Gut Health

5 Things You Should Know about the Gut Microbiome

gut microbiome affects women's health
I'm Dr. Mamie!

I'm trained in naturopathic medicine + Chinese medicine + functional medicine, and I teach women how to transform their health using natural therapies and a root-cause approach! I share the truth as I know it.

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Your gut microbiome (the collection of “bugs” living in your gut) has a significant impact on the rest of your health. It’s a big reason why you’ll hear the phrase “all disease begins in the gut”! The balance of microbes (bacteria, yeasts, parasites) living in your gut can affect SO MANY areas of your health, including:

  • digestion and nutrient status
  • the health of your immune system (think chronic or recurring infections, allergies, autoimmunity)
  • levels of inflammation
  • brain function, memory, and cognition
  • weight and metabolism
  • sex hormone balance
  • thyroid function
  • how well you eliminate toxins and wastes
  • your mood (e.g., anxiety and depression)
  • sleep quality
  • energy levels
  • skin health (like acne, eczema, psoriasis and other rashes)
  • your ability to handle stress
  • cravings for sweets, carbs, and alcohol

The gut microbiome is a BIG topic, and it can get complex and overwhelming pretty quickly! So I’m focusing on five lesser-known facts about the gut microbiome that are important for you to know if your goal is to resolve your chronic symptoms and optimize your overall health!

1) A lack of gut symptoms doesn’t mean your microbiome is happy

If you have gut symptoms, that of course points to the presence of gut dysfunction! Most commonly, gut dysfunction will be due to problems with digestion, reactions to foods or ingredients, imbalances in the gut microbiome, and/or the impact of any number of toxins you can easily be exposed to.

But you can have NO gut symptoms and STILL have imbalances in the gut microbiome!!

I’ve actually seen stool testing reveal bacterial, fungal, or parasitic imbalances without there being any notable gut symptoms! In these cases, I didn’t run a stool test because there were symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, reflux, bloating, or abdominal pain. I ran the stool test because there were other chronic issues—such as autoimmunity, period problems, and thyroid disease—that can be caused or worsened by gut dysfunction and imbalances in the gut microbiome.

The body is an interconnected whole! Despite the existence of specialists in medicine—which implies that your body is divided into distinct parts—your gut is NOT actually separate from any other part of your body!! Which brings me to my next point…

2) Imbalances in the gut microbiome can cause symptoms all over your body

Microbiome imbalances have the ability to cause symptoms elsewhere in your body! Issues like fatigue, headaches and migraines, chronic pain, hormone imbalances, skin rashes, acne, disturbed sleep, mood imbalances, cardiovascular disease, and more can arise because of disturbances in the gut microbiome.

And like I mentioned, these gut microbiome imbalances can exist without causing gut symptoms! Which means you can’t rely solely on the absence of gut symptoms to determine that your gut is happy and healthy. Testing can help (there are limitations, however), but the rest of your health picture provides even more intel. SO MANY SYSTEMS are connected to, and impacted by, gut health. If you have chronic symptoms, you should absolutely be thinking about your gut microbiome!!!

3) Gut microbiome imbalances can impact other microbiomes

Did you know that you have multiple microbiomes in your body??

Your gut gets a lot of attention, and it’s well deserved because the gut microbiome plays a MAJOR role in your health!!

But you actually have a microbiome on your skin and in your mouth (which I consider to be the “gut” as well), nose, sinuses, eyes, uterus, liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, lungs, ears, and vagina! My guess is we’ll eventually figure out that just about every nook and cranny in the body has a microbiome… 

And guess what? Gut microbiome imbalances can breed imbalances in other microbiomes in your body! A common example I see is that women experiencing recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) or yeast infections are usually dealing with gut microbiome imbalances. As we address the gut microbiome and optimize gut health, the repeat UTIs and yeast infections stop!

Another example is someone who deals with allergies or recurring upper respiratory infections. Addressing gut health and the gut microbiome can result in major improvement in allergies (even total resolution), as well as less frequent and less severe upper respiratory infections!

The most important takeaway? Optimizing gut health and addressing the gut microbiome benefits the other microbiomes in your body!

4) Microbes have a relationship with toxins

The microbes living in your body have a really interesting relationship with toxins that you should be aware of if your goal is to optimize your health! Here’s a run down…

Microbes change their behavior in response to toxin exposures. This is called “pleomorphism,” and it can change a beneficial microbe into one that is worsening existing symptoms or causing new ones!

Microbes help with cleanup. If you have excess toxins in your body (from ongoing exposure and/or accumulation over time—this includes metabolic wastes and dead/dying cells and tissues, not just environmental toxins), you’ll eventually get an excess of bugs (bacteria, yeasts, parasites) to help deal with it. Toxins in the body create a terrain that is appealing to microbes, and the microbes then help with cleaning up the toxins. Examples abound in nature of microbes showing up to digest toxins and dead/dying tissues and materials! Our bodies experience this, too… We can even use microbes on an industrial scale to help clean up toxic spills (this is called bioremediation).

Microbes can make their own toxins. All life wants to live! Microbes are no different, so many produce toxins as part of their defense mechanisms and to help them compete against other microbes. These toxins can cause or contribute to many different chronic symptoms, especially if they are able to leak out of the gut and into the bloodstream (“leaky gut”), where they can cause issues all over your body! Revisit the beginning of this article for a list of examples.

5) Common causes of microbiome imbalances

So what causes the gut microbiome to become imbalanced? LOTS of things!! Here are some of the most common culprits:

  • antibiotics and other medications like birth control, PPIs for reflux or ulcers, statins for high cholesterol, metformin for type II diabetes or PCOS, NSAIDs (prescription or over-the-counter anti-inflammatories), SSRIs for depression or anxiety, and more
  • toxins, including environmental toxins and many ingredients found in personal care products, foods + beverages, and household items
  • stress (mental-emotional stress and also physical stress from chronic dysfunction, inflammation, and poor dietary + lifestyle habits)
  • lack of whole foods
  • too much sugar
  • junk foods/beverages and fast foods
  • food poisoning
  • travel, e.g., traveler’s diarrhea that leads to longer-term changes in the gut microbiome
  • habits like drinking alcohol and smoking (including vaping)

Optimize your gut microbiome!

If you have chronic symptoms of any kind—especially if those symptoms include gut symptoms—you will likely benefit from optimizing your gut microbiome!

Truly addressing the gut microbiome should include support to:

  1. Remove: foods your body is reacting to, toxins your body has accumulated, microbes that have overgrown or shouldn’t be there, and products or habits that are compromising gut health
  2. Restore: good “food hygiene” practices and digestion, beneficial gut microbes, normal motility, and the integrity + health of your gut lining
  3. Rebalance: incorporate long-term nutrition and lifestyle strategies to support a balanced gut microbiome, e.g., work-life balance, stress management, and nourishing foods

The health of your gut is SO IMPORTANT! Learn more about what a “healthy gut” actually means here.

For more info on how I incorporate optimizing your gut microbiome into a comprehensive framework that addresses the root causes of your chronic symptoms, click here.

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Hi, I'm Mamie.
I'm a different kind of doctor.

I'll take the time to listen to your concerns, understand your whole health picture, teach you what your symptoms mean and why they're happening, and empower you to rebuild your health and care for your body. I'll help you reclaim your rightful place as the leading expert on YOUR health!

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