Dr Whitney Hayes is passionate about using the tools of both Eastern and Western medicine in her treatment of patients with IBS and SIBO. Initially uninterested in becoming a doctor, Dr Hayes had an interesting personal journey before ultimately qualifying as a naturopathic doctor and Chinese medicine practitioner. Her journey has led her to believe that combining ancient technologies with modern research is key in SIBO treatment. She and Rebecca get into the different ways that she helps patients back to good gut health, using a combination of acupuncture, naturopathic supplements and lifestyle suggestions.
In Episode 19 of The Healthy Gut Podcast, we discuss:
✓ The benefits of utilising a variety of treatments from both Eastern and Western medicine
✓ The connections between IBS and SIBO
✓ Treating the whole person and not just the symptoms
✓ Understanding that you need patience and perseverance with diagnosis and treatment
✓ The benefits of following a Low FODMAP diet
✓ How removing toxicity from our day to day lives can help with overall good health
✓ Working out how you can build relaxation into your life
I am a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist. One area that I have great passion for treating is naturopathic gastroenterology. I love treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and all the related things that come along with that diagnosis, as well as many other digestive disorders, such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. One particular cause of IBS is SIBO. I have helped many patients with this condition. Another area of focus is treating children with digestive illnesses. I love helping kids, and adults, achieve optimal digestive health. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my wife and our two daughters. We enjoy hiking with our dog, backpacking, cross-country skiing, gardening, and cooking wonderful meals with friends.
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Rebecca Coomes is an author, entrepreneur, passionate foodie and intrepid traveller. She transformed her health after a lifetime of chronic illness, and today guides others on their own path to wellness. She is the founder of The Healthy Gut, a platform where people can learn about gut health and how it is important for a healthy mind and body and coaches people on how to live well with SIBO. Rebecca is the author of the world’s first cookbooks for people treating Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and the host of the SIBO cooking show and The Healthy Gut podcast.
REBECCA: Welcome to the show Dr. Whitney Hayes. It’s so great to have you here today.
WHITNEY HAYES: Thank you for having me Rebecca.
REBECCA: My pleasure. As I always start off with my interviews, I would love to hear the story as to why you trained to be a naturopathic doctor. Like what was your journey to get to where you are today?
WHITNEY HAYES: Well it’s I guess a different story than I think a lot of people have. I feel like one of my colleagues and friends in school found their healing journey through their own illness or someone they loved. But I found mine through I guess a calling that I tried to avoid for a long time and my mother’s side of my family, every one of them is a doctor or a nurse or a pharmacist or somebody in the medical profession. And so for a long time I didn’t want to be in medicine and I tried to go into other routes. I started college and I always had a knack for science. So I naturally gravitated towards biology and then declared pre-med which I said I never would. And then I changed it and then I went on to shift to finally get a degree in botany with a chemistry minor. And so I sort of found my love of plants. And so I thought, “I am going to be a botanist. I am going to go on to get my PhD in botany and that’s what I am going to do with my life.”
And somehow I found my way out to Portland, Oregon. I am originally from Arkansas and so a long way from where I was born and raised and came out here and did a little soul searching and somehow ended up going to Peace Corps and while I was in Peace Corp that’s actually how I found naturopathic medicine. It’s very bizarre. I went to Peace Corp in Morocco and I had a friend come visit me there who was actually in acupuncture school at that time. And you know I said, “Part of the reason that I went to Peace Corp was to sort of find myself.” I think how a lot of young twenty somethings do. and so I told her that i just felt further from that truth after being there for the year that I have been there. And she said, “You know what? You should become a naturopathic doctor.” And I said, “What in the world is a naturopathic doctor? I have never hear of one.”
So she told me a little bit about it and she left. Came back to Portland and I was still there and I started looking in to it while I was there. And I was so drawn to it and I said, “Wow this is exactly how I want to live my life.” And so I came back to Portland after my tour in Peace Corp and applied to NCNM now NUNM. And I had all the prerequisites done because I had all of the biology and the botany and it all was just initially easy and fell into place. It just seemed like the right thing to do. It was like I didn’t even have to think about it and the first day of orientation when I looked around and I was like, “I am exactly where I am supposed to be.” And so that’s kind of how it all started I guess.
REBECCA: What a wonderful feeling that must have been for you to feel like to come to where you should be. That must have been great?
