A Message from our founder
Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance in the microbiome – the trillions of bacteria that live in and on our bodies.
Our ancestors had a symbiotic relationship with their microbes that evolved over millions of years. They were hosts to a dense jungle of microscopic creatures, including worms and other parasites that actually contributed to their health. Large predators and the absence of food were their main threats, not the hundreds of diseases that afflict us today. The irony is that as we’ve “unwilded” our bodies and our environment in an effort to become healthier, we’ve actually become a lot sicker in some important ways.
Urbanization and modern medicine have clearly improved our lives, but they’ve also introduced practices—overuse of antibiotics, chlorination of the water supply, processed foods full of chemicals and hormones, microbe-depleting pesticides, increasing rates of Cesarean sections—that have ravaged our microbiome, diminishing the total number of organisms as well as the diversity of species; both important markers of good health. The result has been an increase in a wide range of “modern plagues” like asthma, allergies, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, obesity, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and heart disease.
The rise of these diseases is inextricably intertwined with the full-on assault on our microbiome resulting from our super-sanitized lifestyle.
A decade ago, we had no idea that every antibiotic prescribed during cold and flu season could potentially increase our risk of being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, or make it harder to lose weight. The prevailing wisdom was—and in conventional medical circles still is—that germs are bad and we should get rid of them, and antibiotics are good and we should use them. Despite the tremendous amount of research in the last few years connecting the dots, many physicians and their patients remain in the dark, blaming each manifestation of microbial discord on bad luck or bad genes, never questioning or understanding the root cause of these diseases.
My own understanding came only after my daughter was treated with antibiotics at birth and throughout infancy, setting off a series of events that, a decade later, continue to affect her health. I had been trained at world-class institutions and practiced gastroenterology at a leading teaching hospital, but, like most physicians, I had no idea that the antibiotics I thought were so helpful were actually creating illness by destroying her microbiome at a time when it was most vulnerable; actually making her more susceptible to infection and inflammation. I wish I had known then what I know now and what I continue to learn every day:
Illness and disease are often the result of a decreased, not increased, bacterial load, and it’s the health of our “internal terrain”, not individual microbes that usually make us sick.
Every day in my gastroenterology practice I see patients with the telltale signs of a disordered microbiome: bloating, leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, gluten intolerance, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, eczema, thyroid disorders, weight problems, fatigue, joint pain, and brain fog. The symptoms vary, but the history is usually the same—overzealous use of antibiotics, acid suppressors, birth control pills, hormone replacement, steroids and other microbe-altering drugs, plus a highly processed Western diet low in indigestible plant fiber—the preferred food of essential gut bacteria.
A damaged microbiome isn’t the only reason people develop these conditions, but it’s a major contributor that can interact with genetic and environmental factors to create a perfect storm of disease.
Repopulating the microbiome can be a challenging process, but the good news is that most people can experience meaningful improvement and recovery.
Our microbes are constantly changing and evolving, and even if they’ve been severely damaged by medications, infection, or diet, paying attention to what we put in and on our bodies can yield huge improvements. The microbiome we have today isn’t the one we were born with, nor is it the one we’ll have next year or even next week. It’s highly dynamic, constantly changing and adjusting in response to our internal and external environment.
In medical school, I was taught how to eradicate people’s germs. A quarter-century later, I’m teaching my patients how to restore theirs: which foods to eat, how to care for their bodies and their homes without stripping away their microbes, what questions to ask when their doctor recommends an antibiotic, and whether a probiotic or even a stool transplant might be of benefit. These, I believe, are the new and essential survival skills for thriving in our super-clean era.
The solutions you’ll find in this course are based on clinical experience, medical trials in our own patient population at the Digestive Center for Wellness, data from peer-reviewed scientific studies, published papers, anecdote, patient testimonials about what’s worked for them, and careful observations accrued over two decades of taking care of people with all kinds of gut bacterial imbalance—from serious autoimmune illnesses such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, to more basic complaints of gas and bloating. My sincere hope is that this information will help guide people towards a “dirtier” way of life, and in the process, help them reclaim their health and vitality.
Robynne Chutkan, M.D., FASGE, Founder & Medical Director
Digestive Center for Wellness, LLC