Microbiome Medicine is the study of of how the microbiome affects your body as a unified system. The microbiome influences far more than digestive health and immunity alone.
In fact, there are more than 48.3 million ambulatory care visits per year due to digestive diseases. In 2009 245,921 people died of diseases of the digestive tract. Many were preventable.
Dying from poor digestion might seem a bit of a stretch to most people. Microbiome Medicine is providing eye-opening insight into why it is critical that we be open to understanding the connection.
You might think I have made a typo, but the fact is that about 70 million people are affected by digestive diseases putting the ailment at the top 10 leading killers of our current times.
Microbiome Medicine pioneers hope that you take this message seriously because understanding the mechanisms could save you from heart disease, stroke, and even Alzheimers’ Disease.
Symptoms of a Microbiome Meltdown
Constipation, burning gas, and bloating can be very uncomfortable and can ruin social situations and create roadblocks to intimacy. In turn, general well-being and even mental health begin to suffer.
However, these symptoms indicate a much bigger problem.
In no way should these symptoms be ignored nor considered normal. In fact, life is nowhere close to normal when symptoms present themselves. As anyone who suffers from continual digestive problems.
Most will try many over the counter remedies to make the symptoms go away. Microbiome Medicine shows us that by taking these symptoms as a warning, you might just save your life.
However, the first place that most people want to start fixing the problem is with a probiotic.
That sounds like a good idea, in theory…
After living for over 30 years with daily digestive symptoms, I would have done anything for just one day of digestive normalcy.
Doctors advised that I drink more water, exercise more, and get more fiber.
There was no mention of the long-term effects this type of malady might have on any of my other body systems. It does not take a genius to realize the point is to get waste out so that it does not stay inside you.
So, when all of that advice failed, I had nowhere to turn for relief as I was already doing all of those things. Other aspects of my health became affected. I jumped from doctor to doctor, and no one was able to fix my problem.
Testing performed over the years lacked any definitive diagnosis. In 1994 My doctor informed me that I had irritable bowel syndrome or IBS and it was something I would just have to live with.
Above all, I was never warned how these uncomfortable symptoms might be a catalyst for a heart attack or stroke.
Conventional medicine fails to connect the dots at present and most new ideas take at least a decade to filter to the conventional medical model.
IBS – The Warning You Must Not Ignore
With IBS, there are no structural issues to find. IBS is a “syndrome” and not a disease therefore there is no current cure. When I was diagnosed in 1993 IBS meant “it’s all in your head.” Nowadays, we understand the microbiome much better.
It is this understanding that has allowed many sufferers a more significant reason to take care of theirs. Taking small steps consistently is the key to making any lifestyle change. Fixing your gut is no different.
If you had high blood sugar, your doctor would typically encourage a diet change first, rather than start you on insulin. If not, they should be ashamed of themselves.
Dietary change is the first step. High blood sugar, if left unchecked, causes heart disease, stroke, dementia, and circulatory problems—a perfect example of the downstream effects of high blood sugar.
The good news is that you can take steps to fix the problem and steer your health in a more positive direction overall.
The Microbiome Goes Mainstream
While the microbiome conversation is still in its infancy; the term gained popularity through the last few years.
“Biomes” are distinct biological communities that form in response to a shared physical climate. Certain climates cause certain strains of bacteria to grow and flourish, good or bad.”
Since we have “biomes” in so many places in our bodies, it can be challenging to do the right thing for all of those places at once. So, I decided to start at the beginning.
It Begins at the Beginning…
In fact, though a mother’s womb is a very sterile place, babies get their first microbes set as they pass through the birth canal.
If the birth canal is healthy and rife with the good guys, then the baby gets its first probiotic dose through the nose and mouth, and its body learns to cope and adapt to the outside world.
Additionally, the baby will absorb through their mucous membranes from the mother’s vaginal canal, and if those bugs are good guys, the child will thrive, and so will the good guys. However imagine if, for some reason:
The bacteria present are not so friendly?
Consider what would happen if a baby picked up a foreign set of pathogenic bacteria from the hands of the delivery team?
What if the baby never went through the birth canal, and what if that baby did not receive a healthy dose of mommy flora?
(SEE REFERENCES BELOW)
According to this study in the Journal of Nutrition:
“The gastrointestinal tract of neonates becomes colonized immediately after birth with environmental microorganisms, mainly from the mother; strong evidence suggests that the early composition of neonates’ microbiota plays an important role in the postnatal development of the immune system.”
In other words, C-section born babies are behind the eight-ball from the start of life itself. At least, as far as digestive health is concerned.
Check out the entire study here: Cesarian Delivery May Affect the Early Biodiversity of Intestinal Bacteria.
Your Oral Health
Your digestive tract is one long tube that begins in your mouth and ends…well, you KNOW where it ends. The health of your mouth is the first place to begin getting serious about your microbiome’s health.
Over 700 species of bacteria make up a substantial portion of your oral microbiome.
There is a symbiotic relationship between you and these bacteria.
The good bacteria keep the bad bacteria in check by producing proteins that bad bacteria run away from.
Overgrowth of bad bacteria in your mouth causes downstream inflammation to your heart and vascular system as well as your gut. Your oral health is a pivotal piece of the health puzzle.
Above all, when addressing digestive issues the mouth is the first place to begin.
When Good Bacteria Go Bad
Microbes live in communities called biofilms which offer protection to a microbe similar to how an eggshell protects an egg. Dental plaque is a perfect example of a biofilm.
It is an outer layer of protection keeps them healthy, thriving, and protected from threats as they go about their business of surviving and multiplying.
The cells “stick” to one another and begin to form colonies. When well protected in their cozy little biofilms, these bad guys cause gingivitis, plaque, and cavities.
Studies conducted presently may one day lead to treatment such as gum or lozenges as probiotic solutions for your oral microbiome.
You Have to Start Somewhere
It makes sense first to REMOVE anything that is not beneficial to have a healthy gut. Of course, if there is existing damage, we need to repair it.
When providing food for all those good bacteria you want to stick around, you will have to provide pre-biotic fiber and short-chain fatty acids.
After that, our next job is to create a diverse flora population either through diet or supplementation. The biggest challenge is maintaining your healthy new colonies of flora.
Restoring the structure and function of your gut requires time and patience. The protocol most followed is called “THE FOUR R’S protocol for gut-brain health.
Take Your Time
I mentioned previously that restoring gut function takes time and patience. While the actual lining of your gut will replace itself about every seven days, changes in your immune responses to food will take several months.
Digestive ailments should not be addressed with over the counter drugs or quick fixes that will only lead to greater challenges to the diversity that holds so much importance.