This Week on The Health Hub…The Ocular Biome: The Microbiome in Your Eyes with Dr. Harvey Fishman


Dr. Fishman received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and a PhD in Physical-Analytical Chemistry at Stanford working in the area of lasers, microfluidics, and neuroscience. After his PhD, Dr. Fishman went on to earn his MD from Stanford and conducted post-doctoral research in Neurobiology working in the field of optic nerve regeneration.  After completing a medical internship in San Francisco, Dr. Fishman joined Stanford Ophthalmology to become the founder and director of the Ophthalmic Tissue Engineering Laboratory where he was awarded one of the first BIO-X grants on his work on an implantable artificial retina prosthesis.  After completing his residency training in advanced ocular surgery and medical treatment for eye diseases at Stanford, Dr. Fishman started his own concierge ophthalmology practice in Palo Alto where he conducts both basic science and clinical research in ocular surface disease and novel diagnostics for dry eye, cancer detection, and the ocular microbiome. Dr. Fishman has a special interest in digital health and has co-founded 3 companies in tele-ophthalmology.  Dr. Fishman has co-authored 34 Peer-reviewed Publications, 11 U.S. Patents, and his research has been highlighted in Scientific American, The Economist, JAMA, Technology Review: An MIT Enterprise, and recently in Ophthalmology Times.


Learning Points:

  • What is the Ocular Biome?
  • How can we improve the health of our Ocular Biome?
  • What are symptoms of an unhealthy Ocular Biome?



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Every Tuesday from 11am -12pm I host The Health Hub, an interactive, forward thinking talk show on Radio Maria Canada.   Call, tweet or email your questions as together we explore health issues that are relevant to you from new and innovative points of view.

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How to Improve Gut Health

Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many diseases than we used to think. And we’re not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc. We’re talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It’s here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body. We’re just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain. Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.

So, let’s talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I’ll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.

Our gut’s role in our overall health

Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through and out.

This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places.

For one thing, our guts can “leak.” Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins). You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it’s not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can “leak.” When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don’t seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there.

FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.

A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health.

The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.

So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health!

How to improve gut health

There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.

You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.

By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colourful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish.

The second pillar of gut health is our microbes. By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Make these a part of your daily diet.

Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber. Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed our friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.

And don’t forget the uber-important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount and intensity of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.


The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes.

The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fiber. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.




Sleep and Your Gut Bacteria

Circadian rhythms are patterns of brainwave activity, hormones, cell regeneration and biological activities that occur on a daily basis. And sleeping well at the right time each day is essential to keeping the circadian rhythms functioning properly so we function properly too.

The fact that our microbes are actually the regulators of this function and that our sleep patterns are an issue for our microbes should not surprise us. They need us to rest so they can do their thing while we sleep and keep their balance as it should be.

There is also more news you might be interested in. Not having the right microbes may be lowering your metabolic rate while you sleep and this can lead to weight gain. This is based on a mouse study at UI Carver College of Medicine which found that mice given a drug that lowers beneficial bacteria, had a lower metabolic rate both when resting and when asleep, causing them to gain weight.

So what should you do? Should you work on sleeping better to help the microbes or should you work on your gut health to help you sleep better? The answer is to do both. There are number of strategies that can help.

To help reset your circadian rhythm:

  • Go to bed at a set time and get up at the same time as much as possible
  • Avoid bright lights near bedtime
  • Avoid eating or exercising close to bedtime
  • Sleep in a dark space as light tricks the body into thinking it is time to be awake
  • Develop a relaxing routine before bed whether it is taking a bed, deep breathing exercises or having a nice cup of herbal tea such as chamomile or valerian.

For those who have irregular work hours and therefore sleep schedules, consider talking to a practitioner about taking melatonin.

Diet also plays a role. In another mouse study, both high fat and low fat diets played a negative role in the function of circadian rhythms and they also altered the microbiome. Short-chain fatty acid production was lower, especially butyrate which is essential for circadian rhythm function. Butyrate is produced by beneficial colon bacteria from resistant starch found in complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, wheat, rice, legumes and sweet potatoes. To improve gut health:

  • Eat prebiotic foods, especially those with resistant starch
  • Take probiotics which can help melatonin levels and in turn, help restore circadian rhythms
  • Butyrate supplements are available if you are unsure as to how well you are producing it

Sleep is one more example of the potential problems caused by dysbiosis and why we should be focused on improving our gut health.