[3:56] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Yeah. It was good to finally figure out what I wanted to do with my life and the direction that I wanted to go. I certainly didn’t know where it was going to take me but it was good to find that calling even thought I avoided it for so long which was I guess ironic. I told myself I would never be a doctor but I think it was because the only doctors I had ever known were, not that they are bad, but medical doctors. And just your standard doctor that prescribes medications and you know doesn’t really do much else. And it just didn’t feel right to me. And that’s part of why I changed from pre-med and when I found naturopathic medicine, it just felt so right.
[4:49] REBECCA: And I am sure the people of Portland and wherever else you may find yourself living in the future will be eternally grateful for you fighting naturopathic medicine.
So one of the things that you treat is we work with people that identifies having irritable bowel syndrome. Can you talk to me a little bit about those types of people and obviously what IBS is for those listeners that may not know much about it or might think that they have it themselves but want a little bit more explanation of what it is? And as well what can cause IBS?
[5:32] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Well I mean you know if you go to a standard gastroenterologist medical doctor, they will tell you that IBS is a diagnosis of exclusion and it’s a functional disorder and they don’t really know what causes it. I mean we have learned over the last bit of years that SIBO is probably one of the largest causes of IBS. It is not the only cause but probably 70% of people that have SIBO, that have IBS is caused by SIBO. And so that bacterial overgrowth is a big part of most cases of IBS. And I think a lot of people that have IBS they feel like it’s a garbage diagnosis because it’s a functional disorder that you can’t really figure out or find frank lesions. They have the whole gamut of work up from their gastroenterologist and they’ve have colonoscopies and all kinds of blood work and everything is normal and they say, “Why don’t I feel normal?” So it gets to be so frustrating from a patient’s standpoint because for a long time you know many doctors say, “Well, we can’t find anything wrong with you. You must be stressed out, you’re anxious. Don’t be so stressed out.” It’s kind of all in your head. It’s what they tell people and nobody wants to be told that it is all in their head.
So I think that when we figured out that SIBO is a big cause of IBS, that it sort of gives the power back to the patient and makes them see that well it’s not on their head. It’s not just because they are stressed out that their gut is a wreck. We definitely still have a lot to learn and there’s a lot we are going to figure out overtime but it’s a good step in the right direction.
REBECCA: It is. I recently met somebody who, just in passing said to me, “I am just that person that has always had gut problems and I recommended that she go and do the doctor Nirala Jacobi here in Australia has a free online course you can do on her website that gives you on indication of the likelihood of SIBO.” It is not a diagnosis but it is a good precursor to then going and doing the SIBO breath test. And I said to this lady, “Why don’t you go and do that quiz and if it indicates it’s likely that you’ve got SIBO at least then you can go and find a practitioner who treats SIBO, that knows SIBO and you can then go to the formal testing. And I had an email from her saying, “Oh my gosh Rebecca, my numbers were off the charts. She’s more hydrogen dominant than methane but she’s still got quite a lot of methane present.” And she said, “I finally have an answer as to what has been going wrong.” And then she sent me an email not long after that saying, “Why do no doctors know about this? And why wasn’t I told about this for so many years if this is what was the cause of my IBS.”
So it’s definitely I think what you say is great.
[9:03] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Yeah. It’s really empowering for patients to be able to have some answers.
[9:06] REBECCA: It is definitely. So can we talk about your experience with treating SIBO. Who are the types of people that come into your practice and what’s your approach to treating this condition?
[9:18]DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Well I definitely have a SIBO heavy patient population. I would say probably 75 to 80% of the patients that I see now likely have SIBO if they haven’t already been diagnosed then I usually diagnose them. So I definitely say that the majority of people that I do SIBO tests on, 90% of them probably have a positive breath test. So that’s a big part of my patient population. And I mean they find me in various different ways I suppose, a lot of different referrals and what not. But you know as with IBS and SIBO you know many people also have a lot of mental emotional type issues like anxiety and depression and things like that and they struggle with their mood a lot and so sometimes people will come in for that reason and not really realizing that they might have SIBO as well because maybe the mental, emotional aspect is just sort of overcasting some of what they feel like is more reminding them of digesting disturbance.
Same with another issue that could be related back to the gut. You know a lot of skin issues. I would say 9 out of 10 of my SIBO patients have some related skin issue. So whether it’s acne or psoriasis or eczema or rosacea, almost all of them have some sort of skin issue that has flared up at one point in time in their life.
