Microbiome research, though seemingly novel, is not simply a modern revelation. The idea that gut health is central to our total health goes back thousands of years, and the use of fermented foods as part of many, if not most, traditional diets from the Inuits to Eastern Europeans, has been central to human health. In my medical practice, I see the gut as the epicenter of health.
What we know about the health of the newborn and the newborn's microbiome – for example that childhood and lifelong health can be altered by cesarean section or the introduction of antibiotics to the mom in labor or at the time of the c-section – is eye-opening and just a tip of the iceberg on why the microbiome is something we should all know how to support and protect. The microbiome affects truly most aspects of our health and well being, from our moods to our metabolism, our immunity to our weight. It's commonly one of the first areas of the body that I focus on when helping my patients with many different types of conditions.
Yet the importance of gut health has been largely absent from modern medicine and science until very recently. Even in my medical training as far back as 2005, there was no a word of it. Now you can't open a wellness website – or for that matter major publications like the New York Times, Nature, or Scientific American without bumping into an article about the microbiome. Along with this renewed recognition of the gut as important to human health has come a glut of products – everything from at home or expensive in office microbiome stool tests, to probiotics, to clinics performing ‘back alley' fecal transplants (yes, these really do exist).
However, there are big gaps in what we know really works, and the media hype and product sales being sold to you. To bring you up to speed on the latest in microbiome research, I've invited a special guest to Natural MD Radio – a personal colleague of mine for four years now, and a stellar human being, who also just happens to be one of the world's leading microbiome experts: Dr. Joseph Petrosino – to have a conversation with me about this.
Dr Petrosino is a Professor and the Interim Chairman of the Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine where he's also the Director of the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research. Since its founding in 2011 the Center has pursued over 400 projects in humans and in model systems with the goal to improve human health, and Dr. Petrosino has authored or coauthored more than 200 original scientific papers.
Some of his current major areas of ongoing research include the influence of the microbiome on Type I Diabetes in children, protection from disease during cleanup processes associated with natural disasters, and the study of how the microbiome influences anxiety, including social anxiety, depression, and their treatment.
In this episode we discuss:
- The gut as the epicenter of human health
- How important the digestive tract is in the development and maintenance of our immune system
- How dysbiosis and leaky gut are associated with a variety of inflammatory and other types of diseases
- How your microbiome is the between you and the environment
- Some of the conditions for which we can confidently apply probiotics
- The importance of the microbiome being malleable compared to genes being fixed
- Why Dr. Petrosino doesn't usually rely on OTC probiotics, but which one did pan out well in studies
- The role of probiotics in maintaining general wellness and nutritional status
- Can you take a probiotic to restore gut health after an antibiotic?
- Do probiotics have to be ‘live’ to be effective?
- What to look for on a probiotic package
- How fermented foods can protect your gut and your health
- The impact of the microbiome on stress, anxiety, and depression
- How the Standard American Diet and lack of sleep affect the microbiome
- Why currently available microbiome testing isn’t always meaningful
- Factors that influence our children's microbiome health