Soapwort (Saponaria officianalis)
One of my interns, Katie, wanted to share this recipe using dried soapwort root as an All-Purpose cleanser. Soapwort (Saponaria officianalis) has been used historically as a gentle cleanser due to its high content of saponins. This all-purpose cleanser can be used as a body wash, facial cleanser, shampoo or even a laundry detergent and is great for those with multiple chemical sensitization, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin sensitivities.

Basic Soapwort All-Purpose Cleanser

2 cups distilled water
1 1/2 tablespoons soapwort (dried and chopped)
2 teaspoons lemon verbena or fresh herb of choice (optional)
A few drops of lavender or essential oil of choice (optional)

Bring the water to a boil. Stir in the soapwort root, cover and simmer over medium low heat for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and add fresh herb if using and steep for an additional 10 minutes.
Let cool. Strain with cheesecloth and add essential oil if using.
Pour into a squeeze bottle.
Store in a dark cool place for up to 10 days. Makes enough for 6-7 uses.

Tip: You can strengthen the solution by adding more root or weaken it by adding more water.

To Your Health!

Let's just put it simply, shall we? Feel free to share this photo and let's get the message out loud and clear.

This is a quote f
rom the Institute for Responsible Technology:

"Gluten-related disorders are commonly accompanied by and possibly triggered by intestinal permeability, which is commonly referred to as “leaky gut.” Leaky gut occurs when gaps form between intestinal cells and large particles from the digestive tract enter the bloodstream, potentially triggering immune or allergic reactions. The Bt-toxin produced by genetically modified corn kills insects by punching holes in their digestive tracts, and a 2012 study confirmed that it punctures holes in human cells as well. Bt-toxin is present in every kernel of Bt corn, survives human digestion, and has been detected in the blood of 93% of pregnant women tested and 80% of their unborn fetuses. This “hole-punching toxin” may be a critical piece of the puzzle in understanding gluten-related disorders."


So if you don't want to risk having your intestines look like Swiss cheese please avoid non-organic corn products and let's get GMO's out of our food!

To Your Health!


Just as the nutrients in the soil must be properly prepared by microorganisms living around the rootlets of a great tree, so too must our body rely on gut bacteria for optimal health. Here I will attempt to describe this intricate system and how it functions both in balance and out of balance.

The small intestine is about 21 feet in length for the average adult but it's not a smooth tube on the inside. If you were to cut open a section it would look like a shag carpet on the inside. There are thousands of finger-like projections called villi. The cells lining these villi (called enterocytes) also have microscopic finger-like projections called microvilli. The folds, villi, and microvilli increase the surface area within the small intestine several times over so that if you were able to take an iron and flatten it all out it would cover the surface area of a tennis court.  Within the small intestine, larger food particles are broken down by enzymes on the surface of the microvilli into smaller molecules which are able to go into the cells lining the intestinal wall and then through them into the bloodstream. Many of these microscopic particles such as glucose, peptides, amino acids, and fatty acids will be used as energy for the body. Other molecules such as vitamins and minerals from food will help support other mechanisms within the body.
A healthy gut system.
There is a thin layer of mucus that protects the enterocytes lining the digestive tract. There are also billions of bacteria living within the digestive tract that helps to break down our food. Some forms of bacteria are beneficial and produce metabolites such as B-vitamins and Vitamin K as a waste product. Our body can utilize these metabolites and vitamins to keep us healthy. In this way we have a symbiotic relationship with these bacteria, which means a mutually beneficial relationship. But there are other organisms living within our digestive tracts that are opportunistic pathogens. They don't normally create much of a problem but can become disease producing if they are allowed to overgrow or multiply beyond a rate that the beneficial bacteria can compete. We also swallow pathogens on a regular basis but once again the beneficial bacteria act as a support to our immune system by keeping these competing organisms in check.

