By Dr. Sean M. Wells, DPT, PT, OCS, ATC/L, CSCS, NSCA-CPT CNPT, Cert-DN
The gut biome has been all the rage for the last several years. If you haven't heard about the gut biome, then you either live under a rock or haven't researched about how your body works. The gut biome, often interchangeably called the gut microbiota or flora, are trillions of small bacteria, archaea, and fungi that live in your intestines. We have these critters all over our body (e.g. nose, hands, mouth) but the most reside in our gut. What these small bugs do for us is truly amazing.
Data show the microbiome is capable of protecting our immune system, producing healthy short-chain fatty acids, and could be linked to many disease states like cancer, heart disease, and allergies. Recently I began listening to a great podcast by Dr. Will Bulsiewicz on gut health on the Rich Roll Podcast. Dr B, as he's commonly known as, pronounced easy methods to protecting and nurturing our gut. Some of his top tips:
But what happens if you haven't or couldn't avoid all of these factors? I think about my childhood and growing up in a military family: we ate tons of meat, guzzled artificial sugary drinks, and we received doses of antibiotics at the onset of any runny nose. Does this mean people like me are doomed? Unlikely not, as our gut and bodies are resilient.
For some, however, their gut damage or poor lifestyle persists. Treatments such as probiotics and plant-based diets help significantly. For those with persistent gut disease, autoimmune issues, and some neurological conditions, recent data has shown that fecal transplantation can help reduce symptoms or even remit the disease altogether. Fecal transplantation is the process of taking a healthy person's fecal matter and placing it into the colon of an affected person. The idea is that the healthy person's fecal matter is chock full of healthy microbiotic substances, which will then begin to attempt to grow and live inside the affected person's colon. Having a new colony of "healthier" bacteria may help to curb inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, gut infections (especially C diff), and possibly Parkinson's or Fibromyalgia. In the past the fecal matter is transplanted mostly with the help of the medical team using a procedure similar to a colonoscopy; another common method of transplanting fecal matter was to use an enema.
Another recent method of transplanting fecal matter has been recently explored. This involved the use of fecal matter encapsulated in pills, which are then swallowed in hopes to colonize the gut. I guess similar to swallowing a probiotic, such a method has been trialed and offered some hopeful outcomes in curbing excessive weight gain. My real question remains: would you be willing to swallow your own or somebody else's fecal matter? This is a tough question to swallow...literally.
More importantly, for physios, how does any of this impact our practice? Understanding and educating patients on eating more plants is an easy task: there's little downside or risk in telling someone to eat more greens. As healthcare providers adding in a variety of plants can offer so many positive benefits PTs need to be doing this more often. Another area that physios can help with is educating patients on reducing the antibiotic use. From not washing their hands with antibiotic soap to holding back on calling the GP for antibiotics for a common cold -- we all have our part in educating people that antibiotics are not always the answer. Our bodies heal and fight infections on their own, especially when they are well-fed with foods like kiwis, oranges, carrots, and nuts/seeds!
We plan to have more to come on the gut biome, especially as it relates to health, medicine, and physical therapy practice. If you like what you see here then know there is more in our 3 board-approved continuing education courses on Nutrition specific for Physical Therapists. Enroll today in our new bundled course offering and save 20%, a value of $60!
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Keywords: nutrition, diet, continuing education, weight loss, probiotic, online, gut health, GI, PT, physical therapy, learning, alternative