6 Experts Weigh in on The Microbiome
- 92% of the genes that affect you aren’t yours
- The common factor between healthy 30 & 105 year-olds
- Gut bacteria will determine whether you will be fat or thin
- Gut-targeting drugs such as acid blockers are destroying your microbiome
- Why stomach acid is so important & what happens when you block it
- Warning signs that indicate you should cut down on sugar
- What modern agriculture has done to plants' polyphenol content
- How lack of diversity & richness in our microbiome can lead to modern epidemics
- The connection between a comprised gut & comorbidities
- How we all have a unique microbial fingerprint
- Why there's no diet that applies to every single one of us
- Why 70% of your immune system resides in your gut
- The inverse relationship between gut diversity, obesity & insulin resistance
- The health benefits of cacao on your microbiome
- A unique susbtance in Puerrh Tea has remarkable effects on your microbiome
- The benefits of consuming fermented foods
- How fermented foods can reduce desire for sugary foods
- Adaptive response to exercise is compromised with gut dysbiosis
Dr Steven R. Gundry
The incredible New York Times bestselling author Dr. Steven Gundry is a former cardiac surgeon and currently runs his world renowned clinic in Loma Linda, California, investigating the impact on diet and health. Dr. Gundry pioneered infant heart-transplant surgery back in the early 90s & he's made this major shift to being one of the foremost experts in the world on the microbiome. His New York Times bestselling books include The Plant Paradox & The Longevity Paradox. We’re going to share some of Dr Gundry’s insights about the recent discovery of our microbial genes & the surprising impact microbes have on longevity.
Eleven years ago, Dr Gundry wrote his first book called Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution with the subtitle ‘Turn Off the Genes That Are Killing You.’ Back then, we didn't really know anything about the microbiome (the bugs that live in & on us) & it was thought that human genes were controlling our fate. As time & research marched on, Dr Gundry found that our genes really have very little to do with what's going to happen to us. For example, a huge NIH study recently published showed that our genes have only about 8% effect on what's going to happen to you. This means that 92% of the genes that are going to have an effect on you aren't yours; they're actually your microbiome.
The amazing thing is you can take people who are 105 years old and look at their microbiome and compare that to the microbiome of 30 year olds, and the 30 year olds who are doing well will have the same microbiome as the 105 year olds that are doing well. And it turns out most people that get to that age have to have a youthful microbiome or they're never going to get there. It turns out that the same thing that makes a rainforest diverse has to exist in our gut. Without that diversity, we're not going to make it very long. Again, we've traded our lack of genes in exchange for huge amounts of genes in our microbiome.
The other amazing thing is that these microbes can actually control your appetite & what foods you seek out. The 'bad guys' tell you to want simple sugars and saturated fats; they can't live on complex carbohydrates or resistance starches which is what the gut buddies love. People don't realize that the type of gut bacteria that you have determines whether you're going to be fat or thin, no matter how many calories you actually eat. Groundbreaking research has shown that, depending on the bacteria you have in your small intestine, bacteria are capable of extracting more calories from the food you eat and putting it into you. If the bad bugs don't exist, those calories don't go into you. So the old idea of calorie in and calorie out is so flawed because it never took into account what the bacteria were doing with those calories.
There's one example of a skinny female marathoner that Dr Gundry talked about in The Plant Paradox who got a fecal transplant from a cousin who was overweight. This woman gained 30 pounds without changing her diet because she had bacteria that were capable of extracting more calories and putting it into her without changing her lifestyle. What's so empowering about this information is you are not destined by your genes to have an outcome of your parents or your grandparents; you can change at any time into a totally different home for your microbiome. By giving them what they want & promoting diversity through your food selection, they'll totally change your fate.
Dr. Robynne Chutkan
Dr. Chutkan is a world renowned gastroenterologist and author of the best selling books Gutbliss, The Microbiome Solution and The Bloat Cure. She received her bachelor's from Yale University and a medical degree from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. She’ll be sharing how common gut-targeting drugs are actually exacerbating gut problems & damaging our microbiome, and how reducing sugar and improving hydration can radically improve your microbiome and overall digestive wellness.
Dr Chutkan distinctly remembers the first time she realized that gut-targeting drugs that we tend to over-prescribe were really a problem. It was about 15 years ago at a conference when her friend Gerard E Mullin, who's an integrative gastroenterologist at Hopkins, started talking about the effect of acid blockers on the gut & the microbiome. At the time, nobody really knew much about the microbiome or how important it was. She remembers listening to Gerard’s lecture and being riveted when she realized we are actually creating disease with a lot of these drugs.
Potent acid blockers, or proton pump inhibitors, are amongst the most commonly prescribed drugs in the world because when people have acid reflux and they take these drugs, it very effectively and efficiently blocks stomach acid. What that means is you don't get that natural feedback that's so important from your body to tell you that something's wrong. For example, when you're having a porterhouse steak and mashed potatoes with cheese and a couple scotches at 10 o'clock at night and you don't feel well, that's a really important sign & important feedback that your body's giving you to protect you from doing it over & over again. And so when you remove that negative feedback, you can really induce some damage.
