Gut Biome and YOU
Nutrition versus Vitaminology
There is much information, misinformation, conjecture, good science, bad science and inaccurate beliefs currently surrounding the role of bacteria in the human gut. Information changes frequently and this writing is an attempt to make common sense of this complex subject. We will hear exaggerated claims such as the gut is 80% of your immune system and the gut is the second brain. Just as gut health affects the entire body, many other systems throughout the body in turn affect gut health. Following discussion will be all too simple but it represents a basic starting point for an understanding of gut rehabilitation.
The current estimates are that 500 to 1000 different species of microorganisms live in the human gut. As an illustration of the complexity of the body, it is currently thought about 10,000 different microorganisms inhabit the human body in total. This includes areas other than the gut such as skin, mouth and so on. For this discussion we are only interested in the human intestinal tract.
The human adult is thought to possess about 30-40 trillion cells. Various estimates place the intestinal count at a population of about an equal number consisting of bacteria, viruses, yeasts and other fungi. The total genetic code of this population is thought to be 150 times greater than that of the total genetic code of the human body! We have a huge and diverse population living in our intestines. These microorganisms are essential to our function including the production of certain B vitamins and vitamin K.
Starting with yogurt commercials a few decades ago, promoters of probiotics have been hocking their products extensively. My next statement is extremely unpopular among those product endorsers. According to the research, it appears that quite frequently the ingestion of probiotics really does not change the gut biome. Changes can be measured while ingesting the probiotics but when you stop taking them, it appears that your unique gut population goes back to its previous state. Why is this?
In a simplistic linear look at the microbial population in the intestines, one might conclude that eating more of these bacteria in tablets or capsules is the thing to do. Others promote a bite or two of sauerkraut or pickles with meals. Does it make sense that a few morsels of food would have a significant impact upon the trillions of inhabitants in the intestines? According to many experts, the answer lies in the environment, not just the microbes. Let us consider the following analogy:
Let us say you want to raise chickens and you have an incubator for the chicken eggs. You also have an even mixture of snake eggs in with the chicken eggs. This is analogous to an imbalance in the gut flora. Now let us further imagine that the temperature setting on the incubator is too low. Chickens favor a warmer temperature and snakes a lower one. Because of the lower temperatures, as the eggs hatch the snakes outnumber the chickens. Furthermore, the snakes can also feed on the chicken eggs. The result is less chickens. To mimic the probiotic ingestion scenario, we keep putting more and more chicken eggs into the incubator. If we do so, the net result will be more chickens as long as more chicken eggs are supplemented, but we really have not fixed the root problem, the growing environment.
The problem in the human intestines is often quite the same. Instead of adding more and more supplementary bacteria, it can be far more effective to correct the sustaining conditions.
The factors involved in producing the proper gut environment can be many and varied. Factors that favor the so-called bad bacteria will allow their population to grow in detriment of the good guys. For example, certain undesirable entities feed off of poorly digested proteins. Under those circumstances the digestive insufficiencies of the stomach and/or pancreas provide a favored food source, partially digested proteins, to these undesirables.
This is similarly true for undesirable opportunistic microbes that feed on poorly digested carbohydrates. If carbohydrate digestion is insufficient, certain undesirable, opportunistic organisms have some of their favorite foods and will grow and multiply accordingly. The same is true for undigested fats including the organs responsible such as liver, gallbladder and pancreas. In difficult gut dysfunctions, it may be essential to understand which undesirables are over growing and address the deficient part of digestive system.
Another huge factor is the pH of the large intestines which is supposed to be acidic. While this is not true for every organ and system of the body, most parts are required to be acidic in nature for optimal function. This is particularly true for the large intestines where a predominant species of organisms called acidophilus is prevalent. Acidophilus is literally translated from Latin into acid loving. If we want to permanently heal the gut we must acidify.
This is not always as easy as it sounds. Food entering the body goes to the stomach where the acid is quite strong. However, upon reaching the small intestines it has to be converted into an alkaline environment for the proper digestion of carbohydrates. After entering the large intestines, acidification must again occur. It sounds like tricky business, it is. However, there are simple solutions. Basically, we feed the good guys and establish a hospitable environment for the beneficial flora.
