Better Health, Better Life

Better Health, Better Life

Better Health, Better Life

Friday, 18 June 2021
Written by Dr. Stephen Barrie

We have learned many vital lessons over the past 18 months during the difficult times of the COVID pandemic.

One of the main lesson’s centers around self-care – the importance of each one of us taking better care of our health for ourselves and those around us. We learned that the sophisticated establishment medical system was woefully inadequate – the only actionable advice initially presented was “wear a mask.” Important for sure, but not related to improving our body’s ability to resist the COVID infection.

Yet, we can take many other steps to lower risk, improve our immunity, and live a healthier, happier life. This blog will discuss with you the latest scientifically backed information on achieving these goals.

We will cover such topics as nutrition, the microbiome, your immune system, cognitive health, physical activity, sleep, meditation, relaxation, and healthy aging. We will evaluate these areas from both a lowering of chronic disease risk and a therapeutic viewpoint.

Today I will introduce you to the “microbiome.” Those 40 trillion little critters that live on and inside you.
40 trillion?? If we add in the number of viruses that live in our GI tract, the number increase to 420 trillion!! Look at the attached chart to understand the magnitude and importance of the microbiome.

The key reason we are interested in the microbiome is simply this: 90% of all chronic disease has its origin in the microbiome residing in our mouth and gastrointestinal tract. 90%!

Your microbiome has far more influence on your health than your genetics.

The understanding of the entire human microbiome has helped us redefine what it means to be human. We are a composite of many species, and there is a symbiotic relationship between man and microbe that is foundational to our ability to stay alive and thrive with countless bodily functions.

What is the microbiome?
The microbiome is the collective group of microbes (bacteria, fungi, protozoa, viruses, and phages) that live on and inside us. The bacteria living in and on us are not invaders but beneficial colonizers. When they are in balance, they contribute to our health and lowered disease risk. When they are out of balance (dysbiosis), they can cause the onset of many diseases – some far removed from the GI tract, such as cancer, heart diseases, cognitive disorders (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression), immune disorders, skin conditions, poor sleep, and osteoporosis. And of course, GI tracts disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Constipation, Food Allergies, Leaky Gut, and Colon Cancer. Fortunately, good lifestyle choices and habits can help keep your microbiome in balance.

The microbiome is essential for human development, immunity, and nutrition. It is now considered an organ in its right since its genetic activity is far greater than our human cell genetic activity. Humans have evolved to live with microbes for millions of years. During this time, microbes have learned to play significant roles in the human body. In fact, without the gut microbiome, it would be challenging to survive.
The gut microbiome begins to affect your body the moment you are born. You are first exposed to microbes when you pass through your mother’s birth canal.

In this issue, I will discuss the microbes at the beginning – the mouth cavity. Future blogs will include such topics as the “Gut-Brain” axis. Yes, your mouth and gut bacteria actually talk to your brain in a sophisticated two-way communication.

The Oral Ecosystem
Over 800 species of bacteria live in our mouth cavity (versus over 10,000 that live in the lower GI tract). The oral cavity is the first meeting place between the “outside” environment and our immune system. Like the lower GI tract, these bacteria can balance (symbiosis) or out of balance (dysbiosis).

The mouth is “the mirror of health and disease in the body.” An imbalance in the oral microbiome, like an imbalance in the gut, will lead to inflammation, illness, and disease. Every time you swallow, you are seeding your gastrointestinal tract with bacteria, fungi, and viruses from your mouth—140 billion per day, to be exact. 45% of the bacteria in the mouth are also found in the gut. Your mouth is the caretaker of your gut.

Every time you swallow food, you are absorbing thousands of good and bad bacteria. The aim is not to destroy all the microorganisms in your mouth. In fact, just like the gut microbiome, there are good bacteria in your mouth that facilitate your dental health and the well-being of the rest of your body.

You would probably guess that an imbalance of the bacteria in the mouth causes tooth cavities, bad breath, and gum inflammation (periodontal disease). You would be correct. But would you think that dysbiosis of the oral microbiome also causes: colon cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, arthritis, high blood pressure, Diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and even adverse pregnancy outcomes? Amazingly – it does!

It is important to note that in the human microbiome there is no such thing as “good bacteria” and “bad bacteria.” Rather, it’s just bacteria that behave well (probiotics), or those that behave poorly (pathogens), depending on the condition of their terrain. A number of species of bacteria in the mouth associated with tooth decay and gum disease are totally benign in a balanced oral microbiome.

Many of these issues arise as the oral equivalent to “leaky gut,” that is, “leaky gums.” Like a leaky gut, this permeability in the mouth is closely connected to the ability of bacteria to make their way past the gums into the rest of the body. It’s been well studied in conjunction with diabetes, a disease known to run in tandem with chronic periodontitis. Some of the issues arise because of the bacteria that start in the mouth and, due to poor digestion, live in the lower GI tract.

A recent study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, has added to that body of knowledge. There is a link between stages of periodontal disease, which can ultimately cause tooth and bone loss, and mild cognitive impairment and dementia 20 years later, the study found.

Gum disease follows a progression. It starts with gingivitis, which presents with red, swollen, and sensitive gums that may begin bleeding when you brush and floss. When gum disease is untreated, the damage will lead to early periodontal disease, where pockets containing tartar, plaque, and bacteria form in the gums around the teeth, causing inflammation, decay, and the beginning of bone loss.

People with more advanced periodontal disease are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, chronic respiratory disease, pregnancy complications, and dementia.

I hope you can see the critical importance of a healthy mouth cavity – going way beyond bleeding and inflamed gums, but at the root cause of so many chronic diseases.

What can we do?
Good dental hygiene is a proven way to keep healthy teeth and gums throughout your lifetime. Healthy gums do not “leak” so harmful bacteria, and toxins can’t get into your bloodstream.

I know you’ve heard this before:  
  • Regular dental checkups and see a hygienist for periodic deep cleaning (every six months).
  • Brush and Floss – at least twice a day, for more than 2 minutes each time.
  • Scrape your tongue after you brush your teeth.
  • Adopt a healthy diet such as the “Mediterranean Diet.” Eat more plant-based whole foods, cut down on sugar intake, and avoid acidic drinks.
  • Don’t use alcohol-based mouthwashes – they kill off all the bacteria (including the good ones) and create dry mouth.
  • Increase your pre and probiotic intake through diet and supplements. Probiotics help maintain the excellent balance of oral bacteria and increase salivary antioxidant levels, which helps minimize cellular damage.
  • Quit smoking
  • Choose a bacteria-boosting toothpaste and mouthwash.
  • Stress management
  • Regular exercise

  • Considering the many important things our mouth bacteria do for us, it’s time we showed our valued microbial friends a little love in return. The microbiome topic is so important that I will devote the following several blogs to this subject.

    One of the goals of Tri Vananda is to give you actionable information and tools to improve the quality of your life.