The Gut Microbiome

The human gut microbiome is a fascinating topic and only in its infancy scientifically. Two books that I think are well written, understandable and written by knowledgeable scientists are ‘The Good Gut’ by Justin and Erica Sonnenburg and ‘The Inside Tract’ by Gerard Mullin and Kathie Madonna Swift.

I’ll summarize the highlights. I think anyone would find both of these books well worth reading. Microbiota is the term used for the population of gut microbes. Microbiome refers to the genes encoded within a person’s microbiota. It is also referred to as our ‘second genome’ (our human genome being the first).

An individual’s microbiota is a major contributor to a person’s individuality, converting otherwise indigestible food into key molecules that regulate many aspects of our biology. The microbiota performs many functions that our human genome cannot, such as balancing the immune system, reducing inflammation, preventing allergies, producing anti-cancer agents, regulating mood and regulating weight.

The “brain-gut axis” influences our well-being and affects many functions from mood and behavior to the progression of inflammation and disease.

The Western lifestyle has been extremely detrimental to the gut microbiome because of our diet of highly processed, calorie dense, industrially produced foods, sanitized homes and the rampant overuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock, to name a few.

There are six foods that make up the majority of calories for kids: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza and whole milk, none of which are healthy for the gut.

So, what promotes a healthy gut?

  1. Vaginal birth if possible
  2. Probiotics have been useful for gut health in premature babies and babies with colic, antibiotic associated diarrhea and upper respiratory infections.
  3. Breastfeeding if possible
  4. Limited antibiotic use
  5. Healthy eating habits (fermented foods, kefir, fiber, microbiota accessible carbohydrates, plant rich diet, limited amounts of pasture raised antibiotic free meat, no processed foods or simple sugars and healthy fats)
  6. Exposure to microbes in environment (farm kids and kids with pets have less asthma, allergies and autoimmune disease). Maybe you don’t need to wash your hands after gardening, petting the dog or playing outside.
  7. Plenty of sleep
  8. Exercise

The 10 Principles of Nutritional Integrity (pg 70 the inside tract)

‘The ecosystem of human biology is part of the larger ecosystem of this planet. Healing our planet and healing ourselves are the same thing.’ Refer to Environmental Working Group’s website

Dr. Cheri Standing

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