Episode 4 – Learning About Gut Health Testing Results With Naomi Langford-Archer
Welcome to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast where you can learn how to improve your diet, lose fat, and get fitter in a sustainable and fun way without spending hours in the gym. Here is your host, Darren Kirby.
Darren: This is season one, episode four of the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast and I’m privileged today to welcome back my guest, Naomi Langford-Archer, from Gut Nutrition. Hi, Naomi. How are you doing today?
Naomi: Hi there, Darren. Yeah, very well, thank you. And yourself?
Darren: Yes, very well, thank you. Just as a reminder for our listeners. Naomi was the first person on episode one of the podcast and she came on to talk about the importance of gut nutrition, understanding your gut, talking about our gut being almost like the second brain. Following on from that, I’ve actually now had a gut nutrition test, so what we’re going to be talking about today are some of the things that were found in my test and Naomi is going to be taking us through that. I’ll leave it to you, Naomi.
Naomi: Okay, great. This stool analysis, it’s a really comprehensive stool test and it breaks down the different areas that we’re looking at quite nicely. I’ve got the test open in front of me here, so I’m just going to go through it from the top. In your test, Darren, the first thing we’re looking at is of healthy bacteria that are living within your gut. It breaks this down into the healthy bacteria and the not so healthy bacteria.
Darren: When you say healthy and non-unhealthy bacteria, are they classified in any way?
Darren: Are they classified in any way? Bad bacteria has a certain name or good bacteria has a certain name, or is it just good and bad?
Naomi: Different names.
Darren: Fair enough.
Naomi: The good thing about your test is there weren’t any–we call them–dysbiotics. There weren’t any nasty or dysbiotic bacteria living there. However, there weren’t that many healthy bacteria living there either. We expect to see some certain species and I’m just going to mention two of those species that we expect to see. You may have heard of Bifidobacterium.
Darren: I haven’t.
Naomi: Bifidobacterium and lactobacillus. These are the main two different species of bacteria that we find in like fermented foods, fermented drinks, and probiotics as well. These are the really important two that we need our gut to be kind of quite full of to keep us healthy. The levels of healthy bacteria are rated on a scale of one to five. Your Bifidobacterium and lactobacillus bacterium are coming up at a one so we could definitely increase that.
Darren: What are the general ways that we can increase that in the gut? What things can I do to improve that?
Naomi: We can feed these bacteria so they can repopulate. We need to make sure that we’ve got a healthy diet. When I say healthy diet that feeds the gut bacteria, I’m talking about a diet that’s high in fibre, and that fibre has to really just come from vegetables. I’m not talking about your bran flakes or your bran bread. I’m talking about fibre from vegetables.
Darren: That’s interesting, because from my perspective, without the information from this test, I assumed that I was having all of the vegetables that I needed to have in my diet. I would make sure I’d have at least one or two portions a day. Admittedly, they were the sulphurous vegetables, I think that’s how you pronounce it. They were a lot of green vegetables and very rarely would I have anything other than green vegetables.
Naomi: Well, that might answer our question then as to why your levels are quite low. When we’re looking at the vegetables, we need to be eating all the different colours of the vegetables because the different coloured vegetables feed the different species of bacteria. I know I said we were looking mainly at the Bifidobacterium and the lactobacillus, but you do have other bacteria in there as well. This particular one is a four plus. When I said we were rating on a scale of one to five, this one’s a four. That bacteria is probably living off your green vegetables.
Darren: Okay, so there’s an imbalance then in my vegetable intake.
Darren: How would that then translate into my overall health? Because on a day to day basis, I feel very healthy, I’m very active. I don’t seem to remember having any kind of negative side effects.
Naomi: And you may not, but the bacteria can improve your health somewhat. Also, you’re not old, you’re quite young, but as we go through life and we need our immune system to be there to support us even more, it’s really important to have these healthy bacteria. They also help to create and produce vitamins. They feed on the fibre and as a by-product, they produce vitamins and also anti-inflammatory compounds, which is really important as well for the aging process.
Darren: That’s an interesting point, what you said there about vitamins because over the recent years, I’ve supplemented with vitamins. But essentially what you’re saying there is that I don’t necessarily need to do that if I’ve got a balanced gut. If I’m having a balanced amount of vegetables in my diet, I’ve got a balanced amount of fibre in my diet, then I wouldn’t necessarily need to have those supplements.
Naomi: No, not at all. If you’re eating a rainbow of vegetables, all the different colours of the rainbow in vegetable terms, and you’ve got healthy bacteria levels in your gut, then you should be okay. We all need supplementation now and then but you should be able to get that just from your vegetables.
Darren: Alright, cool. On the fibre side of things then, can you give me a little bit more information on that because obviously, you said there’s fibre in vegetables but I would imagine that there’s a different level of fibre in different types of vegetables. You talk about the rainbow but is there a kind of a different colour vegetable that has more fibre than the other?
