Today's leading health experts recommend putting lots of good bacteria in our gut in the form of probiotic foods like yogurt and kimchi. They also advise consuming pre-biotic fiber, like vegetables to help keep the bacteria thriving. Finally, they warn against taking antibiotics and eating processed foods, which can reduce the good bacteria in our intestines.
A growing number of doctors tell their patients by following this plan, they can prevent our scariest diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's as well as our everyday aches and pains like bloating and diarrhea.
Bacteria: The Master Key to Our Cells
Medical researchers spend countless hours and dollars discovering all kinds of secrets to a longer, better life. Dr. Raphael Kellman is among an increasingly large group of physicians who say the microbiome stands at the top of this list.
"The most important message that has come from science in the last decade, even less, maybe seven years, the most important message from all of the scientific research is this: the microbiome is essential and key to our health," he told CBN News.
"In my opinion, it's the most important way to prevent disease including cancer," he said.
Dr. Heidi Nelson, a Mayo Clinic microbiome researcher, agrees. She told CBN News the tiny ecosystem in our intestines demands balance.
"If you have a buildup of certain bad nutrients, let's take for example hydrogen sulfide, we know that some bacteria produce hydrogen sulfide and others remove it and use it," she said, "But if you have too much hydrogen sulfide that could, in some people, be the cause of the break of DNA that starts the chain reaction of colon cancer from developing."
Getting the right mix of bacteria in our gut also reduces one of the greatest causes of cardiovascular problems: inflammation.
"And that can cause high blood pressure that can affect the vessels in the body and that's all related to heart disease," Dr. Kellman said.
A healthy gut can also prevent bloating, gas and diarrhea. These problems make everyday life miserable for far too many people who don't realize they could end their suffering by improving their gut health.
Autoimmune Diseases Tied to a "Leaky Gut"
Dr. Kellman says the benefits can also help autoimmune disorders like Rheumatoid Arthritis. Another autoimmune disease affecting millions is Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, which often goes undiagnosed. Symptoms of Hashimoto's include fatigue and weight gain. Dr. Kellman says autoimmune diseases are often caused an extremely unhealthy gut condition called "leaky gut."
The walls of a healthy gut are semi-permeable. They are made up of tiny holes like a fine mesh strainer. These tiny holes allow vital nutrients to flow from the gut into the bloodstream and ultimately other parts of our body. However, damage to the gut from certain medications, foods, stress and more cause the tiny holes to enlarge. These larger holes allow big proteins and other particles to escape the gut and into the body that shouldn't. Because the large particles shouldn't be outside the gut, the immune system recognizes them as foreign and attacks them, causing damaging inflammation. Sometimes the immune system even attacks healthy tissue, like the thyroid, if the tissue resembles the large particles that escaped the gut.
The good news is a "leaky gut" can be repaired. In fact, Dr. Kellman teaches his patients at New York City's Kellman Center how to do this, practicing a sub-specialty he calls Microbiome Medicine.
"The microbiome is a key player in healing Chron's Disease and Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome," he said.
Proof: Microbiome Affects Our Weight
Approximately one-third of all Americans are obese, a health condition that leads to many other diseases such as diabetes, cancer and more. Obesity is so dangerous it's now the second leading preventable cause of death behind smoking. Health experts say poor gut health often leads to obesity.
Dr. Vincent Pedre teaches his patients to lose weight and keep it off by achieving and maintaining the proper mix of bacteria in the gut.
"When your gut is healthy it's much easier for your body to maintain a healthy weight," he told CBN News.
In a landmark study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis researchers took identical human twins with the same DNA, although one was obese and the other was thin. They put gut bacteria from each twin into germ-free mice. The animals that received the obese twin's gut bacteria became obese, while the mice that received the thin twin's gut bacteria remained thin, even though all the mice at the same food.
"Which could appear like eczema on your skin, hives, allergies, asthma, even migraines are connected to poor gut health," he said.
Brain Function Linked to Gut Health
Even though our brain and gut are far apart, one of the key functions of health is preventing problems with the way we think and feel, everything from depression to Alzheimer's.
Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the New York Times bestseller Brain Maker explains how an internal super-highway called the gut-brain axis carries neurotransmitters, vitamins and other essential information from the gut to the brain, mitigating or in many cases, preventing our most troublesome neurological problems such as depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders as well as Alzheimer's disease, ADHD, Parkinson's, even autism.
"A recent study that appeared in a well-respected, peer-reviewed medical journal actually looked at giving children with autism a fecal transplant, transplanting into them healthy gut bacteria. It was a small study, only 20 participants, but the results were really quite dramatic," he told CBN News.
Thousands of years ago, Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, famously said, "All disease begins in the gut." Today's health experts agree, adding the opposite is also true: all disease can be prevented in the gut.