Due to multiple environmental factors including overuse of antibiotics, pesticides, prescription drugs, genetically modified foods, stress and poor dietary habits - the ratio of beneficial bacteria to pathogenic bacteria can become out of balance. Unlike beneficial bacteria, pathogenic forms do not create B-vitamins and helpful metabolites. Instead they secrete exotoxins, chemicals that are irritating and damaging to the cells lining the digestive tract. The body tries to protect itself by overproducing mucus which puts a physical barrier between the intestinal cells and the bacteria. However, it also puts a barrier between your food and the enzymes needed to complete their digestion. This is an ideal situation for the pathogenic bacteria as they are allowed to continue feeding and to continue producing their exotoxins. This begins the vicious cycle that can lead to gut dysbiosis: a gut system that is out of balance. Lactose intolerance, gas production, bloating, flatulence, heartburn, and burping may all be early signs of gut dysbiosis. Post nasal drip and constant congestion may also be a sign that your body is overproducing mucus to dilute exotoxins from the digestive tract.
Gut dysbiosis, a gut system out of balance.
As the bacteria continue to multiply and the exotoxins continue damaging cell health, the mucosal glands may not be able to keep up production, which can leave the enterocytes exposed. This is where damaging proteins such as gluten (more appropriately gliadin) can become a real problem as the body's immune response to gliadin causes the villi to flatten and destroys the tight junctions between the intestinal cells.

Leaky gut is the term most commonly used to describe this intestinal permeability. Now bacterial exotoxins and undigested proteins are able to leak through the gut wall into the surrounding capillaries. The body does not recognize these undigested proteins as food as so antibodies attach to them and mark them for destruction by white blood cells. The resulting cascade of immune response can result in symptoms such as rash, itching, sneezing, headache, fatigue, lethargy, etc. These signs of food sensitivity can also progress and become a food allergy. The immune system may also confuse some of these undigested proteins with our own body tissue in a process called molecular mimicry which may be a cause or contributing factor to auto-immune disorders such as Psoriasis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn's disease, Sjogren syndrome, Lichen sclerosus, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, Diabetes and more.

Everything that leaks through the intestinal wall goes to the liver. The liver's job is to convert the toxins and package them for removal from the body. Once the flow of toxins increases the liver becomes overwhelmed with its detoxification efforts. Toxins may spill back into the bloodstream causing further damage in other parts of the body. The kidneys, bladder, lungs and skin may be affected. Nutrient deficiencies can also contribute to the liver's inability to properly detoxify.

The key then to restoring health lies not in treating the symptoms with either herbs or pharmaceutical drugs but in addressing the underlying factor of gut dysbiosis. The GAPS Nutritional Protocol is designed to seal and heal the gut lining and balance out the microorganisms within the digestive tract. This allows the detoxification mechanisms within the body to return to optimal function and for the body to heal itself once nutrient absorption improves.

To find out more how the GAPS nutritional protocol can help restore your health please contact us to make an appointment.

To Your Health!

Could simple exercises that train your brain actually improve your gut health? The answer is a definite "yes" according to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MNeuroSc, author of Why Isn’t My Brain Working? and a new book coming soon called Gluten, Leaky Gut and Autoimmunity.

In a recent interview with Sean Croxton from Underground Wellness as a part of his Digestion Session series still going on this week Dr. Kharrazian talked about the brain-gut axis, not to be confused with the gut-brain axis.

“One of the most neglected things that I think most practitioner’s don’t understand, whether they’re conventional or alternative, is that there’s this brain-to-gut axis.”

Dr. Kharrazian explains that some of what we may assume to be traditional gut disorders may in fact be a type of neuro-degenerative disease that starts in the gut. And the way to determine if a digestive disorder is brain-based is to look for motility issues.

“Motility means how you move foods; when you eat something and how you have a bowel movement.” says Dr. Kharrazian. “Do you have constipation, do you have to drink coffee to have a bowel movement, do you have to take magnesium or some kind of laxative to have regular bowel movements? If you do, that could very well be a brain-to-gut axis issue.”