Naomi: We’re looking at all the different colours. All vegetables have got fibre. Green vegetables are great, so you’ve got your broccoli, your kale, spinach. Leeks and onions are very fibrous. Then we’re looking at your purple vegetables, so we’re looking at beetroot red cabbage. Then orange, we’re looking at squash, carrots, orange peppers and we go on like this, so it’s literally all the different colours. All those different colours, they contain different phytonutrients. These phytonutrients are the food and the antioxidants and the vitamins that we need. We need a complete array of these and we can only get that through diet.
Vitamins, the definition of a vitamin is something that the body cannot make itself. You actually need to take it in. The bacteria will produce by-products, they will produce B12 and certain other B vitamins as well, but that’s the bacteria producing those with the body; we’re not actually producing those ourselves, if you see what I mean.
Darren: Yeah. That makes perfect sense and I actually didn’t realize that was the definition of vitamins. That’s actually quite useful.
Naomi: Increasing your fibre intake through vegetables is absolutely key to increasing your healthy bacteria level. The other thing with that as well, if we just go a little bit further down the test results, we’re now looking at yeasts. Yeast is a certain type of fungus and everyone will have like a low level of yeast within the gut, but that’s on a low level. What happens is the bacteria produce a certain acidic environment that the yeast can’t grow in very well. By having a healthy level of bacteria, it helps to down-regulate the yeast overgrowth. Whereas what we’re seeing in your stool analysis is that we’re seeing quite a high level of yeast, and I would expect to see that with a low level of healthy bacteria anyway. So what we need to do is just increase the healthy bacteria and then the yeast will drop off; it’s just a balance, really.
Darren: Yeah, and that would make sense. Whilst I said that I don’t necessarily have any health symptoms. One thing that I do notice that if I eat something which is out of the ordinary of my diet and which I would deem to be unhealthy, for example, if I was to have an alcoholic drink or if I was to have maybe an Indian takeaway that was quite spicy, it does feel like my gut starts to ferment stuff that’s in my stomach, because I’m just full of gas. Is there any correlation between that? Between what you’ve just said and what I’ve said around eating something out of ordinary in my diet?
Naomi: Yeah. Some people have food sensitivities. Milk is a classic; some people can’t tolerate milk and it can make them gassy and bloated, but from what you’ve just said, and with the yeast in mind, absolutely. The yeast will feed off the food that you eat and as a by-product, they produce gas. It can make you feel quite bloated and it can make you feel gassy from either end. So, absolutely, that is very common with yeast overgrowth.
Darren: All right. So I need to get some better bacteria into my stomach, into my diet. We’ve talked about fibre but fibre is different to bacteria as far as I understand it. Is it or is it not?
Naomi: It is different. The fibre is something which we call prebiotic. Prebiotic is basically just food for the bacteria. Bacteria supplementation is called a probiotic. That is the actual bacteria, the probiotic, and then prebiotic is the food for it.
Darren: In the general food industry or advertising and stuff like that, you always see these things kind of like Yacon and all that kind of stuff. Is that what you mean or is that just a manufactured, not-that-great option?
Naomi: Yes. Yacon will contain a certain amount of probiotics, so it’s a certain amount of healthy bacteria but it’s at such a low level. You’re actually better to have something like make your own kefir. You can buy kefir or have other fermented foods such as sauerkraut. Kimchi as well is really great; that’s a spicy Korean fermented vegetable. These are ways you can increase your healthy bacteria just through your diet. There’s also a drink called kombucha which is a fizzy fermented tea and that contains lots of healthy bacteria.
There’s great ways of getting healthy bacteria in through the diet. That coupled with eating lots of fibre will help the bacteria to grow on their own. Even if you’re just having fibre through all your different coloured vegetables, and you’re not having any funky foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi and stuff or kombucha, you’re just having lots of different vegetables; that alone will repopulate your gut bacteria.
Darren: In terms of time frames when we start to introduce these back into our diet, what generally is the time frame in which these foods would have a positive effect on the gut?
Naomi: Quite quickly; it would obviously depend on what state your gut’s in to begin with. If you’ve been taking any antibiotics within the last couple of years, then it’s going to take longer for you because antibiotics actually kill off the healthy bacteria as well. It does depend on the person but looking at your results here, I would say let’s give this three months to really follow a healthy gut healing protocol and then it will be quite good to actually retest and see what the levels are.
Darren: Absolutely. I think you and I have already discussed that. It’s what I’d like to do just to make sure that the changes that I make have a positive impact.
Naomi: Yeah, exactly. But it does depend on person to person. You can see an effect in your gut within a couple of weeks just by changing some things so it doesn’t need to be months and months.
Darren: Is that all that’s contained in the report or are there any other things that I need to be aware of?