[11:02] REBECCA: and how many of them also have things like restless leg syndrome?
[11:06] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Some. I wouldn’t say that it is a huge percentage of people that I see that have restless leg syndrome but I know there is a correlation. But it’s not a big complaint that people come in with the least of my practice.
[11:22] REBECCA: That’s interesting so many of your patients have skin issues or skin disorders but it’s funny I talked to a lot of people obviously in the SIBO world and there’s those of us and I was one that had huge amounts of restless leg syndrome but also had the skin problems as well.
I had it. You name it I had it. So when someone comes in and you suspect SIBO what do you do with them then?
[11:58] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Well if they haven’t already been diagnosed because I definitely have a good percentage of patients more and more that they have seen other providers that are diagnosed with SIBO and you know they had since successful treatments and or maybe not. Or they may be seeking second opinion or the provider sent them to me as… they feel like they have exhausted the things that they knew. So I definitely, as I started to treat more and more SIBO over the years, I am getting more and more provider referrals and things like that. So I definitely have seen a lot of that.
[12:45] REBECCA: Yeah. And so if they have been diagnosed with treatment, what’s your approach? Is it diet? Is it supplements? Do you use antibiotics? How do you go about actually reducing those SIBO numbers?
[13:02] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Yeah. So I mean I utilize all the treatments with people especially if they have tried various different ones and had success. So I’ll go through the gamut sometimes with some patients. And SIBO for many people is a chronic recurrent condition that needs quite a bit of management. So it’s not often the case where it’s one and done that you treat them and they are better for good. You know that is I think the tricky part with IBS and SIBO especially. So you know if they haven’t been diagnosed with SIBO already, I’ll obviously do a 3 hour lactulose breath test on them and see if it comes back positive and most of the time it does. And then we will go from there and so then we will come in further visit to go to the test results and I really just try and lay out the treatment options.
So I don’t necessarily have a treatment option that i live the most. I try and be the doctor that really just lays out the pros and cons of antibiotics versus herbs versus elemental diet and just try not to choose for them because I think that is a part of medicine were we have gone wrong over the years. You know I think for a long time in sort of standard western medicine, a lot of people feel like the doctor knows all and the doctor has all the power and the doctor makes the decisions and the doctor prescribes the medicines. And that’s not necessarily the best route to go because we don’t know everything. And that’s why they call it medical practices that we are practicing every day to figure it out with patients. And so it’s a journey with patients and so in order to give them back the power, I really try and empower them and educate them as best I can to make the decisions for themselves.
So that’s kind of how I sort of do it I guess.
[15:23] REBECCA: that’s wonderful to hear because so many of us can be so desperate for answers that we want somebody else to fix our problems and it’s really lovely and encouraging to hear that your approach is no I want to help people empower people to take back that ownership and control of their own healthcare. Because it really does feel good once you feel like you are more in control of your health doesn’t it?
[15:49] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: yeah absolutely.
[15:51] REBECCA: Yeah, talk to me a little bit around… so we have talked about the treatment options, do you find that you need to rotate through treatment options? Or let’s say someone’s gone for antibiotics? If they have done one round of them or thieve had some reductions and perhaps their numbers are reduced down to a negative SIBO result? What would your approach be with them then?
[16:19] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Well I mean it just really depends on how they have reacted to the first round of treatment. I mean I definitely look at and I think a lot of people that treat SIBO will look at the breath test results and you know the person’s symptom picture and sort of correlate those together and someone’s got hydrogen in the hundreds. One round of antibiotics or herbs is not going to do it. And so it might take multiple rounds and you know but I have also had people with… I treat a fair amount of methane as well which can be, I’m sure you have learned from people incredibly hard to treat sometimes and so we have to try and implore different tactics. So I definitely use a fair amount of antibiotics. I use a fair amount of herbs. I try and utilize elemental diet as sort of a last resort with a lot of people. I do give them the option and most people don’t want to start there because it’s obviously a really hard treatment to do. But sometimes we have to rotate through with various different herbs and different antibiotics.
You know if we are not getting reduction in symptoms or reduction in gas levels from breath tests then I start to look and see well what are we missing? Are their co-infections there that might be part of the picture? Is there a biofilm issue that is just making us not being able to get to them? So the biofilm is something that had started imploring in my practice a little more recently and I am still a little on defense about biofilms but…
[18:21] REBECCA: What is that?
