Why There’s Little Straight-Talk About, Well, Using the Bathroom

A routine activity that’s built on euphemisms

There are people who claim they can tell your fortune through the reading of tea leaves, an art known as tasseography.

As for us, well, we guess you might say we can tell you a lot about yourself by reading your toilet paper.

You see, this is the method of collection we use to collect a gut microbiome sample for our DNA sequencing process. Continue reading “Why There’s Little Straight-Talk About, Well, Using the Bathroom”

Why Your Microbiome is Older Than You Are.

Now we know. A baby’s microbiome starts developing in the womb.

You probably wonʼt remember this, but the very first poop you popped out as a baby was pretty extraordinary.

So extraordinary, in fact, that it even had a name.

Meconium.

A babyʼs first bowel movement consists of stuff that was already in the gut before the first meal.

And Meconium is like no other stool youʼll ever pass.

Itʼs kind of dark olive-green with a tarry, viscous consistency, barely any smell, and made up of stuff you ingested when you were in the womb, including skin cells and “lanugo” – that thin downy hair often found on an infantʼs body.

Delightful, right?

But thatʼs not all meconium is made up of.

Researchers at the University of Florida discovered in 2010 that new-born babiesʼ meconium contains a diversity of bacteria, and that came as something of a shock.

You see, back in 1900 a French pediatrician called Henry Tissier had confidently declared that unborn babies were bacteria–free.

So according to popular myth, a baby was effectively sterile until the moment of birth.

Now to be fair to Tissier, he also isolated and named a bacterium called Bifidus that went on to play an important part in the world of probiotics, but thereʼs no doubt that he caused over 100 years of microbial misunderstandings with his sterile baby theory.

However, while itʼs certainly true that babies are born with a certain amount of bacteria, most of their microbiome builds up over time, with the first few minutes of life being especially important.

If a baby is delivered vaginally, she receives a dose of bacteria from her mother as she passes through the birth canal, getting covered in a microbial film that includes species which will help her digest her first meal.

But what happens if she enters the world as a result of a Cesarean section?

Well then her first dose of bacteria is likely to come from her motherʼs skin rather than her vagina, an observation supported by a Swedish study which showed that babies born via C-section have gut bacteria which show significantly less resemblance to their mothers compared to those delivered vaginally.

Some parents restore the balance after C-sections by “inoculating” their babies with a vaginal swab: incubating a piece of gauze in the vagina for an hour prior to delivery, then wiping it over the mouth, face, and body of the infant after delivery, in a process sometimes called “seeding”.

Quite a wake-up call.

A babyʼs microbiome continues developing after birth, resembling that of an adult by the age of three.

In fact babies pick up microbes from every single person and thing they touch, which in general is A Good Thing.

Humans tend to do best when they play host to a diverse microbial community.

A University of Idaho study found that there are even important bacteria in breast milk, meaning that the guts of babies given formula differ from those fed on breast milk.

All in all thereʼs no doubt about it.

Your bacteria play a vital part in your health, and always have.

Ever since you passed that rather outlandish first poop.

Have a great week!
Alexandra 🙂

Alexandra Carmichael
Director of Community, Product, and Growth
uBiome

Further reading

Your Changing Microbiome

Nurturing A Babyʼs Microbiome, Before And After Birth

The Maternal Microbiome

Maturation of the Infant Microbiome

Human Microbiome May Be Seeded Before Birth

The infant gut microbiome: New studies on its origins and how it’s knocked out of balance

The Human Microbiome, Diet, and Health: Workshop Summary

How to seed your baby with a healthy microbiome to last a lifetime

Mothers facing C-sections look to vaginal ‘seeding’ to boost their babies’ health

Microbirth: Why ‘Seeding Baby’s Microbiome’ Needs to Be on Every Birth Plan

Intestinal Microbial Ecology in Premature Infants Assessed Using Non-Culture Based Techniques

Characterization of the Diversity and Temporal Stability of Bacterial Communities in Human Milk

What’s Really In Your Poop?

The lowdown on the brown.

Does it seem like life dumps a load of poop into your mailbox at times?

Here at uBiome, this is literally the case. And I have to tell you we couldn’t be happier.

Much to our delight the postal service brings us stacks of fresh stool samples every morning (along with material swabbed from four other sites on people’s bodies – mouth, ears, nose and genitals).

Delight?

Oh yes. We love your poop. It’s so wonderfully rich in information about the microbiome, unlocked when we analyze it using DNA sequencing technology to reveal the make up of the three to six pounds of bacteria you carry in and on your body.

But what exactly is poop? Since so much (excuse the expression) ‘passes’ through our lab, you might not be too surprised that we know a thing or two about its ingredients.

First and foremost, feces contains a boatload of water. About 75% to be exact.

Put that aside, however, and things get more interesting.

About 50 to 80% of the remainder is bacteria, both living and dead. This is the stuff we’re focused on.

On top of that there’s protein, undigested food residue (more on this in a minute), waste material from food, cell membranes, fats, salts and material released from your intestines and liver (e.g. mucus).

If you’re anything like the average person you’ll produce around half your own body weight in feces every year.

That’s a lot.

