5 Interesting Facts About the Human Microbiome

The human microbiome is fascinating! There has been a HUGE paradigm switch over the past couple of years, as we are beginning to realize just how important our diverse colonies of microbes are for our body. We went from fearing ALL bacteria, to realizing how much we need it to thrive and survive.

 

LOVEBUGS@

Here are 5 interesting facts you may not have known about our collective “bugs” or bacteria known as the microbiome!

Our body holds more than 100 trillion bacteria all over our skin, all over our body, in our mouths, ears, nose, armpits, and throughout our intestines. They live in diverse bacterial communities collectively known as (or the new trendy term) “The Human Microbiome.”

What exactly does the microbiome do for us? These tiny buggars communicate with each other, and can synthesize vitamins and minerals, act as a “soldier” or “gatekeeper” in our gut to help keep pathogens out, boost our immune system, help us to digest our food, helps with our mood (some important brain chemicals like serotonin are actually synthesized mainly in the gut), helps prevent GI disorders like IBS and Crohn’s Disease…and science is constantly finding more roles these beneficial bacteria play. The health of the microbiome has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even heart disease. Our bugs are pretty important, and we need to take care of them!

Here are 5 Facts you might not have known about the amazing microbiome:

1.  Our microbiome can weighs as much as an organ…approximately 3 pounds but can weigh up to as much as 5 pounds…5 pounds of microscopic bacteria that are working together in large communities to take care of YOU!

 

2.  Our microbes need to eat to survive too! This is where the concept of “prebiotics” comes into play. We take probiotics to replace beneficial bacteria, we take prebiotics to essentially feed that bacteria so it can survive, thrive, and colonize. Prebiotics are found in fiber rich foods-such as plantains and bananas, as well as asparagus, garlic, and onions. Prebiotic fiber is not digested, but rather works symbiotically with probiotics to increase the population of good bacteria. One form of prebiotics are resistant starches. Resistant starches are starches that we do not digest, but rather are utilized in the GI tract to feed bacteria, and have been shown to have many other health benefits. Resistant starch forms in foods after cooking and cooling. One example is using potatoes-cooking and cooling them forms resistant starch.

 

3.  The way your baby enters the world has a permanent affect on their microbiome! Scientists are finding that pregnant women pass significant microbes onto their infant while the infant passes through the birthing canal.  One study examined the changes in vaginal microbiome during pregnancy.  As early as the first trimester, the diversity of vaginal bacteria changes immensely. Species that were once quite abundant dissipate, and new species of bacteria arrive. One species that forms in the vagina, Lactobacillus johnsonii is usually found only in the gut, where it produces enzymes that digest milk. Changing conditions in the vagina during pregnancy encourage this strain of bacteria to grow.  During delivery, the baby will be covered by Lactobacillus johnsonii and even ingest some of it. This prepares the infant to be able to digest breastmilk. When passing through the birthing canal the baby swallows and is bathed in bacteria and even some feces. Babies are born down by the anus for a reason! There are colonies of beneficial bacteria down there. Babies born via cesarian are more likely to struggle with health problems like asthma, allergies, eczema, type 1 diabetes and celiac disease.

Some cesarian sections are necessary. What can a parent do to ensure baby gets bathed with this beneficial bacteria? One way to pass beneficial bacteria on to a cesarian delivered baby is via vaginal seeding, a way to bath the baby with bacteria from the vagina upon delivery. Skin to skin contact with a parent vs being swaddled continues to pass bacteria to baby. Breastfeeding is also extremely important to continue to inoculate baby with beneficial bacteria.

 

4.  Let your kiddos get their hands dirty and even taste a little! We are obsessed with hand washing, sanitizing, and cleanliness in our culture. This is not necessarily always a good thing. There are beneficial bacteria in soil. Babies put everything in their mouth for a reason, more than just exploration. Many cultures actually eat dirt and they perceive eating dirt as a normal thing. It helps strengthen the immune system and build up our resistance to pathogenic bacteria.

