Why our gut is so critical for all aspects of our health
If you come to see me at HHNHC, or know somebody who has, you will quickly learn that I am obsessed with the gut - with mine, with yours, in fact, with everybody's!! And at some stage as part of your treatment, I will suggest that you have a detox - I really hate that word - it always brings up images of coffee enemas and grapefruit fasts - now while I think that these 2 strategies may be helpful to some, what I really mean is, we need to re-balance your gut – because when the mix between the good, the bad and the ugly is out (my fond terms for your microbiome), you also will be out. So, a simple but effective eating and treatment plan is always instigated. And your bugs will be the happiest of campers in no time:
So, let’s just go through what this microbiome is actually about:
Did you know that of all the DNA that makes up YOU, only 2% (I used to think it was 5%) is actually yours? The remainder of that genetic material comes from the microorganisms that live in and on you – and they are EVERYWHERE; on your skin, in your lungs, in your sweat, in a mother’s breast milk, in a woman’s vagina, on your scalp, and recently they have found microorganisms in the amniotic fluid surrounding the unborn baby in the uterus (amazing hey?). But by far, the largest concentration of microbes lives in our gastrointestinal tract – essentially from our mouths to our anuses and everything in between: If we pulled out our gut and smoothed every last wrinkle out, it would cover the area of two tennis courts and 1 teaspoon of our stool (of which 50% is actually microbes) contains as much genetic information as to fit on 10 CDs! And of course, we want this information to be only the best of data! And the other really cool thing is that the microbiome of your mouth is as different to the microbiome of your colon for example as is the plants that grow in a desert compared to those that grow on a reef.
Have I completely creeped you out by now? Stay with me – it will be worth it.
Research shows that the higher the diversity of species in your gut – that is the more different kinds you have - the healthier you will be. But our diversity is dying – in the past 4 generations (which incidentally coincides with the introduction of antibiotics), our gut microbes have been dying out – it’s a bit like what is happening on the planet in miniature – ( I personally think that this may be as much of a disaster as the bees…) and it seems that the 4th generation is the point of no return – animal studies show that after the 4th generation, we can’t seem to get those bugs back. Now, I know that we don’t have tails and our genetics is SLIGHTLY different to those of rats (!!), but it is a sobering thought.
Also, I don’t want to completely denigrate antibiotics either – they have certainly been the invention of the 20th century, but their overuse has lead us to a very close tipping point between health and wide -spread disease. I am also not suggesting that antibiotics are the only cause of this epidemic of wide spread disease we see today, simply that they are part of a perfect storm of chemical and toxic overload and very poor nutrition. All of which overwhelm the good guys in our gut.
A lack of good guys in and one our bodies is being link to an increasing number of diseases:
- Diabetes – both type 1 and type 2
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Crohn’s Disease
- Chronic infection
- Behavioural issues including autism
- All autoimmune disease, including Hashimotos's, SLE, Multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriasisand parkinson's disease
- Even how we react to fear
And the list is growing every day.
But all is not lost – I personally believe in the resilience of our wonderful bodies and our ability to bounce back. just recently research has been released regarding the health of our gut and the prevention and even management of severe allergies such as anaphylaxis . So, I have developed a list of 10 key points of what you can do to look after your Mighty Microbiome:
1. Don’t be too clean – yes indeed – we evolved with dirt floors and around animals. Have you heard of the hygiene hypothesis? Essentially, the more sterile the environment a child grows up in, the more likely they are to develop a chronic illness or allergy. Use good old-fashioned soap and water to clean – leave the heavy disinfectants for the hospitals.
