My guest is Norm Robillard, Ph.D, Founder of Digestive Health Institute, is a gut health expert, author, and microbiologist. He is the creator of the Fast Tract Diet – Fermentation Potential (FP) system, author of the Fast Tract Digestion book series, and publisher of the Fast Tract Diet mobile app.
How he got here
In his mid to late 30s he was working in the biotech industry and he started experiencing acid reflux , not only heartburn, but waking up in the middle of the night with aspiration reflux going into my lungs. It scared the daylights out of him. And sent him on a journey to find out what was causing it.
At the time, his son recommended a low-carb diet and a treadmill to take some weight off. Low and behold, as he lowered the amount of carbs he consumed, he lowered and finally got rid of the GERD and aspiration.
This within a matter of days!
Tapping into his microbiologist training reminded him, “I know bacteria, ferment, carbs, carbohydrates very efficiently for fuel and I know that most of these strains produce a lot of gas.”
He wondered if… “My 39-year-old body is not digesting all of these carbs I'm putting down my throat, and I'm suffering from carbohydrate malabsorption.”?
After trying to disprove his theory and finding it sound, he changed the business he was into digestive health.
I’ve included a lot of links to explain some of the medical terms we discussed.
Diseases and health problems we discussed--that you may be experiencing
Many people—and doctors—assume that too much stomach acid is the problem.
Hypochlorhydria means too little stomach acid and can also cause gut issues.
What has the thyroid got to do with the gut?
“If somebody does have an autoimmune condition, whether it's Hashimoto’s whether it's ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis or type one diabetes, it's very common for people with autoimmune issues to have other autoimmune issues. They kind of travel in packs.
And so if I was working with somebody and say we were doing that stomach acid, we were trying to determine if they had adequate stomach acid. And so that would be one of the things I wanted to know. If they had other autoimmune issues, I would look at autoimmune atrophic gastritis, which is also known as pernicious anemia.
What we eat matters to gut health but it’s not the only place to look
Nsaid enteropathy—basically inflammation or ulcers brought on by frequent use or overuse of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. (Aspirin, Ibuprofen Advil/Motrin, Naproxen Aleve, Celecoxib)
Diabetes can contribute to slower motility and Dr. Norm says “You need to keep things moving through your digestive tract.”
What about over the counter and prescription acid lowering drugs?
“You know, half of the people that take these drugs for heartburn related issues find symptomatic relief, half don't.
“For LPR, (laryngopharyngeal reflux ),the throat issues, it's in several studies and meta analyses, like the proton pump inhibitor, acid reducing drugs don't work any better than placebo.”
Those drugs were never meant to be a long-term solution. “For a couple of weeks or a month, probably not a big deal, but the list of long-term health consequences, side effects too, it just grows all the time. Every year there's a few new papers that come out whether it's heart problems, or kidney damage, or an increased risk of pneumonia.”
Another reason to skip the PPIs
Clostridium difficile is a bacterium that causes an infection of the large intestine (colon). Symptoms can range from diarrhea to life-threatening damage to the colon.
“An increased risk of clostridium difficile infection, which tends to come back more often and is more difficult to treat because imagine these PPIs are getting rid of the stomach acid, which is one of your control mechanisms for these bacterial populations.”
Only when absolutely necessary
Antibiotics wreak havoc on the gut microbiota.
“A lot of the antibiotics these days are broad spectrum, even when you don't know what the infection is caused by or you didn't culture it, you might kill it. Downside is they will kill an even wider range of microbes in the gut.”
Chew chew chew!
We have this enzyme in our saliva that breaks down starch while we're chewing it, before we even swallow.
We have too much access to sugar and high carb foods and it’s driving the diabetes problem. Many of Doc’s peers who work with diabetics are having success in getting them off insulin and reversing the diabetes diagnosis but getting them to eat low carb, higher fat diets.
FP points Fermentation Potential. A mathematical formula created by Dr. Norm. FP measures symptom potential in foods / drinks and is the backbone of the Fast Tract Diet for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), acid reflux, GERD, LPR, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other SIBO related conditions
There’s a free calculator on his website that can calculate the carbohydrate net food, what will stay behind and fuel overgrowth of bacteria.
His App, “The Fast Tract Diet App” helps you identify gut friendly foods versus hard-to-digest foods, track and chart your meals and symptoms, create shopping lists and quickly look up the symptom potential for specific foods & drinks at your favorite market on the fly. (That links to the Apple version, you can also get one for Android.)
His books Fast Tract Digestion for Heartburn or IBS come in paperback and ebook form.
Bottom line? Look to too many carbs and or sugars if you have gut issues but if it’s bad, seek out professional help—like Dr. Norm.