“Why Do Some People Suffer Gut Problems More Than Others?” (IBS Part 2)

This post starts to answer some of the questions I posed last time. Everything hangs on your immunity. It really is the be-all and end-all of wellness or illness. Let me tell you a story, a bit scary in places but it all ends happily ever after.

When you were developing in your mother’s womb, your gut was sterile. When you were born, you were covered with the bacteria and other microbes that were in your mother’s vagina – the same ones that were in her colon. (Told you it was scary!)

Walking BarefootYou were put to the breast where you and your brand new gut microbes were nourished and you all thrived. As you grew you were given a good diet of eggs, meat, healthy fats, vegetables, fruit and quality dairy products. Playing was fun and you crawled around the garden in the sunshine, tasting the worms and making mud pies. (Well I did!)
Childhood illnesses were encountered and fought off and even when antibiotics were necessary, you were quick to recover on your nutrient-dense diet. The status quo is maintained and you continued your healthy lifestyle. As an adult, you are healthy and wellness is easy.


Now another even more scary story which does not end so happily.

When you were developing in your mother’s womb, your gut was sterile. When you were born, it had to be by Caesarian section as your mother was in difficulties and you had to go straight into an incubator. You had not picked up your dose of mum’s gut microbes but you got a little of everyone else’s flora from being handled. As your mother was unwell for a while, you were fed formula milk and you and your new – but unbalanced – gut microbes were nourished.

French FriesYour diet was mostly quick and easy foods as your mother went back to work and you play time was mostly indoors at the nursery. You suffered all the childhood illnesses going around at the time, and needed several courses of antibiotics which upset your tummy. As an adolescent you settled on a high carbohydrate diet as the government advised.

You had a holiday abroad, got a stomach bug from which you partially recovered but ever since, your stomach has been a problem. Foods you were able to eat become ones you now can’t tolerate. You suffer gas, diarrhoea, stomach cramps  gurgling and more. As an adult, you don’t really know what wellness is.These symptoms can be due to IBS, but may progress to being celiac disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease (IBD). All these diseases are autoimmune conditions.

I have made these stories simple but there are lots of other factors that contribute to how you will fare health-wise. Vaccinations, household cleaning products, exposure to sunlight, accessible good quality food etc. – if/how/when these are done will all impact on your immunity.  The problems encountered in the second story can be overcome as long as the very basics are observed – nurture of the immune system.

Next time I will give you a “close up” of what is happening in a gut suffering “dysbiosis” – microbial life at war!

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The Resistance to Antibiotics

There is more news today about the dangers of antibiotic resistance. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. When we routinely use antibiotics (in animal farming and for some chronic illnesses) or occasionally use (for eg. a throat infection), we are just opening the door for the opportunist bully-boy microbes to get a foothold as we and the animals will have such poor immunity.

Antibiotics don’t just wipe out the pathogens – they also wipe out the very microbes that keep us healthy.

A short history lesson: Simple organisms such as bacteria and yeasts, have been around since life on earth began more than 3.5 billion years ago. All other life arrived long after this time. More animal and plant species have become extinct, than exist today and that is an understatement. When (not if) we die out, micro-organisms will still live quite happily. We are not in charge – they are.

However – we’re not going just yet! We have to learn to live with micro-organisms – and I say learn because, due to “products”, we have lost our natural ability to defend ourselves against pathogens. I have written many times on the different aspects of our immune systems so I will keep it brief here.

There are two classes of microbes that we have to manage. The ones that help us to live and the rest. If we concentrate on nourishing and nurturing the types that we depend upon for life and health, the others will (most often) stay in their place and be relatively harmless to us. If we ignore this, we allow the usually harmless organisms to become a pathological threat. Simple isn’t it?

Here are a few of links to other blogs regarding immunity:
Winter Bugs
Snot a Joke!

“Urgent action to develop new drugs” is the cry of Professor Dame Sally Davies, the government’s chief medical officer.  Although this may save the dying, it will do nothing for our future. Look after your immunity.

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The Price of Health – part 3

Here are more reasons why we are a chronically sick society. Please read parts 1 and 2 from previous weeks.

5)    We over-exercise or not at all. This is fairly self-explanatory. Strenuous, frequent and long duration exercise stresses the body and uses up nutrients far too quickly. There is no harm (in fact it is good) in running, cycling or swimming for short spells. We do need to keep our heart and lungs fit and participating in these activities a couple of times a week will bring health benefits. Staying active is the main message. Walking is underrated – it’s good for you!