2. Throw away your personal care products that contain triclosan – this is an anti-bacterial found in toothpaste (that do the “total” job if you hear what I am saying..) and mouthwashes and even in our laundry detergents and hand washes. Be particularly wary of those products that claim to kill “99%” of germs – remember germs is just another word for microbes and these chemicals don’t discriminate between the good guys and the bad guys. Triclosan was recently banned in the U.S.A as an unmitigated environmental disaster in 2016 – it kills the good guys on the Earth as well. It has been banned in Europe for a number of years now. Australia is a little slower
3. Eat your veggies, and your fruits, legumes and your whole grains – Grandma was right – even if she didn’t know why. These foods contain insoluble fibre – essentially stuff you can’t eat, so as it transits through the gut, it actually feeds our good guys (cool hey?). Because processed food contains very little fibre, it is absorbed very quickly in the upper regions of our gut which makes us hungrier quicker, but also starves our good guys. Once you start eating more fibre, you may be a bit embarrassed about a little extra wind you may be producing -it’s not actually you – it’s those good guys having a great party and WILL settle down over time. If we don't feed our good guys, they start to eat us! (essentially that protective mucous layer that lines our gut cells (our colonocytes) - not so cool and which causes all sorts of problems such as leaky gut and inflammation.
4. Stay away from the sugar – I always say that you must be racist with your food – avoid the white (and chicken is pink.. and cauliflower is light green – just for the record). Avoid ALL sugar – the clue is usually in the second word – whether it is demerara sugar, raw sugar, brown sugar, coconut blossom sugar or even sugar from the tears of mermaids – it is STILL sugar!! Syrups are no better; including agave syrup, rice malt syrup or maple syrup. Anything ending in "ose" well that would also be a sugar ( maltose, dextrose, galactose, fructose, sucrose, glucose....) The pick of the bunch would be maple syrup and of course a little honey. But get used to tasting your food the way Mother Nature intended and sweet free. Adding dried fruit to your food, such as sultanas and dates is really laso only adding sugar in a different form. OK for a treat and that's it.
5. Don’t replace sugar with artificial sweeteners – this has a very disturbing effect on our microbiome. Saccharin has been shown to change your blood sugar to a pre-diabetic level within 1 week (eeek). Aspartame (aka Nutrasweet ™, phenylalanine and Equal ™) can disrupt the microbes in our gut for the worse in just 5 days – As Professor Gregor Reid; gut researcher extra-ordinaire, states: “aspartame – putting the “die” in “diet since 1988”. So, put down that piece of chewing gum – it’s just not worth it. Stevia, on the other hand seems fine (for now – new research MAY emerge)
6. Get a pet – research shows that people who own and live with a pet have a far more diverse microbiome and hence have lower incidences of allergies and other diseases. (I always remind myself of this when my dog gets a sneaky face licks in after eating the chicken/horse/duck poop etc!!). https://aacijournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1710-1492-9-15
7. Avoid antibiotics unless ABSOLUTELY necessary – now it’s handy not to die of pneumonia or any other galloping infection, but get the appropriate backup from a qualified health professional afterwards. Unfortunately, 1 probiotic tablet per day won’t do it – ask your naturopath. I am here today thanks to antibiotics – I had TB as a child – but they certainly did some damage that took me most of my life to repair – and I am still working on it.
8. Eat your yoghurt!! ( a new addition to this list – I didn’t think that eating yoghurt was even worth it – but it apparently helps establish our good guys as long as it’s the good stuff). https://www.invisiverse.com/news/yogurt-isnt-just-probiotic-its-unique-proteins-kill-bad-bacteria-0178030/
9. Filter your water – chlorine in our drinking water is added so that we don’t die of water borne diseases such as cholera and giardia – again a very handy thing. But chlorine doesn’t magically stops working once it hits our mouths and again is indiscriminate – ever glass of unfiltered water is killing some good guys. There are a variety of decent and cheap water filters out there. Around. I will do a product comparison on water filters one day..
10. And last but not least – take a GOOD QUALITY probiotic every day – of a researched strain that will help your microbiome. There are unfortunately an enormous number of really ridiculous products out there which are cheap and useless – ask your naturopath. You need the researched strains. I always like to compare probiotics to dogs (yes really!). I have a Chihuahua, you may have a Doberman, but if you want a rabbit caught, my dog will have more of a chance in getting down that rabbit hole than your dog, whereas if you want some late-night protection, your dog may be a better bet: Both are dogs, but both have vastly different roles: the same goes for probiotics. Unfortunately, with some of the cheaper varieties, you may be buying dead dogs or even lame ones!! http://acudoc.com/Probiotics.PDF
So there you have it – microbiome 101. Please look after your bugs , be kind to them and they will be kind to you😊