There may be something lurking within the gut, when and where it is least expected.
We’re probably already in tune with keeping the large intestine healthy, balanced and well-populated with good bacteria (got probiotics?).
But, what about the health of the small intestine that is located before it in the digestive tract?
The truth is, this is where the serious business of nutrient absorption happens before the waste products are sent through to the large intestine or bowel to be expelled.
As you can imagine, there’s quite a slippery slope that ensues when the flora in this critical stretch of digestive highway goes out of balance.
At its most basic level, SIBO or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth is when bacteria or other microorganisms, good or bad, grow out of control in the small intestine – an area that would normally have a low bacterial count, as compared to the large intestine.
Microorganisms setting up shop in this area (colonisation) end up damaging the cells lining the small intestine. This is otherwise known as leaky gut or an increase in intestinal permeability.
This, in turn, impairs the digestive process and overall absorption of nutrients which can exacerbate nutritional deficiencies, allow toxins, infections and undigested protein molecules to enter the bloodstream that then cause widespread inflammation, food sensitivities, autoimmune disorders, and other immune reactions.
As mentioned, one of the biggest concerns with SIBO is that you’re not absorbing essential nutrients, like protein, carbohydrates and fats properly. This can cause deficiencies of iron, vitamin B12, calcium, and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
According to experts, the causes are not clearly defined but contributing factors to being diagnosed with SIBO can include:
Coeliac disease is also associated with an increased risk for developing SIBO, and can be of a particular concern, as it disturbs gut motility leading to poor functioning of the small intestine.
Another common condition associated with SIBO is Irritable Bowel Syndrome. As a matter fact, studies have found that SIBO occurs simultaneously in more than half of all cases of IBS. It has even been reported that successful elimination of bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine resolves symptoms of IBS too.
The use of certain medications, including immunosuppressant medications, and proton pump inhibitors (acid reflux medications) as well as heavy metal toxicity, low stomach acid, inflammatory diets, and yep, you guessed it, stress are all thought to be contributors as well.
It is typically diagnosed using a breath test in which the patient drinks a lactulose sugar-containing drink and exhaled gases are measured.
If there are too many bacteria, excess gases (hydrogen, methane or both) will be produced. It should be noted that the reliability of this test is considered less than ideal, but is the only test available at the moment. You can find out more information about the SIBO breath test HERE.
Most nutritionists advise to adhere strictly to the “SIBO diet” for at least 4 weeks – which may include any (or all) of the following protocols:
To learn more about the options for treating SIBO, contact Nutritionist Kate for a free 15 minute fatigue breakthrough call.
World Journal of Gastroenterology: “Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth Syndrome”
World Journal of Gastroenterology: “Irritable Bowel Syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: meaningful association or unnecessary hype?”
Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: “Gastrointestinal motility disturbances in celiac disease”
* no onions, leeks or garlic
2lbs beef marrow bones, thawed, grass-fed preferably
3 large carrots, unpeeled
1/2 medium celery root (not stalks)
Combination of fresh “antibacterial” herbs: few sprigs of each – rosemary, oregano & thyme
2 bay leaves
1Tbs apple cider vinegar, unpasteurized
¼ – ½ tsp himalayan pink salt
Water to desired dilution
Well…yes, they do really work. The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation.
Before we dive in, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation.”
“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body.
Practising “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. I’m going to talk about a few of them below, and refer to it as “mindfulness” for the rest of the post.
The link between mindfulness and health = stress reduction
Have you heard the staggering statistics on how many doctors’ visits are due to stress? Seventy-five to ninety percent!
So, if you ask me, it makes a ton of sense that anything that can reduce stress can reduce health issues too.
Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, reduces anxiety and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.
Next I’ll briefly go over the research in two main areas: mood, and gut health. But know that the research on the health benefits of mindfulness is branching into many other exciting new areas too.
The most immediate health benefit of mindfulness is improved mood.
In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the “Hamilton Anxiety Scale.” They were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness. It seems that the mindfulness training was key to lowering symptoms.
Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression.
While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve moods.
Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria and other critters that help your digestion). In theory, mindfulness-based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the gut’s microbes such as Candida overgrowth.
Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.
The research here is just starting to show us the important link between stress, gut health, and how mindfulness can help.
To learn more about how nutrition as well as mindfulness can improve gut health, contact Kate for a free 15 minute discovery call.
Science is confirming some amazing health benefits of the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation. For your mood, gut health, and more.
Do you regularly include it in your life? If so, have you seen benefits? If not, would you consider trying it?
Let me know in the comments below.
There are many relaxing herbal teas that would be great after meditation.
