Does Disease Begin with Gut-Health? 3 Steps to Health

What Is Gut-Health?

There has been lots of talk recently about what has become known as “gut-health.” The Johns Hopkins Medical Center website, one of the most well-respected hospitals and Medical Schools in the United States, there is a good reason for this. Hidden within the walls of your digestive system is what is known as “your second brain” and this “brain in your gut” is changing the way that we look at the links between mood, digestion, health and even the way that you think.

Does Disease Begin with Gut-Health?

The answer is “NO”. Not all the diseases start in the gut. For an example, it doesn’t apply to the genetic or inherited diseases. But, there are evidences that lots of chronic metabolic diseases do. They begin in the gut. We can prevent these diseases by following some easy steps.

Step 1: Know What Second Brain and Why Does It Matter

This “little brain” is called the “enteric nervous system” or ENS and it comprises 2 thin layers of over 100 million nerve cells that line your GI tract from your esophagus to your rectum. The role of the ENS is to control digestion, including swallowing to releasing the enzymes that help break food down, to the control of blood flow, which aids with both nutrient absorption and elimination. The ENS communicates with our brain with significant results. When you have an unhealthy gut the symptoms of that can manifest themselves in other parts of your body. It’s your body trying to tell you that something is wrong or out of balance. Studies have found that increasing your gut-health can lead to improvements in:

  •  Immune function – 80% of our immune system is located in our guts
  • Brain function
  • Symptoms of anger, sadness, and depression
  • Obesity
  • Toxin levels in the body
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Allergies
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

What Results? How Is This Even Possible?

The ENS may sense things that our cerebral brain can’t. Evidence has been found that when the GI tract is irritated it sends signals to the central nervous system, which can trigger our mood and ultimately affect it. When you consider that between 30%-40% of the population has bowel problems of some kind and that a higher percentage of these individuals develop depression and/or anxiety it’s easy to see how there could be a connection.

Our bodies are filled with bacteria – good and bad. There are more bacteria in a human body than there are cells and there are an estimated 100 trillion microorganisms living in our bowels alone ( 13-ways-to-improve-gut-health/.) The key here is to have more good than bad bacteria in your gut – the fancy name for the good microorganisms is probiotics. Probiotics help us do things like:

  • Digest food;
  • Absorb nutrients;
  • Break down medications; and
  • Kill some of the bad bacteria that lead to infection.

Step 2: Get More Probiotics

There are quite a few ways to get probiotics, but one of the easiest is to take a supplement called a probiotic. You will find many different kinds under different brand names and it would be a good idea to talk to your physician or pharmacist to see which is the brand that they recommend.

doTERRA has created two products: PB Assist®+ and PB Assist®+JR.

PB Assist® is a proprietary blend of six active strains of friendly probiotic microorganisms that support healthy colonies of friendly microflora in the gut.* It employs a unique double-layer capsule delivery system that provides a short chain FOS pre-biotic fiber in the outer capsule and a time-release inner capsule providing active probiotic cultures. FOS, or fructooligosaccharides, are indigestible fibers that are found in fruits and vegetables that have the ability to selectively promote the growth of friendly bacteria.

Inside the outer capsule delivering the pre-biotic FOS is a small inner capsule with 6 billion CFU (Colony Forming Units) of six active strains of lacto- and bifido-probiotic cultures. The timerelease inner capsule is designed to help protect the probiotic cultures from the harsh environment of the stomach delivering the active benefits of the cultures to the site of adhesion in the intestinal tract. The combination of pre-biotic FOS and active probiotic cultures in a single delivery system represents a comprehensive intestinal flora support system that is safe and effective.

PB Assist®+JR is a powdered probiotic supplement designed for children or adults who have trouble swallowing pills. It includes 5 billion live cells of a unique blend of six different probiotic strains, specifically selected for their benefits among children. These probiotics have been blended into a delicious powder that can be poured directly into the mouth for a fun and tasty way to integrate probiotics into anyone’s daily routine.*

There are foods that are also high in probiotics. Unfortunately, many of them are not widely available or thought very high of in America. These foods include:

  • Unpasteurized Cheese – Gouda, Cheddar, Provolone, and Gruyere are some examples
  • Buttermilk
  • Kefir
  • Miso
  • Sauerkraut
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Yogurt – be sure and read the labels on the different yogurts
  • Getting more probiotics into your system is one of the best ways that you can improve your gut-health.

More Probiotics, What Else?

The ones we hate. The ones that your grandmother and mother told you. Stress Less. Laugh More.

Stress, especially long-term stress, not only affects our gut bacteria, but it also affects the productions of hormones and neurochemicals that communicate with our brain. When it is long-term stress these chemicals and hormones can change permanently (unless you specifically work to change them back). Long-term stress may also lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach ulcers, IBD, IBS, and potentially food allergies

Laughter really is the best medicine. It helps to reduce stress and floods your body with the happy hormones and chemicals that make the good overtake the bad. There was even a study conducted (you can read more about it by clicking the link,) https://, where researchers studied healthy people as well as those with atopic dermatitis – a disease that is often associated with imbalances in gut bacteria. The researchers had the participants watch funny movies daily for one week. In only one week, the patients’ gut flora had changed and resembled the healthy participants.

