Tips for a Healthy Microbiome
by Melinda Hemmelgarn
It’s hard to imagine surrendering control of our minds and bodies to trillions of microorganisms, but an ever-growing body of research from the Human Microbiome Project shows how microbes living in and on our bodies affect and even predict our physical and mental health.
The majority of these microorganisms, or microbiota, live within our large intestine. According to Kelly Tappenden, Ph.D., a registered dietitian and head of the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at the University of Illinois–Chicago, we have more microbial cells within our gut than we have human cells in our body. These microbes help digest food, regulate appetite, produce certain vitamins, synthesize chemicals such as serotonin, metabolize carcinogens and regulate our immune system. She suggests that we think of them collectively as an organ that develops and changes as we age.
|• Smart Digestion Radio:
• The connection between both soil and human health: Dig2Grow.com
• Comparing the human digestive system to plant roots in the soil:
• Human Microbiome Project:
• The Microbiome Report Podcast: TheMicrobiomeReport.libsyn.com
• Sources of dietary fiber:
• Probiotics: USProbioticGuide.com
“A huge proportion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract,” says Dan Peterson, assistant professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Taking care of our gut microbes is paramount during times of stress and risk of infection. In their book, The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-Term Health, Stanford researchers Justin and Erica Sonnenburg explain how healthy gut bacteria are essential for both metabolic health and strong immunity, adding that the chemicals our gut microbes synthesize behave like drugs—they are absorbed into our bloodstream and influence our biology. Seattle-based biologist Ann Bikle refers to the colon as an “onboard medicine chest”. Unfortunately, warns Sonnenburg, physicians too often prescribe antibiotics, which wreak havoc on our microbiota, leaving us susceptible to disease-causing organisms.
Fiber for a Strong Defense
The Sonnenburgs define a microbiota-friendly diet as rich in plant-based, high-fiber foods and limited in meat and saturated animal fats. Low-fiber diets contribute to a decline in gut microbe diversity, resulting in a weakened immune system. “Fiber is fuel for the gut,” says Joanne Slavin, Ph.D., a registered dietitian and professor of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota-St. Paul. It’s naturally found in fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Fermentable fibers such as fruit pectin, beta-glucans in barley and oats, and oligosaccharides in beans are metabolized by gut bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids that provide energy to cells in the colon. Many fermentable fibers are called “prebiotics” because they promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Inulin, for example, is a prebiotic fiber found naturally in onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, wheat and oats.
Teresa Martin, a registered dietitian based in Bend, Oregon, who researches gut health and disease prevention, recommends 35 to 50 grams of fiber per day to promote diverse, abundant and resilient gut microbes. For those over 50 years of age, the Institute of Medicine recommends 30 grams of dietary fiber per day for men and 21 grams for women. Most Americans get half the recommended amounts because highly processed, low-fiber foods are ubiquitous. Plus, popular gluten-free, keto and paleo diets limit whole grains. When buying packaged foods, check labels carefully and choose those providing at least three grams of fiber per serving.
A Healthy Microbiome for Life
Martin shares the following strategies for developing and preserving gut health:
• Choose a vaginal birth, if pregnant; and breastfeed to help establish a healthy microbiome in the baby.
• Choose an organic, plant-based diet. Aim for a variety of different plant species each day.
• Enjoy fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut, but be cautious with probiotic supplements. Only use those with proven safety and effectiveness.
• Limit “microbial assassins”. Artificial sweeteners and emulsifiers such as polysorbate 80, carageenan and carboxymethylcellulose, typically found in processed foods, can lead to bloating, irritable bowel and inflammation.
• Enjoy physical activity; avoid sitting for more than 30 to 60 minutes.
• Go outside, enjoy fresh air and play in the dirt.
• Reduce stress. Try yoga, meditation and mindfulness.
• Sleep six to eight hours each night.
• Think about gut microbiota every day, advises Martin. “Anything you can do to help fuel healthy microbes, no matter how small, will make a difference to your health.”
