4 Ways to Get Firm by Lowering Firmicutes

The Biggest Myth about Obesity

One of the biggest myths about obesity is that it’s caused by laziness or indulgence. It’s not. It’s caused by your body reacting to stressors. In response to stress, your body will store food to prepare for famine, and you will gain weight. Some stressors are obvious, but many are not. Some are as silent and invisible as the bacteria in our intestines.

In a startling study(1), Dr. Gewirtz at Cornell University showed that the weight of mice could be changed by over 15 percent just by shifting their intestinal bacteria. Along with weight changes, the bacteria present changed the mice’s chemistry in ways that could predict heart disease, high blood pressure and risks for diabetes.

Related work(2) has shown this same connection to intestinal bacteria also exists in humans. In fact, transplanting bacteria from the intestinal tracts of obese humans has been shown to trigger obesity in normal-weight mice.(3)

Understanding Bacteria

First, it’s important to realize that 99 percent of our intestinal bacteria are unable to use oxygen. Bacteria that can’t use oxygen are called anaerobes. This is important because all the foods with bacteria (like sauerkraut and yogurt)— as well as all the bacteria in probiotic supplements– only contain bacteria that live in oxygen. These foods and supplements—terrific as they may be— have little or no effect on the anaerobes that run the show.

Of the many types of anaerobes, the two that are most directly involved with obesity are the Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes. Most studies have shown that the more Bacteroidetes you have (compared to your Firmicutes), the leaner you will be. So, if you want to be firm, you want more Bacteroidetes and fewer Firmicutes.

How Bacteria Affects Our Weight

The reason these bacteria affect our weight is that they regulate how much fat we absorb. Imagine two identical twins eating exactly 2,000 calories, but with different ratios of Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes. The one with a higher ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes will absorb more calories than the other and be more apt to gain weight while eating the exact same diet. (4)

In light of the growing rates of obesity, a good question to ask would be, “what is causing these bacteria to shift in ways that would lead to weight gain?

One explanation is the remarkable changes in our lifestyle over the past few decades. We now:

  • Use more antimicrobial soaps and hand sanitizers.
  • Are exposed to more environmental pollutants.
  • Live under higher amounts of stress.

How Stress Affects Bacteria

It’s easy to see the effect of the hand santizers and environmental pollutants. Antimicrobial soaps and hand sanitizers are problems because they kill good bacteria as well as bad ones. Environmental pollutants are toxic to good bacteria, just as they’re toxic to us.. But the connection of stress to bacteria is less obvious. How could stress affect bacteria?

Here’s how. Mental and emotional stress triggers the release of adrenal stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline. These stress hormones act on the brain and stimulate the vagus nerve, an important nerve that forms a kind of circuit between the brain and the heart, lungs and, tellingly, the gut .. Stress reduces the blood supply needed to properly digest foods and manage the balance of bacteria. And this tie between your brain and gut is a two-way street, because stress hurts your digestion, and poor digestion makes you feel more stressed. When this vicious cycle gets rolling, your Bacteroidetes are reduced, and you gain weight more easily.

What You Can Do Now

Here are some things you can do to help yourself right now:

  1. Eat a high-fiber diet with good carbs. Because Firmicutes are needed to absorb fats, higher fat diets cause you to have more of them, leading to weight gain.(5)
  2. Avoid sugars and processed carbs. Firmicutes are so well-suited to grow on sugars that they’re known to grow rampantly in factories that process sugar-cane into table sugar.(6)
  3. Raise your intake of beans. Beans are among the very best foods to raise your Bacteroidetes.(7) If you can’t digest beans, that’s likely a sign that you have too few Bacteroidetes. But rather than avoid beans completely, studies(8) have shown that if you add beans into your diet slowly, and stick with them, the symptoms will go away. To train your bacteria to digest beans well, I encourage you to add just 1 tablespoon of pinto beans daily to the evening meal for two weeks. After two weeks, most people are able to digest more typical amounts.
  4. Sleep and eat on a regular schedule. Cutting-edge data(9) have shown that our intestinal bacteria have a rhythm that changes throughout the day just like our sleep-wake cycle. Shift work, jet lag and erratic meal times can hurt our good bacteria just like antibiotics can.

A New Way of Thinking

The old way of thinking was that you could only get healthy through strenuous effort and deprivation.

That wasn’t fun, and it didn’t work anyway.

The new way of thinking about health is very different. Far from being based on pain and suffering, being truly healthy, lean and energized turns out to be a product of being at peace— and in sync with the world around you.

