What's In Your Microbiome? 5 Steps to avoid diseases

What’s In Your Microbiome?
It is almost too “far-out-there” for many to believe or consider that what goes on in your gut or flora connects directly to whether we might suffer a heart attack, catch a cold, or, succumb to diabetes; but current research bears this out. The correlations are far more complex than what was commonly known when I was a young adult.

Microbiome-linked brain research now also links what happens in your digestive track to a variety of brain disorders such as autism, depression, and a host of brain-related disorders that I mention in this entry. The research is evolving rapidly. According to experts, they have only just begun to scratch the surface of how the “gut” in fact affects our health/well-being. We can exercise an influence over far more diseases than we have known before.

Gut Messaging
 “Listen to your gut!” “I have a gut feeling…” these are expressions that underlie an important function of how your body uses the mechanics in your stomach as a powerful, instinctive, perhaps intuitive messenger to the brain.

What does this all mean?

Our body does indeed signal to us and we are often best off when we pay attention to our “gut messages."
  • Is my well-being reliant on my having healthy and hard-working  bacteria?
  • How can I get my digestive system and my full-body microbes in tip-top shape?

Let’s begin to unpack and explore these questions and the extraordinary universe living in our guts in today’s blog-entry and continue the series over the next few entries. These “nether-regions” in your tummy and throughout your body dictate directly whether we age or stay “young and healthy”.
The good news is that once we have knowledge of the interconnection of our microbe world with so many heretofore unconnected disorders, we can do a lot to control the diseases as they hit us and even prevent the devastating disorders before they even develop.

Afterall, this is essentially the Training Table’s mission:

Stop s _ _t before it happens and fix it when it does.

Lesson 1 Biome

In geographic terms a biome is defined by the National Geographic Encyclopedia as:"an area of the planet that can be classified according to the plants and animals that live in it. Temperature, soil, and the amount of light and water help determine what life exists in a biome."

The human microbiome refers to the assembly and network of microbes or microorganisms creating a type of mini-ecosystem inside of you. This gathering of microbes is sometimes referred to as a “community” and contains a variety of bacteria both good and bad (symbiotic and pathogenic) along with viruses and fungi and parasites that take up residence in your body and call your body their home. An estimated 100 trillion microorganisms create neighborhoods and stomping grounds that we interact with every single moment of our existence.

The Neighborhood

Like communities in our human worlds, each microbiome community has its unique blend and set of players, leaders, and trouble-makers. The clusters of bacteria that live in every region in your body: eyes, mouth ears, intestines, skin, nails etc. are referred to as microbiota or as “gut flora.” Some "microbiota neighborhoods"- without careful policing- can become dangerous grounds where they can endanger or kill you if you are not mindful.

Bad Neighborhood Vs Good Neighborhoods
I think of it this way: there are two forces at work in our gut’s ecosystem- the Bad Bacteria versus the Good bacteria. The idea about “anti-aging” and wellness is for the Good Bacteria to vanquish the Bad Bacteria. The Good guys win by influencing the Bad Guys to behave and by combating those evil forces that want to make me get “old.”

How do the Good Guys win? They triumph by cultivating and growing a good biome.

The microbes in our stomach navigate and control a lot of our general health but the research coming out, links the microbial world in each one of us (the microbiome) also to brain disorders: autism, depression, anxiety and more.

Microbes out-number body cells ten- to one and each microbe has a set of genes that outnumber your own genes by 100 to one. There is research being done that uses DNA sequencing of the microbes to help identify the good microbes and the bad microbes and it’s leading to the extensive connections about so many heath diseased conditions that we and our loved ones are struck down with.
Here are just some of the health conditions that involve our microbes as listed by Learn Genetics a genetics learning center:

  • Acne
  • Asthma/allergies
  • Autism
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Cancer
  • Dental issues
  • Diabetes
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Eczema
  • Gastric ulcers
  • Hardening of arteries
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Obesity

The idea then is to restore the imbalances (the bad guys) and maintain the “good guys.” My acupuncturist has been telling me to pay attention to my gut for years, but I didn’t really understand the depth of the microbiome’s influence until I began researching. 

