Today, it has been reported that there are approximately 10 trillion cells in the human body, and that there are 100 trillion microbial cells in your body. That means that there are 10x the amount of bacteria in you as your own cells. These little critters are not merely passengers, but play a vital role in digestion, immune function, weight management, absorption and mood.
It is estimated that the average adult will carry about 3 lbs of bacteria inside of us, making it one of the largest organ systems in the body. While the differences in DNA between you and someone else are very small, the differences in the community of bacteria you harbour can be profound. It is one of the leading theories as to why some have conditions such as allergies or weight issues, and some do not. Much of this emerging research has been the growing efforts of the Human Microbiome Project funded by the US National Institute of Health.
You first get your microbes by being vaginally delivered through your mother’s birth canal. Research has been showing that while different woman can have different microbial communities, during pregnancy they all seem to shift to the same state. It is being shown now that babies born via caesarian section have an increased risk of allergies and asthma and possibly obesity because of not having this first pass. Not to worry if you were born by Csection, this is just a small disadvantage just more to point out the changes in gut flora.
The good news is that once again it all comes back to “you are what you eat”.
The Microbiome Project has been able to determine that what you eat has the largest impact over what community of bacteria you populate.
Research from Lita Proctor from the National Institute of Health has determined that humans actually don’t have all of the enzymes needed to digest our own diet. The microbes in the gut will break down many of the proteins, lipids, carbohydrates in our diet and turn them into nutrients that we can then absorb. Just imagine how your digestive system would feel if this community of bacteria was imbalanced!
Connection Between the Microbiome and Obesity
A study done in 2008 that showed that when average weight mice were given a fecal transplant from an obese mouse that they started to gain weight without changing any other factors (1). It is another well known fact that antibiotics given to livestock to prevent or treat infection will actually help with weight gain in the animal. This leads to the assumption that the microbiome of average weight individuals is different than those that are obese.
In 2013 the International Journal of Obesity found that there was a consistent association between antibiotic use in infants under six months of age and increased body mass at seven years old. A later study in 2015 shows that children at age 15 that have taken antibiotics seven or more times in childhood weighed three pounds more than children who had never received antibiotics. Does this mean that we should never use antibiotics on our children? Not at all! Antibiotics can be critical in fighting infection. We just have to make sure that they are not being overused, and we need to make sure that we are supporting our gut and immune health in other ways.
There is much to learn and discover in this area, but one thing we know for sure is the health of the microbiome is important to your overall weight management and vitality.
5 Ways to Support a Healthy Gut
- Invest the time to having an optimally functioning digestive system. This includes, daily bowel movements and being free from symptoms such as gas, bloating, heartburn, and stomach pain
- Your gut health can manifest in other ways! Even if you don’t have digestive symptoms, if you suffer from eczema or other skin conditions, asthma, allergies, autoimmune conditions or mental health issues you should investigate the health of your microbiome.
- Remove foods that irritate gut and promote the growth of unfriendly bacteria
Processed grains, sugars, refined carbohydrates
- Eat a Fibre Rich Whole Food Diet – Beans, Nuts and Seeds, Fruits, Vegetables, Whole
Grains like quinoa and brown rice. These foods all feed friendly bacteria
- Eat Fermented Foods like Kombucha, Kefir, Kim Chi, Yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh or take
a high quality probiotic
Did you Know…
When it comes to probiotics…it is about quality, not quantity.
Think about it. You are trying to influence your microbiome that is estimated at 100 trillion bacteria by taking 10 to 100 billion colony forming units. That is like saying you are either dumping a glass of water, or a pail of water into the pacific ocean.
When it comes to probiotics, it is more about quality…not quantity. You want to make sure that these bacteria are still alive when they get to your digestive tract. Probiotics are very susceptible to factors such as heat, moisture and stomach acid. You want to take a probiotic that contains live bacteria, and survives stomach acid to be able to get to the digestive tract. I recently attended a lecture that showed research on the quality of the capsule. They are saying that capsules that open and you can pull apart can expose the bacteria to moisture and often reduce the number of live bacteria.
That being said, this is not to say that everyone needs super duper potent bacteria. We all know that many kids can’t swallow capsules, so taking the powder is still good. It is just that people that have many digestive or immune symptoms, that don’t feel they are getting symptom relief may benefit by taking better quality bacteria. In these cases, we will use bacteria that comes in a blister pack, or has better quality assurance to ensure that these bacteria will give you the best results.
Talk to us if you have more questions!!