The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1023: How to Rebalance Your Digestive Tract Bacteria

Are your digestive tract bacteria in good shape? If not, they could be contributing to heartburn and other forms of digestive distress.
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How to Rebalance Your Digestive Tract Bacteria

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What do you know about your digestive tract bacteria? Normally, a wide range of bacteria helps us digest our food and works together to keep us healthy. But when infections or antibiotics intervene, the variety of beneficial bacteria drops and undesirable strains like Clostridium difficile can gain the upper hand.

What About Probiotics?

Could probiotics help? These beneficial bacteria could help shape the ecology of the intestinal tract. The result should be a better intestinal microbiome, and fewer symptoms of indigestion. Should you be taking probiotics and prebiotics? What about the foods that feed healthy digestive tract bacteria?

When the Small Intestine Harbors Digestive Tract Bacteria:

The majority of our intestinal bacteria make their home in the large intestine, or colon. When bacteria start flourishing in the small intestine, trouble ensues. Could small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) be causing your heartburn? If so, you could overcome it without drugs simply by changing what you feed your digestive tract bacteria–and yourself.

This Week’s Guests:

Gerard E. Mullin, MD, MS, CNSP, is Associate Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is an internist, gastroenterologist and nutritionist. Dr. Mullin co-directs the Johns Hopkins Hospital Nurse Practitioner Fellowship Program and directs the Celiac Disease Clinic. He also directs Integrative Nutrition Services.

He is author of The Gut Balance Revolution: Boost Your Metabolism, Restore Your Inner Ecology and Lose the Weight for Good.

Norman Robillard, Ph.D., Founder of the Digestive Health Institute, is a microbiologist and gut health expert. He devoted his career to developing new medicines before he discovered the power of diet for his own digestive health. His goal is to develop holistic treatments for digestive and systemic illnesses based on a clear understanding of the underlying causes of disease.

Dr. Robillard recognized a connection between gas-producing bacteria in our intestines, nutritional malabsorption and the symptoms of acid reflux. Based on this research, he created the Fast Tract Diet for a variety of functional gastrointestinal disorders. The diet is a safe and effective alternative to proton pump inhibitor (PPI) and H2 blocking drugs.

The following resources are available at the Digestive Health Institute:

§ The Fast Tract Digestion Heartburn and Fast Tract Digestion IBS books (

§ The Fast Tract Diet Mobile App ( for putting the diet into action and tracking symptoms

§ Individualized consultation on the Fast Tract Diet (

The photo is of Norman Robillard.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I struggled with a baffling digestive disorder for over two years and got no solution from the gastro docs I saw. I had pain under my right ribs after eating, and sometimes vomited, and had a constantly sour stomach. However I did not feel I had indigestion or heartburn.

Out of desperation, I tried omeprazole just to see if it would help. It did make the problem more bearable and gave me some improvement . However, I did not want to stay on that drug, so I stopped it and decided to try taking three capsules of magnesium. It was a MIRACLE!!!

The daily magnesium helped regulate muscle function and prevented spasms. My life is so much better, and I have no digestive pain or problems. NONE. I used magnesium malate. Magnesium deficiency is very common in America.

My husband was perfectly healthy until he had a colonoscopy done. His colon was healthy and he was advised he did not need another test for 10 years. A month later he came down with ulcerative colitis. He lost his colon 2 years later after trying in vain to get it under control. Unfortunately the surgery almost cost him his life due to doctor screw ups. Modern medicine was no help on how to keep his small intestine healthy. We make homemade yogurt from whole milk and he eats it almost every day. Any suggestions on how to keep his small intestine healthy is appreciated.

I use the following remedy: I manufacture myself yogurt using milk without Lactose (less 1%) and for first time bacteria (Enterelle Bromatech) and then simply a part of the yogurt produced.

Stay away from alcohol it can upset bacteria about as fast as antibiotics!

I am at my wits end with GERD… at this point I will try anything. So far I have followed the Fast Tract Diet for 3 days, off omeprazole, and not suffering any GERD… just mild symptoms (somewhat) occasionally. I did purchase the app and received the free book e book, but feel it’s a small price to pay if this works.

I am keeping my fingers crossed. My question would be that by following this plan you are measuring FP (fermentation potential) but nothing about calories.

What are the calorie implications???? I certainly don’t want to gain weight following this process. Thoughts?

