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8 Signs that your Gut Bacteria are Out of Whack!

Every day, there are new studies coming out exploring the connection between human gut bacterial populations, and practically every other aspect of human health. Most people don’t realize it yet, but what you eat and how you live will change the makeup of your gut bacteria. This also means that if you can change your gut, you can change your life.

The first step is realizing that something is wrong with your gut bacteria in the first place. So what can you do to determine if there might be an issue with the population of bacteria in your gut.

There are more than 100 trillion bacterial cells in the average human gut, and they have a greater impact on our health than medical experts and researchers previously realized. There are GOOD gut bacteria and BAD gut bacterial species. Good gut bacterial species help to improve our digestion, strengthen the immune system and aid in the manufacture of vitamins that our body needs. Bad gut bacteria can cause skin conditions, nightmares, brain symptoms, autoimmune conditions, detoxification problems and a whole host of functional issues that could eventually lead to chronic diseases.

Here are 8 signs to watch for to determine if your gut bacteria are imbalanced.

  1. Digestive Issues

The first and most likely symptom that we find in patients with gut bacterial imbalances are digestive problems. Our gut bacteria are very important to our ability to break down and digest foods, in order to get our required nutrients. The issue is that an imbalance can lead to slowing or quickening of the digestive sequence. These can lead to digestive symptoms such as:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis)
  • Heartburn/ ”acid reflux”
  1. Inability to Lose weight

Certain gut bacteria have been shown to exist in patients that have more trouble losing weight. I personally went through this issue as my imbalanced gut flora was contributing to unhealthy food cravings, fatigue, and tiredness. Through laboratory testing, it was determined that the balance of my bacterial populations was a contributing cause to my weight gain and my inability to lose weight. Once I was able to rebalance my flora, the weight fell off and I burned off a total of 75 lbs while improving so many other aspects of my life.

  1. Mental Issues

Did you know that imbalances in your gut can affect the health and function of your brain? Your gut bacteria actually produce a significant amount of neurotransmitters, the chemicals used by your brain to communicate between cells. There is a new trend being researched currently, that people with certain patterns of mental dysfunction also tend to have disturbances in their gut bacteria. These mental symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Brain Fog
  • Autism
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  1. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

We absorb most of our vitamins and minerals through our gut, and these important molecules then travel to our cells through our bloodstream. An imbalance in gut bacteria means that your body will actually have a harder time absorbing these essential vitamins and minerals such as:

  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin B12
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  1. Excessive Antibiotic Use

When they are used correctly, antibiotics are one of the greatest innovations in modern medicine, however, in our current circumstances, we are being prescribed antibiotics at an irresponsible rate. They are being used indiscriminately on factory-farmed animals and some doctors even prescribe them for viral infections (which is quite useless). Antibiotics are great for wiping out bad bacterial species, but they are also good at eliminating good bacteria in the gut which we now know are essential for our health. It is important to intervene on your own to help replenish good bacterial species if you have had recent or longer-term antibiotic use.

  1. Inability to Deal with Stress

Stress can be good and bad. It can build you up or tear you down. If you are the type of person that has trouble dealing with stress, meaning that you become more anxious and have increased blood pressure, then that negative stress can have profound effects on your gut bacteria. Unmanaged stress raises our Cortisol stress hormone levels, which tells our gut not to work correctly. Under stress, our bodies send more energy to our muscles, and less blood to our internal organs. Digestion is not considered an important issue when you are running away from a lion or dealing with an annoying client at the end of your work day. If you have not taken steps to manage your internal stress levels, you are far more likely to have an unhealthy gut flora.

