gI health | Integrative functional medicine blog

"Any fool can Know. The point is to understand" - Albert Einstein

Autoimmunity and leaky gut

Autoimmunity, a disorder in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue, is one of the most prevalent diseases today, affecting predominantly women. In fact, about 75% of all autoimmune disease occur in women.

Traditionally, autoimmune disease was thought to be primarily a genetic disease, but research increasingly shows that while genetics play a role, intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, is also an important factor. This means your diet can determine whether you develop autoimmunity.

A great saying in the the “functional medicine” world is
“genetics load the gun, environment pulls the trigger.”

Examples of common autoimmune diseases include:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Celiac disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Vitiligo

Leaky gut triggers autoimmunity

Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the intestines become damaged and overly porous, allowing bacteria, yeast, undigested foods, and other pathogens into the bloodstream where they trigger inflammation and an over reaction of the immune system.

Leaky gut keeps the immune system in a hyper zealous state. This eventually makes the immune system more likely to start attacking the body tissue it was designed to protect, causing an
autoimmune condition. Think of it kind of like the incredible hulk. Once he turns into that raging green beast he is not selective in who and/or what he destroys. He will attack pretty much whatever is in the way.

People can develop leaky gut for a variety of reasons, but the most common is linked to inflammatory foods in the diet. These can include too much sugar, processed foods, junk foods, and fast foods. Also, many people have undiagnosed food sensitivities, such as to gluten, dairy, egg, or other foods. These can damage the gut lining if you have an inflammatory reaction to them.

Gluten, in particular, is notorious for its ability to cause leaky gut and trigger autoimmunity. In people who have a gluten intolerance, gluten triggers inflammation in the gut and elsewhere in the body every time they eat it. In gluten sensitive individuals, gluten also acts on messenger compounds in the intestinal wall to make it more permeable. This allows more inflammatory factors into the bloodstream, including more gluten, in a self-perpetuating vicious cycle.

There are even test we can do to test if you have leaky gut.

For some people, simply going gluten-free can repair a leaky gut and dampen autoimmunity.

Other causes of leaky gut that trigger autoimmunity
Knowing why you have leaky gut is an important strategy in not only in repairing it, but also in dampening autoimmunity. Below are some known causes of leaky gut that can, in turn, trigger autoimmunity:

  • Gluten sensitivity
  • Inflammatory foods (sugars, junk foods, fast foods, etc.)
  • Alcohol
  • Medications (corticosteroids, antibiotics, antacids, some arthritis medications)
  • Infections (poor gut bacteria balance, H. pylori, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, yeast, parasites, and viruses)
  • Chronic stress
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Processed foods, artificial food additives, thickening gums
  • Environmental toxins
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Autoimmunity (although leaky gut triggers autoimmunity, autoimmunity can also cause leaky gut, especially if the immune attack is against tissues of the gut)

If you have an autoimmune disease, you have leaky gut. If you have leaky gut, you have or will get an autoimmune disease. It’s just a matter of time.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!

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Boost your SIgA instead of getting the flu shot. It will do you more good.

In the midst of flu season, many people’s attention turns to the flu vaccine. But keep in mind that the flu vaccine is by no means a guarantee you won’t get the flu. Not taking into account all the potential side effects it is reported to only be at most 10% effective.

But there is a way to improve your immunity against not only the flu, but also other viruses, bacterial infections, yeasts, environmental toxins, food sensitivities, and even autoimmunity. The secret lies in what immunologist
Aristo Vojdani, PhD calls nature’s vaccine — secretory IgA or SIgA for short.

SIgA are immune cells that are the first line of defense between you and the world. They primarily reside in mucus membranes, including the digestive tract, respiratory tract, urinary tract, prostate, and vagina. SIgA cells are found in mucus, tears, saliva, sweat, breast milk, and other secretions. When we do a stool analysis this is often one of the many markers we are looking at to see how healthy your gut is functioning and what your immune system is like. You gut houses about 70% of your immune system after all.

If your gut isn’t healthy, chances are you aren’t either.

SIgA cells are the first to encounter invaders and sequester them so they are not dangerous to the body. This helps prevent the immune system from over reacting so it is not prone to food sensitivities, chemical sensitivities, and most importantly autoimmunity.