Try any of these by steeping in boiling water:
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can add a touch of honey if desired.
BONUS Guided Meditation “Recipes” (videos, apps & podcasts)
How to Meditate video
How to Meditate in One Minute or Less Every Day video
Headspace App (free 10-day trial)
Hay House Meditations Podcast
Yes, I’m serious! (And don’t you sometimes wonder anyway?)
You already know that your poo can reflect your physical, and sometimes even emotional, health.
You may get constipation or have diarrhoea when you eat something that “doesn’t agree with you,” or when you’re super-nervous about something. This is common in conditions such as CFS/ME.
And what about fibre and water? If you’re not getting enough, it’ll probably show in your bowel movements.
What about the all-important gut microbes? If they’re not happy, it’ll probably show in your bowel movements.
Here’s a trivia question for you:
Did you know there is an “official” standard for poo? I mean a university-created chart! One that is used to help diagnose conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)?
The Bristol Stool Scale was created at the prestigious University of Bristol in the UK back in 1997.
You can see the chart here.
The scale breaks down type of poo into seven different categories ranging from type 1 which is very constipated, to type 7 which is diarrhoea:
1 – Separate hard lumps (very constipated).
2 – Lumpy and sausage-like (slightly constipated).
3 – Sausage shaped with cracks in the surface (normal)
4 – Smooth, soft sausage (normal).
5 – Soft blobs with clear-cut edges (lacking fibre).
6 – Mushy consistency with ragged edges (inflammation).
7 – Liquid consistency with no solid pieces (inflammation).
You probably guessed that the shapes described in the Bristol Stool Scale are not the only thing to consider for poo health.
Think about how often you go. At least once per day, up to 3 times per day is pretty good. Less than one, or more than three can mean there is something going on.
What about how hard you have to try to go? You want it to be as effortless as possible.
And the colour? It should be brown from the bile that you need to break down the fats you ingest.
And if it’s green after a day of massive veggies, or red after that large glass of beet juice, you’re just fine.
But if you see an abnormal colour, like red or even black, that you can’t explain based on what you ate or drank in the last day or two, you probably want to get that checked out.
Well, the first thing to consider is how imperfect it is, and how often it is like that? Once in a while, things aren’t going to be perfect, and that’s A-OK.
If you know you need to get more fibre or water, then try increasing that.
If you haven’t had enough probiotic foods, then try getting more of them.
If you’re super-stressed, then try deep breathing, meditating, or having a warm bath.
Oh, and don’t forget the two most basic pieces of nutrition advice:
These are good habits for anyone and everyone, even when you have perfect poo!
Of course, long-term issues might require a more thorough review with a qualified health care practitioner. Don’t suffer from poo issues for too long before seeking help.
Contact Kate for a free 15 minute consultation.
2 cans full-fat coconut milk
2 probiotic capsules,
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Fermenting food is not an exact science. If this doesn’t work out as you’d like it to, try different brands of coconut milk and/or probiotics.
Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”
And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut has a bigger role in many diseases than we used to think. And we’re not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhoea, IBS, IBD, etc. We’re talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It’s here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body. We’re just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (have you heard of “the gut-brain axis”). Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.
So, let’s talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I’ll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.
Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste and toxins as things we want to pass right through and out.
This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places.
For one thing, our guts can “leak.” Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins). You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it’s not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can “leak.” When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don’t seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there.
FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.
A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health.
If you have leaky gut and would like to heal it once and for all, contact Kate for a free 15 minute consultation call.
The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilising blood sugar.
So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health!
There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.
Also, you may want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.
By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximise the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colourful fruits and veggies, and fish.
The second pillar of gut health is our microbes. By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Make these a part of your daily diet.
Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fibre. Not eating enough fibre increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fibre plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fibre also helps to feed our friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fibre? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.
Finally, don’t forget the uber-important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.
in conclusion, the function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes.
The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fibre. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.
1 L warm water
4 tsp salt
4 carrots, medium, peeled, sliced
1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)
Make a brine by dissolving the salt in water.
Place carrots into a clean canning jar, packing them in tight. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of head space at the top.
Fill the jar with brine, making sure to cover the carrots completely. Weigh the carrots down to make sure they don’t float (you can use a “fermenting weight”).
Finally close the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 days. The longer it sits, the more the flavour will develop. Feel free to open and taste.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Use this as a side dish, or even a snack.
Constipation is the opposite of diarrhoea – it’s when your stool tends to stick around longer than necessary. Often it’s drier, lumpier, and harder than normal, and may be difficult to pass.
Constipation often comes along with abdominal pain and bloating. And can be common in people with certain gut issues, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It’s also very common in people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME).
