Here you'll gain insight into the process and what goes into your personalized Viome recommendations. We'll cover the approach we take and some of the scientific principles we use when determining your food recommendations.
Our primary focus is on making healthy recommendations that encourage richness and diversity of your gut microbiome. A resilient microbiome has a wide variety of organisms, each with their own functions. When you have a diverse microbiome, you have a higher number of various species present. Meaning, they can perform a wider range of functions. In other words, you want a high level of richness and diversity.
Robust richness and diversity create an ecosystem of organisms in your microbiome that can withstand many different types of stress. Stress comes in many forms like a drastic change in diet, running a marathon, being exposed to toxins such as pesticides, or even emotional stress. The negative impact stress has on us can be dampened by a diverse microbiome which can help with mood regulation and decreasing cortisol levels.
Boosting Butyrate Production
One example of how our recommendations encourage a balanced microbiome is by suggesting foods that fuel microbes known to produce beneficial compounds. Foods that contain certain fibers, such as inulin, support the microbial production of butyrate, a beneficial short-chain fatty acid. Some of the benefits of butyrate include:
Helping keep the lining of your gut healthy.
Helping control inflammation.
Promoting balanced blood sugar levels.
Supporting a healthy appetite.
So, it's essential to make sure you're eating foods that your microbes can utilize to create butyrate. Your Viome recommendations can help with that.
Supporting Your Personal Microbes
Another reason for specific food recommendations is that we want to encourage your microbes to metabolize compounds in food to get their full benefit. Since almost everything we eat is first broken-down by your microbes, those components in foods get transformed by your bacteria before your body can use them.
In some cases, potentially healthy foods are not effective unless their components are transformed by the microbiome into the beneficial products. An example of this would be ellagic acid, which is found in foods like strawberries, raspberries, and pomegranates.
Ellagic acid gets converted into urolithin A by a subset of microbes. Then, when urolithin A gets absorbed into our bloodstream, it is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. If your microbiome cannot do this conversion, it's better to focus on foods that are more beneficial for you.
Avoiding the Right Foods
Another layer of Viome's personalized recommendations is that we recommend minimizing or avoiding some foods. This is because these foods may contain potentially harmful components that can't be neutralized by your microbiome without the right organisms present.
In many cases, our microbiome protects us from substances in our food that can potentially be damaging to our health. Certain microbes can metabolize these substances and make them less harmful. But of course, not all of us have microbiomes that are capable of doing this. For example, oxalate is found in high amounts in foods like spinach, beet greens, and almonds. A specific group of microbes can neutralize oxalates when they are present. Oxalates are known to bind calcium, creating calcium oxalate (a.k.a kidney stones). If your microbiome does not house oxalate-neutralizing organisms, overtime calcium oxalates may form increase the risk of kidney stones. This is one of the reasons why some people may find high oxalate foods on their minimize list. It doesn't mean they can't eat them at all, but should only eat them every third or fourth day.
Personalized Macros & Balancing Blood Sugar
A fourth concept we apply is we want to minimize or avoid foods based on macronutrient composition. Some people derive more benefit from high fiber foods. Those individuals may see more high protein or high-fat foods on their minimize list, this is to focus caloric intake on fiber containing choices.
As you may know, some foods cause our blood sugar to rise rapidly. If this repeatedly happens, over time, high blood sugar can lead to insulin resistance and potentially diabetes. We also know that the same food can have very different effects on different people's blood sugar. We are all unique, and foods that are perfectly fine for one person can cause a surge in blood sugar for another. Your individual recommendations group some foods as avoid or minimize due to their potential of eliciting a high glycemic response.
When We See Dysbiosis
Now that we have sequenced the microbiomes of thousands of people, we have noticed that there are a significant number of people that have a particular type of dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is defined as an imbalance of microbial groups. This could mean having too many harmful microbes, too much of one family of microbes, or microbes that are growing in the wrong place.
This type of dysbiosis can cause a lot of very uncomfortable symptoms. If you are one of these people, your recommendations will include foods on your minimize list that contain certain types of fermentable fiber which may aggravate your gut. These recommendations are meant to be followed for a period of time to correct the gut imbalance.
Be Sure to Check Your Food Tips Section
In the Food Tips section within your Viome app, there is a list of common foods to avoid. These foods are not really healthy or beneficial for anyone and can be outright harmful to some. Even though this list may seem generic, some of you may have an even greater reason to stay away from them.
For example, trehalose is a sugar type additive that is used to make many types of frozen processed foods such as ice cream. Research has shown that trehalose can cause Clostridium difficile to grow and become pathogenic. If you have active Clostridium difficile in your microbiome and your microbes are being exposed to trehalose, it is even more important for you to stay away from trehalose containing foods. Although we would never put processed foods on anyone's enjoy list, you should be aware of these additives and how they can impact your microbes and their functions.
Know Your Personalized Avoid Foods
With your Viome results, you also get personalized avoid foods recommended and see why those foods got that label. In some cases, you may see a substitute food that you could choose to eat instead. One reason some foods are on your avoid list could be because you have a virus that infects that type of plant in your microbiome or perhaps the compounds in that food are unfavorable for your microbiome and gut integrity.
It's been shown that some plant viruses can cause inflammation when they enter into the human microbiome. Avoiding eating foods that contain those viruses for a period of time will remove a potential trigger of inflammation. On subsequent testing, you may see that you are clear some viruses and can enjoy those foods again.
Your Personalized Serving Sizes
When you look at your food lists, you will see that each food has a serving size. These serving sizes are specific to Viome and may be different from the serving sizes you are used to. The number of servings that are recommended from each food groups are individualized for you and based on nutritional needs.
Strive to eat your personalized number of servings every day. But remember, if you are especially active one day or work out a lot, you may need more calories and thus more servings. Use your best judgment and try to stop eating when you are 80% full.
Love Your Gut Microbiome
We owe our microbiome a great deal of thanks. Everything in our environment and especially in our food is used and transformed by our microbes. If we have a balanced microbiome and our microbes are hard at work, they can help us neutralize harmful food metabolites, increase the ability of our body to utilize beneficial compounds, and produce compounds that strengthen our guts.
We need to be kind to our gut microbiomes and focus on healthy foods, so they can support our overall health and wellness.
We appreciate you being a Viome customer and will always strive to bring you the latest findings and explanations about your gut microbiome. Click here for more information on our Health Intelligence Service.