In today’s world, many things negatively impact our gut microbiome:
– Overuse of antibiotics – Poor diets – Lack of, or short-duration breastfeeding – Cesarean birth – Reduced contact with animals, dirt and environmental bacteria – Overuse of antibacterial soaps – Sedentary lifestyle and poor sleep habits
These negative factors can imbalance your microbiome, and lead to immune system imbalance.
Probiotics help repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria, and regulate the immune system, restoring balance.
Using three types of probiotics simultaneously usually gives the best clinical benefit.
Let’s discuss why probiotics are important. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need probiotics. However, today there are a number of factors that congeal to create a situation where probiotics do seem to offer benefit for many.
There’s more to this than just antibiotics. I think oftentimes we jump on antibiotics as being fully culpable. But there’s a litany of factors here, some of which are squarely within your control. These factors improve the health of you as the host for beneficial bacteria.
Let’s discuss the lead-up factors in your gut, and in the environment, that create the beneficial effect that probiotics have.
In This Episode…
Reasons for Widespread Gut Imbalances … 00:01:14 Antibiotics Overuse … 00:01:31 Cesarean Birth & Breastfeeding … 00:02:41 Poor Diet … 00:03:46 Sedentary Life & Poor Sleep Habits … 00:05:05 The Gut & Immune System Connection … 00:06:29 How Probiotics Help … 00:11:28 Probiotics Protocol … 00:12:34
I’ll put a diagram up here on the screen to kind of depict what we’ll talk through right now. Overuse of antibiotics is certainly one factor that does not help.
The earlier in life antibiotics are used, the more detrimental they tend to be. The adult microbiota, or the bacteria in an adult digestive system, seems more impervious to perturbations from antibiotics.
Now, with children and with infants, there is a time and a place for antibiotics, but we want to be very careful to not overuse them. Essentially, we want to try to use antibiotics sparingly in infants and children, because that seems to be when antibiotics have the highest degree of negative impact. In adults, this is less so. But neither of these scenarios really bode favorably for healthy intestinal bacterial function.
Cesarean Birth and Breastfeeding
Now, another factor is being born by cesarean birth, or being short-term breastfed, or not breastfed at all. The microbiota forms and develops predominantly by the second or third year of life. You get some while you’re developing in utero. However, when passing through your mother’s vaginal cavity, the child gets a fairly big dose of bacteria that helps colonize them with good bacteria. Breastfeeding, also.
If you were born by cesarean birth, or short-term or not breastfed at all, these are factors that also don’t help your microbiome. Now, some women need to have a C-section birth. That’s fine. Some women can’t breastfeed. That’s also fine. There are things that we can do to help buffer that.
Diets high in sugar and low in fiber also do not help. We want to stop eating processed foods, trans fats and added sugars, and aim for regular consumption of fruits and vegetables, and other healthy fats and meats.
Now, the evidence suggests that the health benefits of dietary fiber are overstated. They do help, but it seems that cutting out processed foods and moving toward a non-processed diet is where most of the benefit occurs. Some of the comparative studies looking at higher or lower fiber intakes show that as long as the diet is healthy, there doesn’t seem to be any consistent relationship showing that higher fiber leads to better health outcomes.
Lifestyle Habits That Affect Gut Health
Also, being sedentary and/or not having good sleep habits lead to decreased gut microbiome health. Sleep has been shown to impact your microbiota, as has exercise. In fact, we see when people have disruption to their sleep rhythm, the microbiota skews in an unhealthy direction. When sedentary people start exercising, and we track these subjects over time, we actually see improvements in their gut microbiome when they start exercising.
Your Gut Health Impacts Your Immune System
All these factors work together, and can create the perfect storm. When we have an unfavorable colonization of bad bacteria in the gut, this reduces proper development of your intestinal immune system. This is important because the immune system in your digestive system is likely the most dense cluster of immune cells in your entire body.
If there’s this overzealous immune system that hasn’t been well developed, the bacteria and the immune system oftentimes don’t get along.
Because your immune system is perhaps a primary source of inflammation in your body, this perfect storm looks like this: When you lack the beneficial bacteria to regulate your immune system, the immune system becomes overactive and attacks when it shouldn’t. Inflammation is the weapon your immune system uses to attack things it doesn’t like.
Gut Health Impact of Hygienic Practices
Excess hygiene practices, such as antibacterial soaps, coupled with less exposure to the natural environment may be a contributor to the increased prevalence of gut and immune health problems. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed a correlation between hygienic practices on the one axis, and increasing prevalence of autoimmune conditions on the other. And so, there does seem to be this correlation.
We may have swung too far in the hygienic direction, and we’re seeing this backlash of inflammatory conditions.
What we want to do is try to tip the scales back a little bit.
Benefits of Probiotics
One of the things that can help restore balance is probiotics, because probiotics can help retrain the immune system. Some of the probiotics research shows they reduced inflammatory cytokines in health conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), digestive symptoms, and leaky gut. Even some early, but promising research shows that certain autoimmune conditions—for example rheumatoid arthritis—may improve after the administration of probiotics, partly due to a reduction of inflammation.
Probiotics are certainly not a panacea, but they’re one method that can help take this kind of cascade inflammation that initiates from poor bacterial balance and colonization in the gut, and help balance out one of the major underlying causes of symptoms and health problems.
This is the heart of the health benefits of probiotics: they help treat the root cause of poor gut-immune system health, and they tend to not have side effects.
The basic recommendation is to use three different probiotics. There are essentially three different categorical types of probiotics, and it appears that patients do best when they use all three together. The analogy I use is a stool. We can’t balance on a one-legged stool, and we can’t balance the gut on a one-probiotic protocol. It seems that people experience higher degrees of benefit when they use all three types of probiotics at the same time.
I care about answering your questions and sharing my knowledge with you. Leave a comment or connect with me on social media asking any health question you may have and I just might incorporate it into our next listener questions podcast episode just for you!
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