Detox Your Microbiome: How Toxins Can Destroy Your Gut Health
Detox Your Microbiome: It is no surprise that a properly functioning gut has a major part in generating overall health. Your microbiome plays a crucial role in a wide range of functions, from regulating hormones to creating energy. It can also be a major source of disease and dysfunction when it isn’t operating properly.
Today we explore the bidirectional relationship between toxins and the human microbiome. Firstly, how the gut helps modulate an individual’s stress response to toxins, and conversely how toxins play a role in shaping (and narrowing) an individual’s microbiome. We will also touch on ways to optimize gut health to boost our resilience to toxins of all kinds.
A Healthy Microbiome: Why It Matters
A microbiome is the body of bacteria within a certain ecosystem. The human body actually has multiple microbiomes, like your skin biome, your mouth biome, and your gut biome. Your gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes.
The functions that your microbiome plays in generating your whole body health are extensive. You could argue that a healthy microbiome is equal to being healthy overall. The gut microbiome in particular digests fiber turns food into absorbable nutrients, fights off disease and invaders like bacteria, parasites, and viruses, it also regulates mood, and plays a crucial role in your immune system and generating hormonal responses (which impacts everything from your mood to libido).
Detox Your Microbiome: A Two-Way Street
Although science likes to draw conclusions through ‘cause and effect’, the reality is that most things influence one another in a bidirectional way. This means that A influences B, and vice versa that B influences A. In the case of the impact of toxins and the human biome, there is indeed a reciprocal influence from one onto the other.
The Impact of the Microbiome on Toxins
Your gut microbiome contributes to a variety of metabolic and immune functions that are key to generating resilience and health. The gut microbiome is essentially a line of defense against harmful invaders. Whether they be toxins, pathogens, or bacteria– having a healthy gut means that the likelihood of these invaders making their way into the bloodstream is much lower.
A strong microbiome boosts your resilience to the outside world. When we inevitably come into contact with toxins, pathogens, and bacteria, a strong immune system reduces the likelihood that they will have a negative impact on your overall health.
The influence of a robust and healthy microbiome could be the reason why some people make it through cold and flu season without a sniffle, or why some people are able to tolerate sleeping a few nights in a moldy hotel without getting a migraine.
Detox Your Microbiome: The Impact of Toxins on The Microbiome
Although studies show the ability of healthy gut microbiomes to ward off the impact of toxins, the converse is also true. Environmental toxins do have the ability to alter the composition and metabolic activity of the gut microbiome. In other words, toxins can ultimately wreak havoc on your gut, which then leaves you even more susceptible to the harmful impact and symptoms of the toxins themselves.
Although the gut is a main line of defense against foreign invaders, the key takeaway here is that it can only do so up to a certain degree. It can be useful to see toxins as a drop of water in a bucket. A single drop at a time provides no problem, but over time if the bucket isn’t emptied, it will eventually overflow.
An individual’s gut health is only resilient if given the attention, support, and time to progressively empty that ‘bucket’. If your toxin exposure is chronically high, it can lead to the destruction of your gut. As a result, your immunity will suffer– making you even more sensitive to toxin exposure.
Top Ways Improve Gut Health and Boost Resilience Against Toxicity
Before exploring the top ways to improve gut health, we must highlight the importance of actually reducing the body’s exposure to toxins. The modern world that we live in is inevitably going to expose us to low levels of chronic toxin exposure (like air pollution), but avoiding the key gut-destroyers is a non-negotiable to cultivating gut health.
Detox Your Microbiome: The top sources of toxin exposure that negatively influence the gut include:
- Amalgam (mercury) fillings
- Mold (at home or at work)
- Drinking city tap water
- Conventional body care and cosmetic products
- Conventional sunscreen
- BPA in plastics
- Pesticides and herbicides in non-organic food
- GMO’s and hybridized foods
- Pharmaceutical drugs and antibiotics
Detox Your Microbiome: Top Ways To Improve Gut Health
After removing (or seriously reducing) your exposure to the aforementioned gut-destroying toxins, it’s time to start incorporating habits to heal and improve gut health. Some of the top ways to do so include:
1. Reduce or Remove Processed Foods (Especially Sugars and Oils)
Processed foods are highly inflammatory and can lead to a reduction in ‘good’ bacteria. Processed sugars actually feed things like parasites and cancer, both of which are harmful to gut and overall health. By avoiding processed foods, we encourage a healthy GI tract.
The two main offenders when it comes to processed foods are sugars and seed/ vegetable oils. These two categories of food are extremely inflammatory and should be avoided at all costs.
White sugar, agave, corn syrup, brown sugar, are examples of refined sugars. Vegetable and seed oils include soybean oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and cottonseed oil.
2. Exercise Regularly
Studies suggest that regular exercise has a profoundly positive impact on microbiome health in a few different ways. Firstly, exercise can enhance the number of beneficial species of microbes in the gut. It also promotes movement within the gut, which supports digestion. Exercise also plays a crucial role in regulating hormones, managing weight, and promoting good mood– all of which are intricately connected to gut health.
3. Consume a Wide Range of Pre- and Probiotic Foods
Consuming prebiotic and probiotic foods helps introduce new strains of bacteria into the body, as well as the types of nutrients that these bacterias need to survive. The key here is variety. Although a probiotic capsule can be beneficial in the short term, it can actually become problematic in the long run if you continue to take the same brand (or strain).
A healthy microbiome has literally thousands of different types of good bacteria, and when we consume the same one type of kombucha, probiotic capsule, or sauerkraut– we actually limit our body’s exposure by overcrowding it with a single strain.
So although fermented foods can be great to promote new strains of bacteria in the gut, make sure to vary the types you consume. Opt for a wide range of types (sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, miso, etc) as well as a variety of different brands.
4. Spend Time in Nature
The single best way to increase your guts strain of probiotics is actually to spend time outside in nature. Nature is alive, and there are infinite varieties of healthy bacteria found in plants, the soil, in the grass, trees, in the sand, in the water, and even floating around in the air.
Ideally, you want to expose yourself to a wide range of landscapes and simply spend time breathing in the air. Get barefoot, play in the dirt, lay in the grass, expose your skin to sunshine. Try avoiding exposing yourself to contaminated environments, like city parks that have been sprayed with herbicides.
Detox Your Microbiome: Summary
There is a bidirectional relationship between toxins and human microbiome. A robust and healthy microbiome increases an individual’s resilience to toxins, increasing their ability to withstand the harmful impact of said toxins on their health. Toxins do, however, begin to negatively influence the microbiome when the exposure is too great. Although the body can withstand toxins, we begin to see chronic illness and autoimmune diseases when the exposure is too great. Apart from reducing the exposure itself, there are many ways to improve gut microbiome including regular exercise, consuming pre- and probiotic-rich foods, and spending time in nature.
It’s almost impossible to avoid toxic chemicals in our food and environment. And that consistent exposure is devastating to your gut microbiome. Even when you eat the cleanest food, your gut is at risk from things like:
Air and water pollution
Antibiotics and over-the-counter drugs
Gluten, dairy, and other food allergens
Chemicals on your clothes, furniture, and in body care products
While you can’t avoid some chemicals, you don’t have to live in fear.
Just a small daily dose will heal and seal your gut lining, protecting you from leaky gut or intestinal permeability. Ion also creates an ideal environment for a balanced gut microbiome, which you need for everything from a robust digestive tract to a healthy immune system.
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