There is a ton of science emerging from this field of the gut microbiome. It’s a unique health concept that has gotten a lot more attention lately as more and more studies are being produced.
First of all, what is the gut microbiome? In your intestinal tract, there are billions and billions of bacteria. This might sound a bit strange but they are actually helpful for providing nutrients and to help break down food. There is a symbiotic relationship between the bacteria we have in our intestines and they are necessary for better health. How this affects your health comes down to what type of bacteria we have.
Some have shown correlation to lower body fat percentage, less incidence of heart disease, and other illnesses. There is always a turnover that happens as old bacteria dies, new bacteria come in, and the diversity of the bacteria can shift in positive and negative directions. Researchers have been able to track what type of bacteria are more common in healthy people and what bacteria are more common in less healthy individuals. With further studies, it will become more clear as to what an optimal bacterial situation might look like. This research is still very new and what works well for a person with a certain set of ancestry and genes might not be the best match for a different population.
There was recently a very large study conducted in an effort to map what types of bacteria individuals have as they age. The study was performed in China and it included over 1000 individuals with ages ranging from 3-100 years old. This is a huge population for the study and it allowed the researchers to see what the healthy individuals had in common with the less healthy ones. The difference in microbiome between the very healthy 90-year-olds and healthy 30-year-olds were almost nonexistent. Their bacteria were very similar in diversity. The older individuals whose age declined more rapidly had less diversity in their microbiome compared to 30 years olds and to very healthy 90-year-olds.
This was an effort to get a greater understanding of what optimal health might look like in the gut and further investigation is needed.
What’s difficult to understand in this study is did healthy 90-year-olds stay healthy because of their gut microbiome or do they have healthy bacteria because they are already ageing well? It’s and chicken and egg problem and it will be very interesting to see how much a person’s health would improve by getting healthier bacteria in their gut.
The current market for supplementing with probiotics is expanding rapidly and it’s important to know what to look for. More is not always better when it comes to probiotics. The difficulty when buying probiotics in supplement form is knowing if you are getting a bacteria that would actually be helpful to your own microbiome. Another common problem is knowing if the bacteria is still alive or not after being packaged, handled, and stored.
Here are a few helpful pointers that can help keep your gut healthy. Feed the good bacteria that you already have. The majority of your microbiome is in your large intestine. This is one of the last stops that your food intake reaches before being eliminated. This is where your bacteria uses the material that the body has been unable to absorb. Fibrous food is something that the bacteria thrives off and getting a good amount of this in your diet is a great way for cultivating good bacteria. This is where a symbiotic relationship really happens as the bacteria help produce vitamins after breaking down the foods that we can not. Foods such as vegetables, plants, fruit, nuts, seeds, and other whole unprocessed foods like these will help fuel your good bacteria. These types of food products will allow your own microbiome to produce vitamin B and vitamin K. More refined carbohydrates sources will not have the same cellular structure and will be broken up and absorbed way before reaching this end station. Foods that are higher in added sugar will help fuel less beneficial bacteria.
Another strategy that might be beneficial is including fermented foods that contain beneficial bacterias. Foods such as kefir (fermented yogurt), sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, yogurt, and etc can be beneficial as well.
Managing stress and getting enough sleep is also something that will affect your overall microbiome and this is far more important than any probiotic supplement one might take.
B.S. Exercise Science from Lindenwood University
Started CrossFit in 2010.
Favorite thing about what I do:
To help and see people improve their fitness and confidence
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association
CF L1 Coach
CF L2 Coach
USAW Sports Performance Coach & club coach
Latest posts by Oscar Isacsson, M.S., CSCS (see all)
- Gut Health and Better Aging - November 16, 2017
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