  1. Skin Conditions

Your gut is an extension of your skin, or depending on your perspective, your skin is an extension of your gut. There is a misguided but common idea that the symptoms of a condition must appear in the same spot as the problem itself. This is not true as we now know that an issue in your gut will often appear on your skin as a sign that something is not right inside. Unbalanced gut flora have been implicated and proven to be contributing to multiple skin conditions including:

  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Dry, scaly skin
  1. Autoimmune Diseases

There is more and more research coming out each week showing that our gut is ground zero for immune system balance. We have immune cells present in every millimeter of our gut, protecting us from negative outside influence. As we continue to expose these cells to environmental toxins, herbicides, pesticides, plastics and other harmful food-based proteins, we are over-stimulating our immune cells to the point that they can’t keep up. Eventually, they start attacking anything that looks similar to these toxins, which often leads to autoimmune diseases. These conditions can include:

  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
  • Ulcerative Colit
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Dementia
  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Asthma
  • Vasculitis
  • Type 1 Diabetes

WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

So now that we know how to spot potential issues with gut flora balance, what can we do about it? There are a few easy steps that we can all take to help balance your gut bacteria.

  1. Avoid Chemical and Environmental Toxins

Throw away your plastic food containers and recycle your plastic water bottles. Plastics are a major source of environmental and chemical toxins including BPA. Eating organic foods will also help to eliminate the ingestion of herbicide and pesticide residues like Glyphosate, which has recently been linked to cancer. Eat a clean, whole food, organic diet and use glass containers and glass bottles to avoid chemicals that are constantly around us.

  1. Eliminate Toxic Foods and Medications

Certain foods tend to lead to increased inflammation in the gut and can produce imbalances in gut bacteria. In fact, having these foods can lead to cravings for unhealthy food on an ongoing basis. The foods to avoid include grains, conventional, grain-fed dairy, sugars and unhealthy oils. Its also a good idea to avoid other modern toxins that are always available such as Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen and Antibiotics.

  1. Eat Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are a proactive way to encourage good gut bacteria to grow. These foods were very common in our ancestors’ diets and are full of good gut bacteria. Great options include:

  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables
  • Non-pasteurized yogurt, cheese, and kefir
  1. Take a GOOD QUALITY Probiotic Supplement

Our ancestors were not as concerned with hygiene as we are. They used to play in the soil and other “dirty” things that they encountered. A good probiotic can help make up for the hygienic practices that we use on a daily basis. There are a wide range of probiotic supplements available and here are some guidelines to use when choosing a good probiotic:

  • Stay away from the cheapo bins – you get what you pay for
  • Make sure they are potent, a minimum of 10 Billion cultures per dose for regular probiotics and a minimum of 3 Billion cultures per dose for spore-based probiotics
  • Look into supplements that contain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
  1. Manage your Stress

One of the most powerful things you can do besides changing your diet and taking probiotics is to take time and learn how to handle daily stressors that will inevitably come up. There is certainly no one-size-fits-all method to this, but the key is to find something you enjoy and stick with it. Some great options include:

  • Getting a weekly massage
  • Yoga
  • Weight-lifting
  • Meditation
  • Taking a bath
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Going for a run or a bike ride
  • Watching the sunrise
  • Periodic vacations
  • Getting a good night’s rest

These practices can all help you reduce inflammation, lower cortisol levels and lead to an overall improvement in gut function. Taking time for yourself is essential not only for your mind to recharge but for your body to recover from the constant stress we place on it.

Making these changes are the first step in re-balancing your gut bacteria. Some people may need further assistance and testing to determine why issues can exist or persist. If you would like to find out more about our Functional Medicine Program at The Living Proof Institute you can visit www.becomeproof.com or book a free 15-minute phone consultation at www.iamproof.com.

Wishing you great gut health,

Dr. Navaz Habib

www.drhabib.ca

10 Easy Ways to Cut Out Sugar

We all know that sugar is a major negative player in our health, regardless of how specific our knowledge is. It should come as no surprise that high sugar intake has been linked to a vast number of medical conditions including, but certainly not limited to: Diabetes and insulin resistance, some cancers, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune diseases and immune dysregulation, obesity and of course weight gain.

Not all sugars are created equal. In fact, naturally occurring sugars like those found in fruit, honey and maple syrup (unprocessed) are not as bad as processed sugars and high fructose corn syrup, and they also contain important antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Here are some practical tips that you can use to help cut avoidable sugars out of your diet.

