It may be shocking to learn that our bodies have approximately 10x the number of bacteria IN and ON our bodies than we do human cells 1–4! Collectively, these microbes are referred to as the microbiome. When most people think of the microbiome, they think of the gut microbiome, which includes the small and large intestines, with most bacteria residing in the large intestine 2,5 (Learn more about the gut microbiome HERE). The gut microbiome is host to approximately 100 trillion bacteria, has been linked to many acute and chronic conditions and is critical to our health and wellbeing 1,3,4 6–10.
The gut microbiome plays an essential role in maintaining balance within the digestive tract and allows nutrients to be extracted, which then serve as the building blocks to hormones, neurotransmitters, energy production cascades and a whole host of other critical processes within the body 6,7,9. Ultimately, the microbiome regulates the immune and inflammatory processes within the body that, if left unchecked, can lead to disease 10–12 6,13–18.
Simply put, humans exist because of our microbiomes, not despite it. This hopefully leads you to inquire about what damages the microbiome…
What can damage the gut microbiome?
- Medications 19–23 such as antibiotics 5,24–27, proton pump inhibitors 28,29, metformin 4,29,30, SSRIs 29,31–33, and laxatives29
- Diet, such as high sugar, low fibre diets 2,3,20,24,34,35
- Environmental toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides 19,23,36
- Smoking 5,27,37 and excessive use of alcohol 20,25
- Lack of regular physical activity 4,5
- Excessive and prolonged periods of stress 35,38,39
- Poor or insufficient amounts of sleep 19,40
When contemplating how to support a healthy and diverse gut microbiome, we first suggest removing any harmful sources within your environment, as this is known to damage the gut microbiome 19,23,36. Second, we recommend focusing on eating a diverse and healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds with a healthy amount of fats and proteins from animal or plant sources, as diet is known to impact the gut microbiome 3,4,34,41! As a benchmark, we encourage our patients to consume at least 50 different foods in a given week.
Consuming probiotics can offer some benefit in changing the composition or metabolic activity of gut bacteria, but these are supplements and not permanent changes 4,5,38,42. In some cases, the damage to the gut microbiome is severe, and changes in diet or supplementation cannot restore the gut microbiome to a healthy state. In extreme cases like this, manipulating the gut microbiome from an unhealthy state to a healthy state through a procedure called Fecal Microbiota Transplants (FMT) or sometimes it is referred to as Microbiome Transplant Therapy (MTT), to help restore lost or depleted bacteria that are essential to human health and wellbeing is becoming a promising option 10,43–47 (Learn more about FMT HERE). While science is still trying to understand whether changes in the gut microbiome are cause, consequence or unrelated to disease, research does show restoring the gut microbiome to a healthy state with Fecal Microbiota Transplants (FMT) is a therapeutic approach with potential 48.
FMT as a procedure is being studied clinically across many different disease states 6,18,48–50. FMT has been widely and effectively used to treat recurrent Clostridium difficile infections (rCDI) 48,51–55. FMT has demonstrated high clinical cure rates in rCDI with high success rates and favourable safety profiles 43,50,56–60. These promising outcomes in patients with rCDI after FMT have led to the expansion of research evaluating the efficacy of FMT for a wide variety of GI and non-GI disorders 6,18,48–50. While there is a need for more large randomized controlled clinical trials, the number of clinical trials is growing, and there is a growing body of literature that indicates that FMT may be a useful treatment option for:
- IBD 61–63
- IBS 64–66
- metabolic disorders 50,67–71
- autism spectrum disorder 72–74
- Parkinson’s disease 75–77
- multiple sclerosis 78,49
Our focus at Novel Biome is on supporting autistic children who suffer from digestive symptoms and significant microbiome imbalance to restore their microbiome through Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT).
Team Novel Biome
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