Hippocrates, also referred to as, “The Father of Modern Medicine” was aware that the gut played a much larger role in overall health and the progress of disease than doctors of his time (and many of our time) were aware.
Even though there are many medical discoveries attributed to Hippocrates, one of his most important may have been when he said, “all disease begins in the gut,” but does it? Could our microbiome be the key to our health after all? (Not sure what the heck your microbiome is? This article will help clarify!)
With the vastness and deep complexities of the microbiome, gut health, and microflora it is an interesting topic to be following right now, father of medicine or not.
Your gut is made up of the small and large intestine and is filled with its very own ecosystem. The microbiome is one of the most diverse and intricate parts of the body that has – up until recently – not been widely studied. That is until the Human Microbiome Project began in 2008, which blew the lid on this whole “gut health” thing.
We are finally starting to put together the pieces of the puzzle Hippocrates left behind for us years ago, which is why gut health is becoming the topic of many articles and research projects today.
There is a lot left to learn about the gut, how it works as an ecosystem, its importance in health, and what is involved in keeping it in tip-top shape. But, the general consensus is, yes, your gut does hold to key to your overall health.
Gut flora can control weight, hormone fluctuations, food cravings, certain disease triggers, immune system function, and much much more.
What’s Bugs Got to do, Got to do With it?
The fact is, many people overlook their gastrointestinal system’s health even when it plays such an important role in health. With the microbiome’s control over trillions of health-determining bacteria, the gut protects us against infection, supports metabolism, and also promotes good digestion and elimination.
Unfortunately, many people live in a state of dysbiosis where the ratio of good bacteria is outnumbered by bad bacteria in their gut. Dysbiosis is typically due to poor diet, stress, environmental toxins, alcohol and drug use, antibiotic usage, and the over-prescription of prescription drugs.
When the gut flora becomes imbalanced you become more susceptible to leaky gut syndrome also known as intestinal permeability. For some this could mean illnesses that are harmless – yet, still annoying – such as heartburn, bloating, or excess gas. But, for some, dysbiosis could lead to more serious conditions such as chronic inflammation of the joints or skin, as well as autoimmune diseases, allergies, GI distress, and mood disorders.
So, what health issues are being linked to the gut and the microbiome? Well, let’s begin here:
Parkinson’s is a disease of the brain and nervous system and is believed to originate in the brain and is linked to a difference in chemical makeup. Which, makes sense, since it is a condition that targets you know, the brain.
So, what the heck does the gut have to do with it?
Well, your gut actually “talks” to your brain. Your gut is very good at communicating with the brain, and it does communicate with it quite a lot. Actually, some recent studies show that patients with Parkinson’s disease have abnormal gut bacteria populations. This could mean big things for people who are more susceptible to Parkinson’s disease (or for those who know it runs in the family). As the research develops, specific probiotics, prebiotics, and diet may be the cure to this life-altering disease.
Fibromyalgia is a common pain syndrome with about 2 to 4% of the population affected. Pain is what distinguishes this disease. Wherever you carry stress – shoulders, neck, back and hips, even thighs, arms, the rib cage, and chest – there is chronic pain. In recent studies, a correlation between small intestine bacterial growth (SIBO) and fibromyalgia has been identified. With a leaky intestinal lining, toxins from the bacteria itself permeate the stomach leading to a number of diseases including fibromyalgia.
Recently, it was found that cardiovascular disease and microbiome may have some correlation as certain bacteria can produce higher levels of the trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO is connected to the higher risk of stroke and heart attack.TMAO is a bacteria that is created within the gut after the ingestion of red meat, red meat has long been touted as the reason for heart disease.
But, until now the gut and microbiota link was not fully understood. Healing the gut could be the link we need to reducing cardiovascular distress and disease.
Skin conditions such as eczema, acne, dermatitis, and psoriasis all have an inflammatory, autoimmune, and microbiome component. Thus, is natural for skin problems to be linked to abnormal gut bacteria population and the presence of fungus and candida. Thankfully, for many, the key to their chronic skin issues is to heal their gut and balance their microbiome.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type II diabetes is a chronic degenerative disease that quite a number of people, young and old, across the world currently suffer from. Recently, diabetes has been linked with disturbances in the microbiome.