WHITNEY HAYES: sort of we are trying on these really hard to treat cases.
REBECCA: Why would you say that you are on the fence with biofilms?
[18:34] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: I definitely utilize in the past a lot of biofilm disrupters that are from the market. You know supplemental type forms of biofilm disrupters in the market. And I just wasn’t seeing a big improvement versus not using them. I didn’t see a real difference in using them and not using them. It just didn’t seem to make a big difference. So I guess that is why I was skeptical for a long time. I have a couple of patient’s right now that I am utilizing a newer biofilm disrupter. That’s something like any of the states… the prescription based ones. It’s not just the standard one that’s supplemental in the market. I am still waiting in seeing it I guess on that one.
[19:20] REBECCA: Do you have much coming through your practice in terms of SIFO – small intestinal fungal overgrowth?
[19:30] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Yeah I definitely feel like that can be a component for a lot of people. As I was saying earlier, when we are not getting things to budge, we are not getting the numbers come down, we are not getting the symptoms improved. Then I start looking. Is there a fungal component to it because that could be a co-infection that is preventing symptoms to get better and the overgrowth to reduce. So it’s certainly something that I take into consideration. It’s hard to definitely diagnose the fungal overgrowth. I mean because part of it is there are certain amount of fungal elements in our digestive tract that are just normal flora. So it should be there. But once it gets to a certain threshold that’s when it can become problematic for people. So it is hard to determine what that threshold is I think. It’s hard to test for fungus. And just stool testing in general is it’s hard to really get a good read on what’s going on the digestive tract just from a stool sample.
[20:44] REBECCA: and so what is your process out of interest to like if we are able to say…is it more of a case of you saying, “I suspect it’s a fungal overgrowth” rather than I can categorically say it’s a fungal overgrowth and is it based more on symptoms around suspecting it’s fungal issues.
[21:05] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Yeah I mean it definitely takes symptoms into considerations. Sometimes we just try and presumptively treat…. I do feel like that a lot of the herbal antifungal routes are very effective. And some of the herbs are ____ SIBO treatments for bacteria. So you know sometimes just using the herbal treatments can be enough to help rid of fungal overgrowth but sometimes not. There are some fungal overgrowths that are resistant to berberine and some of the standard SIBO herbs. So sometimes you have to utilize some other antifungals… I have used some prescription ones as well. But I think that the natural herbal remedies and what not worked just as well. So you know a lot of it based on symptoms. If people need a definitive test, I’ll sometimes do stool test and sometimes it will come up with fungal overgrowth and sometimes it won’t. So you know when I tell them that, we may or may not find it in the stool sample. I don’t want you to get your hopes up that if it’s not there then that’s not the case. I will also look at other systems like if it’s a woman are there… is she having vaginal yeast infections or I will look at their tongue and see if there is any yeast in the mouth. It’s got to be pretty bad for it to show up in the mouth. Or you know do they struggle with athletes foot or you know other fungal skin issues. Sometimes that can be indicative if they just kind of you know had a lot of fungal things that aren’t necessarily gut related come up. Then you know you might want to go that route…
[23:04] REBECCA: I think there are some really great tips there for the patient population of the SIBO community. I know that because SIFO has popped up in awareness of SIBO patients. Quite often it is discussed vigorously and on chat forms. Is that SIFO, is that what I have? So I think those are some really good tips that if someone is experiencing other fungal type infections that it may indicate that there may be a SIFO issue as well.
WHITNEY HAYES: yeah for sure.
[23:40] REBECCA: Around nutrition and food, this is such a big area for people because it is something that we do every single day and it is also something we can control. What is your approach to the diet that somebody follows when you are treating them with SIBO?
[23:56] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Well I definitely utilize diet when I am treating SIBO with people. I think it is an intrical part of helping with maintenance and helping with this long term control of when people have chronic recurrence of SIBO. So I kind of…. One of the things that I will sort of… when I am talking about diet to my patients in practice I’ll say, “You know this is an example that I think a lot of people can understand.” And I say, “SIBO is having a recurrent chronic case of SIBO is like diabetes in a sense. And you know diabetics, you have to manage diabetes.” They can’t just go out and eat whatever they want. They have to watch what they eat. And so it’s not really that different with SIBO. You can’t probably just go out and eat whatever you want and eat a standard American diet. I mean nobody should be eating standard American diet. So you know they are just got to be more careful than probably the majority of the population which think is difficult for a lot of people because they feel weird or odd or they feel like they are missing out and all of those things. So it really comes down to helping them change their mindset around not feeling like they are deprived and missing out on all these things with their friends and family are having….