6)    Famous people are putting their names to big brands. Louis Smith (an Olympic gymnast) has become a front-man for Subway and Beyonce (singer) has become front-man for Pepsi  Mo Farah now advertises Quorn – fake food. This is very bad news for our children who see these people as role-models and copy them.

7)    Greed for money and power has overtaken our population. We are naturally “greedy” and are born that way. But we do not use this word when we are referring to our behaviour to stay alive – it’s often every man for himself. It is certainly this way in nature but we as human beings (or most of us), have tempered this instinct as it has social benefits.
For some though, this seems to be an impossibility. The desire for money and the power that it often accompanies, becomes the goal in life. This can lead to a complete disregard for others and without expanding too much here, lying, cheating and deceiving are the behaviours that are seen in order to achieve the goal. You have seen it time and again on the news those in powerful positions frequently do not have the welfare of their fellow man at heart (although this is exactly the justification that they will give) but their actions originate from a completely different agenda. Someone gets hurt.

8)    Smoking. During the 1960s and 70s, illness – chronic and otherwise, was very often due to cigarette smoking. Even though far less people smoke, it still remains a significant factor in chronic disease. Make no mistake about it, smoking can ruin every part of your body, not just your lungs. If you haven’t already, give up or it will kill you.

9)    Overuse of germ-killing household cleaning products. This topic makes me want to scream! When I was a child, my mum had Fairy to wash the dishes, Harpic to clean the loo, Flash to do the floor and a cloth to do everything else! COO—EEE!  I’m still here and so are many others from my generation. How did we not die from the germs going around? 10,000 years ago, they had zero products and I’ll bet they did not wash their hands after using the loo either! OK, I am aware that we’ve moved on a bit since then and we need to be more careful as we now have superbugs – courtesy of antibiotic overuse. But what is needed is soap and water, not antibacterial sprays which don’t work on many pathogenic microbes anyway (eg, the ubiquitous norovirus). The triclosan that they contain can be every bit as harmful as the bugs they are supposed to protect us from too! What we need is to have a tip-top immune system and then we are as protected as we can possibly be. This can only be achieved by acquiring good microbes that will fighting pathogens.

My 2 part series has now become at least 4 and maybe even 5 parts! Next time, in part 4 of this series I will discuss where our money needs to be spent and where it does not.

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Winter Bugs

The cold weather is here! It can be miserable at this time of the year – no sun, it’s cold, windy and wet, Christmas is looming. We do not want to be ill! Here are a few precautions and some things you can do to head the bugs off at the pass!

Prevention: this is the most important aspect of your health and there is no substitute. To maximise the efficiency of your immune system, you should increase intake of fish and shell fish, meat and its fat, eggs, offal and green leafy vegetables. Make bone broth as a basis for soup and consider taking a supplement of krill or cod liver oil (preferably fermented). Remember that a diet high in carbohydrate foods, adds sugar to your body as all carbs are broken down to glucose – the simplest form of sugar. Having a constantly raised glucose level, slows down the action of our white cells, which combat infection.

Hand washing is imperative as a control of infections. In our daily lives we shake hands with people, open doors, use toilets, press lift buttons, use telephones, push shopping trolleys and more. These are all potential sources of infection. There is no need to be paranoid but we should all be careful. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly and frequently during the day, but always before eating or preparing food, after using the loo and when returning home from work, shopping etc. Perhaps wear gloves when out and about.

Have a couple of baths a week using essential oils to boost your immune system. Add a total of four drops from any of these; marjoram, thyme, tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, and cinnamon. A mixture is best. Epsom salts in the bath will boost your magnesium levels – needed for immune health, and this can also induce sound sleep – another boost.

A few teaspoons of coconut oil and fresh sauerkraut each day will help balance your gut microbes – the foundation of the immune system.

So what do you do if you get a bug? Go to bed. Sleep as much as your body requires. Drink plenty of water/herb teas/broth and only eat if you are hungry. A teaspoon of raw honey -manuka, lavender, rosemary (but all raw honey can help) and a pinch of (Himalayan crystal or Celtic grey) salt dissolved in a litre of warm water is helpful if you have a stomach bug. Sip over 6-8 hours. If you are able, take baths as before. Try to stay away from others especially children, the elderly and those who have compromised immunity – eg. those who have been ill recently or are on medication.
If you feel you need something to help with symptoms, paracetamol may help but try to keep it to night time so that you get a good sleep.


The body is quite able to repair itself and fight infection without help but if you are worried or the illness does not seem to be improving, get advice from your doctor by phone. You will not be welcome at the surgery!