Hi Arlene, I’m happy to hear you are having some early success with the FTD. Weight gain should be mitigated by the fact that the diet systematically limits five types of carbs. Also, the diet does not depend on calories which should be matched with your own requirements for weight maintenance.

This was a very helpful interview. I had never heard of SIBO, but after hearing about it in the interview, then reading about it online, I think I may have this condition and am taking steps to deal with it.
One thing I thought was very interesting was the description, by Dr. Mullin I think, of a biofilm. This made it easier for me to understand that phenomenon.
Thank you, Joe and Terry, for a great interview about a subject that is probably a common condition, but has not received much publicity.

I am wondering, still, how to access the podcast…! Maybe I received information about this once, but I cannot find it anywhere in my files.

Thank you for your inquiry. There are several ways you can access our podcasts. You will need either a computer or a smart phone (iPhone, Samsung, etc.) or a mobile device (Apple iPad, iPod, Android tablet, etc.) with podcast listening software.

The easiest software to find and use for a computer is iTunes (available for both Apple and PC for free). Once you have downloaded and installed the iTunes software (available here: you can then find our podcast by using this link:

Click the “View in iTunes” link to be taken to our show in iTunes and download the specific episode you are interested in there. You can also “subscribe” to our podcast so all future shows are automatically downloaded for you.

Alternately there are a number of podcast programs available for smartphones or mobile devices: Downcast (, Overcast (, etc. Use the search function in these programs using the keywords “people’s pharmacy” or “graedon” and you should be able to find and download our show that way, too.

Finally, if you go to our website and navigate to our radio show section ( you will see a list of all of our recent shows. Click the link for the show you are interested and there will be an option to listen to the show with the built in web player, or to download the digital file of that show by right clicking mouse button on the “Play in new window” link and choosing the “download linked file” or “save linked file” option.

Please keep in mind that recent shows are not available until the Monday following the original radio broadcast date.

In listened to the broadcast today on “How to Rebalance Your Digestive Tract Bacteria.” One thing I’m not clear on is how probiotics, in food or in some supplements not designed otherwise, get past stomach acid. This was not mentioned in today’s show. Some probiotic supplements are coated so they survive stomach acid, and thus supposedly are better. I have dysbiosis, but have not found any type of food or supplement probiotic to have made any improvement, despite giving them a trial of months. So, I’m skeptical of how probiotics taken orally, can be helpful. Others thoughts?

While I really appreciate the information from the People’s Pharmacy, it is so disheartening to link to another website and find a tome to have to read. I have no spare time in my day. The other side of the argument would be that it is an investment in health. My answer is, there is no spare time in my day. We need something that is plain, simple, do this, do that. I did not find this very helpful.

I agree with you: Just do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that…Herbert

I have silent reflux or GERD. I’m trying to discover a dietary way to reduce acidity so today’s show was very interesting, especially the presentation by Dr. Robillard. However, between Mullin and Robillard, I feel confused. I thought Mullin was saying that more fermented foods are key to gut health. But Robillard seems to say that you need to reduce fermented foods. I’m thoroughly confused. Have I misunderstood something? Finally, both suggested that lactose should be reduced, yet Dr. Mullin’s recipe of kefir included milk. Thank you for some clarification.

When milk is cultured to produce kefir, the bacteria use up most of the lactose. So kefir is very low in lactose.

That might also help with the other point of confusion: letting bacteria ferment cabbage (sauerkraut) or other vegetables that would otherwise be prohibited may mean there is little left for the bacteria in the intestines to mis-use.

After the cleanse for a colonoscopy, how can good gut health be established?

I doubt if pro-bionics can keep up to the mutations that medications alone induce to bacteria

This looks like one giant paid advertisement. I trust it only because you put it on your website. But the fact that, without buying something, one can’t see the details of the diet and its effects, doesn’t help me trust them.

Sorry. I didn’t say that I was referring to the podcast about intestinal health.

Questions for the guest:
1) Assuming one has a healthy biome, what to do after cleaning it out for a colonoscopy? Is there something the doctor can do during a colonoscopy to establish a healthy biome?
2) If someone is taking a PPI, how is the biome affected? What needs to be done to keep a healthy biome while taking a PPI?
3) If one wants to drop a PPI, what is the rebound effect, and how long does it last? How to combat it?

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