In this episode of the Strive for Great Health Podcast Dr. Harris discuses the microbiome and what can happen when the gut bacteria get out of whack and how you can prevent and treat Dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is linked to diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity, cancer & so much more. Let’s talk about how we can protect our microbiome!
Lifestyle Medicine with Dr. Harris
Hello, I’m Dr. Richard Harris, and welcome to the Strive for Great Health podcast. A brief recap of what we talked about last week, we did an introduction to myself to kind of my philosophies. And then, we also talked about the six root causes of chronic disease. And for a recap of those, it’s dysbiosis toxin exposure/impaired detoxification, hormone dysregulation, inflammation, immune system, dysregulation, physiologic, mental stress, and nutrient deficiencies.
So in this episode, we’ll go more into dysbiosis. Again, the videos for this will be posted on Patron, on YouTube, as well as our private Facebook group called Strive for Great Health. Strive for Great Health will also be where the discussion of the podcast will occur. And if you have any questions or comments about the podcast, that will be the place to go. Links to the Facebook page, Great Health, and Wellness can be found on our website, theghwellness.com. Audio can also be found there, as well as Spotify and iTunes.
So let’s dig into it. What the agenda for today is I’m going to introduce kind of brief overview of the digestive system function. What exactly is dysbiosis, how does it cause health issues? Some holistic strategies to treat it. And similar to the first episode, we’ll go into two articles, which appeared in the news recently, which I found very interesting.
So a brief overview of what the function of the digestive system is. Of course, we all know the digestive system’s function is to digest things. Thank you for listening. Have a great week. It’s to extract nutrients from what we eat, right? So those nutrients have to get from the food to ourselves, and the digestive system digests the food, gets those nutrients ready, gets it into the bloodstream, so it can be delivered to the cells where it is needed.
Another function of the immune system that we don’t really talk about that much, or you don’t hear, is immune surveillance. Or you have a lot of immune cells, white blood cells, in the gut who are there to survey what comes in the body. So the gut is our primary source of where invaders can come in and get to places that they’re not supposed to be because of just the amount that we eat, right. Where we eat two, three, four, sometimes five or six times a day. And in another episode, we’ll talk about what is the ideal strategy for that. But there’s constantly surveillance there to make sure that something that’s not supposed to be there doesn’t get there. And this immune surveillance can lead to some problems if there is over immunity, or if there is constant surveillance, if there’s the watchdog is constantly being active, that can cause some problems.
Another little known function of the digestive system is signaling. And you’ll hear, especially in the news lately, about the gut-brain axis, right? And that how issues in the gut can lead to issues in the brain. But there’s also a gut-kidney axis. There is recently been discovered that there’s a gut-mouth axis, which seems to be very logical, right? But there is somehow; we’re not exactly sure, the mouth bacteria can talk to the stomach bacteria. And there is an interaction there between the two that helps maintain overall health. And as you’ve started to hear that the mouth bacteria, the mouth flora, is also very important in health.
So what is dysbiosis? Dysbiosis just means there’s an abnormality in the normal gut flora. Flora just means what is the makeup of the gut bacteria. Another term that people use for this is microbiome. That’s a hot buzz word there of microbiome. So if you hear me say gut flora or microbiome or gut bacteria, I’m talking about what are the bacterial species and other things that live in our gut that work in a symbiotic relationship with us.
So if everything is working as it should be, the gut bacteria are there; they’re helping us in numerous different ways. They help digest food. They help break down the carbohydrates, the proteins, the fats that we eat. They make nutrients for us. So one of the functions of the gut bacteria is they take in fiber, and they make short-chain fatty acids. And you’ll hear me talk about those short-chain fatty acids, or SCFAs as they are sometimes called here in a minute. They are very, very important because our gut cells love them. They take them up for energy; they can be used very quickly for energy. They are of signaling molecules, so they decrease inflammation.
