A positive action plan to keep the microbiome healthy and reduce inflammation is all about reducing the American appetite for excessive sugar, salt, omega-6 oils, and processed foods, all of which demonstrably contribute to inflammatory conditions.
Diet is very important, and we need to ask patients to cut back on these types of foods, but nutrition alone isn’t enough to strengthen the microbiome and keep chronic low-level cellular inflammation away. Let’s explore why.
What Causes Inflammation?
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have discovered many ways in which cellular inflammation affects bodily processes, suggesting that this condition is a whole-system enemy that is encroaching everywhere.
The most general explanation for what creates cellular inflammation is two-fold. In the first case, the immune system is triggered to fight a threat that doesn’t actually need the inflammatory response; the immune cells have no real enemy to fight so they start attacking the body’s own cells. In the second case, there’s a low-grade threat that’s real but remains undetected because we didn’t conduct an EndFlame® Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio blood test. The results of this test can tell us if the immune response is being triggered to stay turned-on rather than resolving an underlying musculoskeletal health challenge.
In this second case, we can have patients change their diet, which in turn will affect the bacteria in their intestinal tract and their process of digestion. To properly digest a meal requires an array of microorganisms that break down specific nutrients. Over time, this colony of bacteria has evolved into its own ecosystem within the body, known as the microbiome.
Why Does the Microbiome Matter?
The importance of the microbiome is immense. It exists primarily in the intestines but has other sites like the skin, and it’s directly affected by what our patients eat. These bacteria aren’t invaders; the microbiome is as much a part of our patients’ genetic makeup as their heart or any muscle cell. In fact, human DNA is now known to contain large contributions of microbial DNA that have become assimilated over eons of life on Earth.
One theory holds that bad or pathogenic bacteria are always present in the microbiome but are so outnumbered by the good bacteria that they are kept in check. Disease breaks out if the balance is reversed and the pathogens begin to overpopulate the ecology. This could be caused by patients’ nutrition, an overactive inflammatory response, or a number of other factors.
The following are some main points to consider on our patients’ microbiome.
- The gut microbiome is different from culture to culture. In each of us, it shifts in response to diet, stress, and emotions.
- Because of its complexity and the enormous variability from one patient to another, the normal gut microbiome hasn’t yet been defined.
- It’s generally believed that a flourishing & healthy gut microbiome is achievable through eating a wide range of natural foods rich in polyphenols, including a variety of different fruits and vegetables.
- Since most patients’ diet is devoid of fruits and vegetables, a whole-food supplement such as Greens First® PRO Phytonutrient Powder can be very beneficial in supporting a healthy microbiome, especially since it contains a comprehensive blend of probiotics as well as plant fiber.
- The Western diet is low in fiber-rich foods but high in sugar, salt, omega-6 oils, and processed foods, all of which seriously degrade the quality of the gut microbiome and promote inflammation.
- When the gut microbiome is damaged or degraded, bacteria begin to release endotoxins as a byproduct of microbial action. If these toxins leak through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream (considered a leaky gut), markers for inflammation are triggered and persist until the toxins are no longer present.
From these bullet points alone, we can extrapolate a vast amount of information about our patients’ levels of inflammation. Wherever the bloodstream extends (which is everywhere), inflammation triggered by the microbiome can start to create health challenges.
Ensuring that our patients adopt an anti-inflammatory diet is key to getting our patients’ gut microbiome back into a healthy state. Our goal should be to have all of them adopt an organic, unrefined whole-food diet as much as possible, with plenty of high-quality protein, fiber, and healthy fats like omega-3s.
Focus on Prebiotics to Keep the Microbiome Healthy
In addition to the mounting research on the microbiome, there is skyrocketing interest in foods and supplements that keep the microbiome healthy. Probiotics are half of the equation; they are foods and supplements that add beneficial microbes to the intestinal tract. On the other hand, prebiotics are foods and supplements that contain plant fiber that nourishes the microbes that already exist inside the digestive system.
As a general rule, and keeping up with the latest research, doctors should focus first on prebiotics to fuel growth in the good bacteria that already exists in the gut and starve out the less desirable strains of bacteria that cause the microbiome to release endotoxins and trigger the inflammatory response.
Introducing new bacteria to the gut with a probiotic won’t be nearly as helpful if the patient’s diet is low in fiber, as the typical patient’s diet tends to be. Newly introduced microorganisms need fiber to feed on in order to promote the growth of new bacterial colonies in the gut. Doctors should always recommend pairing any probiotic supplement or food with a prebiotic fiber taken at the same time.
The U.S. government recommends intake to be a minimum of 24 grams of a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber each day. That’s roughly double the amount of fiber that a typical American consumes, despite 24 grams being a relatively small amount. Studies have shown beneficial changes to the microbiome from diets as high as 40 grams of fiber per day, with the diets highest in fiber providing the greatest health benefits.1, 2
Greens First® PRO Rice Fiber First™ provides nearly 9 grams of fiber per day, which is more than one-third of the government recommendations, from only 6 caplets. Each caplet is made with stabilized rice bran that provides significant quantities of gamma oryzanol and other powerful phytonutrients.
The most basic soluble fiber is cellulose, the undigested bulk in all plant foods. Cellulose is what the microbes in our digestive tract thrive on. Each daily Rice Fiber First serving of 6 caplets contains nearly 1.4 grams of Methyl cellulose, which supports overall gastro-intestinal and bowel health.
Greens First® Offers a Comprehensive Gut Health Solution
A natural whole-food diet can improve a wide range of inflammatory issues, but patients often have trouble sticking to a new diet that contains enough fruits, vegetables, and fiber. Consider the convenience and effectiveness of recommending Greens First® PRO Phytonutrient Powder (original, berry, or chocolate), which contains a blend of fibrous fruits and vegetables with probiotics and digestive enzymes, along with Rice Fiber First stabilized rice bran caplets, which provides nourishing prebiotic fiber to support a healthy fiber intake and help fuel the desirable bacterial colonies to grow in the gut. Together, they support a healthy microbiome and help shut down any overactive inflammatory response.
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*These products and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
(1) High-Fiber, Whole-Food Dietary Intervention Alters the Human Gut Microbiome
but Not Fecal Short-Chain Fatty Acids; Oliver et al;
(2) Dietary Fiber Is Beneficial for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses; Marc P. McRae;