Your body is a habitat, a complex ecosystem, housing a vast and expansive myriad of tiny residents. In fact, each of us plays host to a hundred trillion non-human micro-organisms. They outnumber our human cells 10 to 1. These creatures inhabit our body and live in distinct communities with a variety of different environments. Some species live on our skin, some live in our mouths, and the biggest population lives inside our gut. Many health coaching clients may be confused or even unaware that this complex ecosystem exists within them and just how big of a role the gut plays in their overall health.
As Functional Health Coaches, we educate clients on the “gut microbiome” – the colony of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in our digestive tract. This virtual menagerie of microbes can have a huge impact on your client’s immune system, digestion, hormones and mood. Conversely, their lifestyle also has a major impact on the microbes. Everything from the food they eat to the way they think has influenced the creatures that take up residence in their gut and it’s important to help them understand as much as they can about these residents.
What are gut bugs?
The diverse population of residents living inside the intestine is often referred to as the “gut flora” or gut microbiota. It is comprised of at least 1000 different species. It is believed that about one third of the microbes are common across the board in most people. The remaining two-thirds are completely unique to each individual. The leaders of this microbial metropolis are known as the “essential flora.” They keep the peace by controlling unfriendly and unproductive members of the bacterial community, while also performing some very important functions necessary for human health.
In the microbiome, there are “good bugs” and “bad bugs “that determine how we feel physically and emotionally. Numerous things affect which ones survive.
Many of the complexities of the gut microbiome still remain a mystery. But we have been able to identify some key roles that gut flora plays in our health. We also have seen how these microbes interact with one another.
What causes dysbiosis?
“Dysbiosis” is a term used to describe a maladaptation or imbalance inside the body, furthermore, “gut dysbiosis” occurs when there is an imbalance in the number and diversity of your gut microflora. Essentially, the bad bugs start to outnumber the good. This can impact your client’s health in various ways and can cause them to develop gut related issues such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Irritable Bowl Syndrome and Diabetes, just to name a few.
There are many possible factors that could be contributing to your client’s gut dysbiosis:
- Overuse of Antibiotics
- Exposure to Chemicals
How can you help your clients with their gut bugs?
Don’t Feed the Animals
In this case, we are talking about the less civilized, bad bacteria. These less beneficial flora thrive with a diet high in sugar, certain fats, and processed food. As a result, they can cause gas, discomfort, bloating, and inflammation. This flora can also emit chemicals that compromise the intestinal lining. By motivating your clients to cut sweets and processed foods out of their diet, this makes it easier for their friendly flora to keep the bad seeds in line.
Curtail Killing Sprees
As a Functional Health Coach, you should encourage to avoid overuse of antibiotic medications and antibacterial products. These kill bacteria, but do not differentiate between the good and the bad. With continued use, they may kill off enough of the good guys to allow the bad bacteria to take over.
Probiotic that is. The good bacteria in fermented foods and supplements can bolster the number of friendly bacteria in the gut. Bifidobacteria, found in most yogurt and kefir, release chemicals that create an acidic environment. It is this environment in which many harmful bacteria can’t thrive. For those clients with dairy allergies or intolerances, fermented vegetables like pickles or coconut kefir can be good options. However, fermented foods are not the best choice for everyone. Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® takes a personalized approach with each individual to ensure they receive the unique guidance necessary.
Feed your Flora
Prebiotics, which contain non-digestible carbohydrates which are found in onions, garlic, leeks, artichokes, asparagus, and chicory root nourish the essential gut flora. Regular intake has been associated with decreases in irritable bowel syndrome and fat storage. Well-fed friendly flora are able to perform their jobs better and tend to increase your client’s overall feeling of well-being
Stress may change the makeup of your gut flora according to a 2011 study. The study reported that stressed-out mice experienced a significant plunge in beneficial bacteria. They also experienced an increase of inflammatory chemicals in the blood. Chronic stress also appears to alter the functioning of the immune system. It does this by suppressing its response to foreign invaders. For the good of your client’s gut, recommend they take measures to eliminate both internal and external stressors.
Looking Beyond the Microbiome
Although the severity of the effect of “bad bugs” can range between individuals. The best way to ensure your clients are at a lower risk of susceptibility to the more harmful pests is by coaching up their overall health. The idea most health coaches have is that if you find a bug, you found the problem. Unfortunately, although the bug is a problem, it’s not the original problem. The fact that it exists means your client is not healthy enough to ward off or defend themselves from the bug which points to other issues.
It all comes down to lowering risk and there are ways to assess and address this. As a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner, you will have access to the functional lab training, data-driven protocols and tools you need to understand all the areas where attention should be focused. Hidden stressors or malfunction in any area, left unchecked or not corrected in the body, will cascade downstream into other areas and create problems, such as bugs. By using tools like functional lab tests to identify healing opportunities, FDN® provides the keys to help your clients get well and stay well, naturally – and get rid of those “bad bugs” for good.