Killing Too Much?

I work with a lot of people with gut problems- particularly Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). Not surprisingly, much of my day is spent talking about gut “bugs” (bacteria, yeast, parasites, probiotic supplements) and how to best manage them.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the killing of “bad” things like SIBO and candida (yeast). When you’ve been diagnosed with (essentially) an infection, it only makes sense that killing the bad thing will make you feel better, right? Maybe, maybe not.

I see this so frequently- patients come in after round, after round, after round of antimicrobials and antibiotics, yet they still have symptoms. Maybe healing isn’t just about killing, after all? (said partially sarcastically)

And let’s not forget about our “good guys” who live in our colon- the microbes that teach our immune system, keep our bodies de-inflammed, and our colons healthy. What does this microbe warfare do to them? Combine this long-term “kill all the things” strategy with a low FODMAP diet and you’ve got yourself a pretty inflamed colon and body.

I find that people in this situation need to ease off on the killing and focus more on healing their body. This is where herbal medicine and whole food nutrition really shine. The down side? Healing takes more time and patience than killing.

Ain’t No Party Like a Microbe Party

Whether we want to admit it or not, we are just big, fleshy microbe mother-ships, and our microbial roommates influence more aspects of our health than we ever realized. Rather than fighting them, maybe the key to good health is to take care of them- like a flock of sheep. Herbs and foods (hello FODMAPs!) are powerful tools to shape our microbiome and keep them happy and healthy. I think that if we take care of them they will take care of us in return- yes, this is even true in SIBO+ patients!

Here are my favorite strategies to keep our microbial roommates happy:

  • Eat a wide variety of foods

  • Eat tons of plant foods- veggies, fruits, legumes (if tolerated), and some grains (if tolerated). The more fiber, the better.

  • Eat in a way that maintains a healthy weight- some of us do better on low-carb, while some do well on low-fat. Eat in a way that keeps you healthy and your bugs will likely be happy with that, too.

  • Avoid unnecessary drugs (including OTC drugs)

  • Avoid pesticides and sprays on your food

  • Spend time outside and get dirty

  • Exercise or move daily

  • Eat fermented and cultured food (if tolerated (histamine))

  • Take probiotics and prebiotics (if tolerated (SIBO, histamine))

Here’s to wishing you a happy and healthy flock of microbes,

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