One of the cornerstones of Chinese Medicine theory is “Protect the Stomach and Spleen”.  the Stomach and Spleen are considered to be the “root” of the body’s energy and are responsible for the proper digestion and transformation of food into energy and blood. The gut microbiome, or the community of microorganisms living in the digestive tract, plays a crucial role in maintaining digestive health and has been linked to various physiological processes, including the regulation of energy metabolism and the immune system. This interestingly falls very closely inline with Chinese Medicine theory. Whilst the area of research into the microbiome is still very new, a lot of interesting theories and links between our guts and our overall health have already been established.

What is the Gut Microbiome?

The gut microbiome refers to the collection of microbes, including bacteria and other microorganisms, that live in the digestive tract. A healthy gut microbiome is essential for a number of reasons, including maintaining overall health and wellness, improving digestive function, supporting a strong immune system, and even regulating mood and cognitive function.

One of the main functions of the gut microbiome is to aid in the digestive process. The bacteria in the gut help to break down and digest food, producing short-chain fatty acids that provide fuel for the cells lining the intestines. They also help to synthesize certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin K and biotin, which are essential for good health. A healthy gut microbiome is also crucial for maintaining a healthy gut-blood barrier, which helps to prevent harmful substances from entering the bloodstream and causing systemic inflammation.  The has been some recent research showing a link between Rheumatoid Arthritis and a possible gut bacteria which escapes into the bloodstream and causes joint inflammation.

How does the Gut Microbiome relate to the Immune System?

The gut microbiome also plays a critical role in supporting a healthy immune system. The microbes in the gut help to train and educate the immune system, so that it can identify and respond to harmful invaders more effectively. In addition, certain bacteria in the gut produce anti-inflammatory compounds that help to reduce inflammation throughout the body, which can help to protect against a number of chronic health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Does the Gut Microbiome affect your mood?

Moreover, the gut microbiome has been shown to play a role in regulating mood and cognitive function. Research has shown that there is a connection between the gut and the central nervous system, which is often referred to as the “gut-brain axis.” This connection allows the bacteria in the gut to communicate with the brain and influence its function. For example, research has shown that imbalances in the gut microbiome can contribute to depression and anxiety, while a healthy gut microbiome has been associated with improved mood and cognitive function.

How does this relate to Chinese Medicine Theory (CMT)?

Very interestingly, one of the main emotional symptoms associated with a weak digestion in CMT is worry and anxiety. Excess worry can damage or Spleen Qi, leading to anxiety and other emotions. But vice versa, a weak digestion; damaged by stress, improper diet or excessive use of antibiotics, can lead to worry and anxiety. A lot of associated western conditions, that have been linked to gut bacteria issues, often show in conditions which CMT refer to as Dampness, or Damp Heat; This can include fibromyalgia or Rheumatoid arthritis.

How can you improve your Gut Microbiome?

Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome requires a balanced diet that includes a variety of fibre-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. In addition, it’s important to consume a variety of fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and kimchi, which are rich in beneficial bacteria.

In conclusion, a healthy gut microbiome is essential for overall health and wellness. From aiding in digestion and supporting a healthy immune system to regulating mood and cognitive function, the bacteria in the gut play a critical role in maintaining good health. By eating a balanced diet that includes fibre-rich foods and fermented foods, and minimizing exposure to antibiotics, you can help to support a healthy gut microbiome and improve your overall health and well-being. This falls inline with one of CMT oldest sayings; “food is the first medicine”.