tryptophan, which is what we find in usually meats, especially turkey, you guys all know, it’s like the sleepy hormone, right? So basically, we want this guy because he helps increase the expression of the enzymes that help break down xenobiotics or toxins in our body. So you want you definitely want to have, again, that Goldilocks rule, just the right amount of this is important. Okay, so this is a good estrobolome. I see a lot of my females I find hug around this 20% which I think is good, just from my experience, my females that are premenopausal. I’ll see some people go up into the 30s. I think once you get it up into the 40s, then you’re dealing with estrogen dominance, that can be an issue, and then probably women that start to fall below like 15%, 13% that’s like, you know, you’re probably getting more postmenopausal or perimenopausal maybe. You might want to do a metabolomic test, like look at a Dutch or something to look at hormones.

Lindsey: 

Okay. So we’re on page 17.

Dr. Rose:

Now, vitamin A. So now we want to see how well are your gut bacteria synthesizing vitamins, right, or making vitamins. So it’s different. There’s a distinction between making the vitamins and having vitamins, right. So you can supplement, but that doesn’t mean you’re synthesizing them. It’s two different things. This is really showing us how well they’re being made in the gut. So let’s look and see how each vitamin is doing here. So B1 is decent, it’s not terrible. It could be way worse. I like it into the green area, like 40, 50, 60%. But that’s fine. B2 is good. They have a lot of riboflavin. So that’s great.

Lindsey: 

And if it’s not totally clear, the important part is that the gut bacteria are producing these.

Dr. Rose:

That’s right. So this is another snapshot of metabolic function, right? And because of who’s there and who’s not there, and the imbalance of the current gut microbiome state that this person has. So again,  B5, which is pathothenic acid, they don’t really have any of that.

Lindsey: 

So they’re probably fatigued, I’m guessing. As you need that to produce energy.

Dr. Rose:

B1, thiamine too, that one’s very important for energy as well. They had some of that. B6 looks pretty decent. I’m happy with that. Let’s see B7, they have a lot of B seven. And that’s good. Let’s see what else we got here.

Lindsey: 

Page 19.

Dr. Rose:

B9 not bad, folate.  And B12, not bad. I mean, I’d like to scooch it up a little higher, but not terrible. And K2, not as good. You know, again, K2, not only for helping us put the calcium in the right places like in our teeth and bones and making sure that they don’t get deposited in our soft tissue and our vessels. But also very important for VO2 max, cardiac output, energy, things like that. So you know, this person’s doing well here too.

Lindsey: 

Can you explain VO2 max?

Dr. Rose:

Cardiac output. This is really cardiac output like how well is your heart working right now. Well, is your heart pumping the blood to your extremities and to your tissues and your nerves and cells and all those things? And so when you give K to the people, there’s different forms of K2. The most commercially used is K27. Although the jury’s out on that. I’ve spoken to people that think we should be using the 4, M4. But that being said, they’ve done studies where and I know Kiran and Microbiome Labs has a product that they’ve done studies on and they increase VO2 max when they gave them the K27 at the dosage that was in the supplement by like, I feel like it was up to 20%, but it was like 15 to 20%. But it was a pretty big number.

Lindsey: 

And isn’t VO2 max something you can measure when you’re exercising?

Dr. Rose:

Yeah.

Lindsey: 

So how do you do that?

Dr. Rose:

I think that there’s a device you can wear that calculates it. That’s how they do it in the studies, but I don’t know.

Lindsey: 

Because I listen to another podcast that talks about VO2 max all the time and it says . . .

Dr. Rose:

It’s an equation it’s like VO2 equals blah blah blah or something. [added later, it’s: VO2 max = maximum milliliters of oxygen consumed in 1 minute / body weight in kilograms]

Lindsey: 

I thought it had to do with like the max heart rate.

Dr. Rose:

I can see it in my head but I’m like, what’s the calculation?

Lindsey: 

Okay, so now we’ve looked over this entire report and you’re seeing this so what do you do with this person?

Dr. Rose:

So I’m going to go after the C Diff first, because that’s going to have a lot of die off. There’ll be a lot of toxins released. So I’m going to put this person on binders, binds up whatever is going to die off. And I’m going to give probably a more specific, maybe supplements like a spore former that is good at basically cleaning up C Diff.

Lindsey: 

Like a spore-based probiotic?

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, like HU58 he has, it’s really good. (Find in my Fullscript Dispensary*)

Lindsey: 

So that’s a Microbiome Labs product?

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, that’s B. subtilis. I like that product. Another one I really like is Cleansxym by US Enzymes (find in my Wellevate Dispensary*). It’s shown that there’s activity against C Diff, and it’s ozonated magnesium. That’s really giving your whole gut a nice cleaning. It has built in binder as well.

Lindsey: 

You’re not getting into microbials, though.

Dr. Rose:

So I find that when I have people that tend to constipate, the MegaIgG 2000 (Find in my Fullscript Dispensary*), that’s the binder that I’ll use from Microbiome Labs, I need to balance it out. And the Cleansxym does the trick. Because it if you titrate it up, you can titrate up to like whatever, whether it’s two doses or two caps or four caps a day, you can titrate it up to having a good complete bowel movement. It will balance out the binder, the constipation side effect from binders sometimes, so I like using them in combination, and they’re both sort of cleaning up the house a little bit.

Lindsey: 

But no, wait, did you did you say the you use the MegaIgG as the binder?

Dr. Rose:

The MegaIgG 2000. Yeah, right.

Lindsey: 

Right. Which is like a derivative of colostrum?

Dr. Rose:

Yes. And then I’ll use that in combination with the Cleansxym.

Lindsey: 

With the Cleansxym, like at the same time?

Dr. Rose:

A lot of patients I will, unless the patient has significant diarrhea, then I’ll just leave them alone with the MegaIgG 2000. But a lot of people have the opposite issue. And then I find that they get even more constipated. So I like the Cleansxym because it helps you poop and it also helps with C diff, so I’ll use that with HU58. then.

Lindsey: 

Okay, yeah. So the MegaIgG 2000, I’ve always thought of that as sort of, you know, if you’ve got low Secretory IgA.

Dr. Rose:

I think you’re thinking more the Mega Mucosa (Find in my Fullscript Dispensary*). The Mega Mucosa has all the different immunoglobulins in it. And the IgG 2000’s just more specific and an acts as a binder.

Lindsey: 

Okay, because it essentially pulls out any toxins.

Dr. Rose:

Yes, exactly. So I’m talking about that. That I’ll give later, I’ll give the Mega Mucosa a little later after I’ve cleaned it up, you know, just to keep their gut lining intact. You know what I mean? And keep that gut barrier function optimal. Okay. So I’ll do that upfront for that person. Let’s see what else so then I want to clean up that Bilophila too. So there’s a product by Master Supplements also called TruFlora (find in my Fullscript Dispensary*).  And it really shows it does a lot. It has a lot of activity in the small intestine and helps with SIBO. And reversing SIBO and stuff. So I’ll use that for like eight weeks or so after I get them off the HU58 and the person’s feeling okay. And I’ll get them off the binder, I’ll keep them on the Cleansxym. I’ll put them on the TruFlora. At the same time, while I’m doing this, I’m usually trying to give them some sort of prebiotic, also, right. Because I’m trying to feed the good bacteria that’s being established now so that they keep thriving and growing.

Lindsey: 

So do you use the Mega Pre? (find in my Fullscript Dispensary*)

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, I’ll use the Mega Pre. I use that and I use another product called Sun Spectrum. There an ingredient in that that’s excellent. There’s so many studies that show it increases butyrate production and those butyrate producing organisms.

Lindsey: 

Is that Sun Fiber?

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, it’s Sun Fiber in that. Yes, you got it.

Lindsey: 

Do you find that that’s better for people who are constipated though than people who have, you know, soft stool?

Dr. Rose:

I haven’t found a difference really, to be honest with you. And I have a lot of both. The one I noticed the main thing is with the IgG2000 with my constipated patients. But with the Sun Spectrum, the only complaint I will get is they’ll get really bloated, if they use too much too fast. Same with the Mega Pre. So what I do is I have them put it a in a protein shake or something and they’ll do like a quarter of a scoop for 3,4 days. And if they feel fine, then they’ll go to half a scoop for three, you know, they just titrate, you know, go low, go slow. And then you get them there and they’re fine. I literally barely ever get a complaint if I do it that way. Now the ones that go off on their own and they didn’t listen to us and I’m like, “Oh, you didn’t titrate it up, did you?” And they’re like “No.” Okay, so I start over. Yeah. It’s funny. I haven’t noticed. Why had you noticed the difference? I’m so curious.

Lindsey: 

Well it’s just I personally felt like, well, because I was thinking about the, so I know that the Sun Fiber is partially hydrolyzed guar gum. And so I know that that’s an adjunct for Rifaximin for SIBO. And so I got some

Dr. Rose:  

But did you feel like they were going to make you more constipated? Is that what you were going to say?

Lindsey: 

No, no, the opposite. Well in my personal experience it felt like it kind of just went right through me and sort of sped up the bowel movements or increased them. And I thought that’s not what I want.

Dr. Rose:  

I haven’t had that. Do you think you just used it too quickly?

Lindsey: 

I’m trying to think, did I start with, I probably started with a full pack.

Dr. Rose:  

Go slow, go lower.

Lindsey:

I wasn’t using Sun Spectrum brand I don’t think. They were in individual packets.

Dr. Rose:

I love Sun Spectrum. And Sun Spectrum has other products in it that are really healthy for the gut lining. I think it has curcumin. Does it have vitamin in it? No, I can’t remember the other main thing and it’s like curcumin.

Lindsey: 

I don’t know. I’m the worst patient for myself though. Like I never follow the kind of advice I give my clients.

Dr. Rose:

No, try the Sun Spectrum. And try to just do a little like just a little bit, or try the Mega Pre. Either one.

Lindsey: 

Yeah, I’ve never done the Mega Pre either.

Dr. Rose:

Just try the Mega Pre, again, like just do like a quarter for like a few days. And just go slow and you’ll be fine.

Lindsey: 

So I kind of struggle though with like, philosophically, the idea of giving somebody a prebiotic powder. I sort of feel like they could and should be getting that from their diet and their food. Right? And that I should be getting it from my food.

Dr. Rose:

You’re 1,000% right. But the problem is, like I really tried to be plant based, right? Like I even think about myself, right? Let’s look let’s look at myself. So I do time restricted eating. Okay, so I do a 16-8. Usually that’s just my life pretty much, you know, except maybe like on one of the weekend days. But I’ll tell you, I just don’t even have time to get enough of the plants in. I mean, I’m not getting enough of those. Like, if we’re really being practical here. I’m just not getting enough of the servings in. I feel like to really help my microbiome to the best I can. I feel like I agree with you 1,000%. And everything we do in the practice is getting people to understand why it’s so important to be more plant centric, right? And I’m like, okay, I believe in moderation, everything. I am not really one of those people to demonize any one macronutrient even right?

But and you think about if you’re a vegan, this and I don’t judge anybody if that’s what they prefer, that’s fine. But I would say for the most of my patients, I’m like, “Listen, get like your plate to be at least 60% [plants].” Right? When you look at your plate, like 60, or if it’s 70, awesome, like to be the plant, right to be all those beautiful vegetables, different colors, your salad with all these different, colorful vegetables in it. And then the smaller portion of your plate can be a piece of wild salmon or an organic piece of chicken or organic ground turkey meatball or, you know, I don’t know, like, I guess, God, once in a while or once every two weeks, you want a beautiful piece, like a small piece of ground, grass-fed, grass-finished beef. It’s okay. As long as you’re talking about regenerative farmed animals, and then you’re not putting crap into your body. Right. And so, yeah, it’s like creating balance, you know, and I think once the people get used to having the plants as most of their plate that I feel like you’ve done such an amazing job, right? Because it’s so hard to get so many people there.

Lindsey: 

So yeah, where do grains fit into that?

Dr. Rose:

Yeah. So I’m fine with grains. I’m not against grains. I am in certain instances when I’m trying to heal up a patient and they have something going on. Maybe with some sort of autoimmunity or something like that. Right? But I’m fine with like little portion of your plate to be a little bit of like, quinoa, right? Or like maybe a little bit of brown rice or a little bit of, you know, like my kids even like, we don’t eat conventional pasta anymore, right. I don’t know how I did it, but I did it.

Lindsey: 

You must either be single or have a spouse who is compliant, right?

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, well, he doesn’t know it’s so hard to do. And listen, they’re all full of, any of the pastas out there will have so much carbohydrate in them. But the sugars aren’t so bad, right? Which is good, which I look at even more. Right. But I found this great brand that does a brown rice pasta. And we don’t really eat pasta that much. But when I serve it, it happens to be delicious, right? And so we make it with a really good homemade tomato sauce. And, you know, we make it with olive oil or whatever, and garlic and blah, blah, blah, and we mix it with a bunch of vegetables. And it’s great.

Lindsey: 

It’s great that they’ll do it becauseI can’t pass that stuff off on my family. I mean, it’s like complete mutiny, starting with my husband, then my older son, then the whole place mutinies.

Dr. Rose:

So I got all three of my kids to eat it, and my husband, they all love it now. It is such a good brand.

Lindsey: 

Which one is it?

Dr. Rose:  

I’m going to send it to you. It is so good. It’s Jovial.

Lindsey: 

Okay. I’ve seen that in the store.

Dr. Rose:  

Oh, good. Listen, my kids know when it’s chick pea. They know. And it’s like, when I give them the brown rice, they gobble it up.

Lindsey: 

I’ve just I’ve just given up. We have two pots.

Dr. Rose:

I got everyone in my family. We don’t have any more conventional pasta in the house. It’s brown rice. And it looks like regular pasta. It tastes the same. It’s really good. And they make the penne, they make farfale. They make elbow macaroni. I’m telling you.

Lindsey: 

No, you see, here’s the thing about my family is even if you don’t tell them and you try and just fool them, somebody is going to begin to sniff that out. Because if I’m eating it, and they’re eating it, there’s a problem. And so even if it tastes perfectly fine, somewhere in the middle, somebody will be like, “Wait a second, you’re eating this too? Somethings not right. You fed us . . .” and then I’m going to get reminded of the time when I tried to pass off turnip fries as French fries. And then it all goes south.

Dr. Rose:

No, really, honestly I’m telling you. You cook it for like eight minutes. I am telling you they will all like it. Put a yummy marinara sauce on it. I’m telling you, okay, there is no way. You have to let me know; you have to try it because I went and I gave it to all their friends. All of their friends eat it. Nobody doesn’t eat it.

Lindsey: 

Okay. Okay. I’ll trust you on this one. We’ll give it a try. Okay, so I’ve kept you much longer than I should have. How should we wrap this up? Any final thoughts on how you might help this person?

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, so basically, after I’m done with the C Diff, I’m going to go after the Bilophila like I just said with that [ProFlora], two, four [months]. I’ll probably keep them on the Cleansxym, I’ll keep them on a prebiotic, keep them on digestive enzymes. And I’ll probably retest them in six months.

Lindsey: 

Okay, but nowhere in here did I hear any antimicrobials? You’re just using probiotics, prebiotics, enzymes?

Dr. Rose:

I’m not, I’m not.

Lindsey: 

Okay. Now is that for most people or just this profile?

Dr. Rose:

I don’t use any antimicrobials, unless I see some weird pathogen.

Lindsey: 

Okay, so you’re using the spore-based probiotics to cull and shape the microbiome?

Dr. Rose:

A combination of those, or maybe some other type of probiotic, depending on what the situation is. Yeah.

Lindsey: 

Interesting. Okay. Well, so I will link to Microbiome Labs’ stool test*. This is the BiomeFX and products, if people want to use that and they can get a 20% discount using my affiliate account.

Dr. Rose:

Nice. And they have great products.

Lindsey: 

Yeah, I recommend Megasporebiotic to a lot of my clients.

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, it works great. It works great. I would say, like I said, everyone’s different. I had a person the other day that I did a consult on this through Microbiome Labs, and he was like, it just doesn’t work for me, the Megasporebiotic  doesn’t work. So I’m like, okay, we’re going to try something different. Not everything’s going to work the same for everybody. So we have a lot of tools in our toolkit, and we’ll just try something different for that.

Lindsey: 

I give almost everybody at least a month of it, but they’re so expensive, the good brands are expensive.

Dr. Rose:

All of them, everything is expensive.

Lindsey: 

On top of everything else, I feel like it’s just a lot to ask of people sometimes.

Dr. Rose:

Yeah, yeah. But listen so when you get this is done, you got to give it to me. I’ll get it to Kiran. Okay, I’ll get you a stool test. And then we’ll have to do a follow up.

Lindsey: 

That sounds great.

Dr. Rose:

We’ll see what your proteobacteria looks like.

Lindsey: 

Because, you know, I never knew if I could trust it or not. I’ll have to make sure my SIBO is not acting up when I do that.

Dr. Rose:

You should get rid of your SIBO.

Lindsey: 

Oh, I keep trying. I just did the ibssmart test and found out that I do have autoimmune IBS, essentially. It was positive for the anti-vinculun.

Dr. Rose:

So you did, was that the Vibrant Test?

Lindsey: 

No, the ibssmart.

Dr. Rose:

I think I have anti-vinculun antibody too.

Lindsey: 

I just did it like a week ago. I mean, I got the results a week ago.

Dr. Rose:

Well, did you you know that usually results if you’ve had an infectious an infected . . .

Lindsey: 

Right. And I did have a couple of nasty incidents of food poisoning.

Dr. Rose:

Yeah. And it’s funny that we were talking about before, I was I was hospitalized for E coli 0157 when I was in medical school.

Lindsey: 

Wow. And yeah, no, I had never had anything that had me hospitalized. But I lived in Costa Rica a couple different times. Once I got one some weird thing. I don’t know what it was, but I had to take some strange antibiotic for it. And then the other time was the full on food poisoning because I left mayonnaise sitting for two days, then made tuna salad.

Dr. Rose:

What are you going to do with your anti-vinculin antibody?

Lindsey: 

I’m sort of working on the prokinetic question right now. I’m playing with Iberogast. But I’m thinking I want to see if I can get somebody to prescribe me something. So we’ll see. I’m launching into a study on prokinetics now.

Dr. Rose:

Okay, that’s awesome. Let me know how that goes.

Dr. Rose:

Yeah. Thank you so much for coming on. And all this great information about this test. Nobody’s talked about this or, or worked on it before. So this is an interesting approach.

Dr. Rose:

Yeah. Thank you. It was a pleasure. Thanks so much for having me. I really, really appreciate it.

If you’re struggling with any type of gut health problem and are ready to get some professional help, you’re welcome to set up a free, 30-minute breakthrough session with me. We’ll talk about what you’ve been going through and I’ll tell you about my gut health coaching 5-appointment program in which I recommend lab tests, educate you on what the results mean and the protocols used by doctors to fix the problems revealed. Or if you’re ready to jump in right away or can just afford one appointment at a time, you can set up an 1-hour consultation with me.

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Diet, Immunomodulation and Coping: Understanding IBD with Steven Sandberg-Lewis, ND

Adapted from episode 54 of The Perfect Stool podcast and edited for readability.