It’s more about focusing on the things they can have and getting them to change their perspective and trying to focus on the positive sides of it which I know I think can be difficult for a lot of people. It’s lifestyle changes and especially diet and the foods that we eat. There’s a lot of things that stem from our childhood and emotional eating and all of these emotional ties that we have to certain foods and you know social aspect to it. So it’s a difficult pattern to change for a lot of people. And so it takes time and it is not something that people are going to change overnight and so I try and tell people. This is going to take some time. you didn’t get here overnight and so it’s not going to change overnight. You got to be patient with the process.
[26:28] REBECCA: is there one type of diet that you feel works better than the others? Whether it be at the SIBO specific diet or the SCD diet or the fast track diet? Are there any that we seem to feel have been a result of people or even easier to use?
[26:50] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: well I tend to gravitate towards…I certainly use Doctor Siebecker’s SIBO food guide but I try and not be quite as restricted as every single thing on there. So I think I have a bent towards the low FODMAP diet and I do think that it works really well for a lot of people. Obviously not everybody but you know… and I tell people, “You got to find a diet that’s going to work for you.” You know Paleo might work for someone but not another person and FODMAP might work for some but not another. So you have to find something that you resonate towards that feels like the right thing to do. and so you know a lot of people I’ll sort of give them some guidelines around low FODMAP and I tell them initially when we make some diet changes it’s best to try and be on the restricted ends and try to expand things over the course of one to three months to see what high FODMAP things really do aggravate your because there are some things on the high FODMAP category for some people that they do ok with. And then others don’t.
That’s one of the things that are kind of stress for people. So I mean the diet piece is tricky especially this is something I think I have become a lot more aware of in the past couple of years especially if they have a history of eating disorder. And that really complicates things and there is a lot more people out there that have histories of eating disorders than I think people really realize. So it is definitely a question that I ask when my first intakes with patients. Any history of eating disorder. If so where are you at in that process? The suggestions that I am going to make and I want to retrigger something if you are in a good place with that.
So I think it’s an important question to ask patients and to make sure that you are not going to cause more harm than good.
[29:04] REBECCA: that is music to my ears and I wish more practitioners and I hope many practitioners listening will incorporate this into their practice because it is really important and I myself suffered from disordered eating in my teens and I remember thinking very clearly when I commenced the SIBO diet that this could a very slippery slope back into disordered eating and in fact when I followed Dr. Nirala Jacobi’s SIBO biphasic diet for 6 months. And when I was coming off I was starting to reintroduce hi FODMAP foods brining more carbohydrate based foods. I really struggled with it for a while because I had really enjoyed the strictness of the diet and I had a lot of fear that I had to overcome around reintroducing foods. I realized that that wasn’t healthy. I didn’t want to be afraid of food because I had been afraid of food when I was younger and had used that in a very negative way.
And I think it is really important and I do see in the SIBO forums people talking about how dealing with SIBO has triggered disordered eating for them again after overcoming it which makes me sad that that’s happening for them.
[30:23] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Yeah I couldn’t agree more.
REBECCA: How important do you think the quality of the food is that we are eating in terms of achieving our ideal optimal health or even just getting back to reasonable health?
[30:42] REBECCA: I think it’s pretty important you know because in the last year I have gotten a little bit more into genomic medicine and some of my tougher cases that I am not able to maybe we would hit a plateau and not able to really see more improvement when there should be. And so I have started to, I don’t want to say dabble, but I started to utilize a little bit of genomic medicine and figuring out – are there detox ways that aren’t working? Are there certain biochemical pathways that aren’t working? And a lot of what that goes back to when you are looking at that piece, the toxic burden that people have is that we live in a lot more of a toxic world than a hundred years ago. And so being able to decrease the toxic burden on our system is incredibly important and it’s obviously more important for some people that have a lot more genetic potential of abnormalities that others.
So that’s why a lot of people can get away with drinking a bunch of alcohol more than other people can. But eventually catches up with you and so that’s definitely one piece of why I feel like the more that we can make sure the things that we are taking into our system are as clean as possible then the better off our bodies will be in a less toxic burden that we are already putting in our system. Because there is a lot of toxicity out there and to be all doom and gloom there are certainly ways in which to combat that and choices that we can make that will help us to be healthier. But food is a great place to start. Not put a bunch of processed food into your body and not over indulge in sugar and alcohol and things like that. it’s definitely a moderation is to have in those things.
