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The MicroBiome & Health
June 2, 2018
The MicroBiome & Health
Symptoms and Leaky Gut
80% of the immune system resides in the gut because the micro-biome in the gut plays a key role in your dog’s immune system function.
But if your dog’s microbiome isn’t healthy, your dog can’t be healthy. This is why most allergy drugs, diets and treatments won’t work in the long run – they all harm the delicate balance in his microbiome, which makes him more likely to suffer from allergies and other autoimmune diseases.
The bacteria in your dog’s microbiome have a few key functions in your dog’s body:
- They help manufacture important nutrients.
For example, the bacteria in your dog’s gut are responsible for producing much of your dog’s vitamin K as well as some of the B vitamins.
- They help with the absorption of nutrients.
The gut bacteria help absorb vitamins and other micronutrients that are critical to your dog’s health.
- They regulate the immune system.
T cells are an important part of the immune system and they can either increase or decrease inflammation in the body. When your dog is a puppy, the bacteria in his microbiome will help train the T cells to differentiate between friendly and harmful bacteria. This primes his immune system for the future.
- They strengthen the gut lining.
Gut bacteria produce fatty acids to keep the intestinal lining strong.
If all is going well with the microbiome, all will be well with your dog. But if the colony of bacteria gets out of control, then they’ll start attacking your dog’s body for their own survival. And that’s when your dog’s health will suffer.
A Delicate Balance
There are two kinds of bacteria in your dog’s microbiome: friendly and harmful. And the balance between these bacteria is critical – and easy to disrupt.
The microbiome is most commonly damaged by:
The problem with antibiotics is that they indiscriminately kill both harmful and friendly bacteria. This not only disrupts their balance, but can wipe out the entire colony, leaving only the resistant germs, which can grow and multiply. Even if your dog hasn’t taken antibiotics before, if he’s eating food from conventionally raised animals, he’ll be consuming the antibiotics the cows or chickens he eats were given.
- NSAIDs Drugs and Chemicals
These all inhibit the growth of friendly bacteria.
Steroids inhibit many important gut functions, suppress the immune system and can lead to a proliferation of harmful bacteria.
Disrupt the immune system and inhibit the growth of friendly bacteria.
If your dog spends long hours alone or suffers from other chronic stressors, this will make him more susceptible to an imbalanced microbiome.
Dogs eating processed diets or diets high in carbohydrates (and any kibble on the market will be high in carbohydrates) will have unbalanced gut flora. Carbohydrates, especially those with a higher glycemic load, are the preferred food for many harmful bacteria. Grains and carbohydrates will also cause an overgrowth of fungus and yeast. Dairy products, genetically modified (GMO) foods, preservatives, coloring and chlorinated water can also harm the microbiome.
When the bacteria in the microbe become unbalanced, the result is called dysbiosis. And dysbiosis can create or worsen allergies through something called leaky gut.
Leaky Gut: A New Epidemic
When harmful bacteria are allowed to proliferate, they can cause leaky gut. Leaky gut is just what it sounds like – holes can develop in your dog’s gut lining, allowing the intestinal contents to “leak” into the bloodstream.
The lining of the gut, called the mucosal lining, becomes irritated and inflamed when dysbiosis occurs. This inflammation causes the cells lining the intestines, called enterocytes, to separate. When this happens, bacteria, fungus and undigested food start to leak into the bloodstream.
Undigested proteins are not supposed to be in the bloodstream. When they do enter it, the immune system ramps up and attacks and neutralizes them. Sometimes, the antigen from the foreign protein can look like the structure of one of the body’s own tissue proteins. This is called molecular mimicry and can cause the body to create antibodies against itself, which is the cause of autoimmunity and allergies.
Leaky gut can also result in bacteria passing through the gut lining, as well as bacterial neurotoxins called lipopolysaccharides. These definitely don’t belong in your dog’s bloodstream and they circulate to the liver, kidneys, heart and other organs where they cause chronic inflammation and disease.
So leaky gut doesn’t just cause allergies and the hypersensitivity disorders – it creates autoimmunity, which is the root cause of a myriad of common health issues including:
- Joint pain
- Thyroid disease
- Heart disease
- Nervous system and eye disorders
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Collapsing trachea and laryngeal paralysis
- Liver, gallbladder and pancreatic disorders
- Behavioral issues (your dogs gut and brain actually communicate via the endocrine system)
As researchers are learning more about the microbiome and its delicate balance, it’s becoming clear that leaky gut is one of the most significant and preventable diseases in dogs (and humans).
Getting To The Root Cause
If your dog’s allergies are caused by leaky gut, it’s short sighted – and ultimately dangerous – to treat his skin conditions with antibiotic creams and steroids. It’s also a terrible idea to feed your dog prescription allergy diets because they’re loaded with carbohydrates and preservatives, which will only harm the microbiome and worsen the leaky gut.
If you really want to rid your dog of his allergies for good, stop treating his skin and immune system – and start treating his gut!
Here are some important steps you can take to prevent and repair leaky gut:
- Stop the drugs and medications: Find a good holistic or homeopathic vet who can get your dog off the toxic flea meds and drugs. They all damage your dog’s gut.
- Never give an unnecessary vaccine: Once an adult dog has responded to a vaccine, research shows he doesn’t need any more. Instead of revaccinating, ask your vet to run a titer test first to see if he needs that vaccine (chances are, he’s already protected and doesn’t it).
- Reduce your dog’s stress: If he’s home alone, get him a companion or take him to daycare.
- Stop feeding kibble: Kibbles require at least 30% carbohydrate to hold them together. Carbohydrates fuel harmful bacteria, so a fresh, raw diet is a better option. Grains also contain lectins, which irritate the gut. If you must feed grains, make sure they’re sprouted grains (but only once your dog’s gut is healed and his allergy symptoms are gone).
- Stop feeding processed foods: Processed foods contain preservatives, genetically modified ingredients (such as alfalfa, soy, corn and canola oil) and colors that harm the microbiome.
- Feed your dog organic foods: Organic vegetables will be free of harmful pesticides and organic meats will be free of antibiotics.
- Avoid anti-nutrients: Many kibbles contain mycotoxins, which are molds that can cause severe gut and autoimmune reactions. Peanut butter also contains mycotoxins.
- Give your dogs probiotics: Help your dog recolonize the friendly bacteria with probiotics. These can come from foods such as kefir and fermented foods, and from store-bought probiotics. Be careful because many probiotics actually contain alleges that can worsen your dog’s symptoms. Avoid dairy based probiotics or those containing Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus reuteri, and Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
- Give your dog prebiotics: Prebiotics help the gut bacteria produce fatty acids that protect the mucosal cells in the intestinal lining.
- Give you dog digestive enzymes: Digestive enzymes help break food down so its nutrients can be absorbed. Leaky gut causes these enzymes to stop working so they need to be added back into the diet. Grains and legumes also inhibit digestive enzymes so remove those from your dog’s diet (and stop feeding kibble because the enzymes in the food have all been killed during the processing, making your dog enzyme deficient).
So if you’re frustrated with your dog’s health or "allergies", start treating his gut instead. As long as those undigested proteins and harmful bacteria leak through your dog’s gut, his immune system will be kicked into overdrive and his symptoms will remain.
Those allergy drugs, anti-itch creams and fancy allergy kibble do nothing but kick the beehive – so treat your dog’s leaky gut, support his micro-biome, and fix his symptoms at the source.