By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
The gut microbiome, or balance of microorganisms in the intestinal tract has been in health news very frequently lately, with links to not only digestive health, but also mood disorders, weight, skin issues, and autoimmune conditions. Unfortunately, the combination of a North American diet, overuse of antibiotics, use of anti-bacterial products, and lack of regular fermented foods in our diets has created a perfect storm for imbalance in the gut microbiome.
Symptoms that you may have an imbalance include:
- Digestive issues – irritable bowel, bloating, abdominal pain, indigestion, bad breath, constipation or diarrhea.
- Recurrent yeast infections
- Sugar cravings
- Weight gain
- Acne, eczema, hives or psoriasis
- Joint pain
- Learning or behavioural difficulties
- Mental fog
Important implications of an imbalanced gut microbiome:
Inflammation – Too many unfriendly bacteria or other organisms can create significant inflammation in the body, leading to joint pains and body aches, skin disorders and even autoimmune disease.
Weight gain – A healthy mircobiome is the key to weight loss. Many recent studies have shown that by rebalancing the microbiome, you can shift your metabolism. I have certainly seen this many times in my practice!
Emotional health – If your microbiome is out of balance, you will be more prone to experiencing anxiety and depression, and also fatigue and brain fog. It’s quite amazing how far reaching the affects can be! And on a similar note, stress can affect your microbiome in a negative way too, with lasting impacts on your mood, digestion and overall health.
How you can correct a gut microbiome imbalance:
- Probiotics: These are the healthy bacteria that help to balance the microbiome. Probiotics can come in supplement form (capsules or powder), or from naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, pickled vegetables or kimchi.
- Prebiotics: These are the foods that feed the healthy bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract that contain fiber, inulin and arabinogalactans. Prebiotic foods include artichokes, garlic, beans, onions, asparagus, carrots, leeks and okra.
- Anti-microbial supplements: In most cases, simply increasing the probiotics and prebiotics is still not enough. The use of antimicrobial herbs and supplements is also needed to kill off the pathogenic organisms (yeast, bacteria or parasites). This may include garlic, oregano, berberine, grapefruit seed extract, caprylic acid, olive leaf extract, uva ursi and more.
- Minimizing sugar and all foods made with flour. Many pathogenic organisms, or ‘bad bugs’ thrive with a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. Minimizing these foods is an essential step to rebalancing your microbiome, and no amount of probiotics will compensate.
In conclusion, if you suspect there may be an imbalance in your gut microbiome, there are many steps you can take to restore balance. You may be surprised at how far-reaching the impacts of a healthy gut can be!