Is a Toxic Gut Microbiome Causing Your Disease?

You are what you eat? Are you eating foods that create a toxic gut microbiome?

You have heard the saying, “You are what you eat,” but the reality is that you are what your bacteria eat. I bet you have not considered a toxic gut to be among your concerns.  It may be surprising to learn that artificial sweeteners are cancer-causing, and even though people use them for weight loss, they might CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN. It may shock you that your daily dose of Advil for achy joints could contribute to diabetes or colon cancer.

How Healthy Foods Might Not Be

Do you think that organic foods are all hype? Pesticides and other toxins in your product may link to your ulcerative colitis. Do you feel like your zero calories sweetener is a safe choice for weight loss? Maybe not, but it could put you at risk for liver disease. All of these things cause disease by changing the microbiome and causing gut toxicity.

Xenobiotics refer to antibiotics, specific medications, pesticides, heavy metals, and artificial sweeteners. 

Although I didn’t need any research to confirm my beliefs about these concerns causing a toxic gut (seeing is believing for me), there is some evidence behind these claims.  A 2020 paper published in the journal Toxics confirmed that certain toxins called “xenobiotics” do, in fact, damage the gut microbiome of animals and humans. As a result, cause diseases like ulcerative colitis and colon cancer. In this paper, xenobiotics refer to antibiotics, specific medications, pesticides, heavy metals, and artificial sweeteners. 

Since the microbiome is now recognized as an actual body organ, we need to treat it as such and educate people on how to keep it healthy, just as we would with heart, liver, or kidney health. We can start by understanding what is harmful and why. Not sure where to start? People with UC can start by scheduling a 1-1 private coaching call with me to see where you are and where you need to start.

Many people are avoiding sugar, but artificial sweeteners may be causing damage to your gut microbiome.

Pesticides can damage the gut and cause disease by creating a toxic gut microbiome.

Manufacturers of chemicals used in the agricultural industry have been saying for years that their pesticides do not cause humans harm. They claimed that they are safe because we do not have the pathways they are targeted to destroy as pests do. Unfortunately, our gut microbiome does have that pathway, called the shikimate pathway. This pathway is targeted by glyphosate and was thought to only exist in pests. It turns out that the human gut microbiome contains the shikimate pathway and is related to carbohydrate metabolism and the making of certain amino acids and vitamins. 

Antibiotics damage the bacteria in the gut leading to a toxic gut microbiome and subsequent illness.

Most people have at least one round of antibiotics in their lifetime. It turns out that even short durations of antibiotic use can alter the microbiome, reduce the diversity of bacteria, and cause imbalances between friendly and pathogenic bacteria strains. In addition to antibiotics, other commonly used drugs such as metformin, proton pump inhibitors, NSAIDS, antipsychotics, and many other drugs have a toxic effect on the gut microbiome. Perhaps there are better ways to address these conditions, such as gut health and lifestyle medicine, so that we can avoid those drugs altogether. 

Artificial sweeteners can cause obesity.

Macro fans will say this is impossible since they have no calories. However, artificial sweeteners have components that can be metabolized by gut bacteria into MORE toxic elements. This creation of gut toxicity can result in a change in energy metabolism, which directly affects obesity and sugar metabolism. The sweeteners to be aware of include chemicals such as saccharin, acesulfame, potassium, aspartame, sucralose, stevia, and xylitol. You may want to pass on these or just choose raw honey instead.

Heavy metals threaten your health.

Heavy metals such as arsenic are present in tap water. The human gut has the ability to metabolize inorganic arsenic into less harmful forms. However, the gut bacteria can be damaged, altering its function. In the same way, gut bacteria can alter mercury, but it may also transform it into MORE toxic organic mercury. 

In summary, it appears that these common toxins we encounter every day are not benign. They can cause gut microbiome toxicity. The gut microbiome is the origin of many diseases, just as Hippocrates first said, “All disease begins in the gut.” I would never drink tap water. All of the water I use for drinking and cooking is filtered through my Berkey Water Filter. Even the dog drinks Berkey water!

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Tu P, Chi L, Bodnar W, Zhang Z, Gao B, Bian X, Stewart J, Fry R, Lu K. Gut Microbiome Toxicity: Connecting the Environment and Gut Microbiome-Associated Diseases. Toxics. 2020 Mar 12;8(1):19. doi: 10.3390/toxics8010019. PMID: 32178396; PMCID: PMC7151736.