Your health. It is one commodity that seems to get scarcer and more limited as time passes by, but is there a connection with the many bacterial microbiomes in your body? Aches, pains, general discomfort and reduced range of motion. Reduced heart function, circulation, and impaired blood sugar regulation. Increased body weight and reduced stamina or ability to do what we once could. Impaired mental, cognitive function, depression and cancer. All clinical problems associated with a reduced state of health and potentially an unbalanced microbiome. Health is something that most perceive as being limited due to our aging process and also something that cannot be bought, replaced or achieved. Is this the way you feel, about your own health? Are you truly limited or is this just an illusion? Let’s look deeper at the many bacterial microbiomes in our body and see if there is an connection and something that can be done to further push us towards our goals of health.
Our bodies contain multiple bacterial microbiomes within various organ systems or body cavities. These are normal populations of bacteria and other organisms that help to maintain the normal health and function of those areas. No portion of our body is sterile and nor should we desire it to be. These organisms play a vital role in our health on many levels, but are often not recognized or treated with the respect that they deserve.
Areas of our body with bacterial microbiomes include:
- Mouth or oral cavity
- Lungs or respiratory tract
- Digestive tract (stomach and intestines)
- Genitals (male and female)
As mentioned, you do not desire any of these areas to be sterile, as this would negatively impact health and potentially create illness. The only two regions of our bodies that I personally recognize as being close to sterile include the central nervous system and our kidneys, including urine. I could be wrong in assessing those two areas as being sterile, as indeed, there could be normal residential bacteria even in those two locations.
Is your health often dictated or tightly connected to these microbiomes? It’s very possible!
The Microbiome and Connections with Your Health
The biggest factor contributing to most of our health ailments today is the silent killer termed chronic inflammation. This inflammation doesn’t just create pain in our joints or back, but is contributing strongly to cellular degeneration and changes throughout our body. The inflammation has to start somewhere in our body and research often indicates that it is tightly connected to our various microbiomes, with our digestive microbiome being a main leader.
In past articles, I have written about the digestive microbiome, the oral cavity and gingivitis, and even vaginal yeast infections, all revolving around individual body cavity microbiomes. If you step back and look at research, demonstrating the close ties between disturbances in these microbiomes and our health, it can be quite alarming and a real eye-opener.
Many of our lives today revolve around fear regarding infections, bacteria, viruses and physically contracting a disease from another individual. Many of us use hand sanitizers constantly, wiping down our house, our work stations, and our kid’s toys with all sorts of chemicals, in the hope of making things sterile. On that same note, our oral hygiene practices have gone to new levels, using various mouth washes often loaded with alcohol or other antiseptics to clean up our mouths. Is this the right thing to do? Or are we creating harm for our bodies and contributing to more disease than we hoped to prevent?
In each of the organ systems mentioned above, these natural populations of bacteria actually assist with health not just of that body system, but to our overall well being. The normal populations assist with tissue health, cellular environments, digestion, and immune function. When we take defensive action to ‘sterilize’ these areas, through mouth washes or hand sanitizers, we could be inflicting harm on these normal populations, which then translates into negative effects on our health.
More often than not, when you experience bouts of gingivitis, vaginal yeast infections, ongoing skin conditions, and even digestive upset, these are all potentially signs of a disrupted or imbalanced microbiome in those organ areas. Although the clinical problems may appear to be only localized to those regions, such as the mouth, skin, or genitals, over time, this can translate into total body health problems. You would be wise to recognize these ‘local’ problems early and make appropriate changes, which could just impact your total health and well-being in the years to come.
Your Microbiome and Making Changes for Improved Health
These bacterial microbiomes, when out of balance, strongly contribute to disease. The local environments change within those organ systems as the bacterial populations shift negatively, pH is altered, and soon, more harmful bacteria increase in numbers. Not only can these negative bacteria create infections that threaten our health, but the negative changes to the environment fires up a local and systemic inflammatory response. In our gastrointestinal or digestive tract, these changes in bacterial populations impair our digestion, create excess gas, diarrhea, constipation and alterations in gut-barrier function, which then leads to higher levels of inflammation and impaired immune responses.