Lindsey: 

Today I’m talking about the naturopathic treatment of inflammatory bowel disease or IBD with Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis, a practitioner of Naturopathic gastroenterology in private practice at Hive Mind Medicine in Portland, Oregon. He has been in practice for 40 years and in 1996 he joined the full-time faculty of the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland. Now adjunct faculty, he continues teaching, seeing patients and supervising student doctors in complex digestive disorders. His areas of special clinical and research focus include irritable bowel syndrome, SIBO, GERD, hiatal hernia, inflammatory bowel disease, biliary dyskinesia, the sterolbiome, gastroparesis and chronic nausea/vomiting. He is also the author of the textbook entitled Functional Gastroenterology: Assessing and Addressing the Causes of Functional GI Disorders

So today we’re going to be talking about inflammatory bowel disease. And I know you’ve got Crohn’s and colitis under that title, and that there’s different types of colitis, including ulcerative, microscopic and collagenous. So if you could just go over the different types of IBD, and how they differ in terms of what’s going on and the symptoms, just to start us off.

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Well, if you use the term colitis, you’re focused on the colon. And, of course, Crohn’s disease, can cause something called Crohn’s colitis, which is when Crohn’s disease is present in the large intestine. It can also be present anywhere else in the gut, and most commonly in the small bowel, but there is Crohn’s colitis. There’s also ulcerative colitis, which, by its name, is always in the colon. The big difference between these two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease in terms of the actual location and nature of the disease, the biggest one is that in Crohn’s disease, you typically have areas of colon that are completely normal. By biopsy, by visible exam on a colonoscopy or any other form of imaging, you have these areas that look completely normal interspersed with areas that are diseased. Whereas in ulcerative colitis, it’s a continuous process. It starts in the rectum, if it’s the mildest form, which is called ulcerative proctitis. And then if it’s going to get more advanced, it moves gradually up into the sigmoid colon, the whole left side of the colon, or even the entire colon, it’s called pancolitis. So they look very different in that you don’t have any areas that are spared, like Crohn’s colitis would have. There are a lot of other differences too, like one of the most striking differences in terms of lifestyle is smoking tobacco. It doesn’t even have to be smoked. It could be a transdermal patch, or some other delivery of tobacco, but tobacco actually reduces the risk of recurrence and severity of ulcerative colitis, whereas tobacco increases the risk for bad outcomes, the need for eventual surgery and general aggravation of the condition in Crohn’s, even though they affect the same areas and they’re both called inflammatory bowel disease.

Lindsey: 

That’s interesting that you brought up the tobacco right off the bat. Because I sort of think of that like, okay, now we’ve tried absolutely everything out there, and then maybe say, hey, maybe a nicotine patch? Is that something that you use with patients?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

I’m not supposed to say that we do that. But I certainly remember very clearly a patient who was not responding to any standard medicines, or natural medicines, and she came in to see me. And after we talked, she started smoking five cigarettes a day, and it completely put her in remission. And she stayed that way for years. She could have used the patch, she could have done something else, but she thought that was cheaper, and just did that. So yeah, I’m not telling people to do that. We don’t tell people to do that. But an interesting finding is that the nicotine receptors in the gut do respond to nicotine and have opposite effects in Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

Lindsey: 

Interesting, and so how is collagenous colitis different from ulcerative colitis, or microscopic colitis?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Some writers and researchers still don’t put microscopic colitis in the same category as IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease. But I do, I make a little Venn diagram with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. And I put microscopic colitis over on the side as a separate circle. But I do call them all inflammatory bowel disease and the difference, microscopic colitis is the general term. And by the name, you can tell that it means you can only see it with a microscope. This is the kind of thing that gets biopsied for when someone, especially someone over 50, starts to have copious many times a day, non-bloody diarrhea. It can be very serious and can be a lot of weight loss and nutrition.

So microscopic colitis is a term for – it’s a normal colonoscopy for this kind of condition – but when you biopsy it, either the left or the right side of the colon, you take a biopsy, you will see microscopic inflammation, and that shows up as many lymphocytic white blood cells in the lining cells. And there’s two forms. As you mentioned, one is called lymphocytic because you just see those lymphocytes, and the other is called collagenous. You see the lymphocytes there, too. But in addition, there’s a thick layer of collagen tissue, which is a tissue that normally makes up most structural parts of the body, but a thickening of that collagen protein in the deeper layer just underneath all those lymphocytes.

And to the best of the research, it seems as if collagenous colitis is probably a later stage, because it has that same inflammation that you see with the lymphocytes, but now it’s starting to thicken up. Generally, what happens in the body when there’s chronic inflammation is there’s a thing called fibrosis, or you might call it scarring, where fibrous tissue is laid down to try to patch things when there’s long-term inflammation. And I mean, that’s one of the things that destroys the liver in cirrhosis. It’s actually the healing process that can affect the function of the liver because of this fibrosis. So that’s what’s happening in microscopic colitis, both collagenous and lymphocytic.

Lindsey: 

Got it. And then in just regular ulcerative colitis, like on a colonoscopy, you’ll see visible ulcers along the colon?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Right, you see either redness which is called erythema, you might see erosions, which are shallow denuding of the surface, or you may see actual ulcers, and bleeding and other signs.

Lindsey: 

So, in terms of treating these diseases, functionally, which ones do you see the most success with, and which the least. Or are they all potentially reversible if patients are willing to stick it out and follow your treatment plans?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Well, I used to say that I have a three-pointed approach. My latest lecture that I did a couple months ago, for our gastroenterology course I made it into a five-point star. But for most people, I like to just talk about a 3-point approach of treatment. So that involves number one, diet. The next one is some kind of immunomodulation, something that helps to balance the immune system in the gut, which is where most of the immune system is anyway. And then the third corner is stress and coping. I tell people that right away that these are the things we’re going to be focused on, you know, see if they want to buy into that kind of approach. I don’t like to leave out anything that’s essential if it’s there.

So what’s the most effective depends on the person. You know, I’ve had people who really needed to go to a counselor or have some hypnosis or self-hypnosis or mindfulness. And they put that piece off, and it just had to wait until they finally did that for things to really improve. If you’re walking on eggshells every day of your life because your boss is a jerk, or your primary relationship at home makes it so you don’t ever really relax, you always feel on edge and ready to jump. If you have old tapes playing in your head, and colon, from childhood or earlier in life, that haven’t been resolved, those are key things to work on. I teach a course at the naturopathic college within the university called gastroenterology lab. It’s a lab course, because we do things, physical things. I teach them how to use Emotional Freedom Technique to clear unresolved emotional states. And eye movement clearing techniques for the same thing. I teach them other physical techniques like ileocecal valve and hiatal hernia syndrome techniques and things like that – visceral manipulation. I just think it’s really important. I think of gastroenterology as a physical medicine process as well as emotional and organ based. That’s one thing. That’s one corner.

The other corner, like I said, would be diet. And the gold star, first, when you think of diet , would be either the Specific Carbohydrate Diet that was created by Sydney Haas back in the 1940s, New York pediatrician. Before they knew what celiac disease was, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet was invented by Dr. Haas as a way to treat celiac disease. Gluten had not been discovered; they didn’t know what caused celiac disease. Celiac means abdominal. So it was the abdominal disease. It’s not anything they knew. And gluten wasn’t really discovered as a substance until I think 1952. So kids were dying of malnutrition because of celiac disease. And he created this diet that had only specific kinds of carbohydrates, hence the name, ones that were not highly fermentable by intestinal bacteria. And that was extremely successful in treating celiac disease as well as IBD.

Lindsey: 

Now why would that be for celiac?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Because it’s a gluten free diet. Gluten is highly fermentable. And especially wheat because of the fructans in it. That’s the primo diet, and then other diets have been designed off of that. So there’s the GAPS Diet, the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet, which took the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and added Price-Pottenger types of high fat to support the brain and fermented foods and bifodobacter was added, before that only lactobacillus-containing foods were on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. So just kind of advanced it to work more on autism and bipolar and depression and other mental conditions.

Also, the brilliant Dr. Allison Siebecker, who I work with a lot and teach an advanced gastroenterology course with, she put together the Monash University FODMAP diet together with a specific carbohydrate diet because we know based on research that both the FODMAP diet and the specific carbohydrate diet are very effective at treating both irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease and getting people out of flares.

So she put the two of them together into one diet and one set of charts, which is really helpful.

And then Dr. Nirala Jacobi took it a one step further in Australia, again, like a FODMAP diet, and she created what’s called the Bi-Phasic Diet, which is basically Dr. Siebecker’s diet. But it has two phases, one that’s a little stricter that you do first. And then the reintroduction phase is the second phase. Some diet of some sort like this is extremely important, and really helps in every way. It helps emotions, helps the physical structure, helps the microbiome. And it’s really hard to get around not using diet. Often you can use a diet all by itself and get excellent results.

And then the third piece, immunomodulation. In standard gastroenterology, this is all done by suppressing different parts of the immune system either with prednisone, which kind of lays down a blanket over the almost entire immune system and decreases its activity to bring down inflammation, or more specific types of immunomodulators. But they all are designed to suppress the immune system.

In my approach, if I don’t need to use something like that, because we don’t have time and there’s too much tissue damage going on, I’ll get them started on the diet, which can work as fast as prednisone in my experience. But also, if I have time, I’ll do something different. And that might be something like low dose naltrexone. It is a prescription drug, but we use it in 1/10th to 1/15th of the normal dosage. And it works to raise endorphin levels in the body which helps to balance the immune system’s function. I like to say to people that the opiate receptors, that’s what you’re stimulating with your endorphins in the digestive tract and in the nervous system. These endorphin receptors, when you block them for short periods of time with low dose naltrexone, it actually stimulates the immune system and the pituitary gland to make more endorphins. And when you have higher levels of endorphins, it helps to sort of orchestrate the whole immune system so that you don’t have one part overreacting and another part underreacting. It helps balance it by stimulating certain types of cells called regulatory T cells. And the low dose naltrexone is really good at doing that. So, we’ll use something like that. Or we’ll use herbal medicines such as turmeric or boswellia.

Lindsey:

So just to back up and sort of state the obvious. These are all autoimmune conditions?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Right.  It’s funny though, they’re autoimmune conditions, especially Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis – we know there are specific autoimmune markers that you can measure in the blood. The interesting thing is that a lot of textbooks of medicine still don’t admit that, in articles as well, it’s not known. We call it idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease, which means we don’t know the cause. Really, I think there’s almost overwhelming proof to say that these are autoimmune.

Lindsey: 

And what are the markers that you look for with the various conditions?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

There’s a lab called Prometheus that specializes in GI tract and they do all kinds of advanced GI testing. They test interestingly enough for Crohn’s disease, upwards of 60 to 70% of people with Crohn’s disease will have a marker in their blood, which is an antibody against saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is baker’s yeast. So, they’re called ASCA, anti saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Lindsey: 

They have that in a basic IgG panel even through Lab Corp now though.

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Other labs have started to do it. For me, this was the one that initially did it. And then in ulcerative colitis, a large percentage of people will have p-ANCA antibodies which is a substance made by neutrophilic white blood cells that you can have antibodies against, which is an autoimmune marker for ulcerative colitis. You can do this panel where you check for these. And there are other ones as well, but these are the main ones where you can check the blood for these different antibodies and see if there’s a pattern that looks more like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis or neither.

Lindsey: 

And in terms of your treatment, your natural treatments, does it matter whether it’s one or the other?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

It really matters. Now with the diet, not so much. Although, if we know someone who has Crohn’s, we’re going to make sure they don’t get gums and thickeners. I mean, that’s true for probably both conditions. But carrageenan is a definite no-no for people with Crohn’s. So, they want to make sure that’s not in their diet.

Lindsey: 

Including thickeners, like partially hydrolyzed gaur gum? Or is that an OK one?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis:

Well see that one’s modified. It’s like modified citrus pectin. It’s different, rather than xanthan gum or carrageenan, or guar gum, which can really be problematic. The partially hydrolyzed gaur gum, as far as we know, is not fermentable the way regular gaur gum is.

Lindsey: 

Oh, okay. So, that’s the issue is that it’s fermentable. So Crohn’s patients are more susceptible to having problems with those gums and things. This is like polysorbate 80, and other things, too, right?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Well, there’s even some very fascinating research articles that look at the kinds of substances that help water and soap kind of sheet out in layers, like you use in your detergents. Detergents definitely often has surfactants in them. And there is some very interesting evidence from research that that may be a factor in either type of IBD.

You know, again, when we talk about the differences between the diseases, ulcerative colitis really appears to be a mucus problem. In Germany, they’ve done a series of studies to look at phosphatidylcholine, common name lecithin, normally produced in the last portion of the small intestine, the terminal ileum; it’s secreted there. And it becomes part of the mucus that then flows in through the ileocecal valve through into the large intestine. You know, the large intestine has a special kind of mucus, it has two layers of mucus, the stomach and the large intestine have these two layers of mucus because the stomach has to protect itself from acid so it doesn’t get digested because it produces acid.

And the large intestine, you really don’t want the billions of bacteria per gram of material in the large intestine to touch the mucous membrane to actually touch the cells that line the colon, because that could stimulate an immune reaction, which looks a lot like ulcerative colitis. So, the large intestine has a very dense, deeper layer right up against the cells that line the intestine that’s very dense and hard for bacteria to move through. And then it has a less dense, more superficial layer that some bacteria can live in it, especially things like akkermansia, a type of bacteria that really likes mucus. Then others live out in the opening in the air, so to speak, even though there’s no air there. It’s an anaerobic environment, but in the space. We think that, at least according to these series of German studies, that if you’re not having phosphatidylcholine, which is the stickiest gooey substance in the world, mixed in with your mucus, and then have that flow through your large intestine, you’re not going to have normal mucus in there, you’re not going to have these very important layers. And then bacteria are more likely normal flora, of which, like I said, there are billions per gram, in the large bowel it’s normal to have that much. They can actually end up touching some of the cells and that’s a no- no; that’s going to stimulate a big reaction by the immune system.

Lindsey: 

Is that something that you tell people to supplement with?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Well, we’re not doing that. Mostly because I think we would pull that out if nothing else was working, but we have to have it specially formulated and triple encapsulated.

Lindsey: 

To get to the large intestine?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Yeah, to make sure it isn’t absorbed too soon.

Lindsey: 

So, in other words, if you’re eating processed food with soy lecithin, that’s not going to be helping you.

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

That’s right, that’s good for your gallbladder, it’ll go to your liver and get used and put into your gallbladder to help prevent gall stones, but no, not otherwise. It’s also a good source of choline, which your body can turn into acetylcholine, which is a very important neurotransmitter for the gut. So, it’s really helpful thing, but not for the colon.

Lindsey:

Let me just back up and ask about the antibodies to S cervisiae because, you know, I think about Saccharomyces boulardii, which is Saccharomyces cervisiae subspecies boulardii, as a very common probiotic. Is that a problematic one then for people with Crohn’s?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

I’m not aware that it is. But certainly, yeast overgrowth in general and Candida and rhodotorula. Some of these other forms of yeast that can overgrow in the gut can definitely be a big problem. Bacterial overgrowth, normal flora, especially in the small bowel, as well as yeast overgrowth in the small or large bowel can be a big issue in Crohn’s, even more so than ulcerative colitis, right. I don’t tell people never take Saccharomyces cervisiae or boulardii because it will make your Crohn’s worse.

Lindsey:

But you do tell them presumably to avoid gluten as part of the SCD diet? Or which one? You sort of gave me a series of them, but do you use the Bi-phasic Diet then?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Depends on the patient. One thing I want to mention too is I highly, highly, highly suggest that if they’re eating gluten on a regular basis, before they just continue it, get a thorough blood test for celiac, non-celiac and wheat allergy. Because you’ll never be able to get an accurate test again if you quit eating it.

Lindsey: 

And a thorough test would go beyond just tissue transglutaminase. Or what all would you test to get a thorough test?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

So, a basic test that would test everything that would make it thorough. I mean, there’s some really thorough tests by Cyrex Labs and the Wheat Zoomer that’s done by Vibrant America that are incredibly detailed and check for every possible kind of reaction you could have to gluten. But the basics would be tissue transglutaminase, both IgA and IgG, deaminated gliadin peptide, IgA and IgG, and total Secretory IgA.

Lindsey: 

And that’s to check if the immune system is working in the first place?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

That’s just to make sure they don’t have an IgA deficiency, which is quite common in celiac, right. And also, so you’ll know to forget, you’ll know to ignore the TTG IgA and deaminated gliadin IgA because they’re not accurate if total IgA is low.

Lindsey: 

And they would then be low as well?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis:

Most likely, I mean, if they’re still high, then they’re high, but if they’re normal doesn’t mean anything. And that’s why you have the IgG to back it up. Also, if you wanted to check for non-celiac gluten intolerance, which I think is a great idea, you would do antigliadin antibody IgA, and IgG.

Lindsey: 

And that’s blood. Right?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

These are all blood.

Lindsey:

Just because I know there’s in the GI Map, there’s an anti-gliadin from the stool. Is that worth anything?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Yeah, there are two labs that I know of that do that, the GI Map, and then also the original lab that does all the testing from stool. It’s been so long since I saw one of those that I can’t even remember the name of it like, EnteroLab. I think It is. And they do the TTG in the stool as well, as well as anti-gliadin antibodies. So the last one if you want to check for wheat allergy is wheat IgE. That’s the only one that’s IgE because it’s an allergy.

Lindsey: 

But do you think that the stool ones are useful markers?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis:

I don’t know. They’re not standard. I certainly take them to heart, but they’re not standard ways of diagnosing celiac. If it’s anti gliadin antibody that’s elevated, that’s pretty indicative of non-celiac gluten intolerance. And I think it makes sense to use saliva or stool rather than blood to do these tests. Because you’re in the right compartment. You know, you’re in the gut. But the standard tests are the ones to also do, and those are blood.

Lindsey: 

Do you as a naturopath, do you do endoscopies and colonoscopies and that type of thing? Or do patients come to you having already typically seen an allopathic doctor and gotten a diagnosis?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

I don’t. Our license allows us to do that. But most gastroenterologists, they spend several days a week doing these procedures. And I just don’t think that’s the highest calling for a naturopathic doctor when we have so many tools for actually, once we have the diagnosis to treat it. But yeah, we could if we wanted to, in fact, Mark Davis, a former student of mine, who specializes in IBD in Bethesda, Maryland, he took the training, the 80-hour training, to do it. And he just decided after that, that he probably had other things that he should do. But yeah, we can do it. But we don’t.

Lindsey: 

What is the typical functional testing regime for someone with IBD?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

The first thing I do, if I’m thinking, hmm, does this person have IBD? Let’s say they have Crohn’s, or they have the rare kind of ulcerative colitis where there’s no blood. And still, Crohn’s can have blood or not, ulcerative colitis almost always does, sometimes doesn’t. And you’re not sure, but based on their other symptoms, you’re really thinking about it. The first thing I do is a stool calprotectin. I think of calprotectin as a really good way to decide if somebody needs a colonoscopy and biopsy or not. And if the levels are under 50, then we’re thinking about other things besides IBD. Definitely, I think all labs at this point, for some reason, use that number 165 and above, seems to be a really accurate number for indicating someone’s in a flare. Definitely when calprotectin is over 250, that’s definitely an active flare of Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. Anyway, levels between 50 and 100, usually repeated again in three or four weeks and see if it’s going down or up. Because it’s kind of in the equivocal, maybe range. I do that. And, again, if it comes back high. And if there’s not time, because someone’s really acute, you’re going to just start treating them as if, right?

But you can also get a stool sample and send it off, as you’re starting to treat them and see what the calprotectin is. I’ve had patients with calprotectin over 2000. That’s almost typically someone has a really severe flare. And so it’s a great marker, noninvasive. And I like to use the calprotectin. Once I start treating someone, I like to do it every six to eight weeks, to see if the treatment is working. You know, someone’s symptoms could be better, but they could still have pretty severe inflammation if you’re kind of controlling it with the treatment. So, I like to see if the markers actually coming down. Calprotectin is another immune substance produced by neutrophilic white blood cells. And it’s a really accurate marker for that. So how else do we diagnose? We send for colonoscopy if we think that’s what’s going on.

