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Published January 20, 2019
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@type":"BlogPosting", "headline":"THE MICROBIOME IN GUT HEALTH: HOW DOES IT EFFECT US?", "datePublished":"January 20, 2019", "description":"inside-look-on-gut-health", "image": "" }, } ] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">Our Microbiome</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">Good vs. Bad Bugs</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">Microbiome Upkeep</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">Probiotics</a></li> <li><a href="#section5">Prebiotics</a></li> <li><a href="#section6">The Microbiome’s Reach</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>How often do you blame or praise your genes for the way you are? We often hear remarks about someone having “good genes” or struggling with a condition like obesity because of “bad genes.” Our genes, or DNA, are known as the instruction manual for our bodies and <a target="_blank" href="">brains</a>, but do we give our DNA more credit than it’s due? The latest science says yes: there’s a powerful third party at play.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <section id="section1"> <h2>Our Microbiome</h2> <p>Our body’s tissues are made up of little tiny units called <i>cells</i>, all directed and overseen by our DNA. But we have something else living inside of us that has its own set of DNA and its own rules to follow. This something else is our <i>microbiome</i>. It is a complex living network of billions of tiny creatures that makes its home in our digestive tract and on our skin. Any surface of our bodies that is not made up of our own tissues is covered in this diverse network, and many scientists argue that because it lives in and on us, it might call more shots than our own DNA.</p> <p>Ok, so the microbiome is a living network of stuff, but what exactly is that stuff if it’s not part of our own design? When we talk about the microbiome we are talking about <i>microbes</i>, which are single-celled bacteria, archaea, fungi, protists, and the even smaller viruses. This is where you might raise your eyebrows. <i>Germs? Germs are bad!</i></p> <p>Not necessarily. The new science on our microbiomes proves that these bugs can swing either way: they can be good bugs or bad bugs. In fact, studies show that a healthy microbiome chock-full of good bugs is the leading determinant in how strong your immune system is<sup>1</sup>. </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="mom-and-baby"> </picture> <p>Before we are born, our gastrointestinal tract is clean of bugs: sterile. Then, during the birthing process, we come into contact with our mother’s microbes and that seeds the beginning of our own gut microbiome. Doctors suggest that newborns also require skin to skin contact because they need the microbes from our skin as well. And when babies are breastfed the mother transfers her own immunity into the baby’s GI tract.</p> <p>There is a phenomenon that happens when a breastfeeding baby gets sick. The baby’s saliva is read by the mother’s tissues as holding an infection, and she creates the original “liquid gold” to help the baby’s immune system recover. This milk is thicker and darker because it contains a powerful punch of microbes and <a target="_blank" href="">healthy fats</a> that the baby’s body needs to heal and fight off the infection. Drinkable immunity!</p> <p>Most of the microbes we come across are good for us. They create the first line of defense when we come in contact with viruses and diseases, making them an invaluable part of our immune systems, and they have millions of different roles to play in our GI tract when digesting our foods. But within our GI tract, there is still room for major imbalances to occur, such as too much of a certain microbe hurting you more than it helps you, as this network is vast and complex and needs billions of tiny components and participants to work smoothly. And while we don’t yet have the science to control which way your bugs will swing with a simple pill, it has always been under your control with your <a target="_blank" href="">diet</a>. </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="measuring-tape"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <section id="section2"> <h2>Good vs. Bad Bugs</h2> <p>In the most simplistic view of the microbiome possible, there are two types of bugs: those that are beneficial to our health and those that aren’t. The good bugs, like <i>bacteroidetes</i>, love to eat fiber, and they send signals to your brain to either shed pounds or keep the weight off.</p> <p>Wait, what? The microbes in our guts can control our weight?