The human gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome is a major player in health, a far greater influence than anyone suspected. The GI microbiome determines, for instance, your mood, internal dialogue, skin health, weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, and so many other facets of human life and health. It can influence whether you are plagued by mosquitoes, dental health, your body odor, the partner you choose.
The fecal material in the 4-5 feet of your colon are, of course, dominated by fecal microbes. These are species such as Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus mirabilis and numerous others, all comfortable inhabitants of stool. Approximately 60% (by weight) of bowel movements you pass into the toilet are comprised of stool microbes.
Our modern exposures to antibiotics (typically 30 courses taken by age 40), food additives such as preservatives and emulsifiers, glyphosate and other herbicides, other prescription drugs, and other factors have wiped out hundreds of healthy “commensal” species of microbes from the human GI tract. These species served not just important functions for human health, but also kept unhealthy species from proliferating. The loss of these species, especially from the small intestine, has allowed “coliforms”—stool species—to proliferate and ascend. This is why people over 60 years old, in particular, commonly have stool species recoverable in high numbers in their stomachs and duodenums—fecalization.
It took the emergence of the AIRE device that detects microbial hydrogen (H2) gas in the breath to convince me that fecal microbes now dominate the upper GI tract in many people. Prior to widespread breath-H2 testing, I used to believe that fecal microbes in the upper GI tract—small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO—was uncommon. Once many people began testing breath H2 in the comfort of their homes, and not the imprecision and inconvenience of clinic or hospital H2-testing, it became clear that SIBO was everywhere, affecting far more people than I ever thought possible.
Re-examining the evidence also made it clear that the proof had been under our noses all along. Study after study, for instance, asking questions such as “What proportion of people with irritable bowel syndrome have SIBO compared to healthy control populations?” Or “What proportion of obese people have SIBO compared to healthy control populations?” Studies looking at people with type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, restless leg syndrome, hypertension, psoriasis, Parkinson’s disease, and numerous other health conditions demonstrated that typically 25-100% of people with these conditions tested H2-positive for SIBO. But these studies also revealed that a substantial proportion of people without these conditions, so-called “healthy controls,” also tested positive. While it varies with each study, it is not uncommon for 12% 20%, even 40+% of “healthy control” participants to show abnormal breath-H2.
Real insights into health are obtained when you realize that this massive disruption of the intestinal microbiome with proliferation of stool species dominating the entire 30-foot length of GI tract can be experienced outside of the GI tract. This occurs via the process of endotoxemia, i.e., the entry of bacterial breakdown products into the bloodstream. The lipopolysaccharide, LPS, of stool microbes are the most frequent source of this offensive group of molecules, “exporting” inflammation to the eyes, brain, heart, liver, uterus, prostate, skin and other organs. Yes, a process that begins with stool microbes can be experienced as the numerous common chronic conditions that plague modern people, more so than any other preceding age of humans on this planet.
I hope you are coming to appreciate that nearly all common chronic health conditions that afflict modern people all need to be reconsidered in light of the role of the microbiome. If your doctor does not address the microbiome as part of any diagnosis made, he/she is not doing their job, as they are neglecting a major factor in health and disease.