Functional Medicine Expert Webinar On Understanding Gut Health With Oliver Barnett

Discover the importance of understanding gut health in this thought provoking session.

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Catch up on our webinar with Oliver Barnett, who takes you through the importance of understanding gut health and offers expert tips along the way.


As part of our recent webinar series, Oliver provided his expert insight on Understanding Gut Health. Throughout the series he has shared his functional medicine approach to Natural Pain Relief, Improving Immunity and Boosting Energy Levels.

As one of the UK’s leading Functional Medicine and Nutritional Therapy Specialists, Oliver has a wealth of experience to share and leads the team at the London Clinic of Nutrtition.

Watch the Webinar Here >

Understanding Gut Health Video Transcript:

I’d just like to start with the idea around gut health and why am I talking about it today and where does it come from and what is it’s been a bit of a buzz term for many, many years.

And you can trace it back as far as Hippocrates, where it was said that it said that all disease begins in the colon and there was sort of primitive use of colonic irrigation even in his time.

And that’s obviously continued till with current use of colonics, which obviously have a more some clonics these days have a more automatic
function rather than being done manually, get these machines to do it.

But I much prefer the manual method. I’m happy to talk about that if people want me to. So that’s interesting with the history.

And I think that if you look at the microbiome of an individual, especially a mother, and then passing on that diversity or lack of diversity to a child, a lot of early life bacterial diversity occurs through the birth

And obviously the microbiome of the mother will make a difference to the early life immunity and microbiome of the child.

And what we know now through various studies and the information we have is that the gut environment really makes up a massive part
of our immune system.

And up to say, 75% of our immune system is within that gut environment. And some of the early life influences to that environment will be things like.

Was, was the child, say, delivered vaginally, was a child breastfed. Now, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t mean that if some a child is born, say, C section or not breastfed or bottle fed, that they’re
at a huge disadvantage.

And there is a sort of a counterargument for that, which I’ll touch on, because what people are doing now is, with vaginal deliveries, is even rubbing some of the vaginal delivery sorry, rubbing some of the vaginal secretions
on the baby once the baby is born to improve microbiome and microbial diversity.

And again, when we look at the sort of the breast milk bottle milk sort of debate, there is sort of a counterargument in some respects insofar as although the old notion of mummy’s milk is best, what we now know is, because
of the toxic sort of soup that we live in, that breast milk has a huge area of toxins in.

But overall, on balance, breast milk is better.

But I do believe that we need to be mindful of the sort of shaming that can go on to mums that say or don’t have the delivery and don’t have able to feed their child in the way that they might have wanted to.

So that’s something I think we need to be mindful of in society. And I think many mums are doing the best they can possibly do given their circumstances.

And often when people want to have a home birth and a vaginal delivery and what have you, sometimes best laid plans don’t necessarily work out as one might expect.

So I thought I would just touch on the early life aspect of gut health.

And I also would like to mention. As well that what separates us from health and disease ultimately is the soil.

Because the soil is is full of microorganisms. And if we destroy, which we have. Been doing, the soil and soil environment, then ultimately that’s what ultimately separates us from starvation.

Because if there’s no minerals, if the soil is no minerals and it’s dead, completely dead soil worldwide, we wouldn’t survive.

And our own microbial diversity is very. Much dependent in terms of that synchronous. Diversity with the environment. We’re not separate from it. We’re part of it.

And the way we treat the Earth and in the last 75 years, as we know, has really been at our own costs.

And we’re ultimately custodians for the future generations. And our future generations have been prejudiced by our own habits.

And that in turn affects the Earth’s. Immunity, let’s call it.

And our own going back to the. Idea of the immune system, what we. Tend to find is what we’ve had is if we’ve had this whole sort of the whole hygiene thing has been very problematic for us in the last few decades where we’ve had this much more sterile environment, creating more and more sterile environment.

And ultimately what we need to be doing is effectively just playing in dirt, getting dirty, messy. And if you look at agricultural and farming communities, they have a much lower incidence of allergy autoimmune disease partly because.

Of the microbial diversity that people. Those communities are exposed to. And if you look at a lot of Africa and a lot of although they’ll have conditions and diseases that more prevalent that we may not have there is a much lower incidence of autoimmune conditions.

