What we eat has changed dramatically in the past 100 years with the industrialization of our food supply. Highly processed, high-sugar, high-fat, low-fiber diets have altered the bacteria in our digestive tracts.
Bacteria are as integral to your body as the cells that make up your skin, bones, joints, brain and organs. It is estimated that there are five hundred to one thousand different types of bacteria, viruses and fungi represented in the gut, weighing a total of three to four pounds!
The emergence of research on the human microbiome and how it interacts to create health or disease now shows the importance of gut flora and gut microbial life as the primary controller of digestion, metabolism, inflammation, absorption, immune function and…. your personality!
For example, good bacteria can reduce inflammation, treat depression, contribute to weight loss and better metabolic health. On the other hand, bad bacteria can promote allergies, asthma, skin conditions and contribute to personality changes and cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s.
Instead of symbiosis, a mutually beneficial relationship between your gut and your “bugs” you create dys-biosis, a harmful interaction between you and your “bugs”.
Dysbiosis weakens our ability to protect ourselves from disease causing microbes. If left untreated and un-recognized, they become deep rooted and insidious. Unlike Salmonella, which causes immediate food-poisoning reactions, low-virulence microbes are sometimes lurking without symptoms until it’s too late.
The nature of these low-virulent microbes affects quality of life, thus dysbiosis of microbes causes us to adapt our lifestyle to new limitations (Chutkan).
Environmental triggers of dysbiosis:
Modern lifestyle has dramatically altered our intestinal flora. Genetic susceptibility is one contributing factor however environmental triggers and increased intestinal permeability are a part of the compromising factors reducing the gut terrain.
Environmental triggers such as antibiotics, glyphosate and other pesticides alter the microbiome of our intestinal flora and the ground soil as well. Genetically modified foods, vaccines and other industrial farming chemicals have been linked to IBD, autoimmune disorders, reproductive disorders, immune dysfunction, cancer and neurologic disease (Greenwood). The impact of pesticides is well studied and seen to damage the microbiome by reducing pathways for micronutrients. #leakygut
Vaccines alter the microbiome intentionally by targeting potentially infectious agents as well as unintentionally through the direct toxic effects of adjuvants such as thimerosal, aluminum and polysorbate 80. For example, by eliminating several strains of pneumococcus, the pneumococcal vaccine allows other strains and bacteria to come in and fill the gap. This potentiates the incidence of other potentially more serious infections such as Staphylococcus and Hemophilus. The environmental impact of antibiotics, vaccines, pesticides and GMO’s are clinically linked to root cause diseases, which have become increasingly prevalent in the past 60 years (Chutkan).
Many researchers claim that the increased intestinal permeability is the root cause of all autoimmune and inflammatory disease.
Standard American Diets are high in wheat products, simple sugars and highly processed products—all contributing to the damage of the intestinal lining. The function of the lining is to separate the “pure from the impure” bifurcating nutrients from waste. Iron, magnesium, calcium and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K are absorbed in the gut and any increase in permeability in the gut decreases nutrient absorption while allowing toxic waste particles to access the bloodstream.
This combination of malabsorption and toxicity increase is the experience of not only gut symptoms but systemic inflammatory conditions. With gut dysbiosis and overgrowth of certain species like candida, the lining of the digestive tract begins to erode, creating holes, aka leaky gut. This compromised barrier system designed to keep waste material in is now leaking into the blood stream, resulting in unusual allergic reactions and systemic inflammation.
Understanding the root cause of your symptoms is the key to reversing your symptoms. Arthritis, asthma, behavioral problems, autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, headaches, depression, brain fog, infertility and metabolic syndrome are all the chronic consequence of dysbiosis. Healing the gut is possible, yet there is no one size fix all solution.
Just as garden soil may require specific nutrients at different stages of growth, our gut biomes must be analyzed, supplemented and weeded to ensure its flourishing. Simple steps are the key to fostering gut diversity and gut health. Eating whole foods, high plant based, fermented vegetables, removing processed foods and hydrogenated oils, eating organic, improving sleep and supplementation of micronutrients are all beneficial to the activity of the good gut bacteria.
Stay tuned for a step by step guide to restoring your gut function for optimal health.
Chutkan, R. (2014). Gutbliss: A 10-day plan to ban bloat, flush toxins, and dump your digestive baggage. Avery, A Member of Penguin Group (USA).
Greenwood MT. Dysbiosis, Spleen Qi, Phlegm, and Complex Difficulties. Med Acupunct. 2017 Jun 1;29(3):128-137. doi: 10.1089/acu.2017.1226. PMID: 28736589; PMCID: PMC5512334.