The heart beats a hundred thousand times a day without you knowing. You, without having to flinch a muscle breathe upwards of 30,000 times a day. There is so much going on in your body that you have no control over.
What if I were to tell you that there is a whole part of your body that trains your immune system, controls inflammation, impacts your brain and absorbs every bit of food you take in your body without you knowing it? Well, there is such a thing and it has a mind of its own. This part of your body is run by something other than your brain. This part of your body is the gut and it is inhabited with something other.
Small little colonies of living organisms that have a massive impact on your body are responsible for these processes. The truth is that over 90% of your genetic make-up is not your own, it’s your gut bacteria (1). Because the gut consists of 100 times more DNA than your actual body we must understand how the expression of that DNA is altered and damaged by what we eat.
What is the Microbiota?
You hear these words thrown around all of the time, gut flora, microbiome, microbiota, colon and large intestine. The problem is that we often don’t understand these terms fully. Let’s explain a couple of them now.
The microbiota consists of the living organisms inside of your gut. They are microbes that exist inside of our bodies in small tribes. It’s wildly similar to a city of people. Except, this city is hostile and property is more cut throat than Manhattan, believe it or not (1).
The micrbiome is a little more complex. If the microbiota consists of the living organisms the microbiome is the DNA that makes up those organisms. The Genes that compose those little bacteria are called the microbiome. The microbiome tells the little bacteria who to be, what to do and how to act (1).
This portion of your body is so vast, so complex that we can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the complexity of the tribes living in the gut (1). The main reason is that the human gut is so unique that we can’t recreate the environment in a lab. Meaning, we cannot grow the unique cultural strains in the gut in a petri dish to analyze them.
What the Microbiome Does
This portion of our body can make or break us. It can shift our energy to peak levels or sink us into autoimmune disorders. It can cause you to absorb every vitamin in that salad you had for lunch or absorb none of it at all.
The gut can cause inflammation in the body or reduce it. The gut is the epicenter of human health. More and more research is linking things like heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders, brain fog, depression, weight gain, chronic obesity, and other seemingly unrelated diseases, to the gut.
The crazy thing is that each and every one of us has the ability to bio-hack this part of our body. To get it running in tip top shape and turn us into super humans. To give us the power to do anything our minds can conceive. However, we can also destroy it by what we put in our mouths.
What Effects the Microbiome.
The truth is that the bacteria in our gut are small and thus have an extremely short life cycle. They turn over quickly and are metabolically active (2). The foods that we put in our body feed these microbes.
When these microbes are treated poorly they can turn bad and do so quickly. We can see changes in a microbiome within a day, good or bad (2). This truth points us to a scary reality.
Damage to the Genes
There are foods and drugs that can impact the genetic expression of the microbiome. Meaning, that toxins, environmental factors and prescription drugs can alter the DNA of the microbiome.
When we put these foreign objects into our body the small microbes will digest them. Meaning, they eat these compounds for fuel to live. This can present a problem if we’re regularly ingesting toxins.
Actually, in a normal, seemingly healthy adult, around one third of their microbiome consists of microbes with damaged cells (2). Meaning, that because of what they’ve ingested they have damaged the genes of the cells in their gut flora.
This can happen through a multitude of channels. There are a couple to consider. One of the major offender is Antibiotics. They can dramatically influence the genetic expression of the microbes and cause major damage (2).
Also, diet and lifestyle has a major impact on the microbes health (3). The foods that we take in on a regular basis dramatically effect the genetic expression of the cells in our gut. If we are constantly filling ourselves with fast food and toxins from factory farm raised meat and eggs we are damaging the DNA of our cells.
The last thing to consider would be your mood. A multitude of studies have been released that exemplify that negative thought patterns, bad stress and negativity alter the gut flora significantly. You can literally damage your cells with negative thoughts (4).
The Major Consequences
The truth is that damaging the DNA of your microbes is a serious offense. Once these cells are damaged they are malfunctioning. Meaning, they are not carrying out the correct functions that they were intended to do.
You can have issues such as autoimmune disorders, depression, inflammation and a host of other maladies. The gut flora being damaged like this can be devastating to your health.
The good news is that you can alter your gut flora within a few days. You can literally transform your gut in a matter of a week. Now, in doing so you change your trajectory not your destination.
Altering the gut flora will cause your body to begin to function correctly. However, years of abuse and an untrained immune system can take a long time to correct. You need to give your body time.
Major Steps to Take
(2) Xenobiotics Shape the Physiology and Gene Expression of the Active Human Gut Microbiome. Published in Cell Press Volume 152, Issues 1–2, 17 January 2013, Pages 39–50.
(3)The Effect of Diet on the Human Gut Microbiome: A Metagenomic Analysis in Humanized Gnotobiotic Mice. Published inTranslational Medicine 11 Nov 2009: Vol. 1, Issue 6, pp. 6ra14, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3000322