The Gut Microbiome & Gut health: a new focus for health
What is the gut microbiome?
These are the trillions of bacteria that live naturally in our gut (mouth and intestines). We have 10 times more bacteria in our gut than we have cells in our body. Until recently the many roles of these bacteria in human health have been largely ignored.
As we realise that any disruption to these gut bacteria can cause or drive the development of many human diseases (see below), research in this area is rapidly gaining momentum. This new knowledge is at the cutting edge of medicine and I have been integrating it into my practice since 2009.
What are some of the conditions/diseases where the gut can play an important role?
– Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
– Constipation or diarrhoea
– Discomfort in the abdomen
– Bloating and/or flatulence.
Autoimmune diseases of the gut
– Coeliac disease
– Crohn’s disease.
– Patients will often have had many tests and then told there is nothing wrong with them.
– These men typically find it difficult to lose weight despite an appropriate weight-loss diet and exercise programme.
– Atherosclerosis (build-up of ‘plaque’ in the arteries, driven by oxidative stress).
Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
– ‘Hay fever’
– Poor quality sleep (when other conditions have been excluded, such as obstructive sleep apnoea).
Mental health problems
– Depression (when low mood appears to have no specific trigger).
What are some of the important gut imbalances that have been identified to date?
Overgrowth of certain bacteria or yeasts which live naturally in our gut (referred to as ‘commensal’), for example Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Candida.
Deficiencies in certain critically important commensal bacteria, for example Bacteroides and/or Eubacterium (which produce short-chain fatty acids).
A combination of both overgrowth and deficiencies in commensal bacteria.
The presence of commensal bacteria in parts of the gut where they are not normally found, for example Klebsiella present in large numbers in the small bowel (‘small intestinal bacterial overgrowth’ or SIBO).
The presence of parasites or bacteria that are not normally found in the gut, for example Blastocystis hominis subtypes 1 and 3 or Dientamoeba fragilis.
What are some of the common causes of an imbalanced gut microbiome?
– Being born by caesarian section, when natural exposure to vaginal bacteria doesn’t occur
– Bottle-fed in the first year of life
– The chlorine in our tap water (which is added to specifically kill bacteria and parasites in the water supply)
– Past heavy use of antibiotics as they also kill important bacteria in the gut (eg amoxycillin for chest infections)
– Alcohol, which by its own nature kills bacteria.
How do we test for gut microbiome imbalances?
Specialised stool analyses using culture and the PCR method. The process takes 4 weeks.
What will be the duration and cost of the treatment?
A minimum of three consultations of 1 hour each are essential for assessing your current health problem, interpreting the stool analyses and blood results, and implementing an integrated management plan.
The cost of the initial consultation is AUD 480. All subsequent consultations are AUD 360. For Australian residents, the minimum Medicare refund for each consultation is AUD 105.55. For patients aged 40 – 49, the Medicare refund for the initial consultation is AUD 268.
The cost of the stool analyses is AUD 446 (includes bacteria, yeasts and parasites). There is no Medicare refund for these specialised tests. All other tests are done at one of the main pathology laboratories, with no extra out-of-pocket costs for Australian residents.
All appointments are booked online through my website.