Modern Influences On Your Microbiome
ByKatarina Meister, ND •September 13, 2022
The gut microbiota maintains various functions vital to living a healthy life. A person’s microbiota is unique and specific to their lifestyle, environment, and nutrition choices.[i] The colonization of a newborn’s gastrointestinal tract is complete around the first week of life, but the number and species of bacteria fluctuate during the first year of life and so on.[ii] One’s birth (ie. vaginal versus c-section), breastfeeding history, the duration of the pregnancy, and stress levels of the mother during the pregnancy can impact one’s microbiota throughout life.
Modern factors that influence your microbiota include:
- Lack of fermented foods
- Proinflammatory diet
- Antibiotics and hormones in proteins and dairy
- Hormone imbalances
- Environmental toxins: xenobiotics, pesticides, GMO foods
Microbiota imbalance or gut dysbiosis is the disruption of the intestinal ecosystem equilibrium and is responsible of low-grade inflammation.[iii] Gut dysbiosis has been associated with a variety of human diseases including but not limited to autoimmune diseases and allergies, asthma, eczema, colon cancer, metabolic diseases (obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome), and bacterial infections.[iv] When you heal the gut microbiota, you can address and prevent various diseases.
Signs of a Microbiota Dysbiosis:
- Excessive gas or belching
- Food sensitivities
- Chronic allergies or congestion
- Brain fog
- Chronic Pain
The microbiome and immune system play an intricate role together to keep balance and maintain intestinal homeostasis. Disruption can lead to undesired immune reactions such as food allergies or inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis). When finding the root cause of dysbiosis, it is essential to go back to the beginning of a person’s life timeline. Finding out the details of your birth, childhood illnesses, and antibiotic usage can help provide context to the present day.
A newborn’s immunity and intestinal immunity rely upon antibodies and other breast milk components (prebiotics, probiotics, antigens, antibodies) passed on from their mothers. Children who are breastfed receive numerous antigens daily from breastmilk whereas formula-fed children receive large amounts of cow’s milk antigens. Studies show that breastfed children develop fewer allergic diseases than bottle-fed children.[v] Furthermore, in a cohort study, there was an association between reduced risk of atopic eczema in infants and the consumption of probiotic milk of mothers during pregnancy.[vi] The approach to allergies in recent years has been simply allergy avoidance. Studies are finding that immune responses induced early in life, and a diversified microbiota are key in preventing immune-mediated diseases such as allergies and autoimmunity.[vii]
How to support your microbiome at home:
- Support your immune system! Get 8-9 hrs of sleep and drink 60% of your body weight in ounces of water daily.
- Food diversity! Eat as many diverse kinds of foods as you can tolerate. Aim for a colorful plate!
- Eat fermented foods daily: tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi
- Fiber – aim for 30 grams/day. Aim for half your plate to be vegetables and leafy greens.
- Eat a diverse amount of well-sourced protein (pasture-raised eggs and chicken, grass-fed red meat, wild-caught salmon.)
- Drink bone broth. Bone broth is a good source of L-glutamine which is an amino acid that helps to repair your intestinal lining.
- Avoid food sensitivities: If you are having trouble identifying foods that are triggers to your symptoms, food sensitivity testing can bring in objective data that can help!
- Avoid sugar (especially sugar alcohols and added sugars), a good goal is <5g of sugar per serving
- Limit grains to no more than 1 serving a day.
- Decrease environmental exposures: buy organic, filter your water, use glass containers vs plastic, and avoid processed and GMO foods.
If your symptoms persist, I recommend further testing to rule out any dysbiosis in the large or small intestine. Testing may or may not include food sensitivity testing, SIBO breath test, or a stool test.
Natural medicine has a unique ability to address underlying causes of dysbiosis. Potential causes include high stress, low thyroid hormones, correcting low stomach acid, poor bile flow, slow transit time or a leaky gut to name a few. Key components to healing the gut include supporting the immune system, decreasing inflammation through nutrition, clearing the dysbiosis with antimicrobials, and re-inoculating the large intestine with beneficial bacteria.
[i] Nagpal R, Yadav H and Marotta F (2014) Gut microbiota: the next-gen frontier in preventive and therapeutic medicine? Front. Med. 1:15. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2014.00015
[ii] Verhasselt V. Oral tolerance in neonates: from basics to potential prevention of allergic disease. Mucosal Immunol. 2010 Jul;3(4):326-33. doi: 10.1038/mi.2010.25. Epub 2010 May 19. PMID: 20485330.
[iii] Funct Neurol Rehabil Ergon 2013;3(2-3):149-171.
[iv] Prakash S, Rodes L, Coussa-Charley M, Tomaro-Duchesneau C. Gut microbiota: next frontier in understanding human health and development of biotherapeutics. Biologics. 2011;5:71-86. doi: 10.2147/BTT.S19099. Epub 2011 Jul 11. PMID: 21847343; PMCID: PMC3156250.
[v] Verhasselt V. Oral tolerance in neonates: from basics to potential prevention of allergic disease. Mucosal Immunol. 2010 Jul;3(4):326-33. doi: 10.1038/mi.2010.25. Epub 2010 May 19. PMID: 20485330.
[vi] Parigi SM, Eldh M, Larssen P, Gabrielsson S and Villablanca EJ (2015) Breast milk and solid food shaping intestinal immunity. Front. Immunol. 6:415.
[vii] Verhasselt V. Oral tolerance in neonates: from basics to potential prevention of allergic disease. Mucosal Immunol. 2010 Jul;3(4):326-33. doi: 10.1038/mi.2010.25. Epub 2010 May 19. PMID: 20485330.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.