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Gut Genes: How your genetic variants impact your gut microbiome

Key takeaways:
~ The gut microbiome is unique to each individual and impacts your health.
~ Your genetic variants – along with your diet and environment – impact which bacteria can live in your gut.

Your gut microbiome and your genes:

Your gut microbiome is unique to you. But why? Have you ever wondered why our gut microbes are different?

The bacteria that take up residence in your intestines depend on:

  • the foods you eat (or rather, what you feed your bacteria)
  • exposure to different bacteria
  • exposure to toxins or antibiotics
  • and your genes!

This article is going to dig into how all of this comes together — why the genetic variants you inherited from mom and dad influence the bacteria that can reside within you and how dietary changes can make a difference.

How your genes impact your gut microbiome:

It is weird to think that the bacteria in our colon are doing more than just breaking down the extra food waste — the fiber that we didn’t digest. But research shows that the influence of our gut microbes on our health is huge.

Your gut microbiome influences:

  • susceptibility to infections, such as h. pylori[ref]
  • your body weight (big time)[ref]
  • your mood — including regulating anxiety and depression[ref]
  • whether you have asthma and allergies[ref]
  • your risk for cardiovascular disease[ref]
  • and even some types of cancer[ref]

While it may seem odd to think of yourself as a host, as an environment… that is just what you are to the microbes living within or on you. And just like your genetic variants make you look and act differently than everyone else, your unique makeup also influences the types of microbes that can flourish within you.

Studies on identical twins and fraternal twins show that part of what drives the composition of your gut microbiome is your genes.[ref]

Why is your gut microbiome important?

Whether bloating, rumbling, or running to the bathroom, we have all experienced the misery at some point of not having happy intestinal function…

But when all it’s working just fine, most people tend to ignore the tiny microbes hard at work in their intestines.

Your gut microbes can play an important role in your health, though. Some microbes produce vitamins such as vitamin K and some B-vitamins. Others produce short-chain fatty acids used by the intestinal cells as well as signaling to the liver to decrease cholesterol synthesis.[ref]

In people who are overweight or obese, the gut microbiome increases how much energy is obtained from food.[ref] You are what you eat — and also what your microbes eat and produce fatty acids from.

Gut Microbes Genotype Report:

Your genetic variants play a role in which species are likely to make up your gut microbiome. Research on this is in its infancy, though, so there is still a lot more to learn on this topic.

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Work with your gut microbes instead of against them:

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About the Author:
Debbie Moon is the founder of Genetic Lifehacks. Fascinated by the connections between genes, diet, and health, her goal is to help you understand how to apply genetics to your diet and lifestyle decisions. Debbie has a BS in engineering and also an MSc in biological sciences from Clemson University. Debbie combines an engineering mindset with a biological systems approach to help you understand how genetic differences impact your optimal health.

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