And allergy in those environments. Certainly more in the Western cultures. Things like hay fever, asthma, eczema are pretty common. And those are ultimately gut mediated, immune mediated inflammatory conditions.

And because of so much of the gut environment housing our immune system if we focus on that area and support that area then what we often find is that those early life inflammatory conditions that people can be prone to and obviously that go into adulthood like eczema and asthma can be completely eliminated.

What we also find is that obviously we now have a myriad of conditions that we never even had sort of 75 years ago especially, like, stuff along the autism. And obviously neurodiversity is a broader term but certainly things like autism and ADHD and add a massive increase.

And I think that a part of that. If you look at the work from Stephanie Senna who is an MIT research scientist she has quite stark predictions in terms of the incidence of autism and her work. She’s probably the leading authority in the world on gly efficate which, as many of you might know, is obviously what goes into Roundup and has a very deleterious effect on the microbiome.

It’s very common in genetically modified crops. And she’s saying that because of this we’re having a huge incidence alongside. Adjuvants within vaccines has had a massive impact on the incidence of autism, ADHD and other conditions such as that.

And I think that now that you have, say, if you have a gardener, let’s say, and they’re still using Roundup in your garden, I would help try and educate them. I mean, Roundup now has been banned in multiple European countries, classes a class three carcinogen and has a very big deleterious effect on the microbiome.

So that’s just giving you a bit of a broad picture.

Question is what can we do to encourage a better gut environment which then improves our health systemically, given that so much of the gut environment is linked to, say, systemic wellness?


So I think it really start it can partly start with diversity, which I think it’s been a buzz term for quite a while now, and people say, well, eat a broad diet, eat play the rainbow game, which could be something such as go one week and eat a load of fruit and vegetables the following week.

You then eat a completely set of different fruit and vegetables you ate the previous week and you do it, say, three or four weeks. And the idea is that by having diversity in the diet of different fruits and vegetables and also the substances and substrates they contain, such as polyphenols, which are plant based powerhouses that really work well for the gut environment.

The idea is that you encourage diversity within the guts.

I’d like to sort of caveat that with that’s ll well and good and it’s a great idea.

And it’s really good eating lots of veggies. And yes, if you can eat ten portions of vegetables a day, that’s brilliant, right?

But many people struggle with vegetable based. Products and salad and what have you from an Ayurvedic perspective in digestion.

You have this digestive fire called acne. And in an Ayurvedic perspective, which is. The oldest system of and there is. About 5000 years old, we’re told, not. To eat cooling foods for the digestion. Things like salads or very fashionable things
like green smoothies, which have been very fashionable for years.

People say, oh, have a green smoothie, it’s very healthy. But from the green smoothies, although they are very cooling on the digestion and again may not be well absorbed at all.

I think you can temper green smoothies with, say, a lot of ginger, a lot of turmeric and a lot of spice and not having them cold, having sort of room temperature if you can, because the body has to warm up. Whatever you put into it anyway, to the temperature that it desires. And eating very cold foods is not very good for digestion at all.

So I think that we’re not ruminants and ruminants obviously have multiple stomachs and can digest plant matter a lot better than humans. We’ve evolved to be omnivorous and eating a lot of plant matter. Not everyone does very well on that. So while it might well be great to consume a lot of plant matter, some people it really doesn’t suit.

And you’ve got to have really robust digestion to eat a lot of plant matter.

And the problem is we live in. A very stressful world. They’re very busy lives and we’ve, ultimately, many of us become human, human doings rather than human beings.

And as a result, that creates a lot of stress. We now know that the gut and the brain is linked via what’s known as the gut brain access.

So the brain is like but the gut is the second brain. You often hear this term as well, and it works bi directionally.

So your thoughts will influence your gut environment and your gut environment will influence your your thoughts.

And it’s very rare that I’ve ever seen a patient, well, hardly ever with IBS or digestion problems or anything of that nature that doesn’t have a nervous system component.

It’s like that saying, what’s your gut feeling?

And we need to trust our gut. And I think many of us don’t trust it as much as we should.

I’m a victim of that as well, right?

