Chris Damman, University of Washington – Nourishing Health and Community: The Microbiome Link

You are what you eat is true for our microbiome.

Chris Damman, clinical associate professor of gastroenterology and medicine at the University of Washington, discusses how to eat and live more healthily.

Chris Damman is Clinical Associate Professor and practicing gastroenterologist at the University of Washington in the Department of Medicine/Division of Gastroenterology and editor-in-chief at Gut Bites MD.  He is former Initiative Lead of Gut Health in the Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  He holds an M.D. from Columbia University, an M.A. in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry from Wesleyan University, and is board certified in Gastroenterology.  Chris holds research interests focused on food- and microbiome-based therapeutics for non-communicable disease. He is a frequent contributor to the press as an expert in gut microbiome.

Nourishing Health and Community: The Microbiome Link

In a world increasingly driven by convenience, the age-old adage “you are what you eat” is taking on new dimensions. Recent scientific research underscores the profound impact of our dietary choices on not only our physical health but also our emotional and social well-being. At the heart of this connection lies the impact of food on our gut microbiome.

This microscopic community residing within our intestines has a remarkable capacity to transform indigestible food components like fiber into signals that regulate metabolism and immunity. But food can also impact our emotions and social connections via an information supper-highway consisting of nerves, immune cells, and molecular signals that connect our gut to our brain.

Our ever-increasing reliance on convenient, ultra-processed foods comes with a caveat. Recent research suggests that these foods might be compromising the diversity of our gut microbiome, which is crucial for regulating appetite and mood. As a result, our microbiome may be less effective at supporting our emotional well-being and social interactions.

Traditional diets provide valuable lessons in health and longevity. Communities in regions who emphasize natural food processing and preservation techniques, boast longer, healthier, and happier lives. Fermented foods, rich in live microbes and antimicrobial compounds for example, are known to promote gut health and microbiome diversity.

To nourish both our bodies and our social bonds, it is recommended to follow a few simple steps: focus on the four “F” foods (fiber, phytonutrients, healthy fats, and fermented foods), learn traditional food preparation techniques, and strive for gradual improvement rather than perfection.

In this fast-paced world, carving out time for these changes may seem daunting, but the potential to enhance our health and strengthen our communities is well worth the effort. Embracing the food-microbiome connection may well be the key to building happier, healthier communities within and around us.