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How foods affect your gut biome

How can a gut biome become out of balance from food alone? If you can relate to digestion issues, but are someone who doesn't take any medications, not on birth control, and has never participated in long-term restriction or dieting, you may be feeling pretty frustrated by now.

Day 15: How does your eating affect your health?

Now you know you can maintain a healthy gut with fiber, but what foods send it out of balance? So far, no one in my practice has been thrilled about this answer. Carnitine, Branched chain amino acids (BCAA's), Prevotella Copri Biome, and Upopolysaccharieds (LPS) are all drivers of changes in the gut biome, increasing chronic inflammation and insulin resistance. Let me lay it out for you in English:

  1. Carnitine is found in animal products, but specifically red meat. The gut bacteria produces something called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) which is really what is toxic to the body. What is interesting is that there seems to be varying levels of how much TMAO is produced from red meat consumption. Some people's blood levels increased by three fold, while others increased TMAO ten fold depending on your genetic predisposition. How do you reduce the level of TMAO in the body? Decrease your overall animal product consumption, specifically red meat.

  2. BCAA's are found in protein-containing foods and utilized by muscles for repairing and rebuilding. They really became popular from body builders and gym goers drinking BCAA's during workouts in an attempt to reduce muscle damage while they worked out. This is not effective and has very limited evidence backing this up. However, despite the lack of evidence, it is still done today by many gym goers and athletes. We now know that too many BCAA's in the body causes insulin resistance. A contributing source of BCAA build-up is a sedentary lifestyle due to muscles not having an opportunity to utilize BCAA's that are consumed naturally in the diet. BCAA's are not inherently bad, we need them to support muscle growth. Just make sure that you are including movement in your daily routine, increasing resistance to exercise is a plus, as well as cutting out any BCAA's that you are consuming in protein powders or liquid supplements. These two behaviors alone decrease the amount of BCAA's preventing insulin resistance..

  3. Prevotella Copri is actually a microbe that exists in our gut. It has evolved from traditional diets to western diets and can also feed and survive on fiber and short chain fatty acids (good byproducts of the gut bacteria). This places extra importance on eating enough fiber each day to provide enough fiber and short chain fatty acids for the good bacteria, not just Prevotella Copri.

  4. LPS is a strong driver of chronic low grade inflammation. The culprit? Saturated fat. Saturated fat is also found in animal products, but most commonly associated with fried foods, whole milk, butter, and mayonnaise. Healthy fats like omega 3's found in olive oil and salmon have a protective effect and prevent LPS from getting into the bloodstream. Increase healthy fats and decrease fried food consumption.

Still to date, nutrition behaviors are the number one determinant of the gut microbiome. Yes, medications contribute, but if you really want to have a happy gut, the best thing you can do is focus on your nutrition intake and work on making small, but consistent changes. And, as always, schedule a health and wellness assessment if you are experiencing gut issues, especially from chronic conditions, long-haul Covid, or medications.

Jen Pfeilfer, MS, APD

Dr. Thomas R. Schneider, Medical Director

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