Dr Dingle's Blog / IBD
The research over the past 30 years has demonstrated the critical importance of the gut for our health, not just gut health but so many of the chronic health conditions from asthma and allergies to Alzheimer’s. While much emphasis has been placed on the use of probiotics for our gut and our health, research has also shown multiple gut health benefits of Essential oils (EO).
Our gut health is dependent on many factors working together from our microbiome which acts like an organ on its own to the workings of the nervous, immune and endocrine (hormone) systems coordinating together. As well as the role of inflammation and oxidation in contributing to the damage within these systems. The benefit of essential oils is they work on multiple levels at the same time through all these systems and processes.
For example, studies have shown that essential oils can help rebalance the gut microbiome. Essential oils are used extensively in the animal industry to control microbial outbreaks and disease with increasing use as antibiotics are phased out and in human studies to control opportunistic microorganisms in the gut like Helicobacter pylori, Clostridia, Candida and Salmonella species. They have also been used in many human studies to help control microbial outbreaks where antibiotic resistance has occurred. Similarly, studies have shown the benefits of essential oils in protecting against dental decay and overgrowth of the oral microbiome. Yes, we have an oral microbiome that doesn’t just look after our mouth and teeth but is thought to play a significant role in throat and stomach microbiome which is closely linked with cancers of these areas.
Some very recent studies have also demonstrated their role in supporting some of the beneficial gut species including Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium. In one study investigating the role of some essential oils on weight loss found that its primary mechanism was by positively altering the gut microbiome and increased the relative abundance of Bifidobacterium which then contributed to improved weight loss. While other studies have shown essential oils have positive effects on the intestinal barriers function, or as we normally call “Leaky Gut”.
Recent studies have also shown the role of a dysfunctional nervous, immune and endocrine (hormone) system in many aspects of poor gut health including reflux, Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO) and various large bowel conditions like IBD and IBS. Repeated studies have shown the benefits of essential oils in positively modulating these systems though different mechanisms.
Overall essential oils show great promise in assisting and protecting the gut and promoting good gut health. In the following blogs we will be investigating some of the specific actions of essential oils and how they can work to fix the gut
Diet has a profound impact on gut microbiota composition and function including the role of food additives.
The study found that TiO2 could alter the release of bacterial metabolites in the gut and affect the distribution of the commensal bacteria. They also found reduced expression of the colonic mucin 2 gene, a key component of the intestinal mucus layer, and increased expression of the beta defensin gene, indicating that TiO2 significantly impacts gut homeostasis. These changes were associated with gut inflammation and an increase in the rick of colon cancer.
These findings collectively show that TiO2 is not inert, but rather impairs gut homeostasis which may in turn prime the host for disease development.
Arguable the biggest health problem facing us today is gut health rivaling the current obesity crisis and tobacco smoking in its impact on our health. Every health condition is linked to gut health and gut healing either directly or indirectly through inflammation and oxidation. Historically every culture understood this and were involved in extensive practices of gut healing and even our own up until 60 or so years ago. The first thing health practitioners throughout history would do is to start to fix the gut.
Until recently the positive effects of the gut microbiome on our digestive system and health has been severely under rated. Wisdom of Chinese doctors from centuries ago, who somehow knew that the intestines were not merely a digestive organ, but the centre of health and wellbeing. Hippocrates was recorded as saying that all illness begins in the gut. Throughout history from the Egyptians till around 80 years ago medicine and the bowels were frequently mentioned in the same sentence and good health revolved around gut health.
Even today the nomadic Maasai tribes in Africa attribute most illnesses to the effect of “pollutants” that block or inhibit digestion. In these communities the plants are used to cure diseases served mainly as strong purgatives and emetics; they "cleanse" the body and digestive system from polluting substances.
With thousands of studies released each year the gut is known to play a major role in many health conditions including mental health issues, cardiovascular disease, allergies and asthma, autoimmune diseases, some cancers and even diabetes and weight gain. Many of these conditions which are now reaching epidemic proportions have been linked to a dysfunctional gut. Studies have shown a strong link between mental health issues including depression and what is called the gut brain axis. We also know the gut is the centre of our immune system and is strongly influenced by the gut microbiome. As a result the gut has a strong link with allergies and asthma. Peanut allergies for example are not caused by peanuts they are brought about by a dysfunctional gut microbiome.
Antibiotics and many gut medications used for controlling acid reflux have been shown to be devastating to gut health a healthy gut microbiome, as well as many of the chemicals we use around the homes and even the personal care products we apply to our skin. Even our activities either promote gut health and gut healing or harm it. Stress sends messages to the opportunistic (bad) microorganisms in the gut to tell them to start to take over from the good ones. Exercise promotes gut health and healing while no exercise or too much exercise does the exact opposite.
Fortunately, in animal studies we know that many of these conditions can be improved and even reversed if the gut microbiome is repaired. 50% of Parkinson’s Disease has been directly linked with poor gut health while improving the gut microbiome has been shown to dramatically improve symptoms.
The research also shows that while probiotics can be useful in gut healing, repairing the gut microbiome requires an understanding of what encourages a healthy gut microbiome in our diet and lifestyle as well as what causes a dysfunctional microbiome. We now know that all the healthy foods we eat, the vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices and fruit all feed the gut microbiome which then feeds us and looks after our health. All the studies on healthy diets from the Mediterranean to the original Japanese or the low inflammatory diet (DII) benefit us because they work through the gut to promote gut health and subsequently our health.