Improve Gut Microbiome: Optimal Mitochondrial Energy Production – Part 3

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM; Carrie Lam, MD

Read Part 1 | Part 2

How to Improve Gut Microbiome

Using healthy food to improve gut microbiomeRemoving certain things from your life and diet can help improve gut microbiome. Along with mitochondrial dysfunction and an unhealthy diet, there are a few things that can weaken the gut microbiome:

  • Stress
  • Toxins and chemicals (from cleaning products or pollution)
  • Pesticides or herbicides
  • An existing medical condition, such as adrenal fatigue
  • Allergenic foods (like gluten)
  • Chlorinated or fluoridated water
  • Alcohol
  • Certain medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (which also affect mitochondrial energy production) and antibiotics

So, it goes without saying that if you want to improve gut microbiome, you want to stay away from these things as much as possible. Of course, some things will be unavoidable, so it’s just a matter of doing your best.

Another stressor on the gut flora is smoking. The influence that cigarettes can have on the microbiota can explain the weight gain that is seen after people quit smoking. In fact, one of the main concerns of smokers who want to quit is how they will avoid this weight gain.

Before, it was thought that the weight gain after smoking cessation had to do with the issue of oral fixation. We’re now seeing that it’s also about a modification in the gut’s microbiota, and how it becomes more efficient at extracting calories from ingested food after the influence of smoking has stopped.

Even with the risk of weight gain, quitting cigarettes should top the list of things to avoid if you want to balance your gut flora and, of course, reverse the lung damage and free radicals that come from smoking. That doesn’t mean that you should let your weight get out of control, because as we have discussed, that is also a cause of health problems.

Another interesting observation is how a 24-hour fast can produce a marked change in the gut’s microbial ecology. This may be one of the reasons that people seem to feel better after fasting. The other reasons are that there is a lessening of burden on the GI tract and less exposure to allergenic foods, which also improve gut microbiome.

Does that mean you should immediately begin a fast? The answer is No, because this really depends on the condition of your health. For example, if you suffer from adrenal fatigue, you are probably already suffering from nutrient deficiencies and lack of energy, as well as a higher risk for hypoglycemia. Fasting can trigger adrenal crashes in a weak body.

An adrenal fatigue diet is a much better option that can help support your adrenals. The great thing is that, this kind of diet can also improve gut microbiome.

Improve gut microbiome with bone brothYou also want to improve gut microbiome by adding certain things to your health and lifestyle that promote gut flora balance. This includes bone broth, fermented pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi (just keep an eye on sodium content), naturally fermented yogurt made of raw dairy, miso, kefir, unpasteurized milk and tempeh. Those with systemic candida need to be careful as the body may not be able to tolerate fermented foods well.

You can also consider adding supplements and digestive enzymes to help your gut and digestion. Probiotics have been found to help with reducing LDL cholesterol, improving eczema, reducing insulin resistance and nutrient absorption. This is another testament to how we can improve gut microbiome functions that affect the rest of the body. Side effects of probiotics can include constipation, anxiety, diarrhea, and fatigue. The weaker the body, the bigger the risk.

Improving Mitochondrial Function

So far, we’ve focused on how we can improve gut microbiome that affects your mitochondrial ATP production and overall health. This can definitely help with mitochondrial disease or dysfunction. It can also help a lot with adrenal fatigue and a dysregulated NEM stress response. In fact, it’s not so much about brain cells or adrenal cells when we’re talking about fatigue. It has much more to do with the gut microbiome.

You will, of course, want to address any other condition you might have, like adrenal fatigue. Also, a healthy thyroid is essential for the mitochondria, as thyroid hormone stimulate cellular respiration and regulate mitochondrial function. So, if you have any thyroid issues, make sure to address them right away.

But what happens when the mitochondria within the cells of the affected organs, like thyroid or adrenal cells for example, can’t respond to the therapy? Would an adaptogen help?

An adaptogen is a substance that helps the body adapt to and resist stress, whether physical or environmental. Adaptive herbs like Rhodiola and Ashwagandha have been used since ancient times in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine respectively. They can be supportive of the adrenal glands, helping the body to adapt to and protect itself from stress.

