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Three Things - How To Holistically Heal - Regularity + Gut Microbiome + Stress Response

Three Things - How To Holistically Heal - Regularity + Gut Microbiome + Stress Response

Each week, I will share three things on how to heal holistically. Drawing from my 28 years of experience as a practicing Naturopath, as well as what I am currently working on, exploring, and curious about. Make a pot of tea and give yourself the time and care you deserve.

  1. HEALING: Considerations for when you are experiencing XYZ.

  2. REVERENCE: A deep respect & attention to the things that truly impact healing.

  3. EXPLORING: A journey into the deeper work, meeting the parts, wounds, and survival strategies that keep us small, stuck, and suffering with persistent symptoms & feelings.




1. HEALING: Regularity

Bowel regularity refers to the frequency and consistency of bowel movements. It means having predictable and consistent bowel movements with stools that are soft and easy to pass. Generally, bowel regularity means having one or more bowel movements per day, but some people may have less frequent bowel movements and still be considered regular if this is their normal pattern.

Regular bowel movements are essential for overall health and well-being because they help remove waste and toxins from the body. The large intestine aka colon or bowel, plays a critical role in the process by absorbing water and minerals and breaking down and eliminating waste products. The bacteria in the bowel also break down some of the undigested food products, producing vitamins such as biotin, B12, and vitamin K, which are absorbed into the bloodstream.

Bowel irregularity, such as constipation or diarrhoea, can be a sign of an underlying health condition or dietary issue. Factors that can impact bowel regularity include:

  • Bacterial and yeast dysbiosis (an imbalance in what belongs in your gut).
  • Hosting a bacterial, viral, or parasitic pathogen (bugs that don't belong in your gut).
  • Food intolerances due to the inflammation they cause, changes in gut microbiome, and changes in peristalsis. ​​​​​​​Peristalsis is a series of rhythmic muscle contractions that move food or other materials through the digestive system.
  • Low levels of stomach acid, digestive enzymes, and bile production which help process food.
  • A diet high in processed ingredients such as oils, refined salt, sugar, gluten, soy, and additives with limited nutrients and enzymes.
  • A lack of food diversity which is favoured by your gut microbiome because it provides a range of nutrients such as dietary fibres, prebiotics, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that support the growth and diversity of beneficial gut bacteria.
  • Recreational drug use, including smoking and alcohol and high caffeine intake from drinks like cola, coffee, cocoa, chocolate, and energy drinks which alter gut microbiome health and peristalsis. 
  • Imbalances in the thyroid, liver, and hormones which alter peristalsis.
  • Poor circadian rhythm, night shift work, travel stress, jet lag and changing time zones which alter gut microbiome health and peristalsis. 
  • A lack of exercise which alters peristalsis.
  • Poor hydration because fluid keeps your stools soft and easy to pass.
  • Genetic predisposition to digestive diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease.
  • An overuse of antacids, laxatives, pain medications, antibiotics, vitamin C, magnesium, fibre and iron supplements, fermented foods, probiotics, and cultured drinks, which alter gut microbiome balance and peristalsis.
  • Stress (see more on this topic below).

Two simple things that support healthy bowel movements are timing and squatting. When you feel the urge to move your bowels, take advantage of it and don't delay. Squatting is a natural position that helps the bowel to empty effectively. When you squat, gravity assists in compressing the colon, and gentle pressure from the diaphragm supplements the force of gravity. Squatting also relaxes the puborectalis muscle, allowing the anorectal angle to straighten, and helps prevent incontinence by reducing pressure on the puborectalis muscle. Squatting is especially effective in closing the inlet valve to keep the small intestine clean while simultaneously opening the outlet valve to allow waste to pass freely. Consider using a squatting aid. If you have no lower back problems, using a squatting aid, or squatting before sitting on the toilet, can help you move your bowels more effectively.

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2. REVERENCE: Gut Microbiome

The terms microbiota, microflora, gut flora, and microbiome are often used interchangeably to refer to the microorganisms that reside in the human gut.

The gut microbiome refers to the community of microorganisms that live within the digestive system, estimated to number over a trillion bacteria. These microorganisms perform a range of crucial functions that contribute to our overall health, including the manufacture of essential chemicals like amino acids and vitamins (such as B12, CoQ10, folate, biotin, vitamin K, tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylalanine), making up 2/3 of the body's immune system, and preventing the growth of harmful opportunistic bacteria and yeast, as well as preventing the colonisation of pathogens like parasites, viruses, and bacteria.

Bowel regularity is an essential aspect of digestive health, and the gut microbiome plays a crucial role in maintaining regularity. The microbiome helps to regulate bowel movements by breaking down complex carbohydrates and fibres that are otherwise indigestible by the human body, which creates bulk in the stool and facilitates regular bowel movements.

An imbalance in the gut microbiome, referred to as dysbiosis, can contribute to various digestive issues, including constipation, diarrhoea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Dysbiosis can occur due to a variety of factors, including a poor diet high in processed foods, stress, antibiotic use, and certain medical conditions.

In contrast, a diverse and healthy gut microbiome is associated with better digestive health and improved bowel regularity. Eating a diet rich in whole foods, fibre, and prebiotics and probiotic-rich foods can help to promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and support regular bowel movements.

There are several pathogens or imbalances in the gut microbiome that can cause diarrhoea and constipation:

  1. Bacteria: Certain strains of bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella, and Shigella, can cause acute diarrhoea by producing toxins that damage the intestinal lining or by directly invading the intestinal cells. An overgrowth of harmful bacteria like Clostridium difficile (C. diff) can cause diarrhoea, while a lack of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacterium can contribute to constipation.

  2. Viruses: Viruses like Norovirus and Rotavirus can cause acute diarrhea by infecting the cells of the small intestine.

  3. Parasites: Parasites like Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium can cause diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal symptoms.

It's worth noting that not all diarrhoea and constipation are caused by pathogens or microbiome imbalances. Other factors like stress, medication use, and medical conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can also contribute to these digestive issues.

To discover the health of your gut microbiome, book in for a Naturopathic Consult & Comprehensive Stool Analysis Test. Email


3. EXPLORING: The Stress Response & Peristalsis

Stress can have a significant impact on peristalsis, the wave-like contractions of the muscles in the digestive tract that move food through the system. When the body experiences stress, the nervous system responds by activating the "fight or flight" response, also known as the sympathetic nervous system. This response is designed to help the body respond to perceived threats by increasing heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure, while decreasing digestive and other non-essential functions.

During the "fight or flight" response, peristalsis slows down or even stops completely, as the body redirects its resources to more immediate needs, such as escaping a perceived danger. This can lead to digestive issues such as constipation or bloating, as food and waste material may sit in the digestive tract for longer periods of time.

In some cases, stress can also activate the "freeze" response, which is associated with overwhelm or feeling stuck. This response can also slow down peristalsis and lead to digestive issues.

Chronic stress can have a particularly significant impact on peristalsis and digestive health. When the body is constantly in a state of stress, peristalsis may be disrupted on an ongoing basis, leading to digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic constipation, or diarrhoea.