In Chinese medicine, your digestion plays an absolute central role in optimal health. Having a weak digestive system (which for us encompasses functions of the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, pancreas, liver, and immune system) can lead to countless other health problems. In fact, I often see patients coming in for problems in other areas such as fertility or insomnia but if their digestion is weak, I have learned to treat that first in order to make real lasting change elsewhere. If digestion is poor, a patient cannot process and assimilate food or medicine correctly, rendering treatments or dietary changes less effective. Recent scientific research is emerging that emphasizes the importance of this concept, mainly through the exploration of the human microbiome.
The microbiome is a term used to describe the population of bacteria living in our digestive systems, on our skin and mucous membranes. There are so many bacteria living on and in us that they even outnumber the cells in our body! The presence or absence of certain types of bacteria in our digestive system can have a huge impact on our health and interestingly, our weight. Recent research has shown just how important these bacteria are for our digestive health, metabolism, weight management, immune system, and even our mental health.
One study took bacteria from the digestive systems of obese mice and transferred it to the guts of healthy aseptic mice (who had not been exposed to any sources of bacteria ever) and guess what? Those mice gained weight! Another study took samples from healthy mice and transferred them to obese mice, who in turn lost weight.
Clearly the bacteria in your gut is important for managing weight and health, but how can we influence it? It is tempting to just pop a probiotic or down lots of yogurt and call it a day. Good start! Fermented foods like yogurt, miso, raw sauerkraut, and kimchi contain great sources of beneficial bacteria. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Your microbiome is constantly changing and responding to your diet, the medications or supplements you take (especially antibiotics, which severely disrupt it), your stress levels and other signals from your body.
So how can we create a stronger, healthier microbiome? This month, some of our Acupuncturists here at the YinOva Center have teamed together to support one another through a 21 day cleanse program that is focused on creating healthier microbiomes. The program involves a focused diet and then supplements to eliminate bad microbes in the gut, repopulate the gut with good bacteria, and heal the gut lining. It also supports the immune system, liver and kidney function. [pq]Changing your microbiome is a long-term commitment, but one that will create lasting change and affect your entire body![/pq] Doing a cleanse program like the one above is a great way to start and will result in weight loss (if needed) while setting yourself up for better health in the years to come!