The Gut Guru

Sep 16, 2020

Kraut is magical for the microbiome….but there’s more to building a robust ecosystem than just fermented veggies & probiotics. Today, I’m thrilled to bring you another interview with Dr. Sterling Foster.


Gut health remains a hot, yet often misunderstood topic. Dr. Foster is a master of the microbiome; a guru of the gut, and a straight-shooting doc who understands the body at the most foundational level. We talked about the powerful connection between food and pain, and how seemingly “normal” aches and pains should be interpreted as warning signs in the body. We discussed an imbalanced microbiome, fasting, and the widespread effects of chronic inflammation. Here’s a bit of our conversation:


Lori: How is a pain in our bodies a warning sign? What does it indicate? 

Dr. Foster: Pain indicates danger. It warns our body of threats that should be removed. If you touch fire, you feel pain and remove your hand from that fire. Pain comes from stimulating traumas that are warranted.

Alas, saying, "I think I slept wrong" is not an example of pain stimulating trauma that would justify the body's interpretation of a pain response. For example, morning stiffness is always an example of systemic inflammation. It is the easiest thing to measure. Eat fast food and watch how stiff you will become within hours. But, try fasting for just 24 hours. Get hungry and don't eat. Intentionally withstand food and measure the same morning stiffness. It is always significantly better. 


Lori: I’ve heard you say that we can't "out turmeric" an inflamed gut.  What do you mean by that?

Dr. Foster: A person can not out- inflame the inflammatory triggers of systemic inflammation. These triggers are dietary proteins (poorly digested food), virus/infections (SIBO or shingles virus), environmental factors such as chemical and heavy metals, and lastly, stress. 

Take an inflammatory food group such as pizza. It has both grains and dairy. You can't eat enough turmeric supplements at the time of the meal to balance how inflammatory pizza is on your body. That is the most common example. If you have gut dysbiosis (imbalance), even organic whole food plant-based foods may become inflammatory due to the relationship of the microbiome and gut-brain connection.


Lori: You've also said that, as a chiropractor, you cannot "out adjust" a bad gut. When a patient comes to you with chronic pain, how do you help them?

Dr. Foster: It is easy to assume structure is part of the problem. I did acute pain rehabilitation treatments for five years before strict digestive rehabilitation. I treated thousands of people with much success. However, like all practitioners, I still had non-responders.

Looking back, I realized now why I didn't get those people better. They probably had IBS-Constipation and gut dysbiosis. I'll also openly admit that I chased pain. Wherever the patient hurt is where I started working on the tissue: adjustments, massage, soft tissue techniques, decompression treatments, dry needling. I was even fortunate enough to see a level of steroid injections be useful for some, yet ineffective for others. Instead of telling people to come in for five days in a row for treatment, I now ask them to do a full 24 hours fast. It's crazy how much the pain response is related to the gut.


Lori: What is SIBO, and how is it treated?

Dr. Foster: SIBO stands for small intestine bacterial overgrowth. It is the relationship with the living microbiome inside the small intestines.

The contributing factors are incredible. SIBO has a 50% reoccurrence rate. I've seen gastroenterologists prescribe two weeks of antibiotics after a lactulose breath test, and say it was fixed, yet the patient still deals with symptoms. My treatment consists of digestive rehabilitation. For example, small bowel transit time (SBTT) is the time in which food stays in your digestive tract. SIBO patients may have a transit time of 10 hours, while a non-SIBO patient will have a transit time of 1 hour. Therefore, IBS-Constipation is a significant factor to SIBO. 

Following a low Fodmap diet is an example of how you "starve" the SIBO. Eat foods that breakdown easier and assimilate into your body without issues; versus eating foods that are likely to ferment on the SIBO. 


Lori: What are 2 tips for improving overall wellness

Dr. Foster: Fasting is a priority. We realize that constant food exposure to the gut lining does not give the small intestines a chance to heal.  The particular method of fasting doesn't matter because all of the methods are effective in lowering systemic inflammation from food. 

Also, get your bowel movements regular. Your inflammation is high if your elimination is poor. IBS and constipation create a cycle of constant fermentation and inflammation— as if your body is in a constant state of food poisoning. Elimination must be improved for optimal health.  


**I want to clarify that fasting should only be done under the care and supervision of your health care provider, and is not used as a means of losing weight, but to help the body rest and heal.


Did this interview resonate with you?  If you want to learn more about gut health and inflammation, reach out: [email protected]

You can also find Dr. Sterling Foster here:

Sterling Foster, DC PLLC

1311 West Main Street. Franklin, TN



In Good Health,

Lori Z.