By Dr. Jennifer Pearlman
Internationally recognized women’s health, hormone and aging expert and Medical Director of PearlMD Rejuvenation.
With springtime in the air, a good gut cleanse may be in order. The long winter can wreak havoc on our digestive health due to seasonal changes in our lifestyle, immune system, circadian rhythm and microbiome. A well-planned nutritional approach interwoven with mind-body wholistic healing can get our gut back on track.
The digestive tract truly is the cornerstone of our health. From mouth to anus, the gut is like a wonderous garden that simultaneously serves as; a nutrient-absorbing surface, a barrier to potentially harmful waste, an immune defense system, a sensory signaling network and a home to the bugs of the microbiome. Optimizing the gut’s complex immune system, neural network and barrier function is key to digestive health and a thriving microbiome, contained within.
The microbiome is the collection of diverse microorganisms that have symbiotically evolved with humans housed largely in our digestive tracts (but also in other areas like our skin and nasal passages). The microbiome contains a range of bacterial species and outnumbers our own cells by 10-fold. The billions of bacterial cells lining our gut mucosal surface play a critical role in our metabolism. Referred to as a second genome, the microbiota bacterial DNA is 100-fold more abundant than human DNA and can further affect human health by altering expression of human genes. Dysbiosis describes unfavourable shifts in the microbiome, leading to loss of bacterial diversity and overgrowth by pathogenic (disease causing) and immunogenic (inflammatory) strains. Dysbiosis is associated with a range of human health problems and diseases including; obesity, diabetes, eczema, allergies, depression, anxiety and Alzheimer’s disease. While we may be born with a near sterile gut, the microbiome is shaped throughout our lifetime. Eating a highly processed diet void of soluble fibre, inadequate nutrition, exposure to infection and illness, medication use (especially antibiotics), sleeplessness, psychological stress and even negative emotions can all contribute to an unhealthy gut microbiome. It is thought that a one-week course of antibiotics can alter the gut flora for over two years. Conversely, the practice of meditation can improve the microbiome and bacterial diversity. Clearly, gut bugs are vital in shaping our health and aging and contribute to an important gut-brain connection.
Indeed, the gut is equipped with a brain of its own. The enteric nervous system, or second brain, is a complex network of over 100 million neurons, more than what is found in the spinal cord. These enteric neurons feed information from the lumen of the gut to the Vagus nerve, which in turn sends 80% of all sensory information to the brain. Nerve conduction studies suggest that as much as 90% of the sensory signals carried within the Vagus nerve arise from within the gut. The gut brain not only plays a sensory role, but also controls gut health, motility and function. Over 95% of the body’s serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood, is produced by the gut and is involved with gut-brain signaling.
The intricate connections of the gut-brain-immune system and our microbiome necessitate a true mind-body-environment approach. With this in mind, these five steps can help repair, rebalance and restore digestive wellness.
The 5R GUT PROGRAM is a personalized mind-body-gut approach that involves the following steps:
REDUCE and REMOVE
This step involves removing harmful chemicals as well as inflammatory and immune-triggering foods and substances. Reducing your intake of processed foods and selecting organic produce can protect you from ingesting potentially harmful chemicals. Screening tests can help guide the strategic elimination or rotation of immunogenic foods associated with food sensitivities or allergic reactions.
Increased intestinal permeability triggers the immune system and adversely affects gut health. Through direct measurement, the protein serving as the tight junctions between our luminal gut cells, known as Zonulin, can be determined. Increased blood or fecal Zonulin is associated with gut permeability and increased susceptibility to the deleterious effects of toxins, immunogenic food and pathogenic bacteria within the gut. Consuming soluble fibre and gut-healing anti-inflammatory herbs and nutrients, as found in PearlRX GI Revival Rx, can repair the barrier function and help heal a leaky gut.
Optimal digestion and metabolism depend on many vital factors. Replacing inadequate or missing micronturients (vitamins, minerals), enzymes and other substances is key to digestive health. Through targeted testing for micronutrient deficiencies and enzymatic imbalances, a personalized replacement plan can be determined.
A robust microbiome is the cornerstone of good health for the gut, body and brain. Measurement of the metabolic waste of pathogenic strains can be a clue to dysbiosis, and further qualitative testing can be done to elucidate the type of bacterial strains comprising the microbiome. Measured spikes or overgrowth of specific pathogenic strains have been associated with a range of conditions and diseases. A multi-pronged approach can help favourably repopulate the microbiome through consuming prebiotic foods like asparagus and onions with symbiotic or fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha. While the concept of single strain targeted probiotics is not yet mainstream, we can strategically supplement a gut-healthy diet with evidence-based strains of probtiocs, like PearlRX BioFlora, to support the microbiome and to target certain symptoms and diseases.
The intricate gut-brain connection requires that we address the neuro-psychological signals shaping digestion. Ensuring optimal sleep, stress management and emotional wellbeing is key to a thriving gut, and only through gut healing is total mind-body wellness possible. Employing evidence-based practices like meditation, yoga and deep breathing can help rebalance the microbiome and your digestive health. With neurobiofeedback tools, you can train yourself to masterfully use these practices in your day-to-day lives. Because even more than food, our thoughts and feelings are the fuel to our inner wellbeing.
The 5R Gut approach offers a step-by-step plan to better digestive wellness and health. From removing and rebalancing to repairing and replacing, we can restore our digestive wellbeing for a more balanced and healthier gut, mind and body. So, make this springtime the season of your best gut health!
Dr. Jennifer Pearlman, MD CCFP CFA NCMP FAARM ABAARM
For any questions and inquires, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 416.644.1112. More information can be found at www.pearlrejuvenation.com. The above is not intended as medical advice but only general health information and does not constitute or replace a physician-patient relationship.