The Microbial Life Within

My gastroenterology instructor in medical school tried to convince us that our sole purpose in life was to carry around organisms in our hollow intestines. It is indeed an ecosystem in the underground world of our colon. Many of us are not aware of the ongoing war in our gut until there is a disruption in the balance that creates symptoms.

Developing our gut flora begins when we are born. The mixture of bacteria differs between babes born vaginally or by cesarean. Babes born vaginally gain more lactobaccillus and bifidus from their journey through the birth canal, putting them at a lesser risk of infections or introduction to less desirable strains of bacteria.

Breastfeeding also contributes to the beneficial environment by boosting the bifidus percentage content in the large intestine as the lactobaccillus becomes more prominent in the small intestine. Higher percentages of these strains are protective against infections and allergies. Exposure to almost all bacteria as a child allows immune recognition but the response is only healthy when the flora has the appropriate balance of good bugs. There is a reason why children put everything in their mouth; this is how their immune system develops.

Later in life, our microbial world may continue to be challenged by a number of disrupting factors. The most known disruptor is antibiotics. Age and the health issues of a person determine the balance of probiotic strains needed and the dosage timeline. Therapeutic diets may be indicated as well, such as anti-candidal, anti-inflammatory, GAPs diet, etc. Probiotic organisms for maintenance of a balanced flora can also be eaten in cultured foods such as pickles and sauerkraut without vinegar, kim-chee and kefir. Homemade cultured foods, when properly made, often contain higher levels of beneficial bacteria.

That covers the probiotic basics but taking probiotics may not be helpful if the terrain is not able to utilize them for one reason or another. It is appropriate to look into the following possibilities if therapeutic probiotics have not been successful in making a shift in the health outcome. Let’s look briefly at some gut anatomy components ,including nerves within the myenteric plexus, circulation within the lamina propria, and lymph within the lacteals. Then there is the biofilm that forms a protective mesh for the inhabitant bacteria present. Probiotics taken orally can land on the biofilm and wash away. It is necessary to investigate a bit deeper to discover the cause of why the biofilm has been allowed to develop and the other contributing factors.

Circulation problems in the gut, either too much or too little, can affect the metabolism and create a very hot metabolism or a cold one. Celiac, for example, is more likely to represent too little blood supply due to the damage from gluten. Those with damage to the mucosa are likely to be dairy intolerant as well since the enzymes for dairy are found within the villi or hills of the mucosa terrain. The nervous system determines peristalsis or gut movement and the release of serotonin. IBS is a dysfunction with constriction, contributing to inadequate secretion needed for sustaining balanced gut flora. Last of all, the lymph affects the ability to produce IgA antibodies, which are crucial to immune development and maintenance. Without proper mucosa to house the immune cells, immune function will not be adequate. Drainage for lymph is important, as well. The best way to illustrate this is flies in the kitchen. Killing the flies will help for awhile but eventually opening the back door and taking out the garbage will solve the problem. Excess debris within the gut will promote the imbalance of gut flora. One or a combination of these terrain issues can be present, affecting the flora. Fortunately, there is hope. I have found that these problems can be adequately addressed by herbs, homeopathy, food, lifestyle medicine, and many other natural modalities to improve function and promote a gut ecosystem that benefits the rest of the body.