Dr. Michael Ruscio, DC is a clinician, Naturopathic Practitioner, clinical researcher, author, and adjunct professor at the University of Bridgeport. His work has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals and he speaks at conferences around the globe.
How Dr. Navaz Habib uses the book clinically to resolve tough cases.
Even doctors can appreciate having a comprehensive gut health guide at hand. Dr. Navaz Habib finds Healthy Gut, Healthy You an indispensable go-to resource in his practice. The book’s case studies provide him with valuable reference points to manage challenging patient cases, and powerful, systematic tips on often overlooked foundations of gut health.
Dr. Michael Ruscio, DC: Hey everyone, this is Dr. Ruscio. I’m here with Dr. Navaz, who has had an interesting story with Healthy Gut Healthy You. It’s actually fairly interesting how we met. I was at a conference in New York, I was speaking at the Integrative Healthcare Symposium. I was out in the front row, and you gave me probably the nicest compliment anyone has given me about the book to date. You said, “For me and the doctors in my office, this book is like our Bible for improving patients’ gut health.”
It’s great when a layperson applies the book protocol and feels better. That’s awesome. But to know that doctors are using this with multiple patients really, really made me feel like the book was having an impact in the world. So I have to thank you for that, because that was a compliment that I kept thinking back to over the next few weeks, and just being very happy with what that meant in terms of the impact the book was having. So welcome, and thank you.
DrNH: My pleasure. And thank you for writing such a wonderful book and sharing that resource with us. From the doctor’s perspective, it’s difficult to know everything all the time. Having a resource we can refer to and go back to where necessary—and see if something’s missing or it’s just not working in this direction, maybe we’ve missed something on that side—is really, really effective. So thank you for doing that.
DrMR: My pleasure. It was a big part of the reason why I wrote the book, to really help people navigate what can be a tricky area, the gut, as effectively as possible.
Tell people a little bit about how you practice, what you do, how the book’s been helping you. Whatever you want to share.
DrNH: Certainly. I’m a functional medicine practitioner. I’m located in Toronto, Canada, and I’ve been working in functional medicine for about three or four years now, ever since it had a very positive impact on my own life, affecting my own gut health. I used to weigh 250 pounds. I used to have significant health challenges, IBS, significant issues with being borderline diabetic, obesity, blood pressure issues. And this was happening in my 20s. Once I was able to identify what those issues were, get the right lab testing, figure out what really needed to be done to affect my cellular health and get the root cause sorted out, I was able to affect my health in a very positive way. My energy level started to rise, and I really just started to feel like I could do more, that my health wasn’t holding me back anymore.
A big component of that was affecting my gut health, because my root cause was an overgrowth of yeast in my gut. I had a very specific yeast overgrowth that was found on one of our lab tests. We were able to identify that, get rid of it with relative ease (and natural herbal and supplement remedies and such). Then, once the changes started occurring in my life, I said, “I have to stop doing what I’m currently doing, and I have to now shift all of my attention to sharing this life-changing information with as many people as I possibly can.” So I shifted into clinical care as a functional medicine doctor from being a hands-on chiropractor.
DrMR: Right. It’s amazing how your own personal experience can really change your trajectory. I thought I wanted to go into orthopedic medicine when I was younger until—as you probably know—I had a parasite in college. And it just really brought me to my knees. I saw this huge change in how I was feeling. I doubt I would be the person I am today in terms of what I have achieved, even if I ended up in a different field. I didn’t have the energy, I didn’t have the mental clarity, and I certainly didn’t have a positive mood. It’s hard to think I’d have the richness in my life in any facet, from professional to relational, if I didn’t address that issue. So of course, when you have that experience, you can’t help but want to share that with other people, knowing how impactful it is.
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Healthy Gut, Healthy You in the Clinic
DrMR: Are there some things that you’re finding particularly helpful as a doctor working with patients, that the book has laid out for you?
DrNH: Yeah, there’s a huge component that I feel like a lot of people really do overlook. I actually wrote my own book on a very similar topic, around that gut-brain connection topic. I feel like prokinetics and having that right level of peristalsis and movement occurring through the intestine, allowing that proper digestive sequence to occur is so important and strongly overlooked. We tend to miss that piece of the puzzle. We’ll always talk about, “You need to eat these foods, you need to avoid those foods, you need to eat slowly.” But we miss a lot of the sequencing pieces of the puzzle, allowing the kinetic function of our peristaltic movement to occur and allowing all the organs to do the job they need to do in the time allotted, in the amount of time that they actually need to do their job effectively (and optimally in the greatest cases).
There was a really great chapter in here on prokinetics and allowing that peristalsis to really occur, that made a huge change for me. It is really our go-to reference in the office, that we check out all the time, and just go back and refer to, to stay on top of all of these things. Patients come in with various challenges. It ranges from an IBS, to a Crohn’s, to a thyroid issue, and the vast majority of these health challenges, biochemically, really do start in the gut. So if we can have a positive effect in the gut, we can really affect that positive change.
Hypothyroidism and the Gut
DrMR: You said something that I think is worth elaborating on, which is thyroid. I’m curious to hear what you’re seeing in your practice.