In fact, our cultural fear of dirt is having a negative impact on our microbiome!  According to Chris Kresser, author of Your Personal Paleo Code:

“Our culture’s obsessive attention to cleanliness, sanitation, and hygiene may actually be having unintended consequences on our immune system. While a sanitary environment may be crucial in areas such as hospitals or food production, our general avoidance of dirt, bacteria, and other infectious agents may be causing our under-stimulated immune system to become over-reactive to benign antigens.”

“Eating dirt” is associated with protection from chemicals, parasites, bad bacteria and toxins. So don’t fear dirt so much! Go ahead and let your kids dig, play, and get dirty.

 

5. Obese individuals tend to have a makeup of bacteria in their intestine that is different from that of people who are of normal weight. Recent evidence suggests that there is a link between metabolic diseases such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes and the bacterial populations in the gut. The proportion of two major groups of bacteria in the large intestine, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes may play a large role. In this study comparing the distal gut microbiota of obese mice and their lean couterparts the researchers found that the obese microbiome has an increased capacity to harvest energy from the diet. Obesity was associated with changes in the abundance of bacteroidetes and firmicutes. They also found that the trait was transmissible:

“colonization of germ-free mice with an ‘obese microbiota’ results in a significantly greater increase in total body fat than colonization with a ‘lean microbiota’. These results identify the gut microbiota as an additional contributing factor to the pathophysiology of obesity.”

The human gut microbiota is an extremely complex and important system that affects human health. Up until recent times we have disregarded it’s existence and treated all bacteria as pathogenic. This has had a profound affect on our health, and the health of our offspring. We need to “water the flowers” and take care of our microbiome, so these trillions of bugs can in turn take care of us!

*Up next week: Ways you can nurture your microbes!

LOVE YOUR BUGS!!!

5 Foods To Avoid Introducing to Children

 

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There are many foods out there that are marketed to parents and children. Companies produce fancy packaging, loud commercials with happy kids, and buzz words for parents like:

“part of this nutritious breakfast”

“part of a balanced meal”

“18 vitamins and minerals included”

“healthy whole grains”

We are HUGE consumers here in the U.S. and we fall for much of this marketing. Foods are even packaged to appear healthier, by using colors that consumers view as a healthy color…like earthy greens and browns.

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It’s all marketing.

Here is a piece I wrote all about the marketing of food in our culture.

Many of these processed convenience foods have added vitamins and minerals. However, these vitamins are synthetic forms and therefore are not assimilated and utilized well in the body. Real vitamins and minerals come in real food (meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and healthy fats) and do not need to be synthesized or added to food.

Synthetic Vitamins:

  • Vitamin A: Acetate and Palmitate
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Thiamine Mononitrate, Thiamine Hydrochloride
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Riboflavin
  • Pantothenic Acid: Calcium D-Pantothenate
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
  • Vitamin B12: Cobalamin
  • PABA (Para-aminobenzoic Acid): Aminobenzoic Acid
  • Folic Acid: Pteroylglutamic Acid
  • Choline: Choline Chloride, Choline Bitartrate
  • Biotin: d-Biotin
  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid): Ascorbic Acid
  • Vitamin D: Irradiated Ergosteral, Calciferol
  • Vitamin E: dl-alpha tocopherol, dl-alpha tocopherol acetate or succinate

List taken from: The Global Healing Center

 

Most processed foods in general will keep your child’s blood sugar spiking and plummeting. Your child craves more sweets and sugary foods, and never feels satiated. In the primal community this is known as being “sugar adapted”. Yes, children do need carbohydrates for energy. I’m not suggesting a low-carbohydrate diet for children. There is a huge misconception that people who follow the primal lifestyle eat low-carb. That just isn’t the case. Most children consume massive amounts of processed carbohydrates on a daily basis, and this is considered the cultural norm. Therefore anything less than that is automatically viewed as low carb. It starts with parents being told by medical authorities that they should start their baby on nutrient void rice cereal to fill them up. Next it leads to drinkable sugar laden yogurts marketed to babies, then cute little plastic toddler cups filled with finger sized crackers and cookies, then it leads to big bowls of sugary cereals. Removing these processed foods from a child’s diet and offering real food to children does not make you a bad, rigid, or depriving parent. You may feel like a fish out of water at times, but you are making the right decision for the health of your children, both now and in the future. Children can get adequate nutrients from a real food diet of meats, vegetables, fruits, and small amounts of refined sugar-free treats made with natural sweeteners. Yes it might not be as convenient as we are use to in a rush rush culture, however, the future health of our children depends upon us making changes in the right direction.

