051: Christa Orecchio on Understanding the Microbiome

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Understanding the Microbiome
Wellness Mama » Episode » 051: Christa Orecchio on Understanding the Microbiome
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051: Christa Orecchio on Understanding the Microbiome

Why is gut health so important? The truth is that understanding the microbiome is critical to our long term health. In this episode, I’m joined once again by clinical nutritionist Christa Orecchio to discuss the basics of gut health, and what you can do to rejuvenate yours.

Christa is the founder of TheWholeJourney.com and the Gut Thrive in 5 program. She’s a TEDX speaker, author and TV show host who has helped thousands of people reclaim their health.

Understanding the Microbiome

The microbiome is the combined genetic material of all of the organisms inside of the gut. The most well-known biome in the body is the gut microbiome but there are really seven different microbiomes in the human body. 3,000 years ago Hippocrates said “all disease begins in the gut.” And he was right!

There is an inseperable link between the health of the gut microbiome and the immune system. When we rejuvenate the microbiome in the gut, the immune system can replicate this new genetic code to the other microbiomes of your body.

Here’s what happens:

  • chronic sinus infections go away
  • eczema and psoriasis clears up
  • recurring vaginal yeast infections start to go away
  • you stop getting bronchitis every time you get sick

The 3 “bugs” of the microbiome

  1. Symbiotic (good) bugs: These are the do-gooders of bacteria, cleaning up, repairing and helping maintain health in the gut. Unfortunately, as a society we often lack theses symbiotic bugs because of antibiotic use, genetically modified foods, sugar and alcohol.
  2. Pathogenic (bad) bugs: These bugs are the petty criminals of the micriobiome society, but their work has a purpose: it challenges the strength of our immune system, making it stronger. The problem is we often have an unhealthy amount of the bad bugs!
  3. Commensal (neutral) bugs: These bacteria are the “impressionable teenagers.” Depending on the overarching influence in the gut, they can assist the good bugs or contribute to the agitation of the bad bugs.

All of these bug types are meant to contribute to our overall health, but it’s critically important for them to be in appropriate balance in order for the gut microbiome to function correctly.

How to Rejuvenate the Immune System

Improving gut health can help rejuvenate the immune system. Improving the health of the gut microbiome requires more than simply taking probiotics or eating yogurt. Here’s how Christa recommends to get started:

  1. Slash inflammation
  2. Purge pathogens
  3. Healing and Re-seeding (Stay tuned for our next episode, where Christa will go in depth on reseeding and healing the gut microbiome!)


Get Christa’s eBook!

If you struggle with infertility or gut health issues, check out Christa’s book “How to Conceive Naturally”.

Stock up on Bone Broth

Christa mentions bone broth as part of her protocol in this episode, and she and Katie both consume broth consume daily. Until May 30th, you can get 5% off organic pre-made bone broth from The Brothery, Christa & Katie’s recommended bone broth resource, simply by going to this link and using the code WellnessMama5.

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Katie: Christa, welcome back. We had you in the last episode to talk about fertility
and optimizing for pregnancy. This episode is going to be all about the
microbiome which is one of my favorite topics to talk about. I always try to
drag my friends into talking about it at dinner parties and it doesn’t go over so
well so I’m excited that we have time just to talk the microbiome.
To start off, give us an overview. What is the microbiome? When someone
says that, what are we talking about?

Christa: Yeah, okay. You and I can totally geek out together on this became I’m
fascinated by it. We hear a lot about leaky gut and all kinds of digestive issues
but really the new model for cellular healing is what’s called the microbiome
and that is the combined genetic material of all of the organisms inside of the

Today we’re going to talk about the gut microbiome but we really have seven
different microbiomes in the human body. That’s just anywhere in and on us
that they’re are microbes and really we have ten times more of these microbial
cells than we do have human cells and so when we can really genuinely
understand the microbiome and create harmony between our human cells
and our microbial cells, the entirely of life and health changes. It’s just so
transformative. Really have to start to understand that particular genetic code.

Katie: Yeah, absolutely. I think you’re right, most people just think of the gut when
they hear microbiome but we have to realize we really are bacterial organisms
in a sense and we have microbiome on our skin and in our mouth and just all
over our bodies. It’s so fascinating because I feel like even with all that we
know now, we’re only starting to scratch the service of I think what we’re
eventually going to know about the microbiome.
You mentioned this being the new model for long term healing. Why is that
and let’s delve into that a little bit more. Why is the microbiome so important?

