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February 2024 Newsletter

Do You ‘Trust Your Gut’?

Hello, this is Dr. Ellen. In this month’s ‘Real Common Sense’ newsletter, I want to write about a topic whose importance is becoming increasingly evident – the relationship between your microbiome, more specifically, your gut microbiome, and your health. A growing number of studies and clinical findings are showing that a healthy microbiome is key to optimal health. A dysfunctional gut microbiome can lead to disturbances and at least contribute to pathological functioning in a number of the body’s physiological systems. This may in turn lead to disease processes in one or more of these systems. I will give an overview of this and touch on how to optimize your gut microbiome to maximize your health.

By the way, if you haven’t had a chance to see my previous newsletters, you can find them on my website, www.drellencutler.com under ‘Media’.

What is the gut microbiome?

Each part of the human body exposed to the outer environment is inhabited by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms. There are more microorganisms in and on your body than human cells; at a cellular level, we are more bacterial than human! Each exposed region of the body has its own ‘community’ of microorganisms. For example, there are microbiomes of the oral cavity and the skin. The community living in your gastrointestinal tract is called the gut microbiome, and the specific microorganisms that make it up are called the gut microbiota. The largest percentage of the gut microbiome lives in your cecum, a large ‘pocket’ at the beginning of the large intestine. The bacterial microbiota is the most studied of the gut microbiome, with more than 1000 bacterial species having been identified.(1,2)

The human body maintains a symbiotic relationship with the gut microbiome, which grows and changes as we do. The changes that shape our individual gut microbiome include developmental, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Furthermore, the relationship with our gut microbiome appears to be bidirectional. The gut microbiome influences our bodies’ physiological processes. For example, changes in the gut microbiome have been found to alter the development of the nervous system, which can have lifelong effects on the brain and behavior.(3)

Benefits of a Healthy Gut Microbiome

The gut microbiome metabolizes otherwise nondigestible dietary carbohydrates, including large polysaccharides such as resistant starches, cellulose, and pectin, as well as unabsorbed sugars and alcohols. This provides energy and absorbable substrates for our physical body and supplies energy and nutrients to the microbiome itself. Many of the health-promoting gut microbiota produce antimicrobial compounds and compete for nutrients and sites of attachment in the gut inner lining, thereby preventing or minimizing disease-promoting microorganisms.(4)

The gut inner lining is the primary interface between the immune system and the external environment. Our immune system is directly affected by interactions with the gut microbiota and their metabolites, which can lead to a protective response to health-promoting microorganisms or an inflammatory response to those that promote disease. Also, the  communication system between the gut and brain, referred to as the gut–brain axis, uses neural, hormonal, and immunological signaling between the two, which affords the gut microbiota and their metabolites the means to influence the brain (and vice versa).(4)

The Problems with an Unhealthy Gut Microbiome

When there is decreased diversity of the gut microbiome, a loss of the beneficial microbiota, or an overgrowth of the harmful microbiota, there can bea resulting dysfunction of one or more physiological processes. This is referred to as a ‘dysbiosis’ of the gut microbiota. Dysbiosis can result from genetic predisposition, infections, inflammation, or lifestyle choices. However, the most important deleterious factors are those directly impacting the environment within the gut, including a diet high in processed carbohydrates and low in fiber, food additives such as artificial sweeteners, and drugs such as antibiotics.(5,6)

Gut microbiome dysbiosis appears to be associated with numerous pathophysiological consequences, some of which have been investigated. Gut dysbiosis may directly affect gut health by failing to prevent disease-causing bacteria from sticking to the intestinal wall. It may play a role in intestinal disorders such as leaky gut syndrome and colorectal cancer; it may also play a role in irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, as dysbiosis is also associated with both allergies and autoimmune diseases. Dysbiosis appears related to metabolic disorders such as obesity and type 1 and 2 diabetes. Certain disease-promoting bacteria within the gut microbiome can produce chemicals that may block arteries and lead to atherosclerosis and heart disease. Age-related changes in the gut microbiota have also been linked to inflammatory changes in the brain. This may increase susceptibility to neurological disease, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. And several studies have shown that people with various psychological disorders have different species of bacteria in their guts when they are compared to ‘healthy’ people.(1,2,3)

