Fix Your Gut, Save Your Life
Click here to listen to this episode of the Discover Health Podcast: https://feeds.podetize.com/ep/sFvNbDUL7y/media
Hi! This is Dr. Trish Murray. I am a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, and I’ve practiced for many years in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire. My clinic is called Discover Health Functional Medicine Center. I originally trained in internal medicine, and I was a primary care internist after my residency. But actually, as I practiced as an internist, I realized that prescribing pill after pill for chronic diseases was really not helping people get better. It was not helping them restore their health. And so, I went on to specialize in traditional osteopathy and essentially non-surgical orthopedics. I became a pain specialist.
Also, over the years of practicing this, I’ve realized that the chronic toxicity, chronic inflammation, chronic hormonal imbalances, and chronic infections that people have seem to be the root cause of why they have chronic conditions in the first place. I learned of the Institute of Functional Medicine, and I’ve gone on to become a specialist in functional medicine. It is practicing this specialty that has led me to doing these podcasts and my present mission of empowering you to restore and optimize your own health through education, community, and support. If you like this talk and would like to learn more, please go to my website discoverhealthfmc.com.
Alright, so welcome everyone to “Fix Your Gut, Save Your Life.” This is going to be an interesting talk tonight for everyone. The gut, folks, or the gastrointestinal system, is an incredible gateway to optimal health. The gut microbiome is an ecosystem of organisms or what I call “bugs” including bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses, and even protozoan. They’re all living throughout the digestive tract. Far beyond just your digestive health, the following organ systems are also closely related to your gut health:
- Immune system
- Endocrine or hormonal system
- Nervous system
- Circulatory system
- Skin or integumentary system
- Respiratory system
- Reproductive system
Some of the major functions of the gut include:
- Immune response
- Nutrient absorption
- Hormone regulation
- Vitamin production
- Mood management
- And many more functions
Do you suffer from digestive distress, respiratory issues, heartburn, rashes, water retention, constipation, acne, migraines, congestion, fatigue, irritability, depression, anxiety, dementia, or brain fog? Folks, all of these things, and actually many more, can be traced back to gut health. Has this gotten your attention? If it has, stay tuned to learn how you can fix your gut to save your health and your life!
Functional medicine serves to integrate both conventional medicine and complementary healthcare. It uses a model of personalized care, treatment of the root cause of each issue, and sustainable health promotion. Functional medicine is revolutionizing the medical field by empowering patients to better understand the imbalances in their bodies, how these imbalances affect their health, and the solutions available to support the normal healing mechanisms within your own body. In this talk, I will be discussing what is sabotaging your gut health and strategies to regain control of your health and life with important functional medicine practices!
The gut is powerful, yet it is also very delicate. There are many different factors that inhibit the gut’s ability to maintain its bacterial balance, its structural integrity, and absorptive qualities. A few of the most common enemies to your gut health include:
- The Standard American Diet (SAD). A diet rich in sugar and chemicals and lacking in nutrients and fiber contributes to an unhealthy ecosystem within your gut.
- Excessive Medications. The over prescription of antibiotics, steroids, anti-inflammatories, and acid-blocking drugs significantly disturb the gut’s microbial balance.
- Inadequate Digestive Enzyme Activity. Sufficient digestive enzymes are needed for the breaking down, absorption, and use of nutrients in our bodies. The absence of these digestive enzymes can lead to a host of digestive problems.
- Toxic Exposure. Toxins found in our air, water, foods, cleaning products, and personal care products also damage the gut’s ability to function properly.
- Infections are invasions of the body by pathogens such as bacteria, yeast, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Chronic infections such as gingivitis of the gums in your mouth, Lyme, mononucleosis from Epstein-Barr virus, or overgrowth of Candida albicans are all examples of infections that can disrupt your microbiome and be the root cause of poor health.
- Chronic Stress. The gut is vulnerable to stress-induced changes in many of its crucial functions such as absorption, digestion, and bacterial normalcy.
The S.A.D. Diet. A study from the United States Department of Agriculture, conducted back in 2009, reported that 63% of the calories Americans consume come from processed foods containing preservatives, refined grains, and added sugars and oils. In 2010, the United States Department of Agriculture (the USDA) revealed that approximately 1,000 calories out of the standard 2,700 daily calorie diet were accredited to added sweeteners and unhealthy fats. In contrast to this, dairy, fruits, and vegetables only attributed to 424 calories of the typical diet.