Christa: I guess I want to take it all the way back to my favorite guy Hippocrates, which
is the father of natural medicine and 3000 year ago he said “All disease
begins in the gut.” Which was quite a stoop because just now 3000 years later
and functional medicine circles is just really starting to get out with people and
to say hey, if all disease begins in the gut which means if we can really heal
the gut and understand that the genetic perspective of the microbiome, we
can heal the rest of the body.

When we’re, we really know each person’s physiology is as unique to them as
their fingerprint and so much of that stems from the gut. This is a way to really
address bio-individuality at it’s best. That in and of itself is a new model for
healing. I want to break down what most people suffer with so we can give a
new perspective on this.

I think we’re trained to think about the symptoms, whenever we have
digestive problems or immune problems, whether that is direct digestive
problems like bloating or gas or constipation or stomach pain or whether it
stings that most people are general in the traditional medical model we
wouldn’t see that are connected to the gut or the microbiome like headaches
and joint pain and skin issues. Even anxiety and depression. Those are a lot of

Everything thing comes down to this harmony or disharmony within the
microbial world and so if we really want to start to shift the state of mind, we
have to look at rejuvenating the digestive system from this cellular perspective
and resetting the immune system towards it’s highest potential and that’s what
you do when you address the microbiome. You get to drop the traditional we
look about the disease state and the traditional medical model. We have a
collection of symptoms, there’s a root cause underlying them but we give the

Whether that be Crohn’s or colitis or Hashimoto’s or Alopecia and even in the
natural world, maybe we don’t identify so much with the diagnosis in the
naturalpathic world but we identify with bugs. We have people say oh I have
candida, I have Blastocystis hominis which is a protozoan. I have a H. Pylori
infection or I have a virus Epstein–Barr and we focus on the bugs. Both
focusing on the bugs or this E state or even the symptoms is a myopic
approach because it’s about focusing on that entire picture like you said which
is the gut microbiome. This is the collective set of genes of all those microbes
whether that be bacterial, fungus, protozoa, viruses, everything that’s living
inside of your digestive system.

The coolest thing in the world Katie is like you said, we have multiple
microbiomes. We have the skin, the nose, the mouth, the esophagus, the
lungs and the genitals in addition to the gut. When you heal the gut and you
rejuvenate the gut microbiome, your immune system is brilliant. It is so smart
that now the body learns to replicate this new powerful genetic code unique
to you. It can replicate it in the other six microbiomes which I think is the
coolest thing in the world.

That’s why when you heal the gut, chronic sinus infections go away or when
you heal the cut that eczema and psoriasis can finally start to clear up or when
you heal the gut recurring vaginal yeast infections start to go away or you
don’t get bronchitis every time you get sick anymore because the lung
microbiome is now smarter and much more well informed.

Katie: Yeah it’s so fascinating and I think, thank to many even just yogurt
commercials. Most people have a basic understanding that probiotics work in
the gut and that’s an important connection but it really goes so much beyond
just probiotics and just even good bacteria and bad bacteria.

I know that you’ve done a lot of research on this so can you delve into the
different kind of bugs that make up the microbiome and why it’s so important
to keep them balanced and what does the balance look like?

Christa: Totally yeah I would love to. If we break our three different kinds of
microbiome up we would call them symbiotic or good bugs. We’d call them
pathogenic or bad bugs and then I call the third type commensal or neutral. If
we relate this to a community, the symbiotic microorganisms those are the
good guys. Those are the pillars of the community. They build nice homes.
They have inter-rejuvenation projects. They’re cleaning up the streets. They’re
contributing to living peacefully in society. We really need those symbiotic
bugs to be present in the right amount.

A lot of us, we have a general problem or I even say an epidemic in society of
a lack of biodiversity within the cornoline and a lack of these symbiotic
microorganisms because of the proliferation of over antibiotic use. We have
about 55 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions every single year. We
have more stress than we’ve had. We have genetically modified foods, we’re
eating more sugar, drinking more alcohol.