  1. Stop Buying Processed Foods

This is the biggest change that you can make in your diet when cutting down on sugar. Here’s an easy rule to remember – if it comes in a box, bag or can, it contains added sugars. It’s not uncommon for a single food item to actually have four to five types of sugar added.

  1. Choose whole, fresh fruit

Dehydrated fruit, juice and our childhood favourite Fruit Roll-ups are all made up of almost pure sugar, and have been stripped of their all important phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber. Buy whole fruits and have them cut and ready to eat any time you crave a snack or for dessert. Choose berries, cherries, oranges, lemon and lime over denser fruits like apples and bananas.fruit

 

  1. Make Homemade Tomato Sauce

You would be surprised how much sugar goes into a can/bottle of tomato sauce. Next time you are at the grocery store, read the ingredient list on a can of any brand, noting how high sugar is on the list. Its amazing how good tomatoes taste when they simmer in a pot with some fresh herbs and spices. Here is a great recipe for Homemade Tomato Sauce.

  1. Make Your own Salad Dressing

Sugar are very commonly hidden in store bought salad dressings. I find that these store bought dressings actually don’t taste nearly as good as my basic, easy homemade dressings, where I mix up 2-3 ingredients at room temperature:

Choose 1 oil (Extra Virgin Olive, Avocado or Walnut are quite good)

Choose 1 vinegar (Balsamic is my favourite but plain white or cider also work)

Optional ingredients include sea salt, pepper, dried herbs, fresh squeezed lemon juice (just a bit), but my favourite is mustard seeds which gives the dressing a kick.olive vinegar bottles

 

  1. Don’t keep “treats” in the house

It’s as simple as out of sight, out of mind. If it’s not in the house, you can’tpassively snack on it while binging Netflix on a Sunday in your pyjamas. If you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it! In fact, stop calling them “TREATS”… it’s a trick 😉

  1. Cut out Soda

This one is a no brainer. Trade in soda for water with lemon, lime, cucumber or frozen berries. If you still need something bubbly, drink soda water, either plain or with lime or lemon.

  1. Avoid Flavoured Yogurt

Most commercial yogurts contain as much sugar as a candy bar. Don’t eat it! Instead, buy or make your own plain yogurt and add fresh fruit, and maybe some honey if you still need some sweetness.

  1. Read the Ingredients on all sauces in your fridge

You would be surprised to find that many of the sauces located in your refrigerator contain more sugar (and sugars with other names to trick you like high fructose corn syrup) than you expect. It is readily found in barbecue sauce, ketchup, relish, hot sauce, chutneys, jam and jellies, in relatively high quantities.

condiments ketchup ingredients

  1. Give yourself rules about Dessert

Sometimes you give in to temptation, and that is completely understandable. We are all social creatures and eat foods to fit in to the crowd. Its tough to attend a birthday party or holiday dinner where there isn’t cake or pie being served. Two options include setting a rule of only eating these desserts on special occasions, or the three-bite rule – limit yourself to three very mindful bites of dessert and often times you won’t even want any more.

  1. Try Dark Chocolate

This has become a go-to option of mine personally. Choosing a dessert option that has significantly less sugar, but contains the positive benefits of cacao. You probably won’t be able to eat a full bar of dark chocolate, like you can with milk chocolate.

Candida Overgrowth

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Candida Article

We have all heard the word ‘Candida’, but many people don’t quite understand what it is. Candida is the genus name for a specific type of Fungus, which is a form of Yeast. Candida fungus, most commonly Candida albicans is present normally in small amounts in our mouth and intestines. It normally functions to help our body to digest food and absorb nutrients.

Occasionally under the right circumstances, Candida can grow to unsafe levels causing gastrointestinal issues. This problem arises when the microbiome is out of balance – called Dysbiosis (less good bacteria and yeast, more bad bacteria, parasites etc.) giving Candida the opportunity to grow to excessive levels.