Lindsey: 

Yeah, no, I’m saying assuming they have the diagnosis. They’ve seen someone, you know that you have some form of IBD. I’m talking about what kind of testing you might do to look for other things going on?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Oh, yes. And that’s where stool testing can be really helpful. Like I said, I will use the calprotectin as a marker of inflammation but then also going to call for yeast, we’re going to look under the microscope for yeast, because it doesn’t always culture, if it cultures, the labs will give us culture and sensitivity, the sensitivity testing will check for natural substances that would kill that particular yeast as well as prescription. It will also check for certain kinds of viruses such as cytomegalovirus, which can really kick up inflammatory bowel disease in ulcerative colitis patients. If diarrhea is a strong component, we’ll do a Clostridium difficile toxin test, because you got to really treat that specifically. If they have that, they won’t get better until you do. And we’ll check for small intestine bacterial overgrowth, especially if they have significant bloating and abdominal pain, which in Crohn’s disease sometimes all you have is sort of a tendency toward constipation, bloating and abdominal pain, and abdominal pain can be the main symptom.

Lindsey: 

And will you check for SIBO with a breath test like the triosmart?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis:

So, the breath test, of course, measures for hydrogen and methane. And the triosmart adds the third gas, which we had a lot of trouble getting a test for. They worked on that for over 15 years. And that’s hydrogen sulfide. And actually, I meet with physicians and researchers around the country, every third Wednesday of the month for an hour, and we talk about the triosmart tests that we’ve done in this previous month. And we’re trying to really understand how to use this and how to treat it, because it’s treated a little differently than other kinds of bacterial overgrowth.

Lindsey: 

So, when you were talking about the stool testing, whose stool test do you use typically?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Well, if I order it for a patient, or who has come to see me in Oregon physically, then they can actually be a patient, I can order lab work and prescribe medicines, I’m usually going to use Doctor’s Data. I like culture based testing. First of all, because like I said, you can get a sensitivity. If you can culture the organism, you can get a sensitivity, for a stool test, and see what would be most specific for treating that bug to bring the numbers down. You can’t do that if you just check PCR, the gene testing, the DNA testing. Many of the other labs have dropped the culture altogether and just do the genetic testing. Genova is probably the oldest lab. I’ve been using them since the 1980s. I think it was started by naturopathic doctors, which is kind of cool. But they still have options for doing culture, as well as testing for genes.

Lindsey: 

So just to make sure people understand what sensitivity means, that is where it tells you which natural substances and antibiotics and such would kill the thing that you’re testing?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

I really need to ask how they do it. When I was being trained back in the 1970s, they would take the stool and spread some on a petri dish, and they would grow the bacteria or the fungus. And then once they grew it, they would put little paper circles that were impregnated with the different natural treatments or drug treatments, they lay those on top, and they’d see how big an area of clearing occurred around those treatment discs. And that’s how you knew if the bug was sensitive to it, and it would be killed by it or not.

Lindsey: 

When it comes to culture, I’ve heard it argued that it’s not as valid as PCR, because it tends to just culture those bacteria that are aerobic, and those will grow and proliferate, whereas the anaerobic ones won’t.

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis

Yeah, it also grows the facultative anaerobes, the ones that can, like lactobacillus, live in some oxygen. But you’re right. If you want to check all the anaerobes you really have to do both kinds of testing. That’s what I would suggest until we know more about what to do with some of these dozens and dozens of fully anaerobic organism markers. I think at this point, you know, we have the microbiomes kind of mapped out for both the colon and now for the small intestine. We know how to test for all kinds of bacteria using their DNA. But the thing to know about the colon, when you’re looking at stool, you’re looking at colon. It doesn’t tell you about the small bowel. And according to researchers and all the textbooks, about half the bacteria in the colon are dead. So it’s like 50/50, living and dead. When you’re looking at DNA, you’re looking at dead and live bacteria. That’s what you’re looking at. When you do a culture. It won’t culture if it’s dead, you know, it’s only living that will grow. I still like that idea that I’m looking at what’s alive, and what’s able to grow, as opposed to everything dead and alive. Because I think it’s a real shame when doctors do PCR, this DNA testing on stool, they find something that’s high, and then treat it with strong drugs to try to kill it, or even strong herbs to try to kill it. I think they may be doing nothing, except maybe some damage, you know. They’re going after something that’s already dead, at least half of its dead. I just think that we have a lot of information about the microbiome. But we’re like little infants, you know, squashing bugs that they see on the floor. And we’re not really doing anything very intelligent, not that infants aren’t intelligent. But we’re not doing anything that’s maybe that meaningful or intelligent at this point by strictly using PCR. Until we have about 20 year’s experience with this, I think we’re probably going to be making a lot of mistakes. So I like to go with what I know is alive. That’s just my prejudice.

Lindsey: 

Okay, do you find that there are certain root causes that you find commonly with Crohn’s and colitis, when you do these types of tests?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

I mean, there’s one piece and that is, almost all these stool labs will check the short chain fatty acid levels in stool. And we know that short chain fatty acids are produced by friendly bacteria, the microbiome, when they metabolize fiber, or mucus. They make short chain fatty acids and we know that butyric acid is the best understood, and probably, at this point, the most important of the beneficial short chain fatty acids produced in the large intestine. As a food source, you can actually get, I think it’s like 20% of your calories, from your own bacterial production of short chain fatty acids. And it does many things. We know that in research, it really seems to help reduce the risk of inflammatory bowel disease. So certainly, when you see someone who has very low butyric acid levels, that in itself isn’t the cause. It’s whatever’s not producing the short chain fatty acids, which might mean, they’ve got a really low diversity or low number of bacteria in the large intestine. So, they don’t have enough bacteria to produce it. Or maybe they don’t take in the right kind of fiber or enough fiber to give the bugs what they need. Or maybe they don’t produce enough mucus because they have some issue with them.

Lindsey: 

That always strikes me as ironic that a lack of short chain fatty acids that are produced from eating fiber can be a problem. And yet the solution is eat less fiber and go on these diets like SCD that has virtually no fiber, right?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

I wouldn’t say it has virtually no fiber, and it depends how you do it. And I certainly recommend working with a knowledgeable nutritionist that can help you individualize the diet. But there can be plenty of fiber on these diets. It’s just specific carbohydrates. So it’s not all fiber, and it’s certainly not insoluble fiber like bran, because that’s quite irritating. You know, soluble fibers, some are less fermentable than others and certainly vegetable fiber. If someone is lucky enough to have the ability to process vegetables and fruit fiber in a healthy way, when they have IBD. These kinds of diets can have plenty of fiber from fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds. You’re just choosing the lower FODMAP versions of those things.

Lindsey: 

Which sort of points to the fact that an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine is likely at the top of the train – that stopping that fermentation in the small intestine is the beginning of trying to solve the problem in the large intestine.

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Right, the small intestine and the large intestine are a whole different world, like I say, they have different microbiomes, when you study them. Also, the small intestine isn’t small. It’s the largest part of the digestive tract, by about a factor of four or five, it’s 18 to 20 feet long, some say 22 feet long, and the large intestine is only about three and a half feet long. It’s all about the diameter of the opening, right? That’s why they call it small, as opposed to large intestine. And the small intestine is designed to have very low numbers of bacteria in it, because it’s got stomach acid, bile, and pancreatic enzymes, all dumping into the top of it, and really creating an adverse environment for the bacteria. So it really keeps their numbers down. And then the migrating motor complex that moves things through the small bowel also helps kind of flush out the bacteria, so they don’t just sit there and multiply. So the numbers in the small intestine shouldn’t be more than 1000 to 10,000 per gram of material, whereas in large intestine, you have millions or billions per gram. And that’s normal, it just depends whether you’re on the upside or the downside of the ileocecal valve, whether that’s going to be normal.

Lindsey: 

 Are you seeing then that the majority of people with IBD have either SIBO or SIFO?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

I think that those conditions are extremely common, especially in Crohn’s disease. But they can also be an aggravating factor in ulcerative colitis, and microscopic colitis. I’ve seen really good results by treating adrenal problems, which we haven’t talked about yet, as well as bacterial overgrowth in the small bowel in people with microscopic colitis as well.

Lindsey: 

And so, I imagine some of your patients come to you already taking pharmaceutical immunomodulatory drugs and steroids and such. If that is the case, and you work with them, and they seem to be doing better, how do you know when it’s the right time to try and get off of those?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

In large part that depends on the patient. Not all patients come to me saying my goal is to get off this drug, right? Assuming they had that goal. Yeah, if they come in, they say, yeah, I want to get off my biologic or I want to get off my Pentasa, or whatever. First of all, I look at the fact, is the drug working? Does it do what it’s supposed to do? And sometimes it’s really not. So I have patients who are on biologics, which are injectable drugs at this point, either as infusions at an infusion center or self-administered every couple of weeks at home. And what I’ll ask them, say they’re on a biologic drug that has eight-week cycle, they have an infusion every eight weeks, I’ll say, “So how are you immediately, you know, the first week after you have the infusion?” And how are you the last week or two, when you’re needing the next infusion? And they say, no real difference, doesn’t get better after the infusion, and it doesn’t get worse, as it’s wearing off, then I’m going to figure you know, this drug really isn’t working.

That’s very different than someone who comes to me and says, oh, I just feel like I got my life back the first two weeks after I have my infusion, and the last two weeks while I’m waiting for my next one, I’m kind of wondering if I should go in early because I’m getting so bad. And then that’s a drug that’s doing something. So, it really makes a difference. If the drug’s not doing anything, there’s less need to worry about starting to withdraw it as long as we have something else in place. I always, if I can, like to get the diet in place. The emotional states starting to move in the right direction if it needs to, or coping with stress, as well as some kind of immunomodulator. And usually the first one is low dose naltrexone they’ll be trying because it’s often so effective. I’ll get that started. And then we’ll work with the doctor who prescribed the biologic to wean it.

Lindsey: 

Okay, so one thing that I’ve found challenging with clients with IBD is that some of them just don’t believe that healing is possible because they come from that allopathic background in terms of who they’ve seen that they don’t want to stick it out, like they’re not willing to stick out the diet for an extended period of time. So I’m just wondering if you have any tips for patient adherence?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis:

You know, I have gotten less and less skilled at that, I think, because I don’t have to, by the time people see me. I have this one guy. He keeps telling me he’s seen 50 gastroenterologists before he saw me. I’m not primary. I’m not secondary. I’m not tertiary. I’m probably quaternary care.

Lindsey: 

So you’re getting the people who really want to get better and will do anything.

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis: 

Yes, yes. So I’m probably not as good as a primary care doctor at getting people motivated.

Lindsey: 

So, we talked beforehand that you have a song about the Bristol stool chart.

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis:

Oh, doesn’t everybody?

Lindsey: 

Yeah, but I’m wondering what your version is like. I’m looking forward to hearing the Bristol stool chart song. And just in case anybody doesn’t know what the Bristol stool chart is, it’s the chart of how your stool looks on a scale of one to seven that can help you determine what’s going on. Maybe you’re constipated or have diarrhea.

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis:

We use it to just get a good, quick way to write it in the chart. So we know what the form of their stool is. Because one thing I could say about constipation and diarrhea, people will start talking about their condition. They’ll say, yeah, I’ve got constipation. So, I say so what, what’s the Bristol stool type? And you know, seven is liquid, and one is a little hard ball. And they’ll say, let’s see. They look at the pictures, and they say six or seven? And you think, well, wait a minute . . .

Lindsey: 

What aspect of that is constipated?

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis:

So the thing is, the definition of constipation, according to the Rome criteria, is it’s a number of things. It can be frequency of less than two to three stools per week. It doesn’t matter what the form is, right. And often, people who have constipation take a lot of vitamin C or a lot of magnesium or Miralax, or something else. And they end up overdoing it. And go from having a Bristol one hard round ball stool to having sometimes explosive diarrhea. If you were to just take their history, and not know that they were constipated to begin with, and start taking all these laxatives, you’d think they have diarrhea. There is also by the way, have you ever explained overflow diarrhea?

Lindsey: 

No, but I know about it.

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis:

So, for those who don’t know about it quickly, it’s when people have diarrhea, often children have diarrhea. But they’re really constipated, you have to treat them as if they’re constipated, because they have built up stool that can show up on CT or X ray of the abdomen, in the colon, and all that can get through that narrowed space, because of all that hard stool in there is liquid. And so the only thing they have is liquid stool. And that’s called overflow diarrhea. It’s not exactly straightforward all the time. But the Bristol chart does help us at least get a sense of what the form of the stool is. It doesn’t necessarily tell us whether it’s truly constipation or diarrhea. I’ll see if I can remember the chords (to the tune of Do a Dear):

One a ball, a hard-round ball

Two, a clumping form of one

Three, a log with three gold lines,

Four, a snake that’s smooth and done

Five an unformed bunch of flecks

Six, a pile of soft serve mess

Seven, a fully liquid stool

That will bring us back to one

Lindsey: 

Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge with us today.

Dr. Steven Sandberg-Lewis:

All right, it was fun.

If you’re struggling with IBD or any type of gut health problem and are ready to get some professional help, you’re welcome to set up a free, 30-minute breakthrough session with me. We’ll talk about what you’ve been going through and I’ll tell you about my gut health coaching 5-appointment program in which I recommend lab tests, educate you on what the results mean and the protocols used by doctors to fix the problems revealed. Or if you’re ready to jump in right away or can just afford one appointment at a time, you can set up an 1-hour consultation with me.

Schedule a Breakthrough Session Now

Gut Health 101

Gut Health 101

Adapted from episode 53 of The Perfect Stool podcast and edited for readability.

This blog is geared towards people who are interested in maintaining their gut health, learning how their gut health impacts their overall health or who only have minor or occasional gut issues. This is not one of my advanced level topics for people who’ve got longstanding gut issues and who make a minor career of studying gut health and the gut microbiome. So, for my longtime readers, please be patient as I spell things out in detail, and for new folks, welcome!

If you’re a person who generally has had good gut health, and by that I mean good digestion, regular stool, and you only have indigestion or bloating or feel bad occasionally when you overeat, eat a lot of junk food, or eat something that seems to disagree with you, then you may be interested in maintaining your good gut health or hearing about easy remedies for basic issues. Or maybe you’re a person who seems to have good gut health but has other issues, like autoimmune disease, mental health challenges, headaches or skin issues. I’m going to talk a little about how all this relates to your gut. 

Could my gut be at the root of my autoimmune or mental health issues?

The gut is host to both good or commensal and bad or pathogenic bacteria that generally stay in balance, because the good ones or the general diversity of good ones keep the bad ones in check. Now since 70% of our immune system is housed in our gut, an overgrowth of bad bacteria can lead to an elevated immune response, which is what inflammation is. Inflammation can cause fatigue, depression, brain fog, migraines, autoimmune disease, acne and other skin issues, among other symptoms. And the gut-brain connection goes both ways: just as an unhealthy gut can affect the brain, mental stress can upset the gut. I talk a lot more about that in episode #30, Food for Thought: Mental Health and the Gut.

Given the food that we eat, at least in the US, our stress levels and the medical system we have, today more people are likely to have an imbalanced gut microbiome than not. Antibiotic overuse, overuse of proton pump inhibitors (acid-reducing medications), higher intake of processed foods and added sugar, stressful lives and jobs, and a more sedentary lifestyle all contribute to gut health issues. Most people associate bloating or acid reflux with the gut, but you might not make the connection between gut health and fatigue or depression, but the reality is the gut is absolutely central to our entire well-being, with a connection to both the brain and nervous system, so if you’re feeling off mentally, it may be time to look downwards, not upwards. 

How does diet impact your gut?

Diet is going to be the single most important factor in restoring or maintaining a healthy gut and a healthy body overall. Nothing will move the needle as much as what you’re eating day in, day out. I had a client who came to me with what she thought was irritable bowel syndrome or IBS, as well as to lose weight. When we moved her to a low carb, anti-inflammatory diet (which essentially meant gluten-free and sugar-free in her case) and got her blood sugar into balance, all the IBS symptoms disappeared. So step one if you’re just a little off is eliminating or starkly reducing processed food, sugar and for a time, gluten. There are so many good quality gluten-free options now that many people find it doable and worth it to be mostly or completely gluten-free so they just feel better. You may not necessarily need to eliminate gluten for good, but it’s good to give your gut a break for a month or so and then retest eating it a couple days in a row, 2-3 times/day before deciding how you do with it. I personally don’t do well with gluten and I’m kind of happy about that because most of the food with gluten in it isn’t really healthy to begin with, so it gives me an excuse to opt out of all those empty carb calories. I did a whole podcast on gluten, it’s episode 21

How does sugar impact your gut health?

In terms of sugar, your best bet is to find healthy, sugar-free alternatives that you like, of which there are tons these days like stevia*, monk fruit extract*, and if they don’t bother your gut, sugar alcohols like erythritol*, xylitol*or allulose* (also available in liquid* form). Use those for more regular consumption when you want something sweet and limit desserts with actual sugar to occasional, maximum once or twice a week treats, if absolutely necessary. Sugar causes inflammation and feeds yeast and unhealthy bacteria, so eating daily dessert can ultimately lead to gut health issues, especially if that is on top of other processed carbs like bread, bagels, pancakes, tortillas, pasta, etc.

But if you love to bake like I do, the sugar alcohols substitute well for regular sugar and taste exactly like sugar with no bitter aftertaste. Xylitol substitutes 1:1 but does cause loose stool for some people and erythritol and allulose are less sweet than sugar, so about 1 cup of each is equal to ¾ cup sugar, and they lead to less or no digestive upset for most people. We don’t digest them and neither does our gut bacteria so they just pass through us harmlessly. And I’ve found with both myself and my clients that you can lose weight and lower blood sugar even while consuming these safer sugar alternatives, which is not the case for artificial sweeteners like aspartame and acesulfame potassium which are found in diet sodas. 

In addition, if you sense that you have issues with the lactose in dairy, like gas, bloating or soft stool, I’d suggest trying lactose digestant tablets* or dairy digestant tablets with soft cheeses and milk, or large quantities of any kind of cheese. Some folks are also sensitive to casein – I personally found that eliminating all dairy got rid of my acid reflux, so for some people, that’s a necessary step to having consistently good gut health. 

Does processed food negatively impact your gut?

One more word about processed food – because a lot of people fancy they don’t eat a lot of it – if it comes in a box, can or bag, it’s processed food. That being said, there are totally crappy, non-organic, additive-laden foods full of unpronounceable ingredients, and there are organic processed foods with few ingredients that independently would be considered healthy. So if you’re choosing bread, pasta, ice cream, chips, etc. obviously there are better and worse choices and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out which those are. But if you need help figuring it out, Environmental Working Group’s Food Scores database can help you determine if there are questionable ingredients in your food, and which are the most problematic ingredients and foods overall. 

Speaking of organic food, eating organic is important for many reasons related to gut health, including that organic foods contain fewer pesticides, like glyphosate, which is designed to kill bacteria. They also contain fewer heavy metals, and include more healthy fats, with organic meats and dairy containing 50% more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally-produced products. Organic foods also come without antibiotics and synthetic hormones, and contain more antioxidants. While it would be ideal to consume all organic products, this can be expensive. So if you need to prioritize, check out Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen produce list, which includes strawberries, apples and grapes, which have been found to contain the highest amount of pesticide residues and their Clean 15 list, or the least polluted produce. It is also recommended to buy organic and even better, pasture-raised eggs, dairy and meat whenever possible.

