It’s Landed At Last! Aka ‘Kids’ Guts Can Be Mental’ [ft. Threadworm] Recording

Standing at the podium, I looked down at my notes & slowly read out the title of my presentation to the hundreds of people attending, ‘Paediatric Digestive Issues & Neurocognitive Abnormalities’ and briefly froze thinking, Holy Heck (!) this is someone else’s presentation!  Seriously. No, this is not one of my work stress dreams.  This happened. I thought…oh my how am I going to deliver this, it sounds very complex and lofty and scary!!

Then I saw my scribbled hand notes on the page, the unofficial name I had affectionately given this presentation as I researched, compiled my case studies and brought it into being, months prior and I instantly relaxed…oh…Kids’ Guts Are Mental…now that I have some serious experience with and something to say about! (more…)

Does Saturated Fat Increase the Uptake of Endotoxins?

Jason ASLM

In an ASLM Tweet I shared this weekend, I mentioned our own ‘Gut Guru’, Jason Hawrelak reported dietary saturated fat (including coconut oil) increases GIT endotoxin uptake and boy did that stir the pot!  The social media switchboard lit up! It’s ok I know there isn’t a switchboard anymore…but I am old school 😉  This got just about everybody talking on Twitter & Facebook…and thinking out there in the real world…which is good, right?  And if you read to the end you will find prizes galore for those of you that want to add to this discussion 🙂 (more…)

Are you feeling your AGE?

Saggy skin

Ever got to the end of a day or a week and felt like this?  Or woken up to find your skin looking like this?! Just quietly, me too.  When my son was about 3 he was sitting in the back of my car with my mum (she would have been in her early 70s) and he asked how people get wrinkles.  We told him it was from having a fun life with lots of laughter, to which he replied out loud while still staring intently at my mother’s face, ‘Wow Grandma! You must have had the best life ever!’ I digress.

I personally am not a crusader of anti-ageing (seen my pics recently?!!) but my recent research into effectively reducing Advanced Glycation End-products (AGE) via the diet, to in turn potentially lower both my risk of tuckshop arms AND just about every other disease you can name (cardiometabolic, neurodegenerative, psychiatric, malignant, you name it), got me sitting up and paying attention! (more…)

‘Sup with Zonulin?


Watch the gap!  You know I love a good diagnostic test probably (way!) more than the next person but I am slow to come around when there’s suddenly a ‘new-kid-on-the-block’ that every functional testing company wants to offer you. This is how I felt about serum zonulin testing as marker of intestinal permeability too. In spite of Fasano’s important work, identifying this molecule and its role in the reversible opening of tight junctions in the small intestine – I didn’t embrace the test.   Why not?  Didn’t I love Fasano’s ability to add this piece to the jigsaw that had been missing til now?  Well I did.  Does that make it an accurate and reliable marker of intestinal permeability in every client with any kind of digestive issue…?  Well heck no!  That’s not how science works friends and I suspect we may have really jumped the gun a little on this one. (more…)

When it Quacks like a Duck…it Could be a QIR!


Yet another sensational week of group mentoring last week.  Holy guacamole…these cases just get more and more tasty! So much to talk about on every case presented, we all learnt buckets from a smorgasbord of conditions including: sudden onset thyroiditis (with a T4 of 45!!), azoospermia secondary to methylation and possible mitochondrial dysfunction and a 60 something female with chronic sleep issues, severe leg cramping with a differential ddx of intermittent claudication.

Just wanted to share this incredible resource related to one of the other cases from last week – a female client with a long history of interstitial cystitis, bladder pain and pudendal neuralgia.  One of the striking aspects of the case was the high frequency of acute onset UTI sx which, in site of being ‘culture negative’ on repeat analyses, respond favourably to UTI specific antibiotics.  We’ve all come across these ‘ghost infection’ situations…not a trace to be found of the offending organism or even infectious markers on urinalysis but without a doubt an infectious driver – the problem has long been convincing other practitioners of this!..and sometimes ourselves!!   (more…)

Appendicitis Update


I’ve been digging around in the scientific literature all about appendicitis and I’ve ended up here.  Long gone are the days when medicine foolishly considered the appendix without purpose – a dispensable ‘extra’ of the GIT and now, thanks to genetic PCR bacterial identification, gone also is its more recent portrayal as something sinister – a potential harbourer of ‘bad bugs’. The current consensus about this apparently complex little sac is that it constitutes a ‘safe house’ for the microbiota within the GIT, making one of its key roles the healthy recolonisation of the gut following diarrhoeal episodes and even oral antibiotics.  Amazingly, antibiotics that can quickly sterilise the rest of the digestive tract, fail to clean out the appendix, due in part to its specialised and exaggerated biofilm as well as its more diverse and environmentally tough species.  Wouldn’t you know it, the strange little sac has a critical role in keeping us well?!

Given this radical rethink of the healthy appendix I wondered whether medicine’s understanding of appendicitis and in particular what causes it, had also undergone a revolution.  This condition, which was first described over 100 years ago has confounded scientists and clinicians ever since – I love this quote from a 1972 paper in the Medical Journal of Australia (Williams):

“It is interesting and humiliating that a small organ which in man performs no useful function can so frequently give rise to problems which, if not treated, may have fatal complications, and of which we
still do not fully know the cause.” (more…)

Nothing like a big reminder of the power of ‘sickness related behaviour’


I’ve been sick – real sick just for a couple of days…an acute exotic respiratory thing that the northern Rivers and specifically the period around Bluesfest (!) seems to specialise in.  Anyway, apart from it being terrible timing (I ask my patients ‘when is it EVER good timing?’)  it has been a quick gruesome but instructive reminder about what’s called ‘sickness related behaviour’.  This is a cluster of behaviours that come as part of the package with being unwell. They’re usually short-lived as a result of acute infections like colds, flus, gastro.  Trust me – you know them well 😉  they include:  loss of appetite, social withdrawal, fatigue, amotivation, anhedonia or depression etc.

