The Gut Microbiome: What Is It and How Do We Keep It Healthy? Thursday #Healthtip

On average we have 100 trillion microbes in our body, weighing as much as three pounds total! Diet plays a major role in the composition of our microbiome, and evidence suggests a diverse microbiome is important for good health.

A poor diet, along with overuse of antibiotics, can disturb this diversity and disrupt the balance of organisms, allowing undesirable bacteria to flourish at the expense of helpful ones. This disruption can lead to poor digestion, inflammation, and disease.

Much remains to be learned about the microbiome, and the research is sometimes fuzzy. But in the meantime, say hello to your little friends. I hear they like leafy greens and apples!

 

More Information:

Trusting Your Gut: The Importance of Your Microbiome—“How we treat our own microbiome will determine if we have a healthy and high quality of life.”

Can Gut Bacteria Improve Your Health?

The Garden in Your Gut

I Contain Multitudes, The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong

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standing color cropped tiny for blog postsCarrie Rubin is a medical thriller author with a background in medicine and public health. Her novels include Eating Bull and The Seneca Scourge. For full bio, click here.

92 Responses to “The Gut Microbiome: What Is It and How Do We Keep It Healthy? Thursday #Healthtip”

  1. Vanessa-Jane Chapman

    My daughter actually got C.diff when she was a toddler – it came after she had had 2 or 3 rounds of antibiotics quite close to each other. Luckily the C.diff didn’t get really bad, I seem to remember they gave her some megadose of another antibiotic as soon as it was detected and it went, phew! But after that we were always really cautious with both our kids, and if ever a doctor wanted to prescribe antibiotics, we always questioned them about whether they felt it was really necessary or was just something to try. And often they would say – well let’s give it a few days then without taking anything and see, and more often than not the kids just recovered on their own. Obviously antibiotics are amazing, and we still gave them to our kids occasionally if the doctor continued to strongly recommend we do. I don’t say this as any disrespect to doctors, I totally value and respect their expertise, but I think parents need to take the responsibility too, and not be afraid to question the doctor a bit further, or insist on a swab test to check whether it’s viral or bacterial before agreeing to antibiotics.

    The trouble with the probiotics in yogurts (as I understand it) is that there is no legislation, in the UK anyway, to cover that in terms of checking the validity of the claims regarding the amount of probiotics included. Independent tests found that often there were barely any present, or they weren’t actually live anymore, and this could vary even within different batches of the same brand. Some came out good, but it was so variable you couldn’t confidently buy them and assume you’re getting some good stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      I wish I’d had more parents like you in my clinic. It was a bit draining to constantly explain why antibiotics weren’t needed for a viral infection. People expect to leave the doctor’s office with a prescription. But it goes both ways as you’ve discovered: doctors can too easily prescribe them as well. When we need antibiotics, thank goodness they’re there. But when it’s a viral infection, antibiotics won’t help, so no need to risk the side effects or resistance they can create.

      And yes, that’s the problem with probiotics in yogurt–a lot of inaccurate claims. But probably still better to get what we can that way than from supplements that aren’t regulated. It’ll be interesting to see what the future holds.

      Thanks, Vanessa!

      Like

  2. Jennifer Kelland Perry

    I do believe our food can be our medicine most of the time, Carrie. I have always been a fruits and veggie lover, thank heavens. What is your take on the drugstore variety of probiotics supplements? Yeah or nay?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      Given my territory is peds, I’ve always told parents to stick with the probiotics in yogurt. The ones sold in drugstores aren’t monitored and many make false claims. Plus, probiotics are live cultures, so it’s possible a child with a poor immune system (whose immune disorder hasn’t yet been diagnosed) could become quite ill. There’s still so much to learn, including about prebiotics which may actually be more beneficial (they serve as substrate for the the good bacteria in our gut), that it’s best to be prudent and stick with yogurt along with a healthy diet. But there are times a probiotic supplement can be helpful, and doctors will recommend them, so it’s really a case by case basis.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Kelland Perry

        I’ve been taking them for years, as they seem to help with my IBS and lactose intolerance. I have a very moody gut. So many of the yogurts out there are full of sugar or a questionable thickening agent. I guess Greek yogurt is best. (?)

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        • Carrie Rubin

          Yes, many of the yogurts make false claims, and we always have to check the sugar content. Some are like a dessert! The Greek ones do seem to be among the best.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      For sure! McDonalds will do a number on us as do the sugar sodas. Our guts are facing such a different diet than our ancestors’ did. Since our genes don’t change that quickly, it’s easy for things to go awry.

      Like

  3. Ally Bean

    And how does drinking a glass of water with vinegar in it fit into this healthy eating lifestyle behavior? Is that idea part of this gut microbiome or is that some other thing entirely?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      I’m not sure it’s been directly related to that. Apple cider vinegar has been touted to have health benefits, from its antioxidants to its antibacterial properties. I’m not sure if science has fully answered how much it actually helps though. I’m not sure I could get past the smell!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Alejandro De La Garza

    Thanks for this, Carrie! People need to understand these things and why it’s always good to maintain proper dietary health. We also must end the addiction to prescription medicines. I’ve posted the diagram to my Facebook page. Hope you and the family are doing well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thanks so much for sharing it! I agree–we’re too quick to rely on medications for a quick fix. Obviously, medications are a godsend when we need them, but many conditions could be bettered by a healthier lifestyle.

