Gut health Drs Erica and Justin Sonnenburg

How the microbiome affects your health and ways to optimise it | Drs Erica & Justin Sonnenburg

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In Episode #202, I’m joined by Drs Erica and Justin Sonnenburg to learn more about microbes and the gut microbiome.

“Only about 1% of the encoded genetic material that each one of us walks around with is the human genome. 99% of our genetic material is microbial in origin. If you really want to get to a human genome, you have to understand all the bacteria.” – Dr Erica Sonnenburg

Research into the human microbiome is a fascinating and rapidly developing field, with new studies constantly being published. This week’s guests are notably accomplished researchers on this topic and bring a wealth of knowledge to the table.

Erica and Justin Sonnenburg, both PhD, are researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and authors of The Good Gut. Their work has been published in some of the top journals, including Cell, Science, and Nature. Justin has previously featured in Episode #191 of the show, and today Erica makes her debut on The Proof.

“Over evolutionary time we have cultivated a relationship with a group of microbes that can on the one hand exclude pathogens, take up space in our gut and occupy it so they provide competition for the bad guys, and… do all these wonderful things for us: help us digest food, synthesise molecules that appear to be important for our health… we’ve actually become reliant on the signals that our microbes produce for different aspects of development and metabolism.” – Dr Justin Sonnenburg

This episode, we recap (or introduce for new listeners) what microbes are and what the microbiome is. Then we dive into a more in-depth conversation about evolution and the microbiome, the impacts of industrialisation on the gut, and what inflammation really means for human health. You’ll learn about probiotics; microbiome diversity; the relationship between microbiota and disease; how low-fibre, animal-based diets effect the gut; and more.

Specifically, we discuss:

  • Intro [0:00]
  • Fasting & Gut Health [2:42]
  • What the Microbiome is [7:06]
  • Studying the Microbiome [14:47]
  • Healthy vs Industrialized Microbiome [19:00]
  • Inflammation [28:55]
  • Food & Restoring Diversity [46:39]
  • Animal-based elimination diets [1:04:25]
  • Healing your own Microbiome [1:15:39]
  • Gluten & Lectins [1:36:04]
  • Lifestyle Changes [1:42:13]
  • Conclusion [1:45:42]

Whether you’re well versed in the gut microbiome or are hearing about it for the first time, there’s lots to learn in this episode. Drs Erica and Justin do an excellent and eloquent job of outlining the basics and expanding into more specific, complex components.

To learn more from the Drs Sonnenburg, you can access the Sonnenburg Lab website, read their book, The Good Gut, and connect with Justin on Twitter. You can also listen to Dr Justin in Episode #191, and see below for resources and more.

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When approaching a topic as complex as the gut microbiome, there’s always more to learn. I hope that you find this episode informative and illuminating.

Enjoy, friends.


More about Dr Justin Sonnenburg

Justin Sonnenburg, PhD, is currently an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, where he studies the gut microbiota in health and disease and co-directs the Center for Human Microbiome Studies. He has received an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award and Pioneer Award and co-founded Novome Biotechnologies, a synthetic biology company that engineers gut microbes to treat disease. He and his wife and collaborator, Erica, are the authors of the book The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-Term Health.

More about Dr Erica Sonnenburg

Erica Sonnenburg is a senior research scientist at the Stanford University School of Medicine in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology where she studies the role of diet on the human intestinal microbiota. She has published her groundbreaking scientific findings in prestigious journals such as Cell, Science, Nature and Mood, and Your Long-Term Health.

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