Chaos in our guts
What is the world is going on? In the United States, the rates of illness continue to rise. Regardless of if you’re speaking of cancer, heart disease and diabetes or seemingly less serious conditions like digestive distress, sleep challenges and trouble losing weight, we are in crisis as a nation and there’s no end in sight. What if there were something we could do that would help us get healthy now? Not a magic pill (maybe you’ve been there, done that… If there were such a thing, we wouldn’t be in the state of ill-health that we are), but rather a truly holistic lifestyle change… One that is inexpensive, sustainable and delicious. I believe such a remedy exists if only we have the guts to make a couple of simple changes.
What is the microbiome?
We are not alone. A healthy human body is home and host to trillions of bugs (bacteria, fungi, virus’s, etc., often referred to as microbiota or flora). This diverse microbiota collectively create an ecosystem within the digestive tract that is mutually beneficial to them and us as well. Around 98% of these creatures are beneficial to us and helpful for sustaining life and vitality. For optimal health, we must live in a way that supports and feeds the beneficial gut flora so that they can in turn support and feed us.
The microbes can come to live with us in one of two ways. First, from our parents. Healthy bacteria is passed from Mom to Baby through the placenta and in the birth canal.1 This is one reason why it is a last resort for babies to be delivered via cesarean (aka C-section). The other way that these bugs gain residence in and on our body is through the environment: the foods we eat, water we drink, and things that we touch or breathe in.
What is Dysbiosis and what causes it?
Dysbiosis refers to the imbalance of the microbiota in your gut. Your good microbes start to get overpowered by some that aren’t so good. It is commonly caused from a poor diet, certain medications (especially antibiotics2), high stress3 and artificial sweeteners4.
What does your microbiota do for you and how does it impact your vitality?
You work for your microbiota by feeding it the food it loves and, in turn, they work for you in the following ways:
- The microbiome plays a major role in strengthening your immune system5 and preventing disease6. One way that they do this is by keeping the pH of the gut acidic so that most potentially harmful pathogens can’t survive.7 Over 70% of your immune cells are found in the gut so having healthy microbiota is key to good immunity.8
- It is a key factor in proper digestion9 and elimination10. Good gut flora helps with energy absorption, gut motility, appetite, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, as well as liver’s fat storage.11 These all have far reaching implications on digestion which changes all of health.
- The gut flora improves the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, thereby protecting your brain.5
- Your microbiota helps to reduce inflammation in the body.12
- It improves brain function and mental wellness.13
- The microbes, under the correct conditions actually produce vitamins and various nutrients.14
- A healthy microbiome improves the permeability of the gut so that nothing gets out of the lumen and into the blood stream that shouldn’t be there.15
If you want to get healthy now remember, a healthy and balanced microbiome is key for optimal wellness.
Important facts on the microbiome…
- It’s not just about the number of microbes– the diversity is key. A wide variety of the types of microbes in your gut contributes to a positive feedback loop (the stimulus creating more of the same) that further improves the diversity of your gut ecosystem.16
- You can be too clean! Although it’s important to have a clean body and living environment, obsessively sterilizing everything leads to poor immunity and a weaker microbiome.17
- You can start to alter your microbiome in just a couple of weeks.18
- It’s estimated that you are made up of about 10 times more bacteria than human cells.1 We are NOT in the majority here, my friends… Now do you see why we need to be nice to our microbiota?
Prebiotics, probiotics and fermented foods- Improving digestion and assimilation:
Prebiotics: Prebiotics are non-digestible (can’t be absorbed in the stomach, resists the acidic condition of the stomach and isn’t broken down by digestive enzymes) carbohydrates that are broken down by the microbiota in your gut. The byproduct of this process is the creation of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), and trans-galacto-oligosaccharides (TOS) are the most common prebiotics. These SCFA do something amazing… They actually feed the microbiota, thereby helping to produce MORE beneficial microbes.19 This means that the more prebiotics that you consume, the more healthy gut flora you produce. High fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables and legumes are abundant in prebiotic fiber and your microbes love them.
Probiotics: The FDA defines a probiotic as “products that contain live organisms, such as bacteria, that are found naturally in humans”20. Pro means “for” or “in support of” and bios refers to “life”, so probiotics are “in support of life.” Probiotics are good (pro) bacteria that help to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.21 Of course the key when using probiotic supplements is to ensure cell resonate quality as not all probiotics are created equal.
Fermented Foods: Fermented foods and beverages are those that, through controlled microbial growth, have beneficial bacteria growing in them.22 These super tasty foods, assuming good quality, are an incredible source of both prebiotics and probiotics. Consuming fermented foods helps give your body a probiotic boost and exacerbates all the benefits of probiotics previously listed.
So what can you do to feed your gut’s tenants (and be a good host)?
- Increase your intake of fiber and nutrient-dense plant foods.18
- Reduce or eliminate your intake of animal products6 and processed foods2.
- Reduce your fat intake.23
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol.24
- Increase your intake of fermented foods.25 Some wonderful sources include kimchi, kombucha, miso, water kefir and sauerkraut. You can buy these at most health food stores or you can also make them yourself in your own kitchen.
