Why is the Gut Microbiome So Important?

Microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, have gotten a bad rep in the modern age, perhaps because we don’t understand how much we depend on them for our survival.  Most recently, governments all over the world tried to convince us to fear them, and that we could avoid infection with the Covid-19 virus by staying indoors and using hand sanitizers and masks.  What they failed to disclose, and it is mind-boggling how they could not know, is that these measures made our systems more susceptible to infection by separating us from the actual bacteria we need to protect ourselves from the “bad” bacteria and viruses.  Now that almost everyone on the planet has contracted Covid, we know that being out in the sun, breathing fresh air, and not killing off your beneficial skin bacteria with hand sanitizer, is the proper approach to maintaining good health- and that wearing a mask may be good to prevent a volume of spray from a sick person’s sneeze or cough, but those pesky little viruses find their way through masks, no matter what they are made of or how difficult they make it to breathe. 


Our bodies are coated with microbes, both inside and outside.  They perform a vital function in skin health, protecting us from infection, skin problems, and dryness.  They help the eyes ward off infection.  They keep your hair healthy and radiant.  When you add their genetic material, they are known collectively as a microbiome. The human microbiome consists of up to 100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells in each person’s body, which are primarily 400-500 different species of bacteria living in your gut.  These bacteria are key to digestion and metabolism, and your immune system.  They help you digest your food, extract the nutrients you need to absorb to survive, and produce some of the vitamins your body depends upon for survival.  Research on the human microbiome is fairly young.  In fact, the microbiome has been described as “the most recently discovered organ.”  Because of this research, we now know that good health depends on good microbes.


Our modern lifestyle, especially excessive cleanliness, and overuse of antibiotics, have contributed to a recent increase in various chronic diseases; which is summarized in two hypotheses; of the hygiene hypothesis of David Strachan and the disappearing microbe hypothesis of Martin Blaser.


Here in the west, we wash our clothes with powerful detergents, wipe down surfaces with antibacterial sprays, wash our hands with antiseptic and antibacterial soap, and wash our mouths with chemical, antiseptic mouthwashes, to name a few things about our daily lives that wipe out the friendly organisms that help us.  We consume processed foods lacking in essential fiber (which is the food for our beneficial bacteria), and lacking in diversity.  The soil in industrial farms where most of our food supply is grown is depleted of nutrients.  All these changes we have made in our environment over the years have resulted in the promotion of multi-resistant pathogens rather than the support of beneficial microbes.


The Gut Microbiome


With regard to your gut microbiome, simply put, if your microbiome is out of whack, which comes from ingesting food that feeds unhealthy or “bad bacteria” this will lead to fatigue, anxiety, depression, brain fog, headaches, acne, eczema, congestion, frequent headaches, colds and infection, and muscle and joint pain, and could lead to the development of more serious conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, metabolic syndrome, cancer, and other disorders.  Balancing your microbiome, by consuming foods that feed your beneficial or “good bacteria” is the key to the prevention and even reversal of these diseases.  Consuming the wrong types of foods, and medications such as antibiotics, on the other hand, contribute to the imbalance of the microbiome, which can put you at risk of a host of unpleasant conditions.


A Healthy Microbiome is a Healthy Brain


Diet has also been linked to a healthy brain via the microbiome.  Plant-based diets, limited in saturated fat and meat consumption, such as the Mediterranean diet, have been shown in studies to prevent cognitive decline, such as is present in dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. 


Leaky Gut


Lining your small intestine is a single layer of cells closely laid next to each other, with little space between them.  The spaces between these cells are called “tight junctions.”  These junctions open just enough to allow digested food particles, water, and micronutrients to pass through into your bloodstream while blocking larger, usually harmful particles and the rest of the intestinal contents.  These lining and tight junctions perform an important function of preventing the toxic particles from your intestine from escaping into your bloodstream.  The healthy bacteria in your gut help maintain this barrier, by secreting a protective mucus and producing compounds that keep the tight junctions tight. 


When the tight junctions of your intestines open too wide or stay open too long, or if the walls of your intestines form tiny cracks or holes, you develop what is called intestinal permeability or leaky gut.  When larger food particles, bacteria, and other intestinal contents pass through these barriers, your immune system responds to them as dangerous threats.  This triggers inflammation, which produces much of the same symptoms of dysbiosis and which can lead, in the long term, to more serious conditions, such as auto-immune diseases.


Common symptoms of an imbalanced microbiome include abdominal pain, anal itching, allergies, arthritis, bloating and gas, brain fog, constipation, depressed mood, diarrhea, difficulty focusing, dry skin, eczema, fatigue, feeling too full,  hair loss and dull, lifeless hair, headache, hemorrhoids, inflammation, infections, insulin resistance, joint pain, leaky gut, lightheadedness, low energy, memory problems, muscle pain, nausea, poor skin color, rashes, and other skin reactions, sexual dysfunction, and lower sex drive, swelling of ankles and tingling and numbing of hands and feet, and abnormal weight gain.


The key to balancing your microbiome is very simple: eat natural foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar content.  The first step is to stop eating anything out of a box or bottle.  These are likely to be highly processed and unnatural foods, which contain too much sugar, artificial sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, chemicals, and even pesticides that can destroy the good bacteria in your microbiome. 

 For more information on Dr. Gutman's Digestive Health supplements, click here. 

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