Unfortunately, these also have very undesirable long term effects so extreme care should be in place prior to beginning any herbal or glandular therapy. Proper professional guidance is a must, and any inappropriate use of these natural compounds is one of the most common recovery errors in those with advanced adrenal fatigue. They can be considered if the body is strong, however.

Would supporting the mitochondria throughout the entire body help effect changes in adrenal cells so they become more adaptive naturally?
Since there aren’t any medications that treat mitochondria specifically, you can support their functioning through supplementation. Vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, C and E are important, so are folic acid, pantethine and pantothenic acid, niacin and biotin. Some of these vitamins also have antioxidant activity, which helps neutralize the free radicals created by, or affecting, the mitochondria.

You’ll want to take supplement formulas that are made to improve mitochondrial function, and they are usually cocktails of the ones listed above. You should also consider coenzyme Q10, arginine, glutathione, magnesium, hawthorn, vitamin D, L-carnitine and marine phytoplanktons.
You will also want formulas that are fat-soluble or made in a way that makes them bioavailable enough to enter the cells. An oral liquid that is absorbed in the small intestine is preferred, with the carrier lipids being phospholipids. High quality and alcohol-free are a must.

A Safe Approach

Improve gut microbiome safelyBy now, it could be a little overwhelming to consider all of these supplemental requirements as well as an adrenal fatigue diet and a diet that improves the gut microbiome. If that is your case, there are two pieces of advice we highly suggest you follow.

The first is to avoid the shotgun approach to supplementation. It may sometimes feel easier to just take a bunch of different vitamins and minerals hoping that you are covering all your bases, but eventually this backfires. Some supplements that are good for one condition may adversely affect another.

So you don’t want to take glandulars for adrenal fatigue, supplements for mitochondrial function, prebiotics and probiotics for your gut. That is simply too much on your system and may lead to a crash. It will also not help with figuring out which supplements are actually helpful for you.

The second piece of advice is to get nutritional coaching that takes a holistic approach to your health. It needs to take into consideration your overall state of health and energy, as well as any specific conditions you have and is focused on how to improve gut microbiome health. Then, gradually and gently, make changes to your diet and supplementation regimen.

Now, to get more specific, if you have mitochondrial dysfunction and AFS at the same time, you will need to take care with the mitochondrial supplementation. The reason is that when you boost mitochondrial function, and in turn increase ATP production, this energy boost will cover up, but not heal, the tiredness caused by adrenal fatigue.

What could happen is that you feel better and have more energy from the supplements, so you stop taking them thinking your health has improved, only to crash suddenly because your adrenals are still weak. To avoid this common mistake, your adrenals must be supported first before you start taking mitochondrial supplements, especially if your AFS is advanced.

Improve gut microbiome with an expertExpert medical supervision is required when dealing with both of these conditions at once to avoid crashes and worsening fatigue. Timing is crucial, and the delicate balance of the gut flora should also be taken into consideration. By learning to improve gut microbiome, you can support all of these issues concurrently, as well as reduce all forms of stress as much as possible.

Reducing stress is something that you need to consider from many angles. First of all, inflammation is a huge stressor on the body. So if there is inflammation, an anti-inflammatory diet might actually be where to start. Bringing down inflammation will help with dysbiosis, AFS and overall health.

Doing adrenal breathing exercises will help with stress management, relaxation and adrenal support. Other breathing techniques can lower anxiety, help you fall asleep and calm your mind. If you’re ready, adrenal yoga can also bring in a gentle form of physical activity that also helps reduce stress.

Other things to consider before taking a mitochondrial supplementation cocktail is how much toxic load you have. If it is higher than normal, you should consider a detoxification protocol. You’ll need to decongest the liver and cleanse the extracellular matrix as well. But once again, these things need to be done with care if you have AFS, as your body is in a fragile state.

Finally, dealing with these conditions means your need for rest and sleep will be increased. Having reduced ATP production and fatigue from AFS will automatically make it more challenging to keep up the usual level of daily activity, so let yourself rest. Give the process of recovery all the time it needs. It takes time to rebuild the gut flora and improve gut microbiome, so be patient.

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© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

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