Naomi: There’s a few other things that have flagged up as well. I won’t go into all the detail, but I’ll mention one other thing. It’s the short chain fatty acids, which is looking at the anti- inflammatory sort of molecules. These short chain fatty acids are a by-product of bacteria fermentation. By that, I mean the bacteria eat the fibre that you ingest through your diet. They eat that fibre from the vegetable and then they produce a short chain fatty acid. That short chain fatty acid is incredibly important to the gut but also to the rest of the body, because it’s an anti- inflammatory particle. It keeps inflammation down. Your levels are looking quite low and that goes hand in hand with the fact that you’ve got a low level of healthy bacteria and you’re not eating an array of vegetables.
Darren: That’s unbalance in the gut and inflammation. Will that then say that I do have higher levels of inflammation or lower levels of inflammation?
Naomi: Within your gut, the inflammation markers are also shown on here, and your inflammation markers are fine. They’re really low.
Darren: So is that a good thing, though, that they’re low? I mean, a lot of these markers, it is good if you’re kind of midway rather than being high or low, in one way or another.
Naomi: With inflammation, you want it to be as low as you can.
Darren: And there’s been a lot of talk in the diet and nutrition world around proteins and animal- based proteins causing inflammation in the body. I’ve been very conscious of this for a little while now and actually have tailed back and been following a kind of plant-based diet even for protein and just having, maybe every couple of weeks, one piece of red meat. But the majority of my diet has been plant-based and fish-based. I’m assuming that’s something that would have a positive effect on the inflammation markers?
Naomi: Yeah, absolutely. It’s really difficult when it comes to meat. I mean, I eat meat so I’m a big fan of meat diets but where you source it from is what’s important. If you’re eating meat, I really strongly advice buying organic grass-fed meat where you can. It just comes at a bit of a price. Like you say, if you just have meat a couple of times a week, then just make sure the meat that you’re sourcing is of really good quality and the rest of your meals are mainly vegetarian-based. There’s lots of meat that will increase inflammation within the body.
Darren: I think the source, where the meat comes is a good point and I think, unfortunately, us as consumers are led to believe that the stuff that’s on the supermarket shelves is all packaged nicely and it’s all come from a good place. The sad reality of it is that in order for the supermarkets to provide the volume that they need to provide, they have to get it from sustainable sources. That unfortunately, doesn’t always mean organic and grass fed but it could mean meat and animals which are reared for that kind of process. Therefore, in order to do that in a sustainable way, they need to have a certain volume, which means that they have to feed the cattle and stuff with perhaps stuff that they shouldn’t be eating.
Obviously, that then translates right back into us when we eat that food. I think that’s something which people are not perhaps aware of. Obviously, the other thing, like you said, is price. People are very price sensitive but you make a good point; if you tame your diet such that you’re only eating red meat or meat once or twice a week, then you can perhaps afford to have that meat that’s a little bit more expensive. Also, once you understand that, you understand why the meat is a little bit more expensive.
Naomi: Absolutely. Just to add to that, it’s also the drugs and the antibiotics these animals have been given, too. If you’re going organic, then you don’t get that as well and that further affects our gut bacteria.
Darren: Have we got anything else that I should be aware of in there?
Naomi: We can talk a little bit about your immunology marker if you like.
Darren: Yeah, absolutely.
Naomi: This is your secretory immunoglobulin A. It’s got a very long name. This is the first line of defence in the body. If you think about your gut, it goes from your mouth to your anus and it’s just one long digestive tract which is covered in the mucous membrane. It’s open to the outside world and the only thing that protects it is this layer of mucus and this secretory immunoglobulin.
It’s really the first line of defence. It guards the internal part of your body, so if you like, the blood stream, from anything nasty getting inside and causing inflammation within the rest of the body.
We want this marker to be balanced. This is a marker we’re looking at that we want to be sort of midway. We don’t want it too low, because then it means your immune system’s not going to be working as effectively as it could be but we also don’t want it to be really high. Because if we have a really high immune system which is always on guard and always on the lookout for something, it could actually cause an autoimmune condition. This is where the body can start actually attacking cells that are healthy. For example, maybe if we just relate it to the gut directly, somebody with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, for example, you would expect to see a very high secretory IGA, because their insides are actually starting to attack their own body cells.
It can be high if you’ve got an infection or you’ve been ill for a period of time; it will be raised. We’re looking at it to be around sort of the 150 mark, with the reference range being 50 to 200. Yours is coming up at 647, so it is quite high. Your immune system is on really high alert so I’m asking myself why. Is that because of a recent infection? Have we got some sort of underlying autoimmune condition brewing? Is it the fact that we’ve had, maybe you’ve been on antibiotics? I don’t know, so these are questions I need to ask you to find out why this secretory IGA is so high.