[33:00] REBECCA: what are some other toxins that people may be exposed to? I think people would generally be aware of things like alcohol and sugar and processed foods. They can see that those things might have a toxic impact but are there other things that people may like to look at if they are not able to overcome their SIBO perhaps as quickly as they had hoped?
[33:25] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Well I mean another piece that is in our water and food and things like that are hormones, antibiotics, certain animal products and things like that. Dairy products, I think if you are going to indulge in dairy products it should be in a mild to moderate amount and it also should be the organic variety. I think dairy is definitely something that is inundated with a lot of antibiotics and hormones and things like that. We don’t need to be taking more of that into our system. I think clean water just making sure that you’ve got a good clean water source that you are drinking from is really important. You know, computers and all the radiation that happens from all the electronics in our world. I mean that definitely puts a toxic burden on our system. I am not saying put the computer away but you know maybe minimize the amount of time that you are able to be on it. And I mean there are a lot of ways to combat our toxic world. Like I said, I am not trying to be all doom and gloom but just the more that you can live as clean a lifestyle as possible the better off it will all be. But it’s hard. It is a hard thing you know. I have two little kids and I think about these things with them and I want them to have a healthy world to live in.
[35:05] REBECCA: I often think our poor bodies just haven’t had a chance to catch up. We have evolved so quickly with the way we process and manufacture and grow food and how we live and technology surrounding us. Our bodies at a cellular level must be just going, “What the hell is happening out there? This didn’t use to be this way? Even 50 years ago it wasn’t like this.”
So things have changed enormously. We’ve talked about identifying being unwell and changing what you eat and looking at toxic load, all of that relates to changing your lifestyle. And I know that that is something that you work with your patients around. You are quite passionate about that. Can you share how you approach helping your patients to change these elements in their life particularly if they have been living a certain way for many years?
[36:10] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Well, I mean you know obviously it really depends on the person and I try and do a really good job of really tailoring and individualizing treatments to people that giving them a treatment and suggestions that they are succeed with. So you know some patients I might have to start with really small baby steps such as maybe we are going to cut gluten out of the diet and for some people that is a big deal and others not a huge deal. So it really depends on the person as far as how motivated they are, how willing they are to make changes and feel better.
Obviously some people that are really sick, that are really motivated to make big changes in their lives. So you just have to really…there are several professors in naturopathic medical school that would use this term “Meet the patient where they are at” and I still think about that to this day. to always meet the person where they are at because if you try and give them a treatment plan that isn’t anywhere near where they are at, they are going to fail and they are going to feel like a failure and they are not going to come back to see you.
So you have to take a good history and you have to really understand where they are at in their life and what they can do and what they can’t do.
[37:49] REBECCA: that is so important because it isn’t a one size fits all approach to health care and it’s so funny that you talked about when people are sick off and they are willing to make changes and I was that person. I was literally like, “Oh my God I can’t do this anymore. It has to change.” And so when I got my SIBO diagnosis I didn’t even hesitate on stripping out foods from my diet that I stuck to it religiously because I was so desperate to feel better that I didn’t care what i had to do. I just wanted to get there whereas if I had been treated ten years prior when things went as bad, I would have been quite haphazard with it I’m sure.
WHITNEY HAYES: Absolutely.
[38:32] REBECCA: What are some key things around lifestyle that you feel work well may be perhaps sleep or stress management or movement? Are there particular areas that you encourage your patients to work on obviously alongside the physical treatment of SIBO and their nutrition?
[38:55] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: yeah, I would definitely say that stress management is probably up there with diet. Diet and stress management are probably the two lifestyle things that I try and focus most with people. You know a lot of people I guess in Portland, they are probably moving their body fairly decently. Maybe sometimes in excess. And so sometimes you have to counterbalance that because of someone’s a workout fanatic and they are training for marathons all the time and things like that then that might not be the best thing for their body because it is putting their nervous system in this sort of fight or flight mode. You know that sympathetic dominant fight or flight mode. The cortisol’s pumping and they are just…it’s like do this, stress, stress, stress all the time. And maybe they also have a job that is very stressful and so their bodies are never getting to balance it out with that parasympathetic or that rest and digest which is incredibly important.