Another 2010 study conducted by the National Cancer Institute showed 3 out of 4 Americans do not eat a single fruit per day, and 9 out of 10 Americans do not meet the minimum recommended daily intake of vegetables. If that doesn’t get your attention, I don’t know what would. The researchers ultimately concluded that, “Nearly the entire United States population consumes a diet that is not on par with recommendations. These findings add another piece to the rather disturbing picture that is emerging of a nation’s diet in crisis.” Again, that was back in 2010.
While everyone’s dietary needs are extremely different, there are general guidelines that everyone can benefit from adhering to. The ideal diet for someone looking to prevent gut imbalances, heal from gut dysfunction, and reverse gut damage includes eating:
- Whole and unprocessed foods
- Plant-based fiber
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables, as much as 6 – 9 servings a day is recommended
- Beans and legumes
- Nuts and seeds
- Non-dairy fermented foods such as fermented vegetables
Now, to determine your specific dietary needs, it is recommended to follow through with an elimination diet. Elimination diets are incredible diagnostic tools to determine food irritants, sensitivities, and allergies that are contributing to a compromised gut. We just completed a 5-week program for people led by our health coach to implement what I call the Detox Plus Program.
My Detox Plus Program gives you a guidebook and five videos that tell you exactly how to do an elimination diet properly, how to supplement with vitamins and minerals to support you through the process, things like Epsom salts baths and breathing techniques to enhance your detox, and how to rechallenge the different food categories properly to identify your food sensitivities after the elimination twenty-one days is over.
Up next, let’s discuss more about an elimination diet and how to try it for yourself!
An elimination diet is administered in a way that removes common food irritants that could be sabotaging your health. The foods to eliminate from your diet during an elimination diet include:
- Nightshade Vegetables (Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant, Potatoes)
- Refined Sugar
- Red Meat
- Hydrogenated Oils
- Packaged & Processed Foods
This exclusion lasts at least twenty-one days to allow time for the negative food-related immune reactions to disappear. Once you have waited the proper amount of time, and again that’s typically at least twenty-one days, you will begin to reintroduce each food group individually while paying close attention to how each food makes you feel. If any of the foods begin to bother you, remove it again, wait until you feel better, and then continue reintroducing the remaining food groups. Don’t worry, though! There are plenty of foods you can have during an elimination diet.
Unless you are aware of any specific dietary needs or your doctor has advised otherwise, foods that are diet-friendly during the elimination diet or elimination phase include:
- All vegetables (except for the ones I listed: corn and nightshades)
- Whole fruits (fresh, frozen, and water-packed)
- Dairy substitutes (almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, rice milk)
- Lean and clean animal protein (wild game, lamb, organic chicken, fresh fish)
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and most legumes (except soybeans and peanuts)
- Gluten-free grains in moderation (rice, quinoa, amaranth, tapioca, buckwheat, teff)
- High-quality oils (coconut, avocado, cold-pressed olive)
- Herbal teas
- Sweetener alternatives in moderation (brown rice syrup or blackstrap molasses)
As I already mentioned, we recently did a 5-week class to support a group of people through what I call the Detox Plus Program. The results were absolutely fantastic for everyone in the group! Everyone saw an amazing improvement in their health. Those of you that are listening, now if anyone is interested in doing an elimination diet, you can learn more about what I call, again, the elimination diet on my website and through my clinic I call the Detox Plus Program. If you go to the shop of my website discoverhealthfmc.com you will be able to see that there is a program there. Again, it has a guidebook, and it has five supportive videos. Of course, you can always call my office to find out when our next live or online support class will be.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture again, the average American consumes over 150 pounds of refined sugars per year! Added sugars come in many forms, so you’ve got to learn to read the labels. You’ve got to learn to find the hidden sugars. I’m going to list off a number of ways that they try and hide sugar in the ingredients of different processed foods in particular:
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Corn syrup
- Corn sweetener
- Cane juice
- Malt syrup
This is not an exhaustive list. Unfortunately, sugar is one of the most detrimental anti-nutrients for the health of your gut. It promotes the growth of bad bacteria, hinders the growth of good bacteria, contributes to the deterioration of the digestive system’s mucus lining, feeds gut-attacking fungus (a bad yeast in particular called Candida albicans), and it promotes intestinal permeability or leaky gut. The main takeaway here is, folks, cut the sugar in order to improve your health and heal your gut.
Gluten. The prevalence of gluten allergies and sensitivities have been on a steady and steep rise. However, research has been suggesting that even those without diagnosed intolerances may still experience digestive distress from the consumption of gluten.