Eating farm fresh and organic foods starts from the bottom up. Literally. For years, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides have destroyed the soil microbiota in which conventional crops are grown, which are essential to plant health and nutrient content. Fortunately, microbial species are beginning to be reintroduced into soil to help repair damage, but until our farming system changes, organic, pastured and local where you know your farmer foods are a good place to find these chemical-free products. For some people, just making the switch to organic foods may be all you need to resolve not just gut health but overall health issues. 

Which diet is best for my gut health?

In terms of overall eating patterns, my personal bias based on all I’ve read and heard is anything from a lower carb Mediterranean diet, which would be higher in seafood and include complex carbs like beans, lentils and whole grains and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, to a paleo diet, which is grain-free and totally processed food free, for the average person. I am generally not in favor of vegetarian or vegan diets, other than perhaps a vegetarian diet with some inclusion of seafood for people of blood type A, who tend to do better with that type of diet. If for ethical reasons you need to follow a vegan diet, you’ll likely need to supplement with l-carnitine* and B12* at minimum, but in the long term, this kind of diet, unless it’s very carefully monitored, can lead to protein deficiencies that can ultimately break down the gut lining and lead to a host of other random bodily problems that occur when the body can’t do everything that it does with amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. I’ve started using a new test called the ION profile with 40 amino acids with some clients and for my vegetarian clients, I have seen many specific amino acid deficiencies, each carrying potential negative health consequences. But if you’re doing well on a vegetarian diet and you’ve been doing it long-term, just ignore me – there are plenty of advocates out there for plant-based diets.

Does coffee cause gut issues?

In addition to food, caffeine and alcohol are common gut irritants. In general, coffee has actually been shown to have numerous health benefits.  It’s full of antioxidants and micronutrients and studies have shown it to promote longevity, lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and a whole bunch of other benefits. Coffee has also been shown to boost energy, fight depression, lower risks of certain gastrointestinal diseases, and even prevent diabetes. However, like most things, coffee comes with its own set of cons. Coffee is infamous for its laxative effect, due to the release of gastrin, which stimulates movement in the digestive tract. The same adrenaline triggered by coffee that gives people energy can also lead to anxiety and nervousness. Studies have shown that coffee can worsen GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as acid reflux, and cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Pregnant women and children are discouraged from consuming large amounts of coffee – up to 400 mg of caffeine a day is considered healthy for the average adult, which is around 4 cups of brewed coffee. People with certain gut health issues like IBS, SIBO and IBD should also be more careful. Quitting coffee can support better sleep, whiten teeth, improve mood and increase weight loss, as many people add lots of sugar to make coffee palatable. If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of giving up your daily coffee fix, you should be encouraged knowing that once your gut heals, you can try to reintroduce it in moderation. In the meantime, caffeinated teas like green and black tea, along with yerba mate can serve as substitutes.

How does alcohol impact gut health?

Alcohol is another popular yet problematic beverage for gut health. A review of the peer-reviewed literature on alcohol and the gut found that alcohol can cause both dysbiosis, or an imbalance in bacteria and fungi in the gut, as well as bacterial overgrowth, also known as SIBO or small intestine bacterial overgrowth, the cause of 70-80% of IBS or irritable bowel syndrome. This can lead to symptoms like bloating, soft stool or diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite, uncomfortable fullness after eating, nausea, unintentional weight loss and nutrient deficiencies. Alcohol-induced bacterial overgrowth also leads to inflammation and contributes to intestinal permeability. Intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut, is when the tight junctions in the intestinal wall that allow nutrients out and keep toxins, microbes and undigested food in, open up too wide and allow some of those last three items out. This means that undigested food particles can enter the bloodstream, provoking an immune response and causing food sensitivities, and if left long enough, autoimmune disease. Many Americans will be surprised to discover that they are considered heavy drinkers. For men, that means consuming more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks per week and for women, that means consuming more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 drinks per week. If you’re concerned about your gut health or are beginning to notice symptoms, you should watch your alcohol consumption and the effect it might be having on your body. 

Like coffee, not all alcohol is toxic, or better said, alcohol can have some benefits. For one, red wine has been linked with health benefits because of the antioxidants called polyphenols it contains. One of them, resveratrol, has been associated with lowering the risk of heart disease. However, research is mixed, with other studies not finding any significant relationship between resveratrol and lower chances of heart disease. The key is to drink in moderation, and for pregnant women, people on certain medications, those with a liver disease or a history of alcoholism, to not drink at all. There are also ways to consume alcohol in a more responsible manner. It is unwise to drink alcohol on an empty stomach, and people should always make sure they are hydrating with water between drinks or drinking a glass of water alongside every drink.

How does stress impact my gut?

Lifestyle and stress are also really important for your gut health. Digestion disorders often go hand and hand with mood disorders. One study of 23 healthy, undergraduate students took saliva and fecal samples at the beginning and end of a semester. As stress increased throughout the semester, certain healthy bacteria decreased. Both depression and stress weaken the immune system, which in turn weakens the gut barrier which ultimately leads to leaky gut. Certain lifestyle changes like reducing work hours, taking regular vacations, practices like meditation, EFT, yoga, tai chi or other such modalities and regular exercise can help combat stress levels, as can seeking therapy or life coaching to deal with bigger issues. 

Another lifestyle factor that can impact gut health is exercise. Studies link exercise with enriched gut microflora diversity, which is touted as the most important factor in all the recent studies on various aspects of health and the gut microbiome. Some of the specific preventative health benefits of exercise on the gut include its ability to lower chances of colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease, that is, Crohn’s and colitis. 

Will antibiotics ruin my gut health?

Speaking of prevention, let me return to what I believe is one of the principal driving factors in poor gut health: antibiotics. Obviously antibiotics are a very effective modern medicine that can save lives, but these days, doctors often overprescribe these drugs for even the smallest issues. Common conditions for which you may be prescribed antibiotics include ear infections, urinary tract infections, throat infections and sinus infections, many of which are in fact viral in nature, and antibiotics do not kill viruses. So if you have a cold or the flu, don’t go to your doctor looking for a prescription. Antibiotics are also not beneficial in treating some ear infections and sinus infections, so be sure to ask your doctor to culture what’s in your sinuses or ears before prescribing anything.

Overuse of antibiotics is a problem because while antibiotics kill off bad bacteria, they can also kill off good bacteria. This weakens your body’s ability to fight off infections, and can lead to overgrowth of more harmful bacteria like E. coli and C. difficile or just lead to general dysbiosis, like an overgrowth of proteobacteria, streptococcus or other clostridia species beyond C diff. Antibiotics come with a whole host of side effects, like diarrhea, yeast infections, vomiting and constipation. Just one week of antibiotics can change the makeup of your gut microbiota for a whole year. So the first thing you can do is always question your doctor before taking antibiotics. Are these absolutely necessary? Is this the narrowest spectrum antibiotic I can take for this issue? Could we wait and see a few days or run a culture before I start them or should I stop them if the culture comes back negative? Could I take a shorter course of antibiotics? On a side note, I think that many of my health issues started after taking two 10-day courses of Cipro in one year for urinary tract infections. I later learned that the usual course of Cipro for UTIs is only 3 days. 

What can I do if I have to take antibiotics to protect my gut microbiome?

If avoiding antibiotics is not an option, there are several measures one can take to promote a healthy gut. Maintaining a healthy diet full of fermented foods, high fiber foods like nuts and berries, and prebiotic foods is essential. Avoiding sugar, processed white carbs and junk food while taking antibiotics is also important. Taking probiotics both during and after a dose of antibiotics is controversial since a study from 2018 showed that people’s microbiome’s took much longer to recover while using probiotics after taking antibiotics. One alternative you could consider is to take butyrate while on antibiotics, to keep a bacterial phylum called proteobacteria from overgrowing, which is a common result of taking antibiotics. Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid that feeds the cells lining your colon and the best and most palatable formulations are probutyrate* or tributyrin*. 1200-1500 mg/day all at once has worked well for me as I have a tendency towards proteobacteria overgrowth most of the time. You should reduce the quantity of butyrate, however, if you start to get constipated. But if you do experience antibiotic-associated diarrhea, one probiotic that I think is relatively safe is Saccharomyces boulardii, the most studied strain of which is Saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745 sold everywhere as Florastor*. In studies, it has been shown to help alleviate antibiotic-associated diarrhea, and it’s a beneficial yeast that also keeps candida in check, so for women it may help to prevent a post-antibiotic yeast infection, which is a common problem for many women. You can take it while on antibiotics too because it’s a yeast, not a bacteria, and won’t be killed by your antibiotics. 

Are probiotics beneficial for your gut microbiome?

But for people who have been having gut issues and are not trying to recover their previous gut microbiome but change their current one, probiotics may be warranted as they can help alter your gut microbiome in a positive way or just help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your digestive system in the face of the inevitable insults it may experience, as well as improve mood and mental health. In one randomized, double-blind study of patients with clinical depression, taking probiotics for 8 weeks significantly improved the mood of patients compared to ones administered the placebo. One probiotic for general good health that I’m particularly impressed by lately is Seed Synbiotic** (get 15% off your first month with my affiliate discount code PARSONS15), which I started taking about a month and a half ago to good effect. Seed’s scientific advisory board includes some of the big names in microbiome science (think Martin Blaser and Alessio Fasano). 

Of course, probiotics can also be found in fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut and it’s always best to get your nutrition from food if possible. However, probiotics won’t work to their full effect if you’re just taking them alongside a high simple carbohydrate diet. You need to include lots of healthy prebiotics like complex carbs, beans, legumes, fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber and aren’t easily absorbed in the upper intestine, and therefore make their way down to the colon. That fiber provides food for your healthy bacteria, which then produce short chain fatty acids like butyrate that nourish the gut lining. Some other prebiotic foods include onions, garlic, spinach, oats and you’ll be excited to know, dark chocolate, just to name a few. I did a whole episode on fiber and prebiotics, episode 28. 

Can NSAIDs cause ulcers?

Antibiotics aren’t the only common drugs to be more cautious about. NSAIDs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are over-the counter drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen or Advil and naproxen sodium or Aleve. When overused, NSAIDs can cause milder symptoms like nausea and dizziness, while more extreme symptoms such as ulcers and liver failure are rarer but possible. For elderly people and those on certain medications, NSAIDs put them at a higher risk of developing potentially fatal reactions in the stomach and intestines, like bleeding and ulcers. When I was going through sciatica last year, I was in so much pain that I found myself taking as many ibuprofen as my doctor allowed me, which was I think 600 mg 3 times a day for several weeks. I started having consistent pain in my stomach after taking them and I knew I had to stop or I’d end up with an ulcer. So do be careful, especially if you start having stomach pain or other symptoms of an ulcer like nausea, vomiting, bloating, feeling full easily, weight loss, burping, acid reflux or heartburn while taking NSAIDs, and stop and see your doctor if you do experience those symptoms. 

How does sleep impact gut health?

On another topic, you may be surprised to learn that good sleep is essential to maintaining a happy gut. If you start losing out on sleep, this can increase your stress levels, which can unbalance your cortisol, which can lead to leaky gut and all that follows. Lack of sleep can also lead to GERD, as the hormone our body produces to help us go to sleep, melatonin, also regulates gastrointestinal mobility. If your melatonin levels are off (and by the way, serotonin is a precursor to melatonin, so you may also experience anxiety with your insomnia) you may end up with acid reflux. So be sure to get some full sunlight each day for 15 or 20 minutes without sunscreen to keep those melatonin levels up. And I hate to give this advice because I can’t seem to follow it myself, but you really should avoid eating for 3 hours before bedtime. Eating closer to bedtime can disrupt your sleep and leave less time for your body to do essential detoxification and cleanup tasks in your brain and body while sleeping. This includes autophagy, or recycling of older cells, which only kicks in after 13 hours of fasting and is preventative for cancer and dementia, just to name a couple of conditions.  

When should I see a doctor for my gut issues?

Moving from prevention to diagnosis, it’s important to recognize when you may be starting to have some gut health issues that could get worse if not addressed. First, let me talk about the difference between healthy bowel movements and more serious gut issues. Signs of a healthy bowel include passing a well-formed, soft but not loose or mushy stool 1-3 times a day and finishing with a clean wipe. This would be a number 3 or 4 on the Bristol Stool Chart. You should be able to pass a bowel movement without pain, and hold onto a bowel movement for a short time once you feel the need to go. Constipation versus diarrhea and urgency sit at opposite ends of the stool spectrum. It’s normal to have occasional bouts of each extreme, but if you experience constipation or diarrhea for weeks or months that doesn’t resolve with diet changes or the addition of fiber like psyllium husk or Sun Fiber, you should start by seeking out a gastroenterologist to see if you have any physical gut problems. You should also seek out your doctor if you find blood in your stool, have foul smelling stools or are experiencing incontinence. These signs could point to inflammatory diarrhea caused by something like C difficile, IBD, or even colon cancer.

Upon meeting with the gastroenterologist, they will likely conduct one or more exams to find the root of the issue. Colonoscopies are performed by inserting a tiny camera into the rectum so the doctor can see the inside of the colon wall and look for inflammation. Endoscopies give the doctor a sense of the rest of the GI tract by inserting an endoscope down the patient’s throat in order to examine the esophagus, stomach and small intestine. To detect for an autoimmune disease caused by a reaction to gluten, celiac testing can also be done, as well as something called a Stool Antigen Test to determine whether you are symptomatic for H. Pylori, which is more accurate than a breath or antibody test. H. pylori may be the issue with GERD or upper GI symptoms like nausea or burping, as well as abdominal pain or burning, especially when your stomach is empty. And an ova and parasites exam, which is not likely to find anything as they rarely do when done from regular doctor’s offices, may be done if you have ongoing diarrhea.

What kind of alternative health practitioners can help with a gut problem my gastroenterologist can’t?

Despite all these methods used to diagnose a patient’s gut problems, often I find that GI doctors are unable to make a diagnosis, or they give you a diagnosis like IBS, which in my opinion isn’t a diagnosis, it’s just a name for a constellation of symptoms that allopathic doctors don’t know how to resolve. If you have a GI doctor that follows current research and developments, you may be lucky enough to get a SIBO or small intestine bacterial overgrowth breath test (the best of which is the trio-smart test) and a prescription for rifaximin (antibiotic that helps resolve SIBO), but for many people this leaves them feeling worse and doesn’t resolve their problems. In these cases, it is useful to look for alternatives to western medicine like a naturopath or someone like myself. I help my clients get functional gut health tests like the GI Map*, which uses DNA testing to test for parasites and bacteria, as well as testing markers of gut organ function, or the Organic Acids Test*, which tests not just for bacterial and fungal overgrowths but also looks at whole body functioning, including neurotransmitters, which can point to why you may be experiencing anxiety or depression, the functioning of your energy production from carbs, fats, and proteins, which can point to the cause of weight loss resistance, markers of high oxalates which can cause not just kidney stones but problems like UTIs, interstitial cystitis, cardiovascular and brain issues; levels of antioxidants and B vitamins, and detoxification markers, which can signal incipient liver issues. 

To conclude, just because you haven’t received an official diagnosis doesn’t mean your gut health issues are not worthy of being addressed, because if left alone, gut issues can get much worse. Often, the difference between a good and bad day boils down to simple lifestyle and diet choices. Each of you needs to find the unique combination of choices that works for you. Although the routines we’ve maintained our whole live may be hard to break, after the initial push, healthier practices can easily become your new normal.

If you’re struggling with any type of gut health problem and are ready to get some professional help, you’re welcome to set up a free, 30-minute breakthrough session with me. We’ll talk about what you’ve been going through and I’ll tell you about my gut health coaching 5-appointment program in which I recommend lab tests, educate you on what the results mean and the protocols used by doctors to fix the problems revealed. Or if you’re ready to jump in right away or can just afford one appointment at a time, you can set up an 1-hour consultation with me.

*Product links are affiliate links for which I’ll receive a commission. Thanks for your support of my podcast and blog by using these links.

**I am an affiliate of Seed but do not receive commission on product sales.

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Advanced SIBO Tips, Peptides and Breathing for Optimal Digestive Health

Advanced SIBO Tips, Peptides and Breathing for Optimal Digestive Health

Adapted from episode 52 of The Perfect Stool podcast and edited for readability.

Lindsey:  

Today, I’m talking with Dr. Miles Nichols about a couple topics that haven’t been covered at all or fully before on the podcast, including peptides for gut health, breathing, parietal cell antibodies, as well as having an in-depth discussion of recurrent SIBO and one potential cause, nasal infections. Dr. Nichols is a functional medicine doctor specializing in Lyme, mold illness, gut, thyroid, and autoimmunity. With a doctorate in oriental medicine, he has extensive training and expertise around herbal medicines and has developed formulations used by functional medicine doctors across the country. Dr. Miles and his wife Dr. Diane Mueller, who appeared on my podcast in episode 43, co-authored “Use Your Mind to Heal Your Mold and Lyme” and “Stress Resilience”. They founded the Medicine with Heart Functional Medicine Clinic in Colorado and also the Medicine with Heart Institute that trains other doctors in functional medicine.

So, we’re actually going to start by launching into a topic that no one including myself has so much as mentioned on the podcast so far (and I’ve been going since late 2018) and that is peptides. So, can you start with an explanation of what peptides are and then how they can be helpful to people with gut conditions. 

Dr. Miles

Absolutely. Just like proteins are made up of amino acids, peptides are specific chains of amino acids that have specific effects in the body. And unlike a protein, which are bigger amino acid chains, they’re typically smaller amino acid chains, some of which are produced by the body. One of the most well-known peptides, it’s been known for many, many years, is insulin. Of course, people know that insulin can be lifesaving when someone has type 1 diabetes, because they’re not producing that anymore. 

There’s many peptides that are made by different glands in the body, by the thymus gland for the immune system that starts to become more withered up over time as people age. It doesn’t produce those peptides as much anymore. Peptides can have functions that are a little bit like hormones, but they’re not quite hormones. In fact, some peptides can stimulate the production of hormones. So, there’s growth hormone releasing peptide, for example, which can stimulate the production of growth hormone in the body, and then that can lead to repair and that repair could be in the gut, it could be other areas of the body. As we age, we tend to produce less growth hormone, have less ability to repair the body. Peptides are one way to help restore almost like a youthful function in the body’s ability to repair and heal tissue with relation to the gut. In specific, we do have some peptides available that can have an effect directly on the gut by taking a peptide orally. A lot of times they have to be injected, but there’s, for example, one peptide called BPC-157* (25% discount at Tailor Made Health available as of 7/28/21 with code TMH25) that can be taken orally and stimulate tissue repair through the esophagus, stomach and intestines. We use it a lot for intestinal permeability, or for people who have acid reflux issues and are trying to get off of an acid blocker medication like a PPI, which can be very damaging to the gut. If they’re struggling with that, BPC-157 can be a real significant help to them in those cases. 

Lindsey:

And do you also use it for things like IBD or Crohn’s? 

Dr. Miles:

Absolutely. And there are some that have immune modulatory mechanisms that have been shown to be effective with certain autoimmune diseases because they’ll regulate the TH17 and the TH1 and TH 2 balance and also some that are highly anti-inflammatory in a similar way to steroids, but without suppressing the immune system on the beneficial side like steroids do. So, for example, KPV is one peptide that we’ll use that’s highly anti-inflammatory, that gives us some of that benefit that people might get from taking a steroid. But it actually doesn’t negatively impact the part of the immune system that defends against pathogens, and that helps with fighting off infections.

Lindsey:

Is KPV also available orally?

