By WIN Contributor: Dr. Laura Imola

Your gut is the centre of your universe.  It’s a statement I share with patients on a daily basis.

Don’t get me wrong, as person who has a deep appreciation for physiology and all our organ systems… they all have major importance… I very often find it starts with the gut.

The digestive tract is as intricate as the cell upon cell, fold upon fold, layers of tissue, millions of nerve endings and trillions of microorganisms that compose it. And it’s one of the reasons why the gut has such a tremendous ability to influence our health.

Microflora & Probiotics

A rich ecology of microorganisms live in the gut.  I explain to patients… the good stuff (healthy bacteria, aka “good flora” or “the microbiome”), yeast, and other microorganisms, all live together in a balance.  As long as the good stuff dominates, it keeps all the others in check and prevents illness and infection.

Would you believe that when I started practice in 2003, probiotics were considered useless by the majority of mainstream medicine.  Now, thankfully, that opinion is changing.  As I review health research I see more studies that demonstrate the link between the gut microbiome and chronic illness. (1-3) Keep in mind, probiotics are not a panacea for a given ailment… they are simply part of the health picture and are central to gut health.

Also, if you continue to put things in the tube like fast food, sugar, alcohol, allergenic food, etc., probiotic supplements will be negated.  The populations of the good stuff, and the function of the gut, is so strongly linked to what we eat, drink and how we live.

Digestion Function and Disease

If you have a digestive concern and use symptomatic treatments like gravol, immodium, peptobismol, zantac, antacids and proton pump inhibitors repeatedly and/or over long periods of time…habitual use of these can diminish your own physiological ability to digest. Using these do not reset, retrain or strengthen digestive function. 

Ineffective digestion leads to poor food breakdown, decreased nutrient uptake, a shift in the good gut flora and improper immune function.  As the gut environment declines, other systems will follow.

Cue fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain, frequent infections, chronic cough, chronic sinusitis, acne, rosacea, metabolic changes, hormonal changes and mood changes.  A local symptom may be silenced, but the rest of the body will be sure to let you know that something is wrong.

Compounding Health Concerns

In my first few years of practice, I also found that patients would come with one, maybe two main health concerns.  To an increasing degree I’m finding patients who are struggling with many of the health concerns listed above all at the same time. 

With each visit, I educate patients so they can understand their health. I work with them to unwind all the symptoms that are connected. We discuss ways to address their concerns and rebuild what’s been compromised.  It’s a long and winding road… as the path to optimal health is rarely short or linear… but for those who stick with it, it can be life changing.

Getting Your Gut In Order

1.     Nutrition

Improving nutrition is often a lifelong work in progress.  But the sooner one takes up this challenge the sooner they can start to strengthen their health.  Start with choosing more healthy, whole, fresh food and plenty of pure water.

2.     Stress Management, Sleep & Exercise

Getting proper sleep and exercise is essential, not only for gut health but for overall health. Finding positive ways to manage stress, improve your outlook and deal with negative emotions or situations will also help improve digestion.

3.     Probiotics

Taking a good quality probiotic from a reputable manufacturer of natural health products can also help. (Note: Not necessarily a generic probiotic, one that has the best commercial or one that sells the most in the store).

4.     Gut Specific Treatment

There are so many gut related natural remedies that can alleviate gut symptoms that also strengthen your own digestive function.  If you need more information and professional guidance on which may be the best fit for you, if you are struggling to get started with good nutrition or wonder which probiotic may be right for you, visit with me at WIN Health Solutions and I’d be happy to review your whole picture of health and offer options that are individualized to you.


1.Gut feelings; How the microbiome may affect mental illness – Emily Jutkiewicz. Gut Microbial Community and Behavioral Changes in a Chronic Mild Stress Model of Depression in RatsNeuropsychopharmacology, 2016 DOI: 10.1038/npp.2016.239

2.Chronic fatigue syndrome linked to imbalanced microbiome – Dorottya Nagy-Szakal, Brent L. Williams, Nischay Mishra, Xiaoyu Che, Bohyun Lee, Lucinda Bateman, Nancy G. Klimas, Anthony L. Komaroff, Susan Levine, Jose G. Montoya, Daniel L. Peterson, Devi Ramanan, Komal Jain, Meredith L. Eddy, Mady Hornig, W. Ian Lipkin. Fecal metagenomic profiles in subgroups of patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndromeMicrobiome, 2017; 5 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s40168-017-0261-y

3.Lupus strongly linked to imbalances of gut microbiome – Doua Azzouz, Aidana Omarbekova, Adriana Heguy, Dominik Schwudke, Nicolas Gisch, Brad H. Rovin, Roberto Caricchio, Jill P. Buyon, Alexander V. Alekseyenko, Gregg J. Silverman. Lupus nephritis is linked to disease-activity associated expansions and immunity to a gut commensalAnnals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 2019; annrheumdis-2018-214856 DOI: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2018-214856