What is a Low FODMAP Diet? Find out here and grab some FREE Low FODMAP Smoothie Recipes

The FODMAP diet is used to help alleviate gastro intestinal symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.  The diet was developed at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.  FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are all types of carbohydrate molecules that some people have trouble digesting and can cause the symptoms mentioned above.  So high FODMAP foods are removed from the diet to see if they help alleviate these symptoms. What is almost counter intuitive though is that many of the offending foods, those high in FODMAPs, are healthy foods such as onions, garlic, asparagus, cauliflower and celery.

If symptoms are alleviated while on this diet the question becomes, why can’t these foods be digested and absorbed? One reason is the lack of enough good gut bacteria.  So if you are following the FODMAP diet, it is also very important to improve  your gut health as the ultimate goal is to be able to eat the high FODMAP foods with no distress. Many high FODMAP foods are prebiotic foods which are foods that feed our good gut bacteria. They are removed however to see if symptoms are alleviated.  But there are many prebiotic foods that are allowed on the diet. While wheat is to be avoided, grains such as corn, brown rice and oats are allowed, as are potatoes and small amounts of corn. These contain resistant starch, an important prebiotic.

It is important to remember that the only reason to avoid these foods is to see if it helps you with symptoms. Follow the plan while working on your gut health.  You may need to include specific supplements as well.  When you feel better, try adding a food that you have been avoiding back in to your diet and see if it bothers you. If it doesn’t, then it does not need to be avoided any more.  Continue in this manner with all of the foods that you have eliminated adding them back one at a time with several days in between.

To get you started with the low FODMAP diet I have a gift of health for you.

Click HERE or on the picture below to grab your FREE Low FODMAP Smoothie recipes.








Supporting Gut Health with Diet is Important For Fighting and Preventing Cancer

The importance of a proper functional diet within a cancer protocol that takes aim at cultivating your beneficial gut bacteria is imperative for fighting and preventing cancer.  Conventional cancer treatments, not to mention the stress of diagnosis, upset the balance of good and bad bacteria within your gut inhibiting vital functions that your good bacteria perform.  Your beneficial gut bacteria are involved in many critical functions including synthesizing vitamins, aiding in detoxification and elimination, digestion and absorption of nutrients and strengthening immune function.  Thus supporting your gut health should be a key element of your overall cancer program.

So the question becomes then, how do we cultivate our beneficial bacteria? The answer lies within the scope of a nutritional cancer plan that lays the ground work with functional foods.  Two key food groupings are high fibre foods, generally classified as prebiotic foods and fermented foods which are probiotic foods.

In a nutshell fibre’s importance lies in the fact that it feeds our gut bacteria. I encourage those that I work with to aim for 30-40 grams of fibre each day. Foods high in fibre include:

  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Berries
  • Leafy Greens
  • Beans
  • Whole Grains
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Nuts
  • Prunes
  • Flax seed
  • Hemp seed
  • Chia seeds

Fermented foods provide our bodies with beneficial bacteria that aid our own bacteria in performing their vital functions.  A list of the most common fermented foods include:

  • kefir
  • yogurt
  • miso
  • tempeh
  • sauerkraut
  • kimchi
  • kombucha

Of all these fermented foods, the one that I recommend most highly is kefir. Kefir is fermented milk althouhg some do prefer to cultivate with non dairy milk.  It has incredible health benefits.  Kefir has a large number of colonies good of bacteria that helps to suppress the harmful bacteria within our gut. And kefir contains vitamin B12, folate, magnesium, calcium, vitamin K2 and biotin.

Dr. Mercola has written a comprehensive article entitled “Fermented Foods May Be a Key Component of an Anti-Cancer Diet”.  I encourage you to read it as it dives deep in to this topic.

You can read the article by clicking HERE.