Microbiomes: Listen to your gut. Literally!

Published by Katie Gray on

Our stomachs talk to our brain more even than our brain talks to our bodies, but are we listening?

If we don’t, it’s detrimental to our mental, emotional and physical health, according to representatives from UC-VEG and nutrition authorities. 

“Your gut is connected to your brain in a way that is so powerful that it would be fair to call your brain’s best friend the gut,” says Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist whose work is recommended by UC-VEG, the local Umpqua community veg education group. 

Some people believe that changing the gut’s microbiome is the beginning of improving overall health, reducing sickness and helping prevent cancer. 

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A microbiome is a symbiotic existence inside of each person’s gut of bacteria that is partly inherited from that person’s mother and is partly developed with time. It consists of 10 to 100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells, according to Nutrition Reviews published by the National Library of Medicine. 

“The microbiome are just like us; they have their own personalities, they have their own skill sets, and they have their own dietary preferences,” Bulsiewicz says. However, they have to be fed.

By choosing to eat 30 different plants a week (including herbs and spices), a person can change their microbiome for health, Aprill Gilliom, a community nutrition coordinator for UC-VEG, says.

Gilliom teaches a UC-VEG lifestyle and nutrition course on fiber and digestion. “A plant diversity approach to pre-biotics leads to a bounty of short-chain fatty acids created by a diverse microbiome moving from the gut to the bloodstream and circulating to the tip of the head to the tip of toes and even nourishing areas on the other side of the blood-brain barrier.”

Short-chain fatty acids come from fiber in the diet that are broken down by the microbiome. “Fiber doesn’t disappear; it doesn’t dissolve; it doesn’t just escape the body. It gets transformed into the short-chain fatty acids,” Bulsiewicz says, “the most healing, most anti-inflammatory compound that exists in all of nature.”

Short-chain fatty acids could be the key to fighting our sicknesses and possibly anxiety and depression.  They also suppress colon cancer cells, Bulsiewicz says. Seventy percent of our immune system is in our gut, and the fatty acids are helping grow the immune system, Bulsiewicz says.

By adding vegetables to each meal like spinach and eggs with an avocado toast helps earn those plant points.
Katie Gray / The Mainstream

“People who have the most intense, most severe COVID-19 are more deficient in the microbes that produce short-chain fatty acids,” Bulsiewicz says. “The gut microbiome in people who suffer with mood disorders has been changed,” Bulsiewicz says.

Lesley Baird, a UCC student, says, “Our bodies don’t function properly without the proper nutrition, so why would our brains be any different?” Baird was reading articles on nutrition for a UCC course. 

Eating healthy, especially 30 different plants a week, can be complicated, but it can be fun.  People can challenge themselves or others to eat different plants to earn “plant points” to see who can get the most. Smoothies can make eating plants interesting by putting different fruits and vegetables together to make a new flavor. Broccoli sprouts also can be grown from seed in five to seven days on the counter. It’ll be a sprout that can be eaten, and it can aid in decreasing the risk of cancer, Bulsiewicz says. 

“Eating foods rich in dietary fats and plant foods rich in phytonutrients can support a healthy brain which helps improve memory. Diets that contain fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, herbs and seeds, promote a brain-boosting memory function,” Zoey Ralston, a UCC AAOT student, says. Ralston wants to earn a bachelor’s degree in either psychology or immunology.  

In just five days, the gut microbiome can be changed for the better, Bulsiewicz says. The results could potentially be life-changing.

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