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The Microbiome Revolution

Did you know that more than half the cells in your body are not human...they are microbes. These microbes make unique molecules that become your "gut" microbiome. The microbiome consists of trillions of organisms that call the human body home. Ninety-five percent of these live in the gastrointestinal tract. There is ongoing research that links the microbiome to diseases and is showing us how we can manipulate these microbes to prevent, slow or cure diseases.

There is evidence of a gut-kidney axis (relationship) that shows how gut bacteria can detoxify harmful kidney metabolites. Kidney stones? I might be related to your gut microbiome.

Autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases, diabetes, cancer, dementia, liver disease may all be slowed down or prevented by altering the microbiome. Our genes play a small role in diseases and we know that genes can be switched on and off by many environmental factors. It's looking like we will be able to alter our genetic predispositions by using the microbiome to precisely treat conditions.

Our gut microbiome is changed frequently by the food we eat and these microbes thrive on fiber rich carbohydrates (plants). These healthy carbs can't be broken down in the small intestine so they make their way down to the colon where fermentation takes place. We can then absorb essential vitamins and nutrients. A poor diet starves us of what we need and leaves us vulnerable to diseases.

Antibiotics, while lifesaving in certain conditions, are also over-used and destroy the gut microbiome. They wipe out the complex ecosystem of bacteria and fungi. It takes several months for the microbiome to recover after a course of antibiotics. Unfortunately we are finding that taking probiotics can actually delay recovery of the complex microbes that were lost, so if your doctor says antibiotics are not indicated, please believe her.

A more effective approach is to "feed" your gut. Concentrate on prebiotic foods like fresh vegetables, legumes, nuts, fruit and fermented foods like yogurt, kiefer, pickles, miso, sauerkraut and kombucha to restore healthy microbes.

What we are learning about the microbiome is so interesting. Researchers at the University of San Diego have developed a tool that can tell which microbes produce which metabolites within seconds. This technology is the beginning of development, not just for humans, but the environment as well. Imagine if we could identify a microbe that would eat plastic or change a metabolite that triggers schizophrenia.

Science is wonderful. We are learning so much about how we can manage our own health through diet and keep our own microbiome healthy.


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