Step 3: Play in The Dirt!

This is true both literally and figuratively. Gardening is good for you because it gets you outside, gives you exercise, and putting your hands in soil introduces your body to the microorganisms that are found on the plants and in the ground. In a more figurative way, stop killing all the bacteria. They have recently stopped putting anti-bacterial agents in things because humans are killing all the bacteria, the good and the bad. And what is happening? The bad bacteria are getting stronger and the good bacteria are dying. Studies have shown that kids who grow up with a dog have both a lower risk of allergies and a healthier immune system. Dogs are associated with a type of house dust that actually exposes us to important strains of bacteria, L. johnsonii is one, which is essential within the digestive tract (

Dogs also work somewhat like a probiotic, helping develop healthy bacteria that boost your immune system, stopping you from getting ill, and possibly reducing allergies. Dogs also help you, or in some cases force you, to exercise more and help relieve stress in your life.


It may well be that a large part of maintaining good health is maintaining good gut-health. There are many ways that you can do this, including exercise, and learning to listen to your body; however, some of the easiest changes that you can make are to:

  • Get plenty of probiotics – through supplements and food
  • Laugh
  • Manage your stress better
  • Don’t over sterilize or try to kill all bacteria

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


DISCLAIMER: This website does not provide medical advice and all content on it is for informational purposes only. The information on this page is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, nor treatment. Before incorporating any complementary therapy into your health regimen, always seek the advice of your medical doctor or qualified healthcare provider, and do not delay seeking nor disregard medical advice because of something you have read here.

Christmas With(out)

img_1521This is a Christmas of withs and withouts. I celebrate and mourn all at the same time.

  • It is my first Christmas with new traditions. New traditions borne out of my dad’s death in October. Man, I miss him.
  • It is my first Christmas spent in Hays and without beach walks in Sarasota. It is my first Christmas spent at home with our dog, Oscar.
  • It is my first (and hopefully last) Christmas living with cancer in someone I love.

All of these things are two sides of the same coin. Reasons for happy and sad tears. Reasons for rejoicing and mourning.

It is a season filled with memories. Christmas Eves spent in my childhood home. Steak dinners. Dad leading worship. Mom’s eggnog to close out the night. Christmas stockings with an orange, a peppermint stick, a few nuts and a small gift.

It is memories of my last 20 years as a parent. Celebrating with my husband’s family. Of turkey and dressing. Of wide eyed wonder growing into a beautiful young woman.

It is summed up in this beautiful song by Mark Schultz – “Different Kind of Christmas”.

It is not easy to admit, every Christmas is different. The changes in this year draw pointed lines to the the differences. It isn’t about recreating these memories. It is about embracing the brand new, the different ways I can, I have and I will celebrate.

Christmas is about the love I have to share with those around me and that I have shared with those no longer or not currently here. It is a day to embrace the withs and withouts.

The First of Many Lasts…

first of many lastsToday is the first of many lasts – our daughter started her senior year of high school.

This is a year that will be filled with many last events – last time marching in the high school band, last winter concert, last festival, …  It’s the kind of year filled with a mix of emotions and tears (both joy filled and sentimental).

Yes, we’ve had other last like the last day of kindergarten and elementary school. But, this time it is a marker of our young woman becoming more independent.

Proud? You bet!

Yet, I have noticed there are tons of books (and now blogs) about preparing for your baby. There is information on getting your child ready for school. What I don’t see is much to assist parents with this transition from teen to young adult – the how to prepare yourself and them for the empty nest.

During the last couple months I’ve taken some time to discuss this transition with friends who have recently gone through it. Here is some of what I have gleaned.

  1. Be sure you have maintained a relationship with your spouse/partner over the years. While setting aside time to “date” while you have children is not easy, it can be done. We elected to have a date night meal for just the two of us where we can visit without our child.  When she was young that meant movie night for her. Now, it is generally her night out with friends.
  2. Keep note of your personal interests. When the extra loads of laundry end and the scheduling life around a child’s schedule there will be time to fill. Filling it with your loves can be important.
  3. Allow yourself to miss the daily interactions. The child will have their own life which means checking in every hour or every day may not be appropriate. You have to adjust. Which leads to #6.
  4. Create new traditions with your child especially around points of contact. For example, since I left for college Saturday morning is my time to call home and check in.
  5. Have friends that are yours for reasons other than they are the parents of your child’s friends. Yes, these friendships through our child may remain. but we also need friends who share our interests and passions. Sometimes this is the same people, sometimes it is different.

What advice would you offer to parents as they begin a senior year with their child?


Time to get back in shape

As I advance in age and my body chemistry changes, my body has changed. Now I don’t view that as totally bad. However, my wight has began creeping back up. Time to recommit myself to fitness and health. To that end I’ve established three starting goals.