- Reduce stress.3
Who shouldn’t use probiotics? There are some populations who may not be able to use probiotics such as those with leaky gut or those prone to certain infections.26 It may be best to work with a qualified health practitioner to see if probiotics are best for your specific health situation.
As your holistic Doctor (in Kalamazoo MI), I want to help you reach optimal wellness. I believe the best way to do this is by giving your body what it needs so that it can become balanced and keep you healthy no matter what stressors come your way. Stayed tuned to our blog here at New Hope Health for other evidence based articles dealing with alternative medicine and natural holistic ways to self-heal. We want to provide you all the information you need to get healthy now.
- Quigley EMM. Gut bacteria in health and disease. Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2013.
- Valdes AM, Walter J, Segal E, Spector TD. Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. BMJ. 2018. doi:10.1136/bmj.k2179
- Karl PJ, Hatch AM, Arcidiacono SM, et al. Effects of psychological, environmental and physical stressors on the gut microbiota. Front Microbiol. 2018. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2018.02013
- Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014. doi:10.1038/nature13793
- Tomova A, Bukovsky I, Rembert E, et al. The effects of vegetarian and vegan diets on gut microbiota. Front Nutr. 2019. doi:10.3389/fnut.2019.00047
- Jardine M. The relationship between microbiota and the environment, nutrition and metabolic disease. Pr Diabetol. 2017;36(6):6-14.
- Gill HS. Probiotics to enhance anti-infective defences in the gastrointestinal tract. Bailliere’s Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2003. doi:10.1016/S1521-6918(03)00074-X
- Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S. Krause’s Food and Nutrition Therapy.; 2008.
- Oliphant K, Allen-Vercoe E. Macronutrient metabolism by the human gut microbiome: Major fermentation by-products and their impact on host health. Microbiome. 2019. doi:10.1186/s40168-019-0704-8
- Zhao Y, Yu YB. Intestinal microbiota and chronic constipation. Springerplus. 2016. doi:10.1186/s40064-016-2821-1
- Festi D, Schiumerini R, Eusebi LH, Marasco G, Taddia M, Colecchia A. Gut microbiota and metabolic syndrome. World J Gastroenterol. 2014. doi:10.3748/wjg.v20.i43.16079
- Bocci V. The neglected organ: Bacterial flora has a crucial immunostimulatory role. Perspect Biol Med. 1992. doi:10.1353/pbm.1992.0004
- Oriach CS, Robertson RC, Stanton C, Cryan JF, Dinan TG. Food for thought: The role of nutrition in the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Clin Nutr Exp. 2016. doi:10.1016/j.yclnex.2016.01.003
- Wang H, Wei CX, Min L, Zhu LY. Good or bad: gut bacteria in human health and diseases. Biotechnol Biotechnol Equip. 2018. doi:10.1080/13102818.2018.1481350
- Carlson JL, Erickson JM, Lloyd BB, Slavin JL. Health Effects and Sources of Prebiotic Dietary Fiber. Curr Dev Nutr. 2018. doi:10.1093/cdn/nzy005
- Thursby E, Juge N. Introduction to the human gut microbiota. Biochem J. 2017. doi:10.1042/BCJ20160510
- Bloomfield SF, Rook GAW, Scott EA, Shanahan F, Stanwell-Smith R, Turner P. Time to abandon the hygiene hypothesis: New perspectives on allergic disease, the human microbiome, infectious disease prevention and the role of targeted hygiene. Perspect Public Health. 2016. doi:10.1177/1757913916650225
- Klimenko NS, Tyakht A V., Popenko AS, et al. Microbiome responses to an uncontrolled short-term diet intervention in the frame of the citizen science project. Nutrients. 2018. doi:10.3390/nu10050576
- Davani-Davari D, Negahdaripour M, Karimzadeh I, et al. Prebiotics: Definition, types, sources, mechanisms, and clinical applications. Foods. 2019. doi:10.3390/foods8030092
- FDA developing improved methodology for determining purity of probiotic products. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
- Nazir Y, Hussain SA, Abdul Hamid A, Song Y. Probiotics and Their Potential Preventive and Therapeutic Role for Cancer, High Serum Cholesterol, and Allergic and HIV Diseases. Biomed Res Int. 2018. doi:10.1155/2018/3428437
- Dimidi E, Cox SR, Rossi M, Whelan K. Fermented foods: Definitions and characteristics, impact on the gut microbiota and effects on gastrointestinal health and disease. Nutrients. 2019. doi:10.3390/nu11081806
- Wan Y, Wang F, Yuan J, et al. Effects of dietary fat on gut microbiota and faecal metabolites, and their relationship with cardiometabolic risk factors: a 6-month randomised controlled-feeding trial. Gut. 2019. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2018-317609
- Engen PA, Green SJ, Voigt RM, Forsyth CB, Keshavarzian A. The gastrointestinal microbiome: Alcohol effects on the composition of intestinal microbiota. Alcohol Res Curr Rev. 2015.
- Rezac S, Kok CR, Heermann M, Hutkins R. Fermented foods as a dietary source of live organisms. Front Microbiol. 2018. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2018.01785
- Kothari D, Patel S, Kim SK. Probiotic supplements might not be universally-effective and safe: A review. Biomed Pharmacother. 2019. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2018.12.104