Beyond a Gluten-Free Paleo Diet: Integrative Treatment for Gut Health

On June 20th, Dr. Payal Bhandari, MD, and certified nutritionist Nicole Bianchi will be giving a talk,  "Beyond a Gluten-Free Paleo Diet: Integrative Treatment for Gut Health". The talk will take place at Advanced Health on Wednesday, June 20th from 5:30 pm until 7:00 pm.  We want to give some background information on these subjects, to help our readers better understand the gastrointestinal tract, and ways in which integrative medicine can be used to treat gut issues and promote comprehensive wellness.

Physiology and Pathology of the Gut

The gut is a series of intelligent, adaptive organs that fulfills a number of different bodily functions with a variety of mechanisms and triggers. Since they’re so interconnected, imbalances even in just one small section can have broad and far-reaching ramifications to the rest of the body. The small intestine alone, for instance, can be stimulated by triggers from chemical signals, neural signals, or myogenic impulses.  These signals come together to form an intricate, often disorderly cascade of reactions which directly impact gut functions such as the rate of nutrient absorption, muscular contraction, or waste processing. Each of these rates, in turn, effects changes in the activity of the stomach, small and large intestines, liver and kidney function, hormone levels, blood flow, and even mood.

The entire gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth and esophagus to the stomach, small and large intestines, the spleen, and liver work as a series of discrete organs cooperating in relative harmony. Each organ depends on signals and cues from the others. For instance, bile production in the liver, or secretions from the gallbladder, depend on triggers originating from the stomach and small intestines. It’s a series of domino effects where if one piece falls out of alignment, the whole symphony is thrown off.


A particular subsystem of the gastrointestinal system that has been getting a great deal of attention in recent years is the network of bacteria (sometimes called “gut flora”) which is housed in the gastrointestinal tract. These bacteria provide a variety of functions such as activating vitamins and minerals to keeping our immune system strong.   The gut flora has a deep and profound symbiotic relationship with the whole body.

Recent clinical studies have found changing the gut flora will directly impact one’s mood, food cravings, personal fitness and body shape, weight loss or gain, and so much more. Since they interact with so many other body systems, these bacteria are a functional colony of integrated receptors and signal generators which can directly impact our sleep cycle, stress level,, diet, and so much more.

For instance, an abundance of the stress hormone cortisol can inhibit digestive processes and ultimately damage your microbiota. That damage can be successfully treated with diet, pre- and probiotic supplements, and relaxing activities like massage and meditation. This systemic integration is why it is so imperative that gut issues be handled with an integrative treatment practice.

Integrative Treatments for Gut Health

Gut issues can be treated a number of ways, by addressing the underlying concerns and causes, and leveraging the complexities of the systemic interplay between bodily systems to promote wellness. For instance, as was noted above, something as simple as a massage and a consistent sleep schedule can have a profound impact on gut health.

An integrative treatment for gut health would address the various root causes which have contributed to the condition of ill-health. Maybe stress or an irregular schedule has you eating too late in the day. Maybe a recent course of antibiotics has damaged your microbiome, or a sedentary lifestyle is interrupting digestion. There are a wide range of potential causes, and with a system this integrated, it’s important to take an integrative, circumspect approach to promoting wellness.

Optimizing Gut Health through Diet

This may seem obvious, but diet has a very serious impact on gut health. How diet is leveraged, then, can either support, or destroy gut health. Certified nutritionist Nicole Bianchi works with clients every day who have found relief from a variety of gut issues through making simple changes to their diets.

While the full range of dietary choices and changes which will help any one person will depend on their particular biochemistry, there are some truths which should help virtually anyone. To promote a good microbiome, foods high in trans- and saturated fats, refined flour and sugar should be minimized. Alcohol should be avoided, for optimal gut health. It’s important to consume a varied diet full of nutrients in order to stay in good health. Your diet should focus on fresh vegetables (in that order), legumes, and whole grains. Fruits should be eaten alone, mid-day, and in small quantity.   For those who consume animal proteins, they shouldn’t be considered an every-day menu item. The conventional Western diet contains far, far more meat and processed grains than are necessary.

For more specific information, or a consultation about optimizing your particular dietary needs, please give us a call, and book an appointment with Nicole Bianchi.

Nicole Bianchi, N.C. Nicole Bianchi, N.C. is a certified nutritionist who helps clients strategically develop food plans for themselves and their families according to their individual needs, situations, health challenges and preferences.

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