Julie G - Microbigal!
Fat Busting Enzymes Part 2: Affecting your Gut Microbiome
Updated: Jun 5, 2021
Last time, I related that I discovered and dismissed a digestive enzyme supplement that claims to help digest fat, reduce bloating, aid in digestion, etc (link to that post here).
The cost and reports that they are not effective in over the counter versions that are readily available made me expand my research a bit.
Fire up the Google-machine! To complicate things there are many, many websites selling enzymes, researchers are trying to put their discoveries out into the mainstream, and there are lots of confusing and conflicting information.
To help, here’s an easy to understand summary of what I’ve found out there regarding the importance of your microbiome.
‘Your gut microbiome is a vast community of trillions of bacteria (bacteriome), fungi (mycobiome) and viruses (virome) that inhabit every nook and cranny of your gastrointestinal tract. Each have a major influence on your metabolism, body weight, propensity to illness, immune system, appetite and mood. These microbes mostly live in the last third of the small intestine as well as the Large intestine (the colon) and outnumber all the other cells in your body put together.
Conceptually, we should view these microbes as a newly discovered organ, weighing slightly more than our brains and nearly as vital.
Ok, I’m starting to sense that my gut microbiome may be some sort of key to health that I need to learn more about. I read about 10 articles searching for the above key words, and you’re not going to like what I found (unless you’re already eating like the Hadza).
Who are the Hadza? They are one of the last hunter-gatherer cultures left in our world and researchers have studied them in many ways (wonder how much all of this research will affect their lifestyle). One such study explored their microbiome and made interesting discoveries about how their diet affected both their microbes and health.
‘The average Hadza person eats around 600 species of plants and animals a year and experience huge seasonal variation. They have virtually none of the common Western diseases such as obesity, allergies, heart disease and cancer.
In contrast, most Westerners have fewer than 50 species in their diet and are facing an epidemic of illness and obesity.’
What scientists have found was their gut microbiome is MUCH more diverse than ours and they are much healthier, hmmm. Another interesting aspect of the research is that over the course of the seasons, their microbiomes were seen to be very different, which is most certainly linked to them eating the foods available in that particular season.
So, it is possible to affect your microbiome by eating (or not eating certain foods)! But how?
Well, none of this should come as a shock to us but somehow, we continue to ignore it and indulge in our diet sodas (yes I’m from New England - insert Pop, tonic or cola for your region), Little Debbie snacks and Hostess Cupcakes! In a nutshell, all of those things the nutritionists (not the fad diet book writers, influencers, supplement hawkers, or people who play doctors on tv) have been telling us for years is true.
To optimize our health, we must eat a diverse amount of natural foods that are high in fiber, antioxidants and live microbes.
Skip foods that essentially kill off our microbiome diversity: processed foods, artificial sweeteners, antibiotics (which kill bad AND good microbes - obviously sometimes they are necessary, so take them if your medical professional prescribes them, but only as long as necessary!).
Some studies are pointing to certain beneficial microbes becoming extinct! Who wants to start the Save the Gut Microbes movement? (No throwing active culture plain yogurt at people eating Big Macs!)
Ok, so what now? How exactly am I going to help my gut microbiome?
A few things I’ve already been doing (yay, me!!):
Live in rural area - city dwellers have a less diverse microbiomes.
Include unsweetened yogurt with live cultures (I have a cup of plain Greek yogurt with frozen blueberries, ground flax and chia seeds with a crunch cereal on top every day)
Spend time outside - I am an avid hiker of NH’s White Mountains - I’ve even brought Chloe Cholera with me (obviously, I do not bring actual Cholera)
Exercise regularly - I walk daily, hike, bike and workout at 9Round 3 times per week
Live with a dog - yes, it’s been shown to increase your microbiome, though might not want to think about this one too hard.
Limit snacking - I practice Intermittent Fasting, which means I have an eating window of 5-7 hours, giving my digestive system and microbes a break.
Imbibe in occasional adult beverages - 2-3 a week, I enjoy an alcoholic beverage and have recently tried Mead (link to Mead vlog coming soon).
Get enough sleep - well, except for those hot flashes 4-5 times a night
Reduce Stress - Over the years, I think I’ve become more chill about most things (my coworkers might argue about this sometimes) - worrying about things doesn’t help - I try and focus on what I can do and not overthink everything.
A few things I’m starting to add (I’ll update you on how it’s going)
Increase Probiotic and Prebiotic and fiber intake - naturally and in moderation. I’m not a huge fan of cooked veggies and had all but eliminated fruits because of the high carbs. I have started adding back fruit (like apples, kiwi and plums), eating more veggies (mostly raw), seeds and nuts and some dairy (cheeses and milk products).
Eat more Fermented foods - I’ve been starting to enjoy spicy Kimchi as a quick and easy way to add fermented foods. I also eat tempeh (sauteed with soy sauce (which is also fermented) and will try and increase its use as a meat substitute. Maybe I’ll try some Kefir?
Eat more sources of Polyphenols (antioxidants) - I’m always up for more dark chocolate! Other sources: green tea, almonds, broccoli (raw only for me - cooked is gross!)
Eat a more diverse diet - over the years, I’ve eliminated some foods from my diet because of things I’ve heard and read - but if they’re natural, I’m going to add them back - in moderation: bananas, whole grains (cereal, oatmeal, bread). Many studies point to eating seasonally - what’s in season now?
Edermaniger, L. How To Improve Gut Health: 16 Simple Hacks For Your Gut In 2020. Atlas Biomed blog | Take control of your health with no-nonsense news on lifestyle, gut microbes and genetics (2019)
Henriques, M. How to eat your way to a healthy gut. BBC
Daisy Coyle, A. P. D. 8 Surprising Things That Harm Your Gut Bacteria. Healthline
Spector, P. T. 15 tips to boost your gut microbiome. BBC Science Focus Magazine (2020)
Doucleff, M. Is The Secret To A Healthier Microbiome Hidden In The Hadza Diet? NPR (2017)
Robertson, R. 10 Ways to Improve Your Gut Bacteria, Based on Science. Healthline
Leonard, J. 10 research-backed ways to improve gut health. Medical News Today (2019)