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How to fix leaky gut

180 Nutrition Podcast

Podcast episode #3

By Guy Lawrence

In this weeks episode of The Health Sessions I hang out with leading Naturopath and Nutritionist Tania Flack and discuss leaky gut, dysbiosis and how to fix it. If you want to jump straight to this and skip Stu & I’s ramblings go to [13:03] of the podcast.

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In this weeks episode:-

  • Stu & I introduce the show and chat about…
  • Dairy, Neem tea, quality of tap water & hair mineral analysis
  • Tania Flack & I chat about… [13:03]
  • Why a healthy person can have an unhealthy gut
  • How to fix leaky gut
  • What exactly is dysbiosis
  • Why detoxing the liver before the gut is not the best approach
  • and much more…

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Podcast transcription

Guy Lawrence: Tanya, thanks for dropping by.

Tanya: You’re welcome.

Guy Lawrence: So, first question I wanted to ask you was simply, well, myself and Stewie came in for a gut test last week.

Tanya: Yeah?

Guy Lawrence: And our results weren’t that fantastic. So, for anyone listening, could you talk us through what the test was and what you were looking for?

Tanya: Yeah. The test we do for dysbiosis basically measures the chemical that’s given off by an overgrowth of bacteria in the bowels. So, if you’d like to call it “bad bacteria.”

Guy Lawrence: So, is that what dysbiosis is?

Tanya: Yeah. It’s an overgrowth of bacteria and you’ve got a balance of good and bad bacteria, so if you’ve got an overgrowth of the bad bacteria they give off a certain chemical. And the chemical that they give off is then absorbed across the gut mucosa and it gets into the blood stream and into the urine, filtered by the kidneys and into the urine. So, we do a urine test and that tells us about the level of bad bacteria.

Guy Lawrence: So, dysbiosis is simply the main bad bacteria that you test for?

Tanya: Yeah. it’s an overgrowth of that bacteria. We’ve got a balance of good and bad bacteria in the bowel which is, on somebody with a really healthy gut, we’ve got the presence of both of those. But with dysbiosis we’ve got an overgrowth of bad bacteria. So, they give off an interactive protein and give off a chemical that we can then measure with the urine.

And, depending on the test results, we can tell if there’s; how much of that chemical is interacting with the reagents that we use in the test and that gives the bottom part of our test tube a different colour.

So, we grade it by that. Yeah, and that’s how we identify dysbiosis in clinic.

Guy Lawrence: So, you made myself and Stewie eat a heavy-protein meal the night before.

Tanya: Yeah. Yeah. And it, basically, the bacteria, their interaction with protein, and if you’ve got a lot of bad bacteria and have had lots of protein, it will give off this chemical that we measure in the urine.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right. OK. What interested me was that my gut health wasn’t great. I had really poor results. Stewie’s wasn’t fantastic even thought it was a little bit better.

Now, I consider myself to be healthy and look after myself and I exercise and do all the right things. So, why would that be? Because, just to add on as well, you mentioned that you had another athlete in there a few weeks back that actually looked after themselves and ate exceptionally well, and yet his gut health was really poor too.

Tanya: Yeah. It’s not uncommon. It’s not uncommon, and even people who’ve got a beautiful diet can have dysbiosis. And that can be for a lot of different reasons. I mean, you might have been eating really well for the last five years, but we don’t know what your gut health was like, you know, the 10 years prior to that.

So, sometimes it can be disappointing for athletes. You know, they’ve got this spectacular diet, they train and look after themselves, you know; the tick all the boxes in a healthy lifestyle but they can have this dysbiotic gut for a number of years before they ever get it tested. So. . .

Guy Lawrence: So, could our upbringing and our lifestyle 10, 15 years ago be affecting our gut health right now?

Tanya: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.

Guy Lawrence: That’s incredible.

Tanya: When we’re born, we get inoculated. We get our first load of bacteria via the birth canal as we’re being born. So, you know, realistically even children that are born by Cesareans can sometimes be behind the eight-ball because they don’t get that first inoculation in the gut that sets up their bacterial colonies.

I mean, we gather it as we go along, but ultimately sometimes people have just never had a really fantastic and strong levels of good bacteria in the gut. And it’s very disappointing because we know that if you’ve got a good diet and if you eat a lot of whole foods, good bacteria love; it’s their fuel source, really. They love the fibers from vegetables. You know, that’s what helps them establish and maintain their colonies.

And bad bacteria tend to thrive in conditions where people have got lots of processed foods, lots and lots of sugar, alcohol; that type of thing. So, even though in our minds we have this great diet, very people have a perfect diet. And if they’ve come from a place where they don’t have great gut bacteria to start off with, it doesn’t take much.

Guy Lawrence: Do environmental toxins and chemicals and things like that affect the gut as well?

