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April, 2013

Microbiome: The Foundation of Your Patients' Health

By Jack Tips, PhD, CCN

Changes in diet automatically mean changes in our microbiome — the teaming conglomerate of bacteria that inhabit our intestines. When the microbiome changes, the body's genetic response to food changes — for better or worse. Thus the profound, "we are what we eat" and it irrefutably establishes that food quality is integral to health and disease.

Regarding core nutrition in the 21st century, the chief concern is the body's cellular inflammation that stems from the microbiome's struggle with antibiotics, altered foods and environmental toxins. Altered microbiome colonies equals altered health.

Researchers state that 85% of a humans microbiome should be the beneficial probiotic bacteria and 15% should be potential pathogens. Why the pathogens at all? They maintain immunity. Concerns of over-sterilization arise based on the "use it or lose it" perspective. Pathogens keep the immune system vigilant and the probiotics keep the pathogens in check – nature's perfection.

The New Hot Microbiome Button

The microbiome is the new and exciting hot button in nutrition. Researchers are delving into this profound, microscopic world and pulling out astounding connections between having happy bacteria in the tummy and having a happy, healthy life. Here, let's grab an overview on what is unfolding.

Adapt to survive. Gut bacteria and humans share that prime directive and work together for mutual self-interests. Bacteria establish a neural network and leverage their ecosystem to actually program the human brain and stress response. The microbiome can cause the brain, for better or worse, to experience states of increased boldness, anxiety, calm, increased rate of learning, enhanced memory and various moods depending upon the ratio of beneficial bacteria to pathogens. Conversely, the brain can alter the microbiome via hormones and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, melatonin, cortisol and norepinephrine that impact the activities of the colonies.

Bidirectional Symbiosis. Human beings have two brains – the fatty matter between the ears, and the gut-based enteric nervous system comprised of a hundred million neurons. These two brains are in constant cahoots via both the vagus nerve and messenger molecules and discuss how to adapt and survive the hostile external environment. The two nervous systems (central and enteric) influence and alter each other's processes with stress being detrimental to both. Immune signaling molecules (inflammatory cytokines) produced in the intestines directly affect the brain and engender moods such as anxiety and depression.

Celiac and Leaky Gut. The latest scientific research proves the gut/brain connection that natural health practitioners have been advocating for more than 25 years. When the modulating molecule, zonulin, and/or chronic inflammation opens the intestine's tight junctions, large molecules invade the body triggering an immunological response. This is part of celiac disease and leaky gut syndrome.

Zonulin also loosens the blood/brain barrier, allowing toxins such as mercury from dental fillings and vaccinations, and pesticides in foods, to enter the brain where they can cause cellular inflammation and neurotransmitter disruption. Natural health practitioners are familiar with leaky gut as a factor that physically alarms the immune system and launches chronic-inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

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