I’m sure by now you have heard a lot about the gut microbiome and its role in health and disease. But have you ever wondered why it is so important and what exactly is its role?

Unfortunately, I can’t answer all those questions as research into the gut microbiome is relatively new and there is still so much we don’t know about it. However, here is a basic introduction to the wonderful world of your microbiome. If you have time and really want to delve deeply into the microbiome, then I suggest you read the work of Emeran Mayer.

What is the gut microbiome?

The gut microbiome is the community of microorganisms that inhabits your gut as well as their combined genetic material. These microorganisms include bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa and are also called the ‘microbiota’ or ‘gut flora’.

The gut microbiome is often referred to as the ‘second brain’ because it is so influential on your body, mind and emotions.

“Your gut has capabilities that surpass all your other organs and even rival your brain. It has its own nervous system, known in scientific literature as the enteric nervous system, or ENS, and often referred to in the media as the “second brain.” This second brain is made up of 50-100 million nerve cells, as many as are contained in your spinal cord.”

Emeran Mayer, The Mind-Gut Connection

Functions of the gut microbiome

The microorganisms in your gut have many functions that are integral to your health and wellbeing. So let’s take a quick look at some of these functions.

  • Chemicals released by your microbiome influence the vagus nerve. This is the main nerve that runs between your brain and abdomen. In other words – it is very important!
  • Your microbiome produces many compounds vital to your health. These include:
    • Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is necessary for higher brain functions such as thinking and learning as well as for the development of new neural connections
    • Gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) which helps you cope with stress and anxiety
    • Serotonin which, in addition to being central to your happiness and wellbeing, also plays a role in cognition, learning and memory
    • Glutamate which is another compound vital for cognition, memory and learning.
    • Vitamin B12 which has numerous roles in keeping your nerve and blood cells healthy.
  • Your microbiome plays a central role in helping to control your blood sugar levels as well as the hormones that control your appetite.
  • Your gut microbes are the “gate keepers” to the tight junctions located between your intestinal cells. It is these tiny microorganisms that play a central role in increased gut permeability (leaky gut) and inflammation.
  • Your gut microbes process and detoxify dangerous chemicals that you may have ingested with your food and also constantly interact with millions of immune cells lining your gut, protecting you from infections and regulating inflammation.

The immune cells residing in your gut make up the largest component of your body’s immune system; in other words, there are more immune cells living in the wall of your gut than circulating in the blood or residing in your bone marrow.

Emeran Mayer, The Mind-Gut Connection
  • Your gut microbes digest and ferment compounds that your digestive system can’t handle itself. They break these compounds down into smaller molecules so that they can be absorbed into the blood stream. One such compound that they ferment is polyphenols which are highly anti-inflammatory. Luckily they are found in delicious things such as coffee, red wine and dark chocolate.
  • Your gut bacteria are also great ‘regulators’, regulating:
    • the absorption of nutrients
    • your metabolism
    • intestinal function.

Listed above are only a few examples of how the microorganisms inhabiting our gut keep us healthy and well. What we need to remember is that if we want our microbiome to look after us, we need to look after it….a topic for another blog!

“It’s okay to ask what your microbiome can do for you, but much better to ask what you can do for your microbiome.”

Prescott & Logan, The Secret Life of Your Microbiome

Author: Ruth Hull. Ruth is a homoeopath and integrative health consultant with a special interest in working with people struggling with chronic fatigue, burnout or insomnia. She is author of Anatomy, Physiology & Pathology for Therapists and Healthcare Professionals as well as three other health-related textbooks. She is based in Perth, Australia, runs the online educational organisation, The Health Lounge, and also consults online: http://www.ruthhull.com/

Reference:

Hull, R. Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology for Therapists and Healthcare Professionals. Lotus Publishing: Chichester

Your liver is the second largest organ in your body and there is a good reason for it being so large. Blood from your digestive system is passed through the liver before it goes to your heart to be circulated. The liver ‘cleans’ this blood, ensuring it is safe for the rest of your body.

Functions of the liver

We all seem to think of the liver in terms of it only detoxifying alcohol and drugs, but it actually does so much more than this. Functions of the liver include:

  • metabolising carbohydrates and regulating blood sugars
  • metabolising and storing fats as well as producing cholesterol
  • metabolising proteins
  • removing and excreting alcohol, some drugs and some hormones
  • storing iron and copper as well as vitamins A, B12, D, E and K.
  • activating vitamin D
  • producing bile which is necessary for both digestion and excretion.

