An Important Key to Good Health: Healing the Gastrointestinal Tract


Herbalists have long recognized that a properly functioning digestive tract is central to good health, which is why many herbal programs focus on cleansing and strengthening the digestive system. Modern medical science is increasingly validating the fact that numerous health problems arise from poor digestive function. In addition, the research is also changing what herbalists understand about what goes wrong with the digestive tract and how to fix it.

For instance, in the past, many herbalists thought that illness arose because the digestive tract became encrusted with waste material. They saw cleansing as a way of removing this build up of waste material. Today, we know that this is not an accurate picture of what’s happening. The real issue isn’t accumulated waste, it’s intestinal inflammation. 

Intestinal Inflammation, Leaky Gut and SIBO

We now understand that when the sensitive membranes of the digestive tract are irritated by stress, infection, food allergies and sensitivities, chemicals or certain medications (antibiotics, NSAIDS, steroids) they become inflamed. Severe inflammation is involved in Inflammatory Bowel Disorders, such as colitis and Chron’s disease. This inflammation makes the membranes more permeable, a condition known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. With leaky gut, undigested food particles pass through the intestinal membranes, triggering immune reactions and causing more irritation throughout the body. 

Closely associated with leaky gut is Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO can cause leaky gut without intestinal inflammation. SIBO involves the overgrowth of bacteria (even friendly bacteria) in the small intestines.

Symptoms of SIBO include abdominal bloating and distension, heavy belching after meals, acid indigestion about one hour after eating, flatulence, constipation or diarrhea and brain fog after meals. Many people associate these symptoms with candida or yeast infections and it turns out that people with SIBO may also have larger populations of yeast in the colon. However, the primary cause of the digestive imbalances is the bacterial overgrowth, not the fungal overgrowth.

Intestinal inflammation, leaky gut and SIBO have wide-ranging implications and may be a cause or a major factor in all of the following diseases: acne rosacea, acne vulgaris, anemia, autism, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, diverticulitis, fibromyalgia, GERD, hypothyroid (Hashimoto’s throiditis), IBD (Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis), irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis, liver cirrhosis, Lyme’s disease, malabsorption syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, obesity, pancreatitis, parasites, Parkinson’s, prostatitis, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma. Please note, this does not mean that leaky gut and SIBO cause all these diseases; it just means they may be a contributing factor.

NSP Products for SIBO and Leaky Gut

NSP has many products that can be helpful for reducing intestinal inflammation, toning up intestinal membranes to reduce leaky gut, and controlling bacterial growth in the small intestines. Two of my favorite products for reducing intestinal inflammation are Intestinal Soothe and Build, which I have had very good results with over the years, and Everybody’s Fiber, which is a soothing fiber blend for irritated intestines. We featured articles on both of these products at

To reduce gut permeability in leaky gut, Kudzu/St. John’s wort and Una d’Gato or Cat’s Claw Combination can be helpful.  Although Kudzu/St. John’s wort was introduced as an aid to help people who are trying to stop drinking, Kimberly Balas taught me what a great remedy it is for toning up the intestinal membranes. Una d’Gato is also really great for regulating the intestinal tone and also helps to control SIBO.  Both of these products have also been featured on our website this month.

Finally, to reduce small intestinal bacterial overgrowth try taking PDA (Protein Digestive Aid) with meals and using products that reduce intestinal bacteria. Two good NSP options for reducing intestinal bacteria are goldenseal and GastroHealth.

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