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Digestive Health

Our gastro intestinal tract (GIT) serves 2 basic functions, to absorb nutrients and to screen out toxins. If the gut is not working than cell health is compromised as too few nutrients and too many toxins enter the blood and penetrate cells. In turn, gut permeability (“leaky gut”) and gut dysbiosis can trigger metabolic, neurologic and immunological disorders such as allergies, attention deficit, and anxiety.

Trillions of bacteria inhabit our bodies. In our digestive tract we have more bacteria than cells in our bodies. Some of these are beneficial to us, some are neutral and others are pathogenic. Normally these maintain a symbiotic relationship with the host but modern western diet, lifestyle and some medications such as antibiotics and the Pill can dramatically diminish the levels of ‘friendly’ bacteria we have in our digestive tract and the result can be pathogenic and is quite likely to cause leaky gut.

Many bad microbes are being discovered in the gastrointestinal tract and they often release poisonous chemicals that can damage the microvilli in the intestine and can be absorbed into the bloodstream causing a whole range of problems.

We should have approximately 80% of the “good” bacteria and 20% of the “bad”. If the ‘unfriendly or bad’ bacteria overwhelm the intestines this can compromise the immune system, which normally relies on some of the substances the friendly bacteria produce to operate effectively. The microflora in the gastrointestinal tract is also involved in synthesis of vitamins (B and K), aiding gastrointestinal tract motility and functioning, digestions and nutrient absorption and inhibiting pathogens. The abnormal bacteria in the intestines release toxins, which can result in a variety of chronic and degenerative diseases and affect liver function.

Cause of Imbalances

Dietary Factors – Modern diets high in carbohydrates, sugar, packaged/processed foods, food additives, alcohol, caffeine, and “dead” foods contribute in large part to an overgrowth of pathogens. Low fresh raw vegetables and salads, low fiber, Chlorinated tap water.

Lifestyle – Stress, eating when rushed and too quickly, lack of sleep, drugs and alcohol and lack of exercise all compromise our digestion and the bacterial balance in the gut.

Antibiotics and Medications – Antibiotics eradicate any bacteria they come across and this includes the good as well as the bad bacteria throughout the body leaving pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi to run free. The OCP (The Pill), NSAID, Steroids, antacids and other medications also have a negative impact on healthy Gut Flora.

Pesticides, Herbicides, Fungicides, Insecticides – These toxic substances sprayed on foods that are already nutrient deficient from being grown with artificial fertilizers are not selective either about which bacteria they kill. They kill the fungal or viral diseases in plants and continue to cause damage throughout our bodies.

Health Issues – Hormonal imbalances, Diabetes, Estrogen Dominance, Poor liver function, Parasite infection, Immune problems, constipation or slow transit time of stools or diarrhea.

Some Signs, Symptoms & Complications

  • Bloating & abdominal pain
  • Belching, gas and indigestion
  • Bad breath
  • Brain Fog
  • Fatigue/tiredness
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Cravings for sugars, carbohydrates or starches
  • Headaches
  • Skin problems and Rosacea
  • Weight gain or inability to lose weight
  • Food sensitivities
  • Maldigestion & Nutritional deficiencies
  • Depression/low mood/anxiety/Mental health disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle/Joint pain
  • Chronic fatigue Syndrome
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Diverticulitis
  • Liver Disease

The abnormal migration of large numbers of bacteria from the colon to the small intestine, a condition called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) may also cause considerable Health problems.

Many people are unaware that they are even suffering from Dysbiosis. Evidence has suggested that Dysbiosis plays a part in many conditions such as: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Anklyosing Spondylitus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue, Autoimmune conditions, Asthma, Thyroiditis, Eczema, food allergies, depression and anxiety, weight gain and obesity.

Leaky Gut

70% of our immune system is located around the digestive system. In a normal healthy person the small intestine behaves like a selective sieve allowing only the breakdown products of digestion into the bloodstream.

Nutrients and well digested fats, proteins and starches are readily able to enter into the bloodstream whilst large molecules, microbes and toxins are kept out.

To put it very simply your intestine develops leakages allowing substances that would normally be digested to enter the bloodstream. These toxins are passed onto the liver to deal with but it cannot cope with the overwhelming toxins and stores them in the body tissues to come back to later on.

The liver is too overworked to go back to the toxins and as the intestinal lining gets consistently weaker more and more toxins and undigested food enter into the bloodstream. The immune system sends out antibodies to fight these foreign substances and in doing that toxic oxidants are produced which attack the body tissues causing allergic reactions and pain and inflammation throughout the body.


