For the longest time, our digestive track was apathetically considered as a mere passageway for food at best- at worse, as a slightly embarrassing organ that was best left to its own devices.
Thankfully, the study of gut health has gained considerable traction over the last decade, and the role of its microbiome has been recognized as being one of the most crucial in the body’s regulatory systems. The gut lining and its 100,000 billion microorganisms have earned their stripes as our “second brain”. It is now scientific consensus that they have a direct impact on our mentalhealth, immune system, and metabolism. Intestinal “dysbiosis”, an imbalance of the gut micro-organisms, can lead to chronic diseases.
As a result, it is of crucial importance to become aware of what factors have a
detrimental effect on the diversity and health of our intestinal microbiome, and which contribute to its balance. Among the easiest proactive steps we can take is being mindful of the foods and beverages we consume. Diets that are too rich in
sugar, unhealthy fats and alcohol can disrupt the gut microbiome. Staying away from processed foods, seed oils, refined sugar and limiting alcohol while focusing on healthy fats, fiber-rich and fermented foods will go a long way in maintaining a thriving, diverse gut flora. A high quality probiotic with a diverse profile of strains can also help. In addition to what we ingest, it is fundamental to turn our attention to the environmental toxins we are exposed to. The human gut microbiome can be easily disturbed upon exposure to a range of toxic environmental agents. Environmentally induced perturbation in the gut microbiome is strongly associated with human disease risk 1 .These toxins can be particularly surreptitious. How can a product’s harmful ingredients impact the gut flora if it is not directly ingested?
The answer is through the gut’s sister organ- our skin.
It is unlikely that a mental image of intestines would pop up in the mind of a lay person as they absent-mindedly stroke the hand of their beloved. Yet the gut and skin are intertwined in an intimate symbiotic relationship, and more alike than one would ever think. In addition to covering more surface area than any other organ, they are both home to billions of microorganisms. Covered in a dense network of nerves and blood vessels, they are a direct vector of communication for the immune system. As a result, it should come as no surprise that our gut health has a tremendous impact on our skin. Conversely, what our skin is exposed to and absorbs directly influences the diversity and overall health of our gut microbiome. There is growing interest around the gut-skin axis, and the bilateral line of communication that exists between the two organs.
As the first barrier between our body and the outside world, the skin is the main entry point for a plethora of environmental toxins. One group of environmental toxins that have been studied for their nefarious impact on human health are semi volatile organic compounds (SVOCs). These organic chemical compounds evaporate under normal indoor atmospheric conditions, and are one of the leading causes of indoor pollution. They are present in a wide range of household products, usually in the form of phthalates, PFAs or fragrances. They lurk in mattresses, personal care products, food packaging, vinyl flooring, furniture and toys, to name a few. Classical cleaning products, in particular, contain a plethora of SVOCs that are released every time they are used. They are absorbed not only into our lungs, but directly by our skin. The sad irony is that when someone uses these products in a diligent attempt to clean their home, they are actively polluting their own environment. And the end cost over the long term could be their health, or that of their children.
A study published in Environmental Science and Technology Letters identifies the direct impact that exposure to SVOCs has on the gut microbiome. The study measured the level of SVOCs in the blood and urine of 79 preschool children and compared these with their intestinal microbiome makeup 2 . These analyses showed a direct correlation between elevated levels of SVOCs in the children’s bodies with decreased levels of healthy gut bacteria. While the exact impact is difficult to assess without further study, these lowered levels may already be impacting the children’s health in subtle ways.
The point of this article is not to frighten, or incite paranoia. We at Mabel strive to empower our customers with knowledge and information so that they can make the best choices possible for their own health, and for that of their families. It is for this very reason that our products are crafted with only naturally derived ingredients. They contain no SVOCs, dyes, synthetic preservatives or alcohols. They are completely safe to use around children and pets. For the health of your home, your family, and your gut microbiome.
1 Tu P, Chi L, Bodnar W, Zhang Z, Gao B, Bian X, Stewart J, Fry R, Lu K. Gut Microbiome
Toxicity: Connecting the Environment and Gut Microbiome-Associated Diseases. Toxics. 2020