In this episode, Dr Mary Barson and Dr Lucy Burns delve into the vital topic of gut health, underscoring the intricate nature of the gastrointestinal system that extends from the mouth to the anus. The gut functions as a protective barrier for the body and plays a multitude of roles, including digestion, nutrient absorption, housing the gut microbiome, influencing the immune system, and even communicating with the brain.
The doctors emphasise the critical importance of maintaining a healthy gut and how various factors, such as processed foods, chronic stress, inadequate sleep, and a diet high in sugar, can compromise it. They elaborate on how sugar, especially in processed foods, can disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome, leading to gut dysbiosis and increased intestinal permeability, ultimately resulting in inflammation and various health issues.
The discussion also covers the role of Firmicutes bacteria in influencing sugar cravings and the impact of artificial sweeteners on the gut microbiome. They stress the significance of choosing the least harmful sweeteners and avoiding overconsumption.
While there are no instant solutions for gut health, the doctors suggest that making simple changes, like transitioning to a diet based on real foods and eliminating processed foods, can yield substantial improvements in gut health and overall well-being.
Dr Barson and Dr Burns encourage their audience to give these changes a try and consider conducting an assessment of their diet and lifestyle to support a healthy gut. Additionally, they mention their four week program for those seeking more comprehensive guidance.
For more information on gut health, you can visit the following link: https://www.rlmedicine.com/gut
Dr Mary Barson (0:11) Hello, my lovely listeners. I'm Dr Mary Barson.
Dr Lucy Barson (0:15) And I'm Dr Lucy Burns. Welcome to this episode of
Both (0:20) Real Health and Weight Loss!
Dr Mary Barson (0:23) Hello, lovely listeners, Dr Mary here, joined by my gorgeous colleague, Dr Lucy, looking lovely in your green bay, spring out the blue in your eyes beautiful girl.
Dr Lucy Burns (0:38) I guess you’re kind, you’re so kind.
Dr Mary Barson (0:40) I just want to pump up your tires and you pump up my tires. It's really nice.
Dr Lucy Burns (0:43) Absolutely, I think everyone should pump up everyone's tires. Hello, everybody, how are we this morning, hopefully, you're all feeling wonderful as we are now well and truly in spring in the southern hemisphere. And I guess autumn or fall for our northern hemisphere listeners. And I am excited to be continuing our series on gut health.
Dr Mary Barson (1:06) Hazzuh! I get quite excited about gut health, having had my own little gut health journey, but also just saying the beautiful changes that people could have with simple things. Gut health is a billion-dollar industry. And there are a lot of people who will sell you a lot of expensive tests, will sell you a lot of expensive supplements, expensive devices, expensive programs, all aimed at getting your gut better, and you know can really, really overcomplicate things, I think. And I'm certainly not saying that supplements and tests don't have a place. I'm not saying that at all. But often, if you just start simple, you can get everything you need. Cheap and simple is really easy. And in fact, that's where you need to start. And I would only move to expensive tests and supplements and things if you weren't getting anywhere. Simple changes can make an enormous difference to your gut health. And when your gut is happy, you've got good gut health. It allows everything else to be good as well.
Dr Lucy Burns (2:20) Indeed, indeed. So I mean, I always like to talk about the fact that your gut, so your gut, what is your gut? You know, it starts essentially at your mouth and ends right at the end at your anus. That's that is your actual entire gut. Current industry, when people are talking about gut health, they're often just talking about the large bowel, which is really where the the money is at the moment, if you like. Yeah, the way we think about the gut is that it is it's a barrier. It's very much like your psyche inside your skin. So you've got skin on the outside that protects your bones and muscles and fibres and sort of holds everything together. And it's the same, you've got a lining that does exactly the same thing it is supposed to be, so that the inside of your gut, it actually sort of sounds weird. But it's sort of separate to the human…
Dr Mary Barson (3:18) It's very complicated tubes.
Dr Lucy Burns (3:23) Yes, that's a good way to look at it.