These drugs block stomach acid virtually 100%, and stomach acid is important for some really big reasons. First, stomach acid provides the ideal pH to digest food. When you don't have any stomach acid you get maldigestion, where you're really not absorbing & assimilating the nutrients properly. We know that because when people are on these drugs for years (or even months) they can end up with iron deficiency & malabsorbing fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E & K. This can actually lead to bone issues like osteoporosis & osteopenia because they’re not absorbing vitamin D and calcium and other things properly. Second, having an acidic pH provides the ideal pH for the digestive enzymes to work properly. When the enzymes are trying to function at a different pH it's not quite ideal.
Finally, acid blockers can cause an overgrowth of gut bacteria in the wrong part of the gut because they transform the stomach from a pretty hostile acidic environment where excess bacteria don't like to hang out to a very friendly, alkali-inviting environment. So now you have overgrowth of gut bacteria in the wrong part of the GI tract. As we go from the mouth all the way down to the anus, the amount of good bacteria increases so they should really be concentrated in the colon. Instead you now have increasing levels of gut bacteria in the stomach and the small intestine; a form of dysbiosis called SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Besides acid suppressing drugs, sugar is one of the main foods that can disrupt the microbiome because it leads to overgrowth of the less desirable species. Dr Chutkan always recommends that people use real sugar as opposed to artificial sweeteners but consuming sugar also depends on your terrain: if you are somebody who's plagued with yeast infections & bloating, those are great signs that the terrain is off and a more drastic elimination of sugar (or maybe a sugar detox) could be a great idea. If you're somebody who already eats a healthy diet and a lot of plant fiber and your terrain is okay, you can probably tolerate a little bit more sugar. Another incredibly simple thing that Dr Chutkan recommends is to drink more water. Most people don't drink enough water & they take medications and drink things like soda that pull fluid out of the GI tract. So it's so important to be drinking enough water to keep the 'plumbing' working well.
Dr. Emeran Mayer
Dr. Emeran Mayer is the executive director of the G. Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience (CNSR), and the co-director of CURE: Digestive Diseases Research Center at UCLA. He's also the author of the best selling books The Mind Gut Connection and the Gut Immune connection. Dr. Emeran is going to be sharing how our treatment of the soil that we use to grow our food is dramatically changing how our microbes are being fed & what richness and diversity means when it comes to the microbiome & how it influences our immune system.
What modern agriculture has done particularly well in the last 75 years (since WWII) is increasing productivity and output. Feeding the world actually has been successful but comes at a very high cost because we now realize by killing the microbial ecosystems in the soil, the plants have lost the ability to produce their own medicine, a group of molecules called polyphenols. The soil microbes stimulate the plant roots to produce these molecules that are transported up to the stem of the plant into the leaves & fruit which defends them against any kind of stress. Anything that stresses the plant generates a signal down into the root system to communicate with the microbes in the soil, which then stimulates this medicine production.
In industrial agriculture, essentially chemical agriculture, that's greatly diminished. This results in the need for pesticides & insecticides because these plants are not adaptable & no longer producing their own medicine. In other words, we've produced plants that look beautiful but the nutrient content is not the same so we're now eating a diet that's really greatly diminished in polyphenols. Industrial agriculture has really played a major role in this. Thankfully there are some pioneers that promote regenerative organic agriculture, meaning you put things back into the soil vs constantly extracting things from it, restoring the ecosystem.
Our inner ecosystems have also been declining in both diversity and richness, which is being perpetuated & getting a little bit worse in each generation. Some strains that you still find in hunter gatherers have disappeared from the modern world. So we've lost a lot of these strains & some people have predicted it will lead to massive pandemics because it makes us more & more vulnerable to infections. What’s interesting is a book called Missing Microbes by Dr Martin Blaser came out a few years before this pandemic and in his last chapter, he talks about the threat of pandemics, way before the actual pandemic we're in now. And so we got a taste of what can come and it can be even worse in the future.
In case you’re wondering what an infection through the respiratory system has to do with the gut: 70% of the immune system is in the gut and a lot of the programming and modulation of the immune system that then goes to all the other organs happens at the gut level. If you have a compromised gut microbial system, that by itself will increase the risk that you have an exaggerated immune response to any perturbation. In the media, it's always said people that have more comorbidities are more more likely to develop a more severe form. According to Dr. Emeran, these comorbidities are the consequence of a unhealthy gut microbiome and overactive immune system.
Dr Will Bulsiewicz
Dr. Will is an award winning gastroenterologist, New York Times bestselling author of the book Fiber Fueled and a gut health expert. He's also the author of more than 20 articles in the top American gastroenterology journals. Dr Will is a graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine and was the chief medical resident at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and chief gastroenterology fellow at the University of North Carolina hospitals.
Microbiome research is the hottest ticket in all of science right now, and Dr Will is trying to disseminate this information to people by putting in the time & paying attention to everything that's coming out. Back in 2006, when he graduated from medical school, it was thought there were only a couple hundred species as part of your microbiome because we didn't really have the ability to test for them; most of these species won't grow on a culture plate which is what we've always used to study bacteria. A laboratory breakthrough allowed scientists for the first time to actually study the microbiome. What they discovered was that there are literally thousands of different species inside us and we each have our own unique signature, or fingerprint, that is made up of somewhere between hundreds and potentially over 1000 different species and microbes.