No wonder it is so large!

In addition to being so large and integral to our health, the liver is also a fascinating organ in that it regenerates and heals itself. However, it can only regenerate if scarring or cirrhosis has not already occurred. So it is important that you take care of your liver while it is still healthy – you really do need to love your liver!

How to look after your liver

Because your liver is constantly regenerating itself it is important to be aware of how you are caring for it on a daily basis. Think about what you have eaten and drunk so far today – have you given your liver the chance to repair itself or have you ‘bombarded’ it with harmful substances? The most common harmful substances that we tend to take in daily are alcohol, toxins, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, medications, herbs and supplements. Try to follow the 5 steps below which will give your liver a bit of a chance to keep itself in top form and so keep you healthy.

5 Steps to a healthier liver

  1. Reduce your alcohol intake. If you do like a drink or two, try to have 2-3 alcohol-free days a week. Try to make these days consecutive so your liver gets a good chance to rest.
  2. Detox your diet, your home and your skincare products. You’ll be surprised as to just how many toxins and xenoestrogens we consume daily, as well as use in our cleaning and skincare products. Your liver has to process all of these toxins and the more you use the harder your liver has to work. It needs a little break once in a while!
  3. Cut back on your sugar and refined carbohydrates. You may be surprised to hear this, but it is not only fat that is now implicated in the increasingly common liver problem known as ‘fatty liver’ or NAFLD (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease) – sugar, refined carbohydrates and even excess fruit are too.
  4. Steer clear of high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is a cheaply produced sweetener found in so many processed foods it is frightening. It’s not just in sweets and sodas, it’s even in many breakfast cereals, flavoured yoghurts and even salad dressings! According to NIH Research Matters, once inside our digestive system, high fructose corn syrup disrupts our intestinal membranes, plays a role in the development of chronic inflammation and adds to fatty liver disease.
  5. Be aware of what the medications, herbs and even supplements you take are doing to your liver. According to the American College of Gastroenterology there are some commonly used medicines, herbs and supplements that can damage the liver. For example, acetaminophen (paracetamol), statins (used to lower cholesterol), iron and Vitamin A can all harm the liver if used in excess. Although supplements can help many health conditions, I like to do a hair mineral analysis test with my clients so we can see exactly which nutrients their bodies are lacking in and which nutrients they have an excess of.

How to manage liver disease

If you do have a liver disorder such as NAFLD, cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis then please get in touch and we can discuss the homoeopathic approach to liver disease.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dr-ruth-hull_the-health-lounge.jpeg

Author: Ruth Hull. Ruth is a homoeopath and integrative health consultant with a special interest in working with people struggling with chronic fatigue, burnout or insomnia. She is author of Anatomy, Physiology & Pathology for Therapists and Healthcare Professionals as well as three other health-related textbooks. She is based in Perth, Australia, runs the online educational organisation, The Health Lounge, and also consults online: http://www.ruthhull.com/


Reference:

Hull, R. Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology for Therapists and Healthcare Professionals. Lotus Publishing: Chichester

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Do you struggle with frequent loose stools and/or constipation? Do you often have painful bloating and flatulence after eating certain foods? Do you find that stress, worry and anxiety always affect your digestive system? If yes, then you should get to know your ‘friendly little gut microbes’. Living in your gut are about 100 trillion little bugs that, if you look after them well, will look after you.

Gut health

According to the NY Times journalist, Nicholas Bakalar, “There are at least 800 billion more cells in your body than there are galaxies in the known universe”.

Yet, you have approximately 10 times as many microorganisms in your gut as you do cells in your body.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

What is the gut microbiome and what does it do?

Your gut microbiome (often referred to as your gut flora) is made up of all sorts of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa. You can learn more about your microbiome and its functions in my blog: “A quick peek at your second brain – the gut microbiome”, but basically your microbiome:

  • influences your genes, your brain, your metabolism, your intestinal functioning and your blood sugars
  • helps regulate the absorption of food, the sensations of hunger and satiety, and your ability to regulate your weight (so if you want to lose or gain weight you really need to think about the health of your gut microbiome)
  • helps to protect the cell junctions lining your intestines. If these junctions become compromised the disorder ‘leaky gut’ or ‘increased gut permeability’ develops and this is associated with food intolerances and chronic inflammation
  • plays a vital role in our immunity and in helping our bodies to cope with chronic inflammation.

