Episode #81: Drs Justin and Erica Sonnenburg are two top microbial scientists at Stanford University and author of The Good Gut. In this interview these two pioneers share diet tips from their work at Stanford that can help you increase the diversity of the trillions of bacterial organisms in your gut, boost your metabolism and reduce inflammation.
The Good Gut Book:
Read the Interview Show Notes:
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2:29 The Power of Microbes: Over the past decade there has been an awakening about the gut, microbiome and genetics. Microbes connect in major ways to human biology with digestion, metabolism, systemic immune function and central nervous system. There is no part of our body that is not touched, directly or indirectly, by these microbes in some way.
4:32 Microbial Digestion: Gut microbes rely upon complex carbohydrates (dietary fiber) to complete their functions in the gut. They digest our resistant complex polysaccharides that come from plant material; fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. At the same time, they release compounds into our gut that are soaked into our bloodstream that do things like help maintain our immune system balance and help us decide whether we are storing calories or burning them.
5:56 Feed Your Microbes: High fiber foods feed your microbes. The Sonnenburgs make sure that their family consumes high fiber foods at every meal.
7:30 Microbial Diversity – The Jelly Bean Analogy: Think of each species of gut bacteria as a color of jelly bean. The Western diet will be a simple mix of a few colors. Modern day hunter gatherers or those who live similarly to those at the beginning of agriculture, have many more colors of jelly beans. They have species of gut bacteria that are not seen in the Western world. In the environment, if an ecosystem loses its diversity, it’s a bad thing. Potentially, that is the case with our microbial ecosystem?
9:25 A Skewed Perspective of Microbes: Research has primarily focused on Westerners, but now research is looking into populations around the globe. The NIH Human Microbiome Project spent years working to determine what a healthy microbiota is and working to determine how the microbiome changes in different disease states.
10:20 Microbiota, a Key Player in Disease: Just because someone is healthy, doesn’t mean they have a healthy microbiota. Evidence is building that shows that most Americans have unhealthy gut microbiota, which predisposes us to many Western diseases. Metabolic syndrome, heart disaease, autoimmune diseases, cancers, and the like, are all become more prevalent. It is possible that there are individual causes for these diseases, but more likely, that there are only a few causes and that gut microbiota is central of them.
11:54 Traditional Societies: Humans have spent 95% of our time on the earth as hunter gatherers. By looking at hunter gatherer societies today, we can get a better understanding of what our gut microbiota is supposed to be.
13:39 The High MAC Diet: Microbiota Accessible Carbohydrates are dietary fiber that we consume to feed our microbiota. Tubers eaten by hunter gatherers have not been modified by agriculture, making it texturally and nutritionally different from what we eat. Since we cannot recreate the diet of hunter gatherers, we can eat lots of different foods, including tubers, along with berries and leafy greens and increase fiber to diversify and sustain our microbiota.
15:56 Polyphenols: When researching the impact of plant fiber, it is challenging for researchers to parse out the other benefits of the consumption of plants. In general, Westerners should eat more plants that contain complex dietary fibers, not only to feed their microbiota, but to garner the other benefits.
18:01 Fiber Consumption Comparison: Hunter gatherers consume about 150 – 200 grams per day of dietary fiber. In the U.S., we struggle to eat 15 grams per day. If you starve the microbes in the gut, they begin to consume the mucus lining of your digestive tract.
19:32 Short Chain Fatty Acids Created By Our Microbiota: Acetate, propionate, and butyrate are the major ones. In mice, propionate has been shown to be a regulator of metabolism. Butyrate and propionate have shown in mice to be a regulator of inflammation. They may also play a role in satiety. One day we will have enough information to match our foods to specific microbes in our gut. Increase dietary fiber, to increase short chain fatty acids.