Your Microbiome – Health Begins Here!
Your gastrointestinal tract is a dynamic network of microorganisms. There’s more than simply digestion going on here! In fact, the intestinal system, once regarded primarily for digestion, fluid absorption and stool formation, is now recognized as a dynamic microbial ecosystem responsible for up to 80% of immune system activity.
Our body is primarily comprised of microbes. In fact, 99% of our genetic material is from microbes and roughly one hundred trillion genes from microorganisms living and functioning inside of us. Human cells constitute only 10% of our genetic material. It’s fair to say, the microbes are running the show.
Our intestinal tract health is the foundation for health and disease prevention. An estimated 70% to 80% of your immune system is located in your gut! The micro-organisms you host determine your health in so many ways, including obesity, arthritis, mood disorders, autoimmune conditions and even cancer.
The question is, are those microorganisms healthy varieties or opportunistic or pathogenic (disease causing) microorganisms?
In North America, it’s very common for the average person to have a sever microbiome imbalance that undermines health. And I see this every day in my clinic practice presenting as signs, symptoms or disease, validated with Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis Tests.
Taking care of your gut microflora (also known as microbiome) is essential. A robust immune system, supported by a flourishing inner ecosystem, is your #1 defence against ALL disease. Where did we get our microbiome in the first place? As mammals, we glean our bacteria from our mother during the natural birth process. This is critical to begin cultivating a healthy immune system. C-section babies are not privileged to get this bacterial exposure from their mother’s birth canal and as such, suffer more allergies and auto-immune diseases.
The Gut as the Second Brain: The gut is our “second brain”. This inner nervous system consists of billions of neurons and neurotransmitters exactly like some of those found in the brain. A classic example is serotonin, a neurotransmitter hormone made in the gut, and has its effect in the brain. This is the hormone that makes you feel happy and calm. The status of your intestinal microbiome is directly related to the health of your brain, your moods and neurology!
Your gut microbiome’s job is to serve as gatekeeper at the gastrointestinal barrier. It is like a protective army, watching out for foreign substances in our intestinal system that may be in some way harmful to our body and keeping them in check. The gut immune system (GALT) is situated precisely where it is to catch invaders before they create havoc. When the microbiome detects danger, it sends out chemical messages and alarm cells – you may feel pain, bloating, cramps or diarrhea as a result or have low level inflammation that goes undetected. When these chemicals get into the blood you may feel systemic symptoms like headaches, joint stiffness and pain, muscle pain, skin conditions, mood swings, vision problems.
Why are intestinal flora (microbiome) so important?
Provides protection from negative bacterial invasion
Provides protection from parasitic & amoebic invasions
Provides protection from yeast/candida overgrowth
Regulates metabolism – weight gain is directly related to microbiome balance
Provides natural sources of B and K vitamins
Provides a natural defense/antibiotic effect in the intestines
Maintains proper pH in the intestinal tract
Produces essential short-chain fatty acids
Reduces incidence of intestinal tumours
Reduces incidence of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBS, colitis, Crohn’s disease)
Maintains a healthy intestinal mucous lining
Maintains an intact intestinal lining helping to prevent food allergies
Maintains healthy Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue (immune function)
Decreases oxidative-reduction potential
Influences your genetic expression – very critical to your outcomes with health & disease
Influences your brain development, mental health, hormone balance and memory
If there is an imbalance in the microbiome, toxic compounds (phenols, indols, skatols, ammonia for example) accumulate as a result of the putrefaction and fermentation process, causing autointoxication of your body. This imbalance is called dysbiosis. As dysbiosis accumulates over the years, we predispose ourselves to numerous degenerative diseases (ie. arthritis, diabetes, chronic fatigue, autoimmune diseases, cancer, poor memory to name a few). Approximately 85% of the population is dysbiotic!
What are some common interferences for our Microbiome?
Stress – many studies have revealed that one day of stress can reduce your healthy microbiome numbers by 50% proven on intestinal biopsy. And since most of us are living stressful lives in this modern world, it’s no surprise that microbiome depletion is rampant in our population.