      We’re all doing well, thank you. Hope you are too!

      Like

  5. amiegibbons15

    Great timing with the post 🙂 I’m on antibiotics now and trying to get down all the probiotic pills, yogurt, fruits and veggies I can.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      Oh, you poor thing. The good news is, once we’re off antibiotics, the gut microbes seem to find their balance again. And when we need those antibiotics, we need them, so thank goodness we have them! Hope you feel better soon. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. jmmcdowell

    I’ll just take advantage of the open comments here to let you know that I really do enjoy the informative posts you’re doing. They are definitely enlightening! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you! Glad to hear it. It’s a way to keep my website active and hopefully give people quick info without taking too much of their time. But I thought I better open comments now and then, so people don’t start to think I’m a bot. 😁

      Liked by 2 people

    • Carrie Rubin

      Who would’ve thought we’d be treating people with fecal transplants?! Hopefully someday we’ll find they’re useful beyond treatment of C. diff infection (which is their primary use now).

      Like

  7. Audrey Kalman

    There’s also a lot of research coming out related to birth and the microbiome. Penny Simkin, a long-time proponent of healthy birth practices and support for women, has a “microbiome scorecard” on her website so parents can see whether the circumstances of their baby’s birth support development of a healthy microbiome (https://www.pennysimkin.com/scorecard). Of course, breastfeeding plays a big role!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      Yes! I was just mentioning something along those lines in my comment to Elyse. Starting early, before baby’s even born, and continuing with breast feeding if possible, might set the groundwork for a healthy microbiome and prevent some of these chronic inflammatory and allergic diseases down the line. And thank you for the link. Very interesting to see that scorecard. We have to be careful about elective C-sections too. Passing through the birth canal is an important way to get healthy microbes.

      Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Good on both counts! When we need antibiotics, thank goodness they’re there. But they get prescribed far too often for viral illnesses, where they won’t do a bit of good.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Elyse

        No, they’ll never put me in a trial — I’m too complicated, too many comorbid conditions. 😦

        Plus my doctor doesn’t think poop transfers work for crohn’s. So I wait. I’m hoping that this fungal theory pans out. Or something!

        Like

        • Carrie Rubin

          Yes, they’re mostly using the fecal transplants for C.diff infection. But maybe with the focus now on microbiomes, we can make them healthy from the start (as soon as baby pops out–even sooner with mom) and prevent some of these inflammatory conditions from happening.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Elyse

            Yes, alas. None for me ;(. And I’ve been reading a lot on the possible causes. Antibiotics in childhood (although I wasn’t terribly sick and the one time I was with scarlett fever my brother and sister were too and THEY didn’t get this). So who knows.

            We’ll see. I’m off to my treatment now, actually. There’s nothing like drugs!

            Liked by 1 person

  8. 1WriteWay

    Have you read Gulp by Mary Roach? A lot of good information, including a chapter on fecal transplants. Reading it helped me get a perspective on my own gastrointestinal issues. It can be difficult to eat healthy when you’re working, working, working. Before we started getting Home Chef, we just cooked the same meals over and over because we didn’t have the mental energy or imagination. Home Chef was/is a great way to discover veggies we hadn’t ever thought of cooking and now we’ve incorporated them into our regular meals.
    Eventually we’ll stop the service, but we now have a whole binder full of healthy meals to choose from 🙂 And my husband makes yogurt (yay!).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      I haven’t heard of Home Chef. I’ll have to look into it. We’re lucky in that our new townhome is only a block away from a market with great produce. If the kids aren’t around for dinner, hubs and I will walk over and make ourselves a great salad to go.

      As for the book “Gulp,” I haven’t read it. Sound good. I’m currently reading the book I referenced above, “I Contain Multitudes,” which is what got me thinking about this post. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • 1WriteWay

        Gulp is entertaining although sometimes Roach overdoes the puns (I don’t think she’s ever met a pun she didn’t like). Home Chef has been very convenient and it’s easy to “pause” the service whenever we want to take a break. The only real downside is I do get tired of cooking every night, especially during the work week. I am so looking forward to my husband’s retirement when (fingers crossed) he’ll be doing most of the cooking 😉

        Like

        • Carrie Rubin

          Ha, I wish I could say the same. Cooking does not seem to be in my husband’s radar. At all. But plenty of other things are like the laundry, so I can’t complain. 😁

          Like

  9. painterwrite

    I just listened to a podcast about parasites and it said, of our total body mass, only our lower leg is actually made up of “human” cells, the rest are parasites and microbes! Good thing I had yogurt for breakfast to keep them happy…I’d hate for them to revolt.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. lardavbern

    I’ve been hearing more and more talk about the gut and health. Is it a coincidence or have recent studies come out about it? Or am I just getting old?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      You’re not imagining it! Definitely more info coming out about it. With anything new, sometimes all the wonderful claims don’t pan out later, but there seems to be enough good research out there to show how important a healthy gut microbiome is. Just think of how successful fecal transplants have been in helping people recover from recurrent C. diff disease (a nasty infection of the bowel). Or maybe you don’t want to think about that, especially near lunchtime. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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