Food choices matter. Gut bacteria can change in a few days
depending on whether you eat more protein, fat, or carbs.
Meta = beyond
Genome = the genetic material of an organism
Metagenomics is the study of genetic material sampled directly from the environment. This study includes the internal environment of human beings, which can be classified by enterotype
Entero = relating to the intestines
Researchers in an international consortium including Jeroen Raes of the Flanders Institute in Belgium used human poop samples to classify people into three categories of enterotypes, or bacterial ecosystems.
Three primary enterotype categories recur in the findings of this past decade: Bacteroides, Prevotella, and Ruminococcus.
That's correct! We are all ecosystems.
Of all the DNA we carry around, only a small percentage of it is human. The other DNA belongs to the billions of microbes that live in our gut, among other places. Many are bacteria that take advantage of the protection and food we offer them while making vitamins and digestive enzymes that are essential to the smooth functioning of our body and mind.
Each of these three bacterial ecosystems does things slightly differently. The Bacteroides ecosystem consists largely of bacteria that get energy by fermenting sugars and proteins. The Prevotella ecosystem contains a lot of microbes that digest proteins in the mucus lining of the gut. Ruminococcus, the most common type, prefer both gut mucus proteins and simple sugar.
In addition to their different food preferences, these enterotype groups also have different output profiles. The Bacteroides type makes quite a few vitamins, including C and H, while Prevotella is good at making folic acid and vitamin B1.
Although scientists are not yet sure whether the place we live or the food we eat classifies our gut's microbiome, research is starting to reveal that common traits, such as body mass index, can be markers for enterotypes.
The testing is still very expensive, but I imagine that researchers will make it more widely available and affordable in years to come. If you would like to participate in the Earth Microbiome Project, you can have your have your internal bacteria analyzed, both for public research purposes and for your own knowledge.
Alternatively, by noticing what you eat and how you digest it, you are more likely to be able to identify your enterotype. Keep a food journal that includes information about the consistency, frequency and type of your stool. Try it for a week.
Please be in touch with questions: lisa[at]harmonizedcookery.com