gut health | Integrative functional medicine blog

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Salt is Killing your good gut bacteria

Here are some product links.

Blood pressure cuff link -
Get an arm one, not a wrist one. They are too inconsistent

Glycyrrhiza (licorice root) -

Spore based probiotics -

Other Probiotics -

Enter Promo Code “DFH28841” for 10% this one.

A high-salt diet has long been connected with cardiovascular disease. I should say a high salt, processed food diet has been linked with cardiovascular disease.

Too much sodium in the bloodstream causes fluid retention, which makes the heart work harder to move the extra volume of blood. This can stiffen blood vessels and lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and kidney disease.

However, a recent
study shows a high-salt diet also raises blood pressure by damaging healthy gut bacteria. This destruction increases the inflammation that contributes to high blood pressure and the development of autoimmune disease — when the immune system attacks tissue in the body. Common autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and many many others.

You may be asking, why does salt do this? Here is a very simple visualization.
Did you ever pour salt on a snail or slug when you were a kid? Yeah, not very nice, but you remember what happened to the snail right?

Mice. The study shows that mice fed a high-salt diet killed off beneficial Lactobacillus murinus bacteria in the gut. It also raised blood pressure and activated pro-inflammatory immune cells.

The mice also showed signs of encephalomyelitis, an autoimmune condition similar to multiple sclerosis in humans.

When the mice were given supplementary
Lactobacillus, their blood pressure and inflammation came down.

Humans. The humans in the study experienced similar results. Consuming a high-salt diet for two weeks killed off their Lactobacillus bacteria and increased inflammation.
However, if they took probiotics for a week before starting a high-salt diet, their
Lactobacillus levels and blood pressure remained normal. That is some pretty cool stuff!

Can gut microbes protect against a high-salt diet?
While the study showed probiotics can protect against a high-salt diet, the researchers cautioned that taking probiotics cannot protect you from the damages of a high-salt, fast-food diet.

Manage your salt intake with good daily habits
While the average American consumes a whopping 3400 milligrams of sodium a day, the USDA recommends no more than 2300mg of sodium a day — about a teaspoon of table salt. That is still a lot of salt.  

However, some people are more sensitive to the effects of salt than others, so it's recommended that middle-aged and older adults should limit intake to 1500 mg of sodium a day.

Adopt these habits to lower your salt intake:

  • Read food labels.
  • Choose foods low in sodium.
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Consume foods that are rich in potassium, such as leafy green vegetables and fruits from vines. Potassium can help blunt the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The recommended intake of potassium for adolescents and adults is 4700 mg/day. And most of us get nowhere near that amount. And if you are on certain medications then you may need even more.
  • Flavor food with pepper, herbs, and spices instead of salt.
  • Choose unsalted snacks with savory flavors.

Build good gut bacteria to protect your health

The digestive tract is home to roughly four pounds of bacteria — your gut microbiome. Some strains are helpful, some are harmful. Both have roles to play, but it's important to support your "good" bacteria for healthy immune function, brain function, and mood, and to avoid leaky gut, SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), and systemic inflammation that leads to autoimmunity and other chronic health conditions.

And Remember, when taking probiotics that is not just how many
probiotics you have that is important. It's also how many different types you have that is equally important. I recommend patients switch every 2-3 months to get more biodiversity.

It's easy to support a healthy gut with these simple habits:

  • Eat plentiful and varied produce; this is the best way to support a healthy gut environment.
  • Supplement with probiotics; There are lot of different ones, including spore based. Check out my links. They work best in a gut environment that’s already being supported with plenty of fiber from fruits and veggies.
  • Avoid excess sugar.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Drink plenty of filtered water.

