Chinese Medicine And The Human Microbiome

The microbiota are part of a complex ecosystem that affect all of the other systems of the body. They aren’t only involved in the breakdown of our food, but also the production of neurotransmitters and the regulation of hormones. The bacteria in our body have been shown to affect appetite and behavior, as well as regulate our metabolism and immune function.

Symptoms of Gut Imbalance

The symptoms of gut imbalance are not only seen in the gastrointestinal system. Most of our modern-day ailments can be related back to the microbiome. Autoimmune disease, for example, has been shown to be caused from the accumulation of pathogens in the microbiome over time. In addition, recurrent infections such as sinus, ear and urinary tract infections result from an imbalance in the microbiota of that system.

Use of antibiotics in these situations can worsen the underlying imbalance. Many studies have shown the relevance of the microbiome to health and disease. For example, we see that H. pylori is a common cause of ulcers. Prevotella bacteria is often found in autoimmune joint disease. Bacteria are also important in disease prevention and health maintenance.

Lactobacillus and bifido factor are often found to be helpful in warding off stress and anxiety as well as the prevention of intestinal conditions.

How is the Microbiome Established in the First Place?

The process begins before conception. The parents bacterial blueprint is passed on to the child. Following conception, we find that there is a diverse ecosystem in the placenta. The birthing process also plays a significant role in the establishment of the bacteria. In cesarean birth babies, it has been found that their microbes match those of the skin, rather than the necessary ones that were being colonized vaginally.

In the last few months of pregnancy, the mother’s microbes increase to meet the needs of the baby. For instance, in the production of bacteria that help to break down milk. When babies are born via C-section, they are not inoculated with these vital bacteria. Considering that one in three babies are born via C-section in the United States, there are significant downstream consequences.

Studies show higher rates of asthma, allergies and obesity in cesarean birth babies, and they are 80% more likely to develop celiac disease. Breast-feeding is essential to the inoculation of the gut with both probiotics and prebiotics. Formula fed infants have an over presentation of Clostridium bacteria, which has been associated with allergies and asthma.

Formula-based feedings disrupt the development of microbial communities that promote lifelong health in an infant’s digestive tract. The food, stress, medications and other chemicals we ask our body to contend with have vast consequences on our ecosystems, and in turn, our overall health. Chemicals such as fluoride, chlorine, antibiotics, steroids, birth control pills, hormones and pesticides all significantly impact our bacterial abundance and diversity.

Antibiotics are one of the biggest contributors to microbial imbalance. Antibiotics should be reserved for very serious and life-threatening situations. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics state that antibiotics should not be prescribed for routine sinus infections, coughs or ear infections. Even with these guidelines, programs to improve antibiotic prescribing are not widely used in the United States.

This is a particular concern to children, because they have the highest rates of antibiotic use and they are being prescribed at a time when they are building the ecosystem, which will be the foundation of their health for life. More than half of the antibiotics used in humans and much of the antibiotics used in animals are inappropriate and are creating resistant superbugs.

Traditional Chinese medicine has recognized the importance of gut health and its systemic role in the body for thousands of years. Doctors of Oriental medicine are educated in acupuncture, herbs, dietary counseling and lifestyle recommendations necessary to help balance the microbiome and prevent disease in the future.

Chinese herbal medicine is a crucial and significant role in the health of the microbiome. Natural herbal antibiotics prescribed by traditional Chinese healers have been used for more than 2000 years by millions of people. The proper use of Chinese herbal formulas can not only inhibit bacterial, viral and fungal infections, but also minimize the need for antibiotics with their adverse side effects.

Herbs can clear pathogenic bacteria, parasites and yeast. They clear inflammation, heal intestinal lining, repair leaky gut, move biliary stagnation and tonify digestive function. In addition to the analgesic effect of acupuncture in Walla Walla, an increasing number of studies have demonstrated that acupuncture treatment can control autonomic nervous system functions.

Clinical evidence also supports that acupuncture treatment is effective for various immunological diseases including allergic disorders, infections, autoimmune diseases, immunodeficiency syndromes, and the microbiome. The food that we put into our bodies has a significant impact on our microbiome. The more complex the food, the more bacteria that are needed to break down that food.

We know that an increased diversity of bacteria is better for our overall health; therefore, we need a complex plant-based diet to maintain a healthy microbiome.

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