Eating for Two (million and more)
We often hear the phrase “eating for two” as it relates to pregnant women and the additional caloric needs that the growing fetus require. What we do not often hear is that we are eating for all the beneficial bacterial organisms that live in our gastrointestinal tract. These bacteria can be helpful or harmful and what we eat can directly impact the effect that they have on our health including mood and inflammatory processes.
Our gut bugs, technically referred to as the microbiome are a diverse group of bacteria with different purposes depending on the need. They have the ability to change depending on their environment and these changes over time can affect how the body is able to digest food and utilize the nutrients. Each individual has a unique microbiome that has been cultivated since birth. The manner in which we were born is not only how we enter the world, but also begets the culture of our gut. Babies born vaginally are bathed in their mother’s flora that begins to populate in the newborn gut. The reason that newborns receive Vitamin K immediately after birth is because our gut bugs are responsible for Vitamin K production. This injection (or oral) medication provides a critical need (blood clotting) until the gut bacteria are mature enough to produce the vitamin on their own.
Infants born via C-section will cultivate different gut bacteria since they have different exposures to bacteria. The differences are starting to be better understood with potential for inoculation of good bacteria for the baby. It does not need to be said that C-sections are a lifesaver for many newborns. However, there are many cases of preventable C-sections and elective C-sections an additional consideration for the gut health of the baby should be taken into account.
While I have only spoken about newborn gut health, every individual should think about how they are feeding their gut bugs. If we have a limited diet, some refer to as Standard American Diet, appropriately SAD, or as I like to call the “cow and sugar diet” this will create a gut environment that is exciting for the less desirable gut bugs and crowd them out. Think of it like a really bad form of gentrification. These bugs that are taking over are not kind to the others and in turn not kind to us. Our mood may sour; we may not be able to handle stress as we were once able. Our sleep can be disrupted and in general we suffer.
The good news is that we can reverse this trend and start re-populating the gut with good neighbors who will care for us and ensure our wellbeing. We can start to have a symbiotic relationship with our gut and mutually benefit from the diversity of bacteria thriving in the microbiomal community. This will not happen overnight, and the process to achieving this quality microbiome can be challenging, but it is worth the effort.
For advise on how to improve your gut neighborhood schedule your appointment with Dr. Love