A Bioenergetic Approach to Restoring Gut Function: Part 2

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Oops - A bioenergetic approach to restoring gut function part 1 was almost two years ago, my studies got the better of me, I’m sorry. Following on from the information of how to restore energy and digestion by simply removing foods that are difficult to digest, promote endotoxin, decrease energy and digestion. Replacing them with easily digested, protective nutrients can negate the need for expensive, reduced testing and a supplement list that causes you to rattle as you stroll down the street. Much like the decreased need for stool testing, I have rarely recommended a food allergy or sensitivity test for the same reason that I haven’t used a stool test for many years (or had the luxury of a nice cash kickback from the labs I used to use). Why? Because these tests show the body in a stressed, energy wasting state that is prone to inflammation and reacts with many foods like dairy. Is it the food? No. Could it be you? It’s possible.


It’s not the dairy it’s you

Elie Metchnikoff suggested over 100 years ago that as putrefaction within the bowel occurs, function and immunity is compromised


Many clients have rolled into the office clutching their food sensitivity tests in a file, with dozens of other tests. Red bars, yellow bars, all highlighting so called problem foods. During bouts of stress (pollution exposure, psychological, under eating etc, excessive exercise, poor sleep) the body is prone to decreasing available levels of organisational hormones such as thyroid and progesterone. Usually the adrenal glands have to pick up the slack and compensatory stress hormones such as cortisol, glucagon, adrenaline and activation of serotonin (not a hormone) which  suppress thyroid and progesterone are perpetuated. This often creates a high sodium (salt) and magnesium wasting state and poor digestive function that facilitates increased sensitivity via increased serotonin and histamine levels. This also increases demand for vitamin C for gut mucosa maintenance and adrenal responses.

If this state is perpetuated increases in endotoxin (the by-product of bacterial metabolism and degradation ) burden the digestive system, liver, and can damage the gastrointestinal lining. Endotoxin levels are also  increasing through airborne environmental pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons  from fossil fuel use and industry (Annamalai & Namasivayam, 2015), so it’s worth considering that some people in a high pollution area, with poor digestive function are at increased risk of presenting with food sensitivities. They get tested, part with their cash and told to cut out 20 foods that they eat on a regular basis. Problem solved? Well no, it’s an intervention that will have some success but it’s some distance of what the person really needs.

 To simplify some of the well-known digestive issues with two ends of the spectrum.

Your bowel function might be an expression of your biology.jpg

Restore function

Restore appropriate movement

Constipation – failure to go to poop daily, hard to pass.


IBS irritable bowel like issues. Loose often more than 3 times per day.


There’s plenty of reasons to link constipation with a low energy, functionally hypothyroid, subclinical or overt hypothyroid state (Lauritano et al., 2007) and increased bacterial overgrowth like SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. The digestive system is energy and thyroid hormone dependant and restoring energy by supplying easily digested high energy foods can be a simple intervention with effective results.

Often when you dig into a person’s history, you might find that those with IBS like states often describe a period of constipation. It’s not impossible to suggest that sustained constipation will lead to increased endotoxin, serotonin and histamine that damages the bowel lining. When this environment is perpetuated by stress, poorly digested foods and low energy, the digestive system is maintained in a high stress state, sensitive and ready to reject any remotely objectionable substance. Any food can become problematic when the digestive system is over-burdened or sustains damage to enzyme producing structures in the villi and microvilli.

 If you follow the chart suggested in restoring gut function part 1, you should find yourself in a much improved state. If you need further improvement then the following factors have always worked well:



 Magnesium in forms such as chloride and glycinate or very useful for decreasing perceived stress and lowering the incidence of sensitivities and 400mgs to 1g is useful to experiment with and complements dietary changes suggested.

To restore bowel movement magnesium sulphate or Epsom salts will mobilise the digestive tract and I have found that clients if needed try half to a full teaspoon to grease the wheels.

Vitamin C is a great way of decreasing constipation. A few years back I would recommend a dose of 1-2 grams  but equally I feel adequate intake of orange juice will do a great job. The added benefit of orange juice (polyphenols) has been shown to decrease inflammation and endotoxin which is often present in both high fat and carbohydrate meals (Ghanim et al., 2010).


Cascara Sagrada If you need a good clear out to restart function then cascara is an extremely effective solution.

‘ An effective laxative (besides preventing inflammation) causes not only coordinated contraction of the smooth muscles of the intestine, but also adjusts secretions and absorption, so that an appropriate amount of fluid stays in the intestine, and the cells of the intestine don’t become water-logged.’ Ray Peat.