But again, the idea is obviously to try and eat food when you’re relaxed, because you want to be in that sort of people would have heard the term fight or flight, which is when. You’re in sort of running from that sort of proverbial lion. But there’s also another phase, which is rest and digest.

So if you’re anxious or stressed out, you’ve had a hard day at work, or you’ve had a row with someone, or you’re stressed out because of some of your kids or whatever it might be. You’re not going to be in that rest and digest phase.

And if you decide then to walk up the street eating a baguette, which you do see people, sort of it always makes me smile when people are walking up the road and munching a sandwich or something as they’re walking along, because ultimately we’re not really designed to eat food as we’re walking along.

We really should be sitting down and traditionally and ancestrally eating around the hearth. With time and being in a relaxed state. And many people obviously at work will eat their lunch at their desk, let’s. Say, rather than allowing proper time to eat it.

And I think also chewing food as well. Really important. The stomach obviously doesn’t have teeth in it.

And digestion takes place even before you put the food in your mouth because your body knows you’re going to eat something. You know that sort of sensation when you see more in animals and animals lick their lips

or you get that anticipatory response to eating something because your body’s actually even producing saliva reamylase to digest your food before you even actually put the food in your mouth. And so taking time is really important with
that and eating mindfully. There’s even like a very simple mindfulness practice, I think, which is using a cube of chocolate where you can let it sit in your mouth and experience the flavor it with one cube and actually see what it tastes like
and go through the textures and taste.

And that can be a useful mindfulness practice to sort of getting you used to eating slowly, let’s say.

But ultimately, chewing food a number of times is helpful because if we shovel everything in, it puts more pressure on the digestive system.

Also, stress reduces hydrochloric acid within the stomach and as a result of that, we can find it harder to digest fat and protein based meals.

We can take additional supplemental hydrochloric acid via supplements or you can even use simple things to encourage it, like apple cider vinegar or lemon juice.

And again, also you can use bitters. The clinic makes a really good bitters formula which is available online in various places like Amrita. And that can be very, very useful because the bitter taste in our diet tends to be quite lacking these days and is quite needed.

Obviously, we can get it in things like mustard greens and radico and, and things like that and rocket and it is a good way of stimulating digestion.

I do think a lot of the. Modern conditions of the gut. For me, a sort of like, say, SIBO, for example, is a bit of a red herring.

I really think that ultimately SIBO is just a modern name for disordered digestion. If people were digesting better, they wouldn’t get reactions to certain foods and then experience things such as bloating um, or burping or constipation, which are the common some of the more common symptoms.

With SIBO, which is small, intestinal, bacterial overgrowth.

We’ve also found that now obviously there’s quite a lot of ways in getting probiotics into our diet, whether that’s through natural probiotics such as sauerkraut, so, fermented foods, so, water kafir, dairy based kafirs,
kombucha, and other fermented foods. The problem with, I think, with fermented foods for some people can be some people do get a histamine reaction with fermented foods.

And again, histamine reactions do tend to often stem from the gut. We’re working on the gut environment and improving that. Then those reactions should slow down or dissipate or disappear.

Another thing with fermented foods or kafir and things like that is that some of the companies out there make claims as to how many billions of organisms are in their product or their drink or what have you.

The problem with that is, yes, they can measure the billions of organisms, but the question then is, does it reach the gut environment?

And we have no way of knowing. So I guess we’re doing it on faith a lot of the time.

However, the company that makes a goat kafir called Chuckling Goat, is really good, very powerful kafir and had numbers of patients over the years.

It really helps help their digestive symptoms by using the chuckling goat kafir and I’ve had very good feedback from other practitioners as well with that.

That does seem to work really nicely.

And I do hear, obviously, people talking. About regularly about how natural probiotics have helped them. Also, probiotics can also be used in a supplemental form and there’s so many.

Probiotics out there now, both in liquid form and capsule form. Different probiotics, different species and different strains have different affinity with different conditions and helping with different conditions in the body.

And obviously we haven’t got the time today to go through different strains with different conditions. But there are a huge array out. there and a lot of companies now  that are branding their probiotics around particular
things, whether it’s for the skin or for the hair or what have you. And some have better research than others.