REFERENCES

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20203013
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18779823
  3. http://www.nature.com/ismej/journal/v7/n4/full/ismej2012153a.html
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19043404
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20508158
  6. http://www.nature.com/articles/srep03107
  7. http://www.nature.com/articles/ni0111-5.epdf?referrer_access_token=vL7jxMmtMFm-J4FsmHepUdRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0PAiPQVX4O0BwVZ-fYGp-TIYMqF2kFy186abTGLBRFRKUWapmh9JaLzh5h23wzZqenyhLfamjFCg-s5fygJWl65wZJ0pmLfUMqLKeY6cJbKFdL3fym_h8tRfKdgobiJutcaHLo265C0-7JeJCdvU7qt_HT0vFEd5fPIA1ZSHrE-kjkYFSNMlEZoNUr3mqzaqSm_KYtDi1M8YUlXsZKlZE7VZXdslBYfNL58vLPKW2zH7w%3D%3D&tracking_referrer=www.huffingtonpost.com
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22104320
  9. http://www.cell.com/abstract/S0092-8674%2814%2901236-7

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Deb Hubers

Debra Hubers is a serial entrepreneur and has started seven businesses; ranging from an advanced genomics to an employer health care purchasing cooperative. Deb has over 35 years of experience in healthcare finance, education, technology, and pharmacogenomics.

Ms. Hubers has dedicated her career to measuring and improving healthcare outcomes. Her expertise is leveraging technology to deliver personalized, preventative medicine. Ms. Hubers co-founded La Vita Compounding Pharmacy in 2007. Collaborating with her business partner, physicians and strategic partners, Deb has grown La Vita to be one of the most respected and sought-after personalized medicine providers on the west coast. She is also Co-Founder of EpigeneticsRx, a leading provider of precise, personalized, prevention which positively impacts genetic expression.

Alex Keller, ND

Dr. Alex Keller, ND, AFMCP is a graduate of the University of Ottawa with an Honours Bachelor in Health Sciences and Psychology. Although originally intending to attend conventional medical school, following a three-month volunteer internship at a rural Kenyan hospital where he observed how doctors used local food to treat patients, he shifted his career goals and pursued a degree in naturopathic medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.

After one year of practicing with the esteemed Dr. Chris Pickrell, ND, RH in a community acupuncture setting, in 2015 he and his wife Dr. Jenn Keller, ND moved to rural Ottawa, Canada where they started an organic farm and retreat center. In the same year, Alex and his athletic therapist sister Jess Keller combined their practices to form Keller Active Health, an integrative physical therapy clinic.

Ever curious and passionate about the education of evidence-based natural medicine, in 2017, Dr. Keller joined a fledgling Ottawa-based health tech startup named Fullscript. He serves as its Medical Director and oversees the development of medical education content for practitioners across North America.

Prior to medicine, Alex worked in the renewable energy sector, where he developed a deep passion for sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship. This connection between medicine and agriculture now drives Alex to focus much of his energy on bringing awareness to the quality and sourcing standards in the supplement and organic agriculture supply chains.

Today, he splits his professional time practicing as a clinician, working for Fullscript, and expanding the farming operation while chasing his kids with Jenn and occasionally running ultra-marathon trail races. He is also currently completing an Executive MBA through the Quantic School of Business & Technology with a focus on supply chain innovation.

Pamela Snider, ND

Pamela Snider, ND, is Executive and Senior Editor for the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine Project, producing a first of its kind international textbook of Naturopathic medicine through a series of international retreats and symposia. A nationally recognized integrative health and policy leader, she is active in both national and regional integrative health initiatives. Dr. Snider serves on the Board of Directors, was founding Executive Director and co-founder of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Health (ACIH/ACCAHCa consortium of the councils of schools, accrediting agencies and certifying bodies of the licensed, traditional and emerging integrative health professions, and is currently Vice Chair and co-founder of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC).  Dr. Snider served as a founding Board Member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine from 2014-2016. Her public policy work includes completing a two year appointment to the DHHS Center For Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee (MCAC); serving as a Steering Committee Member for  the HRSA funded American College of Preventive Medicine NCCIM Integrative Medicine in Preventive Medicine Residency program, co-directing in USPHS Region X the Building Bridges Between Provider Communities Group, an exploration of interdisciplinary collaboration and common ground between public health and CAM; serving for 22 years on Washington State’s Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program Advisory Committee (HPLRSP); providing technical assistance to and developing key language for the enabling legislation for NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH/NCCAM); and staffing Joseph Pizzorno ND during his appointment as Commissioner on the White House Commission on CAM Policy.