It is believed by some experts that everyone can benefit from a reset of their intestinal biome. Possibly even every decade or so but most definitely after a round of any antibiotics. Primary supplement is called Lactic Acid Yeast by Standard Process. The primary ingredient is the yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is a normal inhabitant of the gut. Some readers will recoil from the concept of ingesting yeast, however there are quite a number of yeast and fungus entities that are essential to the intestinal biome. The research of Dr. David Williams identified this product as particularly effective in reestablishing normal gut function. Lactic Acid Yeast, as the name implies, produces lactic acid. Not only does this help acidify the gut, as it should be, but also produces the food source (lactic acid) that is preferred by many of the beneficial microbes. Therefore, when the colony of Lactic Acid Yeast is sufficient, it has a self-sustaining function. It will continue to acidify and provide the proper food for the beneficial organisms.
Another valuable product is Prebiotic Inulin, also by Standard Process. This supplement is primarily made up of chicory. This fibrous nutrient is another preferred food source of beneficial microorganisms. In this case the good guys are being fed that they can establish their colony at the expense of the competition that will be eventually greatly outnumbered.
The program is continued for 3 to 4 months and will do much to restore the microbial balance in a majority of persons. The exceptions will be those with particularly nasty pathogens, at which time additional measures may be needed. To specifically tailor a treatment program to a severe problem, mapping of the individual biome through stool sampling may be required. The simple combination of Lactic Acid Yeast and Prebiotic Inulin can be so effective that it is often recommended as the first place to start for gut issues. If satisfactory results are not achieved, then further testing and specialized treatment programs can be designed.
Gut Biome Reset
The importance of the bacteria population of the human gut has been widely publicized in the past few years. Early estimates of a 10 to 1 ratio of bacteria in the body to the total cells of the body have been refuted by more recent research. The average sized person is thought to have approximately 3.8×10 to the 13th power number of bacteria. This is approximately equivalent to the total number of cells in the body. These bacteria in total weigh 4-5 pounds.
The number and the concentrations of the various bacteria are essential for human functioning and health. Current analysis techniques are demonstrating that we have a wide array of both beneficial and destructive bacteria living in the colon. Research also shows that probiotics can change the proportions of the gut flora for a couple of days up to 1 to 2 weeks. They are not a permanent solution because they do not alter the growing environment.
The ideal environment for the beneficial bacteria is dependent upon factors such as pH, digestion and the proper nutrient sources for them to grow normally. The effective Trophotherapy program feeds the beneficial bacteria and seeks to normalize the intestinal environment.
Antibiotics, chemical additives and refine diets all contribute to the destruction of the normal human biome. Since virtually all of us have been exposed to these assaults at least once and probably numerous times in our life, a biome reset this recommended for virtually all persons interested in optimal health. The program is recommended for 3 to 4 months. At that time, it is a good possibility that the intestinal environment has been permanently reset barring assaults such as antibiotic therapy.
Biome Reset Protocol – A Basic Protocol
Lactic Acid Yeast – 2 to 4 per meal. This product provides the normal gut flora that produce lactic acid. Lactic acid is an important food source for the beneficial bacteria.
Prebiotic Inulin – 2 to 3 scoops daily. This provides a nutrient fiber from chicory that is a preferred food source for beneficial bacteria.
Gut Flora Complex – 4 to 6 per day if a pathogenic over growth is present.
A more comprehensive program may be also considered as outlined in the Standard Process/ MediHerb, GI Flora Balancing Program – A Six-Week Protocol to Support Gastrointestinal Health.
The above protocols are frequently effective for many individuals with lower gastrointestinal symptoms and conditions. If this program does not achieve the desired results or for problematic cases and those who wish to engage in a thorough gut biome reset, the full program from Standard Process should be seriously considered. Stubborn and severe conditions may require the tailored approach as determined through stool sample testing and consultation with a knowledgeable practitioner to design a treatment program.