Hurt your gut microbes, you hurt yourself

Very often patients are told, Eat anything you like. No need to “pantang”. Food has nothing to do with your sickness. Well, that advice is only sensible if you regard that your body as nothing more than a machine.

Dr. Emeran Mayer (in The Mind-Gut Connection) wrote:

  • “For decades, our understanding of the digestive system was based on the machine model of the entire body. I viewed the gut mostly as an old-fashioned device that functioned according to the principles of the nineteenth-century steam engine.”
  • “We ate, chewed and swallowed our food, then our stomach broke it down with mechanical grinding forces assisted by concentrated hydrochloric acid before dumping the homogenised food paste into the small intestine, which absorbed calories and nutrients and sent the undigested food into the large intestine, which disposed of what remained by excreting it.”
  • “This industrial-age metaphor … influenced generations of doctors, including today’s gastroenterologists and surgeons. According to this view, the digestive tract’s malfunctioning parts can easily be bypassed or removed.”
  • “… this model is overly simplistic … we now know that … our digestive system is much more delicate, complex and powerful than we once assumed.”
  • “Recent studies suggest that in close interactions with its resident microbes, the gut can influence our basic emotions, our pain sensitivity and our social interactions … reflected in the concept of gut-brain axis … the complex communication between the gut and the brain plays a role when we make some of our most important life decisions.”

So here it goes, the new science shows that the gut is not just a “physical tube” — like a dead water pipe that brings tap water to our house! What is more, the gut is another dynamic, living, powerful and intelligent “organ” which plays a great role in maintaining our health and well being.

  • “The major role your microbes play in essential jobs such as digestion, elimination, and gut health is just the tip of the iceberg. Microbes are also the main defenders of your health.”
  • “The immune cells residing in your guts make up the largest component of your body’s immune system — in other words there are more immune cells living in the wall of your gut than circulating in the blood or residing in your bone marrow.”
  • “The lining of your gut is studded with a large number of endocrine cells — specialised cells that contain up to twenty different types of hormones that can be released into the stream if called upon.”
  • “The gut is also the largest storage facility for serotonin in our body. … (where) ninety-five percent of the body’s serotonin is stored. Serotonin is a signaling molecule that plays a crucial role within the gut-brain axis.”
  • “You and your microbes coexist in … a mutually symbiotic relationship. Your existence depends upon them and their existence depends on you. Certain microbes protect you from other microbes that would harm you. The “good” microbes defend you because you and they are in a symbiotic relationship. The deal is that you feed them and they protect you… they even communicate their happiness by making the most of the feel-good hormones such as serotonin, for you.”
  • “However, if you alter this relationship, the roles can change. Drive off the good microbes or bring bad microbes in, and it’s as though gang members have taken over your pleasant neighbourhood… As long as the good bugs are in the majority, you should be in good shape, but when the bad guys dominate, problem prevail. Fostering the right mix of microbes is essential to restoring health and preventing diseases.”

From the above, it is clear that microbes in our gut play a vital role in influencing our body functions. According to this new science humans are closely interconnected with the microbes and they are inseparable and dependent on each other for survival. Therefore, it is important that we take good care of our gut. Take note that the well-being of our gut microbes depends on the food we eat and our life style. Unfortunately in this so called modern age, what we do and what we eat tend to hurt our gut microbes which also means it hurts us badly. Here are some examples of what we do that can hurt the good microbes in our guts.

  1. Modern diet makes you fat and sick!

“Some microbes help keep you slim and healthy. Other gut bugs contribute to weight gain. Some other bugs that make you sick … making you crave the foods that they need — namely sugars, fats, junk foods and fast foods… You must feed the good microbes what they need to thrive, while simultaneously eliminating sugar and other foods on which bad microbes feast.”

  1. Dangers of medical drugs. 

Many patients who came to seek our help brought along the medications which were prescribed by their doctors after being discharged from the hospitals. Some were told to take 6 to as many as 17 drugs each day. I shook my head in despair, real pathetic. There is a common saying, Doctors know how to treat your illness, but they don’t know how to make you healthy! 

Try, go and see your GP with some health problems — even a minor one. More often than not you will be prescribed antibiotics and/or pain killer! It looks like this is a given when visiting your doctor!

A new study from Mayo Clinic researchers shows that seven out of 10 Americans take at least one prescription drug. The most commonly prescribed drug is antibiotics — taken by 17 percent of Americans — followed by antidepressants and opioids — each taken by 13 percent of Americans.

A New York Times article said this,

  • “An increasing number of Americans — typically older ones with multiple chronic conditions — are taking drugs and supplements they don’t need, or so many of them that those substances are interacting with one another in harmful ways. Though many prescription drugs are highly valuable, taking them can also be dangerous, particularly taking a lot of them at once.
  • “About one-third of adverse events in hospitalizations include a drug-related harm, leading to longer hospital stays and greater expense. One-fifth of patients discharged from the hospital have a drug-related complication after returning home, many of which are preventable.”