Slow motility then becomes the trigger for chronic digestive issues such as SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), H. Pylori infections, Intestinal Permeability and eventually auto-immune disorders.

You can have your doctor check for whether or not you have a motility problem or you can check yourself by two simple methods:

  1. Using a stethoscope, listen to the abdomen for regular and active bowel sounds. If you can hear gurgling going on a lot, your motility is probably fine. But if there are very few sounds or they are few and far between, you may have a motility issue.

  2. In the mirror open your mouth wide and say “Ahhhh”. The back of your throat should arch up high on either side of your uvula when you sing out the note. If one side goes higher than the other or neither side moves, you may have a motility issue. Additionally, if you have an exaggerated gag reflex it may be a sign of dysfunction in the brain-to-gut axis.

So here are some simple exercises Dr. Kharrazian recommends to re-train your brain for better bowel health.

Gargling - Gargling with water stimulates the vagus nerve which helps bring blood flow to the gut. Dr. Kharrazian suggests gargling forcefully with water several times a day. If you’re doing it right, he says, you may even start to have tears come to your eyes. This is because it also stimulates an area of the brain right next to the vagus nerve called the the superior salivatory nucleus, which causes you to tear. You may need to start with a small amount of water and gargle for a short period of time but slowly building up the duration and intensity will exercise those neurons and strengthen them.

Induce Your Gag Reflex - Using disposable tongue depressors, press on the the back of your tongue just enough to induce your gag reflex. Be careful not to go too far into the back of the throat to cause injury. Stimulating the gag reflex may also cause you to tear up which is once again a sign that you have stimulated your vagus nerve.

Coffee Enema - Most people who have heard of coffee enemas will know that they are used for detoxification. But Dr. Kharrazian suggests using a strong coffee enema daily so the caffeine in the coffee will stimulate something called the gastrointestinal nicotinic cholinergic receptors which encourage gut motility. If you are using a strong enough concentration of caffeine you should get the urge to have a bowel movement. Then he says you need to suppress your urge to eliminate for as long as possible.

“As they suppress their urge they’re firing their frontopontine vagal enteric axis. If they keep doing that, they build endurance and they start to regain their brain-gut axis.”

Sing - Another way to stimulate the vagal muscles at the back of the throat is to sing really loudly, which is probably the easiest and most fun of all the other suggestions!

If you are interested in learning more about what the top experts in digestive health recommend, I suggest you check out the Digestion Sessions. I’m learning so much and I’m excited to be able to pass some of this info on to you!

To Your Health!

I finally did it! I have been working on a project now for the last 2-3 years of creating a children's book to try and explain gut dysbiosis to kids. I've finally finished it!

It's a bit rough. Right now I have it in a powerpoint presentation to show clients (a few of you may have already seen some of my rough draft version). I like to read the story to my kid clients and their parents to help them understand what gut dysbiosis is and why it affects their health. I've also printed off the powerpoint slides to make a little coloring book.

As much as I'd love to get this published I think I'm happy just being able to use it for right now! I've posted a few pictures from the storyline for your enjoyment. What do you think?

To Your Health!

As a GAPS Practitioner I come across a lot of people that will say, "Yeah, I tried the GAPS diet but it was just too hard." or "I don't think I could ever do that." or even sometimes, "I tried it for a couple of months but it didn't work for me." It seems that some people will come to me for a consultation hoping that I have some other easier approach, a quick fix that doesn't involve major dietary changes. But let me tell you, if there was a quick fix for gut dysbiosis, I would be shouting it from the rooftops!

The truth is - it is really difficult to heal the digestive tract once it has been damaged to the extent that it leads to food sensitivities, allergies, auto-immune disorders, chronic digestive disturbance, and psychological issues. Gut dysbiosis is like the pebble that triggered an avalanche. The longer it goes on the worse it gets and the harder it is to recover fully. Sure you can dabble with a gluten and dairy-free diet for a while; just avoid those foods that seem to aggravate your symptoms; or save the sweets for the weekends and rare occasions - but every day you put off fully dealing with gut dysbiosis is another day of damage that leads to nutrient deficiencies that will at some point lead to something really serious, maybe life threatening.

