Gut Health – Byron Bay
Based in Byron Bay, NSW, Todd Mansfield is a student Herbalist focusing his studies on gut health and digestive issues. Blending functional medicine and traditional herbal medicine to look at health from a different perspective.
Why Gut Health?
The more time we spend looking into the human microbiome and the variety of different microbes living inside our gut the more important they become.
Many practitioners focus on the individual species residing in the gut, and while it is important to know if you have a parasite infection, bacterial dysbiosis or SIBO (small intestinal overgrowth) it is equally important to know and understand the whole picture.
How are the different phyla represented in your gut?
Up to 1000 different species of bacteria can be living in your digestive tract (mainly your large intestine) but they are made up of only a few different phyla.
Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes dominate in numbers while others include Proteobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, Actinobacteria, Fusobacteria and Cyanobacteria (1).
Is mostly gram-positive bacteria and include
Firmicutes also includes the Clostridium clusters IV and XIV
This cluster of genera include
The Bacteroidetes phylum,
Is generally gram-negative bacteria, have two predominant genera including
The Actinobacteria phylum
This one contains a real favourite
How Our Microbiome Helps
The microbiota living in our digestive tract contribute to health in an endless number of ways. Researching and listing them all would be a lifetime’s work but a few very important and well researched aspects include the following important points.
The production of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs)
benefits include (2)
- being an energy source and regulating gene expression for the cells that line your gut
- Possibly protects against colorectal cancer and colitis
The research keeps circling back to short chain fatty acid production. For a deeper dive on this subject here are some recommended readings that include the beneficial impacts that short chain fatty acids can have.
- Type 1 Diabetes and the Gut
- Lactulose – An Underutilised Prebiotic with Potential
- Prebiotics & Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
Influence human nutrition and metabolism
- B-vitamin production
- K vitamin production
- release cellular factors that influence human metabolism
Immune response and development (4)
There are connections between the gut and every body systems.
The immune system is strongly associated with the state of the gut.
One example of this would be the impact that endotoxins (immunogenic substances found on the cell wall of gram-negative bacteria) can have on the immune system. These substances can set the immune system off in different ways, triggering inflammation and reactivity.
One interesting example of this would be the loss of self-tolerance that seems to be driving (or playing a strong role) in the development of inflammatory bowel disease.
Recommended reading –
The Microbiome and Disease – An Unhappy Gut
There is more research connecting the gut flora and health and disease than we know what to do with, with more coming out each year.
From these studies we’ve found connection in:
- IBS – there are seemingly endless studies looking into the altered microbiome as an underlying cause of IBS with different conclusions (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
One study summarised it nicely when referring to all of the studies available saying that – “All (the studies listed) suggest that microbes play a key role in IBS” (13)
- IBD – Inflammatory bowel disease has comparable scientific research looking into the microbiome and possible alterations or disruptions. As I’ve written about before there is an immune disfunction at the core of IBD that involves the microbiome (15, 16, 17, 18).
One review on the disrupted microbiome and disease outlines the current thinking on IBD and our gut microbes – “Although the aetiology of both diseases is unknown, there is increasing evidence that intestinal microbial dysbiosis has a role in the pathogenesis of IBD” (19)
- One review paper listed a collection of disease states that have been linked to the microbiome – “Studies examining the composition and role of the intestinal microbiome in different disease states have uncovered associations with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, autoimmune arthritis, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and atherosclerosis” (20).
- There are countless more health issues that involve the microbiome. This is the main topic of the articles I published stemming from the research I do.
Happy Gut – Improve Your Digestive Health
While we are still getting to the bottom of the different microbes that make up our individual and completely unique microbiome we do know enough to intervene and nudge your gut health back on track.
Individual species can confer great benefit and some can be pathogenic. Digging in and looking at what makes up one’s own microbiome is a great place to start.
From there your gut health can be improved by modulating and modifying the microbiome with
- Stress reduction
- Appropriate exercise
- Targeted antimicrobial herbs that selectively kill the pathogens and avoid harming your beneficial bacteria
- Improving detox pathways and drainage
- Optimising nutrient status and deficiencies
On a personal note a disrupted gut microbiome was my main health issue and something that has plagued me for years.
Going through different herbal protocols trying to kill off the bad bacteria and parasites has led me down a path of a diminishing microbiome.
This is something that I see all the time.
Overuse of antibiotics and repeated use of broad spectrum antimicrobial herbs that results in individuals who don’t feel any better regardless of whether they have eradicated the pathogenic microbes.
One interesting concept, supporting this train of thought, suggests that a disrupted gut allows the growth of the Proteobacteria phylum. In a healthy gut this gram-negative group of bacteria are held in check by the other, more friendly residents. When the gut is disrupted (antibiotics, antimicrobials, surgery, shock, poor diet) this phylum is given room to grow.
Some bacteria that belong to this group include, among others
This leaves me thinking there is something more.
In my mind gut health comes first.
Once your gut has been optimised other body systems will follow.
Join the newsletter below to stay in touch. I’ll keep you up to date each time an article is published so that you can keep your gut happy and healthy!
References and Resources
- The gut microbiota–masters of host development and physiology
- Exploring the influence of the gut microbiota and probiotics on health: a symposium report
- Role of the gut microbiota in human nutrition and metabolism.
- Role of the gut microbiota in defining human health
- The fecal microbial population in the irritable bowel syndrome.
- Analysis of the fecal microbiota of irritable bowel syndrome patients and healthy controls with real-time PCR.
- Post infectious irritable bowel syndrome.
- Global and deep molecular analysis of microbiota signatures in fecal samples from patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
- An irritable bowel syndrome subtype defined by species-specific alterations in faecal microbiota.
- Quantitative profiling of gut microbiota of children with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome.
- Distinct microbial populations exist in the mucosa-associated microbiota of sub-groups of irritable bowel syndrome.
- Gastrointestinal microbiome signatures of pediatric patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
- Association of symptoms with gastrointestinal microbiota in irritable bowel syndrome.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Immune System & The Microbiome
- Dysfunction of the intestinal microbiome in inflammatory bowel disease and treatment
- Gut Microbiota, Immunity, and Disease: A Complex Relationship
- Implications of the human microbiome in inflammatory bowel diseases
- The microbial basis of inflammatory bowel diseases
- Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota in disease
- Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health
- fullyfunctional – articles
Hi. I’m Todd Mansfield, a student herbalist based in Byron Bay, Australia with a focus on gut health, leaky gut, parasite infections and bacterial overgrowth issues.
I’m here to help you find and fix the root cause of your digestive troubles. With the help of functional medicine & traditional herbalism we can get you back on track and healthy!
To help me help you leave a comment below or get in touch here.
Education & Associations
Bachelor of Health Science Western Herbal Medicine Student
Australian Natural Therapists Association