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Bariatric and Other Weight Reduction Surgery

I have thought for as long as this surgery has been available for extreme obesity, that it can only do harm.

Maybe barbaric rather than bariatric surgery would be a more apt name. There is evidence to show that removing visceral fat (internal abdominal fat) reverses diabetes – and of course it would. This type of fat is injurious to health so removing it solves the problem right? Wrong! Remove the fat and change the diet yes, but people want quick fixes so that they don’t have to change their behaviour.I saw a programme about bariatric surgery a while ago and one of the patients just continued to eat pizza, but in frequent and smaller amounts!

Nature has given humans the correct gut for the correct diet, just as it has for cats, snakes, flies and lobsters. Our digestive systems for receiving and digesting food will be different (not substantially different from cats) but they are perfectly designed for the foods nature intended us to eat.

I have said this many times before – how on earth do wild animals know what to eat when they don’t have dieticians, nutritionists, books and the internet to refer to? I’m being facetious of course, but consider the point. The only wild animals (domesticated animals are fed by us and therefore have no choice in the matter) that appear to us fat are the ones that need to be for their lifestyle – nature intends it that way. How would a duck stay afloat without a good proportion of fat on its body? It would sink if it was all muscle. How do seals and whales stay warm if not for their fat stores?

Humans need a covering of fat for a variety of reasons, but the dangerous excess that we are now seeing is due to the wrong diet which can lead to many illnesses – type 2 diabetes being one of the most common. If the diet is corrected, the excess disappears as do the health dangers. It really is that simple. There may very occasionally a genetically inherited reason for obesity eg. Prada Willi syndrome.

As the only diets generally available to help obese people lose weight involve calorie restriction and therefore hunger, they are doomed to fail. Hunger will always win. So bariatric surgery was invented – and very lucrative it is too (as are the slimming, bariatric equipment and diabetes businesses).  There are various operations available but all have the same aim – to reduce the stomach’s capacity for food. This is downright madness. People who became obese from eating the wrong foods usually have severe malnutrition – that is, low intake and blood levels of the essential nutrients for life. So when their stomachs are reduced to an egg-cup size, they simply cannot eat the correct quantity of the correct food needed to obtain sufficient nutrients. No doubt supplements are given, but they are not well absorbed. The long term (if there is a long-term) effects of this are yet to be seen. Sadly as this study shows, surgical intervention is very risky.

There is another way. Before this surgery is ever considered for obesity and diabetes, nutritional advice should be given and the diet overseen by a professional who truly knows what humans need and not what governments recommend.

Update July 2014. “An expansion of weight loss surgery in England is being proposed to tackle an epidemic of type 2 diabetes,” BBC News reports. Complete and utter disaster.

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Health Research – Gut Bacteria

Sick from Your Stomach: Bacterial Changes May Trigger Diseases

“The gut is the largest immune organ in the body.”

The Father of medicine, Hippocrates, knew this without today’s science when he said “All disease begins in the gut”. I have to say that most poor health starts this way and in time, I believe that science will show that immunity is responsible for all poor health.

This area of research is vital. Today, according to the Confederation of British Industry, it was estimated that 175 million working days were lost at a cost of £13 billion in 2010.

From a parliament publication – “IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) ranks close to the common cold as a leading cause for absenteeism from work as a result of illness”.

The gut disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, cause pain and misery. Often sufferers will see their doctors, have tests – all to no avail as the disease has few if any signs, either on blood and stool tests or invasive examinations. At the end of all the tests, a “diagnosis” is usually given. The sufferer goes home believing that they have to “live with it” and thus begins a life of dependency on over-the-counter or prescribed medicines. This is unnecessary.

My tip this week is to look after your immunity.  In particular, look after your insides – these things do not usually get better on their own. They tend to indicate a health “slippery slope”.
See my post on Immunity for some advice.

If you have a gut problem, perhaps you should come and see me!

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The Getting of Immunity

An elderly relative recently moved into a nursing home and I was offered some of her effects. During the clear-out of her home, I was shocked to see the amount of cleaning products that she was using. These products always have warnings on them, but that means they contain toxins!


We are led to believe that we need a different product for every job and the ads are obviously very effective. In fact go into any large supermarket and you will see a whole aisle of these products and they are not cheap. Quite apart from the fact that they are largely unnecessary, what about the chemicals? These are not innocent and can be hazardous when wrongly used and/or for people with respiratory or skin problems. Good old soap and water will do a great job without upsetting the delicate microbial balance. It is quite amazing what can be done with vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice!