So the gut bacteria will take in fiber and make those short-chain fatty acids to feed other gut bacteria. And then also to help feed our cells and the short-chain fatty acids, because they are acids, they do kill off some of the bad gut bacteria as well. So I always tell people that there is a microbial war going on inside your intestines. And so you have your good gut bacteria fighting off bad gut bacteria, right? And there’s this constant interplay between the two. And so dysbiosis is when the normal flora, the normal microbiome, has been under attack and replaced by a flora by a microbiome. That is not what it should be.
So dysbiosis can cause a number of chronic diseases. If you look in the literature, it’s been linked to diabetes, increased weight, increased blood sugars, increased blood pressure. It has been linked to anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s. Like I said the gut kidney access has been linked to chronic kidney disease. And so more and more, we’re finding out these interactions between the gut and the rest of the body and how what happens in the gut gets transmitted to the rest of the body as a sort of a warning signal and a precursor or as a “hey everything’s A-OK, let’s just continue doing what we’re doing.”
So how does it lead to those chronic diseases? How does dysbiosis lead to health issues? Well, number one, it can cause inflammation, right? As we talked about previously, inflammation is one of the root causes of chronic disease. And as I said before, that some of these root causes can cause other root causes, and that can cause disease. I intentionally said cause a lot there.
Anyway, so inflammation. So how does it cause inflammation? As I mentioned before, the gut bacteria, in the gut, there’s a lot of immune surveillance. There’s a lot of immune cells and in areas where the immune system regulates and watches. So if you have abnormal flora, this can stimulate the immune system. If you have bad gut bacteria for microbiome, diversity is off; then the immune system can be stimulated. And then you are not only having a war between the immune cells and the gut bacteria, but also that good gut bacteria and bad gut bacteria. Well, this can get transmitted as inflammation. So the inflammatory signals that are happening in the gut can get transmitted elsewhere to the body. And this is that gut-brain axis, this gut-kidney axis. So that the signaling that, “Hey, there’s something going on here, there is invaders, something’s not right.” That leads to inflammation, and that can lead to chronic disease.
Another thing is nutrient deficiencies. So the good microbiome help us digest food. They make those short-chain fatty acids. They also make other precursor molecules I’ll talk about in a minute. But with abnormal flora, if they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do, if they have no interest in making the things that actually help us, then you can actually get nutrient deficiencies, or the abnormal bacteria themselves can take up those nutrients and hog them and not let them be available for our bodies to absorb.
Again, with inflammation, the parallel to that is immune activation. We touched on that. So the immune system, when it’s activated, it can lead to something called auto-immunity. Meaning that the immune system gets into a certain state where it begins to recognize normal cells and normal signals as abnormal. And this is some of the diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, even some types of thyroid disorders, like lupus. A lot of those have a connection to immune activation, and that could be from the gut, and it could be from other sources.
Precursor molecules, a lot of the precursor neurotransmitters and neurotransmitters, are our brain chemicals; they are how one cell in the brain talks to another cell on our brain. Some of those precursors are made in the gut. And you also have a lot of nerve cells in the gut. You know, if you talk to a GI doctor, they’ll just call it the second brain. And they’ll tell you it’s more important than your actual brain, right? Because that’s the GI doctor, right? That’s what they do. So there’s a host of nerve cells in the gut. There’s also a lot of these precursor molecules that get made in the gut. Some of the gut bacteria break down the amino acids and help make these precursors that go to our brain and then get made into the neurotransmitters.
So it’s no surprise that you see a link between dysbiosis, that abnormal gut flora, and anxiety and depression. Because the balance of the neuro-transmitters is off. That inflammation can also cause the balance of those neurotransmitters to be off as well.
Another reason they can cause health issues is improper digestion, right? And this is your irritable bowel type syndrome. All right. So a lot of conventional medicine looks at irritable bowel as, “oh, it’s, it’s in your head and there’s nothing wrong with you,” but it’s more likely to be described as a gut allergy. And that’s how I describe it to people. It’s a gut hypersensitivity. So what’s happening in your gut is normal signals are getting interpreted as abnormal. So certain foods, certain chemicals, other things that should not cause issues, now cause issues. And you get that abdominal pain, the bloating, the constipation, or the diarrhea.