And so that is a piece where I feel like if you don’t work on people with their stress management, if stress is a huge component for them then they are not going to get better. You could do all the SIBO treatments in the world and they are not going to get better if they are not resting and digesting. And if their digestive system doesn’t know how to function properly it’s not going to figure it out when they are stress out all the time. And so they need to put their body in a state to where they can know how to be in that calm and relaxed state. Not that they can never be stressed out again or be in that stressful sort of state, it’s just that you got to find a good balance between the two because obviously that’s sympathetic mode of the nervous system is important. It’s important for to drive us to do the things that we do in our lives. But you got to balance it out and so I really try and help people figure out what ways that realistically they can work into their lifestyle on a daily basis if possible. Because that is what’s going to be most effective and whether that is a yoga routine or in some sort of meditation or getting acupuncture fairly often, it’s helpful.
You just got to realistically find some techniques that they are actually going to utilize and not feel like a failure a gain going back to that. Meeting the patient where they are at and so they don’t feel like they are failing through treatment.
[42:02] REBECCA: I would love to talk more about acupuncture and I will come to it in a moment. How do you get people to even identify what some of their stresses may be in their life? And is that osmeitmes a challenge as to even stop and pause and think of, “OK all these things are really having an impact on me, and how do I even start?”
[42:28] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Yeah I mean some people are very aware of the way that stress is a component in their life and other people just aren’t. Sometimes I have to take several visits to kind of even get that. I’ll ask about it and some people are like, “Yeah I’ll manage my stress grade. It’s fine. I go running every day.” Something like that. But they might not realize even the daily stressors of how it is affecting their body. Some bodies can tolerate it better than others. Sometimes it’s a difficult thing to get people to recognize.
[43:06] REBECCA: And sometimes people think that they do well in their stress as well. I was one of those people. I used to pre-SIBO… pre-SIBO diagnosis I should say because I did have SIBO at this time. I’m certain of it. I used to say I did my best work in a high pressure environment but since going through my SIBO journey and completely transforming my lifestyle. It’s really interesting hearing your talk. I have taken a lot of the toxins out of my diet. So I used to drink quite heavily. I very rarely drink these days. I ate a lot more processed food than I do now. I have changed my skin care and my makeup and my shampoo and conditioner and all of that stuff to be much lower in chemicals. But my stress levels I can’t tolerate what I used to tolerate. And I don’t want to which is really interesting because 2 years ago or 3 years ago I thought that I did really really well on it. And now I can see I guess because I am more in tune with my body I can see the immediate ramifications of being a high stress situation with me. And I have to go through a lot to change that including the way I exercised. That’s why I used to do a really high energy, high impact full on training. Do at least an hour session. I wouldn’t feel happy until I felt like I was almost kind of vomit. And now I do walking and yoga and meditation and much slower things that two years ago I would have laughed at me and said, that’s ridiculous exercise. That is not exercise.
Do you see that there is a role that exercise and movement plays in adding stress into the body? Can people be doing the wrong kind of exercise for their current health state?
[45:03] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Yeah. I mean absolutely. If they are not balancing it out and like I said, it is all about the balance and finding that balance which I mean Chinese medicine has a great way of sort of looking at that. It’s like the yin and yang and that’s exactly what that sympathetic and parasympathetic parts of our nervous system are. That sympathetic stress run from the tiger mode is that’s the yang. And the flipside of that is the yin which is the rest and digest and that parasympathetic state. It’s the yin that is the quiet one. And so you can’t have one without the other. And so you have to find the balance in too so that they can co-exist in a good way. So absolutely, of people are really hard core exercisers and they are just like you were saying with you. You exercise until you almost vomited. I mean that’s too much. That’s not finding a good balance. So it’s not that you can’t exercise because it’s good to go for a run. It’s good to do some cardio. But you just don’t want to do it in excess and then just try to find that balance to bring it back around.
[46:31] REBECCA: you combine east and west medicine in your treatments and you have mentioned acupuncture as an option for helping people calm down. Can you talk a little bit around how that would work with helping reduce stress and perhaps some benefits of acupuncture if there are any for people with SIBO?
