What I Learned About The Gut Microbiome

What I Learned About The Gut Microbiome

My family had health issues. They ran the gamut from minor to major. This pushed me to dive deep into the gut microbiome and its role in physical and mental health.

Here's what I learned: Your gut microbiome is everything in your body involved in digestion.

• the digestive tubes

• your detoxification system (liver, lymphatic system, gallbladder, etc)

• the trillions of microscopic organisms (microbes) that co-exist with human cells

These microbes form a partnership with human cells. The microbes do things human cells can't do.

In return, we give them a great place to live. We're great hosts. We take care of each other because we'd die immediately without them.

Science is catching up to the roles microbes play. We're learning which bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses are good, neutral, or bad.

Figuring out how they all interact is hard b/c there are trillions of cells. Not as simple as minimizing the bad and maximizing the good.

Our microbiome adapts. It is a live ecosystem.

Think of the Butterfly Effect. In an empowering way.

While our microbiome has constancy to it, the microbes change constantly. Like by the hour. Which make it a great tool for health (more on that later)

Fascinating Fact: Our microbiome is as unique as a fingerprint. It is why twins can have identical DNA but only share 34% of their gut microbes (btw, strangers are at 30%). Think about that.

Our Gut Microbiome, Gut Health and Illness

Science is starting to associate various changes in the microbiome with illness.

What changes our microbiome?

• What we eat

• The environment we live in

• How we sleep

• How much we exercise

• How we think

What does altering our microbiome do for our body? Two things. First, our gut has a huge influence on how our body systems operate. Second, our gut has a role in regulating gene expression.

With body systems, our gut is home to the largest part of our immune system (~70%), many of our hormones, a 2nd brain (specialized gut nervous system) that's in constant communication with our brain and 95% of serotonin. That means: 

Healthier gut ->  Healthier immune system

Healthier gut -> Healthier endocrine (hormones) system

Healthier gut -> Healthier brain & more happy hormone

With genes, we're talking Epigenetics. It is a field that studies how genes can be turned on or off based on their environment. Remember the twins? Epigenetics is how two twins with identical DNA can develop different traits.

Human health isn't all in the human cell. It is also in your microbiome. Which can be modified. If you can make positive changes to your microbiome and minimize the things that hurt it, then the downstream positive effects can be WIDE and HUGE.

Ways To Think About Improving Gut Health

Hopefully you see how gut health connects to our health. So how do you improve gut health? That's a whole other post but here are some quick thoughts:

Our bodies are holistic. The sum matters more than the individual parts. Think of the sum being:

• The thoughts we have

• The movements we make

• The relationships we sustain

• The sleep we get

• The food we eat

• The environment in which all of this occurs

A framework for implementing these tools is: 

• Steady rules with some evolution required: Sleep, Relatoionships, Mental health, Exercise

Changing rules that require more frequent evolution: Nutrition

>80% of chronic conditions could be avoided through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.

Nutrition Has a Big Role in Gut Health

My deepest journey was with nutrition (with no relevant background in it, was only armed with motivation).

I learned:

• What we put on our plate has a huge impact on our health

• Why we eat is both physical and emotional (I underestimated the latter)

• (for most) Nutrition is a vehicle for almost immediate positive change in health. It is something under your control.

• We are all unique. Health is not one-size-fits-all.

• Food can be medicine and a powerful preventative. It is not a replacement for healthcare.

The Power of our Gut Microbiome

We have other microbiomes (e.g. skin) but the gut was the most fascinating to me.

It proved our body COMPOUNDS.

It proved our inherent RESILIENCY.

It proved BALANCE is the desired end state.

Understanding the gut microbiome was a personal journey. Get curious about it. But remember there's no silver bullet. And no finish line.

Nurture and care for your gut. It can improve physical and emotional health. Quality of life. And ultimately lifespan.