Integrative gastroenterology combines the perspective of conventional allopathic medicine with a holistic approach to patients and their lives–mind, body and soul. Sometimes adjusting diet or lifestyle can be even more effective than using medications, especially when it comes to establishing a healthy gut balance.
COVID-19 and the Digestive Tract:
Although we think of SARS-CoV-2 as a respiratory virus, it may sometimes enter the body through the digestive tract. It can replicate there and may cause significant symptoms. People with imbalanced microbiomes may be more susceptible to COVID-19. What’s more, people who recover from COVID-19 may be left with microbe imbalances as a consequence.
Re-establishing Healthy Gut Balance:
How can you tell whether your digestive bacteria are out of balance? Symptoms can be quite varied, ranging from stomachaches and bloating to joint pain or even skin problems. We have many microbe collections living in and on us. Could those in the gut be like the headquarters for our other microbiomes? Perhaps rebalancing the gut microbes can have overall health effects. We know, for example, that there are intimate connections between the brain and the gut.
The best treatments may include stress reduction and mindfulness. The gut has millions of neurons and produces most of the body’s serotonin, a neurochemical. Consequently, gut health has a big impact on psychological well-being as well.
Optimizing lifestyle factors such as exercise, sleep hygiene and a plant-heavy diet all have an impact on the microbiome. This can help significantly in achieving a healthy gut balance.
Learning about the specific imbalance through microbiome testing (such as Verisana offers) can also provide information for precision medicine. Re-establishing balance may be easier when you know what is missing.
Colonoscopy and Antibiotics and a Healthy Gut Balance:
Both antibiotic use and the preparation for colonoscopy can upset the balance of digestive tract microbes. While probiotics may help in restoring healthy gut balance, you also need to follow a good diet to support your microbes. Variety is important, especially vegetables and fruits. Maximizing fiber and limiting sugar is most helpful. The digestive bacteria make short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, from fiber. These can act as “post-biotics” to help re-establish a healthy gut balance.
Which strains are most helpful? Dr. Singh likes to recommend a broad-spectrum probiotic, including Bacillus spores along with Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species. The People’s Pharmacy sponsor KayaBiotics offers some excellent choices.
Reducing Acid and Upsetting Gut Balance:
Acid-reducing medications like PPIs are extremely popular. However, chronic use of these products can throw the gut microbes out of balance. Consequently, integrative gastroenterologists often recommend natural approaches instead. Products like DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice), slippery elm and marsh mallow (the herb, not the candy) can provide symptomatic help with heartburn. None of them appear to change the ecology of the microbiome significantly.
The Guest for This Episode:
Marvin Singh, MD, is director of Integrative Gastroenterology at the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute at the University of California, Irvine.
This sponsored podcast is brought to you by the Verisana Health Club. Verisana is an analytical laboratory providing home health tests for hormones, gut health and the microbiome, now with an annual health club plan. Online at VERISANA.com/health-club/.
Also by KayaBiotics, hypoallergenic probiotic products are made in Germany from certified organic ingredients. Online at KayaBiotics.com