There’s always more to learn about our gut microbes and the things they do for us! A Datis Kharrazian seminar inspired this post – for you fellow microbiome geeks.
microbiome: what do you know?
Absorb these three fascinating microbiome nuggets:
1. Rapidly changing
Your gut microbiota can completely change within 3 to 4 days of changing what you eat. This means it is fast and easy to change, for better or for worse! What happens when you travel? Take antibiotics? Go on a restrictive diet, even with the best of intentions?
2. Diversity is better
The more diversity you have in your microbial species, the better your gut health is. People in the United States have the lowest microbial diversity compared to all other countries. We are not leading in this area! You simply can’t eat the exact same foods day after day and get microbial diversity. It’s just not gonna happen.
3. Eat plants, in whole form
You have to eat plant foods in whole forms to feed beneficial microbes. The more diverse plants you eat, the more diverse your microbiota becomes. Whole plants only – not juiced or refined. It’s the fiber that matters. The best sources are all fibrous plant foods, including vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans). Meat and fat are not going to do it.
Your microbial start in life
Your microbiome is the collective DNA of all your microbes. Our microbial DNA mixes with our own DNA, which means the DNA we pass to our children (or inherit from our parents) is microbially influenced. There are familial microbiomes.
Babies colonize their intestinal microbes from three sources:
- In utero, as there are microbes in amniotic fluid.
- Through the vaginal canal at birth.
- Through breast milk when feeding.
Today’s microbiome sequencing can reveal if you were born vaginally or via C-section. and whether or not you were breast-fed 100% as an infant!
So, to give your baby a good microbial start, it’s important to nurture your own beneficial microbes before conception and during pregnancy. If you have dysbiosis, a great time to clean it up is before conception, although it’s certainly possible to improve dysbiosis during pregnancy as well.
If you can’t have a vaginal birth, then swab your baby with your vaginal secretions. If you can’t breastfeed 100%, then contact La Leche League to find out how to receive breast milk donations.
microbes set your metabolism
Your gut bacteria collectively perform more metabolic processes than any of your organs, including your liver. Essentially you could view your gut microbiota as another organ.
One of the things your microbes do is influence your metabolism. They make signaling molecules to regulate your appetite, and they’re capable of creating food cravings. Certain microbes make you burn energy efficiently, other microbes cause you to store energy as fat.
There is absolutely no question that obese people have a disrupted gut microbiota. Plenty of research demonstrates this. So if you are overweight, yet don’t eat excessive calories, it’s very likely you have too many of the wrong microbes, and not enough of the right ones to make you lean.
microbes and hormones
Your gut microbes influence your hormones. Two easy to understand examples:
- Gut microbes convert the T4 your thyroid makes into the metabolically active T3 that your cells use.
- Gut microbes break down harmful estrogen for excretion.
Got PMS or period pain? Often addressing dysbiosis and improving your microbe populations can make a big improvement in these symptoms.
a few more nuggets . . .
Your microbes make a lot of your vitamins, including B vitamins and 50% of your vitamin K.
Gut microbes also activate most botanical medicines. If you’ve taken herbs that have done nothing, it may be because you don’t have the right microbes to activate them!
Making out with your dog? Don’t do it, because you can get a rotavirus infection which is a disaster. However, living with the dog, and letting your dog lick your skin, helps microbial diversity in a good way!
Eat lots of whole vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans (if tolerated), daily, in abundance. Ironically, these are the best foods for microbial diversity, yet they are the least consumed foods in the American diet.
Don’t eat the same food every day! This really narrows your diversity big-time. Each food you eat feeds different bacterial strains.
Do choose a wide variety of these plant foods. Not just iceberg lettuce, baby carrots, and french fries. Aim to try out every single vegetable and legume at your grocery store. Explore ethnic grocers and farmers markets for diversity.
Dr Kharrazian’s prescription: Purchase a variety of vegetables, the more unrecognizable the better. Chop them up. Toss them in your power blender with some water. Blend. Drink a glass. Voila! Diversity expands. Rinse and repeat, varying the vegetables every time you go to the market.