Leaky Gut, Microbiome, Gut Health, IBS, Liver & Probiotics


 Key Ways Your Gut Impacts Your Health Guest: Ameet Aggarwal, ND

Shivan: Hi, everybody. Shivan Sarna here. I have a very special guest for you today. Pardon a little bit of construction background noise. We'll just ignore it. But what I want to do is introduce you right now to Dr. Ameet Aggarwal. He's in Africa right now. I am in the states. I appreciate the time difference and him staying up late for us today.

This gentleman is going to be talking to us about the liver-cortisol-brain matrix, and his book is something I think everyone needs to check out. We'll talk a little bit about that, but from his psychotherapy and his medical background combined into this incredible heart that he has for volunteering and helping the community, where he drives to the outer perimeters of Africa to help villagers there, we're really talking right now to a true hero. I don't say that loosely. Very rarely do I say those words. Hello, Doctor. It's good to have you here. Thank you for being here.

Dr. Aggarwal: Thank you, Shivan. Hi, everyone. I hope you go deep with me and Shivan, and we heal your liver fully and your gut.

Shivan: Let's talk about this incredible connection between the liver, the unsung hero of the body. Speaking of unsung heroes, as a psychotherapist and naturopathic doctor, one of the top 43 naturopaths worldwide, your bestselling book, Heal Your Body, Cure Your Mind — I love the combination there. How does the liver play a role in our—— I think we have a little bit of an idea about the physical health. Can we just talk a little bit about mental health for a second? How does the liver play a role in our mental health in your estimation?

Dr. Aggarwal: Okay. So first of all, the liver is like the master organ in Chinese medicine. It's the seed of your soul, according to some cultures. And the liver produces bile, this beautiful juice that comes out into your intestines. And I'll talk about how it affects the microbiome. But basically, this bile is super important for your good bacteria to grow and your microbiome to be healthy. And your liver also detoxifies a lot of stuff, a lot of toxins. Now, if your liver is unhealthy, your microbiome will be negatively affected, so you get more leaky gut. More leaky gut, we get more holes in the intestines and more toxins going into the bloodstream. And that causes inflammation everywhere in the body, leading cause for asthma, eczema, arthritis, extra. And with this chronic inflammation, what happens is the inflammation also affects the brain chemicals.

So serotonin, dopamine, melatonin, everything starts dropping. So you get more anxiety and depression. The inflammation stresses the adrenal glands to make cortisol. And so, after a while, you go into adrenal fatigue. So inflammation causes adrenal fatigue as well as chronic stress and trauma. And we'll talk about trauma. Those two combined cause adrenal fatigue, which causes cortisol imbalance, which causes a brain chemical imbalance, then leading to anxiety and depression. The other thing with mental health is that most of your serotonin or a lot of it, as well as GABA, is produced in the microbiome in your gut. And when you have unhealthy bile levels because of liver stagnation or improper bile flow, then the good bacteria are not flourishing as much. So the production of serotonin and GABA and all those good neurotransmitters is reduced. And then if your liver is toxic, basically you have more inflammation going on in your body, which just wreaks havoc on your cortisol levels.

And cortisol is super important because it just helps with thyroid function and TSH levels. And when you have imbalanced cortisol levels, your T4 to T3 is not converted well in your gut. What does that mean for the microbiome and leaky gut? Well, T3, the thyroid hormone, is needed for your cells to stick together, right? And imagine now you have cortisol imbalance and low thyroid function or low thyroid hormone conversion. You're going to have weaker junctions in your gut lining. You're going to get more prone to leaky gut syndrome, therefore more toxins going in. It's a vicious cycle, more inflammation.

The last thing is how the liver is—— Well, there's many things, but the last thing how the liver is connected to mental health is the liver is a massive controller of hormones in Chinese medicine. And when you have liver 3

stagnation, which just means like over toxicity and lack of bile flow, which is very common in, I would say, 70% of the population, then what happens is you go into a progesterone deficiency in most cases and in estrogen dominance. And so, you'll be more prone to PMS symptoms, gas, bloating, breast tenderness, clotting with menses, and also psoriasis because of toxicity.