The Microbiome and Antibiotics
by Dr. Christine M. Kaczmar
The gut (gastrointestinal tract) is loaded with an abundance of wonderful bacteria and yeast. In fact, most people will have about 3-4 pounds of these wonderful “good bugs” living in them! Some of the 100 trillion bacteria present in the gut aren’t entirely good, but are kept in healthy checks and balances as part of the body’s natural regulation.
The gut microbiome all starts at birth — we think. Current belief is that we are first exposed to microbes following birth, yet some evidence supports that there are microbes present in the infant’s meconium (first stool) and the placenta, however what role they play is not fully understood.
What scientists and researchers do understand about infant gut microbiota is that the first microbial “settlers” in an infant’s gut, or the first microbes to colonize, have long-lasting effects on microbiome development. Infants who are born vaginally are first colonized by the maternal vaginal flora, as opposed to C-section infants who are exposed initially to skin microbes. The use of antibiotics in infancy, especially in pre-term infants, can alter the makeup of the gut’s microbiota and the variety of certain good bacteria populations.
The CDC reports that 2 million people are affected by a bacterial infection each year in the U.S., resulting in 23,000 annual deaths.
Infections requiring antibiotics are becoming harder to treat because the bacteria are outsmarting the medication and adapting to current therapies. Some are becoming “superbugs,” resistant to top-of-the-line medications used to treat antibiotic-resistant infections. These bacteria are changing at the genetic level, to adapt to the presence of antibiotic therapy, and survive. The cause of this, surprisingly, is over-prescription of antibiotics.
Adults each have a unique microbiome, and the use of antibiotics can alter this in several body sites including the throat and saliva. As previously stated, the use of antibiotics, while necessary at times, can lead to physical problems such as immune dysfunction and susceptibility to infections, as the use of certain antibiotics increases the risk of these infections. There is really no one simple one-size-fits all solution.
Dr. Christine M. Kaczmar, "The Digestion Doctor," practices in Shelby Township, MI, and is the author of Gut Check: How the Broken Medical Model Is Creating More Sickness.
For more information, or to arrange a consultation to evaluate your digestive needs, visit Dr. Christine’s website, WorkWithDrChristine.com, and get your gut back on track today. See her ad on the outside back cover.
Supplements to Support the Gut Naturally
by Keri Topouzian, D.O.
Aging, bodily illness and digestive system disease can interfere with nutrient absorption. Supplements such as the following, available at Topouzian’s office, can help.
• Multi Collagen: Collagen literally holds you together: from the hairs on your head, to every inch of your skin, to your joints. It even impacts the overall health of your gut, including gut integrity.
• Antrantil: For the treatment of bloating, constipation and diarrhea. Out-of-place bacteria feed off the foods you eat and create methane gas that leaves you bloated and uncomfortable. Atrantíl breaks the cycle naturally.
• Quebracho: This complex polyphenol soaks up the hydrogen (the fuel needed for methane production) and disrupts the cell wall of the archaebacteria (this weakens and stresses the methane producer).
• Horse chestnut: A natural inhibitor to the enzyme that allows methane to be produced, this extract enters the archaebacterial cell through the disrupted cell wall and shuts down the methane-producing mechanism.
• SBI Protect: SBI stands for “serum bovine immunoglobulin.” SBI has been shown to bind microbes and toxins, further enhancing microbiome balance and facilitating gut barrier strength.
• Napa Valley Bitters: Most people do not optimally absorb nutrients from their food or the vitamins that they take. One of the main reasons is that we do not make enough stomach acid. Taking bitters with meals helps with digestion by stimulating your stomach to produce more stomach acid naturally.
Keri Topouzian, D.O. (“Dr. T”), is an osteopathic physician, board certified in functional medicine and emergency medicine with 30+ years’ experience. He has offices in Bloomfield Hills, Saginaw and St. Joseph, MI. For more information, call 248-302-0473 or visit his website at: AskDrT.weebly.com/store.