What is your gut trying to tell you?

What is your gut trying to tell you?
There are many signs of an unhealthy gut; gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn, fat malabsorption, intestinal gut permeability, food intolerances and nausea. You may feel you are struggling to find foods to eat which don’t aggravate your symptoms and have tried an array of probiotics, OTC supplements and medication which just aren’t making a difference.
This is when you may want to speak to a nutritional therapist like myself and take a deeper dive into the root cause of your gut symptoms. Nutritional therapists can support for people struggling with gut health issues and digestive conditions by providing expert guidance and a tailored approach to make safe and effective changes to diet and lifestyle

Should I consider Gut Testing?

The gut, or the gastrointestinal (GI) system is made up of a group of organs: the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, liver, pancreas and gallbladder. It is also home to your unique gut microbiome which is made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes. Therefore, when you look at it in total it is all interconnected but when one part goes wrong, it can have a downstream effect somewhere else.

This is why gut testing is becoming increasingly more part of my practice. The need to try and highlight specifics such as pancreatic function, fat absorption, markers for intestinal permeability, inflammatory markers, immune regulation and the gut microbiome profile are the corner stone to making clinical recommendations.

A gut microbiome profile can highlight chronic disease-related markers based on robust science using human clinical trials or other reproducible methodologies. Specific bacteria can help us better understand the health of the gut barrier and mucous membrane. This gives us a key insight into immune regulation, infections and intestinal permeability which can lead to food intolerances, allergies and more systemic inflammation.

While the gut microbiome test is not used to diagnose small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO), it helps identify the presence and quantity of SIBO associated species such as Desulfovibrio spp., Methanobrevibacter Smithii, and Biophilia wadsworthia.

Further to the gut microbiome, we can also add GI health markers which measure calprotectin, Secretory IgA (SIgA), beta-defensin 2, bile acids, occult blood, pancreatic elastase, and Zonulin. This test can be used to provide a clinical picture of how a patient is responding to their microbiome, plus an overview of digestive function, immune regulation and indictors for chronic inflammation.

Invivo Diagnostics is my preferred testing option when it comes to gut testing based on their clinical expertise and understanding of the relationship of the gut microbiome with the host and chronic disease. The GI Ecologix stool test uses qPCR & ELISA technology to provide relevant clinical markers.

Gut Testing and Chronic Disease

We are learning so much about the relationship of specific bacteria and chronic illness that the gut is becoming an area we can target first rather than simply treat the symptoms. If we look at chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), we now have a wealth of data to show that bacterial species, Prevotella copri, have been identified as highly enriched in the gut microbiota of patients newly diagnosed with RA. Patients with rosacea were more likely to be suffering from SIBO and when treated for this bacterial overgrowth there was a significant improvement in the skin. Key commensal bacteria such as Akkermansia muciniphila are found in greater abundance in those with healthier metabolic status, as shown by a lower waist-to-hip ratio and insulin sensitivity. Specific gut pathogens, plus lack of healthy commensal bacteria can be found in conditions such as IBS and IBD. More recently, we have data to show that the type of bacteria in the gut may influence the severity of COVID-19 as well as the magnitude of the immune system response to the infection. Furthermore, imbalances in the microbiome may also be implicated in persisting inflammatory symptoms, dubbed ‘long COVID’. Overall, we can’t ignore that 70-80% of the immune system resides in the gut and it is imperative we optimise our gut health to ensure better immune health!

Long term, the findings from gut testing inform decisions about specific probiotics, prebiotics, the need for digestive enzymes or natural antimicrobials, supporting bile function, and nutrients to support gut barrier function. It is the only way to take the ‘guess-work’ out and invest in a more sustainable and tailored therapeutic approach.

Another great benefit from seaweed is the contribution of healthy fats. Most lipids in seaweed are polyunsaturated, composed of omega 3 fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The presence of such healthy fats is associated with benefits for reducing depression in the elderly and lowering the inflammatory markers for diabetes and Cardiovascular disease.

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