Dr. Miles:

It is available orally now as well, there’s actually very few that are available and have shown good data on that they metabolize well and have good effects orally. And luckily KPV is one of those that can also be taken orally. 

Lindsey:

And how do you source peptides, do you use the Tailor Made Health BPC-157*?

Dr. Miles:

Tailor has a compounding pharmacy and then they also have a side that is starting on developing some supplements, and peptides are in this gray zone where in the pharmaceutical world they’re sometimes considered as a supplement. Depending on the size of that amino acid chain is part of how the FDA is regulating it and that’s changing rapidly. It keeps changing on what’s considered to be a peptide that can be even sold by compounding pharmacies. So there’s a lot of moving parts to how peptides are available. But I do use Tailor Made as one of the big suppliers. We’ll do their compounding pharmacy side for a lot of the peptides and then they also have the Tailor Made Health side, which has the supplements like the BPC-157 in capsules. KPV is not available on that health side right now. It’s only through the compounding pharmacy side. 

Lindsey:

So is that only prescription for KPV?

Dr. Miles:

Right now, it’s only prescription. BPC-157: again, it’s in this gray zone and who knows what’s going to happen. Any day now it could change but right now it does appear that it can be considered a supplement at this point. 

Lindsey:

And so, is that targeting mostly then the small intestine and the stomach? Because you mentioned things that I associate more with the upper part of the digestive tract – BPC-157 that is.

Dr. Miles:

So, BPC-157, there are some mouse studies that are looking specifically at that area, the esophageal area, but there are also studies that are looking at the heart and BPC-157, the brain and BPC-157. It does enter the bloodstream, and it becomes systemic and can affect stimulation of repair mechanisms throughout the entire body. So, it would impact the full intestinal tract as well as even other organs and tissues. It’s being used post-surgery for repair. It’s being used post traumatic brain injury, because it can cross the blood-brain barrier. And it can have some impacts inside of the brain as well. 

Lindsey:

So, it’s kind of just an all-around body repairing peptide?

Dr. Miles:

It is, and as it touches the areas that it does touch it might have a stronger effect when it stimulates that repair mechanism. It might start local, but then it goes into the bloodstream and it becomes systemic.

Lindsey:

And so how long a course of something like BPC-157 and what dosage would you put someone on to really give it a good try and see if it would make a difference?

Dr. Miles:

Yeah, it really does depend on the condition and what all else is happening with the person. Usually we’ll do a two-month course, sometimes one month to get a feel for the impact that it’s having. Often if we’re using it for something like stomach lining and esophageal issues, it might even be shorter than that; we might not need quite as long. But if we’re using it to get to something more systemic, there’s been a lot of damage to tissue from an autoimmune condition like Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis, then we’ll probably want to see at least two months to get a good sense for if it’s going to have a positive benefit. 

Lindsey:

And will you see for example, bloody stools clear up with IBD after using it? What kind of impacts have you seen in your patients?

Dr. Miles:

In particular, with KPV for IBD, KPV tends to be a little more of my go to although I will use BPC as well. In those cases, I almost always am going to also test for and treat other issues like small intestine bacterial overgrowth, so we’re doing other things at the same time. We might be using low dose naltrexone. I haven’t done enough solo KPV only and nothing else to give a good sense for what that’s doing independent of other treatments, but it does seem to enhance beyond where we were at prior to using it.

Lindsey:

And are those the only two that you’re using right now? Are there any others?

Dr. Miles:

There are many, many others actually. Also, thymosin beta is a really nice one. The thymus gland, I mentioned earlier, is a gland that’s part of the immune system, but it breaks down earlier in life. A lot of autopsies done on people who are even 30 or 40 years old find it shriveled up and looking kind of like a raisin, it’s not functional, it’s not producing a lot of those immune peptides anymore. And so, thymosin alpha and thymosin beta are two very strong immune peptides. Thymosin alpha is a really nice and strong immune system regulator. Sometimes we’ll see cytomegalovirus impacting the gut. And there’s a lot of studies on thymosin alpha one and chronic viral infections, even severe ones like hepatitis C, and we also see that it regulates the autoimmune side very nicely and helps on autoimmunity. That one recently has become less available. Thymosin beta is still available. Thymosin beta has similar function on immune regulation, but less than thymosin alpha. Where it’s stronger than thymosin alpha is on tissue repair. So sometimes thymosin beta plus something like BPC 157 together can be even stronger on the systemic tissue repair and repairing damage from auto immunity or other tissue damage from things like small intestine bacterial overgrowth that might have caused intestinal permeability, and then these things can help repair the gut very, very strongly. 

Lindsey:

Thymosin alpha and beta, are those oral or are those injectable? 

Dr. Miles:

Thymosin alpha is injectable. Only thymosin beta has become available orally. It can be used as a capsule, although I’ve only seen it through compounding pharmacies at this point. It is prescription but it is orally available to get it as capsules. 

Lindsey:

So, when you have these prescription drugs, does this mean they’re FDA approved? Or is it because it’s bio identical, it doesn’t have to be?

Dr. Miles:

They are natural compounds that are produced in the body are some of them are getting the scrutiny of the FDA. At some point, you have to say it’s food or a supplement, because otherwise, you would just be regulating corn and broccoli and things like that. At some point, the amino acid chain has to stop. And they have to say, okay, that’s considered food. And they’ve been reclassifying where that chain stops to unfortunately take a number of the peptides that had been available and make them require FDA approval, which will mean that they get temporarily pulled off the market, and then some company would have to fund a lot of trials before they’d get put back on. Because these are identical to compounds that are produced in the body naturally, we see the safety profile is amazing on these things. From the mice studies, the dosage is well past what anyone would ever be able to achieve from taking a supplement with minimal to few side effects. There are a couple peptides that have some side effects that I see repeatedly, the biggest one really is nausea. And that’s from a peptide called PT 141 that’s used actually for sexual health in both men and women, for libido and for erections and things like that. And that gives nausea to people pretty commonly. But other than that, I really don’t see many side effects whatsoever from peptides and the safety data on them is incredible, in really, really high doses. 

Lindsey:

You mentioned food and regulating food. And I’m just curious, do you know if peptides appear in certain foods, like x food is very high in this peptide? Or is it just assembled by our body from the amino acids we get from food?

Dr. Miles:

So, you could break down gluten to the peptide level, for example. And you could look at all the different peptides that constitute that gluten protein. Very, very sophisticated gluten sensitivity testing will break things down into the peptide level and they’ll be looking at gliadin and then they’ll be looking at lots of the different kinds of breakdown products of gluten. Peptides are all over the place. People are getting peptides in a sense through food. 

But the peptides that we’re using medically are really ones that have very, very strong effects that typically are not found in foods, and they’re usually produced by the body to have specific functions. There’s a peptide that’s used in mold illness a lot, VIP. And that’s available as a nasal spray. We use that a lot to help restore the cognitive function we see. There’s a study on VIP nasal spray that gave it for about six months and did a neuro quant fMRI image of the brain and found that the areas that were damaged by mold toxins repaired over that six months’ time and a lot of the hormones improved. 

And what I see with gut issues is there are a lot of people, especially people who are getting chronic and recurrent gut issues, so people who are getting repeat small intestine bacterial overgrowth that recurs over time many times in a row, we see this a ton in our clinic and part of where we see that that can happen is sometimes there’s an infection in the sinuses that keeps re-infecting the gut. So, first we treat the sinuses with anti-microbials and things to balance that Rhino biome out. And then we apply the VIP nasal spray to treatment after that to rebalance the brain and the hormone system. But I’ve seen sometimes that people don’t get results or they get temporary results. And then they’re feeling their gut out of whack again, when we haven’t dealt with something like an infection in the sinuses. 

And, of course peptides can help systemically with infections on the immune system regulation site. They’re not just for tissue repair, they also help with infections because of that immune system bolstering impact. And in addition to the reduction of the auto immune side of the immune system, there’s also a bolstering and an improvement, especially from some of the thymosins. Like thymosin alpha 1 has a very strong improvement in the ability of the body to fight off infections as well that can then impact the gut and cause that multiple reinfection of the gut that we see very commonly in our clinic.

Lindsey:

Are you usually seeing bacterial infections in the sinuses or fungal?

Dr. Miles:

Both. Primarily bacterial is much more common than fungal. Occasionally there is a fungus growing. More often we see a multiple antibiotic resistant form of staff that’s coagulative negative. It’s called MARCoNS for short, which stands for Multiple Antibiotic Resistant Coagulase Negative Staphylococci. That’s a mouthful, so we just named it MARCoNS is the much easier way. MARCoNS is an infection that we see in about 95% of people who have struggled with chronic inflammatory response syndrome due to mold. We see it with a ton of people who have Lyme or cognitive dysfunction. It’s very linked with amyloid plaque in the brain as well. And we see people struggling with cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, dementia, things along those lines, also having MARCoNS very frequently. So, that’s the biggest one that we find. But we find klebsiella in the sinuses, which is highly associated with gut dysfunction. And there are certain forms of klebsiella that are associated with ankylosing spondylitis, and other autoimmune issues. We also see some of those organisms as well in the sinuses occasionally. 

Lindsey:

And are you testing the sinuses? How are you finding out what’s in there? 

Dr. Miles:

Yeah, we do a sinus swab. Generally, it’s just called a MARCoNS sinus swab through a lab called Microbiology. And that needs to go real deep into the sinuses. 

Lindsey:

Like the Covid test.

Dr. Miles:

Exactly. It feels like it’s way back, then we send that in, and the lab does a culture for multiple kinds of bacterial and fungal infections. And then it reports whether there’s an infection. If there is, whether it’s small growth, moderate or large growth, and then it runs an antibiotic resistance profile to see if it’s resistant to multiple antibiotics, which everyone has a little bit of staff in and on their skin and in their nose. And still staff isn’t necessarily a problem if it’s not multiple antibiotic resistant, but when it becomes multiple antibiotic resistant, that’s suggestive that it’s colonizing more so than would be beneficial. It’s crowding out some other organisms that would be beneficial organisms. So, we see people, some of them have chronic sinus issues, chronic sinus infections that are repeated. Some of them don’t have a lot of sinus issues and they would not expect themselves to have an infection. But they do and then when we clear it up, their brain feels much clearer, their sinuses often feel much clearer. And they have less recurrence of gut issues because we don’t have that dripping down of the dysbiotic bacteria from the sinuses going into the gut repeatedly. 

Lindsey:

I’m curious about this because I have had a nose that has run since about age 15 almost nonstop. The only thing I’ve tried sinus-wise is using the Biocidin drops and making a spray out of that. What do you use for the antimicrobial sprays? 

Dr. Miles:

A lot of times we like to nebulize because getting into the deeper sinuses is difficult with sprays alone. We’ve seen some effective treatments with a spray alone and Biocidin is one that I’ve seen sometimes be effective as a nasal spray. We use a lot of colloidal silver. We sometimes use a concentrated allicin from garlic called Allimed (available from my Fullscript Dispensary*) that’s a concentrated liquid form of garlic that we can add into sinus spray, and we’ll sometimes use spore based probiotics as well. Often we’ll be nebulizing Colloidal Silver of a certain mix of colloid and ionic silver that can go deeper and penetrate into the deep sinuses to get some of the deeper sinuses and then occasionally hydrogen peroxide can be used as well. I probably would recommend doing that under the guidance of a practitioner that knows what they’re doing in the right dilution ratios so you’re not damaging anything in there. But peroxide is a very strong oxidizer. And we’ve seen it to be very effective at clearing out some of these infections as well. Occasionally we’ll use antibiotic sprays. And there are a couple antibiotics together with EDTA that are put into something called Beg Spray. That spray, it can be very effective, but we usually don’t need it, we usually are able to achieve the clean MARCoNS test and clear out infections with things along the lines of Colloidal Silver, garlic, and sometimes some herbal extracts with Megasporebiotic (available from my Fullscript Dispensary*) are another spore based probiotic mix – just a tiny little bit in a nasal spray. And sometimes we use an Ion Biome*, which is something that’s been shown to clear out chemicals like glyphosate and also improve quorum sensing to have the bacteria talking to each other to try to improve the microbial balance there. There’s actually quite a few treatments that we’ll use because it’s not the easiest thing to treat. Even when we use the antibiotics, I’ll see people not clear it multiple times. And so, we often do have to do multiple different treatments to find the full clearing of that infection for people. But we’re pretty successful when we use the nebulizing to go a little deeper. 

Lindsey:

Now I’m curious why something coming down from the sinuses would reseed SIBO because there’s got to be good number of bacteria just in the intestines in any case. 

Dr. Miles:

There are. It’s going to depend on the person and their immune system function. When there’s dysbiosis in the gut, we often also find that people are having bacterial issues elsewhere in the body. Sometimes we find chronic infections, sometimes we find the sinus infection, and it’s vice versa. If we see a sinus infection, it may be just regulating the immune system to some extent. Stomach acid is a pretty good barrier; it kills a lot of bacteria. So even when you swallow down some of the bacteria from the sinuses, if you have a good healthy level of stomach acid it will probably take care of a lot of that. But unfortunately, we do see a lot of people who have suboptimal stomach acid production and then some bacteria are surviving through that stomach acid barrier. There’s really no research to say how many of the times the reinfection is due to bacteria migrating from the sinuses directly into the gut. I just have noticed a clinical correlation between people who have recurrent gut infections and who also have sinus infections and that may be more a pointer towards a systemic immune system issue that’s allowing for multiple infections in multiple areas. I can’t tell if it’s causative necessarily, but I have seen some cases of running a stool report and seeing, for example, staff overgrown on a stool report and then also seeing staff overgrown in the sinuses on people who have multiple infections. So, I just wonder, but I don’t know, there’s no research there to tell us, right? 

Lindsey:

And so how do you know if someone has sub optimal stomach acid? Are you just trying them on Betaine HCl, you’re not running Heidelberg tests, I assume? 

Dr. Miles

No, Heidelberg tests are a little bit difficult to run, we’ll do a gastrin test in the blood to see if there’s an elevation in gastrin, which could be an indicator that there’s sub optimal function in the stomach acid production. We’ll also run antibodies to parietal cells, and those parietal cells are the cells that make stomach acid. And they make intrinsic factor which is important for metabolizing vitamin B12, which is then important for energy and neurological function. So, the parietal cell antibodies, we see fairly frequently, I’m surprised actually at how much I find parietal cell antibody elevation. 

I read some research on parietal cell antibodies that correlated that people who had hypothyroidism, which we know a lot of people with gut issues also have thyroid issues, that people who had autoimmune hypothyroidism, or Hashimoto’s, would have about a 20 to 40% chance of having elevated parietal cell antibodies, meaning the immune system is attacking the parietal cells, which are the ones that are producing the stomach acid. So again, it’s an indirect measure. 

And when parietal cell antibodies are elevated, we don’t actually know how much damage has been done to the parietal cells, and how much that’s affected stomach acid. But it’s a clue that there could be an impaired ability for those cells to be making enough acid. So, when we do see parietal cell antibodies, or if we see elevated gastrin levels, those are pointers. And then we’ll also ask symptomatic questions. If someone feels like protein sits in their stomach, like a rock, they feel like if they have a heavy meat meal, they really are sluggish for quite a while. If they have very low appetite in the mornings, if we see a lot of low mineral levels on their blood testing, then some of these things can add up to be very curious about stomach acid being impaired. 

And then occasionally, we will do a trial with the HCl. And we’ll see if people tolerate that. I don’t typically like the mega doses of working up super high until people get an acid reflux response. I respect people who do that. And there’s a time and a place, I personally haven’t found that to be very clinically effective. So, I don’t use that usually, we’ll just do one or two capsules with a meal. And occasionally we might go up to three, but usually one or two are sufficient in my experience to give. It’s sort of the minimum effective dose that people tend to notice. And if they don’t notice any negative effect, then often they are lacking in stomach acid. But that’s not even the perfect thing because I’ve seen people who are lacking in stomach acid who have a negative reaction to one cap of Betaine HCl because the stomach lining has been damaged, possibly due to an H. pylori infection or other issue where the stomach lining is really sensitive to acid, not because the acid has too much, but because there’s some other issue that’s causing inflammation there. And then even a normal level of acid might feel like burning for certain individuals. Unfortunately, there’s no clear cut answer to that, except that I think, a trial of some Betaine HCl ,one or two caps, except for people who have ulcers, or something along those lines, is reasonably safe, a reasonable idea that we do also on top of that lab testing.

Lindsey:

And is that in the 650-750 milligram range? 

Dr. Miles:

Anywhere from 500 to 750 milligrams is a good starting dose and even doubling that to doing two of those caps. If people respond well to one cap, it can also sometimes increase the benefit as well. So up to a gram and a half, maybe even two grams in some cases can be helpful and beneficial. I usually don’t go that high or higher than that but occasionally we’ll go up to that amount for certain people. 

Lindsey:

So, I’m really interested in all this stuff because this is my story. I had Hashimoto’s. I had two tests of parietal cell antibodies probably 10 years ago, with a very forward thinking hematologist. I don’t know if that’s pretty standard to run. And intrinsic factor, I think one was equivocal, one was high. Yeah. And I did take Betaine HCl for a while, not at his direction, but at some later point, ultimately reversed the Hashimoto’s but still have iron shortages and zinc shortages and such. So, probably need that stomach acid still. 

Dr. Miles:

Yeah. And the parietal cell antibodies, there’s a lot of research. I don’t know if anyone was privy to this research who you were seeing who was able to share this with you, but there’s quite a lot of research suggesting that you can reliably lower parietal cell antibodies and reverse that immune system attack against the parietal cells with injectable B12. Was that ever shared with you? 

Lindsey:

Well, I actually think somebody said that recently. I’ve been taking sublingual B12 for years, but I did get a first injection when they found my B12 level in the hundreds. 

Dr. Miles:

The research is fascinating on B12 injection and parietal cell antibodies, because they tried using high dose oral B12, and they did not find a reduction in parietal cell antibodies, and then they tried injecting B12. And they found a reliable reduction in antibodies from injectable B12. This research takes a long time. So sometimes it’s weekly injections of B12. For six months, nine months, a year, two years in some cases, depends how elevated the parietal cell antibodies are, but they do reliably start to lower with weekly injections.

Lindsey:

This is not appealing. But if I have to do it, I’ll do it. You know, in the usual medical system I’m waiting three months for my specialist visit. As I rediscovered this whole parietal cell stuff, I’m going to get mine retested and see if they’re still elevated. I hope they’re down by now, but maybe not since I’m not digesting my iron and zinc. Of course, I was worried too that the extra iron might be feeding the SIBO.

Dr. Miles:

The parietal cell antibody research is very clear. And I have had patients who like you have not been thrilled by the idea of a weekly injection. I had one patient who said I’ll try anything to not have the injection and so I suggested that we try very high dose sublingual B12. So, we were doing ridiculously high doses of sublingual B12 with him holding it. . . 

Lindsey: 

Like 5000?

Dr. Miles:

No like 20,000 a day. We had 10,000 mcg tablets, and then he was doing two of those per day – methylcobalamin. And it stabilized the antibodies, they didn’t go up. But it did not make them go down. We were trying the liposomal form of B12 as well, and we just couldn’t get it to go down without injection. That’s an n of one. That’s one person, maybe other people are different. And I’d love to do a bigger study on that and try things like bigger doses of sublingual and high quality liposomals and I still have some promise and hope for that. But so far, clinically on the n of one, the person who I’ve tried it with, I have not yet found something that can equal injections in terms of its ability to lower parietal cell antibodies. And the research is clear on this. If you do weekly injections, almost everyone’s antibodies start to come down at different rates; some faster than others. But after a few months, they recheck and then they see where it’s at. So, we’ll do about 12 weekly injections, recheck parietal cell antibodies, see where they’re at. 

