There has been a big upswing in research over the past decade showing the significant links between our gut health and overall health and most likely you’ve seen or heard something about it. Although in somewhat of it’s infancy research-wise, we are seeing that gut health is impacting us in huge ways we have yet to fully understand that go far beyond our digestive health and range from determining our weight, how we sleep and respond to stress, our immunity against illnesses and disease, and even our memory and mental clarity.
Some of you may be new to the whole concept of gut health, so let me catch you up!
Your body is made up of trillions of cells. There are cells native to your body as well as an entirely separate and important group of cells called your microbiome. These are cells including bacteria, yeast, protozoa, and viruses that live in or on your body. Think of it as a mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationship. Many of our body functions as well as our immune responses require the presence of all those little guys, and in turn, all those little guys need a nice and cozy place to live. Most of your microbiome, upwards of 95%, reside in your large intestine, which we lovingly refer to as the gut .
Just like fingerprints are different between individuals, so is the microbiome. It’s determined and grown and changed overtime by factors including our culture, our foods, our cleanliness, where we live, and even how we are born (vaginal vs. c-section). Amazingly, it is estimated that your microbiome outnumbers your human cells 10 to 1 (so we are really only 10% human!), together weighing nearly 5 pounds! Your microbiome has it’s very own metabolism and immune activity, in essence creating it’s own colony living inside your body . When everything is humming along properly and all those little guys stay in check, life is good. When one group takes control and start breeding like rabbits or you take a round of antibiotics which wipes out your gut bacteria, you get a mess on your hands.
Research has suggested that autoimmune diseases such a rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, celiacs disease, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis (the list goes on) are associated with a dysfunction in the microbiome. Over time, through various pathways, the body ends up attacking it’s own tissues. When researchers looked at the microbiome of patients with autoimmune diseases, they found distinct differences in how their microbiomes looked when compared to healthy subjects. Studies are showing that the microbiome is passed along within the family, not by inherited genetic trait, but instead an inheritance of the family microbiome . So your mom is passing along more than her good looks; she’s also giving you her bugs!
There have been a handful of studies showing that gut bacteria is significantly different between obese and lean individuals, with obese individuals’ gut bacteria not only being less diverse but they were also particularly good at harvesting energy . More energy harvested from food = more stored as fat tissue later on if that energy isn’t used by muscle or body needs.
How can you improve your gut microbiome and expand it’s diversity?
1) Make changes to your diet
Eating fermented foods/drinks such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi can help add diversity of bacteria to your microbiome. Probiotics (bacteria in supplement form) can be beneficial as well as adding in prebiotics/fiber to help feed all the bacteria. Click HERE to see why we drink Shakeology. It’s packed with beneficial probiotics, prebiotics and fiber.
2) Don’t be afraid of dirt and germs
Could it be that our cleanliness is killing our microbiome and making us sick? We have clean water, hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap, shoes, showers and a germaphobe mentality which heavily impacts the diversity of our microbiome. It’s been shown that infants who live in houses with dogs and are exposed to household dog-related dust have a lower rate of childhood allergies and are shown to have a distinct microbiome composition when compared to infants who do not live with dogs . So get a dog, while you’re at it!
3) Be careful with the antibiotics
Antibiotics are indiscriminate: they kill the good bacteria and the bad. This not only reduces your microbiome diversity, but also leaves room for re-populating bacteria to get out of whack. In one study, it was noted that after a round of antibiotics, some gut bacteria still hadn’t recovered after six months . Antibiotics are necessary, but perhaps we are too liberal with their usage.
Click HERE to watch Abby Housefield demonstrate how to make water kefir, which is a fermented drink beneficial in promoting good gut bacteria.
 Galland, L. (2014). The Gut Microbiome and the Brain. Journal of Medicinal Food, 17(12), 1261–1272. http://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2014.7000
 Ferranti, E., Dunbar, S., Dunlop, A., & Corwin, E. J. (2014). 20 Things you Didn’t Know About the Human gut Microbiome. The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 29(6), 479-481. http://doi.org/10.1097/JCN.0000000000000166
 Proal, A. D., Albert, P. J., & Marshall, T. G. (2013, March 01). The human microbiome and autoimmunity. Retrieved May 12, 2018, from https://insights.ovid.com/pubmed?pmid=23370376
 Turnbaugh, P. J., Ley, R. E., Mahowald, M. A., Magrini, V., Mardis, E. R., & Gordon, J. I. (2006, December 21). An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. Retrieved May 12, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17183312
 Fujimura, K. E., Demoor, T., Rauch, M., Faruqi, A. A., Jang, S., Johnson, C. C., . . . Lynch, S. V. (2014, January 14). House dust exposure mediates gut microbiome Lactobacillus enrichment and airway immune defense against allergens and virus infection. Retrieved May 12, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24344318
 Dethlefsen, L., Huse, S., Sogin, M. L., & Relman, D. A. (2008). The Pervasive Effects of an Antibiotic on the Human Gut Microbiota, as Revealed by Deep 16S rRNA Sequencing. PLoS Biology, 6(11), e280. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0060280