The Microbiome: How the bugs in our gut improve our health
The microbial balance in our gastrointestinal tract has been a hot topic of research over the past few decades. This medical research has uncovered fascinating and surprising interactions between the microbiome and our systemic health.
The human GI tract is a host to 100 trillion individual microorganisms of bacteria and yeast. They have been found to have a systemic influence on our health including improving our blood sugar balance, weight control, cholesterol levels, vitamin production, and immune function. Dysbiosis is defined as any number of potential bug imbalances within the gut microbial environment. A disruption in the microbiome ecosystem can lead to many systemic symptoms and chronic illnesses.
The interest in the good bacteria, commonly known as probiotics, has become a popular treatment option for a variety of gastrointestinal disorders. A probiotic is a bacterium that when ingested, remains viable in the gut long enough for it to have some benefits to our health. The most common strains of probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, although many other beneficial bacteria are being identified each year.
A higher microbiome diversity and balance is best for health. Changing your diet for just a day can alter bacteria levels in the body. For example, eating a more carnivorous diet will favor the growth of bile-tolerant organisms because more bile is produced with the digestion of meat. Comparatively, a more vegetarian diet will favor organisms for polysaccharide breakdown, the primary carbohydrate found in fruits and vegetables.
Eating more fiber rich foods from plant sources will have positive effects on the microbiome. Fiber that helps the good bacteria grow is often referred to as a prebiotic. A prebiotic can be any fiber complex or indigestible carbohydrate like fructooligosaccharides (FOS), inulin, or beta-glucans that the good bacteria use as food. When the probiotic microbes are well fed, they produce butyrate and other short chain fatty acids that help the colon cells heal and repair themselves. We are lucky to have such a fantastic symbiotic relationship.
A GI microbial imbalance can cause local intestinal distress including gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and cramping. When there is an overgrowth of a potential pathogenic bacteria, the colon cells can break down and allow bacterial cytotoxins into our bloodstream. This breach of toxins can lead to systemic symptoms such as general fatigue, body pain, hormonal fluctuations, frequent infections, and even ignite an autoimmune process. New evidence indicates the presence of a gut-brain connection where the flora imbalance can even lead to an increase in anxiety and depression. It is amazing how much influence the microbiome has on our health. This is why many integrative physicians first focus on improving overall GI health and microbiome balance when treating a variety of chronic conditions.
Tips to promote a healthy microbiome:
- Limit exposure to antibiotics
- Limit sugar consumption that feeds harmful organisms in the gut
- Reduce stress that can promote a microbiome imbalance and lead to worse anxiety or depression
- Consume fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, fermented pickles, and yogurt
- Consume high fiber foods from legumes, fruits, and vegetables regularly
- Restore microbial balance with a pharmaceutical grade probiotic (Health Concern - Digestive Health - Probiotics - Naturologie) after taking antibiotics
The 5 Rs for restoring Gastrointestinal Health:
- Remove any GI irritants including dysbiotic microbes, food sensitivities, and other toxins
- Replace digestive enzymes (Health Concern - Digestive Health - Digestive Enzymes - Naturologie) that protect against harmful organisms and promote the breakdown of food and the absorption of nutrients
- Restore microbial balance by consuming high-quality probiotics (Health Concern - Digestive Health - Probiotics - Naturologie) and fiber (Health Concern - Digestive Health - Fiber - Naturologie)
- Repair damage to the gastrointestinal mucosal lining using nutrients like L-glutamine and DGL (GI Integrity Vanilla (naturologie.com))
- Rebalance the gut-brain connection by implementing stress management techniques such as meditation