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How to Grow a Diverse Microbiome

The microbiome is a hot button topic in the health world these days, and that's mostly because it's absolutely fascinating! #nerdalert

The microbiome is our unique makeup of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa that live in and on our bodies. Current research suggests that the community of microbes in our intestines has an effect on whole body health & disease. One thing we know for sure about the microbiome is that we want diversity! The more diverse the microbiome, the healthier the human.

And unfortunately a Western way of eating does not result in much diversity.

When looking at a person's diet who mostly eats protein, fat, and simple sugars, versus a person who eats complex plant proteins, the results are a stark contrast. “It was the most different human microbiota composition we’d ever seen,” Sonnenburg in Moises Velasquez-Manoff article

Why is that??

For humans to digest complex carbohydrates AKA fiber, we need help from our microbiome. The microbes in our intestines break down fiber, create a byproduct called, Short Chain Fatty Acids, which in turn creates more species of microbes.

Check out this experiment by Sonnenburg:

Mice were fed junk food for several weeks -- > low microbiome diversity, meaner mice, and the mice were more difficulty to handle

When the mice were fed fiber again, their microbiome began to mostly recover!

This is great news for people that eat a Western Diet! The best way to re-diversify the diet is to eat more fiber. Some of the best sources of fiber are:

Whole grains - for example brown rice, quinoa, millet, oats, oat bran, wheat berries, wheat germ, & bulgar

Nuts & seeds - almonds, walnuts, pistachios, nut butters, ground flax seed, chia seed, sesame seeds

Veggies - especially ones with a lot of roughage, like kale, arugula, broccoli, squashes, sweet potatoes

Some fruits - especially ones with skins, like apples, pears, berries

Why is this important now? If I can always re-diversify what's the point of eating healthy all the time?

Here's the kicker, you can only re-grow microbes that you already have. For example, if a mother is pregnant carrying her child and she is on a no-fiber diet, the baby is born with very little microbiome diversity, and they will never be able to grow a more diverse one. You can't regrow what you never inherited.

This breaks my heart and puts even more importance on eating as healthy as we can all the time. We may have been dealt a low-diversity microbiome, and with the typical Western way of eating, we are on the verge of microbial extinction. But what if we were born with a diverse microbiome? What if you have the power of choice to keep your microbiome diverse and thriving for generations to come?!

I say take the leap! This affects all genders, all humans, and all ages. Keep diversity live and well, if not for your health than for those that come.


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