All of these things that can kill these really important symbiotic
microorganisms but when we have enough this really employs the one plus
one equals three mentality. That’s going to be really important to get those
balanced and we want to have about 85 percent good bugs and only 15
percent bad bugs or pathogenic bugs. A lot of us have that ratio flipped in
today’s society and if you’re going to go back to the community example, your
pathogenic microorganisms, they’re kind of, they’re riff raff of the community.
Maybe they’re putting up graffiti and maybe they’re doing certain things and
that’s not necessarily a bad thing because they can add flare and depth and
culture which translates to challenging the immune system, keeping it strong.
It’s like the immune system gets to lift weights to stay on guard and protect
you, but if there’s too many of them they can then bring down the entire
neighborhood and they start to feel threatened. Then what they do is they try
to built forts and homes and we call those thing biofilms where they’re
protecting themselves and it makes it harder for us to get rid of them.
Then we have the neutral microorganisms and these are the bacteria, people
call them commensal because they’re not good or bad necessarily but they
are in there taking up valuable real estate and they could really go either way
depending upon the influence exerted upon them. I like to refer to them as
impressionable teenagers and that’s really the balance of what makes up our
community but really what’s in there is that we have a combination of viruses
and bacteria and protozoa and parasites and fungus and proteins.

If you’ve ever had, let’s say chicken pox as a kid. You have the varicella
magalas virus in your body. If you’ve ever had mono you have the Epstein Barr
virus in your body. They say half the population has either cold sores or
herpes in the body. If you’ve had the flu, a lot of times the flu is viral and so it’s
not bad that we have these things within our body. We can use them to our
advantage when they are taken care of appropriately.

We all have bacteria. If anybody’s had a urinary tract infection or food
poisoning or strep throat. There’s a lot of people with Lyme disease out there.
Then we move to fungus with yeast infections and ringworm and nail fungus
and candida. We move to protozoa where there’s any matter or plasto and then parasites. It’s
very easy for the body to pick up
parasites when the chips are low or the immune system is down.
Lots of ways just having, kissing your dog or sleeping in the bed with your cat.
If you eat sushi consistently. There’s just a lot of ways that we can pick this up
and so we can all benefit from microbiome rejuvenation as just a way to
strengthen the entire system.

Katie: Absolutely and I love the perspective of having it unbalanced because I think
I’ve seen two camps when it comes to good health. There’s those that think
maybe it’s just probiotics and taking probiotics will fix it. Then I’ve also seen
people on the other extreme that are into what I would think is too much
cleansing and too many supplements that they’re trying to kill every bad

Like you said it’s not that you don’t want to have any of those more harmful
type of pathogenic bacteria in the gut but you need them in a balance and so I
think all things in heath that’s really important to remember the balance side
and not to take it too far in either direction. Another thing that’s really
fascinating with the gut and I think we’re eventually going to find more and
more the gut’s almost like a finger print, like you said and we can find out so
much about someone by their gut bacteria.

We do know right now, so many things can influence gut bacteria and gut
health so what are some things in someone’s personal and medical history
that could influence the expression of their gut bacteria?

Christa: There’s so many things that can influence and it was like when I just talked
about if you’ve had chicken pox, if you’d had mono, how many times you’ve
had the flu. These are all part of your personal health history. If you got
Montezuma’s revenge in Mexico that one time. For me it was Africa. These are
thing where people, they think I took some antibiotics and that was eight
years ago and I’m fine but maybe they never actually got it in balance or you
really have to look.

For example myself, I first got into gut health with candida because I was a
cesarean baby. I was not breast feed. My father was in pharmaceuticals. I had
more antibiotics than you can image. By the age of six I was immune to
amoxicillin. I had to move to the heavy hitters and so I had no immune system.
By the time I was in my teenage years and I lost my teenage years and my 20s
and I had raging candida overgrowth which wasn’t recognized by the
traditional medical community which took me a really long time to sort that out
for myself. I also had adrenal fatigue and thyroid disorders and so I have
people come to me with similar stories of I lost the last 15 years and I can’t
quite pin point where or when or what happened.

It’s really looking to see, okay what are these turning points in someone’s
health history because everybody has a pathogentic bent if you will. Where
people are more prone to having their bacteria out of balance. Some people
like myself are more prone to having the yeast infungal imbalance and others
are more prone to protozoa and parasite imbalance.

It’s really looking at your whole health history throughout your life to see
where, which one of those three imbalances your body is susceptible for and
then rejuvenating it from there.

