What tells us more about your risk of developing a disease, DNA or your microbiome? The explosion of DNA testing has meant that we have developed much more knowledge about an individual’s DNA. It’s also clear that simply having a particular gene or a snip does not mean you will necessarily develop the relevant condition. Our DNA is the terrain but the environment is the trigger.
The microbiome on the other hand can tell us more about whether the environment is triggering a condition. Microbial diversity is more critical to health. Loss of diversity seems to have a more negative impact on health and an overgrowth of particular strains of bacteria can also contribute to a higher risk of developing chronic diseases.
Cholesterol is a good example. Looking at the risk factors for cholesterol levels close to 50% is derived from your underlying genetics and 50% from your microbiome. A good diet which increases microbial diversity can make all the difference to your cardiovascular risks. In fact the microbiome strongly influences many of our metabolic risks including factors such as fasting glucose, lactose intolerance and waist circumference.
The bacteria in our gut enable exert their effects by the production of key metabolites. Certain gut bacteria can control the production of these metabolites and therefore significantly influence our function. An example of this is Bifidobacterium lactis. It increases the production of short chain fatty acids in the bowels. These activate the vagal nerve and signal that we feel full. So a deficiency of Bifidobacterium lactic can mean that we don’t have that signal working quickly and therefore we are prone to overeating.
In conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis and Ankolysing Spondylitis the gut bacteria is often low in strains that produce a metabolite called butyrate. It is often the case that the microbiome has an elevated level of Prevotella Copri or another problematic strain. That is why treatment needs to be focused as much on rebalancing the microbiome to support the strains that are healthy and to crowd out the problematic strains. Prebiotic fibres such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Boulaardi) can be a useful part of treatment. The other critical factor is to ensure that you are feeding the microbiome and my blog on 6 Tips for feeding your gut bacteria right! is a useful guide.
There is still a lot of emerging research in this area so please follow my blog to see the latest updates.
Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives in Sydney. If you think your microbiome needs some attention you can make an appointment online at http://www.elementalhealth.net.au or phone on 8084 0081.
During the recent election there was a lot of debate about climate change and the need to take action. It is an overwhelming issue for any one person to deal with on their own. What I thought might help is to break it down into smaller tasks and see what you can do to reduce your carbon consumption. In the last 18 months Australians have reduced consumption of plastic bags by 1.5 billion bags so I am sure collectively we can make some reasonable changes.
First up where are the big contributors to greenhouse emissions – well it depends a little bit on your source but according to Austalian government data
transport is a major contributor to emissions.
How do we reduce reliance on gas guzzling cars ? My top four suggestions are as follows:
- Use public transport where possible. Ever since they dug up George St for the light rail I have found driving into town a nightmare. Roads are blocked off and its really hard to find places to cross over. Consequently my entire family now uses the train consistently and its really reduced the mileage in our cars significantly. Look at bus routes too it is so easy now with the Opal card to jump on a bus for short distances.
- Consider whether you really need a second car (which is an expensive cost in terms of depreciation, insurance and registration etc) and whether you could use taxis or Uber particularly if you live close to where you work. If you really only use a car intermittently have a look at services like Go-Get for short term use or hire a car for bigger trips.
- Walk more! On Sundays we walk to a local coffee bar with the dog and pop in and buy a few things at Harris Farm. More steps for us and lower use of the car.
- Invest in the latest energy efficient vehicle , whether its an electric car or a hybrid like the Honda Civic.
- Put the kids on the bus to school. Traffic on the North Shore is chaotic in the mornings and part of that is due to the number of children who are driven to school. Due to the fact that many parents are unaware of bus services to school they don’t use them and then it becomes increasingly difficult to justify the service. 40 kids on a bus is much less problematic than 40 parents individually driving children to school.
What’s next? If you have already adopted as many of those options that are affordable probably the next area to look at in reducing your carbon footprint is food. Agriculture is responsible for around 16% of carbon emissions and the biggest part of that is methane from livestock accounting for in excess of 50%.
- Reduce your consumption of meat and other animal products. I am not recommending that you adopt veganism however it may well be worthwhile looking at making vegetables the star of your dinner table and meat more of a condiment.
- Look at more than just a Meat Free Monday – ideally look at vegetarian proteins like chickpeas, tofu and other legumes as well as cheese or eggs to make up your protein requirements. This also makes a much more affordable diet than relying heavily on meat.
- What can you grow at home ? Whether its simply some herbs or fruit, most people can grow things they use regularly like lemons or mint or rosemary. It all helps reduce the amount of transport used for shipping food as well as food miles.
- See if you can buy produce locally as there are now lots of farmers markets or organic markets on offer.
Another way to reduce your carbon footprint is to look at reducing plastic use in your home. My recent blog on Quitting Plastic has some straightforward ideas.
How are you planning on reducing your footprint ? Post in the comments section to share your ideas.
Christine Pope is an experienced natural medicine practitioner based at Elemental Health, St Ives. You can make appointments on 8084 0081 or online at http://www.elementalhealth.net.au .