The human microbiome, defined by the entire gastrointestinal tract, has been referred to as the gateway to health. The health and function of our gut is directly linked to the health of the entire body. The GI tract is a self-contained system that separates the outside world from our internal body. It literally filters the outside world before allowing nutrients to be absorbed. Supporting the health of the GI tract is vital for supporting overall health, but even more so when we are faced with a chronic disease or illness.
There are ten times more microbial cells than human cells in the body. As a whole, they form an integrated organism with an intricate communication system. The balance between these microbes, bacteria, and fungi – both “good” and “bad” – affect processes throughout the entire body:
- Digestion and GI function
- Neurotransmitter function
- Nutrient absorption
- Detoxification from drugs and environmental toxins
As the GI tract digests our food, it is also detoxifying what we ingest and are exposed to before it can allow nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream. 50% of this detoxification happens in and through the action of the microbiome; the liver does the rest. Microbiome dysbyosis is at the heart of most disease – a result of increased toxicity and decreased immunity.
Antibiotics are particularly troublesome for the microbiome. Because they kill bacteria indiscriminately, many of the beneficial bacteria vital to good health are also killed. This contributes to a weakened immune system (at precisely the time we need our defenses the most) and can take months to restore, especially if deliberate steps are not taken to repopulate the beneficial strains that keep the others at bay.
Other environmental and chemical toxins have the same effect on the microbiome. Glyphosate – originally patented as an antibiotic – is ubiquitous in America and extremely damaging to the human body. Additives, chemicals, and heavy metals also weaken our immunity by overwhelming the function of the GI tract.
There are some very effective strategies to rebalancing the microbiome after a course of antibiotics. Restoring healthy bacteria with whole grains, pre-biotic foods, and fermented foods will repair the damage done to beneficial bacteria while boosting immunity and nutrient absorption. Avoiding a high meat/animal protein diet during this time is also useful as these foods are low in fiber and increase acidity. Pre-biotic foods are high in insoluble fiber which ferments in the large intestine to manufacture butyrate to repopulate the microbiome. Fermented foods have already gone through this process and contain beneficial probiotics. Finally, the use of a high-quality probiotic supplement like Probiotic 10/50 by Vitalzym™ is useful in restoring healthy bacteria. *
A 3-Pronged Approach to Restoring the Microbiome
The lining of the GI tract regenerates every 3-7 days. Just one week of taking steps to restore the microbiome can have a significant impact on the immune system, GI function, nutrient absorption, and management of chronic conditions. Two to four weeks is a suggested protocol for effectively healing the gut. Of course, each of these strategies are appropriate for on-going health and healing.
The first step to restoring balance is to reduce any exposure to toxins, including medications. Secondly, supplement a healthy diet plan with a high-quality probiotic such as Probiotic 10/50 by Vitalzym™. * Lastly, support GI health with foods that heal while limiting harmful foods during the healing phase.
Nutritional Strategies for GI Health
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- Harmful fats
- Greasy/fried foods
- Stewed apples⁺
- Bone broth
- Tuber vegetables
- Fermented vegetables (not pasteurized)
Healing takes time. It can also appear to make matters slightly worse before improving. Many people benefit from digestive enzymes* to ease any discomfort experienced while the digestive system “resets.” World Nutrition is proud to manufacture a line of systemic and digestive enzymes exclusively for healthcare practitioners.
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⁺ Recipe credit: Dr. Tom O’Bryan, theDr.com