2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Your Microbiome: Finally Legitimized By Mainstream Medicine

It’s not uncommon for medical groups like WholeHealth Chicago to have their patient charts audited by health insurance companies “for quality.”  After all, insurers want to see how their money is being spent and since they’re for-profit businesses with egregiously overcompensated management teams, they do want doctors to keep costs as low as possible.

Some years ago, as medical director, I was summoned to discuss the results of an audit a well-known insurer had performed on WholeHealth Chicago. After a comprehensive review, they had just one complaint. We’d been ordering too frequently a test that evaluates the bacterial mix in stool specimens. The test results reflect the health of your microbiome, made up of the trillions of microbes living in your gut. The state of having an unhealthy microbiome is called intestinal dysbiosis.

The physician team reviewing our charts politely said there was no such condition as intestinal dysbiosis, a term they believed had been invented by chiropractors, naturopaths, and nutritionists. If I suspected an intestinal infection (like salmonella or amoebiasis) I could order a stool culture, but a general overview of intestinal bacteria was verboten and they simply would not pay for it.

At that precise moment I wanted to quote Hippocrates–who said all disease begins in the gut–but I didn’t want to seem like a wise guy. In truth, while many conditions are a reflection of gut health, not all disease starts there (genetic conditions being one example), but it never pays to argue with someone whose mind is permanently locked and loaded in their own reality tunnel.

Click here for a Blue Cross (Arizona) memo denying the existence of intestinal dysbiosis.

For an alternative point of view, here’s a nice article summarizing gut-related disease.

A few years pass
With the passage of time, of course, the microbiome gained more respect (except, apparently in Arizona, whose memo is dated 2018 ), though I suspect conventional gastroenterologists would rather clean colonoscopes with their dinnerware than admit chiropractic physicians and naturopaths were right about something they’d been clueless about.

Physicians, by the way, do a lot of damage to the human microbiome. A single course of antibiotics can be a veritable Rambo-mycin, killing trillions of good bacteria and throwing your intestines into turmoil.

Using a well-intentioned but misguided ultra-potent antibiotic like Levaquin to get rid of a minor bladder infection is definitely overkill. If there are any bacteria left behind, the same doc may prescribe yet another, like Augmentin, leaving you with Clostridium difficile (C-dif), a diarrhea-from-hell that requires even more antibiotics to clear.

If you’re curious, there are 450,000 cases of C-dif annually and nearly 30,000 deaths from it. A C-dif death is described as iatrogenic, which means while unintentional your doctor just killed your mom.

At last, mainstream medicine bows to the microbiome
Finally, even conventional physicians now acknowledge the power of the gut microbiome. The right bacterial balance can give you healthy immunity and clear skin, keep you from getting fat, reduce your chances of heart disease, limit (and sometimes cure) inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, prevent cancer, and even treat depression.

Patients with familiar intestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis may benefit from a microbiome overhaul by undergoing a fecal transplant. This appetizing project involves getting an enema-full of someone else’s healthy stool or taking capsules filled with same.

The FDA is struggling with fecal transplants, but certain gastroenterologists are performing them for their ulcerative colitis and C-dif patients. Even Mayo clinic offers fecal transplants for C-dif—talk about mainstream.  Considering the going rate is $11,000, you might respond the same way you did when you saw your first abstract expressionist painting–namely “Gee, anybody could do that!” Click here for one of the many YouTube DIY fecal transplant videos in case you want to try this at home. However, while the DIY route is tempting because of the cost savings, your donor needs to be in excellent health and definitely HIV negative. I suggest discussing all this with a gastroenterologist before moving forward.

Gut health goes mainstream
Regular Health Tip readers are pretty knowledgeable about the many chronic conditions associated with intestinal dysbiosis and leaky gut syndrome (also called intestinal hyperpermeability), small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and the endless issues people have with parasites (such as Blastocystis hominis—click here for a Health Tip on parasites) once thought harmless, but now known to be involved in digestive conditions as common as irritable bowel.

