“It is ironic that this humbled fungus, hailed as a benefactor of mankind, may by its very success prove to be a deciding factor in the decline of the present civilization.”
-Dr. John I. Pitt, The Genus Penicillium, Academic Press, 1979-
In Gut Health Part 1, we discussed the importance of our gut and the trillions of good bacteria residing there. Now we are going to learn about what can endanger that bacteria so that we can avoid those things as much as possible.
- Antibiotics I placed antibiotics first on the list because I believe it is one of the biggest factors contributing to poor gut health. Antibiotics indiscriminately wipe out all the bacteria, both good and bad. If you don’t replenish your gut flora after a round of antibiotics, you’ll leave its soil bare and unprotected, inviting ill health. As we learned in Part 1, this includes your immune system, digestion, nutrient absorption, metabolism, mental health, memory, and more.1,2
Antibiotic use is what first lead us to discover what happens when a gut is unhealthy. Our daughter, Molly had hip dysplasia as a baby and with the many surgeries associated with that, came antibiotics. When Molly was 9, not long after a surgery, we noticed that she was developing some neuro-sensory issues. She screamed when we brushed her hair; she flipped out over feeling the tag on her shirt; if the seam on her sock didn’t line up exactly on her toes, getting dressed became quite a scene; she developed a fear of being alone, even if I was just in the adjoining room; she grew her first wart.
We were at a loss to explain these new behaviors until we attended a home school conference and listened to a presentation by Dianne Craft on neuro-sensory children. As she explained about gut health and the symptoms of a compromised system, all the dots connected. She was describing Molly!
We purchased Dianne’s audio cd, “The Biology of Behavior,” which also contained a protocol for restoring gut health. Realizing that our whole family could use healthier guts, we all joined Molly in 3 months of supplements and probiotics. In that time, Molly’s wart fell off and her fears disappeared, along with her skin sensitivities. We were amazed!
Antibiotics can also be found in our food. 80% of antibiotics are used for livestock. Scientists found that small amounts of antibiotics changes the gut microbiome, bringing about a change which promotes growth.1 Farmers want heavier animals, and antibiotics help pack on the pounds.
So we must consider—how will those antibiotics in the meats affect our guts, and how will ingesting antibiotics also affect our weight gain?
Antibiotics have an important place in medicine. But doctors often pass out antibiotics like aspirin, without suggesting a probiotic to take afterwards. Overuse can lead to antibiotic resistance when we really do need to use one. We, as patients, are partially to blame in this—pressuring doctors to give us something so we will feel better. If you have a cold from a virus, an antibiotic won’t help. If you have a cut or wound, consider waiting to see if you actually have an infection before you take the offered antibiotic.3 Also, consider sharing with your doctor the importance of gut health.
- Chlorinated/fluoridated water and antibacterial soap–kills bacteria, good and bad
- Chemicals and pollution—bacteria are greatly sensitive to these things
- Sugar—sugar, along with fructose (fruit) feeds the bad bacteria, yeast, and pathogens . I knew of a friend who recently adopted a 1 year old who had been given sugar in his bottles and food. It is no surprise he had a chronic yeast infection which disappeared when his diet was changed and probiotics were given.
- Medications—these negatively affect the bacteria and the chemicals produced in the gut. In college, after the overlap of two conflicting medications, I developed painful and upsetting gut issues. After many of not-so-lovely tests, I was finally diagnosed as having a massive gut infection. I took potent antibiotics which resolved the infection, but for years continued to have gut problems. The doctors finally declared I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Now I know why I struggled for years.
- Birth Control Pills—harms the beneficial bacterial and causes gut dysbiosis
- Chronic Stress—Chris Kessler says: “The gut is especially vulnerable to the presence of chronic (and even acute) stress, demonstrating stress-induced changes in gastric secretion, gut motility, mucosal permeability and barrier function, visceral sensitivity and mucosal blood flow. There has also been evidence to suggest that gut microbiota may respond directly to stress-related host signals.”4 Kessler goes on to describe what happens to the gut in the presence of chronic stress in scientific detail which you can read for yourself in the article I referenced about stress and the gut.
- Lack of Breast Milk—breast milk is the only milk that promotes growth of biofilms, which help heal and seal the gut.5
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it will give you a start in learning to protect your gut.
In Gut Health Part 3, we will learn about the association between the gut and the brain and its connection with learning, mood, sleep, appetite and memory.
2 “Can Antibiotics Make You Fat?” http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/12/can-antibiotics-make-you-fat
4 “9 Steps to Perfect Health–#5: Heal Your Gut” http://chriskresser.com/9-steps-to-perfect-health-5-heal-your-gut
5 “Confirmed—Your Digestive System Dictates Whether You’re Sick or Well” http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/01/02/digestive-system-gut-flora.aspx?e_cid=20130102_DNL_art_1