The Secret to a Healthy Gut Microbiome? Diversity, Diversity, Diversity!
We’ve been taught it’s healthy to be completely clean. Wash your hands regularly, take a shower everyday, use Purell whenever possible – do what you can to rid yourself of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes. We’ve been taught that we are masters of the environment when we are hygienic – that cleanliness will keep us from getting sick.
It seems that keeping clean was not what nature intended. Beginning at birth, nature bathes us in microbes wherever possible.
From the moment you take your first breath, you are immersed in microbes. Your journey through your mother’s birth canal plays an important role in inoculating your gut microbiome. Your gut microbiome is vital to the training and controlling of your immune system. Another way of thinking about this is – how healthy your gut microbiome is throughout your life, is a major indicator of how healthy your immune system will be.
Then, during the first seven days of your life, your mother’s colostrum nourishes and further seeds your gut. We used to think colostrum was low in nutrients and therefore not very valuable. But we now know colostrum is delivering a megadose of microbiome building elements. Even breastfeeding is part of the process nature carefully designed to build your microbiome.
If we listen closely to what nature is trying to tell us, you would hear…. You are not alone. You coexist with trillions of bacteria, archaea, yeast, mold, other fungi, bacteriophages, other viruses, parasites, and more.
These microbes aren’t all bad. In fact, we live in a symbiotic, caring relationship with most of them. Well, when we aren’t blasting them with antibiotics or loading up on Purell, that is.
You see, antibiotics do a great job at wrangling infectious diseases, but at a serious cost. They decrease your microbial diversity since they not only target the specific pathogen causing an illness, they also destroy the beneficial microbes that we depend on to keep us healthy. Over-prescribing and overuse of antibiotics is a huge contributor to the rise we’re seeing in chronic diseases.
Did you know that just one round of antibiotics decreases gut microbiome diversity by at least 30%?1 And some research is finding this drop in microbiome diversity may actually be much greater.
You’ve probably heard antibiotics aren’t great to use all the time – but why? What’s the big deal – and why are we so worried about gut microbiome diversity anyway?
Your Gut Microbiome & Your Immune System
Over 80% of your immune system resides in the lining of your gut, and your microbiome is in constant contact with it. A healthy, resilient gut microbiome relies on high richness and biodiversity. When there is high richness and diversity of the microbes in your gut, your immune system is stronger and more stable.2
Gut microbiome richness and diversity are two important concepts worth taking a second to fully understand:
- Richness is the total number of bacterial species in your gut microbiome.
- Diversity is the amount of individual bacteria from each of the bacterial species present in your gut microbiome.
If we were to compare bacterial richness to a group of people who we were organizing by occupation, richness would be all of the occupations present i.e. doctors, teachers, firefighters, and more. Diversity would be the number each of those people – 127 doctors, 81 teachers, and 62 firefighters, for example.
With high richness and diversity, you have a much more capable and resilient community. Think about it, when you have lots different types of people with different specialties available to you, you’re able to call on just the right person for just the right job.
But what if you’re missing firefighters or only have five? Who’s going to come running when there’s a massive fire? Doctors? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a firefighter putting out my fires (Sorry, doc).
Decreased Diversity is Associated with Disease
Having low gut microbiome diversity matters because it’s associated with a number of chronic illnesses including:
- Obesity 3
- Insulin resistance 3
- High cholesterol 3
- Inflammation 3
- Type 1 diabetes 4
- Type 2 diabetes 5
- Colorectal cancer 5
- Crohn’s disease 5
- Ulcerative colitis 5
- Celiac disease 5
- Allergies 5
- Chronic fatigue syndrome 6
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) 7
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it does make an important point – low microbial diversity can make you sick.
So what are we to do? How do we increase gut microbiome diversity and live better lives?
To Diversify Your Microbes, Feed Them Diverse Foods
Our ancestors used to have a lot more microbes than we do. In fact, hunter-gatherer groups don’t have chronic illness like we do. Diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune disease were non-existent – and guess what they had a lot more of? You got it, gut microbiome diversity!8
Our microbial diversity has decreased through reduced food variety, eating highly processed foods, moving to cities where there isn’t dirt for us to play in, and of course, overuse of antibiotics. Because these microbes play a huge role in keeping our immune system on their toes, the decrease in microbial diversity has significantly weakened our immune systems.
Just like you and me, each of these different microbes have different foods they prefer. Which is why your diet is the most important factor to your health – not only because food nourishes you, but because food nourishes your microbes.
Unfortunately, our food system has been selecting certain species of foods for higher yields over the past few decades. This why we’ve gone from having over a few dozen types of lettuces to choose from to about three in most supermarkets – most commonly romaine, iceberg, and butter – if you’re lucky, there might be a bag with a mix of two or three varieties.
But the point is – we’ve largely distilled our food choices to a few options.
On a global scale, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that our food diversity has dropped 75% in the last 100 years.9 Fortunately, we as consumers are pushing for a return to diversity and we’ve seen this in recent years.
But an increase in diversity on our supermarket shelves isn’t enough. Everyone’s gut microbiome is completely unique to them and therefore everyone has different food requirements for better health.
Optimize Your Gut Diversity with Viome
Sure, you can eat a variety of foods to promote the microbial diversity in your gut, but without individualized insight into your gut microbiome that can only take you so far.
Viome’s technology and analysis has the ability to see deep into your gut microbiome. This is unlike anything that’s ever existed before.
With Viome’s technology not only can you see how many firefighters you have, you can see that their names are Joe, Jack, and Jill and that they love sweet potatoes and absolutely despise spinach. More importantly, you can see what they are doing. You know if they are actually helping put out your fires or laying around on the job.
When you take your Viome test, you’ll receive targeted dietary and supplement advice that is designed to boost your gut microbiome diversity. This means you can use your diet to take yourself to the next level of health, no matter where you stand today.
When you get your Viome results you’ll see your gut microbiome richness and diversity score, along with foods you should eat plenty of, foods you should minimize, and foods you should avoid altogether. Your personalized recommendations help you feed the beneficial microbes living in your gut, while starving the harmful ones – boosting your overall richness and diversity.
And you get all this incredible information delivered right to you through your app. This means as the understanding of the microbiome advances further, and more is learned about microbial metabolic and signaling pathways and how they affect your health, you’ll continue to get updated information and advice.
You have a window into Viome’s laboratory in the palm of your hand.
You are the one of the first people in the history of humanity to have access to such revolutionary insights. We are honored and thrilled to be part of this incredible journey with you. Together we can make chronic illness a matter of choice.
If you want to dig deeper into the science behind Viome and all it can offer you, we encourage you to check out Dr. Helen’s The Power of Precision Wellness video.
In this video you’ll learn:
- Why fad diets like the Paleo diet can be bad for some people
- How some probiotics pass right through you and are therefore a complete waste of money
- How the fungal microbiome was largely overlooked until now
- Why certain “healthy” foods like spinach aren’t great for everyone
- How increasing microbial diversity means better overall health
- Why diets must be personalized