Katie: Yeah that makes so much sense as well. I know I can trace my own gut
infections. I didn’t have, I was born vaginal and I was breast feed but I had
recurrent ear infections and strep throat when I was little. Like you I had,
probably dozens or hundreds of round of antibiotics by the time I was five.
Had my tonsils removed, had my adenoids removed. Which now we know are
also part of the microbiomes so its kind of sad looking back. Had tubes in my
ears. All of that.

Had my tonsils out helped and I was able to stop taking the antibiotics and
things but I can definitely see it in hindsight. How that really changed my
health at that point. Then I had struggled ever since then. Finally getting my
gut back into balance has been a really big factor for me and that, seeing the
research sometimes it’s hard not to get discouraged when you read things.
When you take one round of antibiotics, your gut bacteria could either be
permanently altered or it takes ten year to recover. There’s so many different

It is encouraging that it is possible to really undo a lot of that damage if you’re
focused enough. I see that a lot in to people like you said that had that health
crisis moment or it was a gradual health crisis and then they had to undo the
damage. You actually have a whole program on this and it’s amazing and I’ll
make sure I like to it in the show notes.

My husband’s actually going through it now for a secondary infection related
to having his appendix removed year ago. You have a whole five step process
that really rejuvenates the microbiome and the immune system. I would love it
if you could give us an overview of that and explain how you take people
through these five steps to really overhaul the whole microbiome.

Christa: Yeah I would love to. I would love to and so the whole idea of overhauling the
microbiome and we had just talked about it in the last podcast is really getting
this whole new epigenetic directive and now we have this field of turning on
or off switches for disease within the body and we understand that when we
can prove the microbiome, we can reset our genetic code which allows us to
reach our higher genetic potential. Which I just thing is so exciting.
The five steps that I’ve developed that help rejuvenate the microbiome. Step
number one is slashing inflammation. You have to take the fuel off the fire. I’ve
heard Tom O’Brien say that more time than I can count but really its
everything. You have to identify the inflammation set point within the digestive
tract and you have to start to really clean that up.

I just think, imagine your intestinal tract, small intestine red and inflamed and
we want to take a cooling vacuum cleaner and clean things up and leave
everything calm and soothed. That’s really important to set the tone for
everything. At the same time because we all have a unique health history,
there’s a lot of things that we’ve been through, our digestive organs are
probably pretty tired. The pancreas, the gallbladder, the liver and the cells in
the stomach. Called the poritals cells that produce hydrochloric acid.
What we want to do is we want to use the proper type of enzymes that are
going to give those organs a break. Send them on vacation, give them what
they need so they don’t have to do too much work while they’re healing so
that way when we do call them back to action. They’re really ready to give it
their all. In terms of slashing inflammation, that’s very important using the right
other types of enzymes to clean up old molecules of gluten and dairy is very

Also certain enzymes that are going to clean up the blood of these
pathogentic activity, the proteins in the pathogens that are in the blood.
Protiolitic enzymes really work well with that. We want to break down those
biofilms I talked about that the pathogens build. Not in a bad way but just like
humans build homes and like to live in communities so do pathogens and we
know now that they’re not isolated and where there’s on there’s many and that
a yeast can live with the bacteria, can live with the heavy metal. We want to
break down those biofilms and that is all part of slashing inflammation.
Of course the diet is huge, so we’re getting rid of things like gluten and dairy
and sugar and alcohol and genetically modify food and we’re adding in really
supportive foods that come in and slash inflammation like turmeric and ginger
and we’re really building and boosting the system with foods like bone broth
and more vegetables and mostly cooked foods in the beginning so that you’re
taking the pressure off of the digestive system.

Then you can jump in if you have questions Katie because I could talk about
this forever. I want to make sure we get through the five steps. Also really
spices work so well to slash inflammation. For example I would use a cumin,
coriander and fennel tea for so many different reasons. Food is medicine,
fennel is super calming to the small intestine. Aloe Vera is super calming to
the small intestine.

When you mix that cumin, coriander and fennel together they have a
synergistic effect. The cumin starts to train the pancreas to produce more of
it’s own pancreatic enzymes. This is really true healing from your root cause
and when you’re going to rejuvenate the microbiome you want to give
yourself foods where your cutting inflammation but you’re also preparing your
body for the journey. You’re supporting your liver. You’re supporting your
adrenals, you’re supporting your thyroid so that by the time you get to step
number two, you are ready for it and your body is ready.

