I wanted to introduce you to someone very important to me. However I wasn’t sure how to describe her exactly. Not sure if she’s my favorite organ, my employee, or best friend. Of course I’m talking about my microbiome. We all have one. Your microbiome is a 6 lb. collection of trillions of bacteria and other organisms that live in your gut. These microbes are not only our first line of defense, they have vital roles in metabolism, digestion, immunity, they produce hormones and vitamins, and detoxify. Our gut bugs certainly are busy little workers.
The microbiome is very dynamic, it is constantly changing depending on the environment, its home being what you feed it. It thrives on high fiber plant material and the right fats, these are the PRE-biotics for your PRO-biotcs, meaning the food for your gut pals.
It may be very difficult for people to adapt to a healthier food lifestyle (right all my meat and potatoes people?) but I 100% promise you, that after one week of healthy eating, the previous gut bacteria that craved sugar will die off, and your friends that love the cruciferous greens will grow and soon you will be craving salads. Guaranteed.
So what about just taking some probiotics? You can take all the probiotics you want, but unless you’re feeding them the right stuff, they will not stick around.
Ever wonder why we say “trust your gut?” More and more research is showing how tightly the microbiome is connected to our brain and other organs. Therefore the quality of your biome will affect your mood, mental clarity, even anxiety and depression. The majority of serotonin and dopamine (the feel good hormones) are produced in our gut. When we have anxiety or depression, typically an SSRI will get prescribed. This is a Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor and essentially works by not allowing serotonin to be collected, thus leaving more of the feel good hormone around to do its job. Anti-depressant medications absolutely serve their purpose, however I strongly believe just as important is we need to be CREATING more of our own serotonin and dopamine as well. How do we do this? By first healing our gut, then giving it the food to thrive.
So why has our gut become so messed up?
#1. High sugar/ processed food diet- This diet is not meant for humans or our gut bugs. We are literally observing our own ecosystem’s evolution as our healthy gut bug workers die off… and we wonder why chronic diseases are on the rise.
#2. Antibiotics. If they kill the bad guys, they’re obviously killing the good ones as well. These are life saving, miracle medications however only when necessary! They have become too widely used. Patients expect them when they’re sick and physicians often feel obligated to prescribe because of this expectation and/or want to provide everything for their patients so that if anything bad does happen, we at least did everything we could. Bottom line, only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary.
#3. Pesticides/herbicides- Again if they kill bacteria and pests on plants, what do you think they’re doing to your gut friends.
#4. Factory farmed meat, GMOs, routine use of Round-up aka glyphosate on basically everything that’s not organic- This one is it’s own topic, bottom line is NO as much as we can.
#5. PPI’s aka Nexium, Prilosec… Acid blocking medications have become all too common. Not only are these major contributors to SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and many many other health conditions, you can bet they’re not making your biome happy as well. There is a reason why our stomach requires an acidic environment, it is to digest what we have consumed. Our GI tract is a finely tuned pH gradient system and inappropriately messing with this environment will have downstream effects.
Other causes are NSAIDs/aspirin/ibuprofen products, being born via C-section, artificial sweeteners, stress and a slew of many others.
We can do formal testing of our biomes which looks at the diversity of organism, making sure we have plenty of the good players and low on the bad guys as well as checking for things such as parasites and fungal overgrowth. We can look at their break down products to see what kind of metabolic pathways are occurring. For example, the right gut bacteria will convert Vitamin K from leafy greens to K2MK7 which is a super fuel nutrient for our brain and bones. We can also check for certain markers to see if “leaky gut” exists. Leaky gut has essentially become the main stream term for intestinal permeability, which is when the gut surface layer gets compromised, and essentially what should remain in our digestive tract gets into the blood steam causing inflammation and wreaking havoc throughout. Just because my microbiome may be my BFF, it is not invited anywhere else besides that tube that runs from my mouth to you know where.
We can also do food sensitivity testing, these newer direct to consumer based tests allow the patient to submit a stool sample from the comfort of their own home. The company basically looks at the genome of all the organisms in that sample and their metabolic pathways, which allows them to give food/nutrition recommendations. My experience with these tests is that they are expensive, but can give that one patient that has tried everything yet another tool on their journey to health. For example, my 2 year old daughter Elaan has been rushed to the ER twice for anaphylaxis (a life threatening allergic reaction). Although she is gluten-free, nut-free, legume-free, lectin-free, previously dairy-free, non-gmo and organic when possible, happy animal protein only she continues to have debilitating skin reactions which leave her scratching herself bloody. Although we see specialists, we resorted to microbiome testing and have been so grateful for the results and changes to her health and happiness. This has led me to have even more love and awe for our special friends that live inside us.
I love that discussing our microbiome has become mainstream and on medicine’s horizon. I do believe healing the gut will at the very least aid but probably be a major contributor in the healing of everything else. Please take care of your best friends, so they can take care of you!Leave a reply