The other day I met with a client that had just completed the minimum two-year healing protocol of GAPS for her IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). She had tried other diets which gave her some relief but since starting the GAPS diet she had zero episodes of intense cramping, pain and diarrhea. Until then she had been having 4 episodes a week. After asking her some detailed questions about her levels of energy, bowel habits, quality of sleep, etc. I gave her the green light on trying to re-incorporate some foods that are illegal on the GAPS diet. While she was relieved to be able to expand her repertoire she, like many others who have successfully completed GAPS, didn't feel the diet had been that difficult overall. The initial planning and changing of habits had been the most difficult part.

Most clients struggle with die-off reactions within the first few months but soon all cravings for sugar and carbohydrates will cease. Suddenly you can go to a potluck and not feel crazy with desire for all the sugary desserts. You can feel satiated with each meal and watch as your health and vitality begin to recover.

I've come to the conclusion that when it comes to health issues - it's good to be boring. What we are looking for with the GAPS nutritional protocol is to restore some resilience to the digestive functions. You should be able to eat some birthday cake and ice cream once in a while without suffering. You should be able to travel to a foreign country without feeling so fatigued that you sleep for several days after returning home. You should be able to eat real pizza! The GAPS nutritional protocol has the ability to restore your quality of life if you are only brave enough to do it! What is harder? Suffering for decades and slowly getting worse or a couple of years of discipline for a lifetime of health?

That being said, there are those out there that have legitimately tried the GAPS diet and not felt better right away. There are complications that can make a quick recovery unlikely such as hormonal imbalances. That's why having a GAPS Practitioner to help you navigate the ups and downs can be so valuable.

With each client I learn how complicated the effects of gut dysbiosis can be. Sometimes we have to get creative with herbal remedies and supplements, sometimes I have to throw my hands up in the air and admit I have no idea what the body is trying to do! But, I always appreciate working with the individual through the issues side by side. I am just as invested in their health as they are!

It is all worth it to have that client come back and say how good they feel - how much relief they have - and how boring their health issues are! So if you have considered the GAPS diet before or even tried it for a little while, I encourage you to take another look. It is certainly not easy but nothing worthwhile ever is and you really are strong than you think.

It works.

Plain and simple.

And until I find that magic pill that makes gut dysbiosis go away in a day I will keep recommending it.

To Your Health!

Kathryn Doran-Fisher, ND, CGP

Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor and has been seeing clients for natural health consultations and therapies for more than 6 years. Most recently Kathryn has received training from world renowned author and practitioner Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride in 2012 to become a Certified GAPS Practitioner for dealing with the connection between gut health and our mental/physical ailments. Kathryn has done numerous public speaking engagements, taught several classes on natural health for the community, is an instructor for a naturopathic school, maintains a website and blog about natural health, has written several articles for local publication and is a highly respected professional in her field.
I was recently reviewing a new homeschool resource for my kids that has all kinds of learning videos including ones on health. So I thought I would check out a few videos on the immune system and see if I could learn anything new or at least jog my memory on a few things I've covered in the past because after all, I can't remember absolutely everything I've read! :)

While there wasn't much new to learn it did give me a different perspective that I would like to share with you. Basically it boils down to this: Immune cells are designed to attack anything that doesn't belong in your body. These are called pathogens and they include viruses, bacteria, chemicals, parasites, etc. Once your immune system destroys one of these pathogens it takes a little piece of its protein and carries it around with it so all the other immune cells can learn to watch out for it too.

So imagine you have a string of colored beads. Each bead on the string is an amino acid and the whole string of beads together is a protein. While there are only a handful of amino acid variations out there what order they are put on the string and how long the string is makes up an almost infinite number of possible proteins. So you could have a pink bead followed by a green bead, another pink and then an orange and that would be one protein but take off all the beads and put them in a different arrangement and you have a completely different protein.

Now if you took some scissors and clipped off small pieces of that protein chain you would have what are called polypeptides. These polypeptides are only a fraction of the larger protein but these are what the immune cells are using to train all the other immune cells as to who the enemy is. Can you see where the problem is?

So proteins make up just about everything. There are proteins in the food you eat, in the pollen and dust in the air, and your own body is made up of proteins. If you have leaky gut, you've got all kinds of partially digested proteins and polypeptide chains leaking into your bloodstream where your immune cells have to clean them up. And these immune cells remember every little protein it has to clean up and will communicate that to your other immune cells.

Now if that little bit of polypeptide chain that your immune system is looking for happens to be similar to a part of your own body proteins - it will attack that too. It's called molecular mimicry where your immune system mistakes your own body tissue for a pathogen resulting in an auto-immune condition.

So say for example a polypeptide chain from soy protein leaks through your gut wall and your white blood cells digest it. Then it remembers that bit of polypeptide chain which happens to look a lot like your thyroid tissue. You may end up developing Hashimoto's Thyroiditis which is an autoimmune condition where your own body has developed antibodies to your thyroid tissue. And the more cells your immune system destroys the more the program is reinforced creating a vicious cycle of continuous inflammation.

And it's not just the thyroid this can happen to. Any body tissue can come under attack. Auto-immune disorders are on the rise and many people will end up with multiple auto-immune diseases. Some examples include Psoriasis, Crohn's Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and many others. 

The key to bringing auto-immunity under control is to seal the leaky gut through a nutritional protocol such as the GAPS diet allowing the body and the immune system to return to normal function, although it may take quite a while depending on how much damage has been done. In some cases the body may never fully recover from auto-immunity! So the sooner you can deal with a leaky gut, the better your chance of a full recovery.

If you suspect you have a leaky gut or you already have been diagnosed with an auto-immune condition, don't wait to address it. Get to the root of the issue with the help of a qualified natural health practitioner or GAPS practitioner.

To Your Health!

Kathryn Doran-Fisher, ND, CGP

Liver Detoxing


This past year I have been working hard to fine-tune some of my understanding of gut physiology and how it affects the rest of our health. First there was the Gluten-Summit last fall where some of the country's top experts in the field of digestive health talked about non-celiac gluten sensitivity in a series of online interviews. Then this spring the Thyroid Sessions and the Thyroid Summit became available, again with some free online interviews from top experts on thyroid function. These interviews helped me to understand the connection between gut dysbiosis and Hashimoto's thyroiditis. A couple of weeks ago I spoke with a probiotic specialist from Natren, one of the probiotic companies whose line we carry here at Elder & Sage. We talked about some awesome protocols for healing specific gut issues. And finally this past weekend I attended a course from one of my former instructors and colleagues at the Naturopathic Institute of Therapies and Education, Jackie Featherly, on the Detoxification pathways of the liver. There are still two more classes from Dr. Featherly later this fall but I wanted to get some of this info out to my clients while the information was still fresh in my mind!

The liver has at least 500 different functions including: creating over 1,000 different enzymes, making bile for fat digestion, storing nutrients, metabolizing fats and proteins, cleaning the blood, producing heat to maintain body temperature, converting thyroid hormones to an active form,
activating and deactivating hormones and neurotransmitters, detoxifying from toxic substances, and more!

There are 3 phases that the liver uses to convert toxic substances into harmless substances. Phase 1 has 5 pathways, or five different ways to deal with toxins. Phase 2 has 6 pathways, and I haven't learned about Phase 3 yet!