What I would like to mention again more around bugs is that sometimes, people can pick up bugs. So it could be what we commonly see in clinic, I suppose, is it can be a bacterial infection in the gut environment, whether that’s in the small intestine or the large intestine, and sometimes it’s going to be picked up via stool test.

Obviously, a famous bug that people will be aware of would be H. Pyloria, helicobacter pylori.

And the old approach with Helicobacter used to be that it was problematic, it was a bacteria that was unwanted and you would go to a GP and you would receive what’s known as triple therapy.

You’d get three antibiotics to try and get rid of it and often it would come back. Antibiotics are deleterious to the microbiome. You can’t really regain microbiome, the microbiome diversity lost through a single course of antibiotics.

And obviously we’re poisoning also obviously ourselves via more antibiotic resistance is not only coming from doctor prescriptions, but it’s also coming from antibiotics used in the farming industry and probably more so there.

And what we now know from the research search from, say, people like Malcolm Blazer who wrote Missing Microbes and the guy who wrote Moses Velasquez who wrote Epidemic of Absence, we now know that H. Pylori may not be the problem that we thought it was.

And it may well be a commensal bug that’s actually meant to be within the gut environment, is actually meant to be there and it’s meant to be helping us.

So unless I find unless patients have got absolutely overt symptoms of H. Pylori or they’ve got a stomach ulce or something like that, I won’t be very aggressive in my treatment with it. And again, I would be trying to improve the
gut environment and treat it naturally as opposed to using aggressive therapies such as three types of antibiotics.

Because another problem with using antibiotic therapy for the bugs is that and I’ve seen this hundreds of times is that we take antibiotics and then we end up with another infection as a result of the one we’ve just had.

So we might have eradicated H. Pylori, but then we end up with chronic, umitract, infections as a result of reduced microbiome diversity.

So other bugs that people tend to complain of, obviously things like things like parasites.

And the problem with parasites is that they don’t show up so well on stool tests.

And they can be in the brain, they can be in the blood, and stall tests sometimes will show them, but sometimes. And so I tend to quite like if the stall tests are negative, I tend to quite like treating patients empirically, using antiparasitics
where I believe there’s a problem. And what we sometimes see the lucky is patients will pass them worms and what have you.

Sometimes you don’t see that doesn’t mean they’re not improving. But if their symptoms improve, we know we’re on the right track.

I would say in 50% of cases where I believe there’s parasite like sort of a patient, they will improve with herbal treatment.

But in around another sort of 50, maybe 40% to 50% of cases, they will need a combined approach of pharmaceuticals with herbs.

And those pharmaceuticals will be things like antiparasitics, such as Pravic, quantil and Albendazol, because herbs alone, sometimes maybe a third or don’t work fully.

So that’s something to be mindful of. And again, within autistic children and children that have learning difficulties, parasites can be an issue as well, even if the stool tests are negative.

So that’s something to be mindful. I think doing a parasite cleanse is not a bad idea in many conditions.

What I should also talk about with the gut environment as well, because I know we’re running short of time now, is intestinal permeability and leaky gut.

So one of the reasons why people get health conditions such as autoimmunity and inflammation driven conditions is that what happens is we get breakdowns.

Like within the cell wall of the gut lining particles can get into the systemic circulation within the bloodstream and not retain within the gut environments where we want them, right?

And by that happening, we then get inflammatory reactions with the body. The body then can’t recognize friend from foe. And we then have a case of mistaken identity, which is effectively autoimmunity. And then we get autoimmunity and we end up with conditions with fancy names such as hashimoto’s or rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis and things like that.

But ultimately a lot of that can stem from systemic immunity within the gut environment. And to support the gut environment, we can do elimination diet.

We can use prebiotics, we can use probiotics, we can use, like I mentioned, antimicrobials to get rid of unwanted bacteria within the gut environment.

We can reduce our exposure to toxins, to glyphosate. We can also use things to heal the gut, the gut lining, meditation, mindfulness practice, reducing our stress exposure.

We can also do things like using mucoligious herbs such as cypriombach, which is really, really healing and calming for the, for the gut environment can be mixed in water between meals two to three times a day, so a teaspoon.

