Our Bacteria Friends
My favorite topic related to Multiple Sclerosis is the gut microbiome. Once I fell into that rabbit hole, a lot of doors appeared to open on the other end. There’s a huge body of research and widespread optimism about how the gut is the key to unlock healing in many areas. While I’m happy to be on that bandwagon, I don’t think it’s the magic bullet to fixing everything. However, in MS, the immune system is attacking healthy cells, and it appears that microbe (bacteria, fungus) imbalance in the gut is an important factor in developing this disorder. They say microbe cells in our own bodies outnumber our cells 10 to 1.
This feels significant…
They are actually completely necessary for us to function. And besides the fact that there are trillions of them that live in us, it has become the norm to be missing important microbes and/or have an overgrowth of others that are less beneficial.
How did we mess up?
We got this way from antibiotics, sugary diets, lack of fiber and lots of environmental factors. What we consume always has bacteria all over it - and that’s a good thing. We need a diverse input in order to keep growing the rainforest of little guys who help us function. They compete for space and need to be kept in balance, similar to an ecosystem in nature. So keep eating organic veggies straight out of the dirt.
Antibiotics and excessive focus on hygiene/sterilization caused extinction of so many little guys that we left a gap for overgrowth of others. Antibiotics don’t specifically kill the dangerous bacteria that might be harming us. They wipe out so many friendly bacteria in the process. It’s compared to losing a portion of an organ. Our microbiome is like an organ with a role in so many important areas of health. The most important is probably brain health.
The Gut-Brain connection has come up a lot lately in trending research. Some neurologists have even started to focus primarily on the gut. This wouldn’t seem to make much sense intuitively, aside from the “gut feeling” coming to mind. In fact, the gut and brain are directly linked via the vagus nerve.
What are they even doing in there?
- Generating Neurotransmitters
- They are allowing for production of T-Reg cells. These immune system cells are responsible for regulating the cells that break down the myelin in the brain in MS.
- Acting as either Pro-Inflammatory or Anti-inflammatory
- Digesting our food
- So much more
How to influence your gut health now:
- Probiotics – An example of a new product I just ordered: http://www.generalbiotics.com/
- Prebiotics – supplements and foods that feed bacteria
- Botanical antimicrobials – They can be potent, and are useful if there’s an unruly microbe that needs to be put in check.
- Diet – Eat lots of veggies for fiber and avoid processed junk
- A new podcast episode I noticed while getting this ready to share: Is A Disrupted Microbiome at the Root of Modern Disease?
- NYTimes: Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Explain Your Mood?
Consider this an introduction. I’ll cover this much more in the future because there’s a lot we can do to improve our situation.
See you soon-ish.
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