The research study did it until they were symptom free and the research studies were looking at oral symptoms because a lot of people with parietal cell antibodies will have things like dry mouth, burning tongue, things in the oral region – symptoms there. They continued until they got a reversal of symptoms, but I like to see them ideally drop the below 10 to feel like okay, we can go on to maintenance and then maintenance is once per month an injection of B12. 

Otherwise, in the studies the people who tried to maintain with oral and did not do injection for maintenance, unfortunately, it started climbing back up. There’s more though that can be discovered and the research really has looked at H. pylori being linked to parietal cell antibodies. So, it could be if someone had an H. pylori infection, and that got eradicated, that may already help prevent the rising of parietal cell antibodies. It’s not clear in research, there’s just an association that’s clear that says that people who have H. pylori are more likely to have parietal cell antibodies. It doesn’t say one’s causing the other, but mechanistically it seems reasonable to consider that H. pylori could be a localized influence on the immune system in the area triggering the response against parietal cells. So, there may be other things that could be treated, that could help, but the thing that’s very determined for sure in the majority of people to help from a research-based perspective are the weekly injectable B12. And then monthly to maintain once it’s normalized. 

Lindsey:

I was convinced I finally figured out the source of all of my gut issues. I must have H. pylori that’s not terribly symptomatic, and I got my stool antigen test and it was negative. So I was kind of disappointed. 

Dr. Miles:

Yeah, that is a little disappointing. Actually, on myself a while back, I had some thyroid issues, and there’s an H. pylori thyroid connection. So, I was testing H. pylori, and I did a stool sample and it came back negative. And about three weeks later, I did another stool sample and it came back positive through a different lab. And I thought, well, this is interesting that I found it with the same stool antigen. The stool antigen test is actually FDA regulated. The two labs were using the same antigen, but I think the handling was a little different. The one had a frozen sample, and I think it kept it frozen better, the way it was packaged. I’ve sometimes seen multiple tests necessary to identify H. pylori. Not all the time, but occasionally. 

Lindsey:

I’ve seen tons of clients and that situation where they’ve had an endoscopy. They’ve had biopsies, they’ve had breath tests, maybe never a stool test. My father for one—40 years’ worth of gut health issues— finally sent him out to do a GI Map. Came back with H. pylori and a parasite. 

Dr. Miles:

Yeah, we see that all the time, too. That’s classic. 

Lindsey:

Yeah, I’ve got people who are always just like, I’ve already been tested for H. pylori. I’m just like, let’s just test it. 

Dr. Miles:

You got it. 

Lindsey:

I have found you can order just the H. pylori test from the GI Map as an independent test. And it’s not expensive at all. So, I think that’s worthwhile. 

Dr. Miles:

Yeah. And I often run a blood antibody in tandem. 

Lindsey:

Yeah, just to see if they’ve had it at some point. 

Dr. Miles:

Yeah, absolutely. 

Lindsey:

So, thinking about other causes for recurrent SIBO, you know, I look at the list of potential causes for recurrences, and probably the low stomach acid and parietal cell antibodies are one of them. But a history of endometriosis, abdominal surgery, I’ve had C section, I’ve had endometriosis surgery, the history of PPI use, although that was like 10 years ago, stress, supplementing with iron, Hashimoto’s. All of those things. When you have so many potential root causes, how do you even start to unpack these things? 

Dr. Miles:

That’s a difficult question. But part of what I do together with my wife, Dr. Diane Mueller, we trained practitioners in functional medicine. So, we’re very detail oriented about how do people go about solving this kind of puzzle. And basically, we have a series of root causes with an approximation of likelihood and then a good history and you just gave us a very relevant history already. Most people don’t know to tell us if they’ve had abdominal surgery, they don’t think it’s something that is relevant to the fact that they’re having digestive problems now. For a clinician it’s really important to ask if you had abdominal surgery, because that’s going to lead to scar tissue. And that scar tissue can lead to the reoccurrence of small intestine bacterial overgrowth. In addition to low stomach acid you mentioned, we’re also going to look at the scar tissue abdominally like you mentioned, and then another one is the migrating motor complex damage due to an autoimmune cross reactivity from an infection that usually is a food poisoning type of infection. 

Lindsey:

Right, the ibs-smart test?

Dr. Miles:

Yeah, so the post-infectious IBS, which you can get a test that measures the vinculin antibody and the cytolethal distending toxin B antibody. Basically, the immune system creates a reaction against a toxin that’s released by certain bacteria like Campylobacter jejuni, that can cause food poisoning and who hasn’t had food poisoning at least once or twice in her life? Then that toxin, the immune system can cross react and create that attack against the enteric nervous system that regulates the migrating motor complex that flushes the bacteria out of the small intestine. And so, that can be an issue as well that can be tested for so you can look at those antibodies to see if that’s the root cause. And that’s nice that you can look for that root cause. 

Lindsey:

Yeah, I have one of those tests on the way. I’m very excited. 

Dr. Miles:

That’s great. So, one strategy is to look at that test. 

Lindsey:

And that would be indicative? Well, I guess you could have scarring in your abdomen that is totally unrelated to that and also hurting you migrating motor complex, right? 

Dr. Miles:

Everyone wants the one smoking gun, but unfortunately, it’s usually a couple things. 

Lindsey:

It’s a five shooter over here. 

Dr. Miles:

You could have low stomach acid. And you could have a migrating motor issue due to the damage to the enteric nervous system from a post infectious issue, cross mimicry. And then you could also have scar tissue playing a role. Especially if we see high methane levels, we often do see some systemic chronic infection as well playing a role along the lines of Lyme disease, or one of the co infections for Lyme that we frequently see, especially with those methane-dominant SIBOs that don’t respond very well or keep recurring. Lyme is another one that we frequently see. And the sinus infection, like I mentioned, seems to be correlated. I don’t know if it’s causing it, there’s no clear research saying it is or it isn’t, but I suspect it could play a role. That’s something that that we’ll look for. And typically, the good case history is going to end the symptoms we talked about related to stomach acids. So, looking at those symptoms, in addition to the parietal cell antibodies, H. pylori, possibly the gastrin, fasting gastrin levels.

Lindsey:

I was just going to ask, does the gastrin level appear on any of the functional medicine stool tests? Or is that a separate thing? 

Dr. Miles:

That’s a blood test, actually. Fasting gastrin in the blood can elevate in low stomach acid. It’s a marker that we’ll use sometimes. I wouldn’t say it’s incredibly useful. But it can be one tool in the toolkit to take a look at stomach acid potentially playing a role. It’s basically take a good assessment, and once we get a good assessment, then it’s a matter of saying, okay, you know, you have a parietal cell antibodies, so I’m really suspecting stomach acid is part of what’s going on for you. And then you also have this history of abdominal surgery. I might ask more in that case, when was the timing of when this came on? Because sometimes abdominal scar tissue, it can change a little bit over time, it usually doesn’t a lot. So, it can take some months to onset SIBO after an insult to the abdomen with scar tissue. But if it’s, for example, you had surgery after you were already, like you had gut issues since you were a teenager and your surgery was in your 20s, then I’m not going to think that that surgery scar tissue is, it’s definitely not the only root cause because you had those issues prior.

Lindsey:

Okay, good. Than I can cross that off my list, because I’ve had bloating and stomach issues since I was a teenager. 

Dr. Miles:

Yeah, and I find that a lot, which isn’t to say that the scar tissue isn’t playing some role at this point. It may be but it wouldn’t top my priority list for what to treat first, given that there’s something that was underlying prior that was leading to there being an issue even earlier on. So, that kind of investigative work can help sort out where we might be looking at. If someone has a history of multiple bouts of antibiotics before two years old, we might be looking at okay, maybe there was some long standing dysbiosis that began in early childhood and then maybe there were a couple of rounds of food poisoning. Okay, now we might want to be looking at the antibodies to vinculin and cytolethal distending toxin B because there could be this post infectious issue with cross reactivity. And then prokinetics are going to be a much bigger player in the treatment plan in that case, versus if Lyme is a more significant player then we have different things that are going to be more at play for the long run prevention.

Lindsey:

Talk a little bit more about prokinetics and which ones, especially nonprescription, that you think are the best and maybe just explain what they are. 

Dr. Miles:

The prokinetic is helping that migrating motor complex. It’s promoting the movement in the intestines. And that promotion of movement in the intestines will be a proxy for the function that’s supposed to be natural, that every 90 minutes or so in between meals when you’re fasting, the intestines, you might notice a little rumble grumble in the tummy. Borborygmus is the medical term for that, which I love that word, borborygmus, it’s just a wonderful word. So, that gurgling sound, that borborygmus is a sign that there might be that peristaltic wave that’s happening that’s moving the debris, the fibers, the bacteria, out of the small intestine into the large intestine. It’s like a peristaltic wave that flushes things into the large intestine. And when that is compromised, which in the case of what we’re talking about is a root cause of the cytolethal distending toxin B antibody, leading to cross reactivity with vinculin antibody. Vinculin is part of the smooth muscle. It’s part of the intestinal function of the enteric nervous system that helps that migrating motor complex, helps that flushing mechanism. When that’s damaged by the immune system autoimmune attack against it, then we want to use prokinetics, which can be herbal or pharmaceutical agents that can promote that peristaltic activity, that wave like activity in the gut, in the intestines. 

Several of the prokinetics that are helpful are pharmaceutical, but several are natural as well. On the natural side, ginger is one of the classic ones that’s used. And I like ginger, I do think it’s useful, although sometimes it can feel hot in the stomach if we use real therapeutic doses of ginger. Some people tolerate it better than others. And I like to do bedtime dosing for prokinetics, because that’s the longest fasting period between dinner and breakfast. So, bedtime dosing is nice. And I like to use some ginger but not too much so that we don’t get the burning feeling in the stomach that might keep someone up or be uncomfortable. 

There’s artichoke extract which is being used, and the studies on artichoke extract are really about gastric emptying, the stomach emptying. And they don’t say much about small intestine transit. I don’t know how effective it is for the migrating motor complex, but it’s reasonable to think it could be because it definitely increases the speed at which the stomach empties pretty significantly. When we see that increase in stomach emptying, we have to wonder. One of the waves of the migrating motor complex goes all the way from the stomach to the large intestine. There are phases and waves of the migrating motor complex and we don’t know for sure which wave it is that’s impacting when the artichoke extract is being used. But I do think it’s a good one to consider including as a prokinetic, because we at least know that it helps with stomach emptying, and it may help with small intestine transit as well. 5- HTP is a common one that’s used. And 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, and then later turns into melatonin. So it’s used sometimes for sleep, sometimes for mood and sometimes for prokinetic. And there’s a lot of serotonin that’s produced by the gut and the theory goes that the receptor sites for that on the intestines may be related to the migrating motor complex. 5-HTP is another one and some products have multiple of these in them. You don’t have to necessarily get different products for each of these constituents. But those are some of the ones that can be useful. HNO19 is a strain of Bifidobacterium that has been shown also to improve motility. I like to use that in high doses as well, in some cases.

Lindsey:

Which species?

Dr. Miles

Bifidobacterium lactis. So the HNO19 strain of bifidobacterium lactis is shown in at least one research study to impact the motility in a positive direction. There are some probiotics that are available with high doses. So sometimes we’ll use a probiotic that has 15 billion of that strain specifically, and one of them even has as much as 50 billion of that one. So sometimes we’ll use that in higher doses.

Lindsey:

Which ones are they? 

Dr. Miles:

Zymogen carries Probiomax DF and Probiomax Daily DF. The Probiomax DF I believe is the one that’s the higher dose and then the Probiomax Daily DF is the lower dose, but both of them have a reasonable dose of bifidobacterium lactis HNO19. 

Lindsey:

So, tell me, what does the breath have to do with things like gut issues? 

Dr. Miles:

That’s a really interesting question. I think a lot of people, you don’t need a research study to say that when you’re stressed out, your digestion is impacted. I think that’s pretty common across the board; some people more than others. But it’s pretty common that if someone experiences an acute stress, they have digestive worsening, whatever their digestive picture is, it tends to get worse with stress. We know the nervous system regulates multiple functions that impact the gut. There’s a lot of research around the vagus nerve and how the vagus nerve innervates parts of the gut. A lot of people who are treating SIBO will sometimes prescribe vagus nerve calming the nervous system type activities to stimulate the vagus nerve. The theory is that like a prokinetic, it might help with the motility in the intestines and the appropriate signaling between the intestines and the brain. 

And breath work has a strong nervous system regulating ability, certain breath techniques can very quickly regulate the nervous system and shift from the sympathetic kind of fight flight type stress reaction into the parasympathetic rest and digest. They even use those terms in describing the nervous system to say digest for the parasympathetic nervous system. Because when the body is not feeling acutely threatened, the body puts more resources, energy, blood flow into the intestinal area versus if you’re threatened and you’re feeling like you need to fight or run, the body puts more blood into the limbs to be able to run to fight and certain parts of the brain to be able to react quickly. If we can shift from that sympathetic stress response into a parasympathetic rest digest response, especially around meal time, and especially when feeling symptoms of gut issues or preventatively to digest appropriately when having a meal, that can be really impactful and really helpful from a digestive perspective. 

And a lot of people who report acid reflux or bloating or issues with feeling like the food isn’t moving much in their intestines, once they’re shifting into more rest and digest state, they’ll actually start to feel those grumblings, there’s a lot of people who they lie down to rest or they lay down for a treatment of some sort— a massage or an acupuncture treatment, and immediately, their stomach starts rumbling and growling, and they start to hear their stomach growling because they’re just relaxing out of that go go go. And they lay down to relax and that relaxation really can do a great benefit to the digestive system. But unfortunately, it’s not easy every meal to go lay down for a massage or treatment of some sort. 

Lindsey:

Don’t you get massages after all your meals? 

Dr. Miles:

I wish, that would be nice. But you can easily do a short few minutes of breath work with every meal. That’s a fairly simple thing to implement. 

Lindsey:

That’s something I tell a lot of my clients, especially weight loss clients about just doing some 5-5-7 breaths, five in, five hold, seven out. The exhale being longer than the inhale. 

Dr. Miles:

Yeah, and that’s going to cultivate a little bit of CO2, carbon dioxide with a longer exhale, then inhale. And a lot of people think, oh, I need more oxygen, I need to take more deep breaths to get more oxygen. There are lots of issues with oxygen deprivation. There’s lots of sleep apnea out there where people are deprived of oxygen. So, oxygen is a good thing and you do need oxygen to the brain and the body to function. Absolutely. But there’s also a great need for carbon dioxide and it’s underappreciated. The carbon dioxide gas is actually needed to deliver oxygen to the tissues. Without enough CO2, the oxygen that’s in the blood won’t be appropriately delivered into the tissues to have its optimal effect. 

CO2 also is involved in nervous system regulation. And so, CO2 gas will, as it increases, induce a parasympathetic nervous system response in many cases where a person will all of a sudden feel themselves relaxing. If there’s elevated blood pressure, it’ll go down. If it’s not elevated, then it’ll stay, it won’t push it down further than it being normal typically by just CO2. But if it’s elevated, it can increase nitric oxide and that can help blood pressure regulate. It also can help with the sinuses clearing up. By increasing CO2, the sinuses can clear and open and the lungs can open. If someone has asthma or breathing difficulties, the CO2 increase can help bronchodilate the lungs as well. So, the lungs can breathe easier, people can stop an asthma attack through a certain breathing technique that increases the vasodilation, increases the CO2levels that increases the vasodilation. 

And so, what you’re doing with that breathing technique is you’re getting with that longer exhale a little more CO2. That little more CO2 can increase all of these things I just mentioned. But unfortunately, what a lot of people do when they think of breath work is they think, oh, let’s take a few deep breaths. Which is not bad, that has some good functions too. And there’s certain breath works that use that kind of deep, fast breathing for specific purposes. But when it comes to shifting into the parasympathetic nervous system, actually, what helps is slowing the breathing, and breathing less total volume of air per minute – not trying to get more air in, but less volume of air per minute. It doesn’t mean necessarily that you’re taking a shallower breath, it more means that you’re slowing the breathing, to breathe maybe 5, 6, 7 times in a minute instead of 12, 13 times in a minute. And not necessarily excessively deep breaths either. But moderate breasts that are into the belly. They’re not superficial or chest breasts, but they’re into the belly, and they’re slowing down the breathing rate. Maybe, like you said, also could be exhaling a little longer than inhaling or even holding after the exhale for a few seconds before inhaling again. And doing that sometimes several times can also induce that relaxed, parasympathetic state. Yeah, there’s several different breath techniques and videos that can help describe how to do the techniques. But I think there’s a lot of misinformation that just straight fast deep breathing is going to relax the body. That’s not necessarily true. In fact, some people can induce panic attacks if they go too fast with their breathing. 

Lindsey:

And just quickly, what are some of those breathing techniques if people want to look them up? 

Dr. Miles:

For this purpose of what we’re talking about today, Buteyko Breathing or Oxygen Advantage should be two that are more in this genre of increasing CO2 levels to regulate the parasympathetic nervous system response. There is also Wim Hof breathing, which is faster and deeper. And I do endorse and find it to be very helpful. In fact, I’m trained in it, but I wouldn’t do it as a way to relax the nervous system. In fact, it’ll increase adrenaline temporarily. It does a lot of interesting things. 

Lindsey:

Well, that’s for another conversation. This has been really interesting. I’ve loved the depth we’ve gotten into on some of these things. So, tell me where readers can find you. 

Dr. Miles:

Readers can find the clinic website, who are interested potentially in care in the clinic at medicinewithheart.com. And even if you’re not interested in care, we have a great blog, where we write about peptides, we write about some of the things that we’ve been talking about here in much more detail with cited references. If you want to take a look at more detailed information, medicinewithheart.com, and you can also get in touch with the clinic there. And then for practitioners, if there are any practitioners interested in the practitioner training program, that’s mindbodyfunctionalmedicine.com.

Lindsey:

Great. Well, I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge with my listeners. 

Dr. Miles:

Wonderful, Lindsey. Thank you so much for having me. 

If you’re struggling with Candida or other gut health problems and are ready to get some professional help, you’re welcome to set up a free, 30-minute breakthrough session with me. We’ll talk about what you’ve been going through and I’ll tell you about my gut health coaching 5-appointment program in which I recommend lab tests, educate you on what the results mean and the protocols used by doctors to fix the problems revealed. Or if you’re ready to jump in right away or can just afford one appointment at a time, you can set up an 1-hour consultation with me.

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Getting Candid about Invasive Candida with Dr. Kurt Woeller

The Perfect Stool: Getting Candid About Invasive Candida Pinterest Image

Adapted from episode 51 of The Perfect Stool podcast and edited for readability.

Lindsey:

Today on the blog, I’m going in depth on Candida with Dr. Kurt Woeller. Dr. Woeller is a doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, an integrative and functional medicine physician and a biomedical autism treatment specialist. He’s the author of several integrative medicine health books, an international lecturer and educator and medical education director of Integrative Medicine Academy, an online training academy specializing in functional and integrative medicine courses. He’s also the medical director of functional medicine clinical rounds, and autism recovery system, two additional online educational resources. Dr. Woeller teaches the Organic Acids Test training seminar for the Great Plains laboratory and has presented lectures at many other integrative medicine conferences for years. He’s been involved with the Integrative Medicine for Mental Health Conference since its inception as a clinical educator. And through his private practice, he focuses on specialized diagnostic testing and treatments for individuals with complex medical conditions like autism, autoimmune and neurological disorders. 