About 14-24% of adults experience constipation. Constipation becomes chronic when it happens at least three times per week for three months.
If you have chronic constipation it can cause fatigue and inflammation in the body as toxins recirculate.
Constipation can be caused by diet or stress, and even changes to our daily routine. Sometimes the culprit is a medical condition or medications. And sometimes there can be a structural problem with the gut. Many times the cause is unknown.
Whether you know why or not, there are some things you can do if you get constipated.
So what to eat if you get constipated?
You’ve probably heard to eat more prunes (and figs and dates) if you get constipated.
Why is that?
It comes down to fibre.
Dietary fibre is a type of plant-based carbohydrate that we can’t digest and absorb. Unlike cows, humans don’t have the digestive enzymes to break it down. And that’s a good thing!
Even though we can’t digest it ourselves, fibre is very important for our gut health for two reasons.
First, fibre helps to push things through our system (and out the other end).
Second, fibre is an important food for feeding the friendly microbes in our gut.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water to make a gel-like consistency. It can soften and bulk up the stool; this is the kind of fibre that you want to focus on for helping with constipation. Soluble fibre is found in legumes (beans, peas, lentils), fruit (apples, bananas, berries, citrus, pears, etc.), vegetables (broccoli, carrots, spinach, etc.), and grains like oats.
Psyllium is a soluble non-fermenting fibre from corn husks. It’s been shown to help soften stools and produce a laxative effect.
Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, holds onto water and can help to push things through the gut and get things moving. It’s the kind found in the skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, celery, zucchini, as well as the skins of apples, pears, and potatoes.
It’s recommended that adults consume between 20-35 grams of fibre per day.
If you are going to increase your fibre intake, make sure to do it gradually. Radically changing your diet can make things worse!
And, it’s also very important to combine increased fibre intake with my next point to drink more fluids.
NOTE: There is conflicting evidence on how fibre affects constipation. In some cases, less insoluble fibre may be better, especially if you have certain digestive issues. So, make sure you’re monitoring how your diet affects your gut health and act accordingly. And don’t be afraid to see your healthcare provider when necessary.
Since your stools are hard and dry when you’re constipated, drinking more fluids can help keep everything hydrated and moist. This is especially true when trying to maintain a healthy gut every day, rather than when trying to deal with the problem of constipation after it has started.
And it doesn’t only have to be water – watery foods like soups, and some fruits and vegetables can also contribute to your fluid intake.
Always ensure you’re well hydrated, and drinking according to thirst; this is recommended for gut health as well as overall health.
Probiotics are beneficial microbes that come in fermented foods and supplements. They have a number of effects on gut health and constipation. They affect gut transit time (how fast food goes through us), increase the number of bowel movements per week, and help to soften stools to make them easier to pass.
Probiotic foods (and drinks) include fermented vegetables (like sauerkraut and kimchi), miso, kefir, and kombucha.
More research is needed when it comes to recommending a specific probiotic supplement or strain. If you’re going to take supplements, make sure to read the label to ensure that it’s safe for you. And take it as directed.
Some studies show that the gut benefits from regular exercise.
Ideally, aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes most days.
In terms of stress, when we’re stressed, it often affects our digestive system. The connection between our gut and our brain is so strong, researchers have coined the term “gut-brain axis.”
By better managing stress, we can help to reduce emotional and physical issues (like gut issues) that may result from stress. Try things like meditation, deep breathing, and exercise.
And last but not least – make sure to go when you need to go! Don’t hold it in because that can make things worse.
Optimal digestion is so important for overall health. Constipation is a common problem.
Increasing our fibre and water intake and boosting our friendly gut microbes are key things we can do to help things move along.
And don’t forget how lifestyle habits can affect our physical health! Exercise, stress management, and going to the bathroom regularly can also help us maintain great gut health.
Have you found that fibre, water, or probiotics affect your gut health? What about exercise, stress, and regular bathroom trips? I’d love to know in the comments below!
150g oats, gluten-free
Pinch sea salt
300ml almond milk, unsweetened
2 medium pears, sliced
4 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Toast oats by placing them in a large saucepan over medium-high heat for 2-4 minutes. Make sure to stir them frequently to prevent burning. Add salt, water, and almond milk to the saucepan of toasted oats. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20-30 minutes, or until desired tenderness is reached. Divide into four bowls and top with pears, walnuts, maple syrup, and cinnamon.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: If you want to roast your pears first, place them in a baking dish at 200C for about 10 minutes while you’re cooking the oats.
Do you ever feel a bit “overextended” in the belly after a meal? Perhaps “gassy?” Have you ever carried a “food baby?”
