Have you taken the root cause approach to address your gut issues?
In this episode of the Love Your Gut Podcast, I talk about the root cause approach to gut health vs the conventional medicine approach, the truth about testing, how we address the root causes in gutTogether, the 3 steps to lasting gut relief, and how restrictive diets may be making things worse.
Topics Covered in This Episode
- [03:03] Defining root causes.
- [05:01] Root cause approach vs conventional medicine.
- [06:22] Why a root cause approach is more sustainable.
- [08:11] The tree analogy.
- [09:04] Do you need testing?
- [10:13] The best place to start.
- [13:27] Which tests are helpful?
- [19:48] How we address the root causes.
- [20:04] Step 1: Identify the patterns.
- [21:00] Step 2: Address.
- [22:16] Step 3: Nutrition.
- [30:09] Join gutTogether.
If this episode has been helpful, hit me up on Instagram, and tell me about your experience!
- Take the quiz: www.drheatherfinley.co/quiz.
- Ensuring optimal mineral ratios.
Follow & leave a review on Apple Podcasts.
- “When you’re addressing the root cause, the progress is not linear.”
The restrictive diets are a band-aid. If you’re having to rely on a restrictive diet to manage your symptoms, you haven’t addressed the root cause.
“Creating a plan that addresses the root cause focuses on making sustainable lifestyle changes.”
“Testing needs to be systematic and it needs to match the symptoms that you’re experiencing.”
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Dr. Heather Finley
Dr. Heather Finley 00:02
So when we’re looking at identifying the root causes, we’re taking a different approach because we’re investigating the triggers that are unique to each individual, which leads to longer, more effective, lasting results.
Dr. Heather Finley 00:16
Hey, welcome to the love your gut podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Heather Finley, I know what you’re thinking, how am I supposed to love my gut when all it does is hold me back. I thought the same thing before I found my own relief from my own gut health issues. I dedicated my life to getting to the bottom of my own gut issues, so I can help women just like you transform theirs. Now I’m here to guide you through your own gut health journey. We do this through identifying your root causes and making sustainable and transformational changes. As a result, you can unleash your true potential. My goal is to empower you with the information and tools you need to love your guts. So it loves you back right here on this podcast.
Dr. Heather Finley 01:02
Welcome back to the next episode of the love your gut Podcast. I’m so excited to be here today. And I wanted to start off this podcast actually, by reading a review. You all know that reviews are what help us to spread the love and to help more people with digestive issues. So thank you so much tree bird 18. For this review, it says “this is by far the best podcast for digestive issues. And trust me, I have listened to most of them. There isn’t unnecessary chatter she gets right to the point and addresses a multitude of topics. She has helped me a ton just from listening to the podcast, and her blogs, and Instagram.”
Dr. Heather Finley 01:41
So really, really appreciate that. Thank you all who have left a review. And thank you in advance for going to leave a review, it literally takes 20 seconds to go and leave a five star review and a quick comment, I really, really appreciate it. Now on to the episode.
Dr. Heather Finley 02:00
So today I want to talk about why so many of us struggle with chronic digestive symptoms, and how to actually identify the root cause. Now if you’re anything like me, and if you struggled with digestive issues for literally decades, then you probably haven’t identified the root cause of your symptoms. This is the number one reason why individuals come to us and they gut together program is because they don’t actually know why they feel the way that they do. They’ve hopped from conventional doctor to conventional doctor only to be given medications, restrictive diets and advice that just literally doesn’t work. So today I’m going to teach you how to actually identify the root cause of your symptoms, so that you can stop doing this. So you can stop jumping from extreme plans, elimination diets and medications, and actually find sustainable relief.
Dr. Heather Finley 03:02
So first, I want to start off with identifying and defining what is a root cause. There’s so much chatter on Instagram about finding the root cause. And sometimes people just don’t actually know what that means it’s become a very trendy term. So I want to just break it down really quick.