But coming back to mental health, GABA, which is an anti-anxiety neurotransmitter, that works in the brain with the help of progesterone. And so, with liver stagnation, you get a progesterone deficiency, which means then GABA doesn't work well in the brain. And so, you're more prone to anxiety.

Shivan: Like, did you just like read my life story? Guys, this is so important. This is so important. If you have found—— A lot of times, I think people who are constantly in a state of an anxious state don't realize it. What would you say to somebody who's like, oh, I'm not anxious, but they're also not peaceful, and they're not restful, and they're not in a state of homeostasis? And there isn't a balance between their sympathetic and their parasympathetic system. What would you say to somebody who probably has a neurotransmitter disruption? 

Dr. Aggarwal: Right. So they might be in a subconscious state of fight or flight. Either they're coping with it, and they've just blocked or tuck something away based on previous trauma, but the thing is stored trauma lives in our limbic system and our nervous system. And that perpetually stimulates your adrenal system to be in fight or flight. So they might be more vulnerable, fragile, and more prone to burnout. 

And so then they cannot rest or stop. They're workaholics, and they think they're not anxious. They just love, and they're very driven, but that could be an avoidance of that resting state, where they really have to face these uncomfortable feelings as well, which are stemming usually from unresolved childhood issues. And so, how I'm working with that psychotherapeutically is that to meet them at their vulnerable state and support that vulnerable child. To take a breath, to breathe and feel relieved and not so many “should” pressures to perform so much because that's exhausting.

Shivan: It is exhausting and counterproductive. Sure.

Dr. Aggarwal: Yeah. It's exhausting, counterproductive. And you're working with shoulds rather than love. Yeah, I should, should, should, rather than I'm inspired. I'm coming from a place of inspiration and love, which is much more soothing to the nervous system. And when you're operating from a place of love and inspiration, you breathe better. And when you do deep breathing, your diaphragm moves lower and massages your liver. You see.

And so, funny enough, when people are stressed, they do shallow breathing. So they only use the upper muscles of their lungs. So they get tight shoulders. And when they have tight shoulders, also the diaphragm is not massaging the liver. So guess what? They get more heartburn because of liver stagnation. You see, heartburn is often a liver-stomach imbalance.

Shivan: Well, that is very unusual. I don't usually hear people talking about the heartburn being from that. 

Dr. Aggarwal: Yeah. A lot of times, when I treat heartburn, I always focus on the liver. So in my online course and my books, one book is obviously—— The new book is all about the liver and the remedies. I mentioned all the remedies you can use, including homeopathy, to heal heartburn. And a lot of these remedies are related to the liver as well, have an affinity for the liver.

Shivan: Okay. What's the name of your new liver book?

Dr. Aggarwal: So the main book is called Heal Your Body, Cure Your Mind. And the liver book is called Liver Detox Foods Nutrition & Herbs. 

Shivan: Foods, Nutrition, and Herbs?

Dr. Aggarwal: Yeah. 

Shivan: Okay. What do you think about the Medical Medium as I sidetrack you for a minute?

Dr. Aggarwal: It's funny you ask because I'm slowly getting into him. I haven't read any of his books yet. I'm sitting out in Africa here, so I'm looking at mostly his websites. People are swearing by him. They love his work. I'm starting a bit of celery juice myself when I have time. I believe I have a mercury toxicity based on fillings from childhood. And so, yeah, I want to detox those mercury fillings for sure and all the mercury levels because energetically, I feel I need to do that, and then if I can find a good dentist as well, probably remove the mercury fillings. So yeah, based on the results people are talking about, and energetically, I feel good.

Shivan: He's got a book called the Liver Rescue, and I found it fascinating, so interesting. What is the role of the liver and the microbiome?