Danger of antibiotics: Dr. Steven Gundry wrote: 

  • Broad-spectrum antibiotics are capable of killing multiple strains of bacteria simultaneously… these antibiotics effectively allowed doctors to carpet-bomb an infection without worrying about exactly which bacterium was the culprit. We doctors were so impressed with these antibiotics that we used them, and sadly still do, even in situation where our best guess is that a virus, which isn’t killed by antibiotics, is the culprit. Little did we know … that we were also carpet-bombing ourselves.” 
  • “Every time you take a course of …. broad-spectrum antibiotics …for an infection, you kill most of the microbes in your gut. Shockingly, it can take up to two years for them to return . Many may be gone forever. Even worse, each time a child takes antibiotics, the likelihood increases of him or her developing Crohn’s disease, diabetes, obesity or asthma later in life.”

(Note: Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes inflammation of your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition). 

  • “Don’t get me wrong, targeted antibiotics can be lifesaving; but you should be very cautious about taking broad-spectrum antibiotics for anything other than life-threatening infection.” 
  • “Almost all American chicken or beef contain … antibiotics …You can bet that it indiscriminately kills the friendly bacteria in your gut.” 
  • “Broad-spectrum antibiotics make pigs, chickens, and other animal grow faster, larger and fatter. And if they have the effect in animals, it’s unsurprising that they’d do the same to humans….a single dose of antibiotics taken by a woman during pregnancy can make her children fat. A single round of antibiotics given to a child can make him or her obese.” 

Danger of Nonsteroidal  Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Dr. Steven Gundry wrote:

  • “…we now know that NSAIDs damage the mucosal barrier in the small intestine and colon … initiating a war within your body. Evidence of the war is increasing inflammation, which you feel as pain. And the more pain you have, the more NSAIDs you take.”
  • “So remember this: Swallowing one Advil (ibuprofen) or Eleve (naproxen) is like swallowing a hand grenade.”

Danger of Stomach-acid Blockers: Dr. Steven Gundry wrote:

  • “… acid-blocking drugs such as Zantac, Prilosec, Nexium and Protonix are to be avoided at all most.” 
  • “The use of acid reducers …prompts a totally new population of intestinal bugs …. to grow in place of our normal bugs. People who use acid blockers have three times the likelihood of getting pneumonia ….than those who don’t use such drugs.”
  • “Acid-blocking drugs also foster incomplete protein digestion… we have produced an entire generation of senior citizens who are protein malnourished. That’s not because they aren’t eating enough protein; instead, it is because they have no stomach acid to digest it .”

The above are three dangers which we need to be aware of. But in his book, The Plant Paradox, Dr. Steven Gundry wrote about four more dangers that we should avoid:

  • Artificial Sweeteners such as sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, etc.
  • Endocrine or Hormone Disruptors, found in most plastics, scented cosmetics, preservatives and sunscreens. etc.
  • GMO — Genetically Modified Foods and the herbicide Roundup.
  • Constant exposure to Blue Light — as in televisions, cell phones, tablets and other electronic devices and even certain energy-saving light bulbs which are bad for health.

As a conclusion, let me quote what Drs. Justin & Erica Sonnenburg wrote in their book, The Good Gut:

  • “Your genome is not your destiny — while there is nothing we can do to change our human genome, our microbiome offers opportunities to exert control over the genetic hands that we’ve been dealt. Changes in our microbiome can’t affect our eye color or the shape of our nose, but many aspects of our biology, such as weight and immune system are heavily influenced by our gut microbes.” 
  • “Environment plays a huge role in our internal collection of bacteria. Since there is much we can do to shape the environment within our gut, we have control over our microbiota and can compensate for the lack of control we have over our human genome.” 
  • “One of the largest levers we have to control the inhabitants in the gut is diet. The modern Western lifestyle (and diet!) has resulted in an alien environment for the gut microbiota.” 
  • “There are four main tenets of a microbiota-friendly diet. 

Consume foods that are rich in dietary MACs — microbiota accessible carbohydrates ( not to confuse with the Big MAC, please!). This MACs come in the form of brown rice, whole barley, beans, vegetables, fruits, etc. Limit your consumption of simple carbohydrates, refined flours, etc. Stay away from factory-produced packages foods.

Limit saturated fat intake. Diets high in saturated animal fat are detrimental to microbiota diversity. Bacteria that are able to flourish on a high-fat diet include … pathobionts … that can trigger inflammation in the gut. Plant-derived monounsaturated fats don’t promote pathobionts as readily.

Consume meat in limited quantities. Red meat contains the chemical L-carnitine, which certain microbes in the gut can convert to trimethylamine (TMA) which then gets oxidized into trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). High levels of TMAO increase risk of strokes, heart attacks and other cardiac events.

Consume beneficial microbes or probiotics… in the form of fermented products like yogurt, pickles, sauerkraut, etc. The modern Western way of eating … coupled with the rising rise of antibiotics and antibacterial products, presents numerous challenges to the microbiota.

For the past twenty plus years, we at CA Care have been telling patients to take care of their diets and to change their lifestyles. Now, I am real glad to learn that more and more research are pointing to the same direction — diet has a lot to do and to contribute towards your healing!

 

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