Your Microbiome: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Who Is Calling the Shots, Really?

Long, long before we two-legged skin creatures roamed the earth, there were all kinds of microbiota (such as bacteria, fungus, yeast, etc.) living their little buggy lives and performing their special tasks. The human creature has been living and growing with these microorganisms as part of their physical make-up this whole time and yet not only do we consider those little guys to be unimportant, but we take active measures to kill them all on a regular basis.

Collectively, we may have forgotten that we NEED them as much as they need us (maybe more so). The microorganisms that live on the surface of our skin and inside our gut are important for our defensive line, our immune system, detoxification, elimination and a slew of other things we rarely give them credit for.

A Unique Balancing Act: The Good, The Bad, the Ugly

These tiny biota are a natural part of every body’s environment. We usually call the microflora that reside in our intestine probiotics and consider them to be “good” bacteria that keep harmful microorganisms (also known as pathogens) in check. In addition, they help to break down foods during digestion and actively assist in nutrient absorption from the foods we eat. They contribute so greatly to immune function that an imbalance could result in autoimmune issues. There are also bacteria that simply reside on the skin or in the gut that we do not consider to be pathogenic or benevolent. They help us by crowding out the pathogens, preventing an overgrowth of the “bad” guys which, in turn, reduces infection and inflammation.

The body’s first line of defense is made up of both the structural integrity of the tissues as well as the biome (the microorganisms that inhabit the outside skin as well as every little nook and cranny of the digestive system) and the terrain (structural integrity of the tissues and the available prebiotics) that allow certain ones to thrive or fail.

This happens both topically and internally. Perhaps you want to look at your intestines as simply your skin on the inside…it’s a bit less gross than considering your skin to be your guts on the outside. Let’s just call it all the “skintestines.”

To keep your unique microbiome flourishing it takes

The Good Guys: A diverse collection of benevolent microorganisms

The Bad Guys: Though we may not like them and they have a tendency to get pushy and create problems, these bad guys are a part of our personal ecosystem and maybe its time we start recognizing them as “not all good/not all bad” (kinda like people…) and set healthy boundaries to keep them from getting out of hand.

The Ugly Guys: We may think these other microbes are ugly, but they sure are useful to crowd out the bad guys while they increase hydration (they ARE single cell organisms and mostly water, after-all) perform vital functions (B-Vitamins, anyone?) and give you energy (those guys you think are so ugly are responsible for much of the ATP in your mitochondria…the “batteries” of the cell.)

Dysbiosis: There Was a Time…Then It ALL Went Wrong

You may have been living the dream, but just one battle inside your intestinal barricade could leave you miserable.

Top 5 ways of turning your healthy, functioning microbiome into a cesspool of malicious microorganisms:

  1. Antibiotics (both for disease and in our food production), pesticides and their residues *In the case of most antibiotics and pesticides, they wipe out ALL of the bacteria for a time. Unfortunately, the malicious bacteria tend to repopulate much quicker–especially if they are being fed the modern American diet. Ughhh.

  2. Antibacterial hand soaps and residue from dish soap (especially dishwasher soap)

  3. Preservatives and additives in skin care and other personal care products (even some toothpastes!)

  4. Processed foods (and foods such as sugar that feed the bad guys)

  5. Inflammation and stress have been well documented as creating a habitat where malicious microbes overtake their fair share of space and throw off the body’s delicate balance.

From there, it’s a slippery slope that can get out of hand quickly:

  • Refined sugars feed the “bad guys” (pathogenic microorganisms)

  • Pharmaceuticals (and fake sugars) destroy the total microbiology.

  • The “bad guys” repopulate faster than the good guys and want you to eat more of what is going to feed them.

  • So you use more drugs (to kill the proliferation of bad guys) and your dysbiotic gut has you craving sweets and feeling disgusted by things like garlic and sauerkraut. (Among other foods that kill pathogens or provide probiotics)

Prevention and Reparation of Dysbiosis

Holistic self-care for prevention and reparation of body dysbiosis (both inside and out) is all about protecting and maintaining structural integrity of the tissues as you tend to the delicate and subtle biome that resides there. This type of care works best without the use of artificial chemicals or ingredients that destroy total microbiology, though (especially in the case of serious infections) it can be done alongside (…and, in addition to) the use of pharmacological treatment.