 Pictured:  Burgers On A Stick with dipping sauce!

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What are MY top 5 suggestions of foods to avoid giving to children?


1. Cereal

Any and all cereal. Rice cereal for babies, cold cereals, quick oats, etc… Here is a blog post I wrote about cereal. In a nutshell: Cereal is made with grains (usually with added sugar and food dyes), and grains are broken down into the body as sugar. Yes, you do need carbohydrates in your diet, but there are more nutrient rich sources that will not leave your child’s blood sugar to spike and plummet. Eating a bowl of cereal makes the child’s pancreas work extra hard in order to process it all. It also fills them up with little nutrients or healthy fats. I also wrote a Primal Feeding Guide for Babies and Toddlers which explains why rice cereal is not a good first choice of foods for infants.

*low nutrients

*synthetic vitamins added

*anti-nutrients that can affect digestion

*high sugar

*low in quality fat and protein

 

 2. Kid marketed crackers and cookies like those little golden fish crackers, and little bear cracker cookies, etc.

Just like the cereal above, these small toddler marketed crackers and cookies might look exciting and fun, as well as easy and quick. Kids may love the taste of them. However… for all the same reasons mentioned above regarding cereal, these crackers are full of artificial ingredients, synthetic vitamins, food dyes, high amounts of sugar, and are very low in quality nutrient-dense fats and proteins that children need to feel satiated, happy, and stable. Again, this gets children sugar adapted and reaching for processed carbs vs real food. Did I say avoid all carbohydrates for children? Absolutely not. Here is a post I wrote all about healthy snack ideas for children.

*low nutrients

*synthetic vitamins added

*low in quality fat and protein

*high sugar

 

3. Most commercial yogurts:

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Commercial yogurts contain as much sugar as a bowl of ice cream or other sugary desserts. One 8-ounce serving of low-fat or fat free sweetened yogurt can contain as much as 47 grams of sugars. This amount of sugar is equivalent to almost 12 teaspoons of sugar. People think because it’s yogurt, it must be healthy. Most yogurts should really be treated as a dessert rather than a nourishing snack or meal. It is difficult to find yogurt that does not have some or all of the fat removed from it. Fats are nutrient dense sources of energy for growing brains. However, yogurt manufacturers are still removing fat from yogurt, and adding sugar and food dye. If you are going to give your child yogurt, the best option is raw (unpasteurized), unsweetened, full fat yogurt. Plain yogurt does not contain any added sugar, but still contains naturally occurring milk sugars called lactose. An 8-ounce serving of plain yogurt still contains approximately 12 grams of sugar. This amount of sugar is equivalent to 3 teaspoons of sugar. Homemade plain yogurt that has fermented for 24 hours, does not contain sugar. The lactose is digested by beneficial bacteria, bringing the amount of sugar down to nothing. Raw yogurt has beneficial enzymes and probiotics to help with digestion, and can help colonize the gut with good bacteria. It can be sweetened with a little fruit or drizzle of raw honey.

*very high sugar

*food dye

*low in quality fat unless full fat

 

4. Kid Marketed “Energy” bars:

 

These “power” or “energy” bars marketed at kids contain a long list of ingredients that can be harmful on the gut, and contain a high amount of refined sugar. many contain as much sugar as candy bars, even organic ones. Please note… not everything that is labeled “organic” is necessarily good for your body. An organic pop tart is still a pop tart. It still contains high carb, low healthy fat, low protein. We want our kids to power up with nutrient rich healthy fats and proteins!