There are certain food and environmental triggers that cause Dysbiosis:

  • Diet high in refined Carbs and Sugar
    • Diabetics have a higher level of oral Candida than the general population
  • Diet too high in good Fermented Foods (Pickles, Sauerkraut, Kombucha etc,)
  • High Alcohol Consumption
  • Taking Oral Contraceptives or Estrogen replacement (hormonal imbalance)
  • A round of antibiotics can kill off too many
  • High stress lifestyle
  • Autoimmune conditions and weak immune systems

As the delicate balance of the microbiome is negatively affected by any of these triggers, Candida has the opportunity to grow to unsafe levels causing issues in our gut. The fungal yeast will then begin to wreak havoc on your intestinal barrier, causing Intestinal Permeability or Leaky Gut. Any allergens or toxins that are in our gut from our diet can then enter our blood stream leading to many symptoms that may lead to Chronic health conditions such as:

  • Digestive issues – bloating, constipation or diarrhea (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Feeling tired and worn down – Chronic fatigue, Fibromyalgia
  • Skin and Nail infections
  • Autoimmune conditions – Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis etc.
  • Brain Fog, Poor memory, lack of focus
  • Mood Swings, irritability
  • Vaginal or Urinary tract infections
  • Strong cravings for sugar and refined carbohydrates

Many of these conditions have various sources, so it’s important to confirm that Candida is the source of these symptoms. To do this, see a Functional Medicine or Natural Health Doctor to perform in-depth testing like Stool testing, Urinary Organic Acid and Blood testing and determine the root cause of your symptoms.

If Candida is the source of these issues, how can we restore a normal balance to your microbiome and decrease the levels of Candida in your body? There are a few important steps that you need to go through to ensure that you can restore balance to your gut:

Step 1: Stop Feeding the Yeast

Candida is fed by Sugar, so step 1 is to eliminate refined sugars and carbs. Stop eating candy, high sugar deserts, carbonated soda, alcohol and flour. We also need to decreased intake of complex carbohydrates like grains, beans, fruit, bread, pasta and potatoes. If we don’t feed the Candida, it can’t grow and eventually the excessive levels will die off.

Step 2: Build up levels of good bacteria

Once the Candida levels are decreasing, it is important to re-establish the levels of good bacteria. After consulting with a health care professional, you may want to begin a course of probiotics. These will help to increase the levels of friendly bacteria in the gut that helps with our normal digestion.

Step 3: Heal your Gut

If your intestinal wall has been damaged by the high levels of Candida and bad bacteria, there are certainly high levels of inflammation which need to be reduced. To do this, we need to eliminate inflammatory foods from our diet – foods that promote high levels of inflammation. Choose real foods and focus on green and colourful vegetables, grass-fed beef, free-run chicken and good fats like nuts and seeds. All of these foods will promote healing of the gut while eliminating the high levels of inflammation.

Candida is common and needs to be addressed before it causes serious chronic conditions. If you think you may have Candida overgrowth, speak to a Functional Medicine Doctor in your area for more information.

 

References

Cole, W. (2015, June 12). Dr. Will Cole. Retrieved from How Candida Overgrowth Can Wreck Your Health + What To Do About It: http://drwillcole.com/how-candida-overgrowth-can-wreck-your-health-what-to-do-about-it/

Li, Q., Wang, C., Tang, C., He, Q., Li, N., & Li, J. (2014). Dysbiosis of Gut Fungal Microbiota is Associated with Mucosal Inflammation in Crohn’s Disease. J Clin Gastroenterol, 48:513-523.

Myers, A. (2013, April 4). Mind Body Green. Retrieved from 10 Signs You Have Candida Overgrowth & What To Do About It: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-8376/10-signs-you-have-candida-overgrowth-what-to-do-about-it.html

Pallavan, B., Ramesh, V., Dhanasekaran, B. P., Oza, N., Indu, S., & Govindarajan, V. (2014). Comparison and correlation of candidal colonization in diabetic patients and normal individuals. J Diabetes and Metabolic Dis, 13:66.

