Studying the microbiome is one of the fastest-growing fields in health. In fact, the flurry of research on bacteria in the human digestive tract has led scientists to declare that the tens of trillions of bacteria in our gut comprise a “new organ.”
The gut microbiome is also a fascinating area for me. You’ve heard me talk often about the interwoven fabric of life, and this is certainly the case with microbiome research. It focuses on trillions of gut bacteria, their 10 million genes and the complex role they play in helping to prevent chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, myriad intestinal issues, and weakened stress responses.
While scientists around the world are busy cataloging these microbial genes and studying their actions, there are some study results we can use today.
“You are what you eat” — and very quickly
We’re seeing the importance of maintaining a diversity of healthy, life-supporting gut bacteria. One of the best — and most rapid — ways to do this is to make changes to your diet. Research has shown that gut bacteria changes can begin within hours after eating — which came as a surprise to scientists who previously thought changes could take days, weeks or even years.
With this opportunity for rapid improvement in mind, we would all do well to consume fermented foods daily. Live-culture yogurt, apple cider vinegar with its “mother”, kefir, “alive” sauerkraut (not pasteurized or canned), olives in the barrel, kombucha, and all sorts of pickled vegetables should all be consumed on a regular basis.
Here is my suggestion: take some time and go to your nearest health-food store or farmer’s market. There you’ll likely find local groups now producing a wide range of cultured vegetable products, true aged cheeses, fermented kombucha tea, and even real cultured pickles. Even more, try making your own sauerkraut and other cultured vegetables! It’s easy, fun, and tasty.
Baquero, F., and C. Nombela. 2012. The microbiome as a human organ. Clinical Microbiology and Infection 18(Supplement 4):2–14. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2012.03916.x.
Cryan, J.F. and S. M. O’Mahony. 2011. The microbiome-gut-brain axis: From bowel to behavior. Neurogastroenterology and Motility 23(3):187–192. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2982.2010.01664.x.
David, L. A., Maurice, C. F., Carmody, R. N., Gootenberg, D. B., Button, J. E., Wolfe, B. E., Turnbaugh, P. J. (2014). Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. Nature, 505(7484), 559–563. doi:10.1038/nature12820
Evans, J. M. et al. 2013. The gut microbiome: The role of a virtual organ in the endocrinology of the host. Journal of Endocrinology 218:R37–R47. DOI: 10.1530/JOE-13-0131.
Feltman, R. 2014. The gut’s microbiome changes rapidly with diet. Scientific American, December 14.