What all this is leading up to is my delight at opening Medscape (the go-to website for physician news) this morning and discovering because it was Digestive Disease Week that right on the landing site there were three articles on the microbiome. They’re currently password-protected, but I’ll paste in the beginning of the most interesting one here:

 An increasing body of experimental data strongly indicate that the gut microbiome, the trillions of microbes that colonize the gut of an individual, strongly influences both health and disease. Our microflora carry out essential functions; they facilitate digestion, generate needed nutrients via microbial metabolic activities, mediate brain-gut communication, modulate host immune responses, and harvest energy from food. Host-bacteria interactions not only influence normal physiology but also may induce susceptibility to disease; disruption of the symbiosis between microbiota and host (dysbiosis) may have profound untoward effects. Alterations in the balance between harmful bacteria and beneficial bacteria have been associated with such disorders as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, malnutrition, and liver diseases. An increasing understanding of the link between compositional and functional changes of the microbiota have led to innovative diagnostic techniques and development of novel therapies.

Just as intriguing, right below this piece were the headlines “More Evidence for a Gut-Brain Link in Alzheimer’s” and “Mom’s Microbiome and Inflammation Linked to Autism.” Sorry to say these are also password protected, but you get a sense of the future from the titles alone.

Lastly, although excellent microbiome testing is readily available, you really also need a practitioner trained in the interpretation of tests and the vagaries of treatment. Here’s a link to a sample interpretive report for the Genova Labs test GI Effects. It can be overwhelming (even to gastroenterologists), but WHC staff (Drs Caley Scott and Alaina Gemelas, and Nutritionists Marla Feingold and Olivia Wagner) are familiar with this test, can order it for you, and explain how to get your gut back into alignment.

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD

Leave a Comment


  1. Deborah says:

    Light dawns on conventional medicine (duh!) while WHC has been guiding us all to health for years!

  2. Terrie says:

    Blastocystis Hominis is recognized in Europe and Egypt. Treatment is needed.
    Demodex is a real nasty parasite. Treatment is recognized as necessary in Europe, Russia, China but not here in USA. Hopefully both of these illnesses will not be regarded as commensal any longer in the USA.
    My daughter-in-laws’ father died of C-diff at 60 years of age.
    I suffered from Demodicosis, extremely difficult to rid of after having long term steroid. Extremely expensive and long term battle if ever cured.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

BIRTHDAY

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Upcoming Workshops


**Winter Solstice Celebration: An evening of Acupuncture and Shamanic Healing
Tuesday, December 17, 5:45–7:30pm
Hosted by Katie Oberlin, HTCP and Mari Stecker, LAc

Course Fee: $75.00

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to enter the stillpoint of the Winter Solstice, reflect on the lessons of 2019, and set intentions for the new year. This will be an evening of individual and group healing, ceremony, and celebration. More →

Recent Health Tips

  • Infertility Issues? Start With The Guy

    I’ve lost track of the number of couples we treat at WholeHealth Chicago who are involved in one of the hormone injection/surgical procedure stops on the conveyor belt of infertility centers. Currently, it’s estimated that 15 to 20 percent of couples are struggling with infertility, half of them due to male factors. The infertility docs are nice enough and certainly well-meaning, but I note a Read More

  • Issues with Endocrinologists: Thyroid Approaches and Big Pharma

    My beefs with endocrinologists pretty much center on how they manage thyroid gland concerns, though they rarely win prizes for managing adrenal issues either. I don’t know any endocrinologists personally and rarely refer my patients to them. Occasionally, a patient with newly diagnosed hypothyroidism (low thyroid) will want to confirm the diagnosis with an endocrinologist. I suggest she prepare for a scolding if she’s taking Read More

  • Six Beefs With Rheumatologists

    If you find yourself in the waiting room of a rheumatologist, you’re likely there because your joints hurt and have been hurting, often for years. You’ve been getting by on aspirin or Advil for the pain, but with things worsening your primary care doctor suggests you should see a joint specialist, a rheumatologist. And because there’s a shortage of physicians in this specialty, your appointment Read More

Join our Discount Program!

Member benefits include 10% off all your purchases. Low, one-time membership fee of $25 ($35 for family).

MORE INFORMATION