[46:52] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Yeah I mean acupuncture is a wonderful tool for a lot of people. It doesn’t work for everybody. I certainly had patients that I have done acupuncture on and they are like, “I didn’t feel a thing.” and then what I would say to a majority of people you know they’ll get it off the table after an acupuncture treatment and they are “What did you just do?” I feel so calm, so relaxed. My mind is quiet. Can I just do that every day? And I say, “Well you know sure.” But it’s important because it’s I think especially in SIBO and people who have IBS like I said earlier that they tend to have a lot of anxiety, depression, mood swings. Just various different mood disorders like that. They struggle with their mood a lot and I think that acupuncture in Chinese medicine is a good peace to help to balance that mental and emotional peace and get them to calm and relax and not feel so stirred up. So I think it’s wonderful from that aspect. I don’t necessarily feel like it’s going to cure someone’s SIBO especially if they have disorder that goes back to… you know maybe I had food poisoning 10 years and they’ve got damage to that motility peace. It’s probably not going to fix that but it can certainly help to sooth the nervous system and kind of calm down if someone is in a more agitated state and what not. So I definitely think that it’s very complimentary.
[48:44] REBECCA: how does it actually work? Most people would have in a sense that there is a very thin kind of needles or I don’t know if you ever call them needles involved. But can you talk me through that practicalities of how it actually works and how one has an acupuncture treatment and what does one do if they are terrified of needles.
[49:07] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Well I certainly had patients that are terrified of needles and I have successfully done an acupuncture treatment on them and they come back and they felt like it really helped. So the needles are very different than like a blunt draw needle. And that’s usually the exposure that people have had in needles. And so they are terrified with needles because they’ve had bad experiences with blood draws. It’s absolutely nothing like that. The needles and pins are tiny and we have different sizes. There are some larger than others but they are still not as large as the blood draw needle. So you know if someone has some fear around it I just kind of talk them through it and I have them lay on the table. I have them do a lot of deep breathing and tell them what I am doing and tell them I can take them out or stop at any point. So I try and give them the control in the situation. I would say the majority of people….
How does it work? I don’t think we really know. Science is never going to be able to prove how acupuncture fully works. It’s definitely an energetic medicine and it’s working on various different energetic meridians to get the energy and the chi move through the body. So you know to a lot of people you can’t really prove that and it’s not very scientific. And so it must be crazy or it must be bunked but it works. I mean it works. I have seen it work. I have utilized it for years on my patients and I get acupuncture myself and there’s that in every acupuncture and you feel that sensation of chi moving through the body. It’s not like anything that most people will really understand until they get a treatment. And it’s a very calm, relaxed state.
I mean you can achieve it in other ways through yoga practice and meditation and things like tha.t but it’s an energetic medicine like that.
[51:27] REBECCA: It’s funny one of my goals for this year is to incorporate acupuncture back into my regular life my naturopath is in practice with her husband who is also a naturopath but he also has studied Chinese medicine. So he does acupuncture. So it is my goal to start seeing him and do some work with him because I have done a little bit in the past but I don’t think I have ever done enough. Or I have had a few sort of acupuncture needles put in here and there when I have a deep tissue massage for instance. But I don’t think I’ve had a proper acupuncture sessions. So I am looking forward to experiencing it myself first hand.
[52:10] DR. WHITNEY HAYES: Yeah, it has accumulated effect. So you know it’s not like you go in for one treatment and it’s all good. There’s accumulated effect to it. So go in for several treatments and really see the benefits of it that way.
[52:27] REBECCA: that’s really good to know because now I know I need to see Chris a couple of times. Several times rather just once for the best. Doctor Whitney Hayes, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on the Healthy Gut Podcast today. If people would lie to connect with you, how can they find you?
WHITNEY HAYES: Well I have like I said private practice here in Portland Oregon at an integrated clinic called Quan Yan Healing arts center. And I am at the west side located. There is an east side location but I practice at the west side location and so I see patients there. And then I also do Skype consults… not necessarily able to be able someone’s doctor via Skype consult but I certainly am able to help people with suggestions and kind of consult with them about – is the direction they are going the right direction? Or what kinds of things should they be looking for in testing for SIBO and what not? People can schedule with me for that through Dr. Siebecker’s website on SIBOinfo.com. She has a link on there with my name for that.
[53:47] REBECCA: Wonderful. Well, all of those links are in the show notes. So if anybody wants to get them they can head to the show notes. As I said, it has been a pleasure having you on the show. Thanks so much for spending your valuable time and helping educated our SIBOers on all things SIBO. It has been a pleasure.
WHITNEY HAYES: I have really enjoyed it. Thanks for having me Rebecca.