Ara Katz, Raja Dhir and Jenna discuss how Seed is redefining health by helping us utilize our microbiome as a lens to not only improve our health but to recognize our interconnectedness with each other and the planet.
Ara and Raja give us a primer on what we need to know about our microbiome, the impact its wellbeing has on our health, and share six strategies we can start practicing today to increase our gut health.
We also discuss Seed’s efforts to equip a global community with the knowledge and tools we need to be citizen scientists so we can better understand how our actions influence our ability to live our most healthy and fulfilled lives.
Highlights from the Transcript
- On our symbiotic relationship with our microbiome: “Your microbiome is something that you can take care of throughout your life so it can take care of you. The relationship is symbiotic. Your microbiome can’t do its work to help you unless you care for it. When you make decisions, you can start to think about your microbial self. When you think about eating more fiber, it’s not just about using the restroom. The microbes inside of you can use that fiber as an energy source to produce metabolites and compounds that help and aid your immune system.”
- On shifting “from egoystems to ecosystems”: “It’s like a beautiful paper one of our science writers wrote titled: From Egosystems to Ecosystems. The science of the microbiome ladders up so perfectly to where the world wants to be: We all want to see ourselves as far more connected. We want to be seen more holistically. We want to think more systemically. We want to understand our connection to our planet and the ways we are part of this greater ecosystem. We think in powers of 10; Starting from a really big overview of our planet and getting all the way down to our cells at a microbial level. We try to make those connections because it creates an incredible accountability…by thinking about your microbes every time you make a decision for your daily care – for yourself, for your children and for our planet – you are thinking not just of your human self but of this greater ecosystem of which you are both one and a part of one.”
- On expanding our definition of the gut: “The microbiome goes well beyond the gut…Any place where there is an external surface in the human body there is a collection of organisms that is impactful in maintaining the health of that ecosystem.”
- On 6 steps to improve your gut health: “No intervention is going to have a lasting effect unless it has a dietary impact that corresponds with it. Your microbiome can shift in as little as 48 hours based on the dietary choices you make. The quick list of recommendations…
- Try to eat more than 30 different fruits and vegetables in any given week. Recent studies on the diversity of plant intake have shown that people who had the highest levels of diversity in their diet, versus those who had less than 10 plant items in a week, had greater health.
- There is a negative relationship between the effects of animal protein (excluding fish) on the microbiome, through the production of secondary metabolites and compounds that can increase your risk factor for heart disease and colon cancer. Red meat is far worse than other types of animal protein.
- The elimination of sugar and processed sugars is probably one of the largest impacts one can make.
- Exercise is incredibly protective, with a small exception of very high intensity training.
- Having a dog, because it results in the pollination of different species between different family members.
- On our changing microbiome: “You have a steady state microbiome that exists, for the most part without disruptions, and stays with you. There are variations that are fairly significant based on dietary input and lifestyle factors in as little as 48 hours. You can chart out what you have eaten for the past week and look for shifts that you had in your microbiome.”
- On strengthening our gut lining: “What we set out to do with our product is use prebiotics and probiotic strains, that are supported by public peer-reviewed studies, and are indicative of benefits throughout the body including: maintaining your lipid levels (like LDL cholesterol), decreasing inflammation at the surface of the skin, decreasing bloating and constipation, increasing digestion, increasing stool hydration and intensional transit time, and more. The cell layer between your gut and what passes through it into your internal body is only only cell wall thick. In between those cells are tight junctions. When you increase the expression of those junctions, meaning you physically tighten that barrier, you allow less components to enter into your circulatory system that can be a risk factor for multiple health conditions. There are researchers at Harvard who are now even implicating that inflammatory metabolites that enter into the circulatory system may have neurodegenerative effects later on in life as it relates to aging and brain health. Localized inflammation, autoimmune conditions and now even brain health is being impacted when the integrity of the barrier systems break down.”
- On serving beyond product: “The goal is also how can we counter-program against so much of the noise and confusion in a category that has such profound influence today and will continue to in the way we think about our health? How can we build a global community that feels more empowered to take care of their health everyday?”
- On flipping the script on healthy eating: “I really do push back on this idea that sugar is a way of treating yourself. I don’t understand the idea that giving yourself systemic inflammation is a way of rewarding yourself for eating foods that are actually good for you…I can’t believe that we marketed vegetables into something that you suffer through to be able to treat yourself. When you actually look at a plant it is pretty extraordinary what grows from the ground versus looking at candy. How is biology not just the most awe-inspiring tool that we have to think about? Being healthy has become some type of badge of honor because you’re saying that you’ve trained yourself to not choose the other stuff. We really challenge the idea that eating healthy is a punishment. Your body working is the best reward. Much more than the 20 minutes of dopamine that comes from a sugar rush.”
- On making daily choices to optimize our wellbeing: “I try not to do anything today that takes away my tomorrow. I don’t mean that in an esoteric way. I literally want to to wake up tomorrow and be able to do what I want to do. It’s part of the reason I don’t drink and also don’t eat things that don’t make me feel good. It’s hard to instill that delayed gratification but it’s really important part of the way we think about things.”