GUT HEALTH NUTRITIONIST
Gut health is an area of increased interest as we find out more information about the ways our gut bacteria have a big influence on our health.
As a nutritionist specialising in gut health, I see more and more clients coming to me with health problems caused by some sort of gut issue. Common gut problems include constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, candida overgrowth, leaky gut, small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO), coeliac disease, gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances.
From clinical experience I can confirm that the gut is at the centre of most health issues and must be taken into account for all of my clients no matter what they have come to see me for. The health of the gut can have an effect on the occurrence of autoimmune conditions, mental health issues, hormone imbalances, your ability to lose or gain weight, the occurrence of chronic disease etc.
Gut Bacteria Test
The gut microbiota is the collection of bacteria (and a few other organisms) that live in our gut. More than a trillion microbes live in our gastrointestinal tract, majority of which live in the large intestine. The relationship between the bacteria and the host should be mutually beneficial.
Our gut microbiota help us by:
● Protecting us against harmful pathogens
● Influencing hunger and appetite
● Strengthening our gut lining
● Helping with digestion
● Making some vitamins, amino acids and short chain fatty acids
We help the bacteria by giving it a place to live and food to eat.
A ‘healthy gut microbiome’ is different for everyone. Important characteristics are a good variety of different types of gut bacteria residing in our gut – this is called microbial diversity, as well as stability and resistance to changes such as antibiotics or infection. When our gut microbiome is healthy, it produces more antioxidants and short-chain fatty acids, has better fat breakdown and lower gut inflammation.
Dysbiosis is when the microbiome contains more ‘bad’ bacteria than beneficial bacteria and is out of balance. This imbalance can cause a wide range of symptoms, many of which have been listed above.
Environmental factors such as diet, stress, exercise, living conditions, pets and drugs have an impact on the composition of gut bacteria.
When I am working with a client, we may find it useful to test the composition of the gut microbiome. This gut bacteria test is done via a stool test. This test will identify the type of bacteria they have in their gut (both good and bad) and the amount of each as well as worms, parasites, pathogenic bacteria and a wide range of gut factors such as digestive enzymes, short chain fatty acids, Secretory IgA (the immune system of the gut) and inflammatory factors. This super comprehensive test may provide the answers to years of gut health issues.
Inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract can be caused by disease in the bowel (coeliac or inflammatory bowel disease). Long term inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract can cause damage to intestinal lining and therefore the absorption of nutrients. A healthy gut produces more short-chain fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation. Eating a healthy diet full of vegetables and limiting excess sugar and salt can help keep gut inflammation down.
Gut Health and Weight Loss
Gut health is something that I look at very closely with clients starting their weight loss journey. If there is some degree of gut dysbiosis present in a client, it can greatly impact their ability to lose weight. This is because there is a connection between long term weight gain and low microbiome diversity and dysbiosis. Gut dysbiosis can cause immune system dysfunction and inflammation, which will hinder the ability to lose weight.
Lifestyle and environmental factors (such as poor diet and sedentary lifestyle) can also impact the genes and therefore enzymes in your gut bacteria, which influence the body’s ability to lose weight as well as its response to stress. These ‘weight-resistant microbes’ are associated with sugar breakdown.
There is a lot of research going into this area as there are still some areas of the gut health-weight loss relationship that we still don’t understand. However, it is quite clear that making some changes to your lifestyle can have a positive effect on your gut and can help you lose weight a bit easier.
Gut Health and Anxiety
The gut is sometimes referred to “the second brain” because of how many signals our gut bacteria send to the brain and have a direct effect on the brain. There is a large nerve called the vagus nerve that connects the gut to our brain. The communication between the gut microbiome and the brain is called the ‘gut-brain axis’.
Dysbiosis and gut inflammation have been linked to mental ill health such as anxiety and depression. Research looking into the impact of adding more gut-friendly foods to your diet on mental health are finding promising results.
Anxiety and stress can have a really big impact on menopause symptoms in women. Stress responses can cause progesterone to decrease, which can then exacerbate menopause symptoms such as hot flushes and weight gain.
The body can also slow down gut function to deal with stressors, as part of it’s flight-and-flight responses and actions of the sympathetic nervous system.
Working on improving the gut microbiome can have a huge impact on mental health and our ability to handle stress. This can be worked on with me in-clinic as a solution to avoid medications that may have an adverse effect on our gut and the composition of the microbiome. Many side effects of anti-depressants are gastro-intestinal in nature.
Gut Health Specialist
I have seen many clients over the years that have had underlying gut health issues that were unknown for many years or just accepted as the way their body works. These gut issues can have a real impact on eating habits and the ability to lose weight. Seeing a gut health specialist can make a huge positive impact on your gut symptoms and your quality of life.
If you think you have underlying gut issues that are stopping you from reaching your health goals, book in a consultation with me so we can find the root of the problem.