Scientists have know for years that the bacterial balance in the intestinal tract was important for proper gut function, but it has only really been in the past 20 years that research has started to understand everything that is controlled by this bacteria, known as the microbiome. Each of us carries inside our gut a genetically different complete ecological system of bacteria that affect almost every aspect of human life. These trillions of bacteria weigh only about 3 pounds but pack a powerful punch when they are adequately balanced. Research is finding that people who lack microbial diversity have a higher incidence of immune related conditions, asthma, IBS, obesity, autism, ADHD, migraine headaches, anxiety, and sleep disturbances, as well as a host of other conditions still being studied. Scientists have found that the more diverse your microbiome, the healthier you will be and the better you will able to control your weight. Even identical twins have individually different microbiomes which has helped researchers pinpoint the role of individual behaviors in shaping the microbiome environment.
While our own genes change slowly, from generation to generation, the lifespan of a microbe is only about 20 minutes. This means that your microbiome’s genetic composition can change completely within 24 hours in response to stress, antibiotics, or a major illness. Conversely, this is good news as the changes you make in your diet can also result in rapid changes in the microbiome which can lead to the relatively quick turnaround of chronic health conditions like asthma and allergies as well as kickstart stubborn weight loss.
Research into the microbiome shows that these bacteria also “crave” what feeds them. When you look at the eating patterns of someone who struggles with depression or anxiety or a child who suffers with autism, they all crave the same types of starchy and sugary foods. The reason behind this is partially due to a disrupted microbiome which is comprised mostly of the bacteria that “feeds” off of sugars and starches. Children with autism often crave these types of foods, even though starches are the worst thing for these types of people since they feed the very bacteria that are causing the condition, creating a vicious cycle.
Several recent studies have been performed with mice where the researchers took 2 groups of genetically identical mice and changed the gut bacteria in each mouse. One mouse got the bacteria associated with natural leanness, while the other received the gut bacteria associated with obesity. When given an identical diet, the “lean bacteria” mouse stayed lean and the “obese bacteria” mouse became obese. This blows holes in the “calories in/calories out” theory and sheds more light into why many people struggle with seemingly baffling weight loss plateaus.
Summarizing a long story, your gut is a critical part of your overall health, including your immune system, 80% of which is found in your gut. This makes sense if you think about the fact that your immune system’s job is to protect you from toxins in your food, bacteria and viruses. When your GI tract is not balanced, you are more prone to serious illnesses like autoimmune conditions and cancer as well as bothersome conditions like colds, infections, and acne. Your microbiome health is critical to your metabolism, appetite, cravings, weight, mood, appearance, and energy, as well as your ability to fight infection and withstand stress.
Most weeks, we give you guidance as to “what do do next” with the information we have given. Our next article will really dive into exactly what to do about improving the health of your microbiome. For this week, I really want to encourage everyone to pick up a copy of The Microbiome Diet by Dr. Raphael Kellman. It is one of the most eye opening, straightforward books on the market. I am not necessarily concerned that you follow his “diet,” but that you learn from the concepts contained in the book. Educating you in the best reading materials is also part of my goal at Heart In Motion. Learn, implement, and pass it on!
STEP(S) FOR THIS WEEK:
- Pick up a copy of The Microbiome Diet by Dr. Raphael Kellman