Just like a clownfish to a sea anemone, the human microbiome (diverse population of bacteria) has a symbiotic relationship with us. A balanced and diverse microbiota has been connected to many beneficial effects in the human body other than just healing the gastrointestinal tract (see Table 1 for examples).
Our digestive system hosts over 500+ species of bacteria and over 100 trillion individual bacteria. This bacteria combined makes up the microbiome and this mini-biosphere is essential for human health, immunity, and nutrition. Having good gut bacteria is a privilege. Maintaining a good gut microbiome requires a lot of work since many factors in our daily lives may temporarily or permanently disrupt this delicate balance. There are many well-researched and scientifically supported articles regarding the use of probiotics. Even though there are many species, only a handful of probiotic strains have been clinically proven to help with human health. The different bacterial strains are introduced depending on specific health concerns.
Some risk factors for gut microbe imbalances:
- Method of birth (ie. C-section or natural birth)
- Diet and food choices
- Environmental toxicity/pollution
- Lack of sleep
- Stress (chronic)
- Antibiotic or other medication use
|Pregnant women||– Adding a daily probiotic may decrease the risk of preterm birth, pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension, gestational weight gain. 1
– Positive impact on infant health1
– Positive impact on pregnancy outcomes1
|Children (0-5)||– Exposure to healthy bacteria during delivery may positively or negatively influence a child’s health development, both short-term and long term.2,3
– Development of asthma, immune-related problems, skin issues, prevent childhood obesity, decrease risk for childhood autoimmune diseases (type 1 diabetes) etc2,3
|Children (all ages)||– Modification of gut microbiota may impact currently existing diseases and prevent many more.4,5,6|
|Adults (all ages)||– Negative changes in microbiome of adults have been implicated in many diseases such as chronic pulmonary diseases, asthma, allergies7, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis 8,9, and inflammatory bowel disease10.
– Studies have shown specific bacteria in abundance may play a role in regulating blood sugar and insulin levels which would help maintain leaness11.
– Immune support: 70% of immune cells are trained in the gut. 12
|Aging Adults (50+)||– We understand that neuroinflammation (mild swelling of the brain) is an important factor in cognitive decline. Emerging research shows neuroinflammation is triggered by changes in the gut flora. A disturbance in the microbiota may cause the blood brain barrier to be more susceptible to circulating substances that normally would not be able to cross the barrier, which leads to cognitive dysfunction. 13,14|
1. Dunlop A et al. The maternal microbiome and pregnancy outcomes that impact infant health: A review.Adv Neonatal Care. 2015;15(6):377-35.
2. Matamoros S et al. Development of intestinal microbiota in infants and its impact on health.Trends Microbiol. 2013;21(4):167-173.
3. Li M et al. Early development of the gut microbiome and immune- mediated childhood disorders.Semin Reprod Med. 2014;32:74-86.
4. Koleva P et al. The Infant Gut Microbiome: Evidence for Obesity Risk and Dietary Intervention. 2015;7(4):2237-2260.
5. Kalliomaki M et al. Probiotics in primary prevention of atopic disease: a randomized placebo-controlled trial. 2001;357(9262):1076-9.
6. Cruchet S et al. The use of probiotics in pediatric gastroenterology: a review of the literature and recommendations by Latin-American experts.Paediatr Drugs. 2015;17(3):199-216.
7. Shukla SD et al. Microbiome effects on immunity, health, and disease in the lung.Clin Transl Immunology. 2017;6(3):e133.
8. Huang L et al. Dysbiosis of gut microbiota was closely associated with psoriasis.Sci China Life Sci.
9. Scher J et al. Decreased bacterial diversity characterizes the altered gut microbiota in patients with psoriatic arthritis, resembling dysbiosis in inflammatory bowel disease.Arthritis Rheumatol. 2015;67(1):128-139.
10. Takahashi K et al. Reduced abundance of butyrate-producing bacteria species in the fecal microbial community in Crohn’s disease. 2016;93(10):59-65.
4. Aguirre M et al. The gut microbiota from lean and obese subjects contribute differently to the fermentation of arabinogalactan and inulin. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(7):e0159236.
12. Bermudez-Brito M et al. Probiotic Mechanism of Action.Ann Nutr Metab. 2012;61(2):160-174.
13. Solas M et al. Inflammation and gut-brain axis link obesity to cognitive dysfunction: plausible pharmacological interventions.Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2017;37:87-92.
14. Noble E et al. Gut to brain dysbiosis: mechanisms linking western diet consumption, the microbiome, and cognitive impairment.Front Behav Neurosci. 2017;11:9.
How to restore gut bacteria balance?
REVIEW: Come and talk to our Naturopath to review all signs and symptoms, along with options for testing (often stool testing or food sensitivity testing) to determine where the dysbiosis could be. At the same time, the Naturopath may rule out other medically relevant diagnoses that may mimic digestive imbalances.
REMOVE: Removing the undesirable organisms or re-balancing a microbiome that has been shifted out of balance. This is often accomplished using a combination of herbs and supplements. In this step, we also make sure we remove all foods that may be aggravating to the intestine.
REDUCE: Reduce bad lifestyle choices and learn about what type of foods would throw off the microbiota balance.
REVIVE: Often times, after we give the intestines a break from things that may aggravate it, we start the healing process that may repair intestinal linings, promote healthy mucosal lining, and repair any imbalances to the microbiome. This is also combined with healthy enzymatic support to ensure maximum breakdown of all nutrients.
RETAIN: Having a full plan that is tailored to individual lifestyles to maintain normal GI microbiome. This requires a healthy diet, proper vitamin and mineral intake, appropriate nutritional balance, exercise, healthy detoxification, good emotional or stress control, and lastly, proper sleep.
Naturopathic medicine can help mitigate some of the risk factors through positive lifestyle changes. We work together with our patients to agree on a path to change that is possible to include in their lives. We cannot erase the damage done to the microbiome by past experiences, but we can help shape the microbiome to be in a healthier state going forward.
If you book your Naturopathic visit regarding gut health between May 1st and June 30th, 2019 you will receive a gift of a 7-10 day supply of prebiotic (food to promote good microbial growth). This will give you a kick start to better health.
Dr. Wendy Zhou , ND is available for naturopathic medicine appointments on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Pacific Wellness