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul – Candida Article

Fungus causes Chronic Sinusitis

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul: Fungal Allergy Symptoms

Every spring, people with seasonal allergies to pollen and other allergens have to make a choice – either take an anti-histamine and enjoy the outdoors, or sit indoors watching others bask in the glory of the beautiful weather that has recently arrived. Well, I’d like to add a new option for all the chronic seasonal allergy sufferers out there – Get rid of the fungus that is making your allergies more severe.

It has been known for many years that our sinuses are home to a host of bacteria and fungi, both in people who suffer from chronic sinusitis and those who don’t, but a distinction has recently been found.  People who suffer from Chronic Rhinosinusitis are HYPERSENSITIVE to the fungus. This means that allergy sufferers tend to have a stronger response to the presence of fungi that is present in the mucus.

In hypersensitive people, one type of white blood cell (called an Eosinophil) tends to react more strongly to the presence of fungi in the sinuses following acute reactions to pollen and other allergens.  These Eosinophils release granules that are highly toxic to the fungi, but area also toxic to the top layer of our cells (epithelium) on the sinus walls.  Studies conducted at the Mayo Clinic have shown that patients with chronic sinusitis showed exaggerated responses to common airborne fungi such as Alternaria and Alternata, but these same fungi elicit no response from healthy normal individuals.

2 important questions to ask yourself are: “What is causing my White Blood Cells to be Hypersensitive?” and “What other sources of allergic triggers am I exposed to?”

There are many sources of hypersensitivity reactions from our immune systems, and breathing air through our airways is just one path for potential allergens to enter our bodies.  The food and drinks that enter our gut are also potential sources of hypersensitivity.  If you are eating foods that you have a sensitivity to, your immune system will constantly be on high alert and could be a cause of hypersensitivity, even in your sinuses.

It is important to note that a food sensitivity is different from a food allergy, as an allergy causes a fast-acting, localized reaction (for example, a Peanut allergy) while a sensitivity causes a delayed-onset, prolonged, diffuse reaction (for example, Gluten sensitivity).  These reactions are triggered by different types of antibodies released by our white blood cells.  Chronic sinusitis could very well be caused by hypersensitive white blood cells reacting to fungi, after being exposed to a trigger in the gut.

So what can allergy sufferers do for their chronic sinus inflammation?

  1. Breathe IN through your NOSE

People who inhale through their nose tend to have decreased risk of sinusitis or allergic triggers.  This is due to the hairs in our noses that filter out the air, blocking potential allergens from entering the airways and sinuses.

 

  1. Identify Allergic and Sensitivity Triggers

Using an elimination diet can help to stop food triggers from putting your immune system on high alert.  Eliminate foods that have a higher risk of sensitivity such as Gluten, Fermented cheeses, Chocolate and Beer.  An elimination diet should only be performed under supervision of your health care provider.

 

  1. Allergy and Food Sensitivity Testing

Visit a Functional Medicine doctor to get IgG Food Sensitivity testing done.  This can identify foods that you have specific sensitivities too and thus should avoid or eliminate from your diet immediately.

 

  1. Get a Comprehensive Stool Test Done

If you have been prescribed antibiotics in the past for issues relating to your sinuses, you may have a disproportionate balance of gut bacteria remaining.  Stool testing can determine if you need to take a probiotic to help heal your gut and help with digestion of meals.

References

Kita, H. (2015, June 9). Mechanisms of Chronic Rhinosinusitis. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic Research: http://www.mayo.edu/research/labs/allergic-diseases/mechanisms-chronic-rhinosinusitis

Myers, A. (2015, 06 09). Cure Your Seasonal Allergies Naturally. Retrieved from Amy Myers MD: www.amymyersmd.com/2015/04/cure-your-seasonal-allergies-naturally/

Ponikau, J. e. (2000). Role of Fungi in Allergic Fungal Sinusitis and Chronic Rhinosinusitis. Mayo ClinProc, Vol 75.

 

I originally wrote this article for The Hearty Soul: The Hearty Soul: Fungal Allergy Symptoms