Well, bloating is common. Up to 25-30% of people experience it regularly. It happens when you have trouble digesting. The symptoms come from excess gas, reactions to foods, or food not moving through you as well as it could.
There are many reasons you might experience these symptoms. Maybe because of a serious condition (disease), or a food allergy or intolerance (what you eat). It can also result from how you eat.
If you have a serious digestive issue like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), then make sure you eat accordingly. Same goes if you know certain foods give you gas. Simply avoid them.
If you’re already doing those things, and still experience bloating, here are 5 natural tips to beat bloating.
If you overeat at a meal, then you’ll feel bigger around the mid-section. You’ll feel more pressure in your abdomen. Plus, you’re giving your digestive system a hard time. Consider that your stomach is really only the size of your fist. Compare that with how much you put on your plate. It’s better to eat until you feel almost full and not overindulge. Grab an extra snack or small meal throughout the day if you have to. Just don’t over-stuff yourself in one sitting.
The order in which your foods are eaten can also affect your digestion. Place foods with the highest protein content (animal products) at the beginning of the meal as they require the most stomach acid compared to starches and other foods.
Sugar alcohols are low-calorie sweeteners made from sugars. In an ingredients list, they end in “-ol,” and include things like sorbitol, xylitol, and erythritol. They’re found in some chewing gums and sugar-free foods. Some people experience bloating after eating foods with these. So, try avoiding them and see if that helps you.
Sometimes the gas that causes pressure in your digestive system is from swallowing air. Things like carbonated drinks are the biggest culprit here. You can also swallow air when you chew gum or drink through a straw, so try ditching these.
You can also swallow air when eating too quickly or while talking. Which leads me to…
Eating too fast isn’t doing your digestive system any favours. You can help the food move along by chewing it thoroughly and slowing down your eating habits. Be mindful and enjoy the time you are spending eating your meals. Savour them.
The feeling of stress can also cause increased bloating. Stress-reducing techniques can help improve your digestion. Try meditating or deep breathing (but not while you’re eating). 🙂
Peppermint oil has been shown to improve bloating. It’s thought to increase transit time by relaxing the stomach muscles and increasing the flow of bile. Try steeping fresh peppermint leaves, or a peppermint tea bag, and drinking it slowly. See if that helps reduce your symptoms.
Ginger works much like peppermint, it stimulates the production of stomach acid and bile and helps to reduce gas and nausea. Try it in tea form or simply steep sliced fresh ginger.
There are a bunch of natural ways to deal with bloating.
First, avoid it by not eating things that give you gas or aggravate a digestive issue. Try not to overeat, consume sugar alcohols, or swallow air. Also, eating more mindfully and reducing stress can help too. Finally, if you are experiencing bloating, enjoy a cup of peppermint tea.
If you do all of these, and still experience bloating, then you may have a food intolerance; this could be from an allergy or intolerance. If you have a major concern, then please see your doctor. Your doctor can help to rule out a serious and/or chronic condition.
If you suffer with bloating and want to learn more than my 5 natural tips to beat bloating, contact me for a free 15 minute discovery call.
1 can coconut milk
½ cup almond milk, unsweetened
2 tbsp cacao powder, unsweetened
½ tsp peppermint extract or essential oil (food-grade and safe for internal use)
3 tbsp honey or maple syrup (optional)
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until well combined.
Store in a sealed container in your fridge.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: While the non-peppermint ingredients in this creamer may or may not be “de-bloating” for you, try these ideas too:
If you are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may be thinking “what can I eat for IBS?”Below I describe the best diet for IBS.
IBS is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms. There are 2 types of IBS:
Also the FODMAP diet can help with IBS.
Courteney, H. (2008). 500 of the Most Important Health Tips You’ll Ever Need. 3rd edn. London: CICO Books. pp. 212-214
For more information on diet for IBS, contact Kate to book a consultation today.
The low FODMAP diet is a 7 to 10 day treatment that is often effective for:
The low-FODMAP diet is thought to work by reducing fermentation in the gut. Fermentation happens when naturally-occurring gut bacteria break down certain foods, and produce gases such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane as by-products. In people who are susceptible, this fermentation process can trigger uncomfortable gut symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and constipation.
It is less restrictive than the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD).
Following the low FODMAP diet is a short-term treatment to reduce symptoms of IBS and SIBO. A lot of the excluded foods are very beneficial for feeding the good bacteria in your gut such as the vegetables, fruits and legumes. Also dairy products can boost levels of the good bacteria lactobacillus in the gut. Therefore I would not recommend continuing the diet in the long-term.
For more information on the low FODMAP diet, contact Kate for a free 15 minute discovery call.