  • What if I have low blood pressure?
  • Adequate blood pressure is necessary to push blood carrying oxygen and nutrients into your tissues. Chronically low blood pressure can result in reduced brain function and neurodegeneration as Alzheimers, dementia, Parkinsons, and tremors.
  • Low blood pressure is also often a sign of chronic stress, adrenal fatigue, autoimmunity, or chronic infection. Check out my conditions page in the link below.
  • If you have low blood pressure you need to get it up as close as you can to 120/80.
  • Salt can help raise blood pressure. While a high-salt diet is not recommended for most of the population, people with chronically low blood pressure may need to consume more than the recommended daily amount of salt. It's a matter of experimentation to see what level of salt intake is appropriate for you without raising symptoms of inflammation.
  • Glycyrrhiza. Extracted from licorice root, this natural compound increases the hormone aldosterone, helping to retain sodium and raise low blood pressure. You can use a liposomal cream version or an oral licorice root extract.
  • When you work with salt and glycyrrhiza to raise your blood pressure, you will need to purchase a good home-use blood pressure cuff. Measure your blood pressure throughout the day and experiment with
  • dosages. A return to normal blood pressure typically results in a dramatic increase in overall energy and brain function.

    If you salt your foods, take your probiotics.

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

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    Antacids and antibiotics raise allergy and autoimmune rates

    Being a parent is hard work. And being a parent of a child in pain can be a very scary thing. I get it, we have all been there. But before you go run out and get that prescription filled there are some things to consider.

    A large study shows antacid and antibiotic use in early childhood significantly raises the risk of developing allergies.

    Researchers looked at the records of almost 800,000 children born during a 13-year period to families in the military.

    Surprisingly, almost 10 percent of the babies were treated with antacids such as Zantac or Pepcid for acid reflux; spitting up is common in infants and does not typically need to be medicated. But it can be scary when you are not aware. After all, adults don't spit up.

    Also surprising was that more than half of the children in the study went on to develop allergies, rashes, asthma, or hay fever.

    However, the children who received antacids in infancy were twice as likely to develop allergic diseases compared to the rest.

    What’s worse is that their risk of developing anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can be deadly, was 50 percent higher compared to the non-medicated children.

    Children who received antibiotics as babies were twice as likely to have asthma and had a 50 percent higher likelihood of hay fever and anaphylactic allergies. Those are some pretty significant increases in incidence rates.

    Why you must take care of the gut to avoid allergies and immune-based diseases

    The researchers suggested the negative impact antacids and antibiotics have on gut bacteria, also called the gut microbiome, play a role in the development of allergies and other immune disorders.

    Additionally, by neutralizing the acidity of the stomach, which is necessary to break down foods, antacids may be allowing undigested foods into the small intestine. This negatively impacts the gut microbiome and inflames the digestive tract., ultimately leading to a leaky gut type condition. Which if its "like" leaky gut, it's going to become leaky gut. Ever heard the term fake it till you make it?

    The health of the digestive tract and gut microbiome profoundly influences immune health. When the gut is inflamed and damaged and gut bacteria is unhealthy and full of bad bacteria, this predisposes a person to bunch of immune-based disorders, including but not limited to:

    • Allergies
    • Food sensitivities
    • Chemical sensitivities
    • Eczema and other skin-based disorders
    • Asthma and other respiratory disorders
    • Autoimmune diseases
    • Brain-based disorders

    Look for the root cause of childhood illness

    Although spitting IS up normal for babies, if a baby is spitting up excessively you have to ask why.

    Also, if a child has reoccurring infections that require antibiotics over and over, again you have to ask why.

    With any health issue or condition asking why is one of the most important questions you can ask, and one of the things we try to answer in my practice.

    These are signs that the health of the digestive tract, the gut microbiome, and the immune system are already in distress.

    For instance, the child could be eating a food to which they are intolerant, such as gluten or dairy — two primary triggers of immune disorders.

    The child may have been born with food intolerances or autoimmunity (when the immune system attacks the body) passed on from the mother.

    A child born via c-section and fed formula is likely to have a less healthy gut microbiome than a child born vaginally and breastfed. This may predispose a child to excess acid reflux or reoccurring infections. Look up Vaginal swab or sweeping for those moms that need to do C-sections. It may significantly help the health of your baby.