Dr Mary Barson (3:24) And the inside of our gut is technically still outside our body. Yeah. Medically and technically, yes.
Dr Lucy Burns (3:36) Yeah. Get your head around that lovely. It's kind of weird, isn't it? But yes. So, therefore, part of good gut health is making sure that that barrier is intact. And then the way the gut functions, so the movement of the gut, and then the jobs that the gut does, what else Miss? Is there anything else that I've missed that we think about?
Dr Mary Barson (4:05) Yeah, I think about the other function, so the digestion absorption. So the gut has a job, it's got to keep the things out that we need to keep out and let the things in that we need to let in. So it has to be a very clever, selective barrier. And when that barrier breaks down a little bit, it can't be as selective as it needs to be. This is a situation called intestinal permeability. And that can set you up for illnesses, particularly autoimmune illnesses. It also houses our gut bacteria. And our gut, well not just bacteria, there's bacteria, the main players, but there's also viruses and funky and other things. I've got a microbiome, and we interact with that gut microbiome in fascinating and complicated ways, having a healthy and diverse gut microbiome is really important for our health. And our, like, microbes, literally communicate with our brain. No without us really being consciously aware of it, it's crazy. But yes, that's really important. The gut has an enormous role to play in our immune system. So how we fight off infections and how our body responds to threats at the gut is intricately involved in that. And also, it's basically like, our second brain as well, I've got a nervous system that is really, really complicated and diverse and has an enormous role to play in how our body works as well. So, you know, you've got all of these things going on with this highly complicated tube. And having it healthy, is really, really important. And unfortunately, like so many things in our modern society can make modern lifestyle, sorry, can make our gut less healthy than it should be, you know, chronic stress, sleep deprivation of processed diet, poor sleep, all of these things literally impact the health and function of our gut, our gut microbiome, our gut immune system, I've got the nervous system, to the detriment of our health, Hippocrates said, you know, all starts in the gut, and he was right, 2000 years ago, it's still true today. So impress upon you that it's complicated and important. However, complicated and important doesn't necessarily mean that you know, having a healthy gut is out of reach without the world's most fanciest, fan-dangled latest whatever, definitely not. And in fact, some of the latest and greatest fan dangled, whatever's actually probably not very good for you at all, some of them sugar and all kinds of things. So that's the gut. That's what it is. That's why it's important. And how do we look after it?
Dr Lucy Burns (6:49) Let me guess, well, of course, like everything, it's about giving the body and the gut what it needs and removing the things that are harmful to it. So you know, we love the phrase, it's helpful and unhelpful. So what's helpful for our gut and our body, and again, it's not rocket science, but we do know, a variety of nutritious nutrient-dense food in the right balance. Again, if it's not imbalanced for you, then you'll get gut things. And again, this is where people go – ah, but, you know, my mom's sister, she can eat, let she has lentils every day, and she doesn't have any gut pain. Okay, that's her. But if I had lentils every day, I would be having lots of not just gut pain, but I would be fighting my little head off, and nobody wants to be around you.
Dr Mary Barson (7:46) That’s not great for your quality of life, or indeed for the quality of life of those around you, I suppose. Yes.
Dr Lucy Burns (7:53) Yeah. And really, and look, if we want to get into the nitty-gritty of what is a fart, it is just, it's gas that's been produced by our bowel. That's all it is. And so when your bowel is producing too much gas, you'll have a lot more farting, when it's producing not much, you'll just have the right amount, and the right amount is normal. Just a little bit?