Darren: One of the first comments that I would make is that I do train a hell of a lot. I don’t know whether that could be attributed to it and the fact that I’ve not got my diet necessarily dialled in for my body to cope with the amount of stress and strain that I’m putting it through on a daily basis. Could that be something that’s related to it?
Naomi: Actually, it’s completely the opposite with stress. Stress actually reduces your secretory IGA.
Darren: Interesting. Okay.
Naomi: We’ll be looking at the family history, seeing are there any autoimmune conditions in the family? If there are, then we’d be digging deeper and doing probably a few more tests just to rule out anything else.
Darren: But with this marker, once we understand that, from what you’re saying, it’s easy then to start bringing that back down once we understand what the root cause of it is.
Naomi: Exactly. It’s finding out the root cause of it and then it’s bringing everything back into balance.
Darren: I think for me this is very interesting because generally, we only get involved in tests and seeing doctors and things like that when we’ve actually got a condition but for me, this is interesting because I feel fine, fit and healthy but, clearly, there’s something that’s going on there that’s underlying, that maybe hasn’t triggered yet. The benefit for me is that I can now do something about this before it gets to the point where I have to go and see a doctor or I have to go and have tests or I have to have medication. I think this is very valuable for me, personally, and I think it will be very valuable for other people because prevention is better than cure.
Naomi: Absolutely. You’ve hit the nail on the head there completely.
Darren: That was the reason–for the benefit of listeners–why I spoke to Naomi after the first interview and I decided to have the gut health test. Because with the aid of technology and information that we have available to us now, I think we are in no better time than we have been in the past to be able to really… There’s this whole term around biohacking and hacking your health and things like that, but actually really understand on a deeper level what our bodies are doing and what our bodies are coping with, and stresses and strains. And actually, deal with that before we end up with issues and in some cases, before you end up in an issue that you can’t then reverse. So, yeah, I think it’s massively, massively valuable. Is there anything else, Naomi, or is that the biggest bombshell that you’ve got?
Naomi: No, I think that’s about it. There are quite a few things we can work on there definitely to improve your gut health.
Darren: On that, you’ve already given me a report that’s actually got a load of stuff on there that I can start to use. For example, Naomi has recommended that I start to use the fermented foods, so I started to use sauerkrauts, I’ve got some kimchi and I’m about to make my first batch of kefir as well. I think all of that is really, really positive. Simple, simple stuff as well, which I think is really valuable. The colours of the rainbow, the vegetables. How many people actually A) think about eating different vegetables and B) what’s really kind of fixed it in my mind is just making sure that I’m eating the rainbow. When you look at your plate, have I got the colours of the rainbow on my plate? No. Then I’m not having a balanced meal from a vegetable fibre perspective. It all sounds very simple and it is, but it’s very straightforward. Equally, I think it’s very, very effective.
Naomi: Absolutely. You’re absolutely right; it doesn’t have to be complex at all. I think if people listening to this, if you just start with having five different vegetables a day. Not just five vegetables; five different vegetables and that will make such a big impact, not only to your gut health, but to the rest of your health as well. Supporting your immune system, too. That would be my best place to start; just increase your range of vegetables and try having five different ones a day.
Darren: Yeah, I think that’s really great advice. Before we wrap it up, Naomi, is there anything that I didn’t ask you which you feel I should have done that would benefit the listeners?
Naomi: Only I suppose that obviously when some things are flagged up in this report. We’ve already spoken about this, Darren, but I am getting a few more tests done just to rule out a few different things. If something is flagged up in the gut health test, I will always–and it’s always really important–try and figure out why that is there. Why is that high? Why is that low? Then take the plan that step further, so we can actually tackle the root cause of what’s going on.
Darren: And I think that’s really key as well. It’s all very well doing the test, it’s all very well doing the data, but all of this is kind of pointless if you don’t do anything about it. Like we’ve just said, a lot of the stuff is quite simple and straightforward. Yes, I’m going to have some further tests but I kind of love all this kind of stuff. For me, anywhere where I can make these slight little adjustments or improvements which will improve my overall health, I’m going to do it. I think that’s great. Naomi, if people listening to this really like the idea of doing a gut health test, where’s the best place for them to go and start?
Naomi: If you visit my website, which is www.gutnutrition.co.uk, on the homepage, I’m actually offering 30 minutes free health consultations. I can talk to you about any concerns or issues you have and then make sure that the gut health test is the way to go for you, and then we can go from there. Just visit my website, book in for a free call and we can take it from there.
Darren: Perfect. Like I said on episode one as well, do follow Naomi on social media because she doesn’t just put cat images out; she put some very, very valuable images about nutrition, gut nutrition and health. I follow you avidly on Instagram and you put some great content out. Thank you very much again, Naomi, for your time. I really do appreciate it and I look forward to speaking to you again soon.
Naomi: Great, thank you, Darren.
Darren: Cheers. Take care.
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