Many people have low SIgA
Unfortunately, having low SIgA levels is pretty common these days. It’s most often seen in individuals with adrenal fatigue who show symptoms of chronic tiredness, low blood sugar, difficulty getting up in the morning, depression, anxiety, salt cravings, and chronic illnesses. That last one is just about every patient I see in my office so you can see just how important this little known marker SIgA is.

Fun fact - Taking corticosteroid medications can also lower SIgA levels.

Low SIgA levels increases cold and flu risk
Chronically low SIgA levels have a number of consequences. The most obvious is that you are more likely to get sick frequently. For instance, if your respiratory tract is low in SIgA cells, the viruses and bacteria it encounters are going to have an easier time invading your system.

Low SIgA leads to food and chemical sensitivities
What’s perhaps more frustrating is that low SIgA levels can lead to the development of food and chemical sensitivities.

Why? Your SIgA play a pivotal role in your ability to tolerate the world around you while responding appropriately to pathogens.

When there is not enough SIgA to neutralize incoming bacteria, viruses, yeast, undigested food, chemicals, and so on, the immune system must deploy its more aggressive immune cells. It basically causes an overreaction to every little immune system attack.

It’s like calling in the Navy Seals because the police force has gone missing.

The result is a hyper reactive immune system that creates a permanent loss of tolerance in the bloodstream to certain foods or chemicals.

Low SIgA raises risk for autoimmunity
One of the more unfortunate risks of SIgA is that it raises your risk of developing autoimmunity. With a diminished defense from low SIgA, your immune system is on constant red alert and your body is more vulnerable to pathogens. Between the increased exposure to pathogens and a hyper reactive immune system, it’s just a matter of time before it starts attacking your own tissue and you get an autoimmune disease. This can e anything from Lupus, scleroderma, RA, multiple sclerosis, Ankylosing spondylitis, Temporal arteritis and many other conditions.

Go get your SIgA tested, boost it, nurture it, care for it, and just be aware of it. It can make all the difference in the world.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!

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Spore probiotics for your gut microbiome

As we continue to learn how important healthy gut bacteria is for the brain and immune system, interest in cultivating a rich and diverse “gut microbiome” grows.

One important tool in this quest are
spore-based probiotic supplements. “Spore” is derived from the word “seed,” and spore-based probiotics are a hardy delivery system that germinate in the small intestine and help you colonize your gut with more healthy bacteria.

Modern humans face many challenges to developing and maintaining healthy gut bacteria. In fact, studies of primitive people who live much like our hunter gatherer ancestors did show their guts have about 50 percent more diversity in gut bacteria than the average American. Its not just how much good bacteria you have, it’s how many different types.

Researchers are finding this lack of microbiome diversity plays a role in many chronic health and brain disorders, including depression and autoimmunity.

This is often one of the reasons I recommend periodically switching probiotic brands and strains. Diversity.

Low-fiber, junk food diets, antibiotic overuse, chlorinated water, heavy environmental toxin and pollution loads, chronic stress, alcohol, and various medications all play a role in reducing the diversity and amount of beneficial gut bacteria.

As a result, opportunistic and infectious “bad” gut bacteria are able to more easily conquer the gut. This weakens the gut lining, increases inflammation, and promotes brain and mood disorders.

There are many ways we can build a healthy and diverse population of gut bacteria. The most important is to eat a whole foods diet that is predominantly vegetables and fruits.
It’s important to vary the kind of produce you eat regularly. It’s also helpful to include cultured and fermented foods and take probiotics. Also, avoid drugs such as antibiotics, NSAIDs, and heartburn medication as much as possible, which can also contribute to the development of leaky gut, among other things.

Given the challenges the modern gut faces, it’s not a bad idea to make probiotics a part of your routine. This is where
spore-based probiotics come in. What makes spore-based probiotics special?

  • The survive the acidic environment of the stomach on their way to the intestines.
  • They resist breakdown by digestive enzymes.
  • They are heat stable and don’t need to be stored in the refrigerator.
  • Some spores are antibiotic-resistant, which means you can take while taking antibiotics.

Once in the small intestine, spore-based probiotics can germinate,
if you provide the right environment with plenty of plant fiber.

