Obesity and the Microbiome

Do you suffer from obesity and aren’t sure why? The microbiome might be your answer to health. Learn about obesity and the microbiome.

If you have explored wellness in the last 5 years, you have come across the word microbiome.

The study of microorganisms in the body goes back to the 17th century, but its research has increased thanks to advances in technology as well as the 2007 Human Microbiome Project

So what exactly is a microbiome?

It short, it is a giant pile of bacteria. 

The longer answer is the human body is made up of an ecosystem of genetic organisms including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. We have 100+ trillion microorganisms inside us and they outnumber our cells ten to one.

The majority of these microorganisms live in the large intestine, so people mistakenly think the microbiome is restricted in the gut. But the micriobiome bacteria is everywhere: our skin, lungs, brain, noses, throats, genitals, digestive system, etc. 

Obesity and the Microbiome

From the moment we are born, the bacteria in our body influences and affects our health. Having a symbiotic relationship with our body’s bacteria gives us greater overall wellness. A healthy microbiome is vital to: 

  • Digestion, allowing us to absorb nutrients in food
  • Supporting the immune system
  • Producing vitamins the body needs to function
  • Insulating us from toxins
  • A functioning brain
  • Fighting off disease

The key to a healthy microbiome is having a good balance of friendly and unfriendly bacteria. Luckily, most the bacteria in our body is friendly. The unfriendly bacteria are pathogenic (promotes disease).

But remember, we need both the good and the bad bacteria to maintain a balanced microbiome. Balance comes from richness and diversity:

  • Richness :  The total number of different bacteria species in your microbiome
  • Diversity: The amount/count of each bacteria species in your microbiome

To explain the difference, let’s say your microbiome is a hospital. The richness of your microbiome is the different types of doctors in the hospital ( surgeons, pediatricians, etc.). The diversity of your microbiome is the count of each doctor (5 surgeons, 10 pediatricians, 30 gastroenterologists, etc.). If there’s a major school bus accident, the hospital needs more than 5 surgeons and has no need for 30 gastroenterologists.

The hospital got into a situation it couldn’t handle because it is unbalanced, and when that happens within the human body, these are the results: 

  • Inflammation
  • Disease
  • Weakened immune system
  • Weight gain
  • Poor skin health
  • Debilitated brain health

The more rich and diverse the bacteria is in your body, the better balanced your microbiome. 

The Microbiome and Food Diversity

So how do we ensure our microbiome is fed rich and diverse bacteria?

A diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and high quality protein will do the trick, right?

Wrong.

Finding truly diverse food sources in America is next to impossible.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO) published a report showing the types of food available to Americans from diverse plant and animal sources is quickly vanishing. And once lost, we cannot get them back.

For example, humans only eat 2% of the plants available to us. Over 60% of the plants we do eat comes from just three sources: wheat, rice and corn.

What caused the loss of food diversity?

  • Population growth and urbanization
  • Overharvesting
  • Changes in land and water use management
  • Pollution
  • Overexploitation and deforestation
  • Mono-cropping

That last one, mono-cropping, is when a single crop is grown across thousands and thousands of acres. This common practice has contributed significantly to the lack of food diversity. 

To protect crops from disease, farmers spray them with chemicals. The chemicals drip down into the soil, stripping it of its nutrients. Crops derive their nutrients from soil but these days are being harvested without ever absorbing them from the soil.  

This is why a tomato from the store doesn’t taste as good as the tomato grown in your backyard.

So you might eat a delicious salad full of vegetables, but if all those vegetables were mass produced, then the true diversity of bacteria you’re feeding your microbiome is limited.

In addition, the chemicals sprayed on those vegetables, or absorbed by the soil, are fed to your microbiome and disrupting the balance of bacteria in a way that has never been tested.

So if you’re obese, the first step here is to examine the quality of the produce you’re consuming.

Buying local, preparing food at home and limiting the amount of wheat, corn and rice is recommended.

Related Reading: This is Why You Are Fat

The Government Gives Free Money to Farmers

It’s frustrating that America’s produce is deplete of nutrients and covered in chemicals and contributing to obesity epidemic.

But you know what’s even more frustrating?

To learn that the US government spends over $20 billion a year supporting the initiative.

Agriculture special interest groups are extremely powerful and every 5 years, they bribe our politicians to set aside a large chunk of the national budget for farmers. The money goes to the largest and most profitable agriculture powerhouses — the same ones delivering chemical-covered apples and lookalike tomatoes to our local grocery stores.

Below is an excerpt from Chris Edwards, published on Downsizingthegovernment.org:

The lion’s share of handouts go to the largest producers of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and rice. The money pays for their conservation efforts, insurance coverage, marketing, export sales, research, and other activities. Farm subsidies are costly to taxpayers, but also harmful to the economy and the environment. Subsidies discourage farmers from innovating, cutting costs, diversifying their land use, and taking other actions needed to prosper in the competitive economy.

