Gut Issues


Although the stomach, intestines and rectum and many more organs are involved in digesting and absorbing everything we consume, we generally only ever think about how important they are when they start to misfire, causing heartburn, reflux, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel, or any number of symptoms that we can experience when we've neglected, challenged or abused these all important parts of our body.


Depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive and many other mental health issues have their roots in our digestive system misfiring. Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride and author of the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome has written extensively on the connection between our digestion and neurological and psychiatric conditions as well as autoimmunity and our gut. In short,  there is a connection between the great majority of health issues, mental and physical, and how well (or not) our digestive system is functioning. 



On average we (as adults) carry 2kg of bacteria in our gut. It is a highly organised micro-world where certain species of bacteria have to predominate to keep us healthy both physically and mentally via good digestion and absorption of essential nutrients. There is a great deal of evidence and research supporting the important role of a delicate balance of bacteria and the monumental impact on our health cannot be ignored.  If the gut is out of balance we can't digest and absorb foods properly and we develop mulitple nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies can commonly be seen in individuals with learning disabilities, psychiatric problems, allergies, cancer and so many other conditions. Indeed, one of the major functions of the beneficial bacteria in the gut flora is to control approximately 500 different, and known to science, species of opportunistic microbes that would otherwise create an imbalance and lurch the body towards  a downward spiral in health and wellness levels.


Within my own clinic I am increasingly finding that the vast majority of health issues have an underlying gut problem that has driven the body or mind into expressing symptoms of ill health.  Like other professional naturopaths and as part of my normal clinical practice, I look at the health history of not only the presenting patient but I also investigate the health history of the patient's parents and family members. Apart from general genetics, the parents and in particular the mother passes a unique gut micro-flora status to the offspring. Clinical signs of abnormal or imbalanced gut flora are present in almost 100% of mothers of children with neurological and psychiatric conditions. Common health problems that may indicate gut flora imbalances are digestive abnormalities,anxiety, depression, skewed ways of thinking, autism, allergies, auto-immunity, PMS, chronic fatigue, headaches and skin problems. The grandmother's role also cannot be under appreciated either for the eggs of the grandchild were developed at the same time as her daughter and those eggs carry information and a response to the health or otherwise of the grandmother. 



But apart from the impact of our family genetics and micro-flora hand-me-downs, what else can negatively impact on our gut flora? The modern diet, stress, antibiotics, the contraceptive pill all seriously damage and effect the gut flora by wiping out beneficial strains of bacteria in the gut and upsetting the balance.  In particular, the commonly consumed Western modern diet of processed and fast foods provides for a gut environment that contains high concentrations of starch and acids.  This environment benefits negative bacteria, destroys beneficial bacteria, and allows opportunistic microbes the opportunity to grow into large colonies and occupy large areas of the digestive tract much to the detriment of our health.



How to respond then to bacterial imbalance ? It's not just as easy as taking a multii-strain probiotic or eating yogurt.



For example, have you ever noticed that people with neurological and psychiatric conditions often look pale and pasty ? Because their guts are not working optimally, they are not absorbing sufficient balanced quantities of nutrients, minerals. essential amino acids and fats - and the gut is allowing groups of pathogenic bacteria to flourish. Many of the latter are iron-loving bacteria leaving the body and blood deficient in iron - hence, pale and pasty. So in these cases, should we supplement with iron ? Definitely not -  iron supplementation may make the problem worse. It's the foundational health problem and the multiple deficiencies that need correcting in order for a return to health, and that means working with the gut, often via adjustment of diet as well as supplementation of certain probiotic strains  albeit with the rider below.



It should be said that there is a great deal of research into probiotics at the moment - particularly in how various strains are specific for certain conditions. The science is definitely not in yet but there is a general consensus that probiotics certainly have a significant role in ameliorating many conditions, both mental and physical.  We're still very much at the beginning of working out which strains and which balances correspond to various conditions.



The father of modern medicine Hippocrates said "all diseases begin in the gut!" the father of modern psychiatry French psychiatrist Phillipe Pinel, after working with mental patients for many years concluded in the early 1800's "the primary seat of insanity generally is in the region of the stomach and intestines". Modern scientific research continues to confirm just how right they were. 


If you have a difficult to manage condition that hasn't been resolved for many years, either mental or physical, you may have a gut imbalance even though your condition isn't normally associated with poor digestion/absorption. Book a consultation with me via email, christine@thebodyguard, or phone me direct on 0421 379615, or 07 31512183




The Body Guard with Christine Barnes

Naturopathy, Nutrition, Wellness, Yoga and Meditation

Noosa Heads, Qld, Australia

Ph: 0421 379615, 07 31512183