The microbiome is the HOT topic in medicine and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But what does this mean to you? Is it the key to alleviating your IBS? I suggest our fascination with the bugs in our guts, is a situation of history repeating itself and may lead patients and practitioners down a slippery slope of chasing the unseeable bug. There is a way to look at what is happening to you, not from the bug perspective but from one that empowers you and helps you transform into the life you’re meant to live. Read below and get your gut-reset on! 

What is the Microbiome?

Our bodies are made up of 10 trillion cells, and inside our gut we house 100 trillion foreign microbes that take up residence right next to our most important immune warehouse and the organ system that gives us life through digestion, absorption, and elimination1.

What Does the Microbiome Do? The Good

These microbes of various origins play important key roles in processing metabolites from drugs and foods, metabolites that our body secretes and they create their own metabolites that, in general, have beneficial effects on our bodies. They can supply us with short chain fatty acids like Butyrate, well known for its healing of the gut2

What Does the Microbiome Do? The Bad

Due to our lifestyle choices and exposures, sometimes this hub of so called ‘health’ as claimed by the researchers, works against us instead of for us. As in the case of irritable bowel syndrome, where the balance of beneficial bugs is outweighed by their disease-promoting counterparts. Researchers elucidate to the microbiome being the UNIFYING aspect of the promotion of irritable bowel syndrome3. I beg to differ, it is JUST ONE of the factors of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

Probiotics – The Beneficial Bugs – The Good Guys

For simplicity sake, let’s call the good guys probiotics, since many of you are familiar with the product you buy to give your body good bugs. In reality, the researchers call the good guys commensal bacteria. These guys help us immensely, they are bacteria of different strains that help our bodies by making B vitamins and other amazing substances to keep our guts good4

Conbiotics – The Disease Promoting Bugs – The Bad Guys

The not-so-nice ones, I call conbiotics™. I coined this term because my understanding is that they act much like con artists in our bodies. They take up residence in places that are troubled, because they like to cause trouble too. Like attracts like. Usually it’s in a disturbed digestive tract, preferring environments that are filled with inflammation, histamine, oxalates, heavy metals and other toxins like poop sitting in our intestine too long.

They are typically present with food sensitivities, and the ultimate villain of them all a dis-stressed gut. A great example of this is after you take antibiotics. They kill both good and bad bacteria, but makes the intestine hospitable to conbiotics5

The Environment Decides who Lives There

So this shows us that the residents of the gut are dependent on the circumstances that are going on in our bodies. They are affected by our emotional wellbeing or lack thereof, our food choices, what drugs we take, our system’s ability to digest, absorb and eliminate and much, much more. 

WHY is our Health Placed in the Hands of Bacteria?

So what I don’t understand then, is why do we give our power away to the bug? Why don’t we own that it is us that may be off, us that isn’t doing the things that promote health and because of that the bugs that are growing are bad causing things to go awry within. These bad bugs going hay wire is simply in response to our bodies aiming to seek balance, not the other way around, where they give us balance. 

If we seriously own it, that the environment of our gut is caused by us, we can take actions to truly do something about it. And not allow history to repeat itself. 

Louis Pasteur

Portrait of Louis Pasteur

You may or may not be familiar with Louis Pasteur. He was a French scientist and the father of the germ theory6, also considered the father of immunology7. His entire life, delved first into the crystallization of wine, to fermentation processes, to development of the bug theory and finally vaccines. His belief and scientific perspective held central the idea that it was the bug that caused all disease. He was successful in promoting the message because he was a publicly well seen figure. 

Claude Bernard

At the same time another more meek French scientist was studying parallel to Pasteur. His deductions were different. Claude Bernard came to realize that it wasn’t the bug but the environment of the body, as he called it “the liquid millieu internal” , also commonly referred to as the terrain, that makes it hospital for the bug to survive. Bugs and germs are smart as well, they go where their survival is guaranteed and where they can multiply. It is best for them to multiply in unhealthy areas. Where the ENVIRONMENT SUPPORTS THEIR HEALTH!!!!! How ironic.

Environment that Supports Health 

Portrait of Claude Bernard

Because Bernard’s study of the human system physiology was quite impressive, he was well known for his animal experiments on the gut and intestine8. His message wasn’t visible because it is the phenomenon of a living creature. This is the part, in effect, that we really truly can’t do studies on. It definitely isn’t as easily visible through a microscope as Pasteur’s work was. 

Pasteur was also much more charismatic and simply more of a socialite that knew how to promote his message. Claude Bernard’s message got lost and didn’t make it to the forefront of scientific thought of the time. The environment that supports health died, and the bug won.

H. Pylori Infection from a Germ Theory Perspective

Pasteurs theories became embedded in the modern scientific thought of the day, and become the norm, even today. H. Pylori is one example of a bug well known to be the “cause” of peptic ulcers9, which according to the germ theory makes sense. In our common language we all talk about catching a cold, a virus, or a bacterial infection. Microbes and bacteria are easy to see under a microscope and because of that it’s very easy to believe it is true. 

H. Pylori Infection from a System Biology, Millieu Perspective

Had Bernard lived to see the H. Pylori situation, he would have explained it differently. That because of an acidic millieu, the stomach acid in the digestive tract doesn’t function optimally, therefore allowing for an infection of H.Pylori to set in. You see, it isn’t the bug that caused the ulcer, it was the imbalance in the physiology that allowed the infection to occur.

Why the Germ Theory Won – History Repeating Itself

Let’s face it, it’a a lot easier to blame a bug, than to trace back through the steps of the physiology to figure out why the infection happened in the first place. We are always looking for the easy button, but in health and sciences, unfortunately it’s not the easy way that prevails. That’s a recipe to be chasing after a bug for your entire life, never getting anywhere and always suffering. Isn’t the definition of Hell repeating the same thing over and over again? You can choose that path if you want, but I decided a long time ago it wasn’t the path that made sense to me. 

Had Bernard got his way, we would be singing a very different tune. One of understanding how the body works, of tuning in to the signs and taking responsibility for ones health. Pasteur just put the blame on the bug and promoted that until his death.

Pasteur on his Death Bed Recants – It’s Not the Germ, It’s the Terrain, Bernard was Right

On his death bed, Pasteur was said to have had an epiphany. He realized that all along Bernard was RIGHT! So he recanted, history tells us his words were “Bernard was right, it’s not the bug, it’s the terrain!” 

By then it was too late, the wheels were deeply ingrained in thought of the time that it was all about the germ theory and there was no going back. The sequence of events following that led us to where we are today, bringing the bug back into the forefront of science. Blaming the bug, (well now its bugs because of the 100 trillions of bugs in the microbiome) for everything bad that happens with our health.

You Know What’s Right, Just Listen to your Body

I do not want you to recant on your death bed, or have regrets that you should have headed the warning signs. That internally you knew that it couldn’t be only about the bug. I remember, the gut punch I got when I first heard about addressing the balance of the systems and the terrain, searching for homeostasis, instead of the bug. A light bulb so big shone in front of my eyes, I knew inherently it was the way to go with health.  

I’m not saying here if you need an antibiotic for an infection not to take it. By no means! What I’m saying is to look at your body as a whole, there will be times you need that antibiotic and you better take it! There is no bad medicine, just a bad time and a place for it. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week where we talk probiotics, fecal transplants and how to reset your terrain for healthy bugs!

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References:

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7  Smith KA. Louis pasteur, the father of immunology?. Front Immunol. 2012;3:68. Published 2012 Apr 10. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2012.00068

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