Dr. Heather Finley 03:22
A root cause when it comes to digestive symptoms, is the underlying factors that are contributing to your specific digestive issues. It’s really essential to understand that every person is unique, and what may trigger symptoms for one person may not affect another. I was actually on a discovery call earlier today with a woman who said she was born constipated. And we had a little chuckle because I was like, Yeah, me too. And she’s been to all these doctors, you know, been given lenses MiraLAX was taking like super high doses of magnesium. And what I explained to her was, you know, in conventional medicine, it is they are taught to if it, you know, looks like a duck and walks like a duck, treat it like that or like if it fits in this box, put it in this box. And when you’re finding the root cause our goal is to actually get you out of the box, you are a unique individual. And you might have the same symptoms as me or as this woman that I was talking to earlier. But the reality is that there are so many different things that can contribute to digestive symptoms, that if you don’t identify your unique causes, you will continue feeling like you were on the teacups at Disneyland and you can’t get off. So by identifying the root cause, we can actually pinpoint the specific triggers and address them which is what we want to do because this is what will actually help you to find long term relief and stop feeling like you’re going in circles. So, it may be obvious.
Dr. Heather Finley 05:02
But the next question is, well, why is this different from conventional medicine. And this is different from conventional medicine, because in conventional medicine, the focus is often on managing symptoms through medications or temporary fixes, as I mentioned earlier, like maybe low FODMAP, or Linzess, or mere lakhs or whatever it might be. And while this can provide relief in the short term, and sometimes is necessary, it doesn’t actually identify and address the underlying causes of your symptoms. So when we’re looking at identifying the root causes, we’re taking a different approach, because we’re investigating the triggers that are unique to each individual, which leads to longer, more effective lasting results, which I’m assuming if you’re listening to this podcast, that’s actually what you want, you want to find long term relief, you want to be able to live your life and not worry about when your symptoms are going to come back, or am I going to be able to go on this trip? Or what happens when I travel for work? And, you know, am I going to be able to have a bowel movement, or is my bloating gonna be so bad that I have to change pants at the end of the day, and I’m saying these things, because these are all real situations that our clients have dealt with in the past.
Dr. Heather Finley 06:22
So I want to talk a little bit about why a root cause approach is more sustainable as well. In our culture, we live in a very Amazon Prime culture, where you order something on your phone, and it is to your doorstep the next day, or even sooner sometimes. And we’re taught to strive for that quick approach. And it’s really hard to shift your mindset towards sustainability. And although it may take you more time to find relief, using a root cause approach, sustainability really is a key factor when it comes to addressing your symptoms. Because many people find themselves on this never ending cycle of trying different diets, supplements, medications. And when you create a plan that addresses the root cause. This is tailored to your specific triggers and needs. And it focuses on sustainability.
Dr. Heather Finley 07:21
So it focuses on making lifestyle changes, incorporating targeted supplements, and optimizing nutrition to support your gut health for the long term versus just a really quick fix. And what I want to say here, too, is this is a huge mindset shift. If you’re used to going on a juice cleanse to relieve your bloating or taking a bunch of supplements to relieve bloat, and you find relief really quick, even though the symptoms might come back, you’re used to that immediate fix. And when you’re addressing the root cause the progress is not linear. Sometimes there are setbacks. So let’s break it down as to what is necessary to identify the root cause. And I want to also give you a quick analogy. So the analogy that I like to give is, let’s say that you have a tree in your backyard, and you love this tree, and it is beautiful, it provides a lot of shade. But all of a sudden, you start noticing that the tree branches are dying, you could continue chopping off the branches. Or you could contact an arborist and have them come assess your tree for you know, fungus or whatever is causing the branches to die and address that so that you can provide nourishment to this tree to actually grow and revive itself. That right there is a root cause approach. We’re not looking to chop the branches off of the tree who are looking to nourish this tree at the roots so that you can actually find long term relief.
