Our Guts Harbor the Most Ancient Creatures in the World

The Urban Monk

Imagine if “joining the family business” meant partnering with your father to make groundbreaking microbiome research and gut solutions available to the masses twenty years before mainstream medicine gets hold of them.

For Afif Ghannoum, that’s exactly what happened.

His dad, Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum, was one of the first major medical minds to study the microbiology of the oral biome… and then, in time, the GI biome.

His discoveries have led to breakthrough after breakthrough, especially as regards a very important consideration:

The presence of fungi in the gut and its interaction with the bacterial community.

Perhaps you’ve heard that there are tons more bacteria than fungi in the gut.

But did you know that the fungi are at least 10x the size of the bacteria?

Once you know that, your thinking starts to shift. And you can’t help but get curious about the role it plays in regulating the health and wellbeing of the body’s “missing organ.”

Especially since fungus got here before anything else…

It operates on a primordial scale with ancient mechanisms and motivations.

I wanted to know more, so Afif came onto The Urban Monk Podcast recently to tell me all about it.

Starting with what exactly his and his father’s company, BIOHM Health, seeks to do in their work.

Research is Only as Good as Its Reach

When Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum identified 100 different kinds of fungi in the oral microbiome and then coined the term microbiome to refer to the community of fungi in the body, they thought they’d done great work.

Monumental work, even, that would change the lives of the people they were working to help.

But then a woman reached out to Afif and told him about her sons, who were suffering in ways that Mahmoud’s research could have specifically helped… except that it takes decades for new research to become part of the medical canon, and these people needed help now.

Buzz in the academic community wasn’t enough. They needed something in the private sector — and so they launched BIOHM Health.

The company has products ranging from microbiome tests to colon cleanses to regimens designed to balance your bacterial and fungal communities in the gut.

As it turns out, sometimes the things we’re the most worried about aren’t really where we should be looking.

We Need the Fungus Like We Need Sharks

“It’s like sharks,” Afif told me during our talk. “You don’t want to swim in a pool with them, but you can’t remove them from the ecosystem.”

Think of it like this — bacteria biofilms and fungal biofilms are roughly the same sizes… but bacterial-fungal biofilms are way bigger.

Understanding the way that fungi and bacteria interact in the gut may be critical to easing the pain of someone who has, say, Crohn’s disease.

Candida overgrowth in the gut isn’t ideal, necessarily, but about 40% of us have it. And in low levels, it can actually do a lot of good.

Navigating the world of the gut isn’t binary. The goal shouldn’t be to eliminate anything from our diets completely (without a reason to), because everything plays a role — even dairy and carbs.

That’s why people get their microbiomes tested at all. A test can show you not just what effect your lifestyle is having on your GI community, but if the problems you’re having are even related to the microbiome.

And what they’ve noticed from the thousands of tests they’ve given is that overwhelmingly, the most prevalent cause of microbiome trouble is stress.

That’s an oversimplification, certainly, but it is a pressure-tested consistency in the research they’ve done.

We covered so much ground in the talk that we had, you’ll just have to listen to the podcast episode to get a well-rounded idea of what’s on the cutting edge of microbiome research.

You’ll learn things like…

  • How many core organisms exist in the GI tract
  • What the most significant flaws in testing are, and how often to test your microbiome to get an average sampling
  • Why reporting on virus bodies in the gut isn’t reliable just yet
  • What kinds of factors can skew a test result
  • Why it can be helpful to test siblings in order to isolate conditions
  • How an ideal diet for your gut doesn’t have to be exotic at all
  • Why you never hear about bacterial breakouts at major burger chains
  • How the company will be conducting research on COVID-19’s microbiome effect
  • And so much more.

Tune in here to give it a listen!

And if you haven’t followed me on Clubhouse, you can start following @urbanmonk to be able to participate in the discussion next time!

If you enjoyed these thoughts and think we’ve got something in common, I have a feeling you’re going to love the Urban Monk Academy. It’s the home of every class I teach – from Qi Gong to Life Gardening to Dream Yoga and even Tantra – and for two weeks, you can try it for free.



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Pedram Shojai

Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling Author, filmmaker, and founder of whole.tv.