Microbiome: Part 2

May 13, 2020


Heather Maddox, MD

If all disease begins in the gut, then that is where the healing should begin…Right?? It makes sense to us, which is why if someone has signs of an unhealthy gut we work to restore and repair their GI tract.

Before we dive into how to improve the gut, first let’s take a deeper look at what things can disrupt, deplete, and degrade our microbiome…

Just as our coral reefs and oceans have felt the effects of industrialization, so too has our microbiome.

Things that damage the microbiome:

  • Toxins that we eat, breathe and absorb
  • Medications we take including antibiotics and other commonly used drugs such as Ibuprofen.
  • The amounts of stress we are under.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Poor nutritional quality and variety in our food supply.
  • The depletion of soil nutrients to name a few.

What Can We Do to Support our Microbiome?
Proper nutrition has the most powerful effect on our microbiome. What we eat influences both the population of gut microflora and their metabolic activity.
We need to maintain both a strong diversity but also give them the supplies they need to do their jobs. This helps them to sustain life within us but also keeps us healthy in the process. It is a beautiful, intricate relationship that is mutually beneficial. Unfortunately, only about 25% of a typical Western diet is of any help to our microbes. They are trying to function on limited resources, and our health is paying the price for it.

The good news is that there is a way to change this. The best way to improve the health of your microbiome is to eat whole foods, plant-based diet. Eating more vegetables of all different colors…think “eat the rainbow”. Other beneficial foods including fruits, fermented foods, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds can help increase both the number and species of healthy organisms in the gut.

It is important to eat mainly organic foods to avoid exposure to pesticides like glyphosate that can injure and even kill your good bacteria. You also want to avoid fish high in mercury (“Seafood Watch” is a good resource), and meat products containing any hormones or antibiotics. Grass-fed, organic animal products are best.

One key player in the disappearance of key microbial species has been the overuse of antibiotics. Don’t get me wrong, antibiotic therapy has saved thousands of lives. However, relying on them for treatment of the common cold and other viral infections has had a significant impact on the microbiome. They are often collateral damage when we take antibiotics. Limiting the use of antibiotics can help avoid the unnecessary killing of the good guys. If you do have to be on an antibiotic, try to avoid one that is considered “broad-spectrum”. These tend to have more of an impact than narrow-spectrum antibiotics.
If antibiotics are necessary, taking an over-the-counter probiotic like Florastor while on the antibacterial agent and for at least a month after can help mitigate the damage.

Another way to keep your tiny intestinal friends healthy is to avoid using harmful chemicals on our skin. Now, most people don’t mean to nor want to use toxic beauty products but end up doing so without even knowing it. It has been found the average woman applies an astonishing 515 synthetic chemicals on her skin daily and 60% of all products applied are absorbed…scary huh?!?

To avoid toxic chemical exposure try to keep skin, hair, and nail products to a minimum and definitely avoid ones that contain phthalates and parabens. A good resource for checking where your current beauty products stand is www.ewg.org.

There are several popular classes of medications that are over the counter and often taken on a daily basis that can damage the microbiome. These include NSAIDs (Ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve, Naprosyn, and Mobic) as well as anti-reflux medications like Prilosec and Nexium. Fortunately, there are many natural anti-inflammatories and remedies to help reduce pain and reflux symptoms that can be explored to avoid chronic use of potentially harmful medications. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory that is free of side effects or drug interactions.

The good news is that we can develop a more healthy relationship with our long-time healthy bacterial friends. With the help of functional medicine, a gut restoration protocol can be utilized to help heal, support, and revitalize your microbiome.

Please schedule a complimentary 20-minute phone call to explore if your microbiome may be having an impact on your health.