“Let them eat dirt!” – a healthy gut microbiome starts in the mouth!

A look at how a diverse diet, regular dental care and a little bit of dirt can help your dog’s gut microbiome thrive.

Every time your dog swallows, she sends thousands of bacteria, viruses, protists and fungi (microbiome) from the mouth down the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to the stomach. We were always taught that the fate of these microbes is death by stomach acid…turns out that is not necessarily true.

Microbes from the mouth survive the stomach to impact gut function and gut health.

Not surprisingly, who lives in the mouth has now been shown to impact microbes that inhabit the lower gut. In our studies, we show that the fastest way to improve the gut microbiome (all the microbes that inhabit the lower gut) is surprisingly through the improvement of the oral microbiome.

Growing friendly bacteria in the mouth leads to increased levels of friendly bacteria in the gut and helps gut function. 

Decreasing the levels of dangerous microbes such as Candida albicans, Aspergillus niger, Salmonella spp., Shigella spp. and others from your dog’s mouth can not only improve the oral health of your dog but also your dog’s gut health. These organisms are linked to inflammation, leaky gut and diarrheal diseases.

Here are some easy ways you can improve your dog’s gut health:

1. Nutrition

Dog food doesn’t actually feed a dog…it feeds the microbes that inhabit the mouth and gut. Your dog absorbs the nutrients that the gut bacteria break down. If your dog eats the same food and same brand all the time, her oral and gut microbes are less diverse and the risk of a “bloom” of harmful bacteria becomes significant – this can compromise gut integrity (leaky gut), gut function (malabsorption, loose stool, etc.) and lead to inflammation. Diversifying the diet is therefore the key to a healthy and diverse oral and gut microbiome. More leafy vegetables, less starches and grains, and alternate proteins very often.

2. Oral hygiene

Daily dental hygiene is essential for keeping a well-balanced oral microbiome and keeping inflammation of the lining of the mouth low. How do you do that? Stop using dental treats and treatments with harsh chemicals and detergents (triclosan, cetylpyridinium chloride, chlorine dioxide, sodium tripolyphosphate) that DECREASE diversity of the microbiome. Why? These chemicals do not discriminate between good versus bad and they kill beneficial bacteria in the mouth and gut.

3. Let them eat dirt

Yep, a little bit of dirt every now and then is a good thing. Soils contain minerals and a diverse set of microbes that can help diversify the oral and gut microbiomes. It is a cheap and more robust way to get access to “probiotic-like” beneficial microbes.