There are, of course, cases that are overtly hypothyroid that need medication. There are some cases that aren’t hypothyroid but someone goes on the internet, they google their symptoms and they think that they have a hypothyroid problem, while all the while the cause is the gut. And there’s this other scenario also where someone is diagnosed hypothyroid, they’re on medication, they’re not getting any better, and the root cause of their symptoms is the gut. Are you seeing any mixture of these two?
DrNH: Yeah, for me primary hypothyroidism is one of the least common things that we see in practice. The vast, vast majority of people that come in with the thyroid issue have that occurring starting in the gut. The root cause is generally coming from the gut. So we’ll often find—on a stool test—overgrowths of certain bacteria that are autoimmune-triggering bacteria, that are probably leading to some sort of Hashimoto-style process leading to that hypothyroidism. Or we’ll find a parasite that’s leaching a lot of these nutrients that are necessary for thyroid function. If we don’t get those nutrients, then the thyroid isn’t able to do the job (and so our thyroid isn’t primarily hypothyroid, it’s lacking those nutrients). But the primary source of that issue is actually starting in the gut. The vast majority of the time, that’s what I see in my practice as well.
DrMR: Yup. And I would say I’m grateful that the functional medicine community has increased the awareness of Hashimoto’s and the underlying autoimmune process that does cause hypothyroidism. But at the same time, I think that’s exploded in awareness and it’s dwarfed the importance of the gut a bit. When really, from a causal perspective, the gut is more prominent and thyroid is secondary, as you said. So hopefully we’re making a small dent in rectifying some of that imbalance.
DrNH: Absolutely. That’s what we’ve got to do, just keep educating and sharing. And hopefully people will figure out that the gut truly is where all of this stuff does begin. It’s funny, we like to think of the primary brain as being the one between our ears, but it really is funny how much information is stored and shared from our gut. And that really is the enteric nervous system. The nervous system around our gut, that truly is the first brain, and everything stems from there.
DrMR: Completely agree. You’re preaching to the choir. As you know.
Successful Case Studies Using the Book
Are there any other thoughts or insights, or maybe case stories where the book was helpful, or just generally treating a patient’s gut, you saw some noteworthy kind of improvement?
DrNH: Yeah, we’ve had a lot of patients come in with digestive dysfunction, autoimmune gut issues, and this has been a wonderful reference for us going through a lot of the case studies that you presented in there. Because cases tend to be a lot easier to go through and read through when you have similar symptoms as a patient that went through a positive case study, right? So any time we start to get a little stumped with a Crohn’s case or an ulcerative colitis case, the first thing that we’ll tend to do is pick up that book and refer to a little bit of this case or that case, different scenarios.
I’ll tell you one, we had a patient come in with really severe, almost explosive diarrhea. He essentially could not control his urgency at all. He was a driver, which didn’t work well. He was a delivery driver for FedEx, and he knew every single washroom along his entire route. He knew that if he needed to go, he was going to have to pull into a lot and just jump right in.
DrNH: So being able to affect a life very positively in that way… We were able to eliminate that source of stress for him by using a lot of the tools that you incorporated in the book. It was just wonderful for us to be able to share that with this gentleman. He really did notice significant improvement, and literally it started within three days of making changes. The issues weren’t as urgent and all of a sudden he was going to the bathroom twice a day and it was simple and easy and the urgency was just gone. That made a huge difference for us.
DrMR: It’s not easy, I think, sometimes—unless you suffered with somewhat debilitating diarrhea—to really understand how debilitating that can be. It reminds me of Matt, the inflammatory bowel case study we shared in the newsletter a few months back. This bright young guy who had everything going for him and was trying to take this new job, I believe it was in New York, and he had to take some time off of work because he was so scared to not be near a bathroom.
When you think about how crippling that must be—to be a young person who has the ability to do this new job and go out in the world and have an effect, but they’re just crippled by this diarrhea—it really gives you a new respect for how impactful chronic diarrhea can be on someone’s lifestyle. As you’re describing with his case, he had a new lease on life once we got that diarrhea taken care of. He felt so happy he could go forward with his job and his career and have the positive impact in the world that he wanted to, and not be hinged to a toilet.
And he had a similar sort of, “I knew where every bathroom was around my work,” like one of those Seinfeld episodes, “Where is the cleanest public bathroom?” We don’t want anyone to be encumbered by that. So yeah, what a gift to be able to take that off someone’s psyche.
DrNH: Yeah, absolutely. There’s nothing better than being able to give somebody the opportunity to live their life without having health as their concern and as a stressor. In cases like that, the lack of health can be a major stressor for people.
I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Are there any final thoughts that you want to share with people? And also please tell people your website, in case people want to reach out and connect to you regarding the good work that you’re offering in your practice.
DrNH: Certainly. I practice in Toronto but I do work remotely very similarly to Dr. Ruscio. The idea is, let’s get the message out to as many people as possible. Let’s share the idea of becoming healthy starting from the root cause, addressing what needs to be addressed, the way that nature intended, really, for us to make positive changes for people.
DrMR: Awesome. Well, thank you again for sharing your story, and thank you again for that great compliment. I really appreciate you just letting me know how helpful the book has been. It makes me feel good about the three years of work that went into it, and I really, really appreciate it.
I care about answering your questions and sharing my knowledge with you. Leave a comment or connect with me on social media asking any health question you may have and I just might incorporate it into our next listener questions podcast episode just for you!
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