Poor diet – Processed, packaged and convenience foods are low in nutrients and fibre and often have high levels of additives, preservatives, dyes, sugar, trans fatty acids, artificial sweeteners and other ingredients, which are considered to be harmful and have been linked with various symptoms and conditions, including Leaky Gut Syndrome. Caffeine damages the microvilli and makes the body more acidic affecting digestion and inflammation.

Alcohol – Society’s most widely used intoxicant in excess affects almost every organ system in body.  Alcohol increases the acid in the stomach, which can lead to gastritis or stomach and intestinal ulcers, it contributes directly to hypochlorhydria  Alcohol takes the liver away from its other functions leading to a chemical imbalance. If the liver has to spend hours detoxifying alcohol the result may be damaged liver cells or worse. It decreases the liver’s ability to metabolize fats and can also lead to liver cirrhosis. The Liver foundation claims that ‘even moderate social drinkers may risk liver damage.’ [5]  Over use of alcohol can irritate the stomach and intestines and suppress the production of prostaglandins (hormone like substances which modulate inflammation and stimulate tissue repair along with other physiological functions) which contributes to Leaky Gut Syndrome. [6,7,8] Alcohol can also cause malnutrition by disabling transport of some nutrients into the blood.

Stress – Chronic stress can lead to the production of cytokines producing a damaging inflammatory response. Chronic stress weakens the immune system’s response to infection. The brain and intestine are mediated by many of the same hormones and the nervous system so prolonged stress can affect the digestive system causing: diarrhoea, constipation, cramping, bloating and excessive production of digestive acids

Dysbiosis – Many microbes are being discovered which should not be located in the gastrointestinal tract and they often release poisonous chemicals such as: amines, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, indoles, phenols and secondary bile acids [2]. These microbes can damage the microvilli in the intestine and can be absorbed into the bloodstream causing a whole range of problems. If the ‘unfriendly’ bacteria overwhelm the intestines this can compromise the immune system, which normally relies on some of the substances the friendly bacteria produce to operate effectively. The microflora in the gastrointestinal tract is also involved in synthesis of vitamins (B and K), aiding gastrointestinal tract motility and functioning, digestions and nutrient absorption, inhibiting pathogens, metabolism of plant compounds/ drugs and producing short chain fatty acids and polyamines [3,4,5]. The abnormal bacteria in the intestines are said to release exotoxins, which can result in a variety of chronic and degenerative diseases.

Food allergies – Leaky gut and food allergies often co-exist, food allergies or hypersensitivity can increase intestinal permeability, causing an immune response and provoking further inflammatory reactions throughout the body. A rising number of people are experiencing delayed reactions to foods which are not IgE mediated and occur usually between a few hours and three days after contact with the allergen. The foods that cause these reactions are hard to pin point because of the reaction delay and their tend to create a general all over feeling of malaise that is hard to attribute to one single offending item. People with delayed hypersensitivity have symptoms very similar to Leaky Gut Syndrome and eating foods that create sensitivities can worsen the damage to the intestinal lining.

Parasites – Parasites are in abundance everywhere around us. We cannot avoid being exposed to them. Normally parasitic infection occurs as a result of developing Leaky Gut Syndrome. Our immune system normally protects us against invasive bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites but these opportunistic invaders wait until our defenses have been weakened to attack. They inhabit the gastrointestinal tract causing many health problems because they secrete toxins and siphon off nutrients from the body. The parasites that are most often infect humans are: amoebas, giardia, trichina, cryptosporidium and helminths. Causes include foreign travel, water, kissing pets, eating unwashed fruit or vegetables

Pharmaceutical drugs – antibiotics disrupt balance bacteria leading to Dysbiosis. OCP(Contraceptive Pill) These synthetic hormones promote the growth of yeast bad bacteria in the GUT. NSAIDS (Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs) are pain relief medications that are said to increase intestinal permeability by damaging the villi in the intestine and blocking prostaglandins that stimulate tissue repair. Steroids are said to suppress the immune system, kill ‘friendly’ bacteria, cause the proliferation of fungal infections in the gut, all of which contribute to the development of a leaky gut. Cytotoxic drugs kill bad cells as well as good cells. It is said that one of their main properties is to link with normal components of all cells and to destroy them.