Dr. Aggarwal: Okay. Wow. That's a big question. Okay. Here we go. So, like I said, the liver produces this beautiful juice called bile. Bile salts are very important. So the bile acids and bile salts are very important to break down fat. And when you break down fat into absorbable forms, some of the good bacteria in your gut need these fats. They feed off these fats, so it stimulates their growth — number one.

Number two, studies have shown that these fats are also important to help these good bacteria stick to the intestinal lining. And that's where they can do their work on repairing the intestinal cells. And if you don't have enough good fatty acids, then you don't have enough good bacteria sticking to the cell wall and, therefore, you get more into dysbiosis.

Also, bile acids are super important because they're actually anti-microbial as well. So they break down the cell wall, and they denature DNA proteins in certain bacteria. So they're super important in helping just keep your gut clean, and a vegetarian diet with bitter foods and everything will stimulate more bile flow, which will keep your gut healthier.

And studies are showing actually when you eat more meat, then you actually create more harmful bacteria. More harmful bacteria grow in your gut that are more resistant to these bile acids. So ideally, you want to do more vegetarian diets, and what else was there?

So also, what happens is when the liver releases bile, a lot of these bile acids are reabsorbed back into the system, into the portal vein system, and back to the liver for re-conjugation and stuff like that. And so, if you have the wrong kind of bacteria going on, then they don't send the right signals. You don't get the right signals back to the liver to reabsorb the bile. And then you get a reduction in the absorption of bile. You lose too much bile. Then the liver doesn't secrete as much bile back into the intestines because it thinks, gosh, my levels of bile are low, so I shouldn't get rid of so much. And then you get more of dysbiosis because you get less bile sitting in your intestines that's important for digestion.

And so, sometimes taking bile acids or bile salts, especially if you have your gallbladder removed, can help one improve, of course, digestion in your gut. But also, when it's reabsorbed into the blood, it stimulates your liver to function better and release more bile and, therefore, release more toxins. So it creates a nice positive feedback loop.

Shivan: What are some bitter foods that we can incorporate into our diet on a daily basis? I know dandelion root is a big one, dandelion leaves. What are some other just simple things that we can do to help our liver on a daily basis?

Dr. Aggarwal: Okay. So dandelion root is for the liver, and leaves are for the kidneys. Turmeric is fantastic as a spice. It's an antioxidant and stimulates bile flow. Rocket, I think you call it Arugula there.

Shivan: Arugula.  

Dr. Aggarwal: That's bitter and bile stimulating as well. Then bitter gourd. In Indian, we call it Karela. It's called bitter gourd, and it looks like crocodile skin, like a cucumber with crocodile skin, very bitter and very good for the liver. Once in a while, I'll sip on a bit of neem tea, which is very bitter, but too much neem tea then can make you infertile. So be careful.

Neem tea is also very anti-microbial, and I use it for infections. Beetroot is fantastic. It supposedly has—— Well, in a healthy world where foods have enough nutrients left in them, beetroot helps with glutathione production in the liver.

And glutathione is a very important antioxidant because remember the liver is dealing with a lot of free radicals and oxidative damage, and glutathione is super important for phase one and phase two of the liver detox. So you want to get enough glutathione in your body.

Then what other foods are there? The sulfur-containing foods, cruciferous vegetables, the broccoli, the cabbages. Sulfur-containing compounds are very important for phase two detoxification. And what do I mean by that? So the liver has multiple phases of detoxification.

Phase one kind of, how do I say it, processes the toxins and all these hormones and all the byproducts of your body's metabolism and creates certain products that can be toxic to your body. And so, you need phase two to further metabolize these toxins into excretable form, and if phase two is stagnant and not working properly and most people have a stagnant phase two, then these phase one metabolites, they build-up, and then you get what I call auto-toxicity. You intoxicate yourself, and that can create a lot of different problems. 

Shivan: What can you do to help with that detoxification? Are you thinking about like activated charcoal or obviously drinking lots and lots of water? What are some things that we can do on a daily basis to detoxify? 