From 1994-2003, Dr. Snider served as Associate Dean for Public and Professional Affairs and Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, dividing her work between academic and public affairs activities, including chairing the Naturopathic Medicine Program Curriculum Review Committee.  Dr. Snider has been teaching, publishing and lecturing widely on Naturopathic philosophy, theory integrative health, public policy, and other topics for over 30 years. Currently, an Associate Professor at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, OR, Dr. Snider also continues at Bastyr University in her 22nd year as a faculty member teaching naturopathic medicine history, clinical theory, and global context. Among her Naturopathic medicine professional roles she serves on the Institute for Natural Medicine’s Leadership Council.  In 1989, she co-led the naturopathic profession with Dr. Jared Zeff, in developing a unifying definition of naturopathic medicine and its principles of practice adopted unanimously by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) House of Delegates. She was a co-investigator in the 2004 NIH NCCAM research study, the North American Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda and CAM Advisor in NIHCCAM’s Financing Integrative Health Care (University of Washington).  Her areas of experience include healthcare education; naturopathic and interdisciplinary clinical theory, curriculum development; clinical practice; government and legislative affairs, public policy, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community organizing.  Dr. Snider has received the Ontario Naturopathic Physician of the Year Award, the Physician of the Year Award from the AANP, the President’s Outstanding Vision Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award at Bastyr University, AANP’s President’s Award, an honorary Doctorate of Naturopathic Philosophy from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), the William A Mitchell Vis Award from the AANP and The Gathering – NMSA’s Beacon Award. She received her ND degree in 1982 from Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences and is a licensed naturopathic physician in the State of Washington. She lives with her husband and children at their homestead in North Bend Washington, in the beautiful mountain to sea landscape and home of The Revival – Restore the Vis, an annual student-led community gathering.

Susan Haeger

Susan Haeger is Founder/Principal of Transformative Health Solutions Inc. She has applied her twenty plus years in executive leadership to help shape and drive adoption of progressive health policy for whole person healthcare. She was a section contributor to the 2021 INM/AANP published professional white paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists: The Future is Whole Person Health Care that provides supporting evidence for the profession’s significant and unique contributions to preventive, whole person care and models of integrative clinical practice.

Bruce Barlean

Bruce Barlean is an owner and founder of Barlean’s, a global dietary supplement manufacturer located in the Pacific Northwest in Ferndale, WA. Bruce has been actively involved in the Natural Products industry since 1989 and is passionate about making a difference in the world and positively impacting the lives of others.

Bruce believes that people can make a difference in the world through ordinary purchases. He is committed to improving the quality of life for every person on the planet by making the best products and by using the profits to support outreach programs. Bruce summarizes it simply, “We make good stuff to do good stuff”.

In the late 1980’s Bruce became passionate about how health could be dramatically improved with Flax Oil Supplementation. Bruce along with his entrepreneurial parents saw the potential to improve the lives of many people and in 1989 they began selling Flax Oil under the Barlean’s name. From 1989 – 2000 the business grew an average of 40% year over year. While most companies saw a decline in business in the 2001 recession, Barlean’s continued to grow and soon became America’s #1 selling flaxseed oil and continues to be to the present. The brand has since expanded to include additional oils, green food concentrates and other premium supplements. Bruce continues to drive innovation and over the years his products and company have won countless awards including: Eight consecutive Vity Awards for #1 EFA, Six consecutive Vity Awards for #1 Greens Food Supplement, Natural Choice Award for Best Specialty Supplement, Best Product of the Year, Best New Product, Gold Medal Taster’s Choice Award, Gold Medal American Masters of Taste Award, #1 Health Food Store Brand for Consumer Satisfaction by Consumer Lab, and Manufacturer of the Year.

In 2013 as the company was on the eve of celebrating the 25th year in business Bruce and his parents decided to take their desire to help people to a new level that they call Pathway to a Better Life – which is now seen in the Barlean’s logo. Bruce and his parents had always been generous in their giving and support of charities, but as part of the Pathway to a Better Life they decided to increased partnership with charitable organizations such as: Vitamin Angels, Compassion International, KidsTown International, Autism Hope Alliance, Engedi Refuge, Project 92, and others. And because so many people are unable to meet basic nutritional needs, Bruce created a comprehensive Omega-3 and multivitamin formula that he distributes free-of-charge to local food banks. In addition, Bruce decided the company would supply food banks with organic coconut oil to provide people with a health alternative to standard cooking oils.

Always generous with his time Bruce has served as a youth leader for his local church for several years and continues to mentor youth. He has been on several not for profit boards including; Whatcom County Pregnancy Center (2003-2006), Natural Products Association (dates?), and the Institute for Natural Medicine Leadership Council (presently).

The Barlean family have been avid supporters of Bastyr University since the 1990’s and in 2013 were given Bastyr’s most prestigious honor, the Mission Award, which recognizes their leadership over time in improving the health and well-being of the human community.

Bruce currently resides in Ferndale, WA with his wife Lisa and their two dogs: Heinz & Shadow. When he’s not helping others he can be found fishing (catch & release).

Get Involved!

Michelle Simon, PHD, ND

President & CEO

As president and CEO of INM, Dr. Simon brings her passion for working with organizations dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare. This desire stems from her years of practice as a licensed naturopathic physician. In addition to holding a Naturopathic Doctorate from Bastyr University she also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She has served on boards for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI), and several advisory boards. Dr. Simon served nine years on the Washington State Health Technology Clinical Committee, as Ambassador to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and was recognized as 2018 AANP Physician of the Year. Dr. Simon shares with her husband a passion for adventure travel, preferably by boat or motorcycle. She also enjoys teaching a women’s off-road motorcycling class.