Caffeine seems a logical choice and the research on caffeine as a potent factor in the fight against cancer and neuro degenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is very positive. Coffee stimulates bowel function and like the suggestions above is useful to decrease the reabsorbed metabolites and toxins that may be instrumental in systemic inflammation. The aerobic/respiratory system is enhance and protected by coffee consumption, providing protection to the mitochondria (Eskelinen & Kivipelto, 2010).


Irritable bowel

Carrots I have posted about the power of grated carrot to reduce the irritated state many times and have seen some clients with over 20 years of IBS resolve with this simple addition. Carrots act as a natural antibiotic, lowering endotoxin and other bacterial end products (Babic, Nguyen‐the, Amiot, & Aubert, 1994) and bamboo shoots have the same effect. As increased bacterial issues stimulate endotoxin production the daily use of a carrot salad can be one of the simplest yet most effective tools that you can have to improve bowel function.

Bone broth, gelatin and glycine are also great for helping to support gastrointestinal mucosa, improve the brush border enzyme function and decrease the proinflammatory effects of eating tryptophan and iron rich muscle meats that can also irritate the bowel when excessive.

Mushrooms  when boiled also have a similar effect as the carrot by decreasing aromatase enzymes and estrogen  acting as a natural antibiotic.

I would challenge anyone who either has paid money for a food sensitivity test or who is thinking about it ,to simply try the suggestions set out in these two posts. Over the last few years I haven’t seen anyone who has failed to improve digestive function. Although sometimes other mechanisms involving hormones may need to be explored.


Annamalai, J., & Namasivayam, V. (2015). Endocrine disrupting chemicals in the atmosphere: Their effects on humans and wildlife. Environment International.

Babic, I., Nguyen‐the, C., Amiot, M. J., & Aubert, S. (1994). Antimicrobial activity of shredded carrot extracts on food‐borne bacteria and yeast. Journal of Applied Bacteriology.

Eskelinen, M. H., & Kivipelto, M. (2010). Caffeine as a protective factor in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Vol. 20).

Ghanim, H., Sia, C. L., Upadhyay, M., Korzeniewski, K., Viswanathan, P., Abuaysheh, S., … Dandona, P. (2010). Orange juice neutralizes the proinflammatory effect of a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal and prevents endotoxin increase and toll-like receptor expression. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Lauritano, E. C., Bilotta, A. L., Gabrielli, M., Scarpellini, E., Lupascu, A., Laginestra, A., … Gasbarrini, A. (2007). Association between hypothyroidism and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 92(11), 4180–4184.

 Peat, R.

Sunlight, health and cancer

The more you read, the more holes you find in many theories.

The more you read, the more holes you find in many theories.

Increasing sunlight exposure increases an individuals health and decreases cancer risk. In the last year or two I remember reading a quote from a professor of dermatology at a university in the U.S. who stated, “ There is no amount of sun that is good for the skin.” Clearly said professor skipped basic biology in secondary school or has had a lifetime of examining patients with excess PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids) in their diet, which is associated with increased incidence of skin cancer (there’s also a hopeful possibility that he was quoted out of context but I live in hope). Sun and skin cancer are clearly linked. Or are they? It doesn’t appear so clear cut. I first became interested in light around 2009 and its benefits to health after reading Female Hormones in Context by Ray Peat. His suggestions that sunlight can, “cure depression, improve immunity, stimulate our metabolism, while decreasing food cravings and increase our intelligence, ” (Peat, 1997) intrigued me to gain a deeper understanding.Whilst I was aware of the harms of an excess of UV light, which can damage skin but is essential for increasing vitamin D levels. The far-reaching benefits of the spectrum of red and orange lights were unbeknownst to me.

Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is well documented and the mechanisms may be due to a number of factors such as increases in serotonin and melatonin. People generally get sicker and more depressed in winter and light therapy appears to be a useful tool in overcoming some of the symptoms associated with mood, energy and immune system related issues. If light is so harmful, why is it we often need more in these times and why has sunlight become so vilified?

Sunlight appears to get a bad rap in an ever increasingly reductionist causal relationship, in as much as sunlight causes skin cancer. Therefore wear sunscreen and avoid it. However current literature suggestions are along the lines of; “Wearing sunscreen increases sun exposure and increases incidence of melanoma and skin cancer.” Like many other approaches this A to B inference neglects to mention other pertinent mechanisms that can be attributed to increased incidence of cancerous states.

Cancer is a well known metabolic disease that can occur when specific effects to cells, namely mitochondria and the electron transport chain (ETC - often termed respiratory defects which allows problematic features of metabolism to occur, increasing damaging compounds). Cancer can be a feature of poor differentiation. Damage to tissues can often require new tissue to be formed. If an architect informs the site manager how to build the structure from just the blueprints without appreciation of the surrounding land and features, you can’t always guarantee success of completion.