Gluten directly affects the integrity of the intestinal lining due to the production of a protein called zonulin. Zonulin can open up the spaces between the cells of the intestinal lining and in turn, increase the permeability of the intestines all together and cause leaky gut. Leaky gut is the ability for toxins, microbes, and bugs or the undigested food particles to be released from the intestines into the bloodstream. This then causes your immune system to form antibodies, which are proteins, initially produced to attack one of gluten’s most prominent building blocks called gliadin. These antibodies contribute to the secretion of inflammatory chemicals which lead to damage of otherwise healthy tissues.
In other words, your body reacts simply to the consumption of gluten by creating a defense mechanism to fight against it. Once this damage has occurred within the digestive tract itself, it is then disruptive throughout the entire body and your entire immune system.
Now, while gluten is found in the majority of grains such as wheat, barley, spelt, and rye, not all grains contain gluten. But gluten, folks, is not the only problem. Most grains should be avoided while working to heal your gut.
Brown rice, for example, contains something called phytic acid. Phytic acid is difficult for your body to breakdown and digest, and this leads to inflammation within the digestive tract. Phytic acid also affects the absorption of key minerals including magnesium, calcium, and zinc. It also makes digestive enzymes less efficient and causes overall digestive distress.
Now, soaking and sprouting the grains and seeds before you cook them can help remove the phytic acid protective covering on the seeds or the grain, making them therefore more digestible and helpful in the digestion. But this works in moderation. The biggest recommendation for anyone trying to heal your gut over a three-month period, let’s say, would be for most people to avoid grains especially in the early stages of gut healing all together. Again, that would be at least eight to twelve weeks.
Now, according to the Centers for Disease Control, better known as the CDC, in the last 30 days 48.5% of Americans have taken at least one prescription medication, and about a third of Americans have taken three or more prescriptions medications on a daily basis. Some of the many medications that have been proven in research studies to disrupt the bacterial balance in the gut and thus digestive function include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil, Motrin, Aleve, and ibuprofen
- Steroids such as Prednisone
- Birth control pills
Again, these have all shown to disrupt the bacterial balance in the gut and thus digestive function. In most cases, lifestyle changes can replace all of these medications. However, the overuse of these inflammation-producing drugs has become the norm and cause unnecessary stress on the digestive and immune systems.
Now, please realize, I am not saying anyone should stop these medications immediately. Instead, I recommend a person start making the healthy changes in their lifestyle and their diet and start feeling better and healing your gut. Then the medications will start to fall away as you steadily improve.
Your body needs a sufficient amount of digestive enzymes in order to break down food particles efficiently. Without them, the food you eat will not be broken down into the form that your body can actually absorb, meaning the individual nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fats, and amino acids. Your body produces digestive enzymes from your pancreas, your stomach, your salivary glands, and your small intestines. Decreased production of these digestive enzymes can be caused by many different things. Here’s a list:
- Acid-blocking medications
- Zinc deficiency
- Pesticides and the chemicals used within the food industry
- Excessive intake of unsaturated fats
- Heavy metal exposure or consumption
- And many more
But above all, the lack of these enzymes is usually due to a poor diet. Also, as we age, we begin to naturally produce less and less digestive enzymes. Our digestion becomes more difficult and less efficient. In fact, by the age range of 45-55 years old, enzymatic production rate decreases, folks, by as much as 50%. Long story short, it is extremely important to stabilize, preserve, and supplement your digestive enzymes in order to absorb nutrients effectively and efficiently. This can be done by:
- Including more raw food in your diet because you get some enzymes from chewing and eating raw foods
- Eliminating processed foods
- Cleaning the fruits and vegetables that you’re going to eat
- Taking a trusted digestive enzyme supplement
Now, probiotics are live bacteria which live mostly in the colon, which is the lower portion of your GI tract. They produce substances that help to balance your gut’s microbiome by promoting healthy bacteria and hindering harmful bacterial overgrowth. You want the right gang running your neighborhood.
Probiotics can be lost by a poor diet, excessive use of medicine, and exposure to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is the increase in free radicals in our body. Luckily, there are ways to up your intake of probiotics to regain a healthy balance of bacteria within your gut. Probiotics are often found in a wide variety of foods, I always recommend you start with food, including yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kimchi, and kombucha. You may also want to explore further supplementation by taking a probiotic supplement.
