Our thumbprint may set us apart but perhaps more distinguishing is the composition of our microbiome. Our bodies house over 100 trillion internal microorganisms, a readily evolving composition that changes with each bite we take. These microorganisms– some good, some bad either make up a healthy composition or one out of balance– a state of dysbiosis associated with obesity, its related comorbidities and an increasing number of chronic diseases.
So what does a balanced flora look like and how do we obtain it?
When we are born, our GI tract is essentially sterile but accumulation of various microorganisms is soon to take place.
When it comes to a healthy flora, its all about feeding the good bacteria in the gut with an inulin-rich diet. Diversity is the key to a healthy flora and this is largely supported by an a diet rich in plants.
Inulin is indigestible plant polysaccarhides which serve as substrates for fermentation. It allows growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria and production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA) which reduce risk of developing gastrointestinal disorders, certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. One particular SCFA, butyrate nourishes the colonoscytes and protects against colon cancer, improves unwanted inflammation, acts as an epithelial defense barrier, and modulates intestinal motility. Some sources: Garlic, Chicory Root, Banana, Onion, Asparagus, Leeks.
A balanced flora composition plays a role in the following processes:
– Helping our body digest certain foods that the stomach and small intestine are not able to
– Synthesis of vitamins like biotin and vitamin K
– Production of hormones that play a role in fat storage
– Creation of some enzymes not produced by the human body
– Training of the immune system
– Preventing growth of harmful species
– Maintenance of intestinal mucosa integrity
What does an imbalanced flora look like?
The western diet is the culprit of a dysbiotic state.
The western diet is defined by high glycemic load (refined grain products), hydrogenated oils, and novel dietary components like dairy, domestic meat and refined sugar. In conjunction with these diets we find a composition of bacteria implicated in diseases listed below:
Obesity is associated with phylum-level differences in the microbiota and a significantly reduced bacterial diversity. This particular microbiota may be more efficient at extracting energy than a lean microbiota. Animal studies show that the macrobiotic composition plays a role in regulating fat storage. It’s known that obesity is a significant risk factor for inflammation of the liver, adipose, hypothalamus, muscle and increases of bad LPL cholesterol implicated in heart disease.
This map compares the flora biodiversity in 3 populations:
Plant-rich diet= diverse microbiota= Optimal
Strategies to treat microbiota disharmony- what you should be eating!
Prebiotics: these nondigestible oligosacarides act a fertilizers for food and include beans and inulin-rich foods (listed above). They selectively stimulate the growth and activity of intestinal bacteria associated with health and wellbeing.
Probiotics: These nonpathogenic live organisms are friendly bacteria that challenge the immune system in a healthy way and helps make it stronger. They help the body absorb important vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, chromium, and vitamins A, D, E, and K, just to name a few.
Sources: Kombucha, fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, kefir and aged cheeses.
In summary: eat more plants, prebiotics and probiotics to build a healthy and diverse flora. You significantly reduce your risk of developing diseases like Psoriasis, Obesity, Irritable Bowel Disease, and even cardiovascular disease. Result: healthier body composition, reduced risk of developing chronic disease, stronger digestion, better nutrient utilization and stronger immunity.