Functional Medicine Corner

Microbiome Health for Addressing Disease

In his forward to Susan Blum’s newest book, “Healing Arthritis: Your 3-Step Guide to Conquering Arthritis Naturally,” Mark Hyman, MD reminds us the health focus for the 21st century for many clinicians continues to be gut health, and more clinicians are realizing that having gut dysbiosis (bacteria, candida, or other microorganisms) are linked to medical health issues such as obesity, diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, allergies, and more.

Americans today are facing an epidemic of chronic illness, which is now the biggest single driver of medical costs. Many in the medical community realize chronic disease results from the complex interaction of our genes, lifestyle, and environment and can’t always be fixed by surgical intervention or pharmaceuticals. In many cases, lifestyle change with a 4 R Program and guidance by a trained clinician can be more effective for reversing symptoms and improving health.

This is why I start with addressing gut health when treating chronic health issues.

One can understand starting with gut health when you consider that 70%- 80% of the immune system resides in the gut, along with the 3 lbs of bacteria (trillions) made of one thousand different species with more than two million bacterial genes.

The gut is very busy with digestion, production of vitamins, regulating hormones, releasing toxins, while producing healing compounds and much more. These critical functions depend on many factors, one being a healthy and diverse microbiome. Over time, our microbiome can become compromised by “gut bugs” such as parasites, yeast, or bad bacteria which deplete the commensal, or good bacteria and can cause dis-ease, often beginning with symptoms of gas, bloating, IBS, IBD, GERD, and more.

As mentors like Mark Hyman, MD, Susan Blum, MD, David Perlmutter, MD and many other pioneers of Functional Medicine have demonstrated for many years now in their practices, including the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, by addressing root cause of dis-ease, we can often find a path to self-healing.

Many of my patients have experienced a gut health protocol called the 4 R Program (they may or may not know the name of the program, but they will recognize the process!). It looks like this:

  1. We begin with Remove- inflammatory or problem foods. We also use this as an investigative period and might look at food sensitivity testing, organic acids (OAT), comprehensive stool analysis to determine if there is gut dysbiosis that needs removed as well.
  2. The next phase is Replace – We want to add back what is depleted like maybe digestive enzymes, healthy and nutritious food plans, etc.
  3. Next, we move on to Reinoculate – restoring beneficial bacteria to reestablish a healthy balance of good bacteria. This can be accomplished by increasing fiber, adding a pre and probiotic, and adding more fermented foods.
  4. Finally, Repair – adding gut-repairing ingredients like l-glutamine, collagen, omega 3 fish oils, mult vitamins with minerals, and more.

According to Dr. Hyman, to prevent gut dysbiosis we should begin with a diet rich in fiber, clean protein, and good fats like omega-3 fish oils, extra virgin olive oils, avocados, and tree nuts actually improve our healthy gut flora. On the other hand, avoiding inflammatory fats like omega-6 vegetable oils which promote gut dysbiosis that causes weight gain and dis-ease. He also reminds us that lack of sleep, stress and anxiety also contribute to microbiome imbalance.

I encourage individuals who haven’t done so already, to schedule an appointment with Shirley Olson, NP-C to discuss digestive or inflammatory symptoms and next steps for beginning the 4-R Program. Most testing is covered by insurance, and those without insurance enjoy discounted lab rates.

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