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A BRIEF LOOK AT THE MICROBIOME

The Gut Microbiome refers to the multitude of micro-organisms that live in our gut. It is made up of bacteria, ancient bacteria called archaea, fungi, viruses and other more obscure microbes.

A microbiome is an ecosystem characterised by the fact that its members entertain complex relationships with each other thus maintaining an organised equilibrium. For instance some bacteria will live off the waste of other bacteria that feed off the food we eat.

Microbes are most abundant in the colon but generally populate every nook and cranny along our digestive system.

For some, a colonic irrigation might be comparable to a kind of tsunami inflicted upon our delicate and vitally important gut flora. However, as with all ecosystems, balance is only but a constant and dynamic adjustment of imbalances. Although gut microbes maintain a tight equilibrium amongst themselves, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it works in our favour. Modern living has put an enormous strain on the rather complex and subtle relationships that have evolved between our gut microbiome and our immune system. This is evidenced in the alarming numbers of modern/chronic diseases that are rooted in a dysfunctional/inflamed immune system from Alzheimer and autism to diabetes and arthritis.

 In this context, Colonic is simply a window of opportunity to influence the dynamic in our favour.

The window is relatively short. The effect on gut flora lasts about two weeks. Unlike antibiotics, it doesn’t kill anything; it merely removes and reduces individuals. Unlike laxatives, it doesn’t irritate; it stimulates natural peristalsis (bowel movements) and releases dysfunctional spasms.

Get the best from your colonic by supporting a healthy gut flora following your treatment:  

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  • Avoid alcohol, chlorine, herbicides, pesticides and some medications (antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, anti-depressants, antacids and many more all have detrimental effects on gut flora)
  • Eat fibre rich foods (especially water soluble fibres) such as flax seeds, chia seeds, oat bran, root vegetables and pulses (lentils, chickpeas, etc.)
  • Eat berries and foods that are rich in polyphenols (dates, red grapes, etc.) which have an antimicrobial and antioxidative effect. The combination of blueberries and probiotics has been shown to reduced inflammation-inducing bacteria while increasing health-promoting lactobacilla in the intestins, 
  • Encourage a diverse gut flora by eating  fermented vegetable (such as sauerkraut etc.)kefir, soft cheeses (such as brie, Roquefort, feta, etc.) fermented soya (such as Tempeh) and by taking a quality probiotic supplement
  • Take care of yourself; lack of sleep, anger/stress; lack of exercise; lack of sunlight all have been shown to be detrimental to a healthy gut flora through the complex and interactive relationships that exist between our gut, brain, hormones and our highly sensitive gut microbiome.

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  1. The bacteria in our colon weighs on average 1.5kg and is as heavy as our brain
  2. Dietary changes will alter our microbiota in a matter of hours such is the rapidity at which microbes can grow/reproduce/take-over
  3. Most of the neuro-transmitters in our body are in our gut not our brain
  4. The gut microbiome is unique to an individual. Even identical twins who share 99.5% of their genes only share about 20% of their microbiomes
  5. The number of bacteria on and in our body is roughly the same as the number of cells that make up our body; this is if we include red-blood cells which have no nucleus and are characterised by a lack of genetic material. With this in mind the amount of genes that make up our body is only 10% compared to the genetic material made up by our bacteria
  6. Processed foods contain many substances that have been shown to negatively alter gut flora. This is a likely cause for the dramatic increase in obesity observed in the last 30 years. Calories alone cannot explain this when comparing the amount consumed 100 years ago which was, on average, greater than today.
  7. Gut flora is highly sensitive to our emotions and to our sleep patterns
  8. Raw or/and fermented organic foods bring additional organisms that are beneficial to our gut microbes while non-organic foods contain substances that are poisonous to it (pesticides, herbicides etc.)
  9. The more diverse our microbiome the stronger our health and resistance to disease. Western diet is responsible for a dramatic reduction in gut bio-diversity while a plant-based whole food diet will promote it
  10. Chronic and degenerative diseases, including obesity, all have common elements rooted in the gut microbiome.

hormone resizedHormonal symptoms are many and hormone driven pathologies on the increase. Environmental factors, stress and an ageing population means that therapists are increasingly 
dealing with distressed couples unable to conceive, men suffering from erectile dysfunction and women tormented by hormonal tidal.

Without a doubt modern life plays a significant part in hormone imbalances because of the direct impact of stress on adrenals and on the Hypothalamus (the master control of hormone production).  However to put everything down to stress and limit understanding to the ratio of one hormone versus another can limit treatment strategies, reduce success and in the long term may cause unwanted side-effects.

To take a wholistic view means that we don’t just look at hormones, their influence and their effects, we also look at how the body will regulate their levels. By supporting regulatory functions alongside hormone production we can ensure that overall health is improved rather than simply get rid of undesirable symptoms or achieve an elusive pregnancy. Typically HRT will get rid of hot flashes but may end up increasing the risk of breast cancer [1]while IVF will often leave a woman feeling battered and increases her chances of post-partum depression[2].

The factors that directly influence hormonal production and are commonly addressed by hormone specialists (medical or otherwise) include:

  • Stress
  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Fat/protein ration
  • Insulin resistance
  • Diseases such as tumours, hypothyroidism etc.

However the factors that control hormonal levels and significantly influence their ratio are

tofudebeest2We all want to be slim and look attractive. Weight loss is a powerful motivation for making dietary and life-style changes. However focussing on weight-loss and calories can have disastrous consequences and frequently leads to yoyo-dieting and ultimately weight gain. It can be achieved at the detriment of muscle mass, hormonal balance and immune integrity making it a potentially obsessional and non-supportive aim. Fluctuating water retention levels linked to sleep, stress, hormones and hydration can make weight watching positively demoralising.