I know this because I suffered from irritable bowel for since basically, I can remember. I got sick in Virginia Beach when I was a kid; both me and my mom ate the same dish. And it’s actually the reason I stopped eating seafood for a while because we both got really, really sick. She had to be hospitalized, actually. I didn’t have to be hospitalized. I just was able to keep down some fluids. But after that, I wasn’t able to eat certain foods anymore. I started to have a lot of GI symptoms. And in high school, there would be times where I was just doubled over in abdominal pain, just this cramping, abdominal pain. There would be times where I was just super constipated. And I know I’m sure you guys want to hear about this, but I like to tell my story too. Because even as a physician, I have still had to deal with my own fair share of health issues that I have dramatically improved. And even some of them completely gone away through lifestyle interventions.
But it wasn’t until I got to college when I was in pharmacy school that I really started to figure out that there was a link between what I was eating and my GI symptoms. So after some detective work and trying different things and cutting different things out, I realized that I’m really gluten sensitive. If I eat bread, I get symptoms. Later, when I did my genetic testing, I found out that I do have a genetic predisposition to be gluten sensitive. I haven’t done official celiac testing, but if I did, I imagine that I probably have celiac disease.
So again, what is how I deal with dysbiosis. That dysbiosis can cause that immune activation, which can lead to normal signals being interpreted as abnormal, and then you have improper digestion. So the primary function of the gut, of the GI system, is to digest things. And so with that imbalance now proper digestion is not happening, and that can reflect itself as some of those classic GI symptoms.
So yeah, holistic strategies to treat dysbiosis. One of the things that I do recommend is eating real food. You know, we call it just eat real food. So a lot of processed foods, a high carbohydrates, chemicals. This can all lead to further dysregulation in the gut.
And so you can see, going to a low carb, holistic, paleo type diet, where you’re just eating real food, does improve the gut flora. When you switch to those types of nutrition plans, you tend to eat more fiber. Again, fiber is very, very important to gut bacteria. They take it up; they use it for food. And then they spit out the short-chain fatty acids, which helps feed ourselves. Which actually helps reduce inflammation in ourselves. Butyrate has been shown to decrease inflammation, and that is the major short-chain fatty acids that’s made from digestion of fibers.
So also eating more diverse foods and eating more vegetables does help increase the biodiversity in the gut. One of those things is you do want to make sure is you do get some soil-based plants, vegetables because they have soil-based bacteria, and that’s actually good for us, but we’ll talk about that a little bit more in the supplements.
Another strategy is intermittent fasting. So on average, it takes about two to four hours for food to transit through your gut, through the stomach, and maybe another six to eight hours to transit through your intestines. So if you’re eating three times a day, your gut is continuously working to digest the food. Well, one of the things to help improve the dysbiosis, to help improve your gut function, is to not eat, intermittent fast, to give the gut a break. Well, what happens when you fast is your body will slowly start to get into ketosis, a state where you’re producing ketones from the breakdown of fats. And those ketones, mainly beta-hydroxybutyrate, can be turned back into that butyrate, that short-chain fatty acid I talked about, that is very, very good, very, very important for the gut cells and for our gut bacteria.
Another thing that you can do is eat certain types of foods. And the main types of foods that we do recommend are those fermented foods. I’m a big fan of kombucha. I drink maybe a shot glass or two worth of kombucha a day. I’ll also do kimchi, sauerkraut; all those fermented foods have good bacteria in them. And so that good bacteria can help with the problem of the dysbiosis, with the abnormal bacteria. And also, as we talked about before, going low carb or even ketogenic can help rebalance the gut bacteria.