Tanya: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s such a big part of our detoxification mechanisms, because if your; basically, if you don’t have a great gut you’re gonna struggle to get rid of a lot of environmental toxins, and it’s kind of a vicious cycle, really. How it works is we’re exposed to toxins every single day and those toxins enter our bodies and eventually they’ll present at the liver to be processed. And the liver packages them up into a little envelope and it covalently bonds them to another molecule so they’re stable and then once they’re cleared by the liver they’ll get put into the gut. And if you’ve got a high level of bad bacteria, that bad bacteria will cleave apart that bond and then you’ve got a free molecule toxin. And that free molecule toxin can literally get past across the gut wall and back into the blood stream and then back to the liver.

Guy Lawrence: And it’s leaky gut.

Tanya: Hence leaky gut. Yeah. And for women it’s particular important. For men as well, but women can recycle their estrogens that way, so sometimes people won’t present with necessarily a lot of gut symptoms, but they might have a lot of hormonal symptoms. And, you know, basically they’re recycling their estrogens. They’re not producing too much estrogen, but they’re recycling it.

Guy Lawrence: So, will leaky gut affect your mood?

Tanya: Oh, it affects your mood. It affects your hormones. We know research has shown that it affects your insulin signaling, which new research has come out so we know people with metabolic syndrome more than likely have got leaky gut.

Guy Lawrence: Wow, that’s fascinating.

Tanya: We’re lucky we can go this testing clinic, because it’s quick, it’s easy, it’s non-invasive. Some people we do more extensive tests such as a stool sample. So, not very glamorous but it gives us lots of information about how they’re breaking their food down, what bacteria they’ve got in the gut, how open the gut wall is; how porous it is.

And it’s just so important. If you’ve got an imbalance in the gut, which could have been there from a long time ago, it affects everything. It affects energy production, it affects how well you absorb your nutrients, so you might be having this beautiful diet but if your gut’s not working properly then you’re putting in all this effort and you’re not getting everything you should get from your diet. It affects hormone metabolism, estrogen. It definitely affects mood. We say it all the time. So, it’s like a fundamental thing that we address in clinic.

Guy Lawrence: So, that should be one of the first things we should be looking at before we start attacking everything else?

Tanya: Yeah, absolutely.

Guy Lawrence: Now, if; so, once tested for leaky gut, how do we go about rectifying that?

Tanya: The treatment’s relatively easy, depending on the level of bacteria in your gut. It can be a two-week period in clearing that. However, you can’t just clear out a lot of bad bacteria; we use antimicrobial herbs. You can’t just do that. You have to address the mucous membranes of the gut. So, you’ve got really a lovely potent, nourished gut that’s functioning really well. And, realistically, you have to re-inoculate the bowel with probiotic bacteria.

And a lot of people say, “Well, I take probiotics. I take probiotics every day.” And they’ll come in here and, you know, we test them and they still have their really high level of dysbiosis. And the reason for that is if you’ve got this existing overgrowth of bad bacteria, putting good bacteria in there is never really going to completely correct that balance, and you really have to get yourself a level playing field while killing off all those bad bacteria. Then you can re-inoculate the gut.

And when the gut wall is really well-nourished then those bacteria; those colony-forming units you read on the side of the probiotic that you’re taking; they will be able to adhere to that bowel wall and they’ll be able to successfully set up. And then you get that nice balance of the gut.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. And once; so, like, for myself, now that I’ve gone through the process of rectifying my leaky gut. Would this be something I should be coming back, say once a year, to check and see where; that you continue on top of it, or is something you can do, it’s fixed, and just carry on?

Tanya: No, I think it’s definitely worthwhile having it checked once a year. It’s not a difficult thing to do. And we find that we are exposed to, like, for the course of this year, you’ve unfortunately had your run-in with your elbow infection. Those antibiotics that you took during that time really disrupted that balance in the gut. Lots of things disrupt the gut, you know. Lots of things.

And we are, unfortunately in Australia, we have this growing rate of bacteria like pathogenic bacteria we pick up from our food. And we’ve seen in this clinic a huge growth in blastocystis, difficilous, all of this bacteria that literally cause symptoms in the bowel. And once you’ve got one of those ones in there it can cause a big problem in keeping that balance. So, they have to be treated separately, which sometimes can be quite challenging, because a lot of them are drug-resistant these days.

And we’ve noticed in the clinic that since they’ve brought (this is probably going to be controversial), but since they’ve brought in farming methods where they’re recycling sewage and using that as a fertilizer in vegetable farming; bio-solid farming in Australia, we’ve seen the rate of some of those bugs go through the roof. And we don’t pick those up with the urine test, so people who come in and they’ve got symptoms and it’s sounding suspicious, we’ll send them off for a CDSA. They’ve have the stool sample and they’ll literally they do three samples and they put samples of that in a Petri dish and wait for it to grow and see what grows in them. Unfortunately, we’re seeing a lot of that, so the advent of that bio-solids; you know, people are traveling a lot more so they’re being exposed to all the bacteria.

