YOU ARE YOUR GUT
Remember the old saying you learned back in fourth grade... You are what you eat? I've said for a long time that a much more accurate way to state this would actually be to say, "You are what you ate". In other words, while I very much promote healthy eating (HERE), I also know that it can take some real time to undo damage in your body --- much of that damage unseen (HERE is an example of "unseen" damage believed by the medical community to be "random") --- due to years of neglect and poor dietary habits. This is where your microbiome come in.
Your microbiome is the sum total of the bacteria living symbiotically in your body --- most particularly in your digestive tract (Gut). Your body contains about 10 times the number of bacteria as there are cells in your body, and these bacteria are said to carry 150 times more genetic information than the human genome. According to Dr. Donald Manning in a recent article for Practical Pain Management (You Are Your Microbiome), "the body can be considered a “super-organism” including all the human and microbial genomes working as an interacting whole". In other words, your Gut is its own unique ecosystem, and is intimately related to your health. We can start to see how GUT HEALTH is coming full-circle. Let me show you what I mean by sharing with you a recent article.
Dr. Manning graduated from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine with both MD / Ph.D degrees, and eventually became a Clinical Associate Professor of Anesthesiology at The University of Virginia, before leaving the practice of medicine for the Pharmaceutical Industry. He is now the Chief Medical Officer for a company called Adynxx (they make two drugs whose purpose is, "preventing the development of pain following surgery or trauma and resolving established chronic pain syndromes". Dr. Manning was chosen to deliver 2014's Keynote Address to the American Academy of Pain Management's Annual Clinical Meeting in Phoenix back in September.
In his address, Dr. Manning made the statement that, "The role of the gut microbiota is diverse" (stick around a for twenty seconds and I'll show you how diverse). He also talked at length about DYSBIOSIS --- the state in which bad bacteria overgrow the Gut and crowd out the good bacteria. The thing that's amazing is his list. Although not in a "list" format, Dr. Manning listed numerous aspects of health that he claims are directly tied to one's microbiome. These are mostly in the order he presented them in, and are backed up by the current peer-reviewed scientific literature.
- PROTECTS AGAINST PATHOGENS: We've always been taught to fear bacteria. Killing bacteria has always been good because although there might be a few "good" bacteria in your body, they are mostly nasty little critters that make you sick. However, we now know that 80% of your entire Immune System lives in your Gut (HERE) --- mostly in the form of bacteria. Furthermore, I have shown you in about three dozen articles that ANTIBIOTICS are one of the single worst things you could possibly do for your health because they destroy your microbiome, thereby destroying your Immune System.
- INVOLVED IN METABOLISM OF NUTRIENTS: The nutrients that are specifically mentioned by him include lipids (FATS and CHOLESTEROL), bile acids, and dietary fiber (HERE). The microbiome also happens to make a number of vitamins and neurotransmitters as well (HERE and HERE). For example, about 90% of the neurotransmitter Serotonin is made in the Gut.
- PROMOTES THE GUT BARRIER: I cannot begin to tell you how big a deal this is --- especially for those of you dealing with Chronic Pain or CHRONIC INFLAMMATORY DEGENERATIVE DISEASES. A failure to maintain the integrity of the Gut, leads to something that the medical community calls INCREASED INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY (the lay-person's name for this is Leaky Gut Syndrome). Chronic patients will almost always have a "Leaky Gut".
- MODULATES INTESTINAL MOTILITY: Too much motility and you have diarrhea. Too little motility and you have CONSTIPATION. Many people actually vacillate back and forth between both states. This is known as IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS).
- AID IN VISCERAL SENSORY REFLEXES: This just means that they help modulate pain or other sensations that arise from organs, glands, or blood vessels, and then travel to the spinal cord and brain.
- MODULATE SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL AND ANXIETY-LIKE BEHAVIORS AND AID IN BRAIN DEVELOPMENT: He specifically mentions behavioral disorders (Depression & Anxiety). If you have followed my blog you realize that there is a very strong link between IBS / Inflammatory Bowel Disease and DEPRESSION. In fact, if you go through my posts on Depression you'll find all sorts of ways they are linking this all-too-common problem to problems (Dysbiosis) in the microbiome (HERE).
- DYSBIOSIS LEADS TO A MULTITUDE OF HEALTH PROBLEMS: Although he barely scratches the surface, some that he mentions specifically by name are IBS and other GI (Gastrointestinal) issues, SKIN DISEASE, OBESITY, ALLERGIES, AUTOIMMUNE DISORDERS (HERE is a list) CANCER, and CHRONIC PAIN. Believe me when I tell you that he is just getting started. In the same way that almost every health problem imaginable is being tied back to BLOOD SUGAR, they are likewise being tied back to Dysbiosis.
- MODULATES INFLAMMATION: This is probably the most important point on the list because INFLAMMATION is at the root of every health problem mentioned on this page. Listen to what Dr. Manning says about Inflammation and the relationship to your microbiome. "A healthy gut with a diverse microbiome is essential for the development of a normal inflammatory pain response, Dr. Manning noted. If the GI system is populated with the wrong bacteria, there is an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines." What are CYTOKINES? Only the single largest component of what we call Inflammation.
Interestingly enough, Dr. Manning mentions (in a sort of read-between-the-lines manner) that drugs --- MANY DRUGS and not just ANTIBIOTICS --- work to destroy the microbiome. He mentions how SERIOUS THIS IS FOR CHILDREN. He discusses how it might take an entire year to restore the bacteria lost from just one round of Antibiotics (Dr. Blaser says some of these strains never return --- HERE). He even mentions that FECAL MICROBIOTA TRANSPLANTS (FMT), "have been shown to be highly effective at restoring the microbiota to a normal healthy state".
In short, Dr. Manning gave the group of pain management specialists something to think about. Frankly, it's refreshing to see someone with such impeccable credentials and high standing in the medical community discussing something so important --- and so disregarded. And while he mentioned PROBIOTICS as a solution to some of these problems, just remember that Probiotics alone will never solve hardcore health problems (HERE). The good news is that there are some things you can be doing to aid your microbiome and overall health as well. HERE is a place to start your research.
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