Your gut’s influence over your health cannot be overstated. The microbes located in your microbiome have a significant impact on your appearance, mood, and thought process. Your gut is a major part of your body and has a big impact on your health. It makes up a large portion of your immune system, produces a lot of the neurotransmitter serotonin (which helps regulate mood), and contains ten times more bacterial cells than human cells.
You are, in truth, more bacteria than human. Research is finding that the microbiome has an impact on many areas of health.
If your microbiome is healthy, you’re probably in good health. Many health issues can be caused by lifestyle choices, exposure to toxins, and diet.
An imbalanced or weakened microbiome can cause a number of health problems throughout the body, not just gastrointestinal issues.
It is important to learn about the microbiome. If you take care of your health, you will be in control of your health. This is the ultimate guide to understanding and improving gut health.
Health Problems That are Triggered by Poor Gut Health
Your gut may be causing problems even if you don’t have any of the typical gut symptoms. This is because the gut controls many areas of health. There are many health problems that your gut can influence.
- Autoimmune conditions
As of now, there are around 100 recognized autoimmune conditions and about 40 other diseases that may be caused by an autoimmune reaction. Since most of your immune system resides in your gut, it is not surprising that a damaged microbiome and leaky gut syndrome are preconditions for autoimmunity.
- Mental health disorders
The gut-brain axis is the connection between your gut and your brain. Because of this connection, your gut is sometimes called “the second brain.” An unhealthy microbiome has been linked to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
- Poor immune health
An overactive immune system is not the only thing that can suppress immunity. There are also gut-related issues that can cause suppressed immunity. If you are regularly sick, you should work to improve the health of your microbiome. An imbalanced microbiome is often the cause of a chronically low immune system. This is because an overgrowth of opportunistic bacteria, yeast, fungus, or parasites can occur, which weakens the immune system.
- Heart disease
Researchers have discovered a possible connection between the microbiome and heart disease. There are certain bacteria in the gut that produce TMAO, which has been linked to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. The microorganism that produces high levels of TMAO is still unknown, but researchers are hoping that they can use the microbiome to prevent and treat heart disease in the future.
- Type II diabetes
A recent study has found that people with this chronic degenerative disease tend to have microbiome disturbances. One study found that the microbiome of diabetic mice could be transplanted into healthy mice, which would then make the healthy mice diabetic.
- Skin conditions
All skin problems have a microbiome and inflammatory-autoimmune connection. For many people, improving their skin health requires improving the health of their microbiome.
- Weight gain and obesity
Weight gain and obesity have been linked to an imbalance of bacteria in the microbiome. Researchers found that overweight mice had a higher number of the Firmicutes bacteria, while thin mice had a higher proportion of the Bacteroidetes bacteria. The bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus was found to have a positive effect on weight loss in women. The microbiome may be a key factor for many people seeking to lose weight their body has been holding on to for years.
- Acid reflux and GERD
A lot of people have either acid reflux or GERD, which has been linked to a gut problem called SIBO.
A recent study from the University of North Carolina found that damage and inflammation to the gut can significantly reduce the number of bacterial species in the microbiome. The decrease in microbiome diversity resulted in an increase of E. coli bacteria. Colorectal cancer was developed in eighty percent of mice that had an E. coli infection. There is evidence to suggest that there is a connection between cancer and the microbiome, and it is expected that researchers will find more evidence to support this theory.
- Asthma and chronic sinus infections
An imbalance in the microbiome bacteria and an overgrowth of Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum was shown to be a frequent underlying cause for asthma and chronic rhinosinusitis.
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
One study found that constipated patients had significantly lower levels of the bacteria Prevotella and increased levels of Firmicutes. Although the conventional probiotics, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, were not decreased in the microbiomes of the constipated patients, this does not suggest that supplementing with these is the solution to that issue.
What causes poor gut health?
Our microbiomes are all unique, similar to a fingerprint. However, there are certain elements that can cause problems for the majority of us. The top lifestyle and medical contributors to an unhealthy gut are poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress.
- Poor diet
How you view food can either help or hinder your health. Foods can cause disease by damaging the balance of the microbiome. Processed foods and sugary foods are most likely to cause damage to the gut because they feed the more pathogenic types of bacteria. However, even healthy foods can cause gut damage if you have an intolerance to them. Grains contain amylose sugars that “bad” bacteria and fungi consume, which contributes to inflammation. There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to diet, as it depends on your individual microbiome, genetics, and lifestyle.
- Gut-meddling medications
Although many people use medication unnecessarily, it may be necessary in some cases. side effects from even helpful medications can be harsh, so it is important to educate yourself on what they are before taking them. A weakened intestinal barrier is a common side effect of both prescription and over-the-counter medications. In other words, medications can make your gut more permeable, leading to “leaky gut syndrome.” A few of the most notorious culprits:
- Antibiotics can save lives, but frequent use and overuse of these drugs kill gut bacteria without distinguishing between good and bad. With more good guys gone, pathogenic bacteria and fungi can take over, especially if you are not making efforts to restore the balance through probiotic supplements or fermented foods.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, relieve pain by blocking the enzyme cyclo-oxygenase, but this also inhibits it from doing its important job of protecting your stomach from the corrosive effects of its acid. The result can be an increase in intestinal inflammation and consequent permeability. Research estimates that 65 percent of people who consistently use NSAIDs have intestinal inflammation and 30 percent have ulcers. If left unchecked, gut permeability can trigger an autoimmune response.