For more information on how to do ketosis correctly. I highly recommend you check out our Facebook group called Keto Connected. It’s a group that I run with my girlfriend. We post recipes, information, science. And it’s just a great community about ketosis and how to do it correctly. Because unfortunately, there’s a lot of people out there who just think ketosis is all about cheese, bacon, and meat. And that’s not true.
Once I switched to a low carb ketogenic plan, I do about 50-50. I do 50% low carb, 50% ketogenic, just because I like to do some diversity. So I will increase my carbs on days that I have really, really heavy workouts. But even then, on my high carb day, I’m still only getting probably like 70 to 90 grams of carbs; 90 will be max, most likely around 70. And on my low carb days, probably 20, 30. I don’t count exactly. I have keeping journals before where I did count for about two to three weeks. And so now I can ballpark guess where I am as far as my calorie intake and my macros. But it’s not something that I keep track of every day. If I want to make some changes, I’ll adjust and keep track there.
But back to the original point, that ketosis again is another way that you can help regulate the gut bacteria. So supplements, probiotics, prebiotics, very, very hot topic in the news. And there’s a lot of new research that has come out in the last year about probiotics that is pretty fascinating. The first thing about probiotics or probiotics are bacteria, right? They are a gut bacteria or normal flora, and then some of them you will see are called spore-based probiotics. So the difference between the lactobacillus and the Saccharomyces probiotics and then the spore base, which are usually some type of bacillus, is that the spore-based makes spores. And these spores are resistant to being eaten by the GI tract; they’re resistant to that. So they’re able to get into the actual, the small intestine, resistant to being eaten by the stomach, I should say, and of stomach acid. And they’re able to get into the GI and the GI tract into the intestines and then form into the bacteria.
Now the other bacteria like the lactobacillus, a lot of it actually does get destroyed in the gut, in the stomach, but that’s actually not a problem. So a couple of studies have come out in the last year that showed that even though the bacteria got destroyed, even the dead bacteria caused some changes in signaling patterns in the gut. And it actually has some benefits as far as decreasing inflammation and decreasing immune surveillance. So probiotics, as far as those type, the non-sport forming, don’t seem to work. Like we thought they work. And we used to think that they would come in, there is enough colonies, and they would colonize the gut. But it appears to be that doesn’t work that way. I say appears because it’s not a hundred percent certain, but it appears that there’s a very low colonization effect where you take the probiotic capsule, and those bacteria make it to the small intestine and then begin to grow in the small intestine; they are colonized. But it seems that they actually cause some changes in the way the signaling inside cells work to create the beneficial effects.
Now, the spore-based probiotics are different. Those actually make it to the small intestine through the stomach, and they are able to grow and form bacteria. The spore-based bacteria are really good at making the short-chain fatty acids. And they’re. Also, those are bad dudes, they will go in, and they will kill other bacteria. So a lot of practitioners will recommend spore-based probiotics. A lot of them will recommend normal probiotics. Right now, as far as I know in the literature, there’s no best route. If you are going to take probiotics, it’s important for what condition you’re taking them for to look at what the literature specifically showed as far as what type of probiotic, what type of specific bacterial strain was used.
Now what I do in my own regimen is I take a spore probiotic four times a week, and I take a regular probiotic three times a week. There is no evidence behind this, as far as I know. Logically, I think it makes sense because our ancestors ate a much more biodiverse diet. They ate pretty much what they could get their hands on it at what time. So to mimic that, I try to change around the probiotic regimen that my body is getting. So by doing the kombucha, by doing which kombucha has the spore-forming bacteria, by doing the spore-forming probiotics four times a week, and by doing the regular probiotic three times a week, it kind of mimics that. And a lot of the supplements that I take are available for sale from our e-store, that store dot theGHwellness.com. I do mark those down off of retail pricing.
