Commonly misunderstood gut truths

Commonly misunderstood gut truths

Wellness begins in the gut
(because we must nourish every cell). Chewing is key to start good digestion. Beyond the mouth there are no teeth!!

Gut feelings and the gut-brain axis are real
(enteric nervous system; vagus nerve connection; sleep & mood highly affected by gut status).

Disease begins in the gut
(major protective frontier: home to 2/3+ of immune system and often where imbalance and dysregulation begins).

Microbial genes outnumbers our genes by 300X
(our health depends on their health & balance, and they regulate our bodies in many ways).

We are what we eat, digest and absorb
(not just “what we eat”; many things can interfere with this process we take for granted e.g. stress, hypothyroid, stress, various medications).
Eating hygiene matters. A. Lot.

Stress has a major impact on gut function and health
(shuts down digestive secretions and impairs both motility and immune function).
Sit down to eat.
Take 5 deep breaths before you start your meal.
Chew mouthfuls many times until the solids make a liquid.
Drink liquids AWAY from meals.

Constipation and diarrhoea are symptoms of gut dysfunction, not illnesses in themselves
(take both seriously; if chronic can lead to major
complications). How long is your transit time?

Acid reflux is almost never caused by excessive stomach acid overall
(rather it is acid in the wrong place, and at times triggered by insufficient acid)

Digestion is vital!
(e.g. stomach acid, bile production and concentration, pancreatic enzymes; often the gateway to the physical breakdown observed in the senior population, impacted by Type 2 Diabetes, various drugs)

“Wear-and-tear” on the gut lining can have a long-lasting impact
(e.g. NSAIDs, pesticides, antibiotics, steroids, mercury, intestinal permeability, coeliac disease, microbial overgrowths e.g. SIBO – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)

Meet Jill Raab, our Health Coach


I’ve been invited by my colleague, Dr. Jo Braid, to be a guest blogger at Braid Health.

So, I shall let you in on a bit of personal background, to put you in the picture.

We all have a story (I just love to hear people’s stories as we dive deeply into what makes them unique) and mine spans several decades! Suffice to say from the age of 4 years old I always felt a strong pull, a calling, a need, a love of helping others feel better. Simple hey?

I channelled that energy into a career as a nurse and midwife, where I was lucky enough to enjoy the diversity of working in both city and remote areas of Western Australia. As a Royal Flying Doctor Flight Nurse, I was privileged to serve in an area of a third of a million square miles providing emergency and clinic care to mining staff, aboriginal communities, station families and the general public. Prior to retiring 4 years ago, I worked in Emergency and Midwifery in a Perth hospital.  Another highlight of my career was community midwifery in England. In between times I have had the joy of raising two beautiful young men with my husband.

Now you may ask, why are you doing Health Coaching, why not enjoy retirement? Firstly, my health faltered on several occasions over the years, leading me to understand the part nutrition and lifestyle play in being not only well but feeling vibrant. From asthma and chronic fatigue, to melanoma, osteoarthritis, thyroid disease and especially the postnatal depletion I endured as an older Mum; I learned what it felt like for others.

Secondly, during the last decades I have watched the growing tide of chronic disease escalate out of all proportion.  People are suffering and it is not their fault!

My “why” crystallized one day a few years ago when, in response to an emergency call, I saw coming down the corridor of the Emergency Department a mother pushing a flushed, crying, overweight two-year-old with chest pain, in her stroller. The child was holding a red drink in her hand.
Whilst talking to her and her mother I quickly took her blood sugar level. It was that of a diabetic adult! Shock, anger and sadness overwhelmed me.

It was in that moment I realized I wanted to find a way to help people discover the simple steps they can take to feel well again. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that however retiring suddenly gave me space to recreate my role. I became certified as a Functional Medicine Health Coach, studying for 12 months with the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy. I learned how to leverage my extensive medical knowledge with proven coaching techniques to help you prevent or reverse chronic lifestyle induced disease. My love of learning now sees me continuing to enhance my knowledge, as I fulfil my quest for the latest science in applied functional medicine at The School of Applied Functional Medicine.

I love to work as part of a collaborative team, identifying the underlying causes of illness, helping you achieve the health goals you have set for yourself.

With my broad background in midwifery and nursing and love of people from all walks of life, I can turn my hand to coaching almost anyone.

Am I going to meet you soon?

The journey to health is one we all take when ready. I will give you a space of comfort, of safety and a place where you can be, receive and have gratitude for the complete person that you are. No matter what, I will be in your corner as you take on this challenge to feel vibrant again.

All about stress!

All about stress!

Last week I gave a brand new presentation on Stress at the Central West Women’s Health Centre. There were lots of questions at the end and surprise at the connections between stress and our bodies.

​​Did you know gut bugs, both friendly and unfriendly, respond to changes in stress hormones? Our immune system is intimately connected with our gut microbes, and is also affected by stress hormones.