So, when you eat your food is broken down into tiny little pieces. Your small intestinal lining allows some of those tiny pieces into your blood like amino acids, small peptides, simple sugars, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, etc. Some of those tiny pieces may even be chemicals, heavy metals like mercury, pharmaceutical drugs, food dyes, preservatives, bacterial waste products, etc. And if you have a leaky gut you may get larger proteins and food particles, yeast cells, bacteria, etc. All of this goes into your bloodstream and is carried straight into your liver.

The liver cells identify what the substance is and what to do with it. Imagine a recycling center. On the conveyor belt are all kinds of things that need to be sorted. Glass bottles, plastic, paper, metal, etc. Each thing needs to be sorted into the right bin. The liver pathways then would be the different ways to sort. For example Phase 1 deals with oxidation, reduction, hydrolysis, hydration, and dehalogenation. Chemicals that need to go through one of these five processes will head toward Phase 1. Once they have gone through Phase 1 some chemicals can now be safely sent out of the body while others will need more attention. Those will move on to Phase 2 for sulphate conjugation, glucoronadation, glutathione conjugation, acetylation, glycination, and methylation.

If Phase 1 is working fast but Phase 2 is a little slow you will get a bottleneck effect. Some of the partially broken down chemicals start building up in the system. This can also happen when any of the detox pathways are overwhelmed with material to detoxify. Many of these partially broken down chemicals are more toxic that what we started with. For example alcohol (ethanol) goes through Phase 1 oxidation
and you are left with a chemical called acetylaldehyde. Eventually this chemical is converted to harmless acetic acid (like vinegar) but if the detox process gets bogged down (too much alcohol) the acetylaldehyde will build up and give you a hangover.* This bottleneck effect can cause damage to the liver, brain and immune system. In fact, most liver issues, disease, and cancer begin here.

*Acetylaldehyde detoxification also occurs in Phase 1 with a second  oxidation to become acetic acid rather than moving on to Phase 2 but the bottleneck effect is similar.

With gut dysbiosis and leaky gut, there is a river of chemicals and toxins flowing into the liver and so the detoxification process is working hard around the clock but many chemicals bottleneck and are released back into the circulating bloodstream. This is why people with serious digestive issues don't feel good. You may be tired, sore, achy, fatigued and have all kinds of symptoms. The key to feeling better is reducing the amount of chemicals (from food and the environment) sealing up a leaky gut (with probiotics and bone broth) and helping the liver to process better (detoxification with juices and detox baths and selective supplementation).
Healing the gut will also make it easier to absorb nutrients that the liver needs to support detoxification like the B-vitamins and magnesium.

The more the liver has to process the more congested it will become and the more toxic and dirty the blood will be - eventually putting strain on other filters such as the kidneys. Imagine how much work your liver has to do with a single meal, now imagine that same meal was full of preservatives, food additives, coloring, MSG, etc. and you took it along with a prescription drug. Every chemical put on or in your body has to be dealt with by the liver.

Many natural foods and supplements will stimulate the liver and support the Phase I detoxification pathways such as:

Cysteine and Glutathione containing foods: yogurt, cottage cheese, turkey, cheese, chicken, eggs, wild game and whole milk

Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi

Other sulphur rich foods: red meat, poultry, fish, legumes, egg yolk, onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives

Foods that aid in fat metabolism due to Vitamin B12: Brewer's yeast, organ meats, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, brown rice

Essential fatty Acids: cold water fish, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, walnuts, sesame seeds, black currant seed oil, borage oil, and evening primrose oil

Some natural health substances can also be used to reduce the bottleneck effect that causes symptoms usually attributed to a die-off effect or healing crisis by slowing down Phase I detoxification. These are: Grapefruit, turmeric, capsicum, and cloves.

Other vital herbs and supplements to support liver detoxification include: bioflavonoids, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Milk thistle, Carotenes, Co-Q-10, Copper, Iron, Selenium, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, Trace Minerals, Folic Acid, Lecithin, N-Acetyl Cysteine, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Artichoke extract, Black Currant Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, and Borage Oil.