Dr. Heather Finley 09:03
So one of the things that I often get asked is do you need testing when you are using a root cause approach? And the answer to this question is sometimes there are a lot of root causes that we can address without testing. Testing can provide valuable insights. It can speed up the process of identifying the root cause, but it’s not always necessary. I am not a fan of people going to functional medicine doctors and getting like $4,000 worth of testing. And what happens is they just feel overwhelmed, they feel completely shut down. And they aren’t able to even process the information. And it puts their nervous system in a complete state of freeze because now they have more information than they know what to do with and it’s really hard for them to actually take action. So Oh, please know that testing can be helpful, but not if it’s going to overwhelm you. And testing needs to be systematic and it needs to match the symptoms that you’re experiencing. So sometimes the best place to start is a thorough examination of number one, your medical history. Number two, your day to day patterns. Because even your symptoms themselves can provide enough information to start really unraveling the underlying causes of your digestive symptoms. Like I said, in some cases, testing can be extremely beneficial. We do testing in our VIP program. But there’s a lot of steps that we go through before we even really look at testing, it’s easy to want to jump straight to the test results and just treat the test. And you can’t just treat a test, you have to treat the person. And you have to look at how the test results correlate with the patterns that someone’s body is showing you. So the first thing that you want to do is, like I said, look at your medical history. When did these symptoms start? Were they caused by a food poisoning incident? Were you born constipated? Like I hear many people say, or are they triggered after a really stressful event in your life, maybe a divorce or a job change or a move or postpartum? Those are common incidences that we see digestive symptoms flare, then you want to look at your day to day patterns. So are you constipated throughout the week, and then you have diarrhea all weekend? Do you not have a bowel movement for multiple days? And then you have diarrhea? Are you constipated every single day, those patterns are really helpful to know because they give us insight as to some of your root causes.
Dr. Heather Finley 11:55
And here’s an example. So bloating. This is one of the main symptoms that people come to us for when you bloat can tell us a lot about why you’re bloating. If you are waking up bloated, this is a sign most likely have a motility issue, more than likely you haven’t cleared your bowels the day prior. So you’re waking up bloated because you’re still full of stool. And I know that that is a little bit of a visual. But this is really helpful. Maybe you wake up and you’re not bloated, but you get bloated. The second thing you eat or drink something, to me, this looks like maybe some digestive abnormalities, I want to look at your stomach acid, I want to look at your pancreatic enzymes, your bile flow, etc. Because if it’s triggered by food or liquids, that is a good sign. If you are bloating progressively throughout the day, so maybe you wake up with a flat stomach, and you all of a sudden feel six to nine months pregnant by the end of the day. This is potentially a sign of bacterial overgrowth or an imbalance of bacteria in your gut. So see what I mean. Just because you’re bloated, there are many subsets of bloating, everyone’s symptoms are different. And so we want to look at the patterns in these symptoms. And logging these symptoms can actually be really helpful. So if you’re trying to really dig into some of your root causes, starting to log the patterns and trends can be a great place to start.
Dr. Heather Finley 13:26
So if you’re thinking well what types of tests are necessary for finding the root cause or what tests can be helpful, I want to talk about a few of the tests that we run with our clients. Some of the tests that we run are just straight blood labs, blood labs are a great place to start. A lot of our clients come to us with previous bloodwork. And this can tell us a lot about some of the triggers and underlying issues. We can look at patterns and trends in your blood sugar markers, we can look at patterns and trends, even in cholesterol that can tell us a lot about gallbladder health. We can look at patterns and trends in your iron labs. Those can also tell us a lot about what’s going on in the gut. So blood labs can be a great place to start, we have a comprehensive blood panel that we will often run on our clients if they don’t have previous blood labs and we feel that it might be necessary. The other thing that we do with our clients typically is hair mineral testing. So hair mineral testing is interesting. And I have a whole nother episode on this with Leah. It’s one of the first episodes on this podcast, you can go back and listen to it. But mineral testing can be extremely beneficial. This can actually show us patterns in mineral utilization and also shows us potentially why for example, maybe you are taking super high doses of magnesium and your bowels are still blocked. There’s a reason for that. If you’re taking Hang in this is really common. If you’re taking 1000 1200 milligrams of magnesium citrate and you still can’t have a bowel movement, there’s an absorption issue there, and minerals work together. So you likely have, you need some sodium repletion, some potassium repletion. And looking at your mineral ratios, and also looking at patterns in your minerals can show us a lot about also what nervous systems state your body’s in. It can show us if your body’s in a complete shutdown state or if you’re in a stressed state. And then we can use some targeted mineral supplementation and minerals in foods to help us balance out your mineral levels, which can do wonders for especially getting our bowels moving, or even if they’re moving too fast getting them to slow down. So that’s something that can be really beneficial as well.
