Optimize your Microbiome with Dr. Katie DiNello

Brigid BourqueAll CategoriesLeave a Comment

by Dr. Katie DiNello

The microbiome refers to all the microorganisms living in your digestive tract. Researchers estimate there are anywhere from 500 to 1,000 different bacterial species in the human microbiome. While we do know a lot about what makes a healthy microbiome, there is no one single, perfect makeup across all individuals. Let’s dive into ways to optimize your microbiome!

Important Microbiome Functions
The living organisms in the digestive tract have several important roles. They produce an immunoglobulin called IgA, which protects against infections. They produce more than 40% of the metabolites in our blood, including neurotransmitters, vitamins, amino acids, and hormones. They even generate up to 10% of our energy by producing short-chain fatty acids. Our microbiome is important for maintaining an anti-inflammatory status, enhancing intestinal motility, and promoting mucosal integrity.

The Microbiome and Chronic Diseases
We don’t have research that proves microbiome dysfunctions directly cause specific chronic diseases. However, we do have great data showing correlations between changes in the microbiome and certain diseases.

Currently, we know microbiome changes are associated with the following diseases:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • IBS and IBD
  • Celiac Disease
  • Diverticular Disease
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Autism
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Obesity

Assess your Microbiome
There are many ways to assess your microbiome. Of course, your symptoms and clinical presentation give us great insight into your gut health. However, we can assess gut health in many ways:

  • Inflammation and blood in your stool
  • Pancreatic enzymes and stomach acid
  • General dysbiosis or the diversity of your microbiome
  • Parasites
  • Intestinal permeability
  • SIBO Breath Test
  • Food sensitivity testing
  • Post-biotics

Manifestations of a Sub-Optimal Microbiome
Reduced gut function can manifest in a variety of ways and contribute to many GI conditions. There is an association between increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and a lack of diversity in the microbiome. Leaky gut can be due to eating processed foods and refined sugars, alcohol, medication use (especially NSAIDs, antibiotics, and acid blockers), infections, chronic stress, food sensitivities, genetic factors, and environmental toxins. IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, is also a consequence of changes to the microbiome. It can also be due to altered serotonin metabolism in the gut, reduced pancreatic enzymes, food sensitivities, infections, and increased mucosal permeability. SIBO or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, occurs when bacteria from the large intestine colonize in the small intestine and interfere with food absorption. The bacteria ferment the food we eat and cause bloating. SIBO can cause dysbiosis in our microbiome, or a dysfunctional microbiome can contribute to the development of SIBO.

Optimize your Microbiome
The key to having a healthy microbiome is to eat a diversity of plants. Aim for 20-30 different plants each week, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, herbs, and spices. Additionally, fiber helps improve the diversity of the gut. Aim for at least 30 grams per day. Fiber from pre-biotics like inulin, polyphenols, garlic, and onion is especially great for improving this diversity. Pre-biotics feed the bacteria in the gut and encourage their growth. Other pre-biotic foods include chicory and burdock root, artichokes, dandelion greens, leeks, bananas, barley, apples, and asparagus. Eat probiotics daily! My favorite sources are kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, Kefir, miso, and tempeh.

Taking post-biotics such as butyrate may also benefit some people. Butyrate is produced by many bacteria in our large intestine. It helps regulate gene expression, reduce inflammation and oxidation, and improves leaky gut. Additionally, focus on your daily healthy habits. Exercise regularly, modulate your stress response, reduce inflammation, optimize sleep, spend time outside, reduce use of endocrine disruptors, and avoid over-the-counter pain medications and acid suppressors as much as possible.

If you’re interested in assessing and optimizing your gut microbiome, reach out to our clinic to schedule with one of naturopathic doctors!

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