Our gut microbiome is the collection of all the bacteria, yeast, viruses, and parasites living in our digestive system, is one of the most important yet least understood systems in our body. The microbes in our gut play a vital role in everything from digesting food to boosting our immune system, and we are only just beginning to unlock all of their potential.
This role continues to be more important than we ever could have imagined. It begins in the mouth and ends in the rectum including bacteria, yeast, viruses, even parasites living in balance.
This harmonic balance has several distinct functions, many we are only just starting to learn about. What we are familiar with now is enough to change the course of healthcare as you will see here.
How do you evaluate a microbiome?
From the foods we eat to how much we chew them begins the process of what influences the microbiome. The organisms in the mouth, for example, can influence things like breath odor, gum disease and how many cavities you might get. Changing your diet and toxin exposures like pesticides can influence all of these.
Food, as Mark Hyman MD references, is not only nutrients but is information. Each different food or beverage we consume alters the organisms in our microbiome right down throughout the colon. The prevalence and balance of these emit either anti-inflammatory or pro inflammatory information to the body. This means they can either promote health or on the other hand lead to disease. Since Inflammation is the root cause of all disease this is a very important topic to cover, so stay tuned as we go in deeper and how you can improve your gut Microbiome.
As we swallow food it moves down our esophagus into our stomach, the next big influence on the gut Microbiome. Here is the prevalence of stomach acid. Today one of the most overused medication‘s are called proton pump inhibitors (Nexium, Prilosec etc.) which essentially are acid blocking medications altering our normal physiology of making it.
They work wonderfully in the short term if someone is experiencing acid reflux, for example, but even in the package insert we are instructed not to use this therapy for more than 14 days because it suppresses our own acid needed to breakdown food. Without acid the food in the stomach may not be able to be absorbed as nutrients if not broken down well.
Further, this can lead to acid reflux. This may sound counter intuitive at first but by not having enough acid this will not allow the food to successfully move downward and more easily move upwards back into the esophagus later. A low acid state can also alter our microbiome. Deficiency in acid production allows not only indigested food to move into the small intestine but also the organisms it didn’t kill. Certain bacteria and organisms that are not supposed to be thriving there in the small intestines.
As a result this can lead to something called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO can limit the amount of nutrients absorbed in this area and lead to many different symptoms from bloating and gas to chronic diseases and nutrient deficiencies. SIBO is actually responsible for a majority of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well.
Instead of relying on medicines to suppress these symptoms we just uncovered causes which can ultimately be addressed to fix the real issue at hand.
There’s also the balance of certain bacteria in the gut which have been linked to being thin or fat. It is exciting that such data exists where we can now look at the microbiome via a stool test and see if a persons microbiome is part of the issue. This means that by altering it through the use of anti-microbials, specific probiotics, as well as dietary interventions we can alter the gut’s ecosystem to where it can help treat obesity.
The gut Microbiome’s imbalance also known as ‘dysbiosis’ has been found to be strongly associated with numerous different diseases too. From cardiovascular disease to cognitive impairment and auto immunity their commonality is often in an imbalanced Microbiome. The right amount of healthy organisms in the gut has further shown to aid in the absorption of minerals and nutrients, including magnesium, an essential metal that helps over 400 bodily processes from detoxification to proper rate and rhythm of our heart’s conduction system.As you can see the benefits of having a healthy Microbiome are extensive, the question now is how do we customize this information?
We already know how harmful certain organisms are in the gut and the diets that get them there. Take for example a highly processed carbohydrate rich diet with little fruit and vegetables. This diet not only lacks the essential nutrients we thrive on but adds a lot of pro-inflammatory signaling to our bodies. Sugar increases growth of Proteobacteria which increase toxins that negatively impact our metabolism. Furthermore, they lower the amount of Bacteriodetes (a phylum or category of bacteria) which aid as anti inflammatory and protect the lining in our gut wall. This helps so that toxins don’t leak across causing harm systemically in us. This is such an important piece to health because behind the gut lining resides nearly 80% of our immune system and directly responds to these potentially ‘inflammatory’ signals. It is no wonder that auto immune diseases or food sensitivities are found when this is prevalent. We should never forget that the entire body is an interconnected system that functions as a whole. What happens in one organ system has direct and often consequential actions in another and so on.
In approaching healthcare in this unique manner we are targeting the root of so many chronic health issues. We can even begin to slow the aging process altogether by picking up on disease and inflammation before it even becomes apparent. This is how you see amazing changes in health by following this system based approach using leading edge nutraceuticals and lifestyle modifiers to fix the these problems.It is astonishing that gastroenterologists do not yet even practice this way and the concept of the microbiome is still so distant to them compared to how they continue to be trained.
By looking at the gut Microbiome, changing nutrition around its needs and using gut repair protocols to restore balance many Functional Medicine specialists have been successfully able to help restore balance to several peoples lives. Personalized tailored treatments to each individual isn’t looking at merely treating symptoms, it’s trying to stop health problems for good.
Are you interested in learning more about your gut microbiome? A microbiome evaluation can provide deep insights into your gut health and function.
Contact our office today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Dinetz. Learn more about what does a microbiome test show and what it tells you about your overall health.