Promoting a Healthy Gut Microbiome

There are a number of ways to improve your gut microbiome. Perhaps the most important are your dietary choices. Eating a whole food, plant-based diet is the ideal way toward gut microbial health for a number of reasons. Legumes, vegetables, and fruits contain lots of dietary fiber, which can promote the growth of healthy bacteria as can foods high in prebiotic fiber, such as artichokes, asparagus, and apples. Whole grains contain beneficial carbs like beta-glucan, which are also digested by gut bacteria. In addition, polyphenols are plant compounds found in red wine, green tea, dark chocolate, and whole grains, that are broken down by the gut microbiome to stimulate healthy bacterial growth. And as noted above, it is also important to limit your intake of refined carbohydrates and artificial sweeteners.(1,6)

There are several other methods that can facilitate a healthier gut microbiome. Probiotic supplements are composed of a limited number of strains of live or dormant bacteria that can help restore the gut microbiome to a healthier state by “reseeding” it with healthy gut bacteria. There are several species that have been found to be helpful, including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces. ‘Synbiotic’ supplements are mixtures of probiotics with prebiotic, nondigestible fibers. There are also ‘postbiotic’ supplements, which consist of bioactive compounds that are made by healthy bacteria in your gut when they ferment fiber. They offer health benefits similar to those of probiotics but may produce adverse effects in certain groups of people, including those with digestive tract or structural heart disorders, those who have recently had surgery, pregnant people, and children. For them it is safer to naturally increase postbiotic production by eating more prebiotic and probiotic foods.(7)

The entire spectrum of the gut microbiota can potentially be rehabilitated by fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT). This therapy has been highly effective for medically treating initial and recurrent Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections. FMT has also been used experimentally to treat other gastrointestinal disorders, such as ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome, liver diseases, and neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.(5)

In my practice, I am able to energetically test for gut dysbiosis and to determine if it is impacting the complaint(s) an individual is having. For this, I use the Ellen Cutler Method (ECM) testing protocols. Almost invariably, the most important beneficial change is for that person to move toward a whole food, plant-based diet. Many times, other factors can be identified that contribute to the gut dysbiosis, especially those directly impacting the environment within the gut. Through ECM testing, I can determine if the individual’s reaction to those factors can be desensitized, or if they need to be eliminated (if and when possible). I can also determine if specific supplementation can be helpful. For example, when indicated, I have seen very good results using ProEnzol® “Probiotic 25” as well as Dr. Ellen’s Way “Digest Supreme” and/or “G.I. Calm” in those with gastrointestinal symptoms when associated with gut dysbiosis.

The bottom line is to eat a healthful diet that is as close to a whole food plant-based diet as possible, and to use high quality meaningful supplementation, preferably those that have been found to be effective for you!

Please be well, be healthy, and remember…

“We are not just individuals; we are ecosystems, constantly interacting with the microbial world within us.”

― Giulia Enders

Dr. Ellen


  1. “How Does Your Gut Microbiome Impact Your Overall Health?” at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gut-microbiome-and-health
  2. “The gut microbiome: a core regulator of metabolism” at https://joe.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/joe/256/3/JOE-22-0111.xml
  3. “Overview of the Gut Microbiome” at https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-0043-1771463
  4. “Part 1: The Human Gut Microbiome in Health and Disease” at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4566439/#:~:text=In%20a%20healthy%20state%2C%20the,modulation%20of%20the%20immune%20system
  5. “Gut Microbiota Dysbiosis: Triggers, Consequences, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Options” at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8954387/
  6. “A Look at Processed Sugars and Their Substitutes” at https://drellencutler.com/december-2023-newsletter/
  7. “What Are Postbiotics? A Comprehensive Overview” at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/postbiotics

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate, or prevent any disease.

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