Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Human Microbiome

The Human Microbiome (HMB) comprises all the microbes that live in and on our bodies.  A healthy microbiome will help your child resolve their eczema and contribute to overall health and wellbeing. The Microbiome comprises of Bacteria, Viruses, Funghi and Protozoa and outnumbers human cells 10:1 That makes us more microbe than human!

Some of you may find these facts a little uncomfortable knowing that we have trillions of microbes crawling in, out and all around us but in actual fact this microbe population is vital for human health and wellness.

Our vitality and wellness is intimately connected to a healthy functioning Microbiome

The Human Microbiome plays a vital role in your boby's ability to self regulate and stay healthy.  It's significance is so great that some researchers refer to as a new human organ.  Regardless of this the Microbiome is a truly impressive entity whose role in human health is only just beginning to be understood.

Endocrine signalling, nutrient production, detoxification, immune response and weight regulation are influenced by this wonderous ecosystem. For example, early studies sugges that the Microbiome associated with the gastrointestinal tract can determine whether we are lean or overweight.

Mouse studies have demonstrated that taking the gut flora from obese mice and placing it into sterile counterparts results in the newly transplanted mice becoming overweight.  And guess what happens when gut flora from lean mice is placed into sterile counterparts?  They develop leanness.  Bear in mind that both groups of mice are fed the same diets and yet the same studies show that obese rodents tend to extract more calories from their diet while the lean counterparts extract more nutrients.  This would suggest that it is the Microbiome that is responsible for either nutrient absorption or energy extraction. What we are seeing is that the lean mice get more bang for their buck without putting on additional weight.  The studies reveal that the change in Microflora iresults in either leanness or obesity.

All disease begins in the gut - Hippocrates

The HMB also appears to play a significant role in immune function and maturation. The body's immune function depends on healthy functioning metabolic and physiological pathways such as blood protein levels, T-Cell numbers and vitamin status.  But more than that the overall environment or body eco-system is fundamental in our ability to resolve infections and bounce back from illness. We have seen that antibiotic resistance is on the rise because of overuse which results in damage to the body's gut flora population which weakens gut-based immune function. Similarly obsessing about keeping ourselves and our home clean to the point of sterility reduces beneficial populations of microbiota living in, on and around us.  The rates of atopic illness is much less in populations who live around animals and livestock.  The take home message: we seem to develop more disease resistance with the more exposure to naturally occurring microbiota species.

The disease is nothing and the environment everythingLouis pasteur  

Encouraging a healthy microbiome will make you more resistance to illness and the prey of superbugs. It will also help you regulate your weight better and reduce inflammation.  Here are a five easy tips on how to promote a healthy microbiome.

5 easy tips to promote a healthy microbiome

  1. Natural Birth
  2. Eat Clean
  3. Live Dirty
  4. Use Medications Judiciously
  5. Look after your Digestion
A Natural Birth is one of the most important events in a child's life.  Coming through the birth canal exposure the child to a plethora of beneficial microbiota which it swallows.  These beneficial bacterial, viruses, funghi and protozoa will initiate immune defences priming the baby against attack and promoting the colonisation of beneficial bacterial such as lactobacillus species.  Unfortunately up to 40% of some populations in the developed world are encouraged to elect or are prematurely given a c-section birth.  This bypasses the all important vaginal canal which is not ideal and these babies develop not surprisingly high numbers of hospital bugs such as strep and staph. 

Eating clean with a diet of organic foods is essential for being healthy.  The modern western diet is energy rich and high in calories and refined carbohydrates.  These contribute to an acid-rich body prone to pain, inflammation and imbalance of the HMB.  Many foods are highly processed with a range of questionable additives some of which are known carcinogens. Much of the food in the west is then packed in plastics that are high in endocrine disrupting chemicals.  I like what Michael Pollan has to say, "Eat food. Not too much.  Mostly plants."  Choosing whole foods that are seasonal and fresh is equally important and avoiding foods that act as posions in the body is also ideal.  A whole food is one that has minimal processing and resembles its natural form. So, potato crisps, confectionary packaged breads and cakes, margarines and soft drinks are not whole foods.  Stick with foods that your great grandmother would recognise and you can't go too wrong.  You'll also find that eating wholefoods is cheaper that buy processed counterparts.  Oh and if buying 100% organic stretches the budget choose conventional foods from the"Clean 15 list" and avoid or buy organic foods from the"Dirty Dozen". 

Live dirty Our daily habits see us spending more time indoors performing activities that render us inactive which leads to blood stagnation, poor circulation low Vitamin D status and poor eyesight.  Our circadian rhythms (24 hour organ body clock) are disturbed by the constancy of 24hr life, hi impact electro-magnetic fields and social media dependancy. These habits leads to fatigue and mood altering conditions such as depression and anxiety.  We are also less exposed to being in contact with nature and therefore have literally become out of touch.  A healthy Micro biome thrives on contact with dirt, soil, fresh air and clean water.  So get out side, feel the sun on your skin, swim in a lake, make that veggie garden and buy the dog you've always wanted.  These things feel good to do because they are good to do and they contribute to a health microbiome.  

Stop unnecessary medications.  Studies are now showing that up to 50% of prescribed medications do not meet the indicated criteria.  Most ear infections in children are viral and yet physicians still administer antibiotics that will be ineffective.  NSAID's are being sold to parents at alarming rates and are given to children who cannot sleep or have a tiny shift in their body temperature.  And proton pump inhibitors like nexium are being given unnecessarily to babies with minor reflux.  This is troubling news for parents who wonder why their kids seem to get sick all the time, have chronic cough, rash and develop sensitivities to otherwise natural foods.  Not only do these medications alter the microbiome for the worse they are implicated in the development of auto-immune conditions, leaky gut syndrome and can predispose to Inflammatory Bowel disease later in life.  Become the parent who asks the doctor, "is this really necessary", "can I wait", "How about resting", "what alternatives can you suggest".  If you fail to get an engaging answer then find yourself another health provider, because if your family physician truly has your best interest at heart then then will happily engage in such a conversation.  

Relaxation allows the body to change the tone of the autonomic nervous system. It will switch your physiology into Parasympathetic Mode which allows your blood to flow more freely improving circulation, nutrient delivery and waste removal.  Relaxing will improve your digestion and allow you to absorb more nutrients from the food you eat.  It slows down heart rate and reduces build up of unhealthy plaque on your artery walls and will make your eyes sparkly.  You will think more clearly and sleep much better making your immune system more vigilant at removing foreign invaders.  Deep relaxation also gives you insight into yourself at a deeper level.  Taking the time to learn and cultivate practices like Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong will allow you to become more aware of your inter-connectedness to everything around you.  Practice long enough and you can develop self-mastery.  In addition it will make you more attractive not only to others but also in the eyes of yourself which means your glass will be half full not half empty.  In the words of John Lennon - Love is all you need".

In my clinic I have noticed that the patients who recover the fastest and with the best long-term results have a health microbiome.  They recognise the importance of treating their whole body with care and respect and can appreciate the sacred balanced of internal and external health.  They embody the 5 principals above and take responsibility for their own health recognising a connection between themselves and the outside world.  These are the patients that get to the maintenance phase the fastest. And the one's that want a magic pill struggle to regain their health, require ongoing supplements and medication with varying degrees of success.