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© 2016 by Monika Nowak. 

 

Why do I need bacteria in my gut? Healthy microbiome part 1.

August 12, 2016

"All disease begins in the gut"

said Hippocrates, the Greek physician and father of modern medicine, in the third century B.C.A. 

 

Many things have changed since then, yet with so many advancements in medicine and technology, as a civilization, we are sicker than ever before. More and more scientific research is coming out proving that our health is very much dependent on the health (and diversity) of our microbiome, i.e. gut bacteria.

 

Astonishing new studies show relationship between our increasingly sterile living environments and incidence of chronic illnesses, from heart disease, autoimmune disorders to cancer and dementia. I want to share some of the highlights and findings from two phenomenal books I've recently read (see references below). 

 

Since there is a lot to cover, in order to share all this fascinating information with you, I will be posting a series of articles. 

 

Part 1 explores the meaning, benefits and importance of bacteria in your gut, and the main causes of dysbiosis. 

 

Part 2 examines risk factors of dysbiosis in more detail, going over signs, symptoms and conditions associated with it. 

 

Part 3 shares tips on restoring your microbiome through nutrition, lifestyle modifications and stress management. 

 

First, let's start with some basic definitions. 

 

Dysbiosis is a condition of an imbalance between the good and the bad gut bacteria in or on your body. 

 

Microbiome (also referred as gut flora, gut bacteria) refers to all of the bacteria, viruses, fungi, worms, and other organisms that live in or on our bodies. 

 

There is more than a billion bacteria in just one drop of fluid in your colon.

 

Collectively, the bacteria in your gut would weight about 3 to 4 pounds, about the same weight as your brain. Fully half of your stool is made up of discarded bacteria. 

 

The composition of our microbiome affects everything from our brain chemistry, mental health, moods, emotions and personalities. 

 

But why do we actually need bacteria in our guts?

 

What does your gut bacteria actually do? 

  • digest food, produce digestive enzymes, help with absorption of nutrients;

  • help control the body's inflammatory pathways (high inflammation = high risk for virtually any chronic disease); 

  • create a physical barrier against potential invaders such as bad bacteria, viruses, and parasites; 

  • convert sugars to short-chain fatty acids for energy;

  • act as a detoxification machine by preventing infections - can even be viewed as a second liver (when you decrease the good gut bacteria, you increase the workload on your liver);

  • neutralize cancer-causing compounds;

  • metabolize drugs, modulate genes, synthesize hormones, neurotransmitters and vitamins;

  • keep pH balanced,

  • train the immune system to distinguish friends from foes. 

Clearly, the good bacteria in your gut are not just enjoying a free bed and breakfast. They are truly in charge of your wellbeing and health. 

 

So how can we mess up our microbiome? 

 

The biggest culprits leading to dysbiosis are: 

  • antibiotics and any substances that kill or change the composition of bacterial colonies - these include everything from environmental chemicals to ingredients in food (e.g. sugar, gluten) and water (chlorine);

  • stress;

  • lack of nutrients that support the diversity of your microbiome, i.e. diets full of processed foods, sugar, fat, alcohol, artificial ingredients and sweeteners, insufficient fiber;

  • antacids, birth control pills, hormones, steroids, NSAID's;

  • chemotherapy;

  • infections.

Following conditions may be caused by dysbiosis: 

  • Food cravings

  • Bloating

  • Weight gain

  • Yeast overgrowth

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

  • Small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)

  • Leaky gut

  • Parasites

  • Celiac/gluten sensitivity

  • Vaginosis

  • Food allergies and sensitivities

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)

  • Depression

  • Skin conditions (acne, rosacea, eczema)

Is your gut out of whack? Do you have dysbiosis?

 

Read PART 2 of this series to find out risk factors, signs, symptoms and conditions associated with dysbiosis or go right to PART 3 which reveals "eat clean, live dirty" diet tips and ways to improve your gut bacteria by modifying your diet. 

 

References: 

 

David Perlmutter, MD with Kristin Loberg - Brain Maker. The power of gut microbes to heal and protect your brain - for life. 

 

Robynne Chutkan, MD, FASGE - The Microbiome Solution. A radical new way to heal your body from the inside out. 

 

 

 

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