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More Ways to Improve Your Metabolic Health: Manage Your Microbiome

April 18, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

Continuing on in this series about metabolic health, there are more ways to improve your metabolic health that we didn't have the space to discuss last month.

In case you missed past issues of this series, you'll want to go back and read them.

But just to sum things up if you're short on time, having poor metabolic health puts you at risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, dementia, cancer, and many other chronic diseases.

Only 12% of Americans are considered metabolically healthy, meaning that's how many Americans have healthy cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose, and blood pressure in addition to a waist circumference under 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women -- without using medications to achieve these healthy biomarkers.

Common symptoms such as back pain, joint pain, tendon-related injuries, accelerated skin aging, acne, mental health conditions, and weight gain or difficulty losing weight may be signs of poor metabolic health. Lowering high cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, and high blood glucose, in addition to reducing excess visceral fat (belly fat), may help those conditions.

In last month's issue, I explained how getting enough sleep during the right time (at night), incorporating non-exercise physical activity throughout your day, and using Prolon for five consecutive days each month can help you normalize your cholesterol, blood glucose, and blood pressure, as well as whittle away belly fat.

I have even more good news for you this month; there are even more ways to improve your metabolic health naturally. Put what you learn into practice and you might just start feeling better than you have in years!

Your Microbiome and Your Metabolism

One of the reasons why so many people nowadays have such poor metabolic health is that our gut microbiomes aren't what they used to be. A number of factors including antibiotics in food, the overuse of antibiotics in medicine, chlorine in water, increased use of harsh cleaning agents in the home, and low-fiber diets with little variety have all contributed to the depletion of beneficial strains of bacteria.

When beneficial strains of bacteria become depleted or even completely eradicated from our gut microbiomes, pathogenic and opportunistic strains of bacteria can take up residence and change the way we metabolize our food. This can mean harvesting more calories from our food, having a diminished ability to excrete dietary cholesterol, not being able to metabolize oxalates in our food (increasing risk of kidney stones), and not producing beneficial short-chain fatty acids that keep colon cells healthy (increasing risk of colon cancer).

One bacterial strain called Akkermansia muciniphila makes up about 5% of the gut microbial community in metabolically healthy, lean humans, but is often missing from the guts of people who are obese and people who are living with Type 2 diabetes.

Some recent intervention studies have even found that the abundance of Akkermansia muciniphila in the gut is inversely correlated with body weight. That means the more Akkermansia muciniphila a person has in their gut, the leaner they tend to be.

But does increasing the abundance of Akkermansia muciniphila in the gut help a person lose weight and improve their metabolic health? Research suggests it does.

When you increase the amount of Akkermansia muciniphila in the gut, glucose metabolism improves, and systemic inflammation decreases. Akkermansia muciniphila may even help with appetite control as well, by increasing levels of satiety hormones.

Food for Your Microbiome

How can you increase Akkermansia muciniphila and other friendly microbes in your gut? Focus on eating a type of carbohydrate called resistant starch at each meal. Resistant starch is found in small amounts in starchy foods such as potatoes, rice, oats, and pasta that have been cooked and cooled overnight in the refrigerator. It's also found in small amounts in beans.

If you suspect that your gut microbiome is lacking beneficial microbes, however, you may need more resistant starch than what you could get from eating common foods like potatoes, rice, oats, pasta, and beans.

Green (unripe) bananas, uncooked potato starch, hi-maize resistant cornstarch, and modified resistant tapioca starch may not sound very appetizing to you, but these starches are like Miracle-Gro for Akkermansia muciniphila and other friendly gut bacteria that benefit your metabolic health.

Adding rich sources of resistant starch to your diet may take some creativity because there aren't a whole lot of products out there that include green bananas, uncooked potato starch, resistant cornstarch, or modified resistant tapioca starch as ingredients, but experimenting in the kitchen can be well worth it.

You could try adding a tablespoon of green banana flour or uncooked potato starch to a smoothie bowl or overnight oats, use hi-maize resistant starch to thicken gazpacho or make a homemade sourdough bread that substitutes some of your regular wheat flour with modified resistant tapioca starch.

If cooking is not really your thing or if you need a way to get some resistant starch when you're on the go or simply too busy to make a home-cooked meal, there are some cookies that you can order online that are made with resistant starch and a probiotic strain called Bacillus coagulans that helps improve immune function and relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

These creme-filled wafer cookies taste decadent, but eating three of them will get you 13 grams of dietary fiber, 9 grams of protein, and only 2 grams of sugar (from coconut). They're also gluten-free and vegan. You can order some for yourself at UpliftFood.com. Use coupon code DRJAMIE for $5 off your first order.

Poisons to Your Microbiome

While you're focusing on feeding your beneficial microbes resistant to starch, it's also important to avoid things that poison your beneficial microbes. One way to do this is to only use antibiotics if they're medically necessary.

Most people don't need antibiotics prophylactically before dental procedures or for minor infections. And no one needs antibiotics in their food. Animals that are given antibiotics before being slaughtered for food contain antibiotic residues in their meat, and milk from cows that are given antibiotics have been found to contain antibiotic residues as well. Always check food labels to see if poultry, beef, pork, and dairy products are antibiotic-free.

Some restaurants have phased out the use of meat, poultry, and dairy from animals that were fed antibiotics. For example, Chick-fil-A discontinued the use of antibiotic-fed chicken in May of 2019. Subway has offered chicken and turkey raised without antibiotics on its menu since 2016, but the beef and pork menu items still come from animals that were fed antibiotics because there are very little antibiotic-free beef and pork in the supply chain.

Another substance that acts as a poison to friendly microbes like Akkermansia muciniphila is alcohol. If you're part of the 12% of metabolically healthy Americans, and you're also not overweight, your microbiome is probably healthy enough to handle the occasional glass of wine or beer. But if you're part of the 88% of Americans battling high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, or excess fat crowding your internal organs, alcohol is not doing your microbiome any favors.

Get a Personalized Plan

Do you need a personalized plan to improve your metabolic health that fits in with your lifestyle? Or do you have questions about anything you've read in this column? Send a message to [email protected]

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