These behaviours are thought to be critical to our individual preservation and that of our community and at a physiological level are attributed primarily to the rise in pro-inflammatory cytokines (PICs) that are part of being ‘sick’.  It makes sense right?  If we’re sick we need to lie in bed, be still, rest up, stop working and most importantly, if it is contagious, stay away from everyone to prevent the spread!  So really this sickness related behaviour is a very clever adaptation. (more…)

Hold the DHA in Mental Health?


About a decade ago there was a lot of excitement about using fish oils in the management of mental health, so much so even the American Psychiatric Association developed recommendations suggesting that people with mood, impulse control & psychotic disorders should all consume 1g EPA + DHA per day… but then what happened?

Ask most health professionals (GPs, psychiatrists, naturopaths & nutritionists alike) today whether fish oils are their first choice in mental health nutritional interventions and you’ll frequently get a, ‘No’ and I include myself in that.

Let’s retrace our steps to find out how we got here.  The epidemiological evidence linking low omega 3 intake to myriad mental health problems in terms of susceptibility, incidence and severity is almost overwhelming. For example, depression rates are 10 times higher in countries with limited seafood intake and post-partum depression 10-50 times higher (Kendall-Tackett, 2010).

Noaghiul & Hibbeln postulated that countries where individuals consumed less than ≈ 450-680g of seafood per person per week demonstrated the highest rates of affective disorders (2003). One study of 33 000 women with low omega-3 intake were found to have an increased risk of psychotic symptoms (Goren & Tewksbury 2011) and it goes on.  Then, we have other evidence also pointing in the direction of fish oils, such as the general consensus that excess unchecked inflammation is evident in many mental health conditions (Maes et al 2013).  Numerous intervention studies using fish oils as stand-alone or adjunctive treatments have been published. Interventions have included high dose omega 3 (no specific EPA/DHA breakdown), EPA alone, ethyl-EPA, high DHA, blends with high DHA:EPA ratio, flaxseed oil etc. etc. (more…)

Who gives an RDW about RDW?

Ever noticed that thing called RDW (red cell distribution width) reported in your patients’ haematology results? Given that this parameter is currently regarded as one of the most important & earliest markers of a wide range of serious diseases, you might start paying some more attention to it from now on!

Dr. Michael Hayter, cleverly refers to RDW as being a reflection of the ‘Quality Control’ of an individual’s red blood cell synthesis.

As it’s a measure of how similar or dissimilar our rbcs are in terms of size, smaller values (suggesting homogeneous rbcs) are regarded as healthy, while higher RDWs suggest that some part of  rbc synthesis and/or clearance process is faulty.

This makes perfect sense in the context of nutritional anaemias like iron and B12/folate which all produce elevated RDW results but new research proposes that this rbc size disparity is also a common linking feature in just about every major disease, often predating diagnosis or in cases of established pathology signalling progression and warning of imminent poor outcomes for the individual.

There have been 100s of papers published just in the past 4 years on this topic and the findings are nothing if not dramatic. One of the biggest things I’ve realised is that, while Australian pathology companies suggest that all RDW results < 16% are acceptable, in the light of these new associations, a more accurate cut-off is probably around 13.5%! The big question now to answer is, is the increased RDW a passive marker of pathology or actively involved in the pathogenesis of these major diseases. For now, we should be scrutinising our patients’ RDW results more closely and being alert to what these markers are telling us about our clients threats & risks. I’ve recorded a 30min audio summarising all the information I’ve come across on this topic and how to apply it in your patients which you can access here.

Alternatively, if you’re happy to chomp into some juicy journal articles yourself then check out these ones to start with

Winning the Acid War

You might have heard me talk about using an ‘upstream’ rather than ‘downstream’ approach in nutrition – the concept is very naturopathic… look at the water source and address things there rather than just tweak things downriver! One of the most important upstream influences on patient health & wellbeing I can think of is systemic pH – the body’s constant struggle to neutralise its overwhelmingly acidic input, which comes from both metabolism, inflammation, stress and of course unbalanced diets.

 It’s a war out there and most of our patients aren’t winning!  (more…)

What to make of long-term low CRP

Ever had those patients… young, slim, fit…I won’t go so far as to say ‘well’ or otherwise they probably wouldn’t be seeing us right?  But not overtly inflamed and yet when you measure their CRP, it registers.  The average CRP of ‘healthy’ adult populations is reported to be between 1 and 3 mg/L but we know that even values within this range positively correlate with long-term CVD risk and most of us believe that unless there’s a good reason for immune activation at the time of the test, we’d like to see values < 1mg/L.

I saw one of my patients who fits this bill just the other day – an updated CRP and there it was again bubbling away at 1mg/L.  This guy is young (20s), slim (BMI of 19 kg/m2), non-smoker (another classic driver of this sort of brewing CRP), doesn’t report any acute illness e.g. URTI, at the time of each test (we would expect a much higher value with this anyway)…so why is there any CRP?  (more…)

Where’s the Fire??

I learned to drive more than 20 years ago in a mustard yellow VW beetle with my ageing father beside me playing the dual role of instructor and slightly hysterical passenger.  The one catch-cry that he screamed over and over again was, “Where’s the fire?  Where’s the fire?”  In case you require translation, this was his way of indicating that I was almost travelling at 60kmph & essentially meant, ‘unless you are part of the emergency services & on your way to a crisis there is no reason to be travelling this fast!’  I know, it’s a wonder I ever learned to drive!   But I’ve actually come to love that catch-cry, “Where’s the fire?” because for me it has become a pressing question in clinic every day.  (more…)