Guy Lawrence: So then if you’ve got that bacteria that will. . .

Tanya: That will impair your healthy balance in your gut.

Guy Lawrence: And then require a specific prescription, again, to kill it?

Tanya: Absolutely.

Guy Lawrence: Wow, that’s fascinating.

Tanya: Yeah. I know. It’s really unfortunate that we just had seen that huge spike in that in clinic.

Guy Lawrence: The other thing that you mentioned before that fascinated me as well was around the conventional detoxing, because you can correct me on this, but the fact that if you go straight into a detox or have a detox kit and you haven’t fixed up your gut first, then you’ll be looking at a problem and you could be creating more of a problem?

Tanya: Yeah. You can create more of a problem because, you know, fundamentally I’ve seen a few of these detox kits in the health food shops, and, look, I’m sure some of them are quite good. However, basically you need your gut to be potent and you need to be able to pass toxins out through your body via the bowel. It’s a big eliminatory channel, so a lot of the detoxes, they just focus on the liver, which is a big mistake because basically our liver is always under a bit more stress these days because it’s the same liver, the same liver function you had from a caveman diet. The only thing that’s changed is our exposure to toxins. So, it’s always working much harder than it should.

And these toxins that get presented to the liver, they can get passed through to the bowel and then you can recycle them. So, if you stimulate the liver to speed up its detoxification processes, all you’re doing is putting more and more toxins into a bowel that’s not ready to accept them. And you have this recycling that just means that you’re stirring up the system without actually getting a lot out.

And the other thing about detoxification is that the process, the first process of the liver, uses oxygen to process the toxins and then it gets passed to the second process, which makes them the safe molecule to go into the bowel.

If you’re speeding up this first phase and your second phase can’t cope with it, then what’s happening is you’re causing oxidative stress in the body. So, this is why people feel awful on some detoxes because they’re literally just generating this huge oxidative stress and then all of those toxins get put into the bowel and then they cycle back out if the bowel’s not potent.

Guy Lawrence: And to me that sounds quite a concern, because you walk into any chemist and the detox kits promoting the 10-day lemon detox or there’s different things and surely something like this cannot be fixed in the window of time?

Tanya: No. No. I mean, for some people, if they have got good bowel; if they’ve got a good bowel function, then maybe they’ll get great results from that and that’s fantastic. I’m all for it. However, I’ve got to say, everybody that comes into our clinic we test them at least once on their first appointment and often we test them every single time when they come in.

And we know that 80 percent of the people we see in here, they’re not all coming for bowel conditions. They have got some level of dysbiosis in the gut. So, I would concerned of people like that who went out and just took something that stimulated the liver. You know, fundamentally they’re just generating a lot of oxidative stress in the body and they’re not really getting rid of anything.

Guy Lawrence: Does dysbiosis affect weight loss?

Tanya: Well, this new research that’s come out has indicated that dysbiosis in the gut affects insulin signaling, so it affects the way our blood sugar is regulation.

Guy Lawrence: Yes, because if you produce insulin, you can’t burn body fat.

Tanya: Yeah. Exactly. And we do know that if anybody comes in to see us for weight loss we always address the gut anyway. And we’ll address the gut at the start of that, and, you know, it’s part of the success of the people who just want to lose body fat and get themselves back into a healthy body composition.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah, because what we’ve been promoting of recently is if you are looking; obviously we’re way into February now, but if somebody is looking to lose weight, actually start from the inside and work out.

Tanya: Yeah. Absolutely. And it’s just, you know, ultimately if you’ve got a lovely whole foods, healthy diet, and you’re active, you should get to your natural, healthy weight. But a lot of things can interfere with that.

Guy Lawrence: Yeah. That’s fair enough.

So, just to finish off, Tanya, if anybody is interested in having these tests, what’s the best way to go about it?

Tanya: Well, we’re really happy to help people with testing in the clinic. And so if they’re interested in having a dysbiosis test or a urine indicans test we can come out there. And if you mention this podcast, we really like to support the 180 crew, so anybody who listens to their podcast are more than welcome to come in and mention that they’ve listed to this and we can work out a special deal where they get a urine indicans test and they get a live blood analysis and the findings from the live blood analysis really tie into the urine indicans test, so that’s what we’ll do, and a zinc test as well, which gives us some information about how they’re absorbing their nutrients.

Guy Lawrence: So this will all fit together?

Tanya: Yes, they’ll fit nicely together and it gives you a great baseline, so from there if you need some help sorting out dysbiosis it can help you there, or it gives you a good baseline so you know where you’re currently at at the moment. And if you’re making that effort with your diet it’s worthwhile making sure that you’re processing things properly.

Guy Lawrence: I understand. And also you can be reached through TaniaFlack.com?

Tanya: Absolutely.

Guy Lawrence: Well, thanks for your time, Tanya. That’s awesome.

Tanya: Thanks, Guy.

Guy Lawrence: And I’ll see you soon. Cheers