Good health requires a balanced microbiome.

A balanced microbiome requires we eat foods from diverse plant and animal sources.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the government used our taxpayer dollars to support organic or innovative farmers.

For example, supporting farmers that repel bugs and disease using natural methods. Or farmers that treat the soil with care and regularly refresh it. But nope, our government has no such guidelines in place.

Our taxpayer dollars, $20 billion, goes directly to corporations growing lookalike produce full of chemicals.

And people wonder why Americans are sick.

Related Reading: How the Government Caused the Student Loan Crisis

Antibiotics and the Microbiome

Antibiotics have saved millions of lives and will save millions more. But they aren’t perfect.

They are effective at eliminating the bad bacteria that causes infections. The problem is that antibiotics can’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria — so they just kill everything.

Remember, a healthy microbiome requires both good and bad bacteria. It’s great that antibiotics kill off the really bad bacteria, but in doing so, it kills off the good bacteria required for a balanced microbiome.

This creates problems for the patient down the line, such as gut infections, allergies, weakened immunity, etc. 

In 2016, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 30% of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary.

That means 1 in every 3 antibiotic prescriptions is not needed.

Why do doctors prescribe so many antibiotics?

Doctors prescribe antibiotics when they aren’t sure the root of the problem. Most patients want a quick fix, and antibiotics deliver. 

They also prescribe antibiotics to be on the safe side. A patient might have the common cold, which is a virus, but their symptoms are similar to a bacterial infection. Antibiotics are effective for bacterial infections, not viruses, but doctors often prescribe antibiotics just to be safe. 

Taking antibiotics to be safe could destroy the patient’s microbiome for life. 

Other reasons doctors prescribe antibiotics:

  • Defensive medicinal practices (to avoid malpractice)
  • Insufficient health exam to determine root cause
  • Resistance to natural, non-medical remedies
  • Kick-backs from pharmaceutical companies to prescribe drug (link)
  • Pressure from patient to resolve issue quickly
  • Overlooking long-term effects on patient health
  • Decision fatigue

We should have studied the long term effects of antibiotics before doctors normalized prescribing them.

If you’re obese, I would seriously think about how antibiotics could have contributed to your weight gain. 

Each time you took a round of antibiotics, they successfully destroyed the gut flora in your stomach which for many, results in them not properly absorbing nutrients.

If you aren’t absorbing the right nutrients, no matter how healthy you eat or how much you work out, your body responds by holding on for dear life to your excess fat.

Antibiotics vs. Antibacterial Agents

Antibiotics kill the bad bacteria, but they also kill the necessary good bacteria.

Antibacterial agents work the exact same way. 

Everyone loves a clean kitchen. And clean bathroom. And clean cars, desks, hands and clothes. 

But believe it or not, our over-sterilization is killing all bacteria and causing our microbiomes to become unbalanced (leading to weight gain, reducing our immunities, etc.)

Bacteria, it turns out, is less nasty germs and more electrolytes or vitamins for our bodies.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a report that we should skip using antibacterial soap, and use regular soap instead. The article says that the long-term use of antibacterial soap may have negative effects on your health.

In 2016, the FDA also banned 19 antibacterial additives found in over-the-counter soaps, proving that companies add these antibacterial chemicals to everyday products that don’t need it.

This means you could be purchasing products with antibiotics in them — which contributes to the destruction of your microbiome — without even knowing it.

Related Reading: Big Pharma as a Cultural Paradigm

In Conclusion

Humans have succeeded as a species largely because we can manipulate the world around us.

The problem is our level of control makes us forget that we come from nature, not the other way around. To protect what is human, our health and mental strength, we need to remember that humans are nature. 

So people look at an obese person and claim all they have to do is eat less and exercise more.

But just like nature, humans are complex and the answer is simply not black and white.

The world is grey and factors that lead to obesity are extremely nuanced. I know more than one person who has lost weight, not by decreasing their caloric intake, but by switching from grocery produce to farmers’ markets. Or going from eating out to eating at home. Or by cutting out gluten (which impacts the microbiome).

If you’re eating fast food and drinking soda, this article wasn’t for you.

This article was for the hundreds of thousands of overweight people in America who are confused.

Industrial farming is necessary in order to feed the world. But perhaps the United States government could address the negative health consequences of “Big Ag” by implementing quality control standards?

When we become sick, we need to remember we are mammals and should first look to our own body to heal. If that doesn’t work, then we should use nature’s remedies first (i.e., herbs, fruits, vegetables, grains).

What we shouldn’t do is resort to a pill. Every manufactured pill we take is disrupts the bacteria in an otherwise balanced microbiome (the true North of a healthy human).

Bacteria and germs, which we are all made of, should be embraced. Help spread the word to create a healthier world, and a healthier you.

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