The microbiome is the collection of over 100 trillion organisms, mainly bacteria, viruses, and fungi that are present in the gastrointestinal tract of humans and animals. When this ecosystem of “gut bacteria” is imbalanced, it has a huge impact on health.
What does the microbiome do?
When properly balanced, the micro-biome helps the immune system defend against pathogens, or invaders. The good bacteria provides nutritional benefits and unites with bile to aid in fat digestion. These good bacteria also have direct anti-inflammatory effects, regulate movement of the digestive system and it’s contents. They also strengthen the intestinal barrier to allergens and manufacture a myriad of beneficial chemicals.
What happens if the microbiome becomes unbalanced?
The alteration of the microbiome or interference in the normal collection of GI bacteria is called “dysbiosis”. This can be caused by the overuse of anti-biotics or other drugs, exposure to chemicals or pesticides, and (in some sensitive pets) vaccinations.
This imbalance is harmful to our pet’s health as the pathogenic (bad) bacteria often produce toxins. Also, lack of the appropriate healthy (good) bacteria means a reduction in all of their anti-inflammatory benefits as well as the loss of their nutrient production, fat digestion and immune assistance.
Cases of chronic gastrointestinal diseases such as irritable bowel, chronic diarrhea, obesity or weight loss, and chronic giardia can often be linked to intestinal dysbiosis. In addition, allergies, chronic skin disease, and even mental and emotional issues can be tied to unbalanced intestinal flora.
The long-term ingestion of the by-products of food processing can have chronic long term effects. When carbohydrates and proteins are heated at high temperatures and also concurrently exposed to high pressure, they undergo a chemical reaction called the “Maillard reaction”. New chemical compounds are formed in the food, which are termed Advanced Glycosolated End products, or A.G.E.’s. These new compounds are known to be pro-inflammatory, which means they speed the aging process and contribute to any “itis”! Some of the new compounds formed (heterocyclic amines) are even carcinogenic.
Furthermore, high temperature processing of dry pet food also destroys delicate micronutrients, creates new free radicals, and can alter digestibility. Lastly, chemical preservatives used in dry foods have adverse effects when ingested over long term, even if the amounts within individual meals have been measured as non-toxic.