If we look at our human genetic code, we are 99.9% the same, but we may be 100% different in terms of our microbes. This huge variability or bio-individuality means that there is no diet that will apply to every single human being & we all have unique & different needs for our microbiome. Because of that, your optimal diet is going to be slightly different & that's the challenge that we face these days. There are some things, however, that are consistent such as the five different types of microorganisms residing within us, mostly in our colon (or large intestine.) Our main microbes are bacteria and most of these bacteria are our friends. We also have fungi (yeast), archaea (one of the first lifeforms on this planet) parasites & viruses. This is the engine that makes you healthy.
When we zoom inside the colon, there’s this flourishing community of these microbes. There’s also a paper thin barrier (less than a fraction of a human hair) which is not visible to the naked eye opposite which 70% of the immune system resides. This makes sense because the immune system is meant to defend and if you were a general where would you set up your defenses? The place where you are the most vulnerable. And we are the most vulnerable where we’re interacting with the outside world, which is in the gut. When Dr Will was researching his book, he found that in all allergic & autoimmune diseases, there is damage to the gut microbiome. If you want a healthy immune system, you have to have a healthy gut.
Shawn Stevenson is the international best selling author of Sleep Smarter and the USA Today national best selling book, Eat Smarter. He’ll be discussing a specific way that our microbes influence our body composition and how some foods are geared towards a healthier weight.
As your diversity of microbes goes down, your rate of obesity and insulin resistance goes up. These have an inverse relationship. We're seeing radical decreases in microbial diversity and here's the impact when we improve this: A recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity revealed that a higher diversity of gut bacteria is directly correlated with less weight gain and improved energy metabolism, independent of calorie intake. The number one way to increase your microbiome diversity, which is noted in the data, is to increase the diversity of foods that you're eating.
One surprising microbiome-supportive food is cocoa, aka cacao. A randomized, double blind, controlled trial. published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that polyphenol rich cocoa has remarkable prebiotic effects in the human body. Study participants consuming a sugar free cocoa flavanol drink for four weeks significantly increased their ratio of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli populations, while significantly decreasing their counts of Clostridia, a class of Firmicutes associated with fat gain. These microbial changes were paralleled by significant reductions in plasma triglycerides, which are blood fats, and C reactive protein concentrations, indicating reductions in inflammation.
Another substance with remarkable effects on the microbiome is found in Puerrh Tea. In the peer reviewed journal Nature Communications, they uncovered a compound called theabrownin uniquely found in this traditional fermented tea called Puerrh. The researchers found that theabrownin positively alters our gut microbiota and directly reduces excessive hepatic fat and lipogenesis, which means the creation of new fat. Another peer reviewed study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that Puerrh may be able to reverse gut dysbiosis by dramatically reducing ratios of potentially harmful bacteria and increasing ratios of beneficial bacteria. This tea is truly remarkable.
One of the most surprising things regarding diversity in the microbiome is that your gut bacteria can actually change dramatically based on what time of year it is, based on the season. Stanford University researchers discovered that gut microbes and digestion are cyclical and in sync with the seasons and environmental conditions. So another tip here to support microbiome diversity and your metabolism overall is to purposefully eat more seasonal foods.
Dr Andrew D. Huberman
Dr. Huberman is a professor of neurobiology at Stanford University. For more than 20 years, he has consistently published original research findings and reviewed articles in the top level journals including Nature, Cell, Neuron & Current Biology. He's going to be sharing with us a simple food implement for supporting microbial health.
Dr. Huberman believes that the gut microbiome is right up there in the top five or so of critical aspects of our body that we all absolutely need to take care of. For this reason, he recommends 2-4 servings of fermented food per day because the science points to it as beneficial and it's also something to do as opposed to something to not do. There are a lot of restrictive practices that are associated with losing weight, etc. and those are hard because they're restrictive. But the addition of something that most people like such as a low-sugar, fermented food is easier to do.
The gut microbiome is so fascinating and it talks to the neurons in your brain and really controls your appetite. Some people start eating fermented foods and they completely lose their appetite for really sugary carbohydrate-type foods. Besides adding in some fermented foods, another thing seen in the data is simply increasing the variety of foods that you're eating can help fortify the diversity of your microbes. This is important because as your microbiome diversity goes down, your risk of diabetes & obesity goes up, sleep problems increase, etc. Again, we don't have to try to stop doing everything but just add in a little bit more variety.
There's even some evidence that a disrupted gut microbiome can actually prevent the adaptive responses to exercise. In this case, the muscle adaptation does not take place if there’s dysbiosis, where people don’t have a diverse gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is foundational; it's been shown to improve symptoms of autism & cognitive function. Dr. Huberman believes that sleep and the microbiome are two of the major pillars, and what's cool is that getting good sleep and taking some control of the microbiome makes the other stuff easier like whether to exercise, better food choices, etc.
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