    However, medicating a child with
    antacids and antibiotics only further destroys the gut microbiome and dysregulates the immune system. This makes the child significantly more prone to immune disorders, such as allergies, anaphylaxis, autoimmunity, asthma, eczema, obesity, and other chronic issues.

    The key is to address the underlying causes of an inflamed gut, an unhealthy gut microbiome, and inflammation. Some things you should look at are regular blood testing for nutrient deficiencies and excesses, stool analysis, allergy and food sensitivity testing just to name a few.

    Thanks for watching. Make a comment and subscribe to my youtube channel.
    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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    Exercise and change your gut baceria

    We’re learning what a vital role good gut bacteria play in immune health, brain health, mood, and, of course, gut health.

    One of the best health quotes of all time is… “Health comes from above, down, inside, out”

    We also know that the best way to beef up your good gut bacteria is through eating lots of different
    kinds of vegetables and fruits every day.

    But researchers have discovered yet another way to promote healthy gut bacteria:
    Regular exercise.

    Our digestive tract is home to trillions of gut bacteria that weigh about three to four pounds all together, and are made up of over a 1,000 different species and 5,000 strains. This is the very definition of a symbiotic relationship. Our body depends on these
    gut bacteria to:

    • Metabolize nutrients
    • Protect the intestinal wall
    • Produce vitamin K and short chain fatty acids (SCFA), which are important for immune health
    • Maintain health of the digestive tract
    • Regulate immunity
    • Prevent inflammation
    • Promote good brain health and function - infant many studies are even finding that Parkinsons may actually start in the gut and work its way up the vagus nerve into the brain. But that is another post for another blog. Very interesting stuff though.

    As our understanding of healthy gut bacteria evolves, so does the information on how to cultivate your own “microbiome” while inhibiting overgrowth of “bad” bacteria that are infectious and inflammatory.

    This imbalance of good and bad bacteria is often what is referred as dysbiosis - Too many bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria.

    Initially, fermented foods and probiotics were thought to be the main recourse for improving gut health, and they do go a long ways. But, they are not the only way.

    Then we learned eating a diet comprised primarily of vegetables and fruits and continually changing up the produce you eat is a great way to develop a rich and diverse gut bacteria population.

    Now, scientists have used both a mouse study and a human study to show regular exercise,
    independent of diet or other factors, also promotes healthy gut bacteria. Meaning that if you do nothing other than exercise you can beneficially change your gut bacteria.

    In the
    first study, researchers transplanted fecal material from both exercised and sedentary mice into mice with sterile guts. The activity level of the mice receiving the transplants clearly mirrored that of their donors, showing that the kind of gut bacteria we have plays a role in how inclined we are to be sedentary or active.

    The exercised mice recipients also showed more bacteria that produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) that promotes healthy intestinal cells, reduces inflammation, and increases energy. They also were more resistant to ulcerative colitis. N-butyrate is THE most important short chain fatty acid.

    In the
    second study, researchers tracked the composition of gut bacteria in 18 lean and 14 obese adults as they transitioned from a sedentary lifestyle, to an active one, and then back to a sedentary one. Their exercise routine consisted of 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times a week for six weeks.

    Their diets remained the same.

    They found that exercise raised levels of SCFAs and then declined again as the subjects became sedentary. A rise in SCFAs means concentrations of good gut bacteria increased. The lean participants showed more dramatic increases of SCFAs than obese ones, and more diverse ratios of bacteria, suggesting obese people respond differently to exercise. Nevertheless, increases happened in both populations.

    The break down and take away from all of this is as follow. The gut bacteria influences how active we are and how active we are influences our gut bacteria. As is often the case in health, the answer is YES. What came first? The chicken or the egg? Yes. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy no matter which way you look at it and you have to make a conscious effort to change your thoughts and your biology.

    As our knowledge of gut bacteria, functional medicine, and the human body continues to evolve, it nevertheless circles back to some age-old pearls of wisdom: Eat your vegetables and exercise, it can go a long way to better health. If that doesn’t do the trick, come and see me.

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

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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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