- Chronic stress
When you constantly experience high levels of stress, the primary stress hormone- cortisol- can damage your gut. Chronic stress can cause gut inflammation by affecting the gut-brain axis.
- Alcohol overuse
A glass of wine once in a while will not have a big impact on your gut, unless you are already experiencing inflammation or gut dysfunction. However, even the healthiest people can have their intestines irritated by consistent alcohol consumption, as well as suppressing the hormones that protect against inflammation and gut permeability.
The negative impact of gluten is now well-documented, but in a few years I believe research will confirm the similar, possibly even worse, negative impact of all grains – including those that are gluten-free. The high amount of amylose sugars in grains can cause inflammation, while anti-nutrients such as lectins and phytates bind to the intestines and make nutrients inactive. When refined, grains have a low nutrient density compared to the calories they contain, which can cause damage to your gut and overall health.
- Autoimmune conditions
Chronic inflammation can damage the gut lining, allowing undigested food and toxic by-products of digestion to enter the bloodstream. When your body perceives invaders, it mounts an attack which increases levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. These cytokines destroy your gut lining, creating a cycle of inflammation.
- Hormone imbalances
Faulty hormone levels can impede the healing of gut damage. This can lead to a leaky gut syndrome, as the chronic inflammation in the gut lining damages it, causing it to become more permeable. The reason you may not be able to heal may be due to hormones. Many people need to focus on balancing their hormones in order to heal their gut successfully.
- Imbalanced blood sugar
A diet that is high in carbohydrates or that leads to insulin resistance can also cause compounds known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs) to increase. This can damage the gut and other tissues, leading to accelerated aging.
- Neurological problems
Your gut and brain are forever linked. You and your twin were formed from the same fetal tissue while you were both growing in your mother’s womb. The gut-brain axis is a connection that continues throughout your life, bonding you and your gut together. This bond between the brain and gut can lead to a number of problems, including depression, anxiety, autism, ADHD, stress, and dementia. These problems can then lead to leaky gut syndrome.
My Gut Health Timeline
I began having Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms in 2011 but they were intermittent and largely manageable…mostly they were annoying but not debilitating.
My gut health started to get worse in 2015 and then got a lot worse in 2017. It was at its worst in 2018. I was in the middle of a breakup, writing a cookbook, over-exercising and under-eating, and constantly stressed.
I reacted badly to almost everything I ate, especially foods high in FODMAPs. I had constant smells of gas that were really bad, constipation that kept happening, low energy, depression, acne, athlete’s foot that wouldn’t go away, and sometimes hives.
When my gut health was poor, I was too afraid to leave my house. An individual with a chronic illness likely experiences a great deal of fear due to their condition.
I spent 2016 through 2018 researching how to heal myself through food and lifestyle changes by trial and error. I was determined to figure it out on my own, no matter how long it took.
I went to an integrative health doctor during this time, but we never uncovered the source of my symptoms. Our efforts to improve my gut health were minimal. I’ve tried a lot of things to improve my health, including special diets, natural antibiotics, celery juice, coffee enemas, and colonics. The more I tried, the worse I got.
I realized that I couldn’t figure out my gut issues by myself, so I decided to make 2019 the year of the doctor. It took many attempts to find the right practitioner, but I got in contact with Dena Norton in July 2019 and it has all been improving since then. She was the person who developed the gut healing protocol I used to get back to health.
My Gut Healing Protocol
Dena developed a protocol to help heal my gut. I am being vague so that no one tries my protocol without working with a medical professional. Everyone’s microbiome and healing process are unique. I’m still taking the same supplements I started taking during the “kill-off” phase, to support my gut while it heals.
- Antibiotics to kill blastocystis hominis and h. Pylori. I used Praziquantel which is commonly prescribed for blasto and some other parasites. Again, I went the pharmaceutical route instead of using natural antimicrobials.
- Probiotics to restore my gut flora.
- GI Revive – a combination of L-Glutamine, marshmallow root, and slippery elm to heal my leaky gut. This supplement has been truly transformative for healing my gut.
- Omega 3 fish pills
- Beef gelatin (I put it in my matcha every morning) to help heal leaky gut
- Iron Supplement to bring up my ferritin levels.
- Digestive Enzymes and Ox Bile with every meal, to help break down protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
- Magnesium to support good digestion, sleep, and hormone health.
- Electrolytes for hydration and brain health. I didn’t realize I was chronically dehydrated until I started adding electrolytes to my water and instantly had more energy and focus.
- Colostrum to boost my Secretory IgA levels. I use colostrum derived from goat milk because I find I tolerate goat dairy better than cow’s dairy.
- Low-inflammatory diet, moderate exercise, avoiding the foods I’m sensitive to.
Notice the last part is last for a reason. It is important to have a good diet and to exercise, but if there is a parasitic or bacterial infection, it may be very difficult to get rid of the infection with diet and exercise alone, depending on how severe the infection is.