Heading into the New Year we all want to feel and look our best.

The year that was saw an increasing awareness of the fundamental role that gut health plays in achieving optimal health. This is a bit of a “hallelujah!” moment for a lot of the scientific health community as it’s something that has in fact been very much on our radar for quite some time. If you talk to any naturopath, nutritionist, gastroenterologist, dietitian, integrative doctor or chiropractor alike, I have no doubt that they will have a seemingly strange fascination with your number two’s. No we aren’t off our chops, we just recognize the incredibly strong link between gut health and a persons physical and emotional wellbeing. There aren’t too many conditions that don’t have a gut component to their pathophysiology. In fact I’m struggling to come up with any! Examples of issues or conditions in which gut health needs to be a primary treatment target include (but are not limited to) the following;

  • Weight Loss
  • Depression & Anxiety
  • Arthritis & other inflammatory conditions
  • IBS & IBD
  • Skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis
  • Hormonal Imbalances e.g. PCOS, Endometriosis, Infertility, PMS, Menopause
  • Thyroid Conditions e.g. Hashimoto’s
  • Fatigue

That all might make a bit more sense if I point out a few ‘fun facts’ for you to help connect the dots…

  • Approximately 80% of your immune system lies in your gut.
  • Up to 90% of your serotonin (‘feel good’ hormone) is produced in your gut.
  • You require a healthy amount of stomach acid to ward off bad bacteria and to activate certain vitamins which allow them to be used effectively in your body.
  • There is a strong link between the health of your gut and the condition of your skin. 
  • 20% of Thyroid hormone production (think metabolism/metabolic rate/energy expenditure) is produced in your gut.
  • Food sensitivities require an interaction between your intestinal contents and blood stream i.e. “leaky gut” is a precursor to food sensitivities.
  • Fix your gut and many of your food sensitivities will be gone. 

As you can see I have an unhealthy fascination with ones gut. Poo talk is a standard everyday topic for me. Not surprisingly a client’s digestion is a key component in the treatment protocols I develop for them.

However getting to the root cause of digestive conditions or accurately assessing the state of your gut health isn’t always as easy as it seems. That’s where functional testing comes into play. This is something that has added incredible value to my practice and produced significant results for several of my clients and myself.

What is functional gut testing?

Good functional gut testing is a comprehensive analysis of your G.I. system performed using high sensitivity and specificity stool analysis techniques (MALDI-TOF Proteomic Analysis to be precise). It can include testing for the following:

  • Parasites
  • Protozoa
  • Yeast
  • Beneficial Flora, Commensal Flora, & Dysbiotic Flora
  • Protein, Fat and Carbohydrate Digestion
  • Secretory IgA (your first line of immune defense in your gut)
  • Intestinal Bleeding
  • Markers for Inflammation indicative of IBD and/or IBS
  • Short Chain Fatty Acid status

Signs that you have suboptimal gut function:

  • Persistent loose stools/diarrhea
  •  Constipation
  • Bloating and/or Gas
  • Bad Breath
  • Food Sensitivities
  • Arthritis
  • Skin Conditions
  • Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Poor detoxification
  • Carbohydrate Sensitivity (e.g. FODMAPs)

Where do you get it done? 

You cannot order these tests yourself as it’s important to be under the guidance of a registered health practitioner and trained in interpreting the results, however myself and several other nutritionists, naturopaths and integrative doctors are able to help you out. If you would like to find out more information you can contact Research Nutrition for your nearest registered practitioner.

By Natalie Bourke, Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics (Honours)

Natalie is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist who is the founder of Health By Wholefoods in southern Sydney. Natalie believes in a holistic approach to health and that the foundation of good nutrition is focusing on consuming whole, nutrient dense, REAL food and avoiding foods and ingredients that our bodies don’t recognise.

Natalie also believes that everyone is an individual and therefore everyone’s diet and nutrition may look a little different to the next person. With each client Natalie aims to get to the root cause of your nutrition-related problems instead of using a ‘band-aid solution’ or ‘one-size-fits all’ approach. For more information about Natalie visit Health By Wholefoods

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