</p> <p>Yes, they can! Studies were done on <a target="_blank" href="">overweight</a> and healthy-weighted individuals found that there was a clear link between the composition of the microbes in their guts. Thinner people, overall, have been found to have a high number of <i>bacteroidetes</i>, while overweight individuals had significantly higher counts of the sugar-eating bugs, <i>firmicutes</i> <sup>2</sup>. How this translates for dieters is that the food on their plates means far more than the tired old model that revolves around calories. By eating more fibrous foods like <a target="_blank" href="">vegetables</a>, leafy greens especially, and cutting out sugar, dieters can start to feed their good bugs while starving out the bad ones. </p> <p>However, there is a very strong connection between the microbiome and the <a target="_blank" href="">brain</a>, which we will discuss later. The microbes in our guts actually have sway over the <a target="_blank" href="">cravings</a> in our brain, and the stronger bacteria will normally win over the bacteria that isn’t used to being fed. If you’ve lived your entire life on a diet high in sugar, your bad bugs have a stronger voice in what foods you want to put on your plate. This is why cutting <a target="_blank" href="">sugar</a> cold turkey can be so hard and why dieters can find that willpower and determination alone is not enough to create long-lasting shifts in the foods they eat. </p> <p>In order to get a happy, balanced microbiome, we have to do four things: maintain its home, stop attacking its network, stop feeding the bad bugs, and start feeding the good ones. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <section id="section3"> <h2>Microbiome Upkeep</h2> <p>Our gut microbiomes are located on the interior surface of our GI tract; they bond together in a slick coating that stays in place by anchoring itself to our intestinal wall. The lining of our GI system is their home, and because of the <a target="_blank" href="">SAD (Standard American Diet)</a>, it is under attack. Foods that our bodies (and microbiomes) don’t know how to process can put holes in our intestinal lining, creating huge gaps and breaks not only in our important digestive system but in our microbiomes as well. This major injury is called <i>leaky gut</i>, and foods containing gluten and processed chemicals are the worst offenders.</p> <p>In order to manage the home of our microbiome, we have to fix our leaky guts and <a target="_blank" href="">cut out</a> the harmful foods that hurt both us and our precious microbes. And while that is a great place to start in order to get your microbiome to work for you, we have to also stop killing off the bugs that call us home. </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="stethescope"> </picture> <p>Antibiotics are a type of drug that kills bacteria. It was developed to kill off deadly diseases and it still saves lives today, however, antibiotics do not target different strains of bacteria. And in fact, antibiotics are so good at killing bacteria, that one dose of antibiotic is considered to be like an atomic bomb to the complex network inside of your gut<sup>2</sup>. To make matters worse, in the SAD, conventional meats are raised with antibiotics. This means that Americans don’t even need a prescription from a doctor to lay waste to their gut microbiomes. When we eat <a target="_blank" href="">conventionally farmed meats</a> laden with antibiotics, we are still delivering a nuclear dose to our microbes.</p> <p>But just because you’ve been heavy-handed with the antibiotics doesn’t mean that you can’t replenish what’s been lost. There are microbiome helpers called <i>probiotics</i> and <i>prebiotics</i> that can help right your microbiome and sway it in the direction you want. Probiotics are good bugs that we can eat to add to our intestinal flora. They come in two forms: supplemental pills and <a target="_blank" href="">fermented</a> foods and drinks.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <section id="section4"> <h2>Probiotics</h2> <p>Getting a steady supply of <a target="_blank" href="">probiotics</a> have been linked to fixing all sorts of disease and ailments from autoimmune disorders to skin rashes. As such, probiotic pills have become a booming industry in the last decade as millions of Americans try to right their gut imbalance. However, most of what is on the market is hardly worth buying. For example, nearly all probiotics need to be refrigerated to keep the strains alive, yet at least half of the probiotics available sit on unrefrigerated shelves when they reach the store. The capsules aren’t required by law to be kept cold because the dead microbes won’t harm you; however, they won’t help you either. If you do choose to supplement with probiotic capsules, you want to look for three things:</p> <ul> <li>A high number of CFU's <ul> <li> CFUs stands for <i>colony-forming units</i>. This is the number of microbes in an entire serving.</li> </ul> </li> <li>A high number of strains <ul> <li>Different strains of microbes mean you are getting more diverse and have more of a chance that one of those microbes is going to love and give love to your gut and the microbe network you already have in place.