Dr. Aggarwal: Well, one is, of course, improving phase two with the supplements I mentioned, the foods I mentioned. And then, in my book and online course, I go into the exact protocols of different supplements. Deep breathing is very important. Remember, the diaphragm massages the liver. Expression of anger is super important because that releases bile flow. So a lot of us have held back anger because we're taught it's inappropriate, or we have issues about certain behaviors and low self-esteem, whatever it may be. And, of course, you need to be safe and respectful for people, but there's a lot of shoulds about anger and defensiveness and irritability. And when you have healthy forms of expression of anger, then you increase your bile flow as well. And then, of course, that's working locally in the liver. Then what you got to do, of course, is you got to pull those toxins out once they're in your gut. 

And that's like you're saying activated charcoal, increasing your fiber, lots of green leafy vegetables, but the seed of health is obviously fixing the microbiome as well and reducing inflammation.

Because remember when you have an unhealthy microbiome dysbiosis, and you're eating the inflammatory foods, the gluten, the wheat, et cetera, and the dairy, you get more leaky gut, more toxins in the body, creating more inflammation. Inflammation wreaks havoc everywhere, especially in your liver. So it just smashes your liver.

And then plus all the pesticides and chemicals we're ingesting, the liver is exhausted. And that will basically interfere with phase one, phase two, all the phases of liver detox. So I think the seed of health, one, is, of course, reducing inflammation by avoiding the inflammatory foods, healing the gut with alive probiotic, and detoxifying your liver.

If you have burnout, I wanted to tie in the adrenal system as well because this is the approach I use is healing the pillars of health: the adrenals, the gut, and the liver. And, of course, restoring adrenal gland balance, so releasing emotions and trauma, working with a therapist. I do digital psychotherapy and family constellation therapy, but there's other people who do different forms, and just expressing those and coming out of those negative states of mind, and the fight or flight response will settle down the adrenal system. Once they settle, you can build them up with herbs and supplements, adrenal nourishing herbs like ashwagandha and different things. And that will stabilize then your cortisol levels, which will help protect your gut as well and reduce leaky gut.

Shivan: What about homeopathy? I know you're really into it, and there's so many people who would love to be, but don't have the training and dabble in it, or a little bit here, a little bit there, but I can tell it's a huge passion of yours. How do you see homeopathy playing a role in one's microbiome and health in general?

Dr. Aggarwal: Great. Okay. So I use homeopathy all the time. I use it on the mobile clinics in the bush. That's the only remedy I use actually when I'm doing the mobile clinics in the community. So homeopathy is a very special diluted form of medicine developed in Germany by Samuel Hahnemann, and it works vibrationally. Anyway, there's lots of remedies for different things in the body. There's remedies for stress and trauma to heal trauma, even from the past. And we use homeopathy for that. Then it takes the body out of fight or flight response, one. And also, it helps with anxiety and depression and insomnia. And when you heal anxiety, depression, and insomnia, of course, you sleep better. You digest better. You go into more parasympathetic, and when you are more in parasympathetic, of course, your gut works better. Your  bile flow works better because you need to be in parasympathetic to release bile. 

Then there's wonderful remedies that I talk about in the book specifically for liver function. One of them is Lycopodium. I mentioned that before to you, Shivan. Lycopodium is a beautiful remedy to stimulate bile flow if it suits your constitution or your vibration. 

Nux vomica is another one. So there's lots of different remedies based on the individuality of a person. And homeopathy works very deeply. So the herbs work at a physical level, but homeopathy actually transforms the energetics or the functioning of the entire system. 

So it goes much deeper than a lot of supplements and herbs out there. So we can really create a much longer-lasting transformation and a healthier flow of bile, which will help your microbiome. Then there's others.

Homeopathy also just stimulates your vital force. And when your vital force is stimulated, all your organs start getting better. And when you heal, when your whole system gets better, basically the amount of cytokines you release, the way your vagus nerve releases neurotransmitters and all these other chemicals into your microbiome changes. And as you know, everything that's released by your vagus nerve, as well as by yourself into the microbiome affect the good bacteria. So you want to affect them positively. And so, you want to release the right cytokines and the right neurotransmitters everywhere in your body. So homeopathy is extremely powerful for an entire—— Like how do I say? A whole-system approach. 