Step number two is purging pathogens. I like to do this in a harmless what to
rid the body of this excess riff raff. We’re not going to get rid of all of them,
we’re just going to work to create balance and like you said Katie, antibiotics.
That’s the western way whether, antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, immunals,
suppressants. It doesn’t really work for sustainable health.

A lot of times in the natural model we do that as well with high does
botanicals. Heavy doses of oregano oil. Heavy doses of whatever it might be
and that’s executing that same strategy which is not a great model for long
term healing and a lot of people get terrible die off as well when these
pathogens, they’re excreting metabolic waste.

I remember you and I were on the way to a gathering in LA and I said to you in
the car, do you know what quorum sensing is and you’re like oh yeah. I
thought that was so cool because you talked to most people about quorum
sensing and they don’t know what it is. The way that we work when we
interrupt the way the pathogens communicate, that’s quorum sensing. It’s a
way, it’s like a cell phone technology that all these pathogens can
communicate with each other then it enables them to, at the speed of light,
share their genetic code and replicate. This is how we get way too many bad
guys and not enough good guys.

Instead of attacking them, instead of killing them, I think an eye for an eye
leaves the world world blind and so what we do is we interrupt quorum
sensing so we cut their cell phone communication so they can no longer talk
and if they can no longer talk they can no longer proliferate.

Now we’re changing the terrain. We’ve got inflammation under control. Now
we’re interrupting the way that these pathogens communicate by using a lot of
different very powerful botanicals that work and address every single aspect
of the gut and of these bacteria and viruses and protozoa. We’re addressing
them all but it’s a dose that’s low enough that we don’t assault them but we’re
getting them out in a much more graceful way.

Katie: Absolutely and I love that. It’s so fascinating and I don’t think it’s widely
understood yet. That’s why I love that you incorporate that as well. I have so
many more questions and so many more things I want to delve into with you
on the guy but I want to save some of the question for the next couple of
episodes because the next one we’re really going to delve into gut infections
and things like cbo and candida like you mentioned and how to overcome
those using some of these techniques.

Also in the last episode with autoimmunity and the he cut which is a
connection I think thankfully we’re really starting to understand. There’s some
really neat techniques people can use to improve autoimmune conditions
through gut health. I want to save my questions for those. I encourage
everybody to join us again for the next episode so we can deep dive into
those a little bit more.

Christa, thank you so much for being here again and for sharing your
knowledge and we’ll see you back in the next episode.

Christa: Sounds great.

Thanks for Listening

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Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


4 responses to “051: Christa Orecchio on Understanding the Microbiome”

  1. Shea Bodine Watkins Avatar
    Shea Bodine Watkins

    Christa, thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your intelligence, insight and inspiration through these podcasts! And thanks to the Mama Wellness blog for existing…I consult this site so frequently and feel as though the information I’ve gleaned has solidified my commitment to healing and optimum wellness.

    I am curious about the research you’ve done regarding the adverse GMO corn affects in mice ( I can’t remember was it epigenetic expression and gene expression in subsequent generations, or microbiome health?). I’ve tried my best to find similar studies on google and only came up with this https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691511006399 which contradicts the results that you mentioned in one of the podcast episodes. I try to stay away from GMO foods, but am interested in the research! I no longer have access to a scholarly database, but I’m curious as to where I could find such articles? Thank you so much!

  2. Traci B Avatar
    Traci B

    Christa is a wealth of knowledge. I get her emails and watch all her Fox 5 episodes. She is truly inspiring. She reminds me of when Sean Croxtin said to surround yourself with people 5 to 10 steps ahead of you. (His new stuff) Thanks WellnessMama.

  3. Kelly Avatar

    Thank you so much. We have a 2 year old who has to undergo an unavoidable operation, and also go on antibiotics because of it. We are worried that this will do irreversible damage to his microbiome. Is there anything we can do now, or after, to help bring it back to where it is now? Or are we forever altering it? Thank you.

  4. Donna Avatar

    What wonderful source of information …The Whole Journey…….by Christa Orecchio….thank you so much….also all your post received by e mail….I’m so thankful….keep up your resourceful post

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