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Fix your gut => Fix your brain? Autism and our microbiome

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Fix your gut => Fix your brain? Autism and our microbiome

In ‘Horton Hears a Who’, an entire world is living on a speck of dust. In a sort of similar way, we have an entire world living in our gut.

Our microbiome impacts our physical, cognitive, and emotional health.
“Biomes are distinct biological communities that have formed in response to a shared physical climate.” In other words, when you go to a forest, there will be specific plants and animals that live there. Ditto when you go to a desert. Or the prairies.

Our microbiome is a community of organisms that live in our gut. This community, we are finding, has a profound impact on us. Specific microbiomes have been correlated to specific conditions, such as Parkinson’s and autism.

Let’s take a closer look at our microbiomes. Then, how we can support our own microbiome.
If you don't like bacteria, you're on the wrong planet.
~Stewart Brand

Am I simply a vehicle for numerous bacteria that inhabit my microbiome? Or are they hosting me? ~Timothy Morton

We mostly don't get sick. Most often, bacteria are keeping us well.
~Bonnie Bassler

Interesting facts about our microbiomes

  • About 1000 species of bacteria have been identified, but we don’t understand the role(s) each one plays and if/how they work together. We still have a lot to learn.
  • People of western cultures have far less diversity than those living a more ancestor-like lifestyle, such as those living in a rainforest. As well, their microbiomes change with the seasons as their diet changes.
  • Different foods offer different bacteria. That’s why eating a diversity of food is important.
  • Those from the Hadza tribe eat about 600 species of plants and animals. Westerners eat fewer than 50 species (8% of the Hadza’s variety).
  • Often those on the autism spectrum or who have sensory processing disorder (SPD) also have food sensitivities or are picky eaters, reducing the variety of food even further. In addition, many on the spectrum have gastrointestinal issues.
  • People on the autism spectrum (ASD) have a less diverse microbiome (25% less) than non-ASD.
  • Some neurotransmitters are mostly produced in the gut, such as serotonin (90% production in gut), which affects mood and social connection.
  • Children with a diagnosis of ASD are more likely to have higher levels of Ruminococcus and Clostridium. The latter compound is a neurotransmitter disrupter and the acid it produces (propionic acid) can cause autism-like symptoms in rats.


How to support your microbiome, in no particular order

  1. Increase fiber – some of the bacteria feeds off of fiber.
  2. Eat as wide variety of fruit and veggies as possible
  3. If organically grown, wash but don’t peel root veggies before eating
  4. Consume high levels of polyphenols (found in nuts, seeds, berries, olive oil, brassicas, coffee, tea, especially green tea).
  5. Eat prebiotics
  6. Eat probiotics
  7. Take digestive enhancing herbs
  8. Eat a variety of fermented foods with live microbes. Remember, there are over 1000 types of microbiotas so variety is important. There are more fermented foods than you realize. 
  9. Avoid snacking. Digestion is very energy-intensive, reducing the amount of energy available for healing.
  10. Chew your food thoroughly. I didn’t see this one in the research but I have read that we don’t get all of the available nutrition if we don’t chew so I think it’s a good bet to include it
  11. Relax before eating
  12. Don’t overeat
  13. Avoid sugar. Bad bacteria feeds on sugar. Good bacteria feeds on fiber.
  14. Avoid artificial sweeteners
  15. Avoid processed foods
  16. Avoid unnecessary antibiotics, non-essential medicines and antacids
  17. Avoid being hygiene obsessed
  18. Spend time in nature
  19. Get down and dirty. That is, have contact with dirt
  20. Pet a pet
  21. Reduce stress. Chronic stress depletes the body
  22. Enjoy daily movement (helps digestion)
  23. Get sufficient sleep
  24. Fecal transplants have also been tested with positive results still evident two years later.
  25. If relaxing to eat is an issue, our Ultra Shoulder Wraps might be helpful because it can be cooled or heated, and the weight can be calming. 

That was a bellyful of ideas! Possibly too many. The point of having such an extensive list is so YOU will find one thing you can do to improve your gut health. Pick the easiest one to implement.

Providing calmness & comfort, learning & laughter,

P.S. What knowledge do you have of microbiomes? Is this a new topic? Are you interested to know more?
Have you already taken steps to improve your microbiome? If so, what changes did you notice? 

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