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Gut Health - What The Sh*t!

Should I Consider The GI Map Testing?

Bear shitting in the woods
Does A bear Sh*t in the Woods?

The Gut-Wrenching Truth About Your Microbiome (rated PG)

Not gonna lie - I’ve written the intro to this post more than a few times.  Too many tempting puns, you know?  “Game of Thrones”“Gone with the Wind”“Fifty Shades of Brown” (some liberties here) - Bahh.  It’s like me after a cocktail at a family reunion.  As a doc who rarely tries to keep things dry and professional, you’ll be pleased to know I made but a feeble attempt to walk the line here because, well, it was just too damn easy not to.   

Poop is easy to laugh about – so many meme worthy fun facts.  Blue whales poop out 50 some gallons of poop every time they visit a restroom.  That’s, like, 500 pounds.  Of poop.  Seriously.  It’s funny, totally gross - but believe it or not, poop is important!  Pooping is the end result of countless critical processes that we unknowingly rely on every minute of every day to keep us free from toxins, make sure our immune systems are operational, brain is functioning, and hormones are balanced. 

We used to refer to the gut as ‘the second brain’.  But by all current accounts, it might just be running the whole show.  The communication between our gut and our brain is bidirectional – meaning they ‘speak to one another’.  How?  Well, it’s a little complicated.  By utilizing multiple different pathways including neuronal, hormonal, and immune system mediators, linking emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions, they make it work.  It’s like a cross between the walkie-talkie and the NSA.  This is complicated shit.     


Why Should You Give A Crap?  

What Is the Gut Microbiome? 

You can’t see them or hear them, but they are all around us.  Trillions of them, everywhere.  Yes – aliens, too, but I’m talking about biota.  Bugs.  We’re talking about bugs, people.  Microorganisms live in us, on us, and around us all the time and you don’t even know they’re there.  These constitute the ‘microbiome’ that all those smart sciency people speak of.  These organisms define the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the residents on our skin.  They also colonize our gut – all the way from our mouths to our, well, you know.  For purposes here, ‘microbiome’ will refer to the mish mash of microbes that inhabit our most inhabitable section of the GI tract: the distal colon.   

When you poop into your freshly sterilized toilet, you see poop.  Hopefully.  But when you really zoom in (to zoom in on poop is actually someone’s job – be grateful if you do data entry at this point and not microbiology), you will see much more.  Microbes shoved together, side by side, end to end, all over the place.  Something like 50-75% of poop is just microbes.  Trillions of cells, hundreds to thousands of species – bacteria, parasites, fungi, viruses – they’re everywhere.  This is an extremely complex ecosystem.  The system in your mouth is different from the one in your esophagus, which is different from the stomach, small intestine, and colon.  The colon or large intestine is the epicenter of metabolic activity.  It’s also the best studied because poop is easy to get into a fry tray and off to a lab.   

Where Do They Come From? 

Aliens or microbes in the gut?  I’ll address the newly discovered truths about extraterrestrials in the next post.  BUT, the origins of microbes in the gut might even more fascinating. Infants are born in a sterile environment, so prior to earth entry they have zero microbiomeNada.  Total blank slate.  In the first year of life, well documented events shape the environment in the gut.  Babies born via C-section have gut microbiomes that look like that found on the skin.  Babies born via vaginal delivery have gut microbiomes that look more like vaginal or adult gut microbiota.  Breast fed microbiomes look different from formula fed ones.  Antibiotic treated look different from non-antibiotic treated microbiota.   

The microbes that are established early in life set the stage for the entire trajectory for the immune system and metabolism later in life.  Microbes from the hospital, your next-door neighbor, your family members, pets, foods, all ultimately come together to determine your biology.     


Healthy vs Unhealthy Microbiota? 

Ooooo – complicated question.  We have only just scratched the surface of this.  Where on planet earth do you live?  Which foods does your culture consume?  What diseases are you genetically susceptible to?  No single answer here on ‘who’s shit doesn’t stink’ question, but in general, think diversity, diversity, diversity.  The more different kinds of microorganisms in your gut, the better things tend to be.   


***The human gut microbiome is 100-500X larger than the human genome*** 

Your gut health is kind of like the S&P 500.  When it crashes, the whole economy collapses. From digesting your food to supporting your immune system, management of your mood, memory, and metabolism, these microscopic tax paying citizens have a huge impact on the health of your overall GDP. They're the mostly unappreciated blue collar working class, on call 24/7, to keep you feeling fantastic or like a flaming pile of dog shit. 