I heard you speaking on a webinar through Bio-Botanical Research or Biocidin, about Candida and that got me thinking that you would be great guest for that purpose. 

Dr. Woeller:

Absolutely. I’ve had a lot of experience with it throughout the years with different types of patients and different types of scenarios. So, those videos I actually did for Bio-Botanical Research, really, were fairly in depth, and there’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Candida and chronic candidiasis. So, I’m happy to answer your questions. 

Lindsey: 

Well, I think it’s something that a lot of my readers and clients struggle with. I look forward to digging more in depth. Let me start off just by asking, are D.O.s more in the traditional allopathic world? 

Dr. Woeller:

In today’s world, yes. Many, many years ago, not so much. But things change professionally. In the United States, you have MDs and D.O.s. Both of us are fully licensed physicians, so we go to separate medical schools but get very similar training. And then we do our postgraduate training, whether it’s in pediatrics, family practice, general practitioner, or you have D.O.s who are immunologists, you have D.Os who are neurosurgeons just like you do MDs. Now, traditionally, osteopathy or osteopathic medicine was very much rooted in how the function of the body is dependent on structure and vice versa. And so, a lot of D.O.s early on practiced mostly primary care. But as the years have gone on, that has somewhat changed. So, as a fully licensed physician we could deal with medications, we could deal with traditional lab testing and diagnosis. 

Lindsey:

My primary is a D.O., which is a relatively new thing. So, that’s my only experience with a D.O. in any case. What I was going to ask, though, related to that, is that most allopathic doctors dismiss systemic Candida infections as a cause of gastrointestinal issues and other symptoms like brain fog and such, unless you’re immunocompromised. And so, I’m wondering what is the research within the traditional medical literature that supports this diagnosis for people who aren’t immunocompromised, or at least not as far as they know?

Dr. Woeller:

That still occurs very much, and by the way, most traditional osteopath D.O.s who would be more in line with conventional medicine would recognize that same type of thing, that it’s really only an issue if it is invasive. Everybody has some Candida in their body, which is true. So, most of conventional medicine looks at a Candida problem; it recognizes that a newborn might have thrush, where you get oral overgrowth of Candida, or you might get a skin infection of some sort, or it might happen in an elderly patient; they might get thrush as well. But because Candida as a whole as a group of organisms, is a normal inhabitant at some level within our digestive system, it’s often looked at as what’s called commensal: normally there but not problematic. It only becomes a problem if somebody was immune compromised, as you said, so somebody with HIV or some other type of severe disease. And actually, in my early training, I saw a number of people die of invasive candidiasis, which was quite tragic. And it’s terrible. And these people were immune compromised. One of them was actually a young woman who had cancer. And she ended up dying of a systemic fungal infection, not from the cancer so much, but from the chemotherapy that kind of took out her immune system. 

The problem with recognizing Candida is only a problem when it’s invasive in the body is that you then don’t understand the chemical influence that these organisms can have, even when they’re primarily residing within the digestive tract. Because most people who have a chronic candidiasis issues don’t have it systemically, they don’t have Candida growing in their bloodstream. By the time you get to Candida growing in your bloodstream, at a very severe level, you are seriously sick. But there’s millions of people throughout the United States and around the world who are still sick from chronic Candida, but it’s in their gut, and it’s producing different chemicals that are affecting them biochemically. And there is a difference, and we can talk about that.

Lindsey:

 And so, is there peer reviewed research showing that? Is there something people could plop on their doctor’s desk? 

Dr. Woeller:

Oh, absolutely. I mean, this is one of those things. There’s so much research, sometimes it gets confusing where to look. It doesn’t take very long to start looking even just online or on different websites for medical literature that documents this. In fact, I just recently read an article that was talking about autism specifically and autism spectrum disorders. And how these group of individuals are often compromised by the presence of Candida in their body. Yes, from an infectious standpoint, but from certain chemicals that it produces called aldehydes. And these aldehydes end up having a negative biochemical consequence within the liver and within the brain and nervous system, because it acts as a toxin. There’s a lot of literature out there. 

Lindsey:

I’ve definitely seen clients who are suffering from those aldehydes. Talk a little bit about what that looks like when those chemicals are present in terms of symptomology. 

Dr. Woeller:

Well, it’s interesting because an aldehyde is a functional group. Some aldehydes are normally produced. We get different chemical reactions that might produce an aldehyde. And then we have certain aldehydes that we come in contact with. So for example, most people who consume alcohol and have one too many drinks will get a hangover feeling the next day. Your face gets flushed, you feel headachy, you feel nauseous. Well, the hangover effects of alcohol are really a chemical called acetaldehyde, which is a type of aldehyde. That’s quite toxic to the body. In fact, they figure that many of the severe consequences of alcoholism, yes, the alcohol has problems, but the acetaldehyde that gets produced creates a lot of tissue damage in the gut, which affects the liver, brain and nervous system. People can feel nauseous, get headaches, they can have poor concentration, they can have body aches. The other thing about aldehydes is that they need to be converted actively in the body because they are so toxic, they can generate what are called free radicals. Our body spends a lot of time trying to convert aldehydes into less toxic substances. In fact, much of the first phase of liver detoxification, which is taking chemical compounds that are what are called fat soluble and converting them into water soluble compounds so we could easily get rid of them, most of those enzymes that are part of the first phase of liver detox are geared towards dealing with aldehydes–acetaldehyde being one of them. So, to break it down, Candida is a type of yeast. And all of these yeasts love glucose, so they’ll actually take sugar, glucose, and use it as their primary fuel source. And the end product of glucose metabolism in a yeast cell is ethanol. But the step before that is acetaldehyde. The yeast cell is actually producing acetaldehyde itself before it becomes alcohol. Both compounds are toxic, not only the alcohol, but also the acetaldehyde that the yeast is producing. So, if you have a fungal overgrowth of Candida or other yeast, you’re going to have some aldehyde buildup in your system. 

Lindsey:

And so, I’m guessing then if you were having this excess production of free radicals that you probably start to run out of your antioxidants. 

Dr. Woeller:

Very much so. In fact, one of the things that this article was addressing was the importance of glutathione as a primary detoxifier in the liver. And as an antioxidant, one of the things they advocated for was to use acetylcysteine, which also called NAC, because it’s the precursor to glutathione. And glutathione is a very important chemical in our body to deal with toxins. And we have a tremendous amount of glutathione in our liver. And it really acts more during the second phase of liver detox as we’re starting to make that final transformation of chemicals into more of a water-soluble form. So, whenever your body is taxed because of too many toxins, whether those are endogenously produced, or we come in contact with things outside of ourselves, we run the potential of depleting our glutathione reserves. 

Lindsey:

And I understand they’re right in the process of taking NAC off the market now because it’s considered a drug. Do you know about that?

Dr. Woeller

I know a little bit about it. I’m not sure where it’s all going. From my understanding, at least I had heard that there was some push towards regulating it more, because I guess there was some individuals or whoever was advocating it as a hangover supplement. Which, you know, by the way, might work. I mean, because why do we have the hangover? We have a buildup of these aldehydes. And we know that acetylcysteine helps to detoxify it. I think it’d be a shame if they did that. Because it is such an important compound. I mean, think about here in the United States, how many people have free access to Tylenol? Acetaminophen, and we know how toxic that can be, right? 

Lindsey:

And NAC is what you use against it. 

Dr. Woeller:

That’s right. And now we’ve got chronic infections, we’ve got immune system issues, you’ve got yeast issues, we have mold problems, chemical toxins, etc. All of that stuff can be aided in the body from a detoxification standpoint with NAC. So, we’ll see what happens. 

Lindsey:

If someone isn’t constipated, do you do go ahead and give them NAC when you’re doing candida protocols? 

Dr. Woeller:

I think it’s not a bad idea. I like what you just mentioned about not being constipated, because of some of these chemicals like these aldehydes, I think it’s a worthwhile thing to use, if a person can tolerate it. Sometimes people who have a lot of overgrowth in the gut with the gastrointestinal candidiasis, in the early stages NAC might sort of stir the pot symptom-wise, so it might cause a little bit more bloating or gas or just that feeling of being distended. It’s one of those things that’s as tolerated. It’s something I like to use but as tolerated, right. 

Lindsey:

I tend to think of it as something that comes a little bit later on in the protocol. 

Dr. Woeller:

Right. 

Lindsey:

Okay, so you’ve mentioned children with autism. Are there particular symptoms that you see that you believe are related to candidiasis in them, and in children in general? 

Dr. Woeller:

Yeah, let’s talk about autism first. What we’ve often recognized over the years is that many of these autistic kids are very sensitive to the presence of yeast and bacterial toxins, including Candida, which is a yeast, and how it manifests a lot of times in them is behavioral, so they can get very goofy, giddy and silly. A lot of inappropriate laughter. I’ve actually had parents describe to me that their kids appeared drunk, like they went and consumed alcohol; poor sleep, poor attention, poor focusing, Now, not all of those I could attribute 100% to just a Candida problem. But oftentimes, when we put them on antifungals, whether it’s something like Nystatin or Diflucan or a combination of botanical remedies, when you go after the yeast, many of those issues either go away completely or decrease. I have seen some hyperactivity, impulsivity type behaviors occur. Certainly, attention focusing can be a problem in some of these cases with underlying fungal problems. With the kids, they tend to get that goofiness, silliness, inappropriate laughter. In adults, I don’t really see that it manifests in that way. For them, they tend to have a lot of brain fog, or headaches or poor focusing, poor attention, maybe body aches and pain, a lot of digestive system issues as well. We know that the autistic kids are having digestive issues, too, it’s just that they can’t really express it because they don’t have language. So, they really can’t tell you how they feel. You’re basically just interpreting things based on their behaviors, right? 

Lindsey:

Foot odor, is that related to Candida? 

Dr. Woeller:

I don’t know specifically, I mean, unless you had some fungal infection on the skin. So, you asked me that question. Perhaps you know?

Lindsey:

I don’t know. I’m just curious. I just happened to know one particular person who’s got that problem. So how do you test for candidiasis? 

Dr. Woeller:

Well, there’s a number of different ways of looking at this. Let’s look at conventional medicine. They’re going to be primarily concerned about an overgrowth scenario that has become invasive, or at least has activated aspects of the immune system that might suggest a deeper-seated problem. They’re going to look at what are called the antibodies, antibodies, like IgG, for example, which would be indicative of some immune activation against the Candida. They might also look at IgE, which would be an allergic type of reaction. That would tell you that your immune system is in a heightened response to an overgrowth scenario, whether it’s in your gut or elsewhere in your body. If there was some concern of it being in the bloodstream, they could always do a blood culture. Or you could do what’s called PCR testing that looks at genetic sequencing within the organism. 

Lindsey:

Who does that kind of testing? 

Dr. Woeller:

Well, many of the reference labs actually provide that. Like Lab Corp, Quest. It’s not often ordered. But those things are available. And there are some other specialty labs out there that have this kind of technology. So, in the integrative world, what I’ve used is a test called the Organic Acids Test, and it’s called the OAT. We all have organic acids in our bodies. Lactic acid, for example, is an organic acid. But organisms that live in our digestive system also produce their own compounds, their own organic acids, that get absorbed into our body and then concentrate in our urine. So, the organic acid test is a urine test that is a reflection of underlying metabolic imbalances that are occurring in our body or a reflection of overgrowth of different pathogens within our digestive system. And there are certain organic acids that Candida produces. One specific one is called arabinose. We can use the organic acid to evaluate for arabinose levels that is reflective of an overgrowth of Candida in the gut. That is usually my go to, because it gives me an indication of activity in the gut. And it also gives me an idea of invasiveness with at least the lining of the gut that arabinose gets expressed when Candida is becoming invasive. 

You can do a stool analysis, and a stool test is another way to culture for Candida. That sort of scenario, a lot of labs have that technology. The downside to depending on a stool test for Candida detection, is Candida is sophisticated. It’s tricky. It’s not always actively shedding in your stools. It’s not uncommon to get a normal Candida culture on a stool test and then do an Organic Acids Test and see organic acid markers elevated. In my experience, to me stool testing for Candida complements the organic acid test. But I don’t I don’t start with the stool. I always start with the Organic Acids Test. 

Lindsey:

Right. And now on the Great Plains Organic Acids Test, there’s nine different markers of fungal and yeast overgrowth. And I’m wondering if there’s other markers that are important or that mean different things about Candida or do you look at that arabinose primarily?

Dr. Woeller:

Arabinose primarily for the Candida. There’s a few other markers on there that can be linked to just generalized yeast. But the arabinose is really specific to Candida. 

Lindsey:

And where does that marker have to be for you to want to treat someone? Does it need to be marked high? Or is the top quintile good enough? Where would you start treating? 

Dr. Woeller:

Well, I always apply every single test to the clinical presentation of the person. I learned long ago, that any given test is a representation of a problem. But the value on the test, not in all testing scenarios, is always going to be reflective of how somebody is feeling, with regards to the condition that they have. A perfect example of that is Candida. You can have somebody who has a lot of symptoms associated with a chronic Candida problem, but their arabinose level might be mildly elevated. It may not necessarily be 234, or 5-600 points high, it might be 75 points in a reference range of 50, for example. But when you take that and put it in the context of the presentation of the individual, it still can be incredibly useful. So, in all circumstances when it’s elevated, I’m going to treat, whether it’s with a medication, whether it’s botanicals, or whether it’s with a combination of things. I’m typically not pursuing treatment if the level is normal, unless, again, I’ve got that clinical suspicion, that presentation of the individual that really suggests that this may be a problem for them. Because the reality is you could have a scenario where you have Candida that is proliferating within the digestive system. But perhaps it’s not necessarily invading the lining of the digestive tract. When Candida is actually growing, or it’s becoming invasive, it’s piercing the lining of the gut. And that’s what’s causing that arabinose to express itself. There’s always that possibility, you might have an overgrowth scenario that isn’t mucosally invasive at the moment. 

Lindsey:

And that’s not a dangerous scenario, or that’s not just sort of a predecessor to invasive Candida?

Dr. Woeller:

Well, I think it is a predecessor. I always say, if you actually find a pathogen, like Candida or Clostridium bacteria, for example, do you just leave it alone? Or does it have the potential of getting worse in that given patient? Where they are with regards to their health issues? I’m usually of the mindset that I’m not just going to leave something alone to see what happens. 

Lindsey:

Going back to the antibodies test, do you use that test? 

Dr. Woeller:

No, I don’t. I mean, there’s a food sensitivity profile that I’ll do that has an IgG marker on it. But I’m not heavily relying on it as a determinant for me of whether to initiate treatment or not. 

Lindsey:

Do you use the Fungus Related Disease Questionnaire at all in diagnosing candidiasis? 

Dr. Woeller:

Not so much anymore. I used to many years ago, when I was first starting off. I will use it in some cases for people who want some confirmation for themselves. They want to see something on paper. And you know, it’s interesting, my partner had a scenario years ago, where she was consulting with a person who was a nurse, and they were coming from the conventional medical world, and they would have checked every single box on that Fungus Disease Questionnaire. They were so symptomatic to Candida. And what she suggested was, hey, let’s get you started on some anti-fungal botanicals, etc., etc. and this person really fought tooth and nail because they had been to infectious disease, they had been to a gastroenterologist, they had been to others and they just couldn’t figure out why she was so bloated, you know? And she basically said, “Listen, you know, you got a bunch of yeast, right? When you have yeast in bread, the bread expands. That’s what’s happening in your gut.” So, I don’t remember if they did the questionnaire or not, but they eventually went ahead and tried an antifungal. And within three, four days, I mean, they felt remarkably different. So, again, that question is useful, I think in the context of trying to provide people a little bit more insight into whether that’s an issue for them or not. Right. 

Lindsey:

Yeah, I think it’s funny because the first question is, “Have you ever taken antibiotics?” So, you can just give the default three to pretty much everybody in this country. Because I don’t know if I’ve met anybody who hasn’t taken antibiotics? Except, perhaps my son. I have son who’s never taken them. But he’s only 17. And then the second question is, have you taken broad spectrum antibiotics for one month or longer? All of a sudden, boom, those two things, you’re already at the probable, which is funny, because it’s so easy to get to that point. It’s virtually everybody who can answer enough questions to get to the probable point. You mentioned invasive candida, so can you talk a little bit about hyphae, and how those impact digestion and how once it’s gotten to that form, the symptoms that would go along with that?

Dr. Woeller:

Candida exists as what’s called a unicellular form. It can exist as independent cells, and it can exist that way in a colony of other organisms. But when we get environmental shifts that occur at that microscopic level, changes in acid-base balance, so the pH changes in oxygen or carbon dioxide levels, changes in temperature, and also changes in food supply. We’re talking about things that are occurring at that microscopic level where these organisms live. That shift, environmental changes, will induce activity change within Candida. Those shifts can actually cause Candida to become invasive. In fact, it’s been shown now that Candida itself can manipulate its environment to cause other Candida organisms to become invasive. And there’s a couple proteins that get produced. One is called invasin, and invasin allows for the Candida to become invasive. As the Candida is changing its form from a unicellular organism, it starts growing hyphae, or what looks like a root or a tail structure. And that root becomes invasive, just like a weed in your lawn, it starts burrowing deeper and deeper with its root structure. The invasin protein allows for that hypha or that root to keep growing deeper into the lining of the gut. And in fact, it can actually grow right through the center of an epithelial cell. Or it can grow between the cells in the area called the tight junction, which is a structure that allows our cells to maintain contact. As we get hyphal invasion at the epithelial level, if it goes deep enough, it can engage the immune system, which is sitting below that surface. And as you start to initiate and engage the immune system, and these macrophages or other immune cells, well, they will start sending signals to other immune cells throughout the body to say, hey, guys, we have a problem, we have an invader. And that starts triggering a broader immune reaction, which can trigger systemic inflammation. 

And that might manifest for somebody as joint pain, for somebody else it might mean heightened food sensitivity reactions. The other thing about this invasin protein is it actually allows for certain organisms to get taken in intact into the epithelial cells, called endocytosis. And what they figure is happening is that this is why probably some people over time start to lose some immune capacity against these organisms is because they’re getting embedded into our own cells. And whenever you have cellular components that are embedding, each component has its own DNA, and you could start sharing DNA and that creates a problem of a persistent infection that never gets dealt with. This is even being seen now with mold. Aspergillus mold, for example. And that is the process of invasion, right? It starts invading. When I use the word invasive Candida in conventional medicine, what they’re referring to by invasive is systemic, somehow the organism has broken through the barrier. It’s intact within the bloodstream, and it’s circulating throughout the body. But you can get mucosal invasion that starts breaking down the tight junction causing leaky gut that doesn’t get to the point perhaps where Candida is fully intact in the bloodstream, but it’s just punching holes in the lining of the gut, causing leaky gut, which triggers a much broader immune reaction. And there’s a lot of people in which it exists that way. I think they’ve gotten mucosal invasion of Candida, that could just again, trigger food reactions, trigger inflammation. One of the other problems any time you breach the boundary of the lining of the gut, and you create a leaky gut scenario, it doesn’t even have to be Candida, it could be a chemical that is affecting the lining of the gut, it could be celiac disease, which is breaking down the lining of the small intestine. As you increase the potential for autoimmune reactions, where now the immune system starts getting triggered abnormally against your own tissue. And that can manifest in a lot of ways. It could manifest as arthritis, it could manifest as skin problems, it can manifest as thyroid issues, because those antibodies that can produce what are called auto antibodies, from an autoimmune standpoint, can cross-react with different tissues through our body. I know that’s kind of a long answer to a short question. That is one of the scenarios of how Candida starts to transform itself. 