Dr Mary Barson (8:12) Absolutely. I think that if you've got issues with your guts, apart from you know, getting checked out by a doctor is, could be a sensible first step, but at once, so anything dangerous has been excluded, then have just an honest, honest, look at your life and honest look at your lifestyle. And ask yourself, honestly, and without judgment, just be a curious, compassionate self-scientist. What are you eating? What are you putting into your gut? And you know, in particular, processed foods are quite harmful to our gut. We're not that gut isn't designed to deal with them. And then yeah, there are certainly foods that are more inflammatory like grains and legumes, just have a think and be honest with yourself. Also, think about your levels of stress. So your your psychological stress and how you manage it. Stress is also really damaging to our gut, it sets up all of these biochemical and hormonal changes that quite literally impair our gut microbiome impair our intestinal permeability, and can set us up for increased sensitization of pain in our gut all of these foreign things. Stress is not innocuous, it's actually quite toxic to us. So be honest and just have a little look at that. Honestly, sometimes taking stock of these things can seem harder than taking a supplement, can seem harder than getting an expensive stool test. But honestly, I think this is where we need to start and think about what can you remove and what are the harmful foods or potentially harmful foods in your life that or drinks that you can move, alcohol as well increases intestinal permeability. Alcohol is toxic to our gut. That's not to say that you can't have it. But if you're having it regularly and you've got gut issues, then it might be something that you need to have an honest look at your foods or stress.
Dr Lucy Burns (10:22) Yeah. So interesting. The thing that's been popping up, I don't know why in my Facebook feed, is this product that I just think, it's Donut King flavoured twisties. So I had a look, what are the ingredients? There's some sort of wheat protein, rice, and corn, canola oil, and then about 62 flavourings. So it's like, there's no way we're supposed to eat that stuff. And, you know, again, the thing and I can get on my little ranty McCrantey phase here is that the reason that product is marketed to children is it comes in a bright Barbie pink packet. You know, you can imagine I'm imagining your daughter, she's 10. She'd be looking at that. It looks exciting. There's a donut on the front. It's marketed to children.
Dr Mary Barson (11:19) Our Barbie is so big right now. Barbie, Barbie everything. Yeah, I don't have any great problems with Barbie as such. I have a few props of Barbie, but not many. But yes. Barbie is being used to sell processed foods to children. That's you, that's your problem.
Dr Lucy Burns (11:36) It is, it's a toxic goop. Before, people go and buy a probiotic or invest in dichotomous earth or anything like that. It's really do an audit, do an audit of what you're eating and just think – hmm, is there stuff in here that is likely to be contributing? Because if you can get rid of that first, well, you save yourself a whole lot of money, and you can do something that's sustainable. I think one of the other things that are, apart from the obviously processed food, is some of the sweeteners that are used, and particularly, you know, people that have taking, or have, you know, have type two diabetes and using things that have our alternate sweeteners, or people that are on a low carb lifestyle, because again, we've done lots of podcasts, I think on sweeteners, but we have what we call the least worst, and the worst.
Dr Mary Barson (12:32) The worst, worst, and the least worst for sure. Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
Dr Lucy Burns (12:37) And the worst worse, a really nasty on your gut. And some of them seem a little innocuous. So there's, I mean, inulin, which is a fibre, and it's used, it's slightly sweet. So it is used in plenty of products. Too much of it, like everything, though, ferments and gives you gut pain, which is what we talked about last week. So as part of your audit, have a look, are you eating a lot of things that have something like inulin in it, or polydextrose, which is another sort of chemically produced fibre, what I like to call fake fibre. So Miss, here's something that people may not know, and that is that sugar has a direct effect on the gut, I thought we'd like to chat a bit about that.
Dr Mary Barson (13:29) So sugar, particularly the sugar that we get in processed or refined foods can upset the balance of our gut microbiome. One thing that it does, it can feed the gut microbiome in such a way that unhelpful populations and types of bacteria can become more prevalent. And the more helpful ones, the ones that we want to nurture and love can become less prevalent, so it can actually cause gut dysbiosis. You know, bacteria need energy, just like anything else. Different bacteria like to utilise different types of foods, and the food that we feed our gut, literally changes it and gets too much sugar causing gut dysbiosis.
