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How Genes Might Help Find The Proper Diet For Your Gut?

There are several considerations to consider when attempting to decide on the right way to eat for you including health conditions, budget, and tastes

How Genes Might Help Find The Proper Diet For Your Gut?

There are several considerations to consider when attempting to decide on the right way to eat for you including health conditions, budget, and tastes in your own taste. But experts suggest you might even want to look at your family tree to find hints as to the best eating strategy.

Much like what dictates our preference for skin color, hair texture, and coffee, your genes can also decide what foods are best for you. That's because genetics plays a role in defining your microbiome and, in effect, the safest foods for you. Fantastic? Experts here discuss why your genes are influencing your food decisions and how to find out what really can make you feel your healthiest self.

How To Link Genetics And Diet?

If you need a refresher for your gut health: The microbiome is the bacterial population that exists in your gastrointestinal tract. Their functioning applies to anything from good digestive to mental wellbeing. If the microbiome is primarily filled with healthy gut bacteria (known as probiotics), the benefits can be seen and felt in the form of improved moods, increased immunity, and more effective brain function. But if bad bacteria take over over a prolonged period of time — which may happen due to sickness, an unhealthy diet, stress, and other factors — you're probably at an elevated risk for health issues such as inflammation, GI complications, and even certain chronic diseases.

More Information on the value of gut wellbeing, right from an RD:

As for the bacteria strains that make up your microbiome, well, you can thank your genes partly for that. Gerry Bodeker, Ph.D., an adjunct professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, says their microbiomes have adapted to certain foods because different cultures have consumed similar diets for generations. The bacterial strains are then transmitted genetically in the microbiomes. "People in Asia tend to eat more seaweed for example and people in Africa tend to eat more meat. These [eating habits] develop, over time, different communities of the microbiome through genetic activation and immune responses, and this is heritable, "he says.

This may explain why some studies suggest that some ethnicities are more susceptible to intolerances to certain foods than others. For example, in East Asian populations, lactose intolerance is extremely common (affecting about 70 percent of people in these communities) compared to people with Northern European ancestry (where lactose intolerance affects only around 5 percent of this community). "What I know anecdotally [from working with clients] is that some people from certain parts of the world have a tougher time digesting different foods and this seems to be related to gene variants, but further scientific research is required," says registered dietitian Maya Feller, RD.

Our genetic relation to our microbiomes is also the reason why there is no one-diet-fits-all — even if it's one that has long been declared as healthy, like the Mediterranean diet. "We hear so much about the Mediterranean diet and it's being marketed as the go-to diet for good health, cancer prevention, diabetes, and prevention of obesity, etc. But how do you explain to the more than 67,000 Japanese centenarians that they miraculously made it to 100 years old? "Says Dr. Bodeker, citing the Blue Zones where people stay regularly to be in good health above 100. "They didn't need the Mediterranean diet and they would not have lived to be 100 if they stuck to the Med diet, because that's not what they're designed for."

How To Find The Right Food For Your Intestines?

And we should all just look to our ancestors to find the foods that are perfect for your microbiome, right? Ah, not so easy. Since most of us are a mixture of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and cultures, that can be quite a challenge. If your budget allows, Dr. Bodeker encourages you to fit home test kits such as 23andMe (from $99), which can come with an ancestral study, or a microbiome test such as Viome ($179), which determines the foods make your gut flourish and which foods are troublesome. Feller recommends instead paying attention to how different foods make you feel and recording it in a food journal.

When you have an understanding of what makes the most of your microbiota, it doesn't mean you're limited to that diet. Feller's completely in favor of playing with various foods from different cultures and seeing how they make you feel. If you experience some physical side effects such as bloating or lack of energy, this may be an indication that your microbiome is not compatible with the new flavors. "One way I encourage people to do this is to go region by region, only concentrating one by one on various areas across the globe to see what they want," she says. Have fun being curious and discovering what's in your neighborhood right on sale. Chances are, there's no need to go far to broaden your palate.

Moreover, think about the health benefits that you might find by broadening your gastronomic horizons. "So many many cultures use spices and herbs and some of them have amazing antioxidant content," says Feller. "So besides giving more flavor to the food, you can also get these benefits."

When introducing new foods, look out for any physical side effects, such as bloating or lack of energy. That may be a warning that your microbiome is not compatible with the new flavors.

Both Dr. Bodeker and Feller point out that in addition to food there are other factors that also influence the microbiome, such as exercise and stress. For example, if you prefer to eat lunch in front of your computer, it can also influence your microbiome by reacting to emails it cause you anxiety. And, of course, if you have any underlying health conditions, it may also.

Genetics is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to healthy eating. But if you're trying to find out what to eat to feel the best of yourself, it could be a significant one to remember. Looking forwards also helps to look ahead.

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