I watched this webinar last week and I wanted to pass on the notes I made. Your health is based largely on the status of your gastrointestinal tract. Your health begins in your gut (I am sure you have heard people say and it is true). The microbiome has 50 trillion bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa- adding up to 3 to 6 pounds. The ecological world that makes up the gut microbiome has a direct impact on the immune system. In fact, 75% of the immune system exists in the gut. The microbiome thus impacts the immune system, it influences inflammation, cognition, mood, blood vessel health and carcinogenesis. Leaky gut has been linked to the development of cancer and many other chronic inflammatory diseases including metabolic syndrome and the development of autoimmune disease.
The status of the microbiome begins at birth. Babies born vaginally are much better off because by passing through the birth canal, they inherit their mother’s microbiome. This offers the baby a lot of protection right off the bat. In fact, the medical world is realizing this, so babies born my C-section are being swabbed with the mother’s vaginal fluid post birth to simulate the passage through the canal 9that is so important!). Babies born by C-section are more likely to have some pathogenic bacteria colonize their microbiome as a result. Breast feeding helps the child inherit the mother’s microbiome as well so it is to be encouraged rather than relying on formula. Children that grow up with pets have been shown to have less allergies because of their exposure to the pet . Exposure helps the development of their immune system and encourage ‘tolerance’ versus reactivity.
Good bacteria can modulate bone density, protect against epithelial injury, provide resistance to bacteria, break down food compounds, modify the nervous system, biosynthesize amino acids, vitamins, and help with wound healing. The microbiome plays a direct role in the development and training of the immune system (increases T-regulatory cells).
Things that affect the microbiome development include the geography you are born into, your diet, medication that you take (antibiotics, metformin, statins, proton-pump inhibitors, oral contraceptives, etc), psychosocial factors including stress, lifestyle, exercise, surgery and exposure toradiation.
These bacteria that colonize your gut give us health benefits; for instance, they produce short chain fatty acids such as butyrate which are an important modulator of your health and reduce inflammation stemming from your gut. These bacteria also produce B vitamins that you are able to use. Your microbiome regulates bile in terms of signaling, adipogenesis, satiety, gene expression, Immune modulation, produces neuroactive compounds like serotonin, and as stated previously modulates and regulates inflammation. We rely as much as on them as they rely on us to provide them with good food and provide them a good home to colonize.
A balanced diet which is one with more plants and decreased red meat consumption, increased fruit and vegetable intake, increased variety of foods, absence of sweeteners and artificial preservatives, leads to a more normative microbiome which leads to better health outcomes. The Mediterranean diet is a good example of a diet which supports the microbiome. If you have a healthier microbiome you have a normal BMI and increased Nrf2 which affects blood vessel health and decreases inflammation.
You will develop a ‘barren’ gut from inactivity, c-section, early formula feeding, sleep loss, regular antibiotic use (antibiotics are like dropping a bomb on the microbiome!), Western diet (fast food, more red meat) and lifestyle, heavy stress load. An aberrant microbiome leads to disease, accelerated ageing, metabolic morbidity, increased BMI, decreased Nrf2, and increased inflammation. This is why it is so important to focus on the health of your gut. This is why I test people regularly for food sensitivities. When I test for IgG sensitivities- if a test result shows a lot of foods that come up sensitive, my suspicion is this patient has leaky gut and I give them gut support and counsel them on how to eat to build gut health. I will continue this post in part 2.
Reference- Webinar on the Microbiome Asean region Whole Food Plant Based Educational Webinar Focus- Gut and Brain Health- Dr. Scott Stoll, M.D.