Here is an example of ingredients from a popular brand of energy bars targeted at kids:

INGREDIENTS: Organic Oat Blend (Organic Rolled Oats, Organic Oat Flour, Organic Oat Fiber), Organic Tapioca Syrup, Organic Cane Syrup, Organic Chocolate Chips (Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Organic Unsweetened Chocolate, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Soy Lecithin, Organic Vanilla Extract), Organic Fruit Paste Blend (Organic Date Paste, Organic Fig Paste, Organic Raisin Paste), Organic Cocoa, Organic Soy Butter (Organic Roasted Soybeans, Organic Soybean Oil, Salt), Organic Chocolate (Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Organic Unsweetened Chocolate, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Soy Lecithin, Organic Vanilla Extract), Natural Flavors, Organic Milled Flaxseed, Organic Sunflower Oil, Sea Salt, Baking Soda. VITAMINS & MINERALS: Calcium Carbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid (Vit. C), Ferric Orthophosphate (Iron), Zinc Oxide, Niacinamide (Vit. B3), Beta Carotene (Vit. A), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vit. B1), Riboflavin (Vit. B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vit. B6), Folic Acid (Vit. B9), Cyanocobalamin (Vit. B12). ALLERGEN STATEMENT: CONTAINS SOY AND TRACES OF DAIRY. MAY CONTAIN PEANUTS, WHEAT, AND TREE NUTS.

As you can see the bar contains mainly grains and sugar (both cane syrup and fruit sugar), soy, processed oils and synthetic vitamins and minerals.

If your child is participating in sports and needs extra boosts of carbohydrates, try making homemade energy bites or balls. You simply process nuts with dates, shredded coconut, and coconut oil. Here is my recipe for Blood Orange Coconut Balls.

 5. “Whole Grain” breads:

 

The breads today are not the breads of our ancestors. Our earliest ancestors did not eat bread. Approximately 10-12 thousand years ago (note that we’ve been around for over 200,000 years in our human form) grains were introduced into our diet. Many traditional cultures did not have bread as such a huge portion of every meal. They did not eat sandwiches daily. They also knew how to properly prepare breads (soak, sprout, and ferment) so that the body can digest and assimilate nutrients from it. The issue related to bread consumption is not only just the buzz word “gluten” that we hear. Yes, gluten is a huge offender to many people. Probably more than we can begin to realize. However, there are many other components to bread that can also have an affect on our health. Breads that are not properly prepared contain phytates and lectins, also known as anti-nutrients that can bind to minerals and render them unavailable to our bodies. These anti-nutrients also contribute to inflammation and leaky gut. Leaky gut can lead to allergies and autoimmune conditions. There are proteins found in bread other than gluten that may also have a profound affect on many people. Just like cereal, cookies, and crackers, eating bread as a staple keeps children sugar adapted, and not feeling satiated.

So what can I give my child in place of bread?

Some suggestions: Applegate Farms (GF, dairy free, soy free, and humanely raised) deli meat roll-ups, bun-less Applegate Farms grassfed hotdogs usually cut up with toothpicks and dipping sauces, bunless burgers or lettuce for the bun. Almond or sun butter used as a dip for apples or carrots rather than on bread. On the occasions my children do have bread, I make sure it is the Sprouted grain kind. However, sprouted or not it is still digested in the body and broken down to sugar. Therefore, eating several slices a day would still have a profound affect on the sugar handling of a child.

*anti-nutrients

*low in quality fats and proteins

*high in sugar

*pro-inflammatory

In a nutshell… carbohydrate rich processed foods tend to be high in sugar and low in nutrients. It might not be easy to cut these foods out and replace them with real nourishing foods, but try in steps.

What are some tips to getting your children to enjoy real food?

 

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*Involve them in the process of cooking. If your child helped prepare the meal, they are more likely to enjoy eating it.

*Children love to eat things on platters with toothpicks.

*Children love to forage for food! Take them apple picking and berry picking. We also love to collect fiddlehead ferns in the Spring.

*Explain to them the reasons behind your decisions.

*Lead by example. If those processed foods are not an option, they will start to enjoy real food more.

 

About Kathryn:

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Kathryn Kos is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP)  through The Nutritional Therapy Association, and a Certified Lactation Educator/Counselor through The University of San Diego. Her undergraduate degree is in Movement Science from Westfield State College. Her Master’s degree is in Rehabilitation Counseling from Springfield College. She specialize in healing digestion, balancing blood sugar, balancing hormones, and autoimmune conditions. 

 

 

I am speaking at Paleo FX! Get your tickets here to see my talk!

 

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* Please note: This is a personal blog.  All data and information provided on this site is for informational/educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitution for professional medical advice.