How do gut bacteria impact our entire body?
I have chosen my first blog of 2019 to identify and explore gut bacteria because they are one of the most important and critical root cause of a lot of chronic diseases and symptoms.
What is the microbiome?
We are home to 10-100 trillion bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. They live primarily in our intestines and weigh about
2-3 pounds. These small living creatures are termed as microbiome. We have more bacterial cells and bacterial DNA than human cells and human DNA. We develop these bacteria within 20 minutes of our birth and the type of bacteria that we develop depends on whether we are born via vaginal delivery or via C-section, whether we were breastfed or bottle fed as well as our exposures to the environment. They continue to develop and change according to what we eat as well as what our bodies experience emotionally, and physically.
How does the microbiome control our organ systems?
Our gut bacteria control almost every organ of our body.
1. Digestion and Nutrition: They play an important role in fermentation of carbohydrates and produce Butyrate-an important short chain fatty acid needed by our colon cells. They also help in digestion of fats and fiber. They synthesize vitamin K2. They are needed for breakdown of plant chemicals called polyphenols that provide us with important nutrients. They also help with breakdown of medications.
2. Obesity and Diabetes: We have over 1000 species of gut bacteria. The type of bacteria that we harbour controls our metabolic activity. They affect metabolic activity by changing the hormones in our body. They also influence inflammation in our body. Hence they play a very important role in weight changes. Production of toxins such as LPS from bacteria has been linked to development of type 2 Diabetes.
3. Immune System: Research shows the bacteria in our gut help protect us by making our gut more resilient to bad bacteria or bad viruses. Our immune system in the gut is constantly working with our gut bacteria to keep us safe. However, when we eradicate the good bacteria through our diet, we lose our protection. The gut lining becomes inflamed rapidly with a very small amount of exposure to bad bacteria. This inflamed lining leads to a process called ‘Leaky Gut’. The leaky gut is unable to stop undigested and harmful material from entering our bodies leading to recurrent infections, inflammatory bowel disease and autoimmune diseases.
4. Brain Health: Depression, anxiety, stress and memory are all affected by the microbiome. The bacteria can cause release of toxins, change the level of brain messengers such as serotonin and alter the nutrients needed for brain function. There is a direct relationship found between irritable bowel syndrome and brain health.
5. Heart Health: High blood pressure, heart failure and heart attacks are directly linked to the gut bacteria. The gut bacteria can affect the level of our bad cholesterol (LDL). They also play a role in increasing the clot formation leading to blockages in our blood vessels. They can also increase the risk of rupture of the clot in the blood vessels as well as determine the ability of the artery to widen.
6. Cancer: The gut bacteria play an important role in causing cancer. They play a role in inducing inflammation through leaky gut, alter the immune function, as well as determine the efficacy of chemotherapy medications.
7. Hormonal system: Our gut bacteria alter multiple hormonal systems including Cortisol, Estrogen and thyroid. The bad bacteria can impair the elimination of estrogen from the body. They can make the body insensitive to the effect of cortisol. Research has shown a relationship between hypothyroidism and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
What can I do to help nurture my microbiome?
The most important thing is to prevent destruction or alteration of good bacteria by avoiding unnecessary antibiotics, alcohol and processed and/or high sugar foods. We have an anti-inflammatory diet program led by our health coach.
The second thing is to help grow the good bacteria by using fermented foods and targeted probiotics. Targeted probiotics are based on the evaluation of the gut microbiome. Your functional physician can assess your gut bacteria and identify the appropriate probiotic. Individuals with gut issues including bad bacteria will have difficulty digesting fermented foods as well as probiotics.
If you have a chronic disease or chronic symptoms, you need a thorough evaluation of your gut, a customized food plan, targeted probiotics as well as a systemic way of getting rid of bad bacteria or fungi.
Below is a link to our Functional Gut Assessment program
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The gut microbiome and its role in obesity. Nutr Today. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2017 Jul 1.
The role of microbiota in immunity and inflammation. Cell. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2015 Mar 27.
Nutr Rev. 2018 Jul 1;76(7):481-496. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuy009. Relationship between the gut microbiome and brain function.
Gut microbiota in cardiovascular health and disease. Circ Res. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2018 Mar 31.
Cancer and the gut microbiota: an unexpected link. Sci Transl Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2015 Dec 24.
Gut microbiota and the neuroendocrine system. Neurotherapeutics. 2018 Jan; 15(1): 5–22.
Link between hypothyroidism and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2014 May-Jun; 18(3): 307–309.