June 16, 2016

Gut Bacteria and Naturopathic Medicine

“The three pounds of microbes that you carry around with you may be more important for some health conditions than every single gene in your genome.”

Digestion, gut bacteria and probiotics are so important that as Naturopathic Doctors, we find ourselves spending quite a bit of time discussing these with our patients. The time is well spent as these are strongly linked with our overall health.

For over a century, Naturopathic medicine has trumpeted the essential role digestion plays in treating and preventing disease. The past few years have been very exciting for Naturopathic Doctors as mountains of new research has been validating just what we have been saying all along!

To share with you just a sample of this astonishing research, consider the following:

– The prestigious journal Nature has shown how differences in gut bacteria are linked to obesity. (1)

– A research group at the Helkinski University Hospital showed differences in the gut bacteria of Parkinson’s disease patients compared to healthy subjects. (4)

– Autistic children appear to have distinctly different levels of intestinal flora. (2)

– Heartburn has been associated with an overgrowth of small intestinal bacteria (see our SIBO article) in at least half of cases. (3)

– Links between gut bacteria and mental health (particularly depression) are beginning to become apparent.

While we try to be concise when discussing digestion, gut bacteria and probiotics with our patients, we might not be able to go into as much detail with the background of the importance of bacterial ecology as we might like. To that end, we recently watched a fantastic TED Talk presented by a microbiologist describing much of what we know about gut bacterial ecology in a short, interesting and enjoyable lecture.

While the talk doesn’t go into detail about how to help correct flora imbalances (aside from fecal matter transplants, which are probably most often not necessary, nor to everyone’s liking), it does tell a lot about just how important the bacteria in our digestive tracts are.

The link for his talk is below, and we encourage you to watch it! Some of the points we found interesting included:

– There are ten times more microbial cells (100 trillion) in and on our bodies than human cells (10 trillion).

– When children take antibiotics in first 6 months of life, they are more likely to be obese as they grow into adults. The antibiotics degrade gut microbial ecosystems.

– The three pounds of microbes that you carry around with you may be more important for some health conditions than every single gene in your genome.

– Bacteria help us digest our food, help educate our immune systems, help us resist disease and they may even be effecting our behaviour.

~ Dr. Colin


(1) Microbial Ecology: Human Gut Microbes associated with Obesity. Nature, 2006.

(2) Reduced incidence of Prevotella and other fermenters in Intestinal Microflora of autistic children. PlosOne, 2013.

(3) Increased incidence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth during proton punp inhibitor therapy. Clinical Gastroenterollogy and Hepatology, 2010.

(4) Gut microbiota are related to Parkinson’s disease and clinical phenotype. Movement Disorders, 2015.

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