And then there’s a whole heap of sort of nutrients that can nourish the gut environment and the gut brain access things from say, like glutamine and zinc-carnicine, the medicinal mushrooms such as lion’s main, also polyphenols, and again I say meat.

Delicious herbs like marshmallow root, slippery elm bark.

And now we also have some other useful nutrients like serum derived, serum derived bovine immunoglobulins, which you can get now in a powdered form can work quite well for some patients. So one needs quite a holistic approach to
dealing with autoimmunity and immune mediated conditions.

But I think that, like I said earlier, I would always use a combined approach with stress reduction practice and mindfulness.

Part of the practice because if I’m not doing that with patients with improving gut immunity, then really missing a trick.

I’m just going to turn to some of the questions that we’ve received so far.

Someone’s mentioned is it working in a regular parasite cleanse without having proof they’re there?

I think I’ve asked that answered that in so far as we don’t often have proof that they’re there.

Sometimes you can map your parasites activity is biggest at full and new moon.

So if you find your symptoms are worse around fallen new moons, then that can be a clue sometimes that you’ve got parasitic involvement.

Also someone said, Mary said how to increase health of the gut if belly doesn’t tolerate fibre.

Well, I think I answered that earlier on that some people don’t actually deal well with plant based foods.

So I would experiment with your diet and actually see that if you don’t tolerate certain plant based fibers well, then try using, say more meats or animal based products.

You might find better with the diet. Again, there’s a lot of probiotics and a lot of products out there that can help the gut environment.

People can use butyrate, which is in butter, but you can get butyric acid supplements.

Now there is a really nice supplement I quite like from Body Bio.

I think it’s called Gut Plus.

That’s got a couple of types of like a probiotic and a prebiotic in it as well. Plus butyric acid. The parasite cleanses someone’s asking about as well from Helen.

It really depends on the patient, but I tend to start quite aggressively with herbs so I make a bespoke blend up and I’m a herbalist, so I make bespoke.

Bends for patients which would include any number of things like asthnia and black.

Walnut, dark barbary, podarko, uber seed and things like that.

And then I’ll combine that with a couple of ayurvedic herbs called one called.

Neem, one called Vidanga, and then see how the patient fares with that.

And then if there’s no noticeable results, then moving more with pharmaceuticals after that.

So with regards to colonics and enemas.

Obviously some people suffer with constipation simple approaches to that can be doing parasite cleansing, but also supplementing with powdered vitamin C and magnesium citrate as a very, very gentle active to get the bowels moving.

Really we should be going once or twice a day to balloon. Some patients go once a week and that’s obviously not ideal.

Home based enemas can be used by patients and you can get really good Enema kits from Amazon and they can.

Be warm water enemas, but there’s all sorts of things you can put into enemies, from herbs to garlic.

Some people might be aware of coffee enemas which were sort of popularized by Gerson therapy, which was the cancer treatment.

The coffee enemas are very good for detoxification and often cited inpatient surveys in the top five of one of the things that help get them well from complex chronic illness.

So you always see coffee enemas in the top five and sort of patient surveys in terms of wellness.

and then obviously you can go for a high colonic because obviously enemas don’t get to the ascending colon, so you can go to a high colonic.

And I tend to recommend a lady in still in Belsaise Park called Marica Vogel who’s a very old school practitioner of colonic hydrotherapy.

And she’s got a website, I think, called

And then there are obviously other people doing clonics, but she’s someone I’ve known for many, many years.

I don’t find laxatives. I don’t use laxatives for patients very often. I mean, there are herbal laxatives that I will use sometimes via a bowel cleanse.

And I’ll be using things like gara, little bit of senna, turkey, rhubarb, cayenne and things like that combined in capsules.

But any sort of form of, like, bowel cleansing like that, I would only do for a couple of weeks, no more than that.

Because we want to find yeah, we want to get the bowels moving and keep them regular and then obviously using sort of things like charcoal and slippery elm and clay apple pectin alongside that or afterwards, which can then act as a bit of an intestinal broom, sweeping the toxins and getting them away from the chronic walls out through the bowels.

So then that would be a sort of a very gentle bowel cleanse I might do with some patients.

So, yeah. Thanks, everyone, for joining today.

The recording will be available and looking forward to seeing people next week for the next one in the series.

Thanks again.