Chlorinated and Municipally Treated water – chemicals used to ‘clean’ our water of disease-causing bacteria and microorganisms also kill healthy gut bacteria. Well intentioned, yet devastating to your microbiome.
Antibiotic use or exposure – many are exposed to antibiotics in their early years of life to treat common childhood infections, average person has had about 15 antibiotics before the age of 10. Antibiotics are also found in commercially fed and raised chicken, pork, beef, turkey etc… 70% of all antibiotic use is used in agriculture and it finds it’s way into us when we eat these conventional farm raised animals. Unless you eat organic free-range meats, you are getting antibiotics in your food every day. This is destroying your microbiome!
Roundup® (glyphosates) – Roundup®, a common insecticide used in modern agriculture acts as an anti-microbial for the insects on food crops, it works by killing off the intestinal microbes in insects. But it also kills off our human intestinal microbiome in large numbers. Since Roundup® is widely used, it has contaminated our water and food to the extent that everyone is exposed. The metabolite of Roundup® is called Glyphosate, and it harms your microbiome, kidneys and liver. Example, Cheerios contains over 1000 ppm and the Governmental allowable standard of Glyphosates in
food and water is 0.7 ppm. Unless you are eating certified organic and filtering your water, your food and water is toxic.
How to Optimize your Microbiome
Breast Feeding is a crucial step to normalize an infant’s microflora. Sterile
formulas don’t provide the bacteria needed to populate an infant’s intestinalsystem. Skin to skin contact and mother’s milk provides a diverse microbiome for your infant, and a healthier immune system.
A healthy diet is the ideal way to maintain a healthy gut, especially food picked from an organic garden containing soil based organisms. Getting exposure to a diverse soil based organisms is beneficial for your gut balance.
Eat fibre-rich foods that support the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria. These include garlic, onions, dandelion greens, legumes, nuts, seeds, chia and flax seeds, chicory root.
Regularly consuming traditionally fermented or cultured foods is the easiest way to ensure optimal gut flora. Healthy options include: Tempeh, Natto, Kimchi, Kefir, Sauerkraut, and Yogurt (non-dairy sourced).
A word about yogurt: It’s important to avoid pasteurized versions, as pasteurization will destroy many of the naturally occurring probiotics. For example, most of the “probiotic” yogurts you find in every grocery store these days are NOT recommended. Since they’re pasteurized, they will be associated with all of the problems of pasteurized milk products instead. They also typically contain added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, dyes, and/or artificial sweeteners; all of which are detrimental to your health. As well, Dairy being a primary allergen of most humans will inflame your intestinal mucosa making it difficult for microbiome to thrive in your intestines.
Avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics as they kill healthy gut bacteria.
Avoid over-consumption of alcohol, tea, coffee, sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods. Eat whole foods, and cook from scratch. Eat 5-7 servings of vegetables daily. Eat healthy fats like avocado, extra virgin olive and coconut oil.
Avoid drinking chlorinated water. Always filter your water. Reverse Osmosis water guarantees to clean all pharmaceutical metabolites, chemicals and glyphosate from your water.
Avoid GMO foods or unfiltered water that contains Glyphosate’s which kill healthy bacteria.
Take quality probiotic supplements (not retail grade) minimally 4 times a year, and especially when travelling or during and after antibiotic treatments. Optimally, in today’s modern world it pays to take probiotics daily to maintain a healthy microbiome.
Eat only organically-raised meat products because standard meat is full of
antibiotics and fed GMO feed which affects your microbiome when you eat it.
If you have chronic dysbiosis, you will need to do an in-depth Gut Restoration Program with your Naturopathic Doctor. It has taken many years for your intestinal tract flora to get out of balance, don’t expect it to be restored overnight. The Gut Restoration Program will involve the 4 R’s:
- Removal of harmful intestinal micro-organisms
- Resolve intestinal inflammation – heal the gut membrane & heal leaky-gut
- Restore proper GALT function (lymphatic)
- Replace healthy intestinal flora
Remember to keep probiotics in the fridge unless it is heat stable at room temperature. If you think you need an antibiotic, consult with your Naturopathic Doctor first, there is likely a natural alternative that will work just as well and won’t compromise your intestinal immune health.
Dr. Dawn Cormier, ND