The important thing is that these are all high-quality supplements. They are what we called GMP certified, meaning good manufacturing practice. So they’re independently third-party tested to say what they have, to make sure that they have what they say they have in them, to make sure that the dosage is correct. And also to test for contamination with heavy metals and other things. You are seeing a lot in the news lately about contaminated drugs. The reason for that is a lot of these are coming from other countries where we had cut the FDA inspector, amount down foreign, in the foreign countries where these drugs are made. And they got backlogged, and a lot of these are being made in facilities that are due for inspection that haven’t been inspected. And so, of course, when nobody’s watching, bad stuff can happen.
So these supplements I recommend are, like I said, available in our e-store or on our website, theGHwellness.com. And they are that CGMP, which is very, very important. I really don’t care; I’m just being honest; if you get your supplements from me, I just want people to know what are high-quality supplements. If you’re going to buy them on Amazon, always make sure you look and see is this GMP certified. Otherwise, you don’t know what’s in there. You don’t know if it’s actual the dosage. I mean, they could legally sell you a sugar pill and call it something else. And you get placebo effect from it, but you’re not actually getting what you think you paid for.
So another thing that you can take something wise is prebiotics. And I guess, let me go back there. As far as the probiotics that I take, I take orthomolecular ortho biotic three times a week, and I take pro flora 4r four times a week. You can also take short-chain fatty acids. Appear in capsulation makes a butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that you can directly take to help the gut cells.
Prebiotics, those are fiber, right? So probiotics are the bacteria. Prebiotics are what feeds the bacteria. And so this is mainly different types of fiber or what we call all of those Saccharides, just basically sugar molecules that our bodies can’t digest, but the gut bacteria can digest. And so, one of my favorites is inulin. Inulin is a great prebiotic, has a lot of good effects in the body. It has been shown to help with blood sugar regulation, cholesterol regulation, helps decrease inflammation in the gut. That’s a great probiotic. There’s one that a lot of people love called mega prebiotic; it’s by the same people who make MegaSpore biotic, which is another spore-based probiotic that a lot of people take. Some people take the pro flora 4r that I take; some people take the MegaSpore biotic. In my mind, it is more about personal choice. I take the pro flora because it has some things that help with leaky gut.
Leaky gut, for real briefly, is just when there are junctions between the cells, right? So the things don’t just go into the bloodstream directly from the gut. They have to be absorbed in a certain way. So things can’t just pass through without being checked, right. It’s analogous to going through airport security and not going through TSA, right? So when you have leaky gut, you basically skip TSA. You’re able to directly go from entering the airport directly to where the flights are. And so that can cause some issues because you lose that surveillance, and things get into the body that aren’t supposed to be in the body. It can cause inflammation and that immune system activation, although pro flora has some things that help with leaky gut and help repair that. Again, it’s a minor difference between that and the MegaSpore either one is okay in my book.
Another thing that you can take is exogenous ketones. I’m a huge fan of exogenous ketones. I take them daily. I used Pruvit exogenous ketones. I use them before my workouts. Again, the beta-hydroxybutyrate that is in ketones can be degraded into just the butyrate portion, which is beneficial for the gut. More information about those can be found on our website, the GHwellness.com under ketosis.
So that’s about dysbiosis. So let’s go into the articles that I mentioned. Again, every single time I will just bring up some recent articles, and we’ll just have a quick discussion about those articles about my take on what’s going on currently in the news.
So the two articles I’ll link, and again, the articles will be found in our private Facebook group Strive for Great Health. You can find the group via our Facebook page. A link to that is on our website. That theGhwellness.com
The first article talks about nuts, right? That’s one of my favorite snacks. I’m a big fan of almonds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts. Those actually have the best fat profiles for you. You can also do peanuts, but peanuts to have a little bit more of a bad type of fat than the other ones, but it’s okay. You know, a handful of them goes a long way. A handful of nuts is packed with protein, good fats and help keep you full.
