The Garden in Your Gut (and skin, and…)

All the bacteria living inside you would fill a half-gallon jug; over 100 trillion organisms: bacteria, viruses, and fungi, live on and within in our bodies with the number of bacteria vastly outnumbering other types of residents.

Since the 1970’s, researchers estimated we have 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells in our body. While new data shows it may be closer to 1:1, if we’re half bacteria, it is only natural to expect a major role for them in how our bodies work.

Surely there is some reason for this.

We call this complex community of organisms the micro biome (and if you like, we call the micro organisms themselves “microbiota”).

  • Your colon has the most—100 trillion bacteria—how big is that? One trillion seconds of ordinary clock time = 31,546 years!
  • Your teeth and saliva the next most—1-10 trillion each
  • Your skin and small intestine reaching a population of 1 trillion


Is our immune system defective? Of course not!

Like a garden; where we intentionally add ladybugs, aphid wasps, marigolds, pungent herbs to organically avoid unwanted infestation by pests; where we compost kitchen scraps and let the natural soil micro organisms decompose and release nutrients and organic matter into the soil; all these systems need to remain in balance for optimal health.

Both helpful and unhelpful garden members talk to each other and work together as a community. Our immune system only needs to come into play if these residents stop taking care of their community; if the “slum lords” move in and push the helpful residents out—the probiotics (pro = for and biotic = life and living things).

Why are probiotics important?

Our western world mentality of “bacteria are bad” is not helping us. Each time we reach for hand sanitizer, antibiotics (anti = against; biotic = life) we truly are affecting more than just a few bacteria that may or may not have anything at all to do with any symptoms.

We load up our swimming pools and city water with chlorine and fluoride, and even common medications like birth control and steroids as well as diets high in sugar will destroy the healthful colonies living in and on us.

We think we are being sanitary, but these helpful communities are more protective of us than we give them credit—they are more powerful than any antibiotic known.

I am more energetic and I am able to get up in the morning without a fight, whereas before it was difficult. I’m sleeping more easily and soundly throughout the whole night. The best of all is my severe digestive problems are gone. I am eating foods that I have not been able to eat for a long time.

These helpful friends keep your skin young and clear

Current research is exploding with new information about the role of microbial communities residing on your skin, perhaps the most diverse communities in our body. Certain strains of Staphylococcus (yes, you read that correctly), other bacteria and even species of fungus are now thought to be key players defending you from infection.

Bacterial secretions have antibiotic and antimicrobial properties that help your immune system maintain that delicate balance between effective protection and damaging inflammation. And amazingly, each strain has the ability to make secretions that keep each other in check; to keep the whole balance. In fact, certain Staphylococcus species make a compound that turns off an inflammatory hormone made by your skin.

Another resident family including Propionibacterium acne which has been blamed for blemishes live off oily (sebaceous) secretions of the head, neck, and trunk. but P acne comes in several forms: the sub-form associated with its namesake acne grows best when those oils also contain sugary, starchy residues. That P. acne secretes compounds that stimulate inflammation and pore clogging. In contrast, another sub-type of P. acne—one that prefers the oils without the sugar mix—moisturize and heal.

Different layers of your skin appear to provide homes to different communities of bacteria and fungus all working together to keep your skin healthy, moist and free of pathogenic invaders.

Your gut is skin turned inside out... balancing your microbiome is vital!

Over 2000 years ago, Hippocrates stated “All disease begins in the gut”. Your gut—that 29-foot long hollow tube of specialized skin tissue that runs through the very core of your body keeping the outside, out and the inside in; making sure only certain things can cross from outside to inside. On many levels, from malnutrition to immune function, to moods to nervous system, we now know the truth of Hippocrates statement.

But we did not expect to learn that our gut microbiome may be more a part of us than of the environment. It is estimated that there are 100 times as many microbial genes as human genes associated with our bodies and responsible for important functions.

Unlike what you’ve been taught… because even most graduate level textbooks still discuss only the digestive enzymes and barrier functions of the gut lining… it looks like the bacteria in the gardens of our gut (not us) are the first stop for:

  • breaking down fibers and digesting the food we eat—releasing vitamins and minerals for us to absorb;
  • converting saturated fats to medium and short chain fats that boost our metabolism and keep weight stable;
  • are stronger than any antibiotics agains bad bugs such as Coli and Salmonella;
  • break down and help eliminate toxins (including species of Candida that help eliminate toxic metals);
  • keep the immune system in balance;
  • and activate hormones made by our thyroid, adrenal, and sex glands.

Our gut is linked to nearly every condition in the body. If the digestive system is compromised your body will be out of balance and will not be able to achieve perfect health. Imbalance in the gut is the root cause of most diseases.

For example, if you’ve been diagnosed with thyroid problems, and have an imbalance in your gut microbiome, it may be just as likely that your gut isn’t converting the hormones your thyroid is having no problem making; bacteria in a healthy gut convert about 20 percent of the inactive T4 thyroid hormone to its active T3 form.

That’s why just treating the organ may not be effective.

Disturbances in the microbiome can suppress thyroid function; low thyroid function can lead to inflammation and worsen already-poor gut health. Low thyroid also reduces the production of stomach acid which normally helps make sure parasites and pathogens like H. pylori are killed.