Hypochlorhydria – refers to a deficiency of hydrochloric acid (HCL) produced by the stomach. HCL is required to break down protein, stimulate an enzyme called pepsin to break down protein further, assimilate vitamins and medications, acid base balance and stimulating pancreatic enzyme and bile release into the small intestine. Hypochlorohydria affects many bodily systems. The body cannot adequately digest food if the stomach is deficient in HCL. Protein can be decomposed in the intestines by pathogenic bacteria resulting in the release of toxic substances such as cadaverine and hydrogen sulfide gas.


Overgrowth of Yeast in your Gastro Intestinal Tract

Candida albicans is a yeast that naturally inhabits the body, living in the digestive tract and the vagina. A healthy Gastro Intestinal Tract should contain around 15% pathogenic organism and 85% beneficial or “friendly” bacteria. Modern diet, lifestyle, recreational and pharmaceutical drugs puts this out of balance. There is recent evidence to suggest that the bacteria in your GIT play a part in the way put bodies store and process fat, linking unbalanced GIT bacteria to weight gain.

In its normal state candida is harmless but as a fungus it becomes invasive producing root like structures called rhizoids that can push through the mucous membranes or intestinal walls damaging the villi (finger like projections along the intestinal tract) and allowing undigested food particles, toxins and bacteria to move through the lining and enter the bloodstream resulting in leaky gut syndrome. Your antibodies attack the particles and wait for them to appear again ready for another attack when you eat the same foods. Then you end up with food intolerance and allergies as well as sensitivities to the environment. Candidiasis and Leaky Gut Syndrome often go hand in hand and left untreated can lead to advanced stages of disease.

Candida levels are regulated by the immune system and probiotic bacteria. Problems occur when the bacteria can no longer control the growth of the yeast. It takes over, weakening the intestinal wall and entering the bloodstream, creating a condition known as candidiasis. Using the candida or yeast cleanse diet along with lifestyle changes, the growth rate of yeast can be controlled.


Symptoms of candidiasis vary from individual to individual making it hard to diagnose. Organic acid and Functional pathology testing can be done to verify.

Some of the most common symptoms include

  • abdominal pain
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • tiredness and fatigue
  • headaches
  • mood swings, depression
  • cravings for sweets, starch, alcohol
  • indigestion/bloating
  • gas
  • weight gain
  • dizziness
  • itchy rashes
  • white film on the tongue
  • brain fog, poor memory
  • ear or sinus infections
  • cystitis and urinary tract infections (UTI’s)
  • PMS
  • nail ridges or nail fungus
  • low blood sugar
  • chronic joint or muscle pain, aches or weakness
  • allergies
  • hair loss
  • athlete’s foot
  • nasal congestion
  • eczema & skin problems
  • dark circles under eyes
  • bad breath
  • itchy scalp
  • skin fungus infections
  • genital itching
  • worse symptoms in damp, moldy or muggy places, sensitivities to environment
  • night sweats
  • persistent cough
  • hyperactivity

Causes of Candida

There are several possible causes of yeast overgrowth, including antibiotics, stress, diabetes and birth control methods.

If the healthy bacteria in the digestive tract is reduced by antibiotics, pesticides, chlorine or if the person’s immune system has been weakened by illness, malnutrition or certain medications (such as corticosteroids or anti cancer drugs) the candida fungi can dramatically increase in numbers causing numerous symptoms.

Also poor diet, alcohol and incorrect pH in the digestive system can cause candida to proliferate and invade the body. Stress causes the body to release cortisol, a hormone that weakens the immune system and raises blood sugar levels. Yeast feeds on the extra sugar, and the weakened immune system is unable to stop the growth.

Similar to stress, diabetes produces an excess of blood sugar that feeds the yeast and allows it to grow quickly. The estrogen found in birth control pills shifts the hormonal balance in the stomach and also feeds the yeast.


Normally yeast lives in the intestinal tract, but with candidiasis, it is thought that the yeast overgrow the colon and enters the bloodstream. It’s important to remove as much yeast as possible from the gut and prevents more from entering the blood. While dietary changes help to slow the growth of yeast.

Detoxification and a candida diet is designed to starve the yeast by reducing sugar. Natural and  herbal antifungal can also be introduced to kill the yeast. After cleansing and killing off the excess growth of yeast, probiotic or good bacteria need to be replenished. It is also important to support the immune and liver system and look at hormonal imbalances and deal with stress.

Conditions Treated

Shelley’s Naturopathic services give you the tools and knowledge to take control of your own health, rather than giving you a quick fix. While she can simply relieve problematic symptoms, the cause will also be addressed.

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