Promoting better conversations between structures     

Vitamin A - promotes cell differentiation (this is very important when damaged tissue is rebuilt), improves immune system function and optimal hormone function. A meta analysis in 2016 highlighted vitamin A’s protective functions and usefulness in protection against skin related disease such as melanoma through inhibiting malignant transformation and decreasing tumour size and improving survival rates (Zhang, Chu, & Liu, 2014). It’s important to note that retinol from liver sources is the effective compound in this action and not carotenoids. Other findings such as anaemia are synergistic with decreased vitamin A levels due to its critical role in the immune system and fighting infection (Semba & Bloem, 2002). Vitamin A has similar actions to organisational compounds such as progesterone and thyroid.

A question worth exploring - Does a vitamin A deficiency decrease differentiation and lead to a potential increase in cancerous type states when exposed to UV light?


Estrogen has been implicated in many cancerous states, primarily due to its role in tissue proliferation. When unchecked by levels of progesterone, it can be responsible for unwanted tissue growth and mutagenicity (Mungenast & Thalhammer, 2014) (Troisi et al., 2014). Levels can be increased due to external sources in the environment and through increased conversion of testosterone in adipose tissue to estrogen via aromatase in both men and women (Skakkebæk, 2003)(Cargouët, Bimbot, Levi, & Perdiz, 2006). The potential increases in cancerous states such as melanoma due to modulation of estrogen might be an easy target for excess levels of U.V. light to exert a negative influence in susceptible tissues. Therefore keeping estrogen low and utilising estrogen lowering strategies through food choices and avoidance of certain compounds can be useful.

Fat status of tissues.

I often found that when my diet was high in unsaturated fats my skin burnt extremely quickly. It’s been noted that people who often use sunblock often burn much quicker when in the sun without sunscreen. Increased consumption of unsaturated fatty acids appear to be linked to an increase in melanoma (Bourne, Mackie, & Curtin, 1987). Anecdotally I found that with a large decrease in PUFA my skin tolerates much longer bouts of sunshine before burning (not bad for a semi ginger pasty bloke from Kent!) , even in the intense middle-eastern heat. High fat diets, whether un/saturated also decrease mitochondrial activity and lower oxidative metabolism (Titov et al., 2016). It’s well known that vegetable oil consumption is linked to cancer (Niknamian, S., Kalamian, 2016) and heated vegetable oils that enter the body are already oxidised causing additional inflammation.

Perhaps melanoma is substantially increased when an individual has increased estrogen exposure, excessive amounts of unsaturated fatty acids in the skin and vitamin A deficiency but does that still implicate sunlight as the cause of skin cancer? The A to B scenario hopefully seems less convincing.

Modulating estrogen and decreasing PUFA in the skin is a step in the right direction. Increasing skin tolerance for longer days in the sun will be beneficial for many people. Using a homemade sun screen with minimal PUFA in can be useful for those wanting to spend extra time in the sun without damaging the skin and of course depending on the latitude, avoiding peak sun times is prudent to avoid excess UV light.

More information on resolving these issues can be found in the member’s area.


Bourne, D. J., Mackie, L. E., & Curtin, L. D. (1987). Melanoma and Dietary Lipids. Nutrition and Cancer, 9(4), 219–226.

Cargouët, M., Bimbot, M., Levi, Y., & Perdiz, D. (2006). Xenoestrogens modulate genotoxic (UVB)-induced cellular responses in estrogen receptors positive human breast cancer cells. Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology, 22(1), 104–112.

Mungenast, F., & Thalhammer, T. (2014). Estrogen biosynthesis and action in ovarian cancer. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 5(NOV).

Niknamian, S., Kalamian, M. (2016). Vegetable Oils Consumption as One of the Leading Cause of Cancer and Heart disease. International Science and Investigation Journal, 5(5).

Peat, R. (1997). From PMS to Menopause: Female Hormones in context.

Semba, R. D., & Bloem, M. W. (2002). The anemia of vitamin a deficiency: Epidemiology and pathogenesis. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Skakkebæk, N. E. (2003). Testicular dysgenesis syndrome. In Hormone Research (Vol. 60, p. 49).

Titov, D. V., Cracan, V., Goodman, R. P., Peng, J., Grabarek, Z., & Mootha, V. K. (2016). Complementation of mitochondrial electron transport chain by manipulation of the NAD+/NADH ratio. Science, 352(6282), 231–235.

Troisi, R., Ganmaa, D., Silva, I. D. S., Davaalkham, D., Rosenberg, P. S., Rich-Edwards, J., … Alemany, M. (2014). The role of hormones in the differences in the incidence of breast cancer between Mongolia and the United Kingdom. PLoS ONE, 9(12).

Zhang, Y.-P., Chu, R.-X., & Liu, H. (2014). Vitamin A intake and risk of melanoma: a meta-analysis. PloS One, 9(7), e102527.