Not only can pathogens survive, but a sluggish thyroid means gut movement slows, constipation takes hold and food lingers in the small intestine—creating an ideal setting for pathogenic bacteria and candida to thrive and colonize.

We give this problem names like SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other names after it progresses from the early warnings of gas and bloating.

Immunity and the “brain in your gut”

The lining of the gut is part of your immune system. Actually 80%-90% of your Immune system is in your gut. Think about it: this immunity was needed for the survival of our species. Without refrigeration, preservatives, pesticides, hand sanitizers, food handler training, and antibiotics… to survive our ancestors needed a means to block invaders from taking hold. We still have this—as long as we don’t kill it with: preservatives, pesticides, hand sanitizers, chemicals, and antibiotics.

Keep your gut healthy—a healthy intestine keeps foreign invaders in food from getting into the bloodstream. It also protects you from airborne viruses and bacteria.

Create a leaky gut by consuming too much sugary and starchy foods, preservatives, pesticides, medications, and antibiotics and the barrier function of this powerful organ is compromised.

Of course your body has a back-up plan: just beyond the gut lining is the largest immune network in your body—just in case something does leak through.

When anything leaks through your gut, bits of food or bacteria, your body reacts in the same way—it mounts an immune response to kill this foreign invader. You feel tired, achy, sometimes even feverish. Your gut sends more information to your brain then your brain sends to it: This immune response tells you to go lie down, sleep, it depresses your moods…

According to the body, this is survival because it has to heal and repair which you do when you rest.

For most people with leaky gut, these mysterious and complex food sensitivities and food allergies are all too commonly to something you’ve been eating all your life. Why? Because that is what leaks through most often. Unsuspectingly, most of my clients come to me with low energy, joint aches, sometimes autoimmune disease, usually low stomach acid production, and a whole host of other unwanted symptoms.

The good news is that by changing our nutrition and our lifestyles we can greatly influence our health.

Restoring microbiome balance

Step 1 Good nutrition: Re-introduce yourself to the “fourth food group:” green vegetables. Eliminate inflammatory foods—start with sugar, cereal grains, bad fats and all processed “food” ( antifoods) and commercial dairy. This may not be enough if you have leaky gut: in many people, foods that are healthful are inflammatory until we repair the gut lining. Work with me to figure out what those are as your gut will not heal unless all sources of inflammation are eliminated—ask about my step-by-step program.

Step 2 Incorporate cultured foods to balance gut flora: Take a tour of the cultured and probiotic foods at Oh, and skip the commercial probiotic capsules unless your doctor has specifically recommended a quality brand for your situation. Most of them are not very many strains and/or too much of the wrong strain.

On the same note, skip the sugary cultured foods like all dairy yogurt and kombuchas. Both are centered around cane sugar either as starting material or added later—cane sugar and corn sugar (and agave) are extremely inflammatory and there is just far too much of it in these products.

Step 3 manage stress: Develop a mindful approach to eating and living—healing happens in a relaxed environment. No matter what else is happening, take the time to chew your food and enjoy your meal.

Step 4 Honor your individuality: We’re all different… let your health professional team here at Hands on Health Care guide, educate, support and create your step-by-step healing program. We’re here to help you find your unique blueprint for your health journey.

Being with Phyllis as a client for the last few months has been a fulfilling experience. I did not know what to expect from a Health Coach, but I feel that the information I received from her has, and will continue to, impact my life significantly.

Phyllis is very knowledgeable. She led me to a new way of eating, thinking (and drinking water)! She is a motivator and she held me accountable to do the things I had suggested I would do. In addition, she is likable, charming, and fun to interact with. In fact, I have arranged to see her less frequently, but regularly for a while just because I would miss the interaction.

Thanking you for an inspirational experience.  —Iris McKeen

A healing program designed for you

Call us for the comprehensive exam that will give us all the data we need to design your program—one that will work, finally.

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Call (505) 298-8020 Today.


Duncan, SH, Lobley, GE, Holtrop, G et al, Human colonic microbiota associated with diet, obesity and weight loss. Int J Obes (Lond). 2008;32:1720–1724.

Sender, R., Fuchs, S. & Milo, R. Revised estimates for the number of human and bacteria cells in the body. Preprint on bioRxiv (2015).

Ukhanova M et al. Gut microbiota correlates with energy gain from dietary fibre and appears to be associated with acute and chronic intestinal diseases. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2012 Jul;18 Suppl 4:62-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2012.03859.x.

Phyllis Childers RN

About Phyllis Childers RN

Phyllis Childers RN, received her nursing diploma from Research Hospital School of Nursing in Kansas City, Missouri, class of 1969. She shares the Osteopathic philosophy that promotes whole person health and vitality. Her passion for natural healing stems from her own healing journey using whole food nutrition and lifestyle changes. Phyllis completed training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world’s largest nutrition school and is a member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. As a holistic health coach, Phyllis helps clients accomplish their health goals through teaching, healthy habit building and support in a way that is empowering and exciting. Phyllis also has advanced training in craniosacral therapy as well as training in the use of essential oils for the prevention and treatment of disease. Holistic health is individual; Phyllis creates doable, step-by-step plans based on each client’s unique needs, preferences and lifestyle utilizing her unique combination of healing tools.