What is Your Gut (Microbiome) Telling You?
Since my stem cell transplant four years ago, I’ve been dealing with gut issues – nausea, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. All are known side effects of my oral maintenance drug, Revlimid.
Tried all sorts of remedies
Doctors have offered medications, such as laxatives and anti-nausea drugs. They also suggest eating more high-fiber foods, but my plant-based diet is already full of those. I’ve tried various probiotics with many different strains of bacteria and have even made my own kombucha and sauerkraut.
But at times, everything I do isn’t enough. And I suspect that it all comes down to the balance of all those tiny living things called microbes in my gut.
Trillions of bacteria!
Did you know there are over 100 trillion microbes in our intestines, including over 1000 different types of bacteria? All those microbes comprise a system called our gut microbiome. 1
When our microbiome gets out of whack (the technical term is dysbiosis), it can lead to IBS and other gut disorders. Surprisingly, it also plays a role in many other diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and even asthma. 1,2
Researchers believe that our gut microbiome plays an increasingly important role in our immune system and overall health.3, so I am especially interested in getting mine back into better shape.
Microbiome and blood cancer
Research also suggests that our gut microbiome plays a role in whether or not we develop cancer and how it progresses. It also may help determine how we respond to treatments and experience side effects.4
One study of multiple myeloma patients found a higher amount of several particular microbes in the microbiome of patients who had no evidence of disease (MRD-) versus those who did (MRD+) after initial therapy 4. I’m curious what I can do, if anything, to encourage those microbes to grow in my gut.
Gut Health Test
I recently ordered an online gut health test to find out more about the state of my microbiome. After sending in a small stool sample, I waited a few weeks for the results.
According to their diagnostics, my microbiome health is "not optimal." I scored below average in digestive efficiency and gut lining health. They suggested I avoid certain foods (many of which I have been overeating) and increase others. They also suggested that I take quite a few supplements and strains of probiotics, which I’ll have to run past my doctor before trying.
They listed 140 active microbes in my gut, including bacteria, probiotics, and viruses – most of which I have never heard of and cannot pronounce. It was the first time I had heard of the cannabis cryptic virus – and apparently, I have it. But I also have one of the beneficial microbes found in the myeloma study.
I realize it’s just one test from one company and that if I had ordered the test from another, I might have gotten different results. But it’s a place to start. Next week I am meeting with a doctor specializing in functional medicine to help me sort it all out.
Ways to have a healthier gut microbiome
There are many ways to have a healthier gut microbiome, including:
- Eat a wide variety of health-promoting foods. A more diverse diet means a more diverse and happier microbiome 5.
- Include fermented foods in your diet. Fermented foods, such as kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut, are especially good for promoting good bacteria and reducing the amount of inflammation in the gut. 6
- Stay active! Physical activity positively impacts the health of our microbiome by making it more diverse. 7
- Take antibiotics only when necessary. They are very detrimental to our microbiomes! 8
- Limit stress! Stress and depression can cause inflammation that can cause dysbiosis in the gut. 9
The link between the human microbiome and health is an emerging and exciting field of research, and there is still so much we don’t know. But my gut is telling me that I’m on the right path to feeling better. What is your gut telling you?
Did you have to make diet changes after your blood cancer diagnosis?
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