There are several different healthy probiotic bacteria strains. The most common are Lactobacillus and many species within that genre of Lactobacillus. Bifidobacterium is another large family with many species within it, but also Streptococcus thermophilus, Saccharomyces boulardii, and Bacillus subtilis. These obviously are Greek long names and so forth. There won’t be a quiz! But the big thing to remember would be Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Those two are the big families of the probiotics that you’re going to see in the synthetic ones you buy or the ones that are in capsules or tablets at health food stores.
Folks, the number one thing that I would say or the bottom line for probiotics is if you make your own probiotic at home like kombucha or sauerkraut, you are going to get billions upon billions more species of probiotics that are good for you that we can’t even begin to consider creating and putting in a pill. So, yes, probiotic pills are helpful, but you really do want to increase good probiotic foods in your diet. Fermented vegetables and fermented foods are extremely important. If you can learn how to do it, and it’s not hard…if your grandparents are still around ask them how! They probably know how. If they’re not, then Google it because, of course, on YouTube you can find many videos on how to make it. I make kombucha at home. I used to make water kefir, but now I’m into kombucha. It just depends on what you want to learn how to make.
Now, functional medicine diagnostic tests, such as a comprehensive stool test, can give you a better understanding of which strains of bacteria are prominent in your individual microbiome. Your microbiome can be tested. At Discover Health Functional Medicine Center, we use the comprehensive stool analysis by Genova Diagnostics with our patients. One of these tests, when you test stool, this test not only assesses the bacteria in your colon but also assesses the function of your upper GI tract of whether your digesting things well and it will tell us whether you’re absorbing the vitamins, minerals, nutrients, fats, and things through your intestines properly. A comprehensive stool analysis can be an extremely powerful test in helping you assess if things are improving or not for you as you go through the different things I’m talking about tonight.
Now folks, exposure to toxins is completely unavoidable. We are exposed to them on a daily basis between the pesticides on our food, contamination of our water, pollutants in our air, and chemicals in our common household products. To reduce and prevent this toxic overload, there are many ways to minimize exposure. Some of them are:
- Eat organic and make sure you’re eating and buying non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) foods
- Air purification systems
- Water filters
- Toxic-free household items and toxic-free cosmetics and personal care items are all beneficial to be shopping for and using your consumer power to your benefit
If you’re not sure what is non-toxic and what isn’t, I tell people all the time about the Environmental Working Group. If you go to ewg.org, that is an amazing non-profit website and organization that will educate you on how to identify products, cleaning products, cosmetics, that are “green” meaning they are non-toxic and help educate you on how to stay away from the consumer products out there that are too toxic.
To further detox from these toxins, you should implement some of these methods:
- Proper nutrition
- Ample hydration to use your kidneys to urinate away any toxins
- Fasting, intermittent fasting to help your gut have time to eliminate things from your body
- Sweating is one of the number one best researched ways to eliminate toxins from your body. At Discover Health Functional Medicine Center, we have an infrared sauna at our clinic. This has been proven in studies to be one of the best tools to enhance detoxification. That’s why I got it, so that our clients and neighbors can be able to use it if they choose.
- Exercising is one of the best ways to help sweat and get your gut moving and be able to help you detoxify.
Infections are caused by foreign invaders, known as pathogens. Pathogens can be either bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi. Acute infections are usually fought off by the immune system. However, chronic infections are not. Instead, your immune system provides continued, ongoing efforts to fight the chronic infection but is not able to completely remove the pathogen. This leads to health problems indefinitely and a severe hindrance on the healthy gut microbiome.
Unfortunately, many of the conventional methods of handling infections also compromise gut health such as antibiotics. Antibiotics are needed, of course, in acute infections as we’ve said. But when it comes to chronic infections, alternatively, it is best to work to understand any infections within your body, optimize your gut and your overall health so that your immune system gains the strength in the power it needs to be able to finally eradicate the infection completely.
Stress can be caused a by a number of sources. Some include:
- Poor diet
- Lack of sleep
- Decision fatigue, constantly having to make decisions over and over throughout the day
- Feeling unfilled
- Major life changes even wonderful life changes like marriage and happy changes of buying a new home are extremely stressful to most of us
Anything that puts high demand on your body, mind, or spirit increases your stress. That being said, it is apparent that most of us experience stress every single day of our lives. However, when stress becomes chronic and we do not practice stress-relieving techniques, our bodies pay the consequences.
The gut, specifically, is vulnerable to stress. Did you know that stress induces changes in the gut’s permeability, in its barrier accuracy, in its sensitivity, in its blood flow, and the secretions of your gut? Studies have shown that the gut’s microbiome responds directly to stress signals. This means that the gut is one of the first lines of defense as well as your first line of attack.
