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  • Madeline Topf

1 Simple Trick To Improve Gut Health

For my last job, I cataloged, sorted, froze, chopped, and analyzed human poop. I learned that poop contains trillions of essential bacteria. Without them, we couldn't digest food or form a functioning immune system. I learned, from the poop, the species, function, and byproducts of its bacteria.

My last job was in a biology lab. We were interested in how what we eat affects the bacterial community in our guts. Poop was our measurement. Poop was an indicator of health, it was a vast terrain of bacterial species waiting to be discovered, it was a laboratory ready for experimentation. We cared a lot about poop.

Our biggest project was a study where participants ate fermented foods, every day, four to six times a day (!!) for a period of ten weeks. “Fermented food” was classified as yogurt, kombucha, kimchi; anything that contained live bacteria. Beer didn't count, and neither did sourdough bread or pickles (these contain dead bacteria). We collected their poop. I processed it, cutting it into pieces and extracting its bacterial DNA. Here is the preprint.

The study participants (enthusiastic volunteers) who ate these quantities each day had improved immune function and showed an increase in the diversity of their gut bacterial community. Diversity was measured by counting up the total number of bacterial species present in their poop. A diverse community is correlated with overall health, or lack of disease, although this has yet to be proven conclusively.

One day, soon, we may be able to manipulate gut bacteria through a high-fermented food diet to improve immune function. Other types interventions may be able to improve human metabolism, cure gastroenterological infections, or even improve mental health symptoms such as anxiety. By toggling the presence, amounts, and byproducts of particular bacteria, we may be able to attain optimum human health.

I think it would be a disservice to my work with the poop, to my body, and to the scientific community at large if I did not abide by the truths I have helped discover. For the next three weeks I will be conducting my own experiment. I will attempt to eat at least four servings of active fermented foods each day.

I’ve started already by ramping up my consumption of what is mostly Chobani 2% plain greek yogurt. I plan to add more variety in the form of kimchi and kombucha. I won’t be able to measure my immune functioning or my gut microbial diversity. I will measure my results based on the Bristol stool scale. I will be citizen science, I will be translational research!

And I will maybe improve my “digestion" along the way.

See how it went!

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