The Gut Microbiome: Impacts Everything

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05 Nov The Gut Microbiome: Impacts Everything

Today’s understanding of the microbiome has profound implications on our entire body and mind.

Something astonishing has been happening in medicine that is completely changing how we view health and disease. Today’s understanding of the microscopic life inside our gut—the microbiome—has profound implications for managing not only our digestive health, but also that of the entire body and mind.

The microbiome is the richly diverse community of bacteria that each and every one of us carries in and on our bodies.

Your microbiome is unique to you. It contains ten times more cells and 100 times more genes than you have in your whole body, and it accounts for three to six pounds of your total weight.

Your microbiome doesn’t just sit there, doing nothing. It performs many vital jobs in the body, talks to the brain, and even influences your behavior. In fact, the microbiome is essentially a newly discovered organ in the human body.

Perhaps most important is the fact that you can change your microbiome, and thus your physical and mental health, through diet, lifestyle, and natural medicine.

Diseases linked to alterations in the microbiome

When your healthy, balanced microbiome gets significantly disrupted or impaired, you have what is referred to as dysbiosis. Although there is still no standard ­definition of this term, a number of seemingly random diseases are directly linked to dysbiosis. For example, alterations in the microbiome are clearly associated with:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Asthma
  • Food allergies
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Liver diseases: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), alcoholic liver disease, primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), autoimmune hepatitis
  • Autism
  • Celiac disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Autoimmune diseases

The clear implication for anyone ­suffering from one of these disorders (and probably from many other illnesses) is to carefully examine the possibility of poor gut health being an unsuspected underlying cause. This discovery could very well lead to the corrective action needed to restore health: optimizing the gut microbiome. We’ll discuss just how to do that in this article.

Examining the microbiome

Because of very recent scientific developments in genetics, we are finally able to identify and quantify the microorganisms that live within our gastrointestinal systems. New gene-based tests have determined that there are over 1,000 species of microorganisms and that 150 to 170 predominate in a given person.

We’re beginning to understand what makes up a healthy gut microbiome in terms of these species, their numbers, and their relationships to one another. In general, a high diversity and total number of gut microorganisms is associated with relatively good health, while low diversity has been associated with states of disease or chronic dysfunction. Some species of microorganisms are very important because of their specific, unique functions. Even those organisms that are typically present in smaller numbers in the healthy gut microbiome have considerable potential to influence our health.

How to eat to improve the health of your microbiome

Dietary changes are the primary treatment for optimizing your microbiome. The Western dietary pattern, characterized as high in fat, sugar, red meat, and processed/refined foods, has been associated in numerous studies with a microbiome more geared towards obesity, inflammation, and other less desirable consequences.

In contrast, diets higher in fiber, fruits, and vegetables have been associated with more favorable microbial communities.

  • Eat more fiber, fruits and vegetables/less sugar and processed foods. The way to most profoundly alter your microbiome, therefore, appears to be to lower your intake of refined, processed, sugar- and fat-laden foods while simultaneously increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables. ­Indigestible carbohydrates (fiber) are the main food for gut microbes. All plant foods—fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains—contain beneficial fiber. Always introduce high-fiber foods gradually to avoid exacerbation of GI symptoms.
  • Eat more high-polyphenol foods. Include plenty of polyphenol-rich berries, cocoa, green tea, and red wine in your diet.
  • Eat seaweed and fermented foods. Seaweeds, such as nori, can significantly alter the gut microbiota. Fermented foods, such as kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, can increase the beneficial lactic acid bacteria in the gut.

Supplements that benefit the gut

To promote and sustain beneficial gut microbes, consider taking probiotics (especially Lactobacillus and Bifido­bacteria). Probiotics are all unique living organisms and their health-promoting traits may be strain-specific. While some specific strains have been studied and found to be effective for certain populations. To learn more about the ProFlora Blend I dispense, you can click HERE.

Summary

Studies have linked the microbiome to human mood and behavior, as well as gut health, metabolic disorders, and many other chronic diseases.

All people can improve their microbiome by eating a whole-foods diet that includes plenty of probiotics.

If you have a health condition impacting your microbiome, I am can help you in interpreting the tests/diagnosis and provide information on diet, lifestyle, supplements, and other natural strategies targeted specifically to you.

Suggested Further Reading:

Gut reaction: the surprising power of microbes – The Guardian, Aug 25, 2016

Children exposed to acetaminophen prenatally are at increased risk of multiple behavioral disorders. – JAMA Pediatrics, Aug 15, 2016.

Antibiotic therapy during infancy increases the risk of type 1 diabetes – microbiome related? – The Scientist, Aug 22, 2016.

Depression: A revolution in treatment. Can the immune system lead to a revolution in treating depression? – BBC News, Aug 24, 2016

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