This week, I’m going a little off brand because I want to talk about something that is important to me and hopefully important to all of you: your health (specifically, your gut health).
Sometimes we forget to be thankful for our health and for the body that God gave us. And when we think about health, nutrition, wellness and so on, it can be overwhelming. There is a lot of information out there — some good and some just plain misleading. It’s difficult to sort through it all and figure out what is “right or wrong”.
So, I want to share a bit of what I have learned at a recent conference. I’ll tell you about some facts I gathered from two experts who I very much trust: Dr. Uche Odiatu and David Meinz.
Doctors Discuss Gut Health
Uche and David shared some wonderful information about the microbiome. Your microbiome is the collection of trillions of gut bacteria that live in and on your body. Yes, you heard that correctly: trillions. In fact, we have more microbiome bacteria cells on and in our bodies than we do human cells. And yet, the microbiome is something you probably know very little about. It’s actually not as widely covered in the conversation of health and wellness.
The health of your gut starts early
We begin developing our microbiome in the womb. Our second major microbiome influence is at birth. I am currently reading a book, The Microbiome Solution by Dr. Robynne Chutkan, a gastroenterologist. Chutkan tells a story about the day her daughter was born. During her pregnancy, she planned for a natural birth, and yet due to complications she had a cesarean section. Directly after her daughter’s birth, she was whisked away to the NICU where she was immediately given a hefty dose of antibiotics.
It was always Chutkan’s desire to have a natural birth. And at the time, she didn’t yet know about the microbiome. In fact, she was trained traditionally and was a bit skeptical about alternative medicine and science. Years later she learned that babies are exposed to important vaginal and rectal bacteria as they pass through the birth canal. And with a c-section, babies do not get the exposure to this helpful bacteria. Many years postpartum, Chutkan was discovered studies which show that children born through c-section are more prone to allergies, asthma and obesity as they grow up. Furthermore, giving babies antibiotics at birth can be equally detrimental to immune health. Today, she helps educate women and families on the importance of exposing newborns to this vital bacteria and mitigating their contact with antibiotics — only when the situation serves the best health and safety of both mother and child.
According to Chutkan, C-sections should truly only be used when there is a risk to the health of the mother or baby. Other than those risks, purely cosmetic or convenience c-sections are at the detriment of the baby’s health, and of course, unnecessary.
A Study on Gut Health
Here is another example of the importance of gut bacteria: in a study with two groups of mice, one group is sterile (no bacteria), and the other has a certain bacteria and is obese. They are eating the same diet but the sterile mice are at a healthy weight. The sterile mice receive a fecal material transplant (yes, icky but it happens — sorry little mice!) from the obese group and suddenly become obese themselves. This study indicated a connection between microbiome health and obesity.
It can also explain why some individuals are genetically inclined to being at a higher weight. Obesity can be a reflection of a certain microbiome that processes and takes calories from food in a different way — even with the same diet as someone who is not obese. And yet, Dr Odiatu reflects that “Genetics is your tendency, but not your destiny”. What he means is, yes your microbiome may have natural inclinations, but genetics can not be the scapegoat for all of our health concerns. Each individual has the opportunity to protect and serve our microbiomes well through the foods we eat and lifestyles we lead.
Making changes with food
There is a lot of information pertaining to health, wellness and nutrition. Yet, it is incredibly challenging to figure out who to listen to and how to sift through it all. I am sharing this information because I believe Uche and David are reliable resources and provide information that we all could use.
The average man in 1960 weighed 164 lbs. Today the average man weighs 191 lbs. That is not purely genetics. There is also something wrong with our food industry. Yes, we have choice and autonomy over what we eat and the food choices we make, but the availability of fresh, healthy, affordable food is not what is should be.
The food industry, the ill-advice we get about food, and the 24/7 availability of (for lack of a better word) bad food with huge portion sizes has compromised American health.
Why It Matters
I share this information because I think about my dad who died at 67 of a massive heart attack and wonder, if he’d had this information, how much more life could he have enjoyed? Would he have lived another 15, 20, 25 years? It’s a possibility.
There is a lot more I could share in this blog, but I couldn’t possibly fit it all into one post. I want to start the conversation here, and hear from you all. Maybe you will be inspired to learn more about your microbiome and taking care of your gut health (and yes I know this will be a challenge as Thanksgiving is next week).
Above all, follow your gut! Be thankful for all the work it does for you!
Let me know what you think in the comments below and if you find this kind of content valuable — this is only the start.