Potentially, the biggest problem with many of these substances is their germ-killing ability. In a hospital, it is essential to keep infection to an absolute minimum – for obvious reasons so their use is necessary to prevent cross-infection – ill people are very vulnerable. It is at the very least a contributory factor that the nation’s generally poor immunity generates the need for stronger and stronger antibiotics and antimicrobial agents. Chronic illness such as asthma, eczema, autoimmune diseases, gut problems and so on are increasing year on year are whilst our immunity is decreasing – thus making us that much more susceptible. What is missing is a robust immunity.


When we are born, we inherit the gut microbes of our mothers – whether they are good or bad. Most often they are the beneficial to health and they need to be nurtured. This piece of research highlights the importance of building a healthy immune system – the best insurance policy for a child’s future life. Allowing children to walk bare-foot, having pets, playing in the garden and digging the soil – are all measures that allow a healthy immune system to develop. Work-surfaces must be kept visibly clean – but not sterile.  It is possible that when an immune system is busy naturally making antibodies to antigens, it won’t be bothered with a bit of cat fluff, feathers or pollen.

We are also rather paranoid about food beyond its sell-by date. Maybe it is prudent with packaged foods as there is no way of knowing how long they’ve been on the supermarket shelf – but foods like cheeses, meat and vegetables need considered opinion. My mother used her sight, sense of smell and sometimes even taste to see if a natural raw food was still edible. Many natural foods contain enzymes and other substances beneficial to the immune system – cheeses for example. Naturally fermented foods such as cheeses and yogurt, sauerkraut, (properly prepared) salami and so on are teeming with beneficial bacteria. The inclusion of these foods into the diet can help build good immunity.

Lastly, here is a little experiment for you. Have your usual shower and use a sponge/flannel but no shower gel. You will not smell! It is fine to use a little, two or three times a week but it is the water that cleanses you. In this way you will leave the skin to care for itself (which it does exceptionally well), the ph is intact, the oil isn’t stripped and the microbes are left to protect you.

We are supposed to live in harmony with microbes – we can’t exist without them so let’s stop the massacre!

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Our immune systems are remarkable. They work tirelessly to keep us well but we must consciously give our bodies what they need for this function to ensure maximum protection from invading organisms.

file801244167702Before I move on to this, I will just say a word or two about avoiding infection in the first place. We cannot live without micro-organisms. Remember this. We have to build up a resistance to those that could make us ill so there is no point in trying to avoid ALL germs. If you had somehow been protected from all organisms from birth, you would quickly die on exposure to the outside environment. We gain immunity all our lives. (An illustration of this is swine flu – older people have met this virus before and have resistance to it, so they don’t suffer from it as severely or as often.)

That said, we don’t want to invite infection. We must take some precautions and these are usually simple measures of either barriers or washing.

Here are some examples:

  • Barriers: use tissues if you sneeze or cough, use condoms to prevent the sexually transmitted diseases, use gloves if you have contact with excrement – obvious I know! (Or if you are nappy changing your own child, wash thoroughly afterwards.
  • Dressings to keep infections out of wounds.
  • Washing: Wash hands frequently (definitely after using the loo) – bugs live on door handles and Jo Public does not wash his hands! Wash wounds before covering them.
  • Wash food preparation areas often, but anti-bacterial sprays are unnecessary. Wash salads and fruit. Basically, if it looks dirty, it probably is. If you have just chopped raw meat you must clean it immediately so that you don’t forget.
  • Toilets should be cleaned frequently.

So now to the dietary factors:

In order to keep your friendly probiotic microbes in tip-top form – eat homemade or bought fresh sauerkraut , natural organic full-fat yogurt or kefir.
Most of the vitamins and minerals needed for life are also needed for healthy immune systems and I suspect that this means immunity and life are inextricably linked.
The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K are important for correct immune function. Get  short spells of sun exposure (for vitamin D) frequently without sunscreen. Do NOT burn – use sunscreen when your skin is just pink.The water soluble vitamins C and some of the B group are vital as are the minerals zinc, iron and selenium. They all have their own jobs to do as well as reacting with other chemicals to keep us in peak, infection-fighting condition.
Before you go rushing out to buy supplements, you can get all of these in an easily-
assimilated form from the following organic foods:
Eggs, liver & kidneys (from grazing animals) and/or shellfish. Golden butter and grass-fed animal fats are the best sources of the fat-soluble vitamins.

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