• Kerry D. Friesen, MD

It's Time To Listen To Your GUT

Consider this—obesity was once a rare phenomenon.Over the past three decades however, it has reached pandemic proportions.

Worldwide, more than one billion people are overweight and for the first time, the obese outnumber the malnourished and underweight!

In the United States, seventy percent of adults and thirty percent of children are overweight: obesity is clearly America’s most visible public health problem.

Not surprisingly, everything from high-fructose corn syrup to the availability of vending machines; to lack of funding for physical-education programs in public schools, have been offered as explanations. While important, none are sufficient in themselves to explain the unprecedented prevalence of obesity.

To everyone's surprise, the answer would be found in the three pounds of bacteria that inhabit the human intestinal tract–the human microbiome.

The early completion of the Human Genome Project in 2000 provided the framework for the Personal Genome Project, which in turn provided the impetus for the five year NIH sponsored, Human Microbiome Project.

In less than five years, with the help of the new science of metagenomics, The Human Microbiome Project has shed considerable light on the three-pound biomass of bacteria that inhabits our lower gastrointestinal tract. Not long ago, the lower GIT was considered nothing more than a mere reservoir, having little or no impact on human nutrition.

The “Thrifty Microbiome Hypothesis” however, emphasizes the central role of gut microbiota in establishing and maintaining energy balance and challenges that very idea. While humans possess 23-30 thousand genes, the human microbiome consists of more than one million genes. We are truly not alone—we are in fact “human-microbe hybrids."

The human microbiome, our penultimate source of immunologic programming and without which we are unable to derive nutritional benefit from the very food we eat, has been altered by the indiscriminate use of antibiotics and the paucity of plant food in the standard American diet.

An unfavorable modification of human microbiome in the face of nutrient excess can result in a permanent shift in microbiota composition ultimately manifesting as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, chronic inflammation and obesity.

Prebiotics, probiotics and diet modification offer a therapeutic tool for the modification of the human core gut microbiome and offer clinicians and patients a practical method of combating the pandemic of obesity and potentially preventing a myriad of autoimmune and associated inflammatory disorders.

Why not start with adding fermented foods to your daily diet? There are many high-quality fermented foods readily available to shift your microbiome back to a balanced blend of health bacteria ensuring proper immune function and a healthy weight.