“Diversity Equals Health”; A Diverse Gut Microbiome Could Be Driving Factor to Protect Against COVID-19

Like using good nutrients to grow tomatoes in the soil, good nutrients and diverse microbes are important for our good gut health, or our gut's "garden," said a leading researcher.

In a continued discussion with Pharmacy Times, Sabine Hazan, MD, Founder and CEO of Progenabiome, explains how important it is for the gut to have diversity, how to care for this diversity, what she does to keep her gut healthy, and why she has a “stop killing, start adding,” philosophy.

Q: It appears that COVID-19 severity and gut health have a “What came first? The chicken or the egg” relationship…

Sabine Hazan, MD:

Yeah, it is a chicken in the egg. Is it? Is it COVID-19? Is it the virus that killed the bifido (bacterium)? Or is it the fact that bifido was no longer there? And therefore, the virus has penetrated? Maybe? We don't know yet.

But I think, you know, in my opinion, it starts with good bugs. So good bugs fight the bad bugs. I think what we're seeing more and more is people that have a strong microbiome and it's, again, it's not just the bifido, it's not just a facet of bacterium. There's a lot of formula in there. But those people that have a strong microbiome, are resilient, [and] are the ones that are surviving.

I don't think it's just genetics. I mean, I think there's a component of genetics. But I think there's also a strong component of microbiome and they work hand in hand. “Is it a good microbiome, or good genetics…it's hard to tell. Again, chicken or the egg.

But I think we have to start paying attention to the microbiome, because, unfortunately, what we are seeing is a disappearance and my lab has is on the forefront of looking at the microbiome. And what we are seeing is a disappearance of the microbiome, of diversity.

Diversity equals health, loss of diversity equals disease. And that's the first thing anybody should know. So, when you lost the diversity (and in fact, think about how beautiful the message of the microbiome is to humanity, right? Humanity can all survive with just one race, or one gender, humanity survives, because of the beauty of all the races together, and the genders etc. So when you remove, you know, a race or gender, you no longer have humanity, right?) [it’s] the same thing in the microbiome—you remove the clostridium, you remove the bifidobacteria, you remove the actinobacteria phylum.

Human beings cannot survive with to violence, we're seeing very serious disease, very serious patients that come in suicidal, who only have violence… that's not normal, that's not healthy. We need to start working into that direction of fixing the microbiome. To fix humanity, to fix mental health, we're coming out with amazing data on the microbiome and anxiety, and [data] are coming out on the microbiome and autism. We're coming out with Lyme disease, the microbiome in Lyme disease, the microbiome and Crohn's disease.

I think the microbiome touches everyone— all of us have a either or have a problem a medical condition, or have a child that has a medical condition, or has a parent that has a medical condition, this affects all of us. COVID-19-19 affected all of us. Now we need to step back and say, “How did COVID-19-19 enter the planet?” Because we let it come in. We made it a strong virus; we need to stop what we're doing that's destroying the bacteria.

And we need to start implementing methods to heal the gut, and start focusing on the gut more, especially as Alzheimer's is climbing up, as autism is climbing up, Parkinson's, cancer… we have a lot of patients with cancer now, a lot more than we had. Did it happen because of this whole imbalance of the microbiome? We must be attentive to that. And we must pay attention because it affects all of us.

Q: Is COVID-19 the tip of the iceberg?

Sabine Hazan, MD: COVID-19 was a wakeup call to humanity to unite and say, “Look. This is not one way or another, it's in the middle.” You've got to pay attention to those microbes. They're speaking, they're talking to you, they're telling you that there's a problem, that you've been destroying them that they need to be back in the planet in the earth. You know, think about the microbiome in the process of decomposition of the body is microbes inside our guts is decomposing our bodies.

If you think about it, those microbes are still alive—they're still working, they're still doing their thing when they go back into the ground. So those microbes that were in our bodies decomposing us go back to the ground and then comes back as a fruit, as a vegetable, as a plant, as a unit or in the ground as a compost,

When we do gardening, what are we using? We're using microbes compost, to grow tomatoes to grow broccoli, Using good nutrients in the soil.. where do they come from? Microbes. The microbes are working, even in the planet and underneath the planet in the dirt… deep, deep into the soil of the planet, our trillions and trillions of bugs.

All these medications that we create, be it a controversial medication that we call the “HorseFace”, came from a soil. So in medications, there are microbes in the soil that actually can help us. So many medications are based, and are actually created, by products of microbes. And I don't think people realize that. I don't think people realize that what an antibiotic is a microbe in function. That's how antibiotics were discovered. It was a petri dish with a bacillus and then a fungus touched it. And that was the discovery of penicillin.

Basically, you go “Okay, well where are these microbes coming from? How do we protect them?” When you look at how a disease like C. diff. (clostridium difficile) occurred, it is because we kept thinking that we were giving it.

In other words, I'm touching you then everything around us is colonized. But if everything around me is colonized, and C. diff is all around me, how come I'm not getting C. diff? How can my patient have C. diff? How come I've been exposed to 1000 patients who have C. diff, and I've never gotten it?

And believe me— I touch my patients, I hug my patients, I play with their poop, I do colonoscopies on them, I don't even wear a mask when I do the colonoscopy… how come, in all those years, I've never gotten C. diff? Because my microbiome is in balance. When it stops being in balance is when I give it antibiotics—because C. diff is part of our microbiome fingerprint. When you start killing the microbes that are supposed to protect you, that is when C. diff starts popping out and creates its toxins to kill the human. So we have to pay attention. It's not about for the 20 plus years that I tried to kill C. diff with different antibiotics doing different clinical trials.

What I've come to realize is that [with] C. diff, it is not about killing it. It's about adding more microbes to suffocate it, to make it happy in a way so it's not alone to secrete its toxins. I think that's the message right? The message is to stop killing [and] start adding because we're killing too much. We got to stop, and we got to pay attention to what we're doing. Because the problem is, if we don't, if we continue, we could destroy humanity. And I say this because think about all these diseases in the last 20 years that have increased—Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, autism, cancer…something is happening that we're doing that we need to stop and say, “What are we doing?”

Q: Do you have any parting words of wisdom?

Sabine Hazan, MD: Calm down your system. That's my wisdom. Calm down your system. Zen, meditate, breathe, go in the garden. Play in the garden. Appreciate the moment. Appreciate the moment with your children. Look at the fact that you're alive today. Don't think about what you should be having in the future. Take your vitamin D because we need our vitamins. Expose yourself to the sun. You know, play with the ground, go on hikes, go with your family, create a community be in your community be present for the moment. We tend to be on these phones. Stop the phones to be present [and] appreciate life.

One of my patients, before dying when he had esophageal cancer, said to me, “You know Doctor, I'm ready to go. I said goodbye to the birds and the earth and the clouds and the and the trees. I'm ready to go.”

And I thought to myself, “What a beautiful message.” And what does it take? Leaving the planet or knowing that you have a terminal cancer to appreciate the beauty of the planet? Appreciate what we have we in this Garden of Eden. We are privileged to be alive. Every day that we are alive is a gift, and that's why they call it the present.

That's my message. I like to bring on hope and I like to bring on light. I think we've lived for the last 2 and a half years in fear. Worry [and] panicking kills our microbiome; anxiousness kills our microbiome. Stop the killing, build your immunity. Immunity in your gut is something you build, but you don't just build it by taking pills. You build it by doing things by meditating by laughing by dancing by embracing life by embracing humans by hugging. That's how we get our microbiome in balance. And that's what that's the message that I have.