Spore probiotics and healthy gut bacteria in general can help improve your health in several ways. They improve the health and integrity of the lining of the small intestine. This lining contains not only bacteria but also plenty of immune cells to defend the bloodstream from bad bacteria, yeast, toxins, undigested foods, and other pathogens that can trigger inflammation if they make their way through the gut lining into the bloodstream. This is called leaky gut.

For instance, one strain of
spore-based probiotic, bacillus coagulans, has been well studied for its beneficial effect on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease.

Bacillus coagulans produces lactic acid, which has been shown to help protect the gut and boost immune resistance to viruses. It has also been shown to lower cholesterol and reduce pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.

Ask my office for more information on how to support healthy gut bacteria and help eradicate bad bacteria to improve immune health.

Now go eat something new, go eat some dirt, get exposed to some new healthy bacteria.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, he happy!

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How to test yourself for leaky gut. The "gaba challenge"

How to test yourself for leaky gut.
The "gaba challenge"

I challenge you to a duel!!

Not really, but this is a challenge that would be great for you to try.
We are talking about the “gaba challenge”.

Gaba is a neurotransmitter. Low levels are linked with anxiety, mood disorders, epilepsy and chronic pain. Gaba supplements are often used to help with anxiety, improving sleep, PMS (premenstrual syndrome), and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)

While there is a good amount of controversy and debate on this subject and gaba in general, this is how I use gaba in my practice as both a therapeutic nutracueutical and sometimes as a diagnostic aid.

First, In order to understand a little more about how and why this test works we have to understand what gaba is. So Im going to switch over to my little white board on my Ipad to give you a little narrated drawing to explain things more.

This is a written summary of the video:

A nerve functions in the following way. Your nerve has a point at which the nerve rests, this is call the resting potential. The nerve also has a point at which the nerve fires call the threshold. If a nerve is stimulated but does not reach the threshold it will not fire. What can happen with anxiety is the the resting potential moves much closer to the threshold at which the nerve fires and now it takes a much smaller amount of stimulation to make the nerve fire. This often results in overstimulation which is common with anxiety. Since gaba is an inhibitory neurotransmitter it can lower the resting potential back down to where is it supposed to be and now you can tolerate more input without becoming over stimulated.

You really should watch the video for an explantation that makes sense. Without something to look at its hard to make sense of it all.

Moving on. So now that you have a general idea of what gaba is lets talk about the test specifically.

First, how do we do the test?

A gaba challenge is typically done using pure gaba at a dosage of 600 - 1500 mg. I tend to start on the low side and see how someone does and then possibly retest if I think they need to.

The type of response that would indicate a positive results (not a good one) is a nice calm relaxed type feeling, generally not tired but just kind of chilled out.

Usually clients will feel the effects within the first hour but sometimes up to 3 hours later. I generally recommend doing this test around 3-4pm.

Don’t do it at a time when you are normally getting tired anyway because it will be hard to determine why you are relaxed or tired - such as just having eaten a large meal. Also don’t do the test and then go out for a night on the town or go to work, or whatever else you might want to do. Just stay in for he day in case it hits you later than the 3 hours.

If you think you might have had a response but aren’t really sure just repeat the test at a slightly higher dose in the next day or two. Don’t use too much gaba or do this too often as you can take in too much.

Click here for a good quality gaba that I often use.

So what do the results mean?

This is where things can get a little tricky.

I often use gaba for anxiety in clients but also as a semi “diagnostic” test. This is why, and I understand that nothing is in absolutes and there is some controversy here, but this is what I have found in practice.

Normaly gaba is too big to cross the blood brain barrier.

Meaning if you ingest it, it is too big to be absorbed by the body and it should just pass through you and have no effect.
Now keep in mind there are certain new forms of gaba that are being developed that reportedly are better absorbed. Don’t use those one for this test.

If you have a nice calm relaxed feeling after taking gaba it means that it has crossed the blood brain barrier, and thus there is a good chance that you have some degree of leaky gut. Leaky gut equals leaky brain.

SO…if gaba works for you thats great because you can use it to help you sleep, relax better or help with anxiety.
BUT… it also means that now you probably have a digestive issue that you maybe were not aware of. Or maybe you were.

Now here are a couple of other little tidbits that you need to be aware of.

It has been reported and I have noted that in some of my clients gaba can, in a way, backward convert to glutamic acid, which is an
excitatory neurotransmitter and cause an increase in irritability, anxiety, or the feeling of being overstimulated. We don’t really know in who this will occur, but just know that this is a possible outcome as well.