</li> </ul> </li> </ul> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="food-on-table"> </picture> <p>Fermented foods and drinks are a natural way to eat the good bugs. In fact, fermented foods are so natural, they’ve become a part of humankind’s culture. Every culture on earth has developed some form of probiotic food, like Korea’s kimchi, Western Europe’s sauerkraut, and Nordic kefir. Fermented foods also deliver hundreds of more probiotics in each serving than is packed into an entire bottle of probiotic pills. Since our stomach acid can easily destroy unprotected microbes, eating fermented food provides the fiber or the fat needed to protect the microbes and give them something to cling to so they can be delivered to the small and large intestine to do their good work. </p> <p>Fermented foods make for an excellent dietary supplement and on top of that, they are easy to make. You can buy some from the grocery store, but some strains of microbes do not like bright light and can die off in shipment. If you make fermented foods yourself, you get the maximum amount of microbes that dish has to offer you. And when you make it in your own home with your own kitchen utensils (or even your bare hands), you are creating a microbe culture that is unique to your body and environment, and the strains that develop will be better suited to integrate into your own gut microbiome!</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <section id="section5"> <h2>Prebiotics</h2> <p>Prebiotics are foods that feed the good bugs. They are just as important to a healthy microbiome as probiotics are, if not more. You can eat all the probiotics you want but if you don’t adequately feed them, they will have nothing to live off of and no strength to fight your bad bugs. As we mentioned earlier, the top favorite food of one of our good bugs is fiber that you can get from eating fresh vegetables and leafy greens. But prebiotics don’t always have to be green. In fact, resistant starches like those found in unripe bananas and cooked potatoes feed the good bugs just as well. And a secret gem hidden in the prebiotic world is bee pollen. Bee pollen is a tasty smoothie addition or yogurt topping, and it’s also known for its ability to give you an <a target="_blank" href="">energy</a> boost!</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <section id="section6"> <h2>The Microbiome’s Reach</h2> <p>Keeping up with the health of your microbiome is important. As we discussed, it helps your immune system and can alter your cravings, but the microbiome has more control still. Study after study was done on the connection between our microbiome and brain is proving more and more each day that our microbiomes could be calling more shots than we are. </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="microscope-bacteria"> </picture> <p>Have you ever gotten nervous and suddenly your stomach became upset or bloated? The microbiome has already proven it is very reactive to our thoughts, but recent studies have shown that this relationship works both ways. In fact, our guts are now nicknamed “the second brain.” An example of this influence was found in a study on the happiness hormone <i>serotonin</i> <sup>3</sup>. The report showed that 90 percent of all the serotonin in our brains is produced by an equally happy gut microbiome. In short form, our microbiome has the power to affect our <i>feelings</i>.</p> <p>If you experience high blood pressure and your doctor asks what kind of mouthwash you use, your doctor is asking after your microbiome. What does mouthwash have to do with blood pressure? There are little cells of bacteria in the back of your throat that create compounds that are required to regulate your blood pressure; if you use a mouthwash that kills bacteria, you could leave your heart without a necessary resource<sup>2</sup>.</p> <p>So as you can tell, changing the balance of bacteria in your microbiome is no joke, and can lead to some serious health wins when you get it right. One way you can pursue a healthy gut is with an excellent <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">probiotic</a>. And if you'd like to try them out, they're <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">FREE</a> plus shipping so that you can test out the health benefits for yourself.</b> <p>We could literally sit here all day discussing the vast and far-reaching wonders of the human microbiome, and the scientific community as a whole has still barely scratched the surface of understanding these microbes and the power they hold. They are critically important to our health and are proving to be as important a part of us as our own bodies and thoughts are. By respecting their place in our lives, we can achieve new heights as partnered creatures on this planet. </p> <h3>Resources</h3> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">The microbiome and innate immunity</a></li> <li> “I Contain Multitudes” by Ed Yong</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Microbes Help Produce Serotonin in Gut</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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