Improving your Gut Microbiome

canstockphoto14048559-1Imagine you are Charles Darwin visiting a little island someplace, and you get to learn about all kinds of plants and animals and how their unique habitats influenced their evolutionary development.

Actually, you don’t have to travel to an island, because you’ve got your own  evolutionary world inside your body, which constantly evolves, often at a rapid clip. You are largely in charge of this world. We speak of your body’s microbiomes, where depending upon how you feed them, the bacterial communities can evolve at lightning speed. Case in point, scientists find that depending upon the percentage of dietary fat, protein and carbohydrate influences whether certain microbes thrive or perish.*

*Linking Long-Term Dietary Patterns with Gut Microbial Enterotypes, Published Online September 1 2011, Science 7 October 2011: , Vol. 334 no. 6052 pp. 105-108 , DOI: 10.1126/science.1208344

The same thing is true of fiber, which affects your gut’s microbial communities. We’ve known that for a long time. The new capability of microbiome analysis makes it possible to test this. So sometime last May, Paul decided to feed the microbes in his gut inulin and oligofructose, an indigestible prebiotic fiber reputed to increase bifidobacteria. At the time, we had read and posted studies about how inulin could affect gut microbes, for example: Inulin Influences Expression of Iron and Inflammation Related Genes.

But we weren’t really sure if it would be as good as the studies suggest. The test results from American Gut Health convinced us:  inulin/oligofructose performed as advertised, increasing the beneficial bifidobacteria in Paul’s colon to eight-fold above normal. You are probably asking what other beneficial fibers can I eat and how will they affect my gut microbiome?

Here’s a related question, what if gut analysis finds that you have a microbial species that’s really dangerous, what will you do about it? Try to destroy it with an antibiotic? Well imagine if someone dropped a bomb on one of Darwin’s islands. It’s likely that very few species would survive and the ones that did might be scary – not what you would want running around. The same might be true of your gut microbes. Using an antibiotic could damage your entire microbiome, tipping the balance towards strong, undesirable pathogens.  If you want to eradicate one of them them, it might be best to tend your microbial garden so that the ecology makes it difficult for it to survive.

On Saturday’s teleconference, we’ll discuss this and consider practical approaches to apply this  new knowledge to make your gut microbiome healthier. To join this event or listen to the recording, become a member of livingthecrway.com.

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