  • Goal one: Lose 5 pounds.
  • Goal two: Beginning August 6th, meditate once a day.
  • Goal three: Do something physical every day for the next two weeks.

What has worked for you? How do you fit workouts into your schedule?

Share your thoughts and I’ll keep you posted along the way.

As June begins

Sparks (Photo credit: Gnal)

As June begins, I reflect back on this week. It has had some winning moments.

Professionally, I had a great time sharing at the Senior Health and Fitness event sponsored by the Center for Health Improvement here in Hays on Wednesday. I am working on a post with highlights over on Music Sparks. For now, you can access the power point slides. I am prepared for an Music Sparks Sharing group that starts Monday. Intergenerational groups are a favorite of mine. And, I completed another section on a group project. (One more section to go.) Lastly, video is prepped for a Father’s Day Blog Hop which will be up next week.

Personally, I did a major paper inbox sort. Filing is not my favorite thing to do so this is a biggy for me. I have walked the dogs each day and even played piano every day. Having that musical outlet is so important. It has been difficult dealing with the limitations of my sore shoulder and arm. But, that seems to be improving so I hope to get back to yoga and lifting this coming week. I have also spent more time in professional and pleasure reading this week. Feeding my mind is helpful.

I look forward to seeing where these sparks of acknowledgement take me as I continue to grow and develop.

Weekly Wins

Sharing my professional thoughts is a great joy of mine. But, I have spent little time reflecting on my personal self and sharing that with you. Today I came upon a LinkedIn group called 9 Minutes a Day. It served as a great reminder of the power just a few minutes each day can have on how we live our lives.

Today I thought I’d share some of what has gone well this week – my weekly wins. No, these aren’t all work related. But, I think life is about the whole me – mom, business owner, wife.

  • Roughed a chapter of a book I am writing with a group of friends.
  • Determined the format for a book I am writing on Intergenerational programs.
  • Released a newsletter and an upcoming events alert for Music Sparks. Posts for te week were completed.
  • Attended an information meeting with my daughter on the select choir into which she has been accepted. (She is so excited about the musical outlets this group will afford her. And, there are travel opportunities, too.)
  • Completed installation of garden edging in the front yard.
  • Attended a webinar that provided a ton of business brand information.
  • Talked on the phone with three of my siblings.

What were your wins this week? Share them in the comments below.

How will you create lasting happiness?


Over on Music Sparks,my attention is turning towards Valentine’s Day and Random Act of Kindness Week. Serendipity brought  a TED Talk with Shawn Achor titled “The happy secret to better work” to my attention. It has a lot of wonderful gems included in it. The one I wish to lift up in this post small actions you can take to create positive changes in your life. They are:

  1. 3 gratitudes
  2. Journaling
  3. Exercise
  4. Meditation
  5. Random Acts of Kindness

Take a moment to watch this video:

So what action are going to implement to create lasting happiness in your life? Please share it in the comments below.

The Next Step

The Monument Steps
Image by Plbmak via Flickr


This week’s Human Business Works email from Chris Brogan challenged us to share how we plan to make this year different and take things to the next level.  Answering that question for Music Sparks isn’t much of an issue. I’ve done that. Answering that question for Musical Gems is an issue for me. What is my next step?

I have had lots of questions running through my mind:

  • Is having two blogs wise?
  • Is this blog serving a purpose other than my sharing personal thoughts? (In other words, my less business types of thoughts.)
  • What kind of content should this blog have?
  • What do people find interesting on this site that is not appropriate to my other site?

I need your assistance in answering an important question –  What do you want to find on this site?

Please, answer that question now in the comments below!



Endings & Beginnings

Transition - New Beginning
Image by Mara ~earth light~ via Flickr

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. – Semisonic

As the year draws to a close and a new year begins, I am taking some time to review the year here on Musical Gems and to plan for the year at hand.

As part of my review I looked to see what created the most interest this year.   I wish to thank you for reading my posts, for sharing them, and for leaving comments. The top five viewed posts were:

  1. What Would Life Be Like Without Music?
  2. What are your six songs?
  3. Sharing Your Story, Making a Change
  4. Reflections on Music Therapy Conference
  5. Football fields are for Marching Bands (too)

Politics, fun challenge, advocacy, music therapy, and marching band…hum, things on which I have strong views.  Providing information others find useful, informative or fun is my goal. Please take a moment to answer this poll.

We’ll see what kind of exciting ideas we can share in 2012! I wish you much joy.

Living my life

I am blessed to be living a life I want – a wife, a mother, a music therapist. All these roles bring me joy. I have a passion for all of them. It is so easy to forget our blessings, to not fully live in the enjoyment of the moment. It is so easy to ignore what our bodies and our minds are trying to share with us.

Many years ago I was blessed to find a doctor that asked what was going on in my life almost every time I went to her when I was ill. She helped me create awareness for listening to my body, for pacing myself. I recently came upon this TED Talk and found a similar message.

Wise words. Don’t ignore what your body is saying.