​​In acute stress (running away from a predator), our immune system is UP-regulated in anticipation of infection.
​In chronic stress (lasting longer than 6 weeks), our immune system is DOWN-regulated meaning we are more vulnerable to infections.

​​The microbial balance in the gut changes which can affect neurotransmitter production.
Stress also affects our genes. In pregnant women, chronic stress can change the microbial community in the birth canal which can impact the bugs a baby is first in contact with.

​​Stress also affects DNA repair (telomerase activity) and women with highest levels of perceived stress compared with low stress have shorter telomeres. This has the average equivalent of at least one decade of additional ageing.

​So what can you do about this?

Meditation may slow genetic ageing and enhance genetic repair by promoting telomere maintenance

​​Box breathing is easy to do and can be done anywhere!
​Breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4. Repeat for 4 to 6 rounds.
Lie down with your legs up the wall or calves resting on a chair, thighs vertical for 2-10 minutes for a gentle inversion.


And maybe consider this saying “Not my circus, not my monkeys” – the downfalls of trying to control what is not ours to control.
Maybe someone is trying to give you their problem to sort out/take on board.

Get some Sleep!

Get some Sleep!

100% of the top conditions seen by a General Practitioner can be related to poor sleep. Some of these include:

  • Hypertension
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Pain
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Cancer

We have different phases of sleep including:

REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement):
The body is paralysed but brainwaves are most similar to when awake.
This is important for memory consolidation and emotional control

NonREM sleep
Important for physical repair and learning
Brainwaves are slow, growth hormone is secreted. Children have a lot of this phase of sleep, it gradually decreases across adulthood.

During sleep, the brain has a special detoxification and clearance system called the Glymphatic System. Breakdown products and proteins are cleared by immune cells specific to the brain.

Sleep complaints are very common and include:

  • Snoring while sleeping – 48%
  • Snort, gasp or stop breathing – 11%
  • Trouble falling asleep – 16%
  • Unrested during day regardless of hours of sleep – 27%
  • not enough sleep – 26%

Poor sleep and chronic pain have a vicious cycle with new research showing sleep disruptions increase pain, more than pain disrupts sleep.

Quote: The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep. E. Joseph Cossman

The most common sleep disorder in the USA is “insufficient sleep”. The number of recorded sleep hours is steadily declining, with reports in 2001 of 7h sleep on worknights, compared with 6.7h in 2008. Almost 50% of adults get less than the recommended amount of sleep and up to 57% of children get less than needed.

Global effects of insufficient sleep include:

Mental health: anxiety, depression, panic
Physical health: inflammation, high blood pressure, obesity
Cognitive Performance: reduced short term memory, verbal fluency and creativity
Physical performance: decreased reaction time and coordination
Emotional Intelligence: ethical decision making and identifying emotional states.

Tips for better sleep:

  1. Start with a good wind-down before sleep. Avoid strong overhead lights as these make your body think it is daytime. Have a minimum of 1h wind down time to bring your body into parasympathetic mode ready for sleep.
  2. Control light exposure: use blue light blocking glasses 2h before bedtime when using devices or watching a screen. Use night time control for screen brightness/blue light blocking on your mobile phone.
  3. Turn mobile phone into Airplane mode or ideally keep in another room where you won’t be disturbed.
  4. Choose your bedtime so you get sufficient sleep – adults need 7-8h per night. Wake up time may be decided for you as per your schedule, YOU have the choice of when to go to bed.

Set up your bedroom for a good night’s sleep:

  • Dark
  • Cool
  • Clean
  • Silent
  • No pets
  • No wakeful stimuli eg devices

First thing in the morning ensure you have exposure to full spectrum light (ideally sunlight) for 30 minutes of the first 2 hours of waking. This will help set your day-night clock for better sleep. Aim for 10 minute bursts of light every couple of hours.

Mitochondria and brain health

Mitochondria and brain health

So how are mitochondria and brain health linked?

Very intricately indeed! Neurons which are nerve cells which send messages all around our body, use a lot of energy to do so, and the mitochondria provide the energy for this. So if mitochondria become damaged or dysfunctional (not working properly), there can be slowing down or limited messages getting through.

In terms of what this might look like for a person, symptoms could include:

  • brain fog
  • reduced endurance for tasks that previously were easy
  • lack of motivation
  • lethargy or fatigue
  • depression
  • inability to concentrate

All of these symptoms are suggestive of mild to moderate neuroinflammation.

The brain can become inflamed (aka neuroinflammation) from many causes including:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Stress
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Ageing – yup we’re all at risk of it!
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Pro-inflammatory diet – think junk food
  • Depleted antioxidant reserves – not enough colourful veg and fruits
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

So what can be done for a brain on fire?

I would start with a general overview of:

  • Maximise: Exercise – specific to the individual
  • Minimise: Alcohol and Stress
  • Prioritise: Sleep and good nutrition

Then tailor a program specific to an individual person and their contributing factors.