By Claire Georgiou, Reboot Naturopath, B.HSc ND
I have just spent 3 days at a seminar listening to a group of specialists, including a well-known cardiologist (Dr. Mark Houston), neurologist (Dr. David Perlmutter) and a gastroenterologist (Dr. Alession Fassano), discussing the latest research and science on how our good bacteria and the health of our microbiome affects everything from our mood, intestinal health, immunity, cardio health, neuro-brain health and more. It was a truly inspiring and educational weekend about the power of our gut flora.
It has been stated many times that we are only just learning to walk in our true understanding on how the 100 trillion bacteria that live within our bodies affect our health. It is often asked whether we control them or they control us; 90% of our body on a cellular level is made up of microbial cells and the other 10% are human cells.
One doctor stated, “The human GI tract, containing 95% of the human microbiome, harbors a genetically diverse microbial population that plays major roles in nutrition, digestion, neurotrophism, inflammation, growth, immunity and protection against foreign pathogens”
It’s imperative that we take care of our guts to enhance our well-being and our own health.
Here are 9 signs that your microbiome may be out of balance:
Without the inclusion of healthy foods and prebiotic fibers, our good bacteria have nothing to snack on, so this influences their own health and their ability to proliferate and colonize our digestive tract while processed foods promote pathogenic bacteria.
The consumption of a standard western diet, which is high in sugar, processed foods and calorie-dense foods, may be limiting the health of the microbiota compared to cultures that eat a high fiber diet void of any processed foods. A diet high in unhealthy fats and low in fiber reduces the bacteria’s ability to proliferate and gives the harmful and pro-inflammatory bacteria an unfair advantage.
Studies suggest that the gut microbiota may play a role in the development of obesity. One particular group of scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine took gut microbes from 4 sets of human twins where one was obese while the other was a healthy weight. They introduced these microbes into mice who had been reared in a sterile environment. The mice that were given the microbes from the obese developed metabolic changes, gained weight, and became obese, while the mice given the microbes from a lean twin remained at a healthy weight; both control groups consumed the same diet.
If you find yourself frequently getting infections, respiratory and/or gastrointestinal upsets then your gut flora may have a part to play. Our microbiome has a strong influence on the way our immune systems reacts to our environment including pathogenic influences. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that the composition of the microbiota has a major influence on the training of both the mucosal and the systemic immune response and has been shown to determine susceptibility for respiratory viral infections.
Inflammatory diseases are highly associated with an unhealthy balance of the gut microbiota (dysbosis), this doesn’t mean it’s the cause but certainly a contributing factor in the disease process that will further promote continued inflammation.
Inflammation covers a wide-range of diseases including allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, depression, stroke and ADHD which are demonstrating to have a link. Children with little or less exposure to environmental bugs have a higher incidence of allergies and pregnant women taking probiotic are less likely to have children with atopic dermatitis.
Healthy gut microbes play a role in the protection against type 1 diabetes which is an autoimmune disease mainly affecting children and young people, but can occur at any age.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), bloating, indigestion and an easily upset stomach can all be influenced by how healthy our gut flora is. Certain good bacteria plays a strong role in reducing inflammation and promoting a healthy intestinal lining along with controlling pathogenic microbes. Studies indicate that inflammatory intestinal conditions such as IBD may result from altered interactions between intestinal microbes and the mucosal immune system.
The gut is often nicknamed the “second brain” because, believe it or not, bacteria in your gut actually sends signals to the brain and an altered microbiome that can cause mood disturbances such as depression, anxiety and even autism. Autistic children have been shown to have an altered gut flora with insufficient Bifidobacterium and other flora abnormalities.
There are some studies that indicate Alzheimer’s disease may be influenced by our gut microbiota and it may have an autoimmune pattern.
Interestingly, studies indicate the variation in hygiene versus microorganism exposure in certain countries may partly explain global patterns in Alzheimer’s disease rates; the cleaner with less germ exposure a country has, the higher the incidence of Alzheimer’s. It is estimated that these findings will help predict Alzheimer’s burden in developing countries where microbial diversity is rapidly diminishing.
Dr. Robynne Chutkan who wrote a book called ‘The Microbiome Solution: A Radical New Way to Heal your Body from the Inside Out’ said “our squeaky-clean lifestyle is wreaking havoc on those vital bacteria and damaging our health. We are super-sanitizing ourselves into illness and thinking that we are being clean and preventing disease; we’re actually causing disease by disrupting the microbiome.”
Antibiotics, steroids, pain killers, antacids, the oral contraceptive pill are all known to interfere with the health of our microbiome. These medications may be necessary so it is important to then be conscious of including many gut supporting recommendations to ensure gut health.
Positive choices that you make today about your health will support and help you for many years to come to enjoy better energy levels, improved health and increased happiness.
And here’s how to fix it: