The Microbiome and Obesity

Digestion, Weight loss | July 24, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

probiotics, obesity

The Microbiome and Obesity

We all know good bacteria in the gut is beneficial for a healthy digestive system and can help with constipation, reflux, irritable bowel syndrome and in reducing gut bugs. But did you know that there is accumulating evidence that suggests a link between disturbed microbiome and a whole host of other problems such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and autoimmune diseases. Do these colonies of good bugs really impact our health in such a profound way? With all the recent research on this hot topic, the answer seems to be YES it does! Let’s explain why.

What is the microbiome?

The microbiome refers to an internal ecosystem of different microbes or microorganisms that inhabit our body.

The microbiome and obesityThese microbes can be commensal (along for the ride), symbiotic (offer a mutually beneficial relationship) or pathogenic (disease causing opportunistic microbes which in some cases are beneficial). These communities are unique to each individual and can inhabit everything from our skin, mouth and gut. These specific colonies are then referred to as our skin microbiota, mouth microbiota and our gut microbiota or flora.

According to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, “the human microbiota consists of the 10-100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells harboured by each person, primarily bacteria in the gut. The human ‘microbiome’ consists of the genes these cells harbour.” This statement suggests that these microbiomes are our “genetic footprints”—determining our unique DNA, predisposition to diseases, body type and weight and hereditary factors.

What are the benefits?

This mini-ecosystem of microbes carry out a variety of functions which affect every aspect of our health –vital for our wellbeing and survival. They play an important role in our immune system, determining whether other things are friend or foe. This helps create harmony and balance, within its own community, suppressing the overgrowth of pathogens, while also preventing the host system from attacking itself. They are an important line of defence which literally create a protective barrier on our skin and in our gut, transforming to suit an array of environments and an individual’s needs.

The microbes in our gut are essential for the healthy digestion of our foods and absorption of nutrients. They are also important for the synthesis of some nutrients themselves.

What contributes to our microbiome?

The Microbiome and Obesity 1Our microbiome changes and adapts throughout our lives.

As an infant, our first exposure to microscopic organisms can occur through the birth canal, followed by a dose of colostrum (mother’s first milk). This is meant to be nature’s way of establishing the foundation for a healthy microbiome—preventing disease and other illnesses in a child.

What we eat, how much we sleep, how much stress we have and many other factors all contribute to the health of our microbiome. In fact, every time you eat a meal, wash your hands or pat a dog you are affecting the composition of your microbiome.

Microbiome and metabolic syndrome

Improving the makeup of our gut microbes, with the information suggested in recent research, is an effective way to address weight-related problems. It has been found that adverse changes in a person’s microbiome influences the likelihood for developing obesity and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that include high blood sugars, high cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure and excess body fat. In short, an altered microbiome stimulates low-grade inflammation, influences host energy availability, increases fat deposition, decreases glucose uptake and insulin secretion leading to high blood sugars. Meanwhile they up-regulate lipogenesis (the metabolic formation of fat) and cholesterol and triglyceride synthesis. All of which is bad news for our health!

The microbiome diet

Our microbiome differs dramatically according to our diet. This suggests that our diet plays a huge role in the levels of healthy bacteria we have in our microbiome.

Foods that have a negative effect on our levels of healthy bacteria include:

  • Highly refined and rancid oils including cooking oils such as canola oil, corn and soybean. This includes trans and hydrogenated fats used in packaged and deep-fried foods.
  • Allergenic and intolerant foods such as corn, fish, dairy, nuts and wheat.
  • Processed and refined grain products, particularly if they have the fibre and other nutrients removed. Think biscuits, white bread, pastries and muffins.
  • Food and water that is contaminated with other chemicals and have unsafe counts of bacteria and other unsafe pathogens. This can include meats contaminated with bacteria and pesticide residue on fresh produce.
  • Foods high in refined sugars such as soft drinks, cordials, chocolate and ice-cream. Even eating too many ‘healthy sugars’ such as fruit can fuel the growth of unhealthy microbes.
  • Eating too many animal and grain products, with too little fruits and vegetables.
  • Excessive alcohol intake and smoking cigarettes

On the other hand, here are some foods that promote a healthy microbiome:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, with plenty of serves each day and cooked to preserve their nutrients. Aim to have a variety of different coloured vegetables including leafy greens, broccoli, garlic, onions, salad greens, beetroot, capsicum and sweet potato. Avoid fruit juices, instead eat the fruit whole.The microbiome and obesity
  • Try probiotic or fermented foods that naturally contain healthy yeasts and bacteria. This includes natural yoghurt, kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut.
  • When it comes to good health, quality of food is more important than quantity. Try buying organic or free-range foods. Buying grass-fed meat is ideal as the final product is higher in nutrients like omega-3.
  • Eat foods high in fibre— including wholefoods such as oats, whole rye, black rice, fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils and quinoa. Fibre’s such as slippery elm, psyllium husks, aloe vera, inulin and oligosaccharides are very beneficial. These foods and supplements are all considered prebiotics as they contain “fuel” for the beneficial bacteria that live within your gut.

Probiotics to the rescue

Supplementing with probiotics are a sure-fire way to establish a healthy microbiome throughout your whole body. Finding what strain is right for you might depend on what concerns you had. However, a specific strain of probiotic called Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG has been found to replenish the gut microbiome, supresses pathogenic organisms and improve our gut lining.
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How else can you establish a healthy microbiome?

Antibiotics and other medications can alter our microbiome—affecting our immune and digestive system. While sometimes these medications are necessary, infections or other health concerns may respond well to natural alternatives. It’s also important to exercise, get enough sleep and manage your stress levels as much as possible.

References

Ursell LK, et al. Defining the human microbiome. Nutr Rev. 2012 Aug;70(Suppl 1):S38-S44

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3426293/

Boulangé CL, et al. Impact of the gut microbiota on inflammation, obesity, and metabolic disease. Genome Med. Apr 2016;8:42

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4839080/

Oriach CS, et. Food for thought: the role of nutrition in the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Clin Nutr Exp.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S235293931600004X

Korpela K, et al. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG intake modifies preschool children’s intestinal microbiota, alleviates penicillin-associated changes, and reduces antibiotic use. PLoS One. 2016;11(4):e0154012

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4844131/

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