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

I’ve noticed that a lot of people really don’t have a clue what homoeopathy is. When I tell people I’m a homoeopath I often get met with a blank stare, or worse, a cutting retort – “oh, you’re one of those”.

So I thought I would try to explain what this beautiful form of medicine really is all about. The underlying philosophy in homoeopathy is that each and everyone of us has a life force within us.

Homoeopathy and the vital force

Think about it – what makes you you? What is it that when you are alive makes you who you are? Makes you vibrant and unique. It is a life force that makes you who you are. It is an energy within you. At death this energy leaves and your body becomes nothing more than a mass of organs and cells.

This life force is universally recognised and different cultures have different names for it – the soul, prana, chi, ki. As homoeopaths we call it the life principle or vital force.

When we are ill, the signs and symptoms of the disease or disorder we have are actually signals telling us our vital force is out of balance. This is why homoeopaths do not like to suppress signs and symptoms such as fever or pain – we don’t see these as a problem. We see them as a message that there is an underlying problem that needs to be addressed.

What is the difference between conventional medicine and homoeopathy?

I think one very important difference between conventional medicine and homoeopathy is that in conventional medicine we see states such as pain or inflammation as being a problem and so take painkillers or anti-inflammatories. In homoeopathy, we see these states as the vital force’s attempt to correct an underlying problem in our body. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homoeopathy, wrote more than 200 years ago:

If even the minutest splinter penetrates a sensitive part, the life principle, which is omnipresent in our body, does not rest until the splinter is carried away through pain, fever, suppuration or necrosis.

Samuel Hahnemann, Organon of the Medical Art

From Hahnemann’s words you can see that the pain, fever, suppuration or necrosis are not the problem – they are the body’s way of trying to get rid of the problem, which in this case is the splinter. We have a choice here – we can either take a medicine that suppresses the pain, fever or suppuration or….we can take the splinter out and the pain, fever and suppuration will go away by themselves. In cases where the splinter is too deep and cannot be taken out, we could use a homoeopathic medicine to encourage the body to push out the splinter.

Silica is a great homeopathic remedy for splinters

Silica (Silicea terra) is a great homoeopathic remedy you can use to help expel foreign objects, such as splinters and thorns, from your body.

Image by Elivelton Nogueira Veto from Pixabay

The way I think about health and healing is that you wouldn’t kick a man when he is down, now would you? So when you are sick, when your body’s energy is low and not really coping, why take a medicine that not only further suppresses your body’s natural healing mechanisms but that also becomes an additional stressor to your body? Why add something else to the list of ‘enemies’ that your body is already fighting?

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, medical treatment is the third-leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer in the United States. Homeopathy and Chinese medicine are two examples of possible alternative approaches to disease that do not treat the illness as an enemy and therefore do not create new diseases.

Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

Why not, instead, nurture and strengthen your body so that it can cope with whatever comes its way? Why not balance and strengthen your own vital force so that it can maintain your health?

These days you frequently hear the expression “the war against” this or that, and whenever I hear it, I know that it is condemned to failure…The war against disease has given us, amongst other things, antibiotics. At first, they were spectacularly successful, seemingly enabling us to win the war against infectious diseases. Now, many experts agree that the widespread and indiscriminate use of antibiotics has created a time bomb and that antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, so-called super bugs, will in all likelihood bring about a reemergence of those diseases and possibly epidemics.

Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

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.


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

Your internal environment is regulated by hormones and even the slightest change to hormone levels can have a large and lasting impact on your body.

Cortisol, The Hormone of Stress

One hormone, in particular, has a significant effect on your day-to-day life, affecting your ability to cope with stress, your energy levels, your weight, and even your reproductive and sexual health.

This hormone is cortisol and it is primarily released in times of stress via the activation of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis.

Circadian Rhythms

Cortisol has many functions in the body and is the hormone that helps you wake up in the morning, gives you energy to exercise and helps you cope with stress.

It is released in a cyclical (circadian) rhythm, peaking in the mornings at approximately 8am and then waning in the afternoons, between 3-4pm. 

This rhythm enables you to get up and function in the mornings and then relax and ‘switch off’ at the end of the day.

Interrupted Sleep, Insomnia, Fatigue

If, however, cortisol is constantly being released into your bloodstream due to ongoing stress, then this natural rhythm and hence your sleeping rhythms become displaced. 

High levels of cortisol circulating in your blood stream in the middle of the night means you will be wide awake in the middle of the night.  When these levels crash early in the morning you will too.

Blood Glucose Levels, Insulin Resistance, Inability to Lose Weight, Exhaustion

Another of cortisol’s functions is to increase the level of glucose in your blood stream.

However, constantly high levels of glucose in your blood stream lead to insulin resistance and the effects of insulin resistance include fatigue, increased appetite, abdominal weight gain, and eventually Type II Diabetes Mellitus.

Poor Immunity, Frequent Infections & Poor Healing

High levels of cortisol also suppress your immune system resulting in frequent infections and poor healing.

Gut Health, Woman’s Health and Pregnancy

In addition, excess cortisol has a negative effect on both your digestive and reproductive systems leading to digestive disorders, PMT and difficulties in conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy.

What is Stress Doing to You?

So if you find you can’t sleep at night, can’t lose weight, are constantly sick or struggle with digestive or menstrual/reproductive problems then perhaps it is time to stop for a minute and take a closer look at your stress levels and how you are coping with them.

Adventure Travel Infographic (1)

Author: Dr Ruth Hull (Homoeopathic Doctor)

Ruth is an integrative health consultant, four-times published author and homoeopath.

www.ruthhull.com


REFERENCES
Jain, J.  2005.  Chapter 31, Animal Hormones, Fundamentals of Biochemistry (online). Available at: http://www.cuchd.in/e-library/resource_library/University%20Institutes%20of%20Sciences/Fundamentals%20of%20Biochemistry/Chap-31.pdf (Accessed 26 May 2016).