Louise Joyce is a director at Invivo healthcare company specializing in the human microbiome and state of the art stool tests.
It's the lab we use for all of our stool tests and more recently tests that look into the oral and the vaginal microbiome as well.
In this interview, Louise talks about the importance of gut health and what the right stool tests can discover.
First of all Louise, I just want to ask you how on earth did you end up an expert in this area on microbes, gut health and all of that?
Well, I guess it goes back to when I really started training as a naturopath and in naturopathic training, it's all about interconnectedness.
You know we're never looking at a system in isolation to another and so often it just kept coming back to the gut.
We started looking at microbes and how much these microbes really governed a lot of our functions. And I can remember even lecturers saying to me, look, when in doubt, just go to the gut. And I thought, gosh, that sounds a little bit naive. But realistically when we focus on this system it does have massive cascading effects.
And so it peaked my interest in, and I guess I've evolved that learning as much as the science has evolved as well.
Tell us a little bit of why gut health is so important and particularly for women as we get older?
We've got this incredible digestive system you know, from mouth to anus that connects us to the rest of the world. And it's this small lining realistically, half the width of the of a human hair. It's tiny!
And this membrane is beautifully engineered to connect us with the rest of the world. If we think about why it's so small it is because we need to be taking on macro and micronutrients and also function as our immune system.
Also things like thyroid health and a lot of our female hormones like oestrogen are actually metabolized modulated and excreted through the gut.
So it all comes back to this centralized system.
I'm really interested in why we tend to get flare ups of digestive issues during perimenopause? I wonder if you have a theory for that in your mind?
We have a lifetime of kind of luggage with us, you know, baggage by that time. Digestive processes may have been affected by things like excessive cortisol - quite topical at the moment, who hasn't been stressed in 2020?
These things can kind of wear systems down and by wearing systems down, it might mean that we're more prone to maybe flaring to things that we potentially haven't done so in the past.
Also outside of cortisol, we've got this complex dance of hormones that are happening typically at that age, sometimes in excess and sometimes in decline. And so the body is again trying to work with those.
And if our microbiome is dysbiotic or out of balance, it may not have an ability to cope. And again, sometimes it is that in combination with the changes in hormones.
It could also be lifestyle changes. So many of us get to that age and we think gosh, I need to actually start doing some self care. Maybe I've been a little bit traumatic to myself in the past. And we start thinking about what do we need to do in terms of modulating our diet.
So who would benefit from doing a stool test the kind of stool tests that you do?
We do quite a specific type of test, a little bit different to what you're going to be coming across with your general healthcare practitioner or your medical doctor. We look at host markers. These markers really help us to understand what's happening from an inflammatory, immune and also membrane perspective.
And when when you say membrane, you're talking about the gut lining which is critical to gut health, isn't it?
Absolutely. Sometimes we think about it in terms of a pair of leggings. You know, we don't want it to be full of holes. We don't want it to be massively permeable. We want it to be there to able things to cross through. And, you know that's how we are absorbing nutrients and many other things but we want that quality to be retained.
And so there are different markers that we can look at, but there's also different patterns of microbes that can help us understand the health of that barrier, maybe patterns that are causing disruption to the membrane as well.
The rest of our panel really opens up into microbial patterns; parasitology, fungal markers, etc, but it's really looking at chronic disease markers for things like IBS, IBD, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, but also health optimization in general.
One of the things that I wanted to ask you was the link between your gut health and your mental health. Can you just talk a little bit about the sorts of symptoms we might get if, if the gut is sending the wrong messages to the brain?
The big ones are things like anxiety depression, mood swings, brain fog, and it's fascinating. We're starting to rename some probiotics to 'psychobiotics'. for their ability to work on this gut-brain kind of modulation.
And that's where, you know working with someone like yourself, you can really dig down with stool tests and see what are the patterns? What do I need to encourage with diet and lifestyle, or potentially a supplement to modulate.
We've got this fantastic kind of structural connection between our gut and our brain. And that's why we get a 'gut feeling' - that saying is around for a very specific reason.
One of the most simplest things people can do is sing. Your neighbors might not enjoy it. Your partner might not enjoy it. The kids, the cat the dog, but, you know, singing actually is really good for the vagal tone.
The vagus nerve? Singing really, how does that work?
It's just by actually stimulating it. Gargling works as well. So for anyone listening go and think of your three favorite belter songs and download them and try and sing a couple of times throughout the week and just see how you feel.
That's a fantastic note to end on. Thank you so much Louise. I am in awe of your work and your knowledge. And we, we love working with you.
I hope you enjoyed my chat with Louise - a very smart lady!
If you're interested in looking into your gut health, whether you've got digestive issues or systemic issues that are just unresolved, do message me and we can get a call set up to discuss whether stool testing would help.