Fortunately we require the tiniest proportion of this when you send in a gut microbiome test sample to us. It’s also far less yucky than you might imagine: simply swab your used toilet paper to collect just enough to turn the tip of the cotton swab brown.

Poop is generally brown, by the way, largely because of a pigment called bilirubin produced when your red blood cells break down.

And speaking of toilet paper, although it might seem as if you’re forever buying the stuff, this relatively minor inconvenience has to be better than living in Ancient Rome.

In those days you’d have wiped yourself with a communal sponge rinsed in a bucket of water or vinegar after use. Nice.

Oh yes, one last thing about that undigested food residue in your poop. (It’s okay, just about everyone has it, as some food is simply indigestible.)

The outside of corn kernels is a perfect example. While you’ll probably have no trouble processing the insides, the hulls are made of cellulose so they generally pass through your body intact.

Examine your poop after eating yellow corn, therefore, and you’ll likely spot what looks like intact kernels – actually just the “skins”.

In fact they can provide a neat way to time how long your body takes to digest food.

Like we said, your poop can tell you an enormous amount. All you have to do is listen.

Or at least send a little of it our way.

Have a great week!

Alexandra 🙂

Alexandra Carmichael
Director of Community, Product, and Growth
uBiome

uBiome presents a new dating platform: Are you Com-poop-able?*

poop

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In a world cluttered with dating sites, social networks, and matchmakers, navigating the fields of love can seem daunting.  Here at uBiome, we aim to simplify things and use metrics that matter to match you with the honey-poo of your dreams! 

We are proud to announce the new uBiome Com-poop-able dating app!  Simply submit a sample of your poop to our lab, and we will use our proprietary technology to match you with someone of your complementary bacterial profile!  In partnership with Tinder™ and Uber™ we will not only help you find your match, but bring them to you!  You can also chat with them privately via the the BM messaging system.  

Stop wasting time with people who will never fully appreciate all the trillions of bacteria that make you who you are, and join us today! 

*April Fools joke–come on guys…

How to Poop Well

On a lighter note, today we are honored by a guest post from nutrition and fitness guru Elijah Markstrom. Welcome, Elijah! Take it away…

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 6.39.57 AMI think a lot about my poop.  I look at my poop. I smell my poop. I notice the frequency, ease, volume and consistency of my poop on a daily basis.  Last week I took it to the next level and put my poop in the mail. 

At this point you may be wondering if I have some weird poop fetish. I don’t – I actually don’t particularly like poop!  The main reason I pay attention to my poop at all is that I am on a mission to fix my gut.

I’m a personal trainer by trade, a former track athlete, a dietary experimenter, and now a gut detective. In the coming weeks, I’ll be combining probiotics and prebiotics experiments with the uBiome test, to see what happens. I’ve been focused on improving my health for years, researching physical performance, behavioral addiction, optimal energy levels, and mental acuity to help me decide what to eat and how to exercise.

My belief is that if you are chronically exhibiting some symptom that is not ideal, there is probably an underlying problem that needs to be attended to.  And if it is not addressed, you will get more and more sick.  For me it is my skin – I breakout in acne. For others it may be sleep issues, acid reflux, allergies, or irritable bowels.  As research keeps emerging on the gut and what an important role it plays in all kinds of human body processes, it seems likely to me that many signs of dysfunction like this could be impacted by gut health.

The Gut and the Microbiome: A Moving Target

Every person is essentially two beings.  One is the muscles, fat, bones, tissue.  The “you” that you think of when you think of “me”.  The second part of every person is their gut micro-biome.  Those two parts work together.  What you eat affects your microbiome, and the balance of specific strains of bacteria in your microbiome affects what you eat. What that means is, if you want to lose fat, you need to feed the bacteria in there the right things in order to make it easier to eat the foods that favor fat loss.  It’s not just calories in and calories out.

Another important factor for optimal health is minimizing inflammation.  I’ve been gluten-free for a while now, but I’d like to see if I can reintroduce gluten while closely monitoring my microbiome. My understanding of one cause of inflammation has to do with intestinal permeability. When the lining of the large intestine is compromised, “stuff” that is not supposed to be in the blood stream ends up in the blood stream. This leads to your body launching a protective immune response, which leads to inflammation. For me it shows up as red sores on my back and some blemishes on my face.  At least that is what I think.  I am going to either prove that or rule that out over the coming months.

Last week I sent my poop specimen to uBiome to have my gut microbiome sequenced.  I don’t have the technical background to know how to interpret the data, so I have enlisted the help of my friend Grace Liu, affectionately know around the internet as the “Gut Goddess.” Grace will be helping me make sense of the results I get from uBiome.  We will use specific probiotic and prebiotic strategies to try to actually manipulate my bacteria.  Then we will retest one month after the intervention to look for any changes.  If my bacteria look good and she deems it ok, I will reintroduce some of the items (like gluten) that tend to be problematic for me. Then we will test again to see if there have been any adverse effects.

In future posts, I will share my experiments and my experience along this journey of getting to healthier poop.  And in the meantime, check out this video to get a better understanding of the Human Gut Microbiome and the impact of prebiotics.