Enemies of the Gut 

It should come as no surprise that our modern lifestyle is mostly like a class 5 hurricane style disaster to our microbiome. Processed foods, environmental toxins, stress, the totally poisonous products we put on our skin every day are actively destroying the very microorganisms trying desperately to keep you alive and functional.  Imagine tossing a burning Molotov cocktail into a perfectly manicured rose garden - that's basically what happens when you eat at McDonald’s or swallow a 10-day course of Augmentin. 



Favorable gut microbes are picky eaters. Feed them junk, and they'll throw a tantrum – or more like an out-of-control frat party. Highly processed foods, sugar, and artificial sweeteners are complete trash for your microbes.  Wanna start a revolt where the gremlins called ‘Candida’ and ‘Klebsiella’ take control of the state capital?  Have a Diet Coke.  This is simple garbage in, garbage out, people.  Want to maintain a healthy host environment?  Easy.  Stop eating shit.  Drinking some water from time to time wouldn’t hurt here either. 



Ah, stress, the not-so-silent gut saboteur. Being a microbe of a stressed out human is like working for a boss that never sleeps (I don’t want to hear it, LFM employees).  Chronic stress is constantly putting your gut microbes under pressure and unlike my staff, they don’t become more productive. Quiet the contrary. High levels of stress and adrenal strain can lead to a weakened gut lining (ie ‘leaky gut’) and an unproductive ‘on their cell phones all day texting friends about how unhappy they are’ microbiome. 



This is where it gets interesting – or supremely overwhelming. Just like you probably take vitamins to boost your overall health, there are specific supplements aimed at supporting your gut microbiome. But, it's not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. The key is finding the right ones for you.  But what do you need?  Prebiotics?  Probiotics?  I hear they make ‘Postbiotics’ now too?  More acid, less acid, maybe some aloe vera or licorice or something.  How’s a person to know? 

No need to fret – We know exactly what you need.  I will tell you, well, actually, I’m going to let your poop tell you.  That’s where the paradise or problem is, after all.  In order to know how best to support your gut microbiome, you must do a small favor for me. 

You must poop in a box. 

You heard me.  Go ahead.  Poop in it.  Poop in the box of ‘comprehensive stool digestive analysis’ (CDSA) testing, slap a FedEx label on it, and a few short weeks later, the mysteries of the Sphinx will be revealed.  No more guessing at which and how many expensive supplements your gut microbiome needs.  No more trying this thing your friend told you about or ordering that thing that you read on your Facebook feed.  Guesswork is out.  All you need to do is just test your shit.   

This kind of gut testing has been around a long time, but back in the day, it was kind of shitty, at best.  A dude with a microscope looking at poop under a slide?  Please.  No wonder results were so crappy.  You’re telling me he was paying ‘super close attention’ to your poop?  Barf.  He could barely open the specimen.   

Now, specialty labs are using state-of-the-art, quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) technology, to evaluate gut pathogens, bacterial infections, yeast overgrowth, viruses, and parasites.  Poop testing tells us if your gut is leaky, if it is inflamed, is your liver working, your gall bladder, your pancreas.  Does it look like you’re reacting to foods, are you sensitive to gluten?  Is there microscopic bleeding that you can’t see?  This is next level testing for dysbiosis and overall GI function.   

Your diarrhea, constipation, bloating, reflux, autoimmune disease, and inability to lose weight answers are likely completely different from the next box of poop with the same symptoms.  This is how we can say with 100% certainty what your individual gut needs.   



So, there you have it, folks.  An entire blog post of my shit talk.  You knew the gut microbiome wasn’t just a bunch of crap.  Well, okay, it is, but it’s important crap anyway.  Your gut is a literal metropolis of microscopic organisms, all working tirelessly to keep you healthy, happy, and, pooping on the regular.  From the moment you enter this world, your gut microbiome begins to take shape, influenced by everything from your delivery method to what you eat for breakfast. And let’s not forget about the role of stress – because let’s face it, even your gut microbes need a little Zen.  Fear not, friends, there is hope for optimizing that which we can’t easily see.  With the science of comprehensive digestive stool analysis and a little fecal fortitude, we can now peer into the inner workings of your gut like never before. No more guessing games or one-size-fits-all approaches – just personalized poop analysis to guide us on the quest for gut greatness. 


So, the next time you’re feeling a little backed up or bloaty, remember that your gut microbiome is more than just a punchline – it’s a crucial player in your overall health and well-being.  So go ahead, embrace the awkward question, and remember - when it comes to your gut, knowledge is power.  Got questions about what’s really going on in there?  Ask no more.  Poop in the box and find out.  

We offer GI Map testing to patients and non-patients alike. Curious about your colon? Give us a call:)

Cheers to good gut health and happy pooping! 




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