A closer look at gut health with Marlin Carlin (2021 year in review)
I’m always studying the latest research in gut health. And as we near the end of 2021, I wanted to share my biggest takeaways with you over the past year. By looking at the science, we can glean important information to apply to our daily lives, rebuild our microbiomes, and support better health.
“If you want to get more out of life and have richer experiences, rebalancing the microbiome is the first place to start.”
- Rodney Dietert, PhD
Back in 2016, when the microbiome was beginning to take center stage as a potential driver in chronic disease, Dr. Rodney Reynolds Dietert PhD published The Human Superorganism: How the Microbiome is Revolutionizing the Pursuit of a Healthy Life. Over the past five years since, great strides have been made in connecting our modern lifestyles to the destruction of the fragile ecosystem of our guts and how this is impacting human health across the globe.
We're all aware of some things, like the fact that antibiotics can alter our microbiomes, or the water can impact our gut health. But why are these concepts so important to understand? And what are some actions we can take from that information? These are some of the questions I wanted to answer for you today, so you can move forward feeling fortified in your health journey.
Pharmaceuticals in public water supply can impact microbiome health.
Public water supplies are treated with chlorine. Recent research from Rutgers University showed that there was a significantly higher development of weight gain in mice who consumed chlorinated water. Another area of concern with public water supplies is pharmaceutical pollution. Pharmaceuticals get into the water supply via human excretion and by drugs being flushed down the toilet. Wastewater treatment does not test for or remove pharmaceutical pollution from the water. Good quality water filtration to remove these pollutants is essential to overall gut health.
Antibiotics are not just found in prescriptions.
When we think about antibiotics, which can greatly alter our microbiome, we frequently just think about the prescription written for us by the doctor, however, there are many hidden sources of antibiotics in the food supply. Antibiotics are used in most packaged foods as preservatives. They are also used in animal agriculture to promote growth and enable large scale animal husbandry operations. Eliminate prepackaged foods with preservatives and choose antibiotic-free meats.
54% of the core human gut bacterial species are potentially sensitive to glyphosate widely found in grains and crops.
Glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide around the world, is also patented as an antibiotic. Glyphosate is now used to desiccate cereal, bean and seed crops before harvest to speed up and standardize the drying process. Glyphosate targets an enzyme called EPSPS in the shikimate pathway. The shikimate pathway provides carbon skeletons for the aromatic amino acids L-tryptophan, L-phenylalanine, and L-tyrosine. Researchers in Finland classified 80-90% of microbial species as sensitive or resistant to glyphosate and showed that 54% of the core human gut bacterial species are potentially sensitive to glyphosate. Avoid grains and crops that are dried with glyphosate. Look for non-GMO labels.
High Fructose Corn Syrup supplemented foods result in the destruction of beneficial buytrate-producing bacteria.
HFCS is a cheap sugar substitute derived from corn starch that contains high amounts of fructose. It is used to sweeten foods and lengthen their shelf life. Fructose is twice as sweet as glucose and can cause you to crave foods with HFCS. HFCS alters the microbiome and is associated with obesity, insulin resistance, non-alcoholic fatty liver, diabetes, high blood pressure and colon cancer. HFCS blocks copper metabolism, HFCS supplemented foods result in the destruction of beneficial buytrate producing bacteria, while naturally occurring fructose from fruits has the opposite effect. HFCS is hidden in many foods where you might not think it would be. Some hidden sources (ketchup, apple sauce, crackers, relish, processed/flavored oatmeal, cold cuts, peanut butter, snack bars, juices, cereal, salad dressings, canned soups, flavored yogurt, canned tomatoes, bread). HFCS goes straight to your liver and starts the fat factory. If you have trouble losing weight, hidden sources of this sure may be a contributor. Read the Label carefully. Other names for HFCS are corn syrup, glucose syrup, glucose/fructose syrup, isoglucose, tapioca syrup, dahlia syrup, fruit fructose and crystalline fructose.
Artificial sweeteners can induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiome.
Researchers from the Weitzman Institute in Israel showed that non-calorie artificial sweetener consumption can induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiome. Don’t think that switching to zero calorie, sugar substitutes will be better for you.
Certain emulsifiers can have detrimental impacts to the gut microbiota.
Emulsifiers are detergent-like molecules used in food production in many processed foods to stabilize oil-in-water emulsions (e.g. salad dressing), disburse oil soluble flavors, prevent ice crystals in frozen foods (e.g. ice cream) and enhance baked products. Recent research on the emulisifier, carboxymethylcellulose revealed detrimental impacts to the gut microbiota and metabolome. Emulsifiers can contribute to a thinning of the mucous liner of the gut which is our primary protective layer in the immune system. When this delicate mucous lining is disrupted, bacteria can come in contact with the gut epithelial cells which activates an inflammatory cascade. Emulsifiers could be a major contributor to Leaky Gut syndrome. Avoid processed foods. Look for ingredients on food labels like carrageenan, soy lecithin, polysorbates, and guar gum.
Fermented foods support the immune system and do an even better job than a high fiber diet in supporting a healthy gut ecosystem.
Stanford University’s Justin Sonnenburg published a study this year showing that a fermented foods diet increases microbiome diversity and decreases the production of inflammatory proteins.
Fiber, also called “prebiotic,” can help the gut microbiome but will not do so as a stand alone strategy.
The same research from the Sonnenburg lab showed that a high fiber diet alone did not increase microbiome diversity and was unable to achieve a reduction in inflammatory markers. Be careful when you are choosing high fiber foods as many high fiber foods (lentils, beans and grains) are desiccated using glyphosate which damages the microbiome. High fiber vegetables like asparagus, onions and leeks are some of your best bets.
Food is information and your body is a quantum computer.
When you chew your food, receptors in your mouth are assessing the information from the food and communicating with your brain so that the body knows what to do with the ingredients it is receiving. The food we eat has gathered information about the environment in which it was grown so that environmental information is part of what is assessed in this process. Sixty or more years ago most of the food we ate was grown and sourced locally. Now our foods come from all over the world and we can eat our favorite foods any time of the year. This, of course, provides confusing information to our brain and body about the environment we are living in and how and when it should be adapting to changes. Consider eating only locally grown food that is “in season”. This will provide the most relevant information to your body. The book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver chronicles a year with her family eating only what the seasonal local food systems could supply.
Oral health is critical to gut health.
Research continues to grow connecting oral bacteria to health problems like Alzheimer’s disease. Floss daily and brush after meals to remove debris from teeth that can feed bad oral bacteria. Avoid simple carbohydrates and sugars that stick to teeth and provide the fuel for bacterial growth. Good dental hygiene and regular check ups to ensure your gums are healthy can be an easy way to protect your brain.
I hope this list is helpful for you, particularly as you look to the new year and consider ways to improve your gut health. We’ll be covering these topics in depth and providing lots of actionable tips and resources in 2022.
And if you’d like to try our Sugar Shift probiotic, which helps your gut microbiome transform unneeded accumulations of sugars, join us for our next Sugar Shift Challenge kicking off in January! You'll get to measure your health data and improvements, while contributing to product research and development.