Dr. Heather Finley 15:53
Hey there, I know you’re absolutely loving this episode on gut health. But I have to interrupt to ask you a favor. If you haven’t enjoying the love your gut podcast, the best way that you can support us is by leaving a rating and review on your favorite podcast platform. Your ratings and reviews help us reach so many more people and spread the word about the importance of gut health. So go on over hit a five star rating and leave a review letting others know how much you love the show and what your favorite episode was. I truly appreciate your support and can’t wait to bring you more gut loving content.
Dr. Heather Finley 16:29
And then the last test and one of the most common tests that we use is a stool test. There’s tons of controversy on stool testing, and I’m not going to get into that on this episode. But stool tests can be very beneficial. What I want to say to this, though, is that you can’t just treat the stool tests. As I mentioned earlier in the episode, you need to treat based on the symptoms the client is presenting with. And the combination of testing, because the reality is when it comes to stool testing, we’re not trying to make everybody’s gut look the same. We don’t even know at this point what a perfect quote unquote, God looks like. We just want to look at okay, here’s what the test is showing. Here’s what your symptoms are showing us. And these are potential reasons why. And here’s how we can address this. So for example of stool testing, we’ll look at your good bacteria. Do you have enough beneficial bacteria? It will also look at overgrowth bacteria, are there bacteria that are overgrown that are maybe contributing to this bloating, maybe SIBO, etc, that you’re having. And then probably one of my more favorite parts, that was terrible grammar, the the best parts of the stool test is the digestive markers. It will help us to see are you actually digesting fat? Are you actually digesting protein? And then also, what does your gut immune system look like? There’s a marker on the stool test that we use, that looks at something called Secretory IgA and this is secretory, immunoglobulin egg. The interesting and really cool part about immunoglobulin A is immunoglobulin A basically acts as a blanket for food proteins. So every time you eat something, IGA wraps that food protein, essentially in a blanket to tell your immune system this is okay Don’t cause a response. The lower the IGA level, typically the more food sensitivity responses you’re going to have. So these are the clients that they’ve done food sensitivity testing previously, and they react to like all the foods that they’re eating every single day. This isn’t a food issue. This is an immune issue. And IGA is a big piece of that. So knowing your immunoglobulin A number can really direct what we’re going to do and provide a lot of insight as to maybe why you’re bloated regardless of what you eat. So I hope that that helps maybe clear up some of the confusion around testing. And if it’s helpful, we typically will recommend testing when someone has really chronic symptoms, maybe they’ve had multiple failed attempts at SIBO treatment, you know, they’ve done Rifaximin or Flagyl, or whatever it is, and a they’ve done three, four, maybe five rounds and they’re not getting anywhere. Testing further testing can be really helpful because SIBO if you’ve had small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, this is just a symptom of a greater issue. And so some of this other testing can help us to look at okay, what is actually contributing to these SIBO symptoms. So now I want to walk you through actually how do we address the root causes? So I’ve given you a lot of information about some tools that we can use some patterns that we can look for. So now how do we address it, and it’s in the Gup Together program, we address it in three steps. Number one is to identify the patterns, as I mentioned earlier. So we’re going to look at your medical history, your day to day patterns, and then test results.
Dr. Heather Finley 20:13
So now that we understand, you know, if if testing is necessary, or if testing would be helpful, we want to look at the combination of all of these three things, what triggered the symptoms, what’s triggering them on the day to day and then what are the test results showing us about the symptoms, we keep track of day to day routines, and day to day patterns in the symptoms. And this allows us to really even dig deeper into some of the root causes that we might not pick up on testing as well, such as things like stomach acid, or things like gut motility, you can’t really you can’t test for gut motility on a stool test. But you there are ways that we have our clients test for gut motility outside of that. So now that we’ve identified the patterns and the root causes, we can move on to step two. And that’s okay, now let’s address these things. So what lifestyle modifications, what supplements, and what foods are going to help us as key components of addressing these root causes? So we want to make some specific changes to lifestyle, maybe we’ve identified that stress is a big trigger for your symptoms, which is a trigger for most people, even if you don’t believe it is it’s a trigger for most people. So we might look at some nervous system support that we can add in each day improving sleep quality, you know, incorporating exercise that makes sense for what the cues your body is giving us.