So in this study, it was in the BMJ, and they looked at people who ate just a handful of nuts a day as a healthy snack alternative. And these people were able to keep off more weight than the people who didn’t. So it can help lower the risk of obesity. And this is because again, they’re healthy, they’re real food, they’re calorie-dense, but they’re also nutrient-dense. So if you, if you eat a handful of nuts as a healthy snack, as opposed to eating a Snickers or potato chips or something like that, you’re actually getting essential nutrients. You’re getting good protein, you’re getting good fats. And so that can help you feel more full and more satisfied. And then, it can also help provide the nutrients that your body needs to keep going.
So the second one looks at a really powerful, what I think is a powerful study. And this was in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and they recently did a meta-analysis; a meta-analysis is where they look at a bunch of different studies. And they really said that you know what a lot of us in the functional medicine sphere have been saying, that there’s nothing wrong with eating red meat. And the scientists who looked at this study said that really the evidence that showed that red meat was bad for us is low-quality evidence. And that we really shouldn’t just be saying that you should not eat red meat.
And this is something that I 100 percent agree with. If you look at a lot of the studies that say red meat is harmful, number one, a lot of them were poorly done. Second, there’s no discrimination between what is red meat. So they were including all types of red meat, which includes processed meats like deli meats and hot dogs and salami and stuff that’s very, very ultra-processed. So a lot of the findings from these studies were actually from processed foods are bad for you and not actually red meat. Because there’s a big, big difference between eating a grass-fed steak like nature intended and eating a hot dog, right. Which is just a processed amalgam of meats and chemicals and a lot of badness in there.
So what we know is, and there’s multiple studies that have shown this, when the animals are grass-fed and grass-finished, the fat profile completely changes. It changes from a pro-inflammatory fat because when they’re fed a lot of grains and other animal products, that’s not what they’re supposed to eat. And the fats that they store are much more inflammatory, causing are much more pro-inflammatory.
When they’re fed, like I’m just taking cows, for instance, when they’re fed a grass-fed and grass-finished, they actually have much more Omega-3s, the anti-inflammatory fats, and the whole profile of the nutrients changes to where it’s actually healthy. I eat red meat, probably three, four, maybe five times a week, kind of depending. But I eat everything. I eat red meat; I eat pork, I eat chicken. I try to eat fish. I cannot cook fish at home. I’ve tried, I fail miserably. So I do go out to restaurants; I usually order salmon or tuna because when restaurants cook it, I like it. But when I cook it, I’m just horrible at cooking fish. I’m more of a ribs and steak and chicken kind of person that I know. Fish, since I didn’t eat it for so long, I’m just not good at cooking it.
But anyway, back to the original point, it is okay to eat red meat. It’s just the processed red meats that you should avoid. You should avoid anything processed, right? Like I said earlier, what I tell people is if he doesn’t walk, swim, run, or come from the ground, don’t eat it. If it has a commercial, don’t eat it. If it comes in a box, don’t eat it. If you look at the label and you need a Ph.D. in biochemistry to understand what’s in it, don’t eat it. I don’t even understand what’s in all of these chemicals, and what they’re for, and why they’re used, that are in foods now.
So again, these articles will be posted in our private Facebook group called Strive for Great Health. Next week, we’ll be coming to you again, talking about the six root causes, more in-depth. And we’ll be talking about root cause number two, which is toxin exposure/impaired detoxification.
If you have any questions, concerns, comments, please post them in the Strive for Great Health group. If you have any requests for podcast material, that’s also the place to post it, in the Strive for Great Health group. Again, I hope you found this very informative, educational.
And really what I’m trying to do here, I was talking about this with the CEO of EncourageX, Mr. James Brown. What he’s trying to do is he’s trying to create snackable items, things that you can just go to really quickly, get high-quality information, and then make it actionable. What my goal with these podcasts is, is not to hear me ramble or talk, or just fill up airtime to fill up airtime. My goal is to give you actionable information, snackable information, little bits that you can take, and you can immediately start incorporating in your life today to start improving your health. And what I like to say is strive for great health. So if you have any questions, concerns, comments, please post them the Strive for Great Health group, and I hope everyone has a blessed day. Thank you.