Dr Lucy Burns (14:16) Absolutely. And there's a particular little species of gutter, a phylum, I don't even know what the word right word is for bacteria, but there's one called firmicutes. And the reason I love firma cuties is because there's not firm and it's not cute. And what this bacteria does is it does two things. So it's associated with obesity. So they've done studies and looked at the microbiome of people, all sorts of people. And there is no doubt that people who have higher body weight have higher firmicutes. Now, is this a cause or association? We don't know exactly. Interestingly, there were studies that were done where they took the microbiome of people with obesity and put it into the microbiome of lean people and they developed obesity. Unfortunately, it didn't work the other way where you take the microbiome of a lean person and put it into a person with obesity, and it fixes it. So there's, there's obviously more to it than just like everything. It's not as simple as it sounds.
Dr Mary Barson (15:21) But it's compelling. It's really, really compelling information about how important your gut microbiome is. A diet high in sugars can cause gut dysbiosis. And that gut dysbiosis, if you've got more of the unhelpful pathogenic type bacteria, and you lose that beneficial effect of your good, more healthful bacteria, you actually lose that the integrity of the barrier, the beneficial bacteria have an important role to play in that all-important barrier. Remember that selective barrier that our gut needs. So when you've got that intestinal permeability that really starts to cause inflammation around the gut, which can then snowball into all kinds of problems.
Dr Lucy Burns (16:04) Absolutely. And the other pesky thing that these firmicutes can do is and you talked about earlier, Miss is that you know, our gut bacteria, neurotransmitters, and that's just a fancy way of saying they connect to the nerves which connect to the brain, so the gut, and the brain, we know the gut talks to the brain. So firmicutes are clever little things, and they can send neurotransmitters to the brain to increase sugar cravings. Again, they're smart, if you're a species, and there's food that you like, you want the host to get that food for you. Well newsflash peeps, you're the host, you are hosting a whole lot of sugar-craving bacteria. Now, this is where the tricky bit is, the more you feed it, the bigger it grows. When you stop feeding sugar, it initially yells out into stage left.
Dr Mary Barson (17:04) Or have a little bacterial tantrum.
Dr Lucy Burns (17:05) Yeah, and this is cravings, cravings. So cravings come along, and you know, you as the host go – Oh, my God, I've got such a craving! And, you know, have you ever felt like sometimes that it's not you? You know, it might not be, it could be these little critters. So the way to fix these is actually just to starve them to death.
Dr Mary Barson (17:34) Yes!
Dr Lucy Burns (17:36) It doesn't take long, but if you don't give them their preferred food source, which is sugar, so cane sugar, so sugar, you know, glucose and fructose, that combo, if you don't give them their food source, they die away, starve them out, and they die away, and then what they can talk to your brain. So the cravings are less.
Dr Mary Barson (17:57) It is a significant cause of cravings, which I think most people aren't aware of that our gut bacteria can influence that cravings. It's not the only cause. But it is an important one. And I reckon it is a really important reason why those annoying cravings go away after a few days when you're eating real foods. And then the real food that you're eating actually nourishes those helpful, healthy bacteria. And these groups of bacteria start to grow. And you get to have a lovely, healthy, like nice and diverse in the garden, rather than being completely taken over by, you know, just scrooge grass, or just one type of weed. Mean to have what? Yeah, oh, I always think about that.
Dr Lucy Burns (18:40) So firmicutes so let the meat of the herb garden
Dr Mary Barson (18:43) I wouldn't even be that nice to firmicutes. Let’s call it the scrooge grass.
Dr Lucy Burns (18:46) Yeah. And honestly, you've got some species of bacteria in there that are sort of like the coriander, they, they're very fragile. They're very finicky. They need a lot of nurturing, otherwise, they just go straight to seed.
Dr Mary Barson (19:01) It's gonna be nice to them. Yes, these bacteria do all kinds of things for us, including creating really important vitamins that we really use to help keep ourselves healthy. They are very, very much a part of us interacting with us in kind sometimes perhaps even slightly frightening ways. But if we feed them real food, then they behave in the way that they're kind of meant to the way this symbiotic relationship was designed to be.