Some strategies to keep stress controlled within your body include:
- Eating an antioxidant-rich diet. if you want to increase the antioxidants in your body, please make sure you eat every color of the rainbow every day. Whole foods, fruits, and vegetables that are red, yellow, orange, green, blue, and purple.
- Deep breathing exercises can also reduce your stress.
- Regular physical exercise is one of the best ways to decrease stress.
- Participating in social activities and being part of a group. Community…they’ve done studies that if people are isolated their inflammation markers go up and their gut permeability worsens. Being involved in social activities as you…some of us are not extroverts and are more introverts but still, you still need to feel connected to other people.
- Finding an enjoyable hobby
- Spending time outdoors
- And many, many more!
One modality that we offer at Discover Health Functional Medicine Center is called neurofeedback. This is an amazing treatment modality that repatterns each person’s brainwave frequencies to quiet their stress response. This is like going to physical therapy for your brain! It’s used to treat things such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, attention problems, addiction issues, and enhance overall performance.
Luckily, it is possible to reverse intestinal damage, heal from digestive distress, rebalance your microbiome, and repair your overall gut health. It is possible! I see it happen every day with patients. Following the functional medicine “Four R’s Protocol” is an incredible tool to truly uncover your health issues, nutritional needs, digestive dysfunctions, and bacterial imbalances. What are the Four R’s?
- Remove means to eliminate the problem foods, the problem toxins, the low-grade infections, and the oxidative stress. Remove the things that are causing the problem.
- Begin reintroducing a clean diet with essential nutrients your body needs to repair itself.
- You’re going to restore and repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria to restore the proper balance of your gut microbiome.
- Replace digestive enzymes, antioxidants, and immune-boosting vitamins to promote a sustainable and healthy digestion.
The Four Rs provide an effective and complete way to address and treat gastrointestinal dysfunctions and achieve optimal health and digestion. This is the protocol emphasized by the Institute for Functional Medicine. We at Discover Health Functional Medicine Center work with each individual patient based on the Four R approach to optimize your healing.
Gut health is truly the pathway to optimize your overall health! Other ways improve your gut health include taking additional supplementations that we haven’t talked about so far tonight would be especially Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin so, of course, if you take too much of it you will store too much of it so that’s an issue where people do need to consider having your Vitamin D tested. I will tell you that there have been studies done that have shown if you take between 2,000 – 4,000 IU a day, you’re typically not going to store too much and get into any trouble. Zinc is another supplement that can help with so many aspects of our immune system and our gut health. Omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil, and another one would be glutathione. Glutathione, folks, is the chemical in your body that’s produced through your liver that is the number one detoxifying chemical in your body.
Another way to improve gut health is through mind-body practices like we were just listing off. Others would be yoga, Qigong, or Tai chi. Stay hydrated. I can never say enough that we need to drink enough clean, filtered, purified water on a daily basis. Limit caffeine and alcohol, increase your fiber intake, and most importantly, get your microbiome analyzed!
As I’ve been talking about these different things tonight…if you’ve sort of been like, check – I’ve done that, check – I’ve done that, check – I’ve done that, but you still are having gastrointestinal distress or anxiety or depression or headaches or many other of the symptoms like eczema, if you’re having these things still then you’ve made a lot of the changes I’ve talked about tonight, then to do a comprehensive stool analysis might be something that’s going to shed a great deal of light on what the issues are for you. We offer that at my clinic, and obviously if you need that then either seek us out or another functional medicine provider.
I really want to say thank you so much for participating tonight. We are passionate about sharing this topic with people who are eager to transform their lives and finally achieve optimal health. If you have any further questions, you always can contact us at Discover Health Functional Medicine Center. We are always here to support you. Hope everybody enjoyed it. Take care!
Contact Discover Health Functional Medicine Center:
Related Blogs, Podcasts, and Resources
- Trish Murray’s Detox Plus Program
- Gut Health at Discover Health Functional Medicine Center
- Environmental Working Group
- The Benefits of Sweating and Infrared Saunas
- Elimination Diet Made Simple
- Discover Health Movement Membership
- What is Neurofeedback with Dr. Trish Murray and Cherie Jewell
Get your FREE copy of Dr. Trish Murray’s first book Make a D.E.N.T. in Chronic Disease
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join the Discover Health Community today:
- Discover Health Functional Medicine Center Website
- Discover Health Facebook
- Discover Health Facebook Group
- Discover Health YouTube
- Discover Health LinkedIn
- Discover Health Instagram