Supporting the Outside “SKINTESTINES” and External Microbiota

Our entire Between You & the Moon Functional Skin Care Line has been formulated to provide nourishment and complete care for the skin without any artificial chemicals or preservatives. When used together, the products give the skin what it needs for a terrain that supports a health microbiome: A strong (yet flexible) matrix of tissues, an appropriate pH, ample barrier function to create a happy habitat for a thriving ecosystem, management of malicious microbes, and a low inflammatory state.

In addition, if you are lucky enough to be able to get to Brooklyn Herborium for a skin care service, our knowledgeable and caring estheticians offer the Integrative Therapy for Biome Rehabilitation. This unique facial service can kick start a skin care program that promotes optimal symbiosis for beautiful skin.

Supporting the Inside “SKINTESTINES” and the Internal Microbiota

Maintain and build up the structural integrity of the intestinal wall with a few simple self-care techniques.

  • Drink 1 cup room temperature water (preferably after storing it in a copper vessel) upon waking
  • Drink 1 cup of room temperature water 30 minutes before meals- swish water in your mouth after your meals and do not eat between meals
  • Take 1/4 cup water with 1/2 tsp Integrity Biome Rehab 5 minutes before meals if you struggle with acid refusing, loose valves, leaky gut or are traveling and need some support
  • Eat leeks, cooked leeks. It will help prevent leaks. (Best to cook in cast-iron with a little acid, of course)
  • Eat cooked cruciferous foods often
  • Eat one Brazil nut daily for its selenium content

Introduce The Good: Rotate Your Probiotics

Introduce “the good bacteria” to your gut by regularly rotating the beneficial bacteria that you consume in the probiotic foods and supplements. Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, pickled carrots, beet kvass and kimchi can contribute to a balanced and happy internal biome. It’s a good idea to diversify the types of probiotics that you are introducing because different good bacteria are responsible for proper digestion, production of B vitamins, and serotonin balance—and probably lots of other things that we don’t even know about too! 

Interesting thought: Knowing that your gut residents are responsible for cravings and that the cultures in kombucha love sugar and caffeine, do you think it is possible that drinking kombucha could makes you desire more sugar and caffeine?


Manage the Bad: Manager Herbs (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and...)

Traditional cultures use special mixes of herbs in their cooking that give each cuisine a specific taste. Examples may include mirepoix, sofrito, refogado, curries, or special pickled items like hot peppers and ginger. Much of the time, these blends of herbs do much more than making the food taste good. Some actively kill (I like to say “manage”) the bad bacteria, while others (such as garlic and onions) feed the the “good guys” while killing the bad guys!

Interesting thought: Onions and garlic are considered “Rajastic” (meaning: “King-like”-which is not considered a good thing) in Ayurveda. I have had reports from many people who have overdone it on garlic and onions that they feel manic. Maybe it is because of the die-off of malicious microbes and the eating frenzy that follows!

Feed the Ugly: Making Fiber Your Friend

The foods you eat will help to determine which of the bacteria in your gut are transient (just moving through on their way to the toilet…) and which will take up residency in your digestive system. The overall makeup of the biome changes daily with what you consume. All in all, the bacteria that we want to stick around prefer fiber of all sorts. But fiber can be difficult to digest, especially if you already have a dysbiotic gut or inflammation in your digestive system.

“Sit” for Resistant Starches

Resistant starches are a useful way to get energy and consume soluble fiber (which also helps with the movements that escort the body’s wastes to the toilet) without an insulin spike. When a starch—such as a prepared grain or a potato—is allowed to cool down after it is cooked, the starch molecules are retrograded to a place where they crystallize and are no longer glucose, but an oligosaccharide. What does this mean to you? For beautiful skin inside and out, eat your leftovers.

“Soak, Sour, Sprout” To Make Insoluble Fiber Easier to Digest

Insoluble Fiber can be hard to digest for some as it includes the stalks, skins, and seeds of the plants. Traditional methods of soaking, sprouting, and souring can make these more digestible as well as making sure to cook veggies well—using a bit of acid.

Interesting thought: If you do not give the good/ugly guys enough of what they eat to live (starches and fibers) they will join the bad guys to try convincing you that you neeeeeeed to go get sugar right now. They can’t help it—they are just trying to stay alive.

Further Resources

Herbs as "And, In Addition To" Medicine
Crafting Your Holistic Skincare Plan
The Diet for Incredibly Good Skin

Rabbit Hole:

Here’s a good talk: TED Talks

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