Befriend your Bowels
We grow up being taught that our bowel movements are something to be ashamed of. We even teach our kids not to focus on it, but that's exactly what I'm going to tell you about right now.
What if I told you that rather than avoid it we should embrace it. We should spend time examining it and become intimate with it, as it is one of our most important vital signs, perhaps even more telling than our blood pressure or pulse. My advice to you is get comfortable with your poop, and form a loving relationship with it.
Modern medicine has focused on animal feces as a disease-baring contaminant-carrying byproduct our body produces. Yes, our feces are in many cases a conduit for harmful viruses and bacteria, particularly in the hospital environment, but in many of us, our bowels also carry the blueprints to our health. It not only is a snapshot of your health history but it also guides you on how you can adjust your lifestyle to make you feel better. If you examine it just right you might even be able to create the right map or instruction manual for how to live a healthful life. Yes, there is such a thing as a healthy gut, but it's probably different from the "iron stomach" you thought you had.
An ecosystem of its own
Your body carries an ecosystem of 100 trillion bacteria with your gut constituted by over 1000 different types. Just like any other environmental ecosystem, think of your gut microbiome as containing good, bad and neutral players that are along for the ride. The balance created by these bacteria living in harmony is what dictates your health. In fact, more variability and diversity of bacteria living together often contributes to greater health. Some bacteria depend on others for growth and “feed on the others” while others take up space and grow in a very unhealthy way, starving the system of its balance and wiping out the good and neutral players. These harmful bacteria feed on and produce toxins perpetuating their own growth.
Tipping the balance with harmful foods and antibiotics
In certain food environments, even good bacteria can dominate in a way that can become harmful to the rest of your gut by taking over the balance. For example, carbohydrate or starch-heavy meals are an energy source for starch-feeding bacteria that grow and dominate your gut, eventually resulting in a lower amount of diversity. When attempting weight loss, making space for the growth of healthful bacteria and diverse populations is an important first step. The use of antibiotics can be thought of as deforestation of your gut. After even one course of antibiotics, your body will need to repopulate its ecosystem with a healthful diet and even the use of probiotics. However, after the use of antibiotics if you accidentally repopulate your gut with toxic organisms you might end up with SIBO or IBS-like symptoms.
Fecal transplants validate the role of gut microbiome in weight loss
Evidence is emerging from fecal transplants that you can in fact transfect someone with a gut microbiome that could heal their disease or modify their weight. In fact, your microbiome is modifiable even within even a few hours of a meal. Changing the way you eat can truly modify your gut microbiome. Like natural ecosystems, the more diverse the better. In fact, studies are showing that obese individuals often have a very narrow bacterial profile compared to thin people that can digest their fiber readily. You may think that you would be doomed to be obese forever if you are cursed with the less diverse profile, but think again. The good news is that the gut microbiome, unlike your genes, is modifiable.
A gene-microbiome interaction influenced by ethnicity
We see the gene-microbiome effect when different ethnic groups that evolved on differing diets are now are adopting the western diet and lifestyle. Subsequently, their rates of preventable diseases are skyrocketing, even within a generation or two, far beyond anything evolution could predict. This is where your genetics and gut interact.
Scientists are discovering our genes influence our gut microbiome composition to the level where their receptors interact with the gut lining and dictate whether or not they will be harmful to your body.
This goes to show that we truly cannot all eat the same thing. Not only do we have ethnic variability but also genetic variations that inform how our metabolism will perform. There is no way to know how to modify your diet to suit you best without first looking deeper at your individual genetic metabolic and microbiome markers.
You are an individual, eat that way
Individualized diets are the way to go both for health as well as weight loss. As we learn more about genetic variability as well as epigenetic (gene-environment) variability, the one-size-fits-all dietary guidelines are starting to fall to the wayside and become a thing of the past. So much as the 1000 trillion bacteria are in fact unique among each of us, so should the best diet that helps maintain your gut diversity and variability.
As you decide on how best to eat to meet your personal health and weightloss goals, consider consulting Dr. Mima Geere and the Nutrinomic Lifestyle program for your personalized dietary profile to see what type of diet would suit you best to transform your health as well as achieve your weight loss goals.