In my experience it happens in approximately 5-10 of people that do the test. Or I should say that do the test and have a positive result (meaning it crossed the BBB - blood brain barrier)

Keep in mind that this reaction is also a positive result as it means that the gaba still crossed the blood brain barrier. Although now you can’t use it for relaxation or anxiety.

One other tidbit. This test is not 100% sensitive or specific. It can give us a general idea of how things are functioning. This crude home test can often rule in the possibility of leaky gut if it is positive, but it cannot rule out the possibility of leaky gut if it is negative.

So there you have it. How and why you would use “the gaba challenge”.

If you do this test and aren’t really sure how to go about fixing your issues and/or leaky gut,
give my office a call and I would be happy to help you out. Its one of the most common things we see. P.S. - I also now offer virtual visits for those that are not in the area.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen

Chill out!


Be healthy, Be happy.

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New Seminar - How to heal your gut & why you are doing it all wrong

Dr. Mortensen announces a new seminar on how to finally heal your gut.


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Are prebiotics doing more harm than good?

Are Prebiotics doing you more harm than good?

I’d like to start out by saying, I love what I do and Functional medicine is absolutely the future of medicine and healthcare, healthcare, not sick care. Our world is sick and getting sicker and functional medicine doctors are the only ones that I believe can truly help.

So today we are doing a little quick post on an issue having to do with digestive health.


First I’d like to point out that most people are going about restoring their digestive health all wrong. The think if they take this or that supplement or pill that it will fix their digestive problems.
Unfortunately its not as easy or simple as taking a magic pill. There is no magic “anything”. It takes a systematic approach. You cant jump to step 4 before you get through steps 1 - 3.
If you'd like to find out more I do seminars, workshops or whatever you want to call it where we discuss this.

Anyway…Moving on.

So today we are talking about prebiotics - That is with a p.r.e, not an o

To break it down simply is that probiotics are the good bacteria in our intestines. prebiotics are the food for the probiotics. They are also often called Fructooligosaccharides, or FOS for short. Some really good sources of FOS foods include bananas, garlic, onions, chicory, asparagus, artichoke and some grains like wheat and barley, but lets not even get into the whole wheat thing right now. Thats opening an entirely different can of worms.

Interesting tid bit - It’s been estimated that there are more bacteria in our intestines that cells in our body. Some have estimated a 10 to 1 ratio, other more a 1 to 1 ratio. Regardless, its easy to see how types and levels of bacteria can have such an effect on your health. Some joke, are we humans hosting bacteria, or bacteria hosting humans. And to throw another wrench in the works, what about all the antibiotics and antibacterial products everyone uses now. Think that has an effect on your health? Food for thought?

Ok, So there are also lot of different FOS or prebiotic supplements that are available, such as those listed at the bottom of the page. In addition many probiotics include prebiotics with good intentions. But, they may not be right for everyone.

So? Whats the problem with everyone just taking prebiotics all willy nilly like its nothing. Shouldn't it be good for everyone?

Im so glad you asked.

Ill make it short and simple. If you have digestive issues which include belching, farting, bloating, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, heart burn, Irritable bowel syndrome or disease, crohns, ulcerative colitis, or whatever undiagnosed issue you might have, I can pretty much guarantee that you have some level of dysbiosis.

Say what?

Dysbiosis - It basically means that you have too many bad bugs and not enough good bugs in your intestines. The only way to either verify and or confirm this is through running a stool analysis. Not to see is not to know.

Sometime dysbiosis can be a little like the chicken of or the egg. Which can first? Well, in this case it doesn't really matter, because you probably have it.

So most people take prebiotics because they has some sort of digestive issue right? We have already established that most likely they have dysbiosis either causing or contributing to it.

So whats the problem?

Well…lets think about this…If we have more bad bacteria than good bacteria and we are giving bacteria food, aren't we feeding the bad bacteria also?

YES and No. but thats a small no.

Now the research suggests that prebiotics and FOS’s primarily feed the good bacteria more…but….they also feed the bad. The bad bacteria tends to be partial to sugars and carbohydrates but I find that its not really too particular in what you feed it. So what you are doing is very possibly making things worse, leading to more dysbiosis or you might even over do it and give yourself SIBO, small intestine bacterial overgrowth. Which is basically to much bacteria in the small intestines. Not a fun thing to deal with.