Dr Lucy Burns (19:31) Exactly. One of the things that are really interesting though, and again, if you're going radio, well, sugars, are obviously not helpful. It's going to feed the firmicutes it's going to make my sugar cravings come crazy. Let's get rid of sugar. So, let's enter artificial sugars or alternate sugars or artificial sweeteners or whatever we want to call it. We like to talk about and we do this in our beautiful 4 Week Body Rebalance. We talk about all the sweetness because they are most definitely the least worst and worse worse.
Dr Mary Barson (20:09) There are so many sweeteners out there, these artificial sweeteners have been around for a long time. And some of them are actually really no better than sugar. Some of them actually have exactly the same effect on your body as sugar. Some of them are actually, even if they don't have the same effect as sugar, they can be quite toxic to our poor little gut and to our gut bacteria. And we want to avoid those, especially saccharin, and sucralose, which are really quite commonly used artificial sweeteners particularly in processed low carb, low sugar diets, processed foods, they're really quite common. And they can really cause quite significant shifts in our gut microbiome, which I think is really quite concerning. But it's certainly not all bad news. You can enjoy sweeteners if you want to, on a real food diet, provided you pick the least worst ones. And this is something we do. You know, I talk a lot about, you know, our beautiful four week program.
Dr Lucy Burns (21:07) Yeah, the least worse and also just not buckets of it. Like everything we're big on, you know, balance. Like if you eat sweetness every day, you'll find that you probably do get some gut pain with them. Even the least worst can, if over-consumed, cause some issues with your gut. I mean, there's lots of sneaky things. We also, in the four week program give to do a masterclass on reading nutritional panels, because part of the sneaky things, again is you know, greenwashing or health washing of foods, where you know, they'll have fibre, added source of fibre, and then you find out the fibre is polydextrose, which is just a manmade fibre that can again ferment in the gut and cause irritable bowel and isn't that what we've all been wanting to get rid of. So eating something that is again, sounds good, but isn't necessarily good. We have fibre fans, but the fibre coming from particularly vegetables got that’s good fibre, such good fibre.
Dr Mary Barson (22:16) Some lovely delicious veggies, a little bit of salt, a bit of butter. Amazing. Amazing. That's what we want to be feeding our gut.
Dr Lucy Burns (22:23) Yeah, absolutely. Lovely. There's, we probably need to wind it up a bit because we've been rambling on a bit now. But I think the summary is, that there's no quick fix for lots of this. Okay, it's a bit like a garden, it needs some tending, needs some nurturing, needs a bit of fertilizer, not too much, needs water, needs sunshine, it just needs a lot of things. But just a bit of it all. Like, again, you think about the garden, if it's in the blazing sun all the time, it just dies. If you overwater, the garden dies, if you're underwater the garden just needs to be in balance. Not too much of anything, but lots of different things.
Dr Mary Barson (23:05) Yes, and honestly, you can make an enormous difference to your beautiful gut quite quickly with simple things and you won't know unless you try, so yeah, give it a go and do an audit, try eating real food. Try cutting out processed food, give it a go four weeks and you will probably feel so much better.
Dr Lucy Burns (23:29) Absolutely lovelies and if you want some help with it, you can go to wwwrlmedicine.com/gut. Four weeks to a new you! Bye for now.
Dr Lucy Burns (23:46) So my lovely listeners, that ends this episode of Real Health and Weight Loss. I'm Dr Lucy Burns…
Dr Mary Barson: (24:06) and I'm Dr Mary Barson. We’re from Real Life Medicine. To contact us, please visit rlmedicine.com
Dr Lucy Burns: (24:16) And until next time…
Both: (24:18) Thanks for listening!
Dr Lucy Burns: (24:20) The information shared on the Real Health and Weight Loss podcast, including show notes and links, provides general information only. It is not a substitute, nor is it intended to provide individualised medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor can it be construed as such. Please consult your doctor for any medical concerns.