Shivan: When it comes to probiotics, I wanted to find out what's your preferred way of getting people into probiotics?

Dr. Aggarwal: A preferred way?

Shivan: Yeah. Is it fermented food? Is it soil-based? Is it a tablet? Is it drops?

Dr. Aggarwal: So when I'm doing private practice in Nairobi, then it's tablets most of the time because people are driven by work and life, and all that and tablets are easier to just pop in, and you can be more regular. Not many people have the time to have fermented foods and things like that, although I question sometimes. I think fermented foods have more bio-available probiotics, but that's just a suspicion I have. I don't have proof of that.

Shivan: What do you think about soil-based probiotics?

Dr. Aggarwal: Very important. So in Africa, I think we play in the soil. We play in the dirt. We pick things from the garden, and I think our immune systems are quite strong out here. I mean, we're in the time of coronavirus at the  moment, and we don't have that high escalation of deaths and things we're seeing in other countries, first-world, right now at the moment, even though it's been a month and a half post-exposure or post introduction of corona. So soil-based are super important, and they're very diverse. So they build up your immune system, I think, much faster. It's good to have a balance.

And also, remember you're eating the foods from your land, ideally. And so, the bacteria you get from your local soil kind of matches the diet that you're involved in. So I think there'll be more of a symbiosis if you're eating local foods and having local bacteria. I think things will just function better.

Shivan: Okay. Here's the question? What do you feel like everybody on the planet or everybody who's concerned with their microbiome, what do you feel like they need to be thinking about and doing? What's the call-to-action that we can all do to help our microbiome? 

Dr. Aggarwal: Okay. Step one is remove the inflammatory foods because that also then protects the liver because you're not sending inflammation to the liver.

Number two, of course, is reducing chemicals and things. Number three, or even number two, is really detoxifying your liver because that's super important because a lot of people are doing probiotics and changing their diet, but they're not treating the liver, and that's a big no. They're going to get halfway with the results. 

So healing the liver using certain herbs and homeopathics and things will really take your health to the next level because the liver needs support. It's always exposed on a minute by minute level or sequence or whatever you want to call it. It's always exposed to toxins, whether it's from externally or the toxins you're creating in your body from metabolism. So you need to support your liver continuously.

The third thing is to release trauma and work on your emotional health. So see a psychotherapist, talk to me over Skype, or whatever you want to do. And either psychotherapy or family constellation therapy, where you're healing generational trauma and entanglements that you have with your ancestors or your parents because these will create compensations in the way your body works and the way your mind works. So you'll remain smaller, frustrated, or dissatisfied in life. And some of these belief systems that you're operating with or these anxieties don't even belong to your innate nature. They're actually coming from other influences. And when you heal all these, then your physiology then starts healing because you take yourself out of fight or flight. And if your adrenal glands stabilize more, your cortisol levels come into balance, and just everything heals much better.

Shivan: What if you feel like, oh, I didn't have any childhood trauma? Do you feel like everybody has had some on some level?

Dr. Aggarwal: Well, trauma is a very misconstrued word because trauma is associated with a lot of abuse and really a lot of fright. But trauma can also be overwhelm where you didn't have time to digest a certain experience in your life.

And so because your dad was rushing out the door, and you wanted to say something to him, and then you didn't have time to speak to him, this is ingrained in your body that maybe, okay, I might not have time to get my point across. So you might feel rushed without knowing why.

So that sense of overwhelm and lack of processing that event is a form of what you can call a trauma or stressful experience. And so, all these little things, all these nuances is what I pick up energetically when somebody comes to me, and I can feel them out and where they're out of balance.

And when you address these things in a very gentle, loving way, you support the client to come to a place of authenticity, honesty, resting, and vulnerability, boom. A lot of energy is released, and we get a lot of energy back into the body for healthier functions because unconsciously, we're using a lot of energy for unresolved issues from the past. And we don't even know we're doing it.