Lindsey:

One of the things that you mentioned was a change in the pH and diet changes, and so I’m thinking some combo of low stomach acid and eating lots of sugar…is that a recipe for Candida?

Dr. Woeller:

It’s an absolute recipe and what happens at the cellular level where these things occur, they’re really surviving within the entire microbiome. And if we have a good healthy, diverse microbiome, there’s a lot of other competing organisms down there that are either competing for food supply, or they themselves are altering the environment. Or then they’re helping to engage immune factors in the gut that keep things in check. So anytime that we shift our body chemistry away from that point of harmony, we’re going to increase the potential of developing opportunistic infections. And so, you have to look at Candida as an organism that is opportunistic. It doesn’t typically become a problem on its own. But it seizes upon an opportunity, if it arises, that, as you mentioned, could just be poor digestion. 

Lindsey:

And is there a relationship between Candida and its biofilms and H pylori? 

Dr. Woeller:

Well, H. pylori forms its own biofilm. So, Candida can form biofilm, other bacteria can form biofilm. And I first learned about biofilm probably going back 15 or 20 years ago, I was talking to a guy who was a biofilm researcher, and he was specifically working for a company that was looking at biofilms that were associated with burn victims and people with diabetic ulcerations to try to prevent against skin infections. And he mentioned to me at that time, even NIH, I think it was one of those governmental agencies, he says they recognize that most of these organisms live in a state of biofilm, probably 98, 99% of the time. And I actually came across a research article years ago about normal biofilm. Could bacteria, normal bacteria in our digestive tract exist in their own biofilm? And it commented that that looked like it was the case. I think with biofilm there’s more to the story than it just being a problem. Certainly, these organisms can use it for their advantage to try to block access to it from the immune system. So, biofilm in the mouth, for example, is a problem with bacteria, because they know that it can increase the potential for dental disease. Well, the same kind of problems could exist in our digestive system. It just makes it more difficult to get at. But I think the reality is that there’s probably biofilm existing at some level, even in a relatively healthy gut. There’s some information out there on that. I’m not saying that it’s absolutely proven to be that way in all cases. 

But I think it makes sense that because these organisms are so dynamic, what we may be dealing with is just opportunistic organisms taking advantage of their own production of biofilm. Even though at some level, it might be normal in how many of these organisms communicate. What’s interesting about biofilm is that it’s so complex. The way I think about biofilm is like you can have organisms that get sequestered in their own biofilm colony. So, it’s almost like it’s its own little community. And they produce chemicals that have what’s called an auto inducing effect on other organisms, even at distant locations within the gut. In fact, they’ve actually shown that a colony of organisms like Candida could send out chemical messages that influence the activity of Candida in another biofilm colony. It’s called quorum sensing. And what’s interesting is certain botanical remedies are known to affect that quorum sensing effect. The more you dig into this information, the more you realize how much there is and how complex it is. And honestly, at some level, how much a lot of medicine and science just hasn’t really understood about how these organisms survive and thrive. 

Lindsey:

So, you mentioned the idea that candida overgrowth can lead to food sensitivities. Do you think it can go in the other direction, that a food sensitivity leads to candida overgrowth? 

Dr. Woeller:

I think that’s possible. Let’s take for example, gluten. The classic thing would be celiac. You have somebody who has celiac disease, they form immune reactions against the gliaden protein that’s in gluten. And then they also form a corresponding immune reaction against cells lining the small intestine. So, that’s known to occur over time. And what ends up happening is that when the surface lining of the small intestine gets blunted, you start to lose the absorptive surface. The lining along the surface level of the small intestine are different cells, right? You’re going to have some cells that are involved in absorption, you’re going to have some cells that are involved in immune production. So you have a cell that’s producing, let’s say, IgA, or secretory IGA, which is your main immune function, or made an antibody in the digestive tract, and it’s getting taken out because of inflammation, or just destruction. Well, now you’re losing the mucosal barrier, now you’re losing a regulatory aspect of the immune system. And that certainly could change the environment within the digestive tract that allows for an opportunistic organism like Candida to take over. 

Lindsey:

Interesting. Okay, so tell me what kind of diet changes do you recommend to patients with candidiasis. 

Dr. Woeller:

In most cases, they really just need to really clean up their diet for one. So, it’s kind of the obvious stuff, try to go organic, pure water, clean water, organic, as much as possible, non-GMO. There’s some of the other things that we know can aggravate problems, so alcohol, caffeine. And then a lot of times it gets down to looking at different kinds of food sensitivities. If people have immune reactions, like you just mentioned, to various foods, we’ve got to get those eliminated from the body as well, so that we don’t create so much disharmony in the digestive tract. You know, excess sugar. I think the problem is trying to come up with a defined specific way for every group of individuals based on one diet. It’s a bit challenging because you’ll have some people that can tolerate more things versus others. So as much of a whole food diet as possible. I’ve seen a number of people do well, where they start to convert more towards a whole food or kind of a paleo type of program. I’ve had some other patients who have been able to manage their chronic yeast issues by doing something called a Specific Carbohydrate Diet. And the way this specific carbohydrate diet works is what you’re really trying to do is just get out these complex sugars, things that take a lot of metabolic energy to break down in the digestive tract. I mean, you could talk for hours about different diets for Candida that work for different types of gut problems. But I think in a nutshell, I hope that gives at least some overview. 

Lindsey:

That’s great. Do you think that diet changes alone can eradicate Candida or do you pretty much always recommend or prescribe antifungals? Or nutraceuticals or herbals? 

Dr. Woeller:

No, I think dietary shifts can make a big change for some people. And so I don’t think every single person will need to do aggressive antifungals. Some of it’s just kind of wait and see how they respond. If they have minor issues, a dietary change is maybe all they need. If it’s more of a long-standing problem, the more symptomatic they are, then usually antifungals are going to be necessary. That doesn’t always mean medication. There’s a lot of great botanicals out there, a lot of great supplements that can work very well. But the more that we can improve the diversity of our microbiome, the greater chance that we have to sort of keep these organisms

in check so that they don’t become a problem. And one of the ways I know that we can do that is just by increasing a lot of the food that we consume as a plant-based diet. 

I’m an osteopath, and I was at my annual osteopathic medical conference. This is a couple of years back. And there was a fantastic lecture that was given by a nutritionist. It’s probably one of the best lectures I’ve actually seen at this conference before. And she did a two-hour lecture on the microbiome. And she showed a slide and I can’t remember where the study came from. But they look at everything from exercise to diet, to alcohol consumption, all of these different factors, at what seemed to make the biggest impact on the microbiome. And basically, it was on a consistent basis eating between 12 to 15 plant based foods a day was the largest impact on the microbiome, even more than probiotics, it was doing that consistently. And what that said to me was 12 to 15 plant based foods a day, just make sure they’re non-GMO and organic, because if you just ate a bunch of polluted fruits and vegetables, that’s not going to do much good. 

Lindsey:

Now, just in case there’s any confusion as to what a plant-based food is, is this just fruits and vegetables? Does this include legumes and beans and nuts?

Dr. Woeller:

Yep. 

Lindsey:

And how about probiotics and fermented foods with Candida? 

Dr. Woeller:

They could be helpful. I mean, one of the ways to improve the microbiome diversity is re-implanting good healthy bacteria through a probiotic. Fermented foods are great. We actually use a lot of fermented foods in our home, on my salads and for dinner every night, but it’s as tolerated. Sometimes for people with severe overgrowth scenarios, implementing fermented foods right off the bat might be a bit much for them, they might react to it. 

Lindsey:

What kind of reaction would you see? 

Dr. Woeller:

Usually bloating, gas, sometimes you can get a histamine reaction if they’ve got any kind of allergic sensitivity happening in the gut, where they feel flushed. Some people might get a rash, they might get headachy.

Lindsey:

And are there specific probiotics that you like that help with Candida?

Dr. Woeller:

Usually, a good broad spectrum I think is worthwhile, something that’s got a number of different Lactobacillus bacteria as well as Bifidobacterium bacteria, Saccharomyces boulardii. It’s actually a yeast, but it actually has anti-candida properties. In fact, I started using it years ago, from a company out of Germany at the time. And we would use it in people when they went on antibiotics, because the antibiotic for bacteria didn’t affect the supplement. And it can help to combat candida overgrowth. So it can be beneficial for some people. That’s one of the probiotics that has some targeting abilities against Candida. You can’t use it with the antifungals –  you have to be careful if you’re on Diflucan or taking Nystatin. You can’t take it at the same time because it will get affected by those. But that could be helpful. 

Lindsey:

And if you’re giving herbal treatments?

Dr. Woeller:

I would tend to separate them. So, the herbals, the supplement companies will market them for a specific purpose. They’ll put on there Candid-X or something like that. And if you look at the list of things, you know, pau d’arco, berberine, oregano. They go, “okay, we know that that can help with Candida, but many of those herbals also are helpful against bacteria, right?” So, I just make a general rule that if you’re using botanicals, and you’re taking probiotics, separate them out, at least by a couple hours. In fact, what I’ll often do is I’ll just have people take their probiotics at their bedtime, right? Whether they’re taking an antibiotic, whether they’re taking a botanical, whether they’re taking an antifungal, and one of the reasons I actually learned to do probiotics at bedtime was from some of the work we do in people with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. For people with SIBO, they actually have too much bacteria in the small intestine, in places where it normally shouldn’t be because a lot of the bacteria that get into the small bowel should be in the large intestine. And what ends up happening when you take a probiotic at nighttime, is you have something called the migrating motor complex. And the migrating motor complex is most active when we’re not eating, so it’s most active during the middle of the night, when we’re asleep, and it’s basically sweeping debris through the small intestine into the large intestine. We can use that to our advantage to help sort of sweep the probiotics into our large bowel during the middle of the night, and therefore you’re also taking it away from any antimicrobial remedy you might be using. 

Lindsey:

And is there any issue with taking multiple probiotics at the same time at night? Like an S. Boulardii? 

Dr. Woeller:

I’ve not had that experience. I mean, you can have any given individual that might have heightened supplement sensitivity, but in general, no.

Lindsey:

Are there specifically nutraceuticals that you like for eliminating Candida?

Dr. Woeller:

Well, you want me to name brands or you just want the ingredients?

Lindsey:

I was getting at the brand. 

Dr. Woeller:

Well, I’ve had very good success over the years with Biocidin (find in my Fullscript Dispensary), which is a combination botanical. It comes in capsules; the liquid liposomal form has always tended to work very well and is usually well tolerated. Some people are very sensitive, and so they can get die off with Biocidin. And so, that’s been an effective remedy for me. There are some other brands, GI Microb-X from Designs for Health is as an excellent product. Candid-X (find in my Fullscript Dispensary), which actually comes from a company called BioMatrix Nutrition tends to work well as well. Candida Defense Formula, I think that’s what it’s called, it comes from New Beginnings Nutritionals. When you look at the ingredients of most of these combination botanicals, they generally tend to have similar ingredients. So again, the berberine, the oregano, the pau d’arco, but when I do a write up program for a person with Candida, I am most commonly reaching for the Biocidin products.

Lindsey:

I find that people can be really sensitive to those, that even a drop for some people is way too much. 

Dr. Woeller:

They can be powerful, they definitely can. I tend to use a lot of the liquid for the kids. So, a lot of my practice is with autistic kids, and it’s difficult to get them to take capsules. And then we know that a lot of botanical liquids are really strong tasting. Whereas the Biocidin is actually good tasting. So, it’s easy to get kids to take it. There’s a lot of flexibility with the botanical products; those are really my favorite. I use them a lot. But yeah, you will have people that are very sensitive and so doing a drop a Biocidin might ignite a Herxheimer or die-off reaction. Whenever that happens that always tells me I’m dealing with somebody here who’s not only very sensitive, but they’re also pretty compromised by what’s going on with them. 

Lindsey:

And will you use the GI Detox then?

Dr. Woeller:

I’m always looking to use a binder. I’m glad you bring that up because the binders are important. And for those who are listening, what a binder does is it acts like a sponge. As we take in things through our food, we’ve taken things through water, it’s going to go into our digestive tract. And there might be toxins in those substances that we want to try to prevent getting absorbed. A binder can help bind up what’s coming into our gut, from the mouth. But we also are pushing things or moving things into our gut from our liver. So, our liver is the main filtering organ of our blood. And it’s going to be dumping a lot of things into our gut so that we can eventually release it through our poop. But anytime you put something in the digestive tract, whether it came from the body through the liver, it has the potential of being reabsorbed. The binders help prevent against reabsorption of toxins. And so, Candida being in the gut, as it starts to die off, is going to release its internal contents. Many of them are toxic to our body. If we have a binder in place, it binds it up and prevents it from being absorbed, and then we poop it out. 

Lindsey:

So, I’m always wondering, because I know in these protocols, especially like the practitioner protocols given by Biocidin, they suggest that you use GI Detox between doses of the Biocidin. And I’m wondering, are the toxins just waiting around till that time of day that you do it once? Why aren’t they constantly being generated? How is once a day good enough? 

Dr. Woeller:

Well, some of it comes down to tolerance. Some of it comes down to the fact that some of the binders can be constipating for some people. The last thing we want to have happen is for somebody to get constipated because if you’re constipated at the same time you’re trying to kill off organisms, what’s going to happen? The toxins that are getting expressed through the die off are now not getting eliminated from the body, they just get reabsorbed. Some of the binders can cause that kind of problem. You really want to take the binder away from food, otherwise, it’s just getting mixed up with food and it’s not optimal. You also want to take it away from other supplements. So, it’s basically there to try to do its job. For example, certain medications, you wouldn’t want to take it with a binder, like thyroid medication, you absolutely want to separate it. So, I think some of it comes down to the practical aspect and the compliance factor for many people. It’s like, how many supplements can they take in a given day, at different times, like, take these before food, and make sure to take these with food, and then make sure to take these away from food, and by the way, do that three times a day. 

Lindsey:

And are fiber supplements as binding as these binders like activated charcoal and GI Detox? Or is that something you can take with food and it’s not as much of a concern for it absorbing nutrients and taking them away or absorbing other supplements?

 Dr. Woeller:

There’s a particular fiber called galactomannan and I’m forgetting what plant or tree it comes from, might be the galactomannan tree. I don’t know. That supplement actually is used for weight loss programs, but it does have some binding capacity. I’m blanking right now. I think it might be a pretty good binder for like ochratoxin, which comes from Aspergillus mold. One of the reasons I like the GI Detox from Bio-Botanical Research so much is that it’s a combination of different binders. It’s got some activated charcoal in there. So, it does have that capacity. But it’s not straight activated charcoal, for me straight activated charcoal, over time, tends to be fairly constipating. I don’t get many constipation issues with the GI detox, it tends to be really well tolerated. And so, it’s an all-around good binder. It kind of it throws a wide net; it’s just going to capture a bunch of different stuff; that makes it very appealing from a compliance standpoint when you’re also having people take multiple other supplements. So, the combination of Biocidin plus GI Detox generally tends to work great. 

Lindsey:

And how long will you have them stay on a binder like GI Detox?

Dr. Woeller:

Most of the programs when I start off for Candida in my mind, I’m looking at least 60 days, I know it might go longer because most of the people I’m dealing with are dealing with chronic problems. It’s not “Oh, I developed this issue, you know, over the past couple of weeks because I took an antibiotic.” So, at least 60 days, in many cases is between 60 to 90 days. The binder, I will keep in play for that as long as needed. And I like to have that timeframe, because I think it’s a decent timeframe for reassessment. So, I want people obviously to be following up. I usually have them follow up in three to four weeks after starting the supplements to say okay, how you doing? How you feeling? Do we need to make any adjustments? And then again, follow up another four weeks after that. I’ll come back and repeat my testing, typically at about 90 days. 

Lindsey: 

And they’ll be taking the supplements continuously for 60 or 90 days? No pulsing? 

Dr. Woeller: 

I’m not pulsing for Candida.

Lindsey:

And are there other fungi that in particular, thinking about the Organic Acids Test, say Fusarium, for example, that are coming from dietary sources that you’re concerned about when you see elevated on that test? 

Dr. Woeller:

Yeah, so if you look at page one of the Organic Acids Test, you’ve got a number of markers that could be linked to Aspergillus mold. The one you mentioned linked to Fusarium, it’s called tricarboxylic. And it actually is linked to Fusarium contamination. Now Fusarium is a mold that does tend to contaminate food, particularly grain products like corn, and corn products. It can be an environmental mold, too. But I tend to find that it seems to have a stronger association with food because I’ve seen it actually go away just by people not eating as much corn products. 

Lindsey:

And do you think all corn products are equally, potentially carrying Fusarium, or are non-organic or GMO products worse in that respect?

Dr. Woeller:

I’ve wondered about the GMO, you know, that’s going to influence it, it probably would at some level. I mean, if the grains are not stored properly, if they’re wet, they’re moist, if they’re not. Depends on how they’re stored, depends on how they’re dried. All of that can influence mold growth. 

Lindsey:

So, it could happen to organic corn. 

Dr. Woeller:

Absolutely you could have organic corn and have it stored improperly, it gets wet, gets moldy, it’s just going to be as much of a problem as non-organic. 

Lindsey:

And if you see an elevated Fusarium say, but not an elevated arabinose, would you look at the same type of treatment? Or would you just say stop eating so much corn? 

Dr. Woeller:

I think it depends on how symptomatic the person is. So, if they’re not real symptomatic, they don’t have the classic symptoms of Candida, there’s nothing there to really pin anything on, it may just be something that they could shift away from corn and they’re fine. If they’re symptomatic at all, then I would move forward with the same or similar treatments to Candida. 

Lindsey:

And are there any good herbal treatments for vaginal yeast infections? 

Dr. Woeller:

In my practice, I don’t personally deal with that, and haven’t it for quite some time. So I would actually reach out to Bio-Botanical Research and talk to one of the representatives. My thinking is as you could probably do the Biocidin LSF, which is the liposomal. Again, I don’t have any direct experience with that. I know that there’s some probiotics out there that women have used, my partner, who you might want to interview at some point, my partner practice Dr. Tranchitella. She could get much more in depth than I can.

Lindsey:  

And one last question. If somebody suspects they have an overgrowth of Candida, they have all the symptoms. Maybe they’ve even gone through SIBO treatment and they’re still symptomatic, and they can’t afford testing like the OAT, which is 300 plus dollars. Is there any danger in treating yourself for it? 

Dr. Woeller:

I’ve never seen anybody have a problem who attempted to treat themselves for it. Particularly when they’re using botanicals and changing the diet. My personal feeling is that something like Nystatin, I think it should be over the counter. It’s a very effective medication. It’s a very safe medication, it stays within the digestive tract. I mean, it doesn’t cause liver damage. Most people tolerate it extremely well; it can be extremely effective. You need to think about some of the medications that are allowed over the counter. Again, acetaminophen. Nystatin to me is one of those medications that I would have personally no problem with if it became an over-the-counter that people could have access to. 

Lindsey:

Will you use that a lot then rather than the herbals?

Dr. Woeller:

I like Nystatin, and it does a good job. I will tend to use it quite often. But I don’t have a problem using botanicals either. One of the things about botanicals is everybody has access to them. 

Lindsey:

And is Nystatin quicker?

Dr. Woeller:

Sometimes, but not always. You’re always going to have those scenarios too where you’ve got Candida plus you maybe have some bacterial dysbiosis. And that’s where a botanical like the Biocidin comes in because it is a combination of different ingredients. It has a broader effect and so Nystatin is going to be very specific. It’s just going to get after the yeast. 

Lindsey:

Okay, this has been incredibly informative, and awesome having you on the podcast. Thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge.

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