Dr. Heather Finley 21:47
We’ll also look at, okay, what targeted supplements are going to be helpful? Are there specific supplements that we need to use to get your bowels moving? Are there specific supplements that we need to use to optimize digestion? Are there supplements that we need to use to enhance the good bacteria in your gut, or to rebalance the bacteria in your gut. And that can all be based on both testing as well as looking at the patterns and trends. And then lastly, we want to look at nutrition shifts. One of the biggest mistakes that I see healthcare providers make is putting people on restrictive diets and not taking them off of them. I’m going to tell you a story in a second about a client that we had named Emily. But you the restrictive diets are a band aid, if you’re having to rely on a restrictive diet to manage your symptoms, you haven’t addressed the root cause. And one of the other biggest misconceptions that I see is that if you have SIBO, that you can just do the low FODMAP diet and it will get rid of your SIBO. That’s not the case. SIBO can be addressed via nutrition, lifestyle, and supplementation or medications. You can think of it like a stool. If a one of the legs of the stool is taken away, it’s going to fall over. And that’s why I got together we truly believe in a comprehensive approach. Because if you’re just relying on food elimination to manage your symptoms, what happens when you go on a trip, what happens when you go to a work dinner, or if you’re just relying on supplements, that’s not helpful either. Those are supplementary to everything you’re doing. And they can be placeholders as you’re addressing the lifestyle piece, then and the nutrition piece. So I want to tell you a story just to kind of solidify all of this about our past client, Emily. So Emily had been suffering from digestive issues, really debilitating issues for years, and her life was really consumed by bloating, abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements. So she had been to conventional doctors. She had gone to like the top gi doctors and some of the top clinics in the country really hoping that they would give her answers. But really each doctor’s visit she left just feeling really frustrated, because they would hand her a prescription medication and tell her you know, let’s try this for six months, and we’ll see you then. And she just felt like she was kind of trapped in this never ending cycle of desperation to be honest. So one day she was telling a friend about her symptoms and one of her friends had actually done got together and so she reached out and she told me about her symptoms, which didn’t surprise me because this is something that we commonly hear from clients. They’ve done all the medications they’ve done, you know, all the restrictive diets. She had done low FODMAP like multiple times. She had done AIP she had done whole 30 and she was really just desperate to find relief. So She got on Discovery call, we chatted and she enrolled and got together. And what was interesting is, so she did some testing. We also were looking at her day to day patterns and her medical history, looking at her medical timeline as well as to when her symptoms started. And interestingly enough, her symptoms actually started what she could pinpoint as like right after high school, when she got on birth control. And that’s a whole nother episode for another time. But that’s when she could really pinpoint that her symptoms started. So she was off birth control at this point, but she had, you know, tried low FODMAP she had tried lends us she had done SIBO treatment before. And like I mentioned, she had also done low FODMAP. So she was really looking to number one, advance her diet, and then also get rid of her symptoms. So we did some testing on her. And one of the interesting things that we actually see quite a bit is that on her stool test, she had really low levels of beneficial bacteria in her gut. So no wonder the low FODMAP diet and all these restrictive diets are making her feel worse. She was essentially starving her beneficial bacteria. And there’s something in the gut called Keystone strains. There are specific strains of bacteria that are keystone to your gut health. And these bacteria were essentially wiped out. They were not detectable in her stool sample. And so as a result of all these restrictive diets, they weren’t detectable. And of course, she was having symptoms. Of course, she was constipated. Of course, she was bloated. And of course, she wasn’t getting anywhere with these conventional recommendations. So we started her on some supplementation to address some of the things on her stool test, including the low amounts of beneficial bacteria really slowly. And in full transparency, her symptoms got worse before they got better, because when you’re good gut bacteria are starved and nonexistent, you will add in prebiotic fiber and you will feel worse if you go too quickly. And everybody is different. So we added in really small amounts, she did have an increase in bloating, but after a little bit, the bloating, slowly, slowly got better, her bowels slowly started moving a bit better. And all of a sudden, she was starting to have regular bowel movements on most days. So her plan was broken up into multiple phases. But and I’m not going to get into that in this episode.