Bacterial microbiome disturbances are connected with almost every health condition found in research, including:
- Gingivitis, dental cavities and other oral conditions
- Diabetes, obesity and metabolic conditions
- Cardiovascular disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome, Irritable bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis
- Eczema, skin allergies and other skin related ailments
- Genital related conditions
- Systemic and localized allergies
- Depression, anxiety, and many cognitive disorders
- the list goes on and on
There are many contributors that either encourage or discourage normal and health microbiomes in our bodies, which include:
- Stress (physical and mental)
- Mental outlook or perspective
These are the 4 main hitters to our microbiomes, from my perspective as a researcher and implementer of health strategies to assist my patients. Not only are these the 4 main culprits, but for many, they are the hardest to get around. Often, the answers to our own health are right in front us, staring us in the eye, but admitting the problem and taking action is not always easy.
Mental stress is a major facet for most people’s lives, including my own at times. There is a huge connection between the brain and our gut function, and with that, the microbiome. This is well noted in research, not just on a stress level, but connecting tightly with other cognitive disorders. This brain-gut axis was discussed in another article that is worth reviewing.
Diet is another huge area, impacting our health on many levels. Making the right food choices is not always easy, especially in the busy world that we all live in. However, making the right food choices could dramatically impact your life, not just through consuming the right foods, but in the process you are eliminating the bad foods. One major facet of our diet which most are missing out on is fiber, in the form of soluble, insoluble and resistant starches. These can only be found in eating the right foods, often plant based foods. They are not found in a fiber supplement, nor in a prepared meal. These fibers are extremely important as they literally ‘feed’ the microbiome in our digestive tract, helping to maintain balance. Did you know that despite daily intake recommendations of 30 grams of fiber, most people consume less than 10 grams of proper fiber? Huge ramifications on your health. The diet we chose also impact our oral cavity and changes in our digestive microbiome impact other organ systems additionally. Many people with oral cavity, skin or even genital conditions have underlying disturbances in the digestive microbiome. It is all connected!
Exercise has a direct impact on your health and choosing to stay active impacts every facet of your well-being, including the various microbiomes. When you exercise, it also reduces stress and improves your mental outlook, all of which then work together to improve health on many levels. This is your health and the mind-body connection.
Your Health; Participant or By-Stander?
My goal is to increase awareness of health and how to improve it. It is not always easy and often, the daily rigors of our lives create problems and knock us back a few strides. In the end, you can choose to recognize that you are indeed in control, no matter the situation, or you can take the stance that you are a innocent by-stander with no control.
Medical research is conducted not just for the advantages of pharmaceutical companies in their pursuit to create medications, but it is available to benefit you and me, on a personal level. More often than not, this research opens doors for us regarding how we can intervene in our own health, take action, and make real changes.
When we sit back and just observe the world around us, realizing the billions of dollars spent on pharmaceuticals which rarely alter any disease course, and also note how people shop at our local grocery store, it is not hard to realize there is a problem. A major problem. We have health warnings on certain lifestyle factors including cigarettes and alcohol, but no labeled warnings on soft drinks, energy drinks, and even sports drinks, not to mention chips, cookies and other sugar loaded foods. It makes me scratch my head as I have known many cigarette smokers that otherwise took really good care of their health, and had fewer health problems than the average non-smoker. Then again, I’ve known many non-smokers that indulge heavily in fast food, high refined carbohydrate meals and soft drinks that constantly complain about their health or the side effects of the medications they are prescribed.
We have a choice. I have a choice. You have a choice. Life can be a challenge for all us , but often the answers, as always, are right in front of us. All we have to do is take the initiative, claim what is ours and make real change! Our health is one thing that we actually do have control of, in this sometimes crazy world.
At Nouvelle Research, we are here to assist you in making those changes!
Author: Tom Schell, D.V.M, CVCH, CHN