The Power Your Genes Have on Your Gut Microbiome
When you look in the mirror, the colour of your eyes, your skin tone, how tall you are, are all determine by your genes. These are DNA sequences passed down to you from your parents.
Your genes also determine whether you are born with conditions like an autoimmune disease. Genes also influence your risk of developing certain medical conditions like cancer. New research adds another role that your genes play. Your genes may influence how your microbe’s function.
Your microbiome is made up of the microbes which live in your gut. This includes fungi, bacteria, and viruses. It is estimated that there are around three hundred to five hundred different types of bacteria which live in your gut with a number of approximately thirty-nine trillion! Your gut microbiome is as unique to you as your fingerprint, and everyone has a different gut microbiome.
There are many factors which can influence your gut microbiome. This includes your gender, medications, stress, exercise, and diet. New research adds to the potential role that your genes may play in influencing your gut microbiome. Specifically, influencing how your microbe’s function.
By influencing the function of the microbe this ultimately effects the health of your body. Microbes influence many components of your health including the ability of your immune system to function at its best, your risk of psychiatric conditions and certain cancers.
The researchers used the Twins UK cohort study to investigate the potential effects of genes on the gut microbiome. Two hundred and fifty female twins were selected as participants. The genes of each individual were assessed as well as disorders associated with microbiome disruption to healthy and normal functioning. This included conditions like certain cancers, type two diabetes, and some brain disorders.
It was found that the ability of the microbes to function were affected by the genes of each individual. This included the microbe’s secretion system. Genes influenced the proteins of the microbe’s secretion system which has many important roles. This includes producing chemical messages in the form of short chain fatty acids. These short chain fatty acids promote many health benefits to almost all the organs in your body. Genes determined if the microbes became antibiotic resistant.
In addition to these interesting findings, researchers also found associations between genes and specific types of microbes not previously known. This included the stains Bifidobacterium, Akkermansia, and Faecalibacterium. Researchers also supported previous findings that genes influenced the function of the microbe strain Faecalibacterium prauznitsii.
This research adds to the strength of research which supports the findings that your genes do influence how your gut microbiome functions.
There is good news. While you may not be able to change your genes you can affect how your genes will respond based on lifestyle factors such as your diet. By following a diet which supports overall health and wellbeing as well as promotes health promoting microbes is a choice which may change your health outcomes.
Some lifestyle eating habits you can add into your week to support your health include:
- Including 30 different plant-based foods a week. This includes foods like whole grain and whole grain contain foods like Corn Thins slices, nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. Different microbes need different fuel sources and by including a variety of different plant foods in your diet you can make sure you are feeding all of them.
- Meet your recommended dietary fiber needs each day. For an adult this is between 25-38g of dietary fiber each day. By adding a plant food to all your snacks and meals this is a good way to help meet your needs.
- Add two serves of probiotic rich foods each day. This can include miso, tempeh, kimchi, yoghurt, and sauerkraut.
- Include fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel 2-3 times a week. The type of fat in these fatty fish called omega-3 fat has potent anti-inflammatory properties which support your health in many ways including the health of your gut.
- Aim for a couple of meat free meals a week. For time poor moments try baked beans on whole grain toast, or Corn Thins slices with a side of sauteed or microwaved mushrooms and tomato.
Take home message: While you cannot change your genes this research may provide insight on ways to provide tailored individualized support to help your microbes to function at their best based on your genes.
- Gene. National Human Genome Research Institute. https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary/Gene
- New, F.N., Baer, B.R., Clark, A.G. et al. Collective effects of human genomic variation on microbiome function. Sci Rep 12, 3839 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-07632-3
- What Your Gut Bacteria Say About You. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/what-your-gut-bacteria-say-your-health
- The human microbiome: Everything you need to know about the 39 trillion microbes that call our bodies home. Science Focus. https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/human-microbiome/
- A person’s genetics can shape gut microbiota functions. Microbiome Post Exploring Research, Inspiring Clinical Practice. https://microbiomepost.com/a-persons-genetics-can-shape-gut-microbiota-functions/#Twins_study
- The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). "Feed your genes: How our genes respond to the foods we eat." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 September 2011. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919073845.htm.