This week I will continue featuring a lecture by gastroenterologist Dr. Robynne Chutkan about our microbiome – particularly the bacteria which live in our digestive tract, which she calls our “gut garden”.
The discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928 ushered in the age of antibiotics. Infectious diseases that were often fatal before then could now be quickly and easily cured. Now, nearly 100 years later, we are threatened with losing much of that advantage through over-use of antibiotics. One estimate claimed 20 to 50% of antibiotic use was inappropriate for the condition being treated. The proliferation of antibiotic-resistant “super bugs” is a growing concern among medical researchers. A lesser-known danger is the damage to our microbiome, particularly the gut bacteria, causing an unhealthy change called dysbiosis.
Dysbiosis is being linked to many different health problems: inflammatory bowel disease like colitis and Crohn’s; diabetes and obesity; auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, MS and fibromyalgia; and even neurological conditions like schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. The microbiome also plays an important role in our immune system.
Babies born by C-section (27% in Canada) miss out on their first “inoculation” of beneficial bacteria from the birth canal. The benefits of vaginal birth last well beyond infancy in improved health and immunity – lower rates of asthma, allergy and other inflammation. Multiple rounds of antibiotics routinely given to children add to the problem.
Chutkan poses the question “What should we be feeding our gut garden in order to optimize our microbiome to keep us healthy?” And answers it with a quote by Michael Pollan: “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” She also advocates judicious use of drugs – not just antibiotics but other drugs like steroids, hormones and NSAIDs which also contribute to dysbiosis. And she warns against our obsession with sanitation – we shouldn’t be afraid of a little dirt! In short “Live dirty, eat clean!”
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.