I have had a lot of patients note that probiotics and prebiotics make their symptoms worse, or they initially feel better for a couple of weeks after starting them and then things take a turn for the worse and they wish their friend had never suggested they try their miracle cure they heard about from a brothers wifes second cousins kid they swear worked. Or google MD right? Doctor google told me so!

I use prebiotics and FOS’s ALL the time in my practice. If fact, almost every patient will be on prebiotics at some point.


In my training and experience, using prebiotics all comes down to timing. Its not necessarily “if” you use them, although some wont ever use them, its more of a matter of “when” to use them. Timing is everything.

So here is a little teaser….Its step 3.

So sign up for our newsletter for more great health tips or Give us a call to become a patient.

Until next time
Im Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, Be happy

Common PRObiotics I use:

Common PREbiotics I use:

And, finally a great Pro/prebiotic I often use. When called for.

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What your bad breath can tell you about your health

Your bad breath can tell you
a lot about your health.
bad breath

Bad breath isn’t just about what you ate that day. Most often it involves a deeper level of health, or lack thereof. While mints and breath “fresheners” may help temporarily, they may make things worse in the long run.


How to heal the GUT. Your doing it all wrong!

You are doing it all wrong.
How to Heal you gut the right way.

doing it wrong

Note: There will soon be a video with a longer explanation in the not too distant future. Keep an eye out by signing up for our newsletter.

Intestinal health is all the rage these days. In the health world anyway. I’m sure if you have read anything health related lately it has been about GI health, fixing your gut, get rid of leaky gut, curing IBS, etc. You get the idea.

All this talk about GI health is super important too. Health comes from above down, inside out. Without a healthy inside you CANNOT be healthy on the outside. GI health influences inflammation, cardiovascular health, pain, neurological health, hormonal health, immune system health, etc.


Every one and their mother is touting this or that supplement as the latest and greatest fix all for GI problems, and for some people those supplements may work, or even help, for a little while.

But, for the majority of people. THEY DON’T WORK.

Now let me explain. It’s not that they don’t work at all, it’s that they don’t work by themselves. There is a right way and a wrong way to fix and heal the gut. Most supplements that are being touted as a fix all may help with one stage of of healing the gut, but most people will need to go through all the stages of gut healing.

Here is a quick breakdown of how to properly heal the gut and get rid of all the intestinal discomfort and pain.

This is known in the functional medicine world as the 5 R’s of GI repair
We will cover them quickly here.

1) Remove - In this phase we are removing anything and everything that is bad. This includes bad bacteria, yeast, parasite, allergies, food sensitivities, bad habits, bad foods, and anything else that can impair GI health. Depending on the intestinal health when a patient presents for care this can last anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 months or more in a severe candida or bacterial overgrowth case.

2) Replace - In this phase we are replacing what has been missing for proper digestion to occur. This can include things as simple as chewing a certain amount of times to digestive enzymes, soluble fibers, bile acids, and HCL if stomach acids are low.

3) Reinoculate - This is the stage that most people think about when they try to heal the gut. Some people can do the the most harm in this stage as well. This is where people take mega doses of probiotics, prebiotics, FOS, heifers, yogurts, and other in attempt to put good bacteria into the system. Good intentions don’t always equate to good results. This is often the case. Without going through the other stages of GI repair there still may be high levels of dysfunction and bad bacteria levels. Many of theses supplements and foods contain things that the bad bacteria feed off of, making your symptoms worse.

4) Repair - In this stage we are repairing the intestinal walls and digestive system. We are looking to fix leaky gut, repair the microbiome (the protective layer in the intestines), and return the body to health.

5) Rebalance - In this stage of intestinal healing we are looking to restore balance to the entire body of the patient. Everything is interconnected as one system. This can entail proper exercise, stress management, not drinking or smoking, meditation, good relationships, and any other aspect of life that needs to be balanced. Often times an imbalanced system is what caused the issues to start in the first place.

There you have it. A semi-sweet breakdown of what it takes to truly repair your GI (Gastrointestinal) system from the ground up and keep it healthy.

If you need help please give us a call to schedule an appointment to get on your way to better health.

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