Is Your Microbiome Wrecking Your Health? A Functional Medicine Expert Explains




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This article was written by NGI friend and guest instructor, Dr. Will Cole. Dr. Cole graduated from Southern California University of Health Sciences in Los Angeles, California. He has his post doctorate education and training in Functional Medicine and Clinical Nutrition through The Institute for Functional Medicine and Functional Medicine University. He consults in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area and provides phone or webcam consultations for people around the world. He specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors of and customizing health programs for chronic conditions such as thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, and digestive disorders.

Read on for a taste of Dr. Cole’s expertise as he explains connection between the gut and one’s overall health.

The microbiome refers to the trillions of bacteria in your gut. In fact, with 100 trillion microbes compared to 10 trillion human cells in your body, you are more bacteria than human! If you laid out one trillion dollar bills next to each other, they would extend from the earth to the sun and then back again with miles to spare. Just imagine that done 100 times to get an idea of what is living inside of you.

It’s no wonder that a majority of cases I see as a functional medicine doctor almost always have an underlying gut health component. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said it best thousands of years ago, “All disease begins in the gut.” Science is finally catching up with antiquity.

Even seemingly unrelated health issues all stem from microbiome dysfunctions such as SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and leaky gut syndrome. If the diversity of your microbiome is lacking good bacteria, your health will be lacking as well. It’s important to note that you can still have gut problems without traditional gastrointestinal problems. Here are just a few ways your gut diversity impacts all aspects of your health.

Autoimmune Conditions

Autoimmune diseases have been rapidly on the rise over the last century. There are close to 100 known autoimmune conditions and 40 others that have an autoimmune component. Once you realize that about 80% of your immune system is located in your gut, it becomes less of a shock that microbiome dysfunctions play a role in these health problems.

Weight Gain and Weight Loss Resistance

An imbalance of bacteria can lead to a struggle to keep pounds off and weight gain. Studies have shown that mice who have a higher amount of Firmicutes bacteria were overweight while smaller mice had a higher amount of Bacteroidetes. On the other hand, having a healthy amount of Lactobacillus rhamnosus was helpful for women trying to lose weight.

Mental Health Problems

Brain fog, anxiety, and depression have all been linked to microbiome dysfunctions. In fact, your gut is often referred to as “the second brain” due to the gut-brain axis.

What is next?

Run Labs
Finding out what you are up against is the best way to determine your next steps. A great way to do this is to have functional medicine labs run to find out what kind of damage has been done to your gut. You can see if you have any bacterial overgrowths or if you are battling leaking gut syndrome. Some labs to consider are:

  • Zonulin and Occludin Antibodies: These are the proteins that govern gut permeability. Antibodies could indicate damage to the intestinal tight junctions.
  • Actomyosin Antibodies: This could indicate that there was destruction of healthy gut lining.
  • Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) Antibodies: LPS are bacterial endotoxins in your gut. If these antibodies are found in your blood, it could indicate leaky gut syndrome.

Change Your Diet
Consider what foods in your diet may be feeding microbiome imbalances or may be contributing to gut damage such as gluten, sugar, dairy, or legumes. Finding out what your body loves and hates is important in order to thrive. What works for one person may not work for another, even when it comes to eating healthy foods. An elimination diet is a great way to determine what your body needs.

Bring in Healing Food Medicines
Specific foods have powerful healing properties when it comes to repairing a damaged gut. Some of my favorites include:

  • Bone Broth: Abundant in fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, it helps boost your overall immune health and digestion. Plus, it is rich in gelatin, which can heal your gut from the inside out.
  • Fermented Foods: Kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha all provide your gut with additional beneficial bacteria. These help rebuild and restore healthy bacteria levels that have been destroyed by leaky gut syndrome.
  • Coconut Oil: This is another superfood no one should be without. The healthy saturated fats are an integral part of healing your gut. Lauric, capric and caprylic acids found in coconut oil have been found to have antimicrobial, anti-fungal, and antiviral properties.
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