All of these nutrients and vitamins can be found in a well rounded diet based on whole, real, foods such as the GAPS diet. You can give an even bigger boost to the GAPS diet by making sure to include lots of foods such as: cold water fish; garlic; onions; fresh fruit; nuts and seeds; cold pressed oils such as safflower oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, flaxseed oil, and walnut oil; and fresh vegetables particularly ones from the cabbage family.

To Your Health!
Kathryn Doran-Fisher

Does your child have a health issue that doesn't seem to be getting any better? Have you tried all sorts of natural and pharmaceutical remedies with no success? Are you frustrated with all the "good" advice and no results?

Babies and young children today are dealing with health issues that were unheard of in past generations and many parents are struggling to understand what is causing their child to suffer and how they can help. Health issues such as:

Poor weight gain or "failure to thrive"
Eczema, hives, and other skin irritations
Constipation with hard dry stools that are difficult to pass
Chronic watery diarrhea
Stomach pains, flatulence and colic
Reflux and excessive spitting up
Food allergies and food sensitivities
Thrush and Yeast infections

Although these health issues are very different, they have the same root problem - gut dysbiosis, which just means a gut system that is out of balance. This means that the number of pathogenic, or disease producing microbes in the gut outweigh the number of probiotic or health supporting microbes. These pathogens create endo- and exo- toxins that irritate the lining of the digestive tract and leak through the gut wall into the bloodstream where they can create a variety of seemingly unconnected health issues. Contributing factors to gut dysbiosis in children include:

Use of antibiotics
Birth by C-section
Formula feeding
High sugar consumption
Mother (and occasionally father) with gut dysbiosis

The last point is often overlooked in conventional treatment of eczema and other skin problems, particularly if the child is being breastfed. Gut dysbiosis in the mother results in an increase in immune response in the mother's blood and in her breastmilk. The baby's immune system responds to these immune factors as if they had been exposed to the toxins directly. But because their immune system is immature it results in dermatitis, eczema, asthma, or allergic reactions while the mother may have none of these issues. Topical application of steroidal creams provide only limited results and can be very harmful to the child's growth and development.

The mechanism behind this response is somewhat unclear to me and I hope more research will be done in this area. However, I have confirmed in my own practice that when the breastfeeding mother addresses her own gut dysbiosis, the child's eczema eventually clears up. This may also explain why some children "grow out of it" as their immune system matures or when they are weaned from the breast. Please note that I do not recommend weaning early to resolve eczema as breastfeeding has many other important health benefits. Contributing factors to gut dysbiosis in adults may include:

Antibiotic use
High stress levels
High sugar consumption
Birth control
Use of certain prescription drugs such as hormone replacement, antacids, or anti-depressants
Poor diet

Because the baby gets their bacteria from the mother if born vaginally, gut dysbiosis in the child can also occur from the start of life if the mother already has digestive problems. The child would then suffer from colic, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, flatulence, bad breath and other digestive symptoms. Since gut bacteria play a major roll in the immune system the child may also suffer from lowered immunity, chronic ear infections, asthma or allergies. This points to the necessity of establishing a good bacterial population well before pregnancy and promoting it throughout early childhood while reserving the use of antibiotics for extreme life-threatening situations. If antibiotic use does become necessary then using probiotics throughout and up to three months after the course of antibiotics will lessen some of the negative effects.

By far the most effective method of addressing gut dysbiosis is through the GAPS nutritional protocol. This short-term healing protocol is designed to limit the growth of pathogenic microbes, promote the growth of probiotic microbes, heal the digestive system, support the body's elimination channels, and support the body's detoxification systems.  To find out more about the GAPS diet I recommend you read Gut & Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride or visit her website at www.gaps.me. You can also make an appointment with me or another Certified GAPS Practitioner close to you.

To Your Health!

Kathryn Doran-Fisher,
Naturopathic Doctor and Certified GAPS Practitioner
Elder & Sage