The universe in my gut has a lot to do with what I eat and what I don’t eat and an immediate correlation with my daily habits. The research shows us that restoring flora and gut balance can lead to a good deal of self-cures.

So, what affects the good bacteria? It’s a delicate balance but the take- away from today’s entry is that while our microbial inhabitants if you will, can cause diseases, we are landlords that can kick a lot of the trouble makers out!

Restoring a healthy Biome
I will devote several chapters to this but for today’s entry I will keep the information to 5 over-arching basic steps that lead to transforming or maintaining your microbial “community.”

Let’s start with: Cutting out processed foods and sugars.

You may be getting tired of a blog that repeats this rule over and over. I know, I know! But I honestly cannot get around it, and I am not speculating or making this up. Anti-aging, healing, staying well, keeping one’s immune system strong---give it a name-- these concepts come back to cutting back on these two food genres: processed and sugar-laden products. 
Why? We go back to the concept of simple carbs versus complex carbs. When we eat processed breads, fast foods, packaged meals, snacks etc. our bodies digest the foods very easily---too easily—so your gut microbes do not get put to use when eating the processed food that requires little from our gut. The microbes need the exercise to stay strong for us and that comes from eating the complex carbs found in whole foods.

I found this article by Therese Borchard’s  and list to be very helpful in understanding how we can create that optimal microbe world and strengthen our immune system for better emotional and physical health. The following action-steps are partially adapted from her more detailed, informative article. There will be more entries in this blog to follow.


1.       We have just discussed: reduce processed foods and sugars: they disrupt microbial balance because they are digested too easily, and our microbes don’t get to work efficiently and valiantly.

2.       Eat more fruits, legumes, and vegetables. Plant-oriented diets help us maintain a “microbiota diversity” that do the opposite of the processed foods; it gives the microbes an opportunity to “work-out “which means we are strengthening our immune system. I have been on a path towards a sharp reduction (not elimination) of meats and now I replace meat with lentils, beans for example pinto, lima, adzuki, and additionally-quinoa. All these are delicious, easily prepared, and provide me with the protein I need.

3.       Try to get more sleep: sleep and inflammatory messengers such as the Cytokines discussed in the entry on inflammatory foods and arthritis, are linked. We produce inflammatory fighters by sleeping and unfortunately the opposite is also true, we create a bad bacterial environment when we don’t sleep. That is why after insomnia bouts many people experience diarrhea and nausea- it’s the microbial world, the flora being stirred out of balance with sleep disruptions and sleep deficits. I know for a fact that this was true for me when I went through insomnia bouts. I never understood why I felt flu-like or virus-like symptoms from sleep deprivation until I began to understand the universe of the gut.

4.      Try to avoid antibiotics: they are famous for messing up your microbial world.  Yeast infections are common after taking them, but that is only a minor result. Antibiotics reduce microbial diversity and weaken healthy strains which make you more susceptible to the pathogens brought on by almost all common diseases. Of course, in extreme cases, when you need the antibiotics- please do take them. Keep in mind that antibiotics should be taken only in very necessary situations because the antibiotics compromise your gut biome significantly and it can take months until your gut balance is fully restored.

5.       Cut back on meats and eliminate processed meat (no sandwich meats). I will be more detailed in upcoming entries. Scientists’ report in the journal Naturea diet full of meat and dairy products alters the gut microbiome significantly and immediately, and in ways that are not good for you. One stand-out, heavily researched bacterium that thrives in meat centered diets is Bilophilia (bacteria that love bile) and are linked with various cancers and trigger many inflammatory bowel diseases that seem to be plaguing so many of my friends.

 These 5 steps appear simplistic, but the simplicity belies the complexity and beauty of having this knowledge and acting on it. These 5 action steps for The Training Table can be parlayed into staving off the ravages or turning around the deleterious effects of a bad biome before it happens. We may already know personally or through a loved one, the misery and discomfort that are brought on by the avoidable diseases. I feel empowered knowing that I can mitigate some of the damage by tending to the environment of my microbial world.


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