The gut is in control of certain biomarkers and the bacteria lying within your gut may actually be the reason one develops Type 2 Diabetes or avoids it altogether. In many cases of Type 2 Diabetes, there is a decrease in one specific gut bacteria, Akkermania Muciniphila – your new, hard to pronounce, best friend.
In a recent study, it is noted that damage to the gut decreases a significant number of bacterial species in the microbiota. The loss of the diversity in the microbiome is said to be one of the reasons for E.coli’s overgrowth. E.coli is a rather nasty bacteria that has been linked to the development of colorectal cancer. The lack of some bacteria can play a large role in inflammation which has its own role in cancer development.
Alternatively, there has also been some research done on specific bacteria and their ability to slow down the growth of tumors.
Asthma plagues many people within the US, for some, chronically. It has been found that one of the frequent causes of chronic asthma, as well as chronic rhinosinusitis, is the overgrowth of Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum.
In addition to that, there is also the microbiome bacteria’s dysbiosis that is found to frequently cause asthma and sinus infections. Gut bacteria play a large role in inflammation and how our bodies respond to outsiders (such is the case for asthma related to allergies).
Gut bacteria is linked to a number of illnesses and medical conditions, so it is not surprising that it has also been correlated with chronic fatigue. Chronic fatigue is an ailment that affects about a million of Americans with more women complaining about extreme fatigue, joint pain, and difficulty sleeping than men.
Though there’s a considerable number of people affected, very few understand what to attribute their extreme fatigue to as it’s difficult to diagnose. Scientists are beginning to explore the relationship between intestinal bacteria and chronic fatigue.
In some studies, the results show that a significant number of patients with chronic fatigue have high quantities and species of intestinal bacteria. This indicates that abnormal intestinal bacteria have a considerable link to chronic fatigue syndrome.
Diarrhea and Constipation
The microbiome is located in the gut so, there is no surprise that constipation, diarrhea and other stomach issues (such as IBS and Chrons disease) have high relation to intestinal bacteria.
In one study, it has been found that constipated patients have lower amounts of Prevotella bacteria while having increased amounts of Firmicutes. These intestinal bacteria can play a large role in whether you have chronic tummy issues or not.
Obesity and Weight Gain
Studies have shown that bacteria imbalance in the microbiota causes obesity and weight gain. In a study, the Firmicutes bacteria are found to be of high levels in those with overweight.
On the other hand, those that are thin have higher levels of Bacteroidetes bacteria, specifically Akkermansia. These are bacteria species that have a direct link to weight gain/loss.
I mean, are you surprised? The microbiome has a significant effect on the immune system as 80% of your immunity lies within the gut. That being the case, if you are constantly getting sick then you can assume that there might be a problem with your microbiome’s health.
If you have weak microbiome health and overgrown opportunistic bacteria, it could affect your immune system’s health and in turn, your ability to fight off even the common cold. But, your unhealthy microbiome can affect much more than just your immunity. It can also alter your moods, your digestion, your weight, and your hormones.
There has been increasing rise in the cases of autoimmune diseases. Right now, there are about 100 autoimmune conditions that have been recognized. With about 80% of immune system residing in the intestine, a damaged microbiome and a leaky gut can very well lead to an autoimmune condition.
Anxiety and Depression
Studies have shown that microbiota plays a direct role in the chemistry of the brain. 90% of your serotonin is created in the gut by specific microbes. If you are lacking in those microbes, you are lacking in serotonin (the happy hormone).
You actually have a second brain residing in your gut called your ENS. The ENS is two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining your gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum. These nerve endings control everything from the butterflies in your stomach, to that “gut feeling”, to your current emotional status. So, if you have an unhealthy tummy, you will be pretty unhappy as well.
Phew! That was a lot. But, isn’t a little more clear now why the gut is so dang important?
Gut Health, the Key After all
These are just some of the diseases found and suspected to be linked with damaged microbiome. The research and science coming to light about all of these diseases is pointing to the gut for not only disease origination, but also for the cures.
Since the microbiome is responsible for such a number of bodily functions – controlling enzymes, hormones, and even biomarkers, it is not surprising that gut health is linked to all of these common diseases. In the end, I guess disease begins in the gut after all.
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