Shivan: Okay, good. A very sensitive joke. I wanted to say I'm inspired, and I'm hopeful, and I'm grateful. And that connection between the hormones, the cortisol, the estrogen dominance, the anxiety, the bile, that whole thing I think is not talked about enough. I think that a lot of people take it for granted. What kind of tests can you do in order figure out if you're imbalanced with that hormonal triad?

Dr. Aggarwal: So I test things energetically here. And most people have a liver stagnation, and here in Africa—— While the Western lab tests do not show the real stagnation, your liver enzymes might be normal. And in Africa, we don't have advanced lab techniques, to be honest. So I think generally, if you have gas or bloating or fibroids or irregular menses or any issues, then I would say always focus on the liver. Because even in Chinese medicine, 90% of the diagnoses in Chinese medicine involve liver qi stagnation. Qi is energy. You go to any TCM practitioner, and you ask them, 90% of the cases is liver qi stagnation.

Shivan: And they suggest the same types of things? Is there an acupressure point we can do at home?

Dr. Aggarwal: Yeah. So there's certain acupressure points. There's one between the big toe and the second toe. That's the source point of the liver. That's usually needled, or you can massage it. A lot of people will massage LI4, that's large intestine point, but when you stimulate that, it opens up all the gates in the body. There's multiple liver points. You can look at liver meridians; then, you can do reflexology. So there's points on your feet that are directly connected to your liver. You can look up on charts on Google for charts on the point for the liver. Deep breathing is super important.

Remember, the diaphragm massages the liver. Exercise even, any movement, will stimulate bile flow as well. Releasing anger, frustration, et cetera, rather than having a should and a negative feeling about the feelings you're having, be forgiving with yourself. Really say I'm entitled to feel this way. And I want to express myself, and I want to communicate because once you communicate, then things start flowing.

Shivan: Last question before we wrap up: what would you say to someone who is toying with the idea of meditating? How could it affect this whole thing that you're talking about? Have you seen results from people who started to meditate?

Dr. Aggarwal: Absolutely. So, one, meditation puts you in parasympathetic, and we know the parasympathetic state is super important for digestion to occur better, for bile flow to occur better, for everything to heal in the system. And your immunity improves. Number two, when you're meditating, you get answers. You sit still enough; your heart gets an answer to resolve something — how to resolve a conflict or to give someone without even having necessarily the intention of that. You just come to a sense of like, oh, okay. I realize I'm processing that. I'm ruminating on that, and that's not necessary anymore. And so, automatically, when you release that, you come out of fight or flight.

So the benefits of meditation are like medicine, really. And the more you meditate, the more you rewire your brain. So we have this thing called neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to rewire itself and meditation improves this rewiring ten-fold, and also meditation reduces cortisol levels because if your cortisol levels are too high, the ability of your brain to neuroplasticize or rewire itself is reduced actually. 

And that's why people with high cortisol levels and stress people don't like doing different things differently where they cannot make a new memory because they cannot rewire their brain. So meditation would bring those cortisol levels down, take you out of fight or flight, and will improve cognitive function, will improve the way you love yourself, the way you interact with people, you'll get into less conflict. So when there's less conflict, of course, there's less trauma for you and the other people around you. So yeah, meditation is the medicine in a way as well.

Shivan: Thank you so much. Thank you so much for all of your good work. How can people find you?

Dr. Aggarwal: My website's There are free videos on everything I've been talking about. So you can watch those to catch up on stuff. Then I have an online course and some books. When you get the online course, it supports me in doing my community work. And I also support a disabled children's home and an HIV orphanage here in Kenya because these children, these babies are abandoned because of their deformities. So yeah, any help is really welcome. And I know the course will change your life and the books have been best sellers on Amazon. So there's good stuff in there.

Shivan: Thank you so much. 

Dr. Aggarwal: Thank you as well. 

Shivan: All right. Keep up the good work. I can't wait for people to dive more into this. Namaste.

Dr. Aggarwal: Namaste.

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