Poo, Part Deux
And so here we are again, looking at poop and the microbes that appear in it. As promised, I’m going share some details about my husband’s American Gut Project test results.
But first a bit of background (some of which you may already know but bears repeating in this context)… I teach healthy cooking and nutrition for a living. When I’m not doing that, I’m exposing myself to beneficial soil bacteria working in my garden. Or I’m delighting in testing healthy recipes for an upcoming class. Or taking a yoga class. Or working from my peaceful home office while listening to music. Or eating 2-3 servings a day of fermented foods. In other words, I live in a way that I believe cares for my health and that of my microbiome and feel incredibly fortunate to be able to do so.
My husband Kevin, on the other hand, is a Silicon Valley exec who works long hours, copes with copious amounts of job-related stress, and travels about 30% of the time to far-flung locales. These travels, and the need to do a lot of entertaining on the business front, means that he eats out a lot (generally considered less healthy than eating home-cooked meals). He spends a good deal of his life on germ-filled planes and trains. He shakes a lot of hands and is continually exposed to all manner of bacteria every time he does. He lives in a manner that takes his health and that of his microbiome largely for granted and feels fortunate to be able to do so.
And if, dear reader, you only knew these facts about us, you might predict that my gut microbiome would be superior to his, wouldn’t you? Well, you, like me, would be wrong. Very wrong.
Here’s what his sample revealed:
Let’s start with the fact that his firmicutes-to-bacteroidetes ratio is—according to the latest research—amazing. You’ll recall from my last post that I shared “… the abundance of firmicutes was observed to be proportionate to the obesity levels in the mice, with the obese, conventional mice carrying significantly more firmicutes than the lean mice.” So low firmicutes equals lower risk of obesity. But, because he really likes to excel at everything he does, he has a dramatically lower percentage of firmicutes THAN ANYONE WHO HAS EVER BEEN STUDIED.
Really? Yes, really.
Then there’s this from microbewiki.com: “…microbiota enriched with firmicutes demonstrated a lower level of functional diversity than bacteriodetes-dominant microbiota. Hence, obesity, which is associated with the abundance of firmicutes, leads to an overall decrease in metabolic diversity.” There seems to be ample evidence that this is true from his results: lower firmicutes (and higher bacteroidetes) equals greater bacterial diversity. Winner, winner kimchi dinner!
But wait, there’s more! He also has a HUGE percentage of actinobacteria, which according to Jeff Leach of the American Gut Project in an NPR interview from 2013, “’(Actniobacteria) are typically considered good bacteria,’ Leach said. ‘So the more actinobacteria you have, the better. They’re helpful, Leach said. ‘They’re anti-inflammatory. They’re known to suppress proteobacteria. So, those are often known as probiotics.’”
So once again, the clear winner here is…wait for it… my husband.
And if that weren’t enough, there’s the absence in Kevin’s sample of the proteobacteria that Jeff Leach mentions above… “Proteobacteria includes ‘a lot of your bad guys,’ Leach said, such as E. coli and salmonella. They are associated with inflammation that may increase the risk of heart disease, cancer and other health problems.” Yes, he is three for three.
What explains this I do not know. Could his resilient and diverse gut bacteria have been bolstered by years of surviving the conditions I mentioned above? Was his childhood diet better than mine? Could it just be a matter of good genes? Right now no one knows, which leads me to ponder why the American Gut Project research team has not contacted him for further analysis. You think they’d want to know what was going on in that gut of his. I certainly do.
For the time being, I will continue to care for myself, and my slightly-above-average gut bacteria, as I have been because when I do I believe I am sick less often, have fewer issues with achy joints, and am more content (serotonin, the neurotransmitter that is lacking in those with depression, is produced largely in the gut). And while I don’t have the fecal analysis to prove it, I believe that my gut microbiome looked a lot different back years ago when I was kicked to the curb by 2-3 nasty colds a year, regularly accepted prescriptions for antibiotics (whether or not their use was justified), suffered with crazy sugar cravings, and had a diet that, while vegetarian and relatively healthy, was low in fiber and probiotics. My microbial inhabitants and I are much happier now.
I’ll end with one last revelation: We both have a competitive nature, my husband and I. For the most part, it plays a healthy role in our relationship. Except, apparently, where gut bacteria and health are involved. Because his gut bacteria (and overall health) appear to be far superior to mine, my competitive side is NOT HAPPY. The loving wife side of me is totally happy for him, though. I swear. Totally.