Dysbiosis – Common signs and symptoms

An unhappy microbiome, or one in which there is an overgrowth of ‘bad’ bacteria, is called dysbiosis and common signs and symptoms of dysbiosis are:

  • abdominal pain, cramping and bloating
  • gas/flatulence
  • constipation and/or diarrhoea
  • bad breath (halitosis)
  • food intolerances/sensitivities
  • ‘foggy’ brain, fatigue and mood swings.

Are these common problems you deal with everyday?

Image by 272447 from Pixabay

Homeopathic Bowel Nosodes for Gut Health

Luckily we have many wonderful homeopathic remedies to help with digestive problems such as an imbalanced gut microbiome or dysbiosis. One set of remedies is actually made from intestinal flora – the Bowel Nosodes.

These remedies do not only help with obvious gut issues, but actually work much deeper and are commonly used in autoimmune disease, chronic skin conditions or when a patient is not responding to their constitutional homoeopathic remedy.

When you think about the far-reaching impact our gut microbiome has on our digestion, our brains, our immunity and even our genetics, then it is not surprising that the bowel nosodes can have such deep, far-reaching effects on our health.

Although these are wonderful remedies, I want to emphasise that they are very deep-acting remedies that you should only take under the care and guidance of a professional homeopath.

Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

Although bowel nosodes are deep-acting, ‘health-changing’ remedies, it is important to be aware that they are not “homeopathic probiotics”. They are homoeopathic remedies made from intestinal flora but used to treat a wide range of health problems and they should always be prescribed according to homoeopathic principles.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms used to promote health. They generally contain a variety of microorganisms and different probiotics will have different health benefits depending on the microorganisms they contain. Probiotics can be taken as a dietary supplement or in food. If you are looking for probiotics to improve your gut health I suggest you look at what you eat on a day-to-day basis and try to include more fermented foods in your diet.

What are good sources of probiotics?

According to Harvard Medical School, “Fermented foods are the best source, as probiotic supplements, which are typically sold over the counter, are reserved to treat specific ailments as suggested by your doctor, and not recommended for everyday use. Plus, supplements do not have the same FDA oversight as medications do.”

There are lots of fermented foods you can choose from and try to eat them every single day. Just a quick word of advice though, if you are new to fermented foods eat only a small amount everyday to begin with – give your body time to adjust to them otherwise if you eat too much too quickly you may end up feeling very uncomfortable. Here is a list of different fermented foods for you to try:

  • have a bowl of live yoghurt for breakfast, make a delicious dip with live yoghurt & garlic or use yoghurt instead of mayonnaise
  • drink kefir or kombucha
  • have tempeh instead of meat one night
  • enjoy a delicious miso soup
  • eat sauerkraut or pickles with your meals
  • try sourdough bread with nice fermented cheese.

I am getting hungry just writing this!

Anyway, remember that the health of your entire body and mind are closely connected to the health of your gut microbiome. So look after your microbiome. Feed it good foods and avoid eating too much sugar.

If you are struggling with gut issues or chronic health conditions related to poor gut health & dysbiosis (such as autoimmune disorders, skin conditions, chronic fatigue) and would like a professional homeopathic consultation please get in touch or read more about my online and in-person consultations here. If you’re a homoeopath wanting to learn more about the bowel nosodes, I suggest you read Ai-ling Makewell’s article, Bowel Nosodes: a group of neglected remedies.


Author: Dr Ruth Hull. Ruth is a homoeopathic doctor, integrative health consultant and four-times published author. She is based in Perth, Australia, and also consults online: http://www.ruthhull.com

Please note, these blogs are for your enjoyment and curiosity only. If you feel you, or a friend, needs a homoeopathic remedy please see a qualified, registered homoeopath and please do not, in any way, use these blogs to diagnose or treat yourself.

DISCLAIMER: You should not rely on this information as a substitute or replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have any concerns regarding your health and before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet you should always consult your general medical practitioner or other health professional. The use of any information provided by Ruth Hull and/or The Health Lounge is at your sole risk and no assurance can be given that the information provided will always include the most recent findings or developments. All events and information are provided according to the laws of Western Australia.

References:

Mayer, E. The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health

Prescott, S. and Logan, A. The Secret Life of Your Microbiome