Every day I have discussions with patients about how they are feeling. One observation that has always amazed me is that it is very often the simple things like diet, exercise, how we think, spirituality, and even our digestive tract that make a big difference.
Over the last 20 years, I have come to give ultimate respect to the bugs in our gut by virtue of the numerous patient anecdotes of symptom improvement achieved by supplementing probiotics. In a more scientific description, we might refer to it as the “microbiome”. However it is described, it simply refers to the optimization of the resident bacteria which inhabit our large intestine. We know they are involved in numerous functions that regulate our health. More recently, it has become apparent that they may even be contributing to the regulation of cholesterol in our circulation and, subsequently, overall heart health.
A recent study published in Circulation Research examined the GI microbes in 893 individuals. Their study revealed unique bacterial genome sequences that were linked to body mass index and cholesterol levels. From a personal observation, I thought it was interesting that my own HDL level increased by 40% just by the regular supplementation of probiotics.
The science of probiotics is advancing rapidly. For many reasons, the timing is good as well. According to the World Health Organization, the overuse of antibiotics is contributing to the extinguishing of our microbiome. Ultimately, this could have far reaching implications to long term health.
Focusing on a diet rich in fermented foods can help maintain your GI ecology. Historically, I assumed that most of our GI ecology was acquired through the foods we consume. Actually, that is only partially true. As an example, in a study published by the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, professor Remco Kort concluded that a 10 second “French kiss” could provide 80 million bacteria!
Obviously, we still have much to learn about the essential bacteria in our intestines!