Dr. Heather Finley 28:00
But what I want to drive home is that she was not able to find relief because number one, she never really understood what was actually causing her symptoms. She was just handed medication to try to get her bowels to move in to the restrictive diets that she was on, were actually exacerbating the symptoms and no wonder she was getting gradually worse. So after months of being and got together, her bowel movements were more normal. She was having bowel movements daily, her bloating subsided, and she was also able to tolerate a lot more foods. And this came this was slow. It wasn’t like overnight, she snapped her fingers. And all of a sudden she was tolerating tons of food again.
Dr. Heather Finley 28:51
But the other point that I want to drive home here is that you won’t be able to digest lots of variety in your food intake if you have low amounts of beneficial bacteria. And this is why our conventional system of restrictive diets and other medications typically makes people worse is because over time, the strength of your gut to actually digest fiber diminishes. And this was the case for her. So I hope that Emily’s journey really inspires you that even if you feel really stuck if you’ve exhausted the conventional system, and if you’ve exhausted or you feel like you’ve exhausted your options, there is another way and there are things that you can do to actually look deeper into your gut and actually address the root cause without this testing, and without us really digging into the patterns of her symptoms, which, you know, in some sense her doctor just doesn’t have time to do. She would have never understood that she was actually going backwards instead of forwards It’s, and so this is possible for you as well, your symptoms don’t have to control your life any longer. So if you’re looking to do this, I really invite you to apply to work with us and get together, we actually have two options for working with our team, we have our VIP program. This is our signature one on one program, that’s a completely done for you program.
Dr. Heather Finley 30:24
So if you’re really tired of jumping from one extreme plan to another, and you’re really ready to dig into what is causing your symptoms, you can apply to work with us one on one in gut together, we will help you identify the root causes, you can utilize functional testing, you’ll get weekly food and symptom reviews and insights to help you understand your symptoms. And you’ll get this tailored plan to address your unique root causes. With the goal being at the end, you understand your root causes, and you know how to address them.
Dr. Heather Finley 31:02
The other option for working with our team is in our membership. And the reason that I launched this membership is to be able to help more people. This is our community program, you will walk through the entire get together method, you will get individualized support in the group calls and in the community chat. There’s video modules that teach you how to identify your root causes. And you will also have tons of support with our super knowledgeable team. So I hope that this episode was helpful, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Dr. Heather Finley 31:39
That’s really all that I have for today’s episode. But really just to sum it up, it is possible for you to identify the root causes and the three steps to identifying your root causes are number one, let’s look at the patterns. Let’s look at your medical history. Let’s look at the patterns day to day and then if needed, we can bring in some functional testing. Number two, let’s come up with a comprehensive plan to address your symptoms via nutrition, lifestyle and targeted supplementation. And then number three, let’s now know your root causes and what you need to do long term to prevent your symptoms from coming back.
Dr. Heather Finley 32:18
So I hope you found this discussion helpful and informative. And really remember that by understanding your unique triggers and address addressing the underlying causes, you really can take control of your gut health and find lasting relief. So thanks for tuning in. Be sure to tag me on instagram with your biggest takeaway and remember to love your gut so it will love you back. I’ll see you next time on the next episode of the love your gut podcast.
As always, please note that this episode or anything discussed on this podcast is not a substitution for medical advice and you should always consult your health practitioner before trying anything new.
Dr. Heather Finley
Thanks so much for tuning in to today’s episode of the love your gut podcast. I have a new quiz that I’m so excited for you to take it is called which popular song describes your gut health issues. So if you’re ready to find out if you’re a slow down by Lenin seller or Don’t Stop Believing by journey in the world of gut health, it’s time to head over to Dr.Heatherfinley.co/quiz to take this new quiz and find out if your gut is rockin and rollin or more of a slow jam. And until next time, remember to love your gut so it will love you back