As a practitioner who focuses on microbiome medicine, I am still astonished at how much of our health is contingent upon the health of those little critters inside our gut. Earlier this year I brought patients through my first rendition of a microbiome reset and the results were impressive! Everyone who went through the program lost significant weight, improved their energy, mood, resilience, and eliminated pain. The best part, it didn’t include any calorie counting, portion control, or long hours in the gym. Let me give you a synopsis of how we did it so that you can start implementing the necessary lifestyle changes yourself.
Start With Digestion
Good digestion is essential to eliminating and preventing food sensitivities and overgrowth of microbes that damage our health. All participants were coached on “food hygiene.” This includes things such as thorough chewing of food, eating in a relaxed atmosphere (no TV), eating with others, and giving gratitude before meals. Digestive aids such as HCl, enzymes, and bitters are used to further maximize digestive ability.
Eliminate Damaging Microbes
The most important part of a microbiome reset is to use a special diet, herbs, and probiotics to remove any disease causing microbes. For diet, the most fermentable carbohydrates, sugars, and starches are eliminated in order to starve out the problematic species (consider a low FODMAPS diet). Antimicrobial herbs (berberine, Artemisia, clove) are used in tandem with probiotics such as saccharomyces boulardii to aid in this elimination process.
Eliminate Damaging Foods
The first part of the reset includes removing any foods that are damaging the intestines and causing system wide inflammation; which leads to weight gain, mood disorders, and is a major contributor to pain. By following an elimination diet we are able to cut off the inflammatory process and start to heal. The most common offenders to cut out are grains (especially corn and gluten grains), sugar, night shades, dairy, soy, and eggs. All processed and conventionally raised foods are eliminated and an organic, pasture raised, plant-based, whole foods diet followed.
Seeding the Gut for Ideal Microbes
After 4 weeks of eliminating the things that are damaging the microbiome it was time to seed the gut with certain probiotics and prebiotics. Most probiotics simply die in the digestive juices of our stomach, so it is important to use specialized spore based probiotics that can survive this harsh environment. Fermented foods will still have some impact so don’t overlook them, but don’t think they will solve all of your gut problems alone. Adding high quality prebiotic foods (fiber) is essential to encourage the growth of healthy microbes.
Adopt Healthy Lifestyle Measures
Throughout the program participants were encouraged to work on adding more exercise, especially walking and resistance training. Exercise has been shown to improve mood, sleep, help with weight loss, and changes your microbiome.
Stress reduction is another important area addressed. From eliminating sources of stress to adding activities that decrease stress (exercise, meditation, deep breathing, vagal nerve stimulation), participants learn to control the hormones that are impacting their digestive health and causing them to hold onto weight (especially that excess fat around the mid-section).
Sleep is extremely important for weight loss, brain health, mood, and has an impact on the microbiome. Participants learned strategies to maximize their quality of sleep. Sleep hygiene includes eliminating all things that disrupt sleep from the bedroom (electronic devices, pets, snoring or restless partners, sources of light, and electromagnetic frequencies), engaging in daytime habits to set them up for good sleep (exercise, sun exposure, keeping a regular schedule), and avoiding bad habits that disrupt sleep before bed (large meals, alcohol consumption, screen use or bright lights an hour before bed).
Thyroid health was discussed in detail so that participants could learn how to identify if they have a thyroid problem. Often poor thyroid function is missed by standard tests (TSH and free T4) and patients can go years before ever figuring out that it’s their thyroid behind their weight gain, poor memory, depression, and poor gut health. Hypothyroidism, as it’s called, can be due to an autoimmune disease (which is very responsive to healing the microbiome), deficiencies in nutrients (like Tyrosine, Iodine, Zinc, or Selenium), or from chronic viral infections. You can start by requesting a full panel of tests from your doctor, including: TSH, free T4, Total T4, free T3, Total T3, reverse T3, TPO, thyroglobulin Abs, and Iodine.
Restoring the microbiome and metabolic function to lose weight and resolve chronic health issues can be quite complex. Use this article as a guide to start investigating and putting together the pieces of your individual metabolism puzzle. If you get stuck and are not seeing the results you want, I highly encourage you to join my Metabolic Transformation Program, the second evolution of my Microbiome Reset Program. If you seriously want to change your life and are ready to commit to what it takes, this program is for you.
Dr. Schull is an expert in guiding others to heal their microbiome, gut health, and brain health. Check out his website at: www.reclaimmybrain.com or call Pediatric & Family Center for Natural Medicine to schedule a consult. 203-265-0444.