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Season 2, Episode 14: Balancing Gut Microbiome for Resilience with Kiran Krishnan

By Jodi Cohen

Promotional graphic for 'essential alchemy,' a podcast episode featuring jodi cohen, ntp, discussing 'balancing gut microbiome for resilience' with guest kiran krishnan.

With Kiran Krishnan, you’ll learn more about how gut microbiome impacts resilience, how metabolic waste depletes energy, and the gut-brain axis and resilience.

  • How gut microbiome impacts resilience
  • Metabolic waste depletes energy
  • The Gut-Brain Axis and Resilience

 

About Kiran Krishnan

Kiran Krishnan is a research microbiologist and has been involved in the dietary supplement and nutrition market for over 16 years. He comes from a strict research background, with several years doing hands-on R&D in the fields of molecular medicine and microbiology at the University of Iowa. He earned his Bachelor of Science degrees in Microbiology at the University of Iowa; his undergraduate education was followed up with post-graduate research and advanced coursework in molecular biology and virology. He left university research to establish a clinical research organization where he designed and conducted clinical trials in human nutrition.

If you’re enjoying the Essential Alchemy podcast, please leave Jodi a review on iTunes.

 

Jodi: Hi. I’m Jodi Cohen, your host. And I’m so excited to be joined by Kiran Krishnan. He is a research microbiologist and has been involved in dietary supplements and nutrition market for the past 18 years. And his company produces my absolute favorite probiotic ever, MegaSpore. And we’re going to talk a little bit about resilience and the gut. Welcome.

Kiran: Hi, Jodi. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here with you.

Jodi: Yeah, this is going to be a fun conversation. I ask everyone to start how they define resilience. So I’d love your answer.

Kiran: Yeah. For me, resilience means the ability to adapt to change. Resilience means the ability to live because, to me, health shouldn’t have to be achieved by being perfect in your choices, in your behaviors. We’re human. We want to live a little bit.

I talk to so many people every day that say, oh, I feel perfectly fine as long as I don’t eat this, this, this, this, and they label 18 things that they can’t eat. And I can’t have a glass of wine, and I can’t do this, and I have to work out five times a week. So all of those behaviors, as good as they are and important as they are for health and wellness, we also have to have quality of life. We have to be flexible.

We have to be able to go out to eat with our friends without putting the waiter through a third-degree about what is touching what in the kitchen and so on. We have to have flexibility. And that is actually the human condition. We evolved up the evolutionary ladder and up the food chain because of our resilience, because of our adaptability to changing environments.

We have humans that live in every corner of the earth in very different conditions. There aren’t any animals, with the exception of microbes, that can live in every corner of the earth in all of those changing climates. There’s a reason why the Savannah in Africa has a very different animal kingdom than the rainforest in Brazil compared to the mountains in the Himalayas and so on. But you’ll find humans in all of those regions.

So that type of adaptability, that type of resilience against imperfections in our choices and behaviors, that to me is quality of life. That, to me, is health. That, to me, is wellness.

Jodi: Yeah. And I was mentioning how I noticed when I kind of diversified my diet, I felt better. I would love for you to talk a little bit about the gut-brain axis and how your dietary choices and probiotic choices help your mood.

Kiran: Yeah. There’s a lot to unpack there with the gut-brain axis. It’s really quite fascinating and amazing. So first, a couple of physiological connections between the gut and the brain. So when you are in the embryonic stage, so before we became full-fledged human during the gestation period, when we were each a single embryo, different parts of the embryo differentiate into different tissues within the body.

And as it turns out, the gut and the brain differentiate in the same tissue in the embryo. The lining of the gut, the physiology of the gut, is very similar to the lining and physiology of the brain barrier. And so they’re very connected tissues in terms of structure and function. And then they’re also physically connected through something called the vagus nerve. So there’s a neurological system that connects the gut directly to the brain.

And it’s bidirectional, meaning the gut can talk to the brain, and the brain can talk to the gut directly. They can go back and forth. Now, the gut and the brain are also connected through other mechanisms. The gut produces lots of compounds, and we can talk about some of those that have a direct influence on the brain.

They enter the brain through circulation. And then the immune system, which 75%, 80% of it is in the gut, actually has a significant impact on the brain as well. It was discovered several years ago that the brain has its own lymphatic system and immunology, but that immunology is impacted by the gut. And there’s good and bad things there when your gut is either healthy or not healthy, and I’ll make sure I make a mention of that.

So keep in mind that the gut and the brain are intimately connected in terms of the types of tissue they have, physiologically how similar they are. They have three, four main mechanisms of communicating with one another. And basically, what we come to find out is all of the neurotransmitters that are important for brain function, that control your mood, that control the way you deal with stress, control your sleep, control your metabolism, all of those things are produced largely in the gut as well.

And when I say produced the gut, I don’t mean we are producing it. I mean, our microbes are producing it for us. We don’t have the capability of producing a lot of those things in the digestive tract. The microbes are producing it for us. We use our endocrine system. All of the endocrine organs produce those neurotransmitters, hormones, and so on. But our gut can produce all of those as well—our microbes in our digestive tract.

So it’s a very intimate connection between the two. And I think the most important point for people to understand between the gut-brain connection is this. Number one, the gut can be the most toxic thing to the brain. Far more toxic than almost anything else, any other extrinsic factors we can put into body. We can talk about how that is. Or the gut can be the most important ally and supporter of a healthy functioning brain.

You are either in one of those two states, or you are somewhere in between. There’s a balance there. Depending on your health, depending on your choices, depending on how healthy your gut is, you’re either leaning towards the gut being the most toxic thing to the brain or the gut being the most helpful and supportive thing to the brain.

And so that’s where we have to balance ourselves. That’s the directions we have to go in. In your case, as you’ve gone through tremendous grief and difficulties and so on, you find that when your gut is healthy, that it’s much easier to deal with those things.

Jodi: Exactly.

Kiran: You get better perspective. You get better clarity. Everything else that you tend to do to help with dealing with that works better. But if your gut is dysfunctional and you’re leaning the other way, where the gut is toxic for the brain, then there’s almost nothing you can do to make it better because the gut is actually interfering with the ability of the brain to deal with it.

Jodi: Yeah. And for listeners, that might fall somewhere in between, like they try to eat vegetables, but sometimes they eat cookies. How can they start to kind of build the microbiome in the gut to start producing more serotonin and more happy neurotransmitters? What can they do today?

Kiran: Yeah. So the good news is there’s lots of awesome free stuff you can do that’s not hard at all to implement. And before I jump into explaining that, let me explain to your listeners how the gut is toxic to the brain if your gut is dysfunctional. So the first part of it is per pound, the brain requires more energy and more functionality than any other part of the body. So per pound, it’s the highest demand for energy in the human body. So it needs lots of nutrients. It needs lots of ability to form energy, ATP from caloric content, whether it’s fat, carbohydrates, or ketones, whatever it may be.

And then it needs lots of recovery as well because at the cellular level, anytime any of the cells in your body produce energy, whether it’s your muscle cell or your heart cells, your neurological cells, when they go to work producing energy, breaking down calories into ATP, there is waste products that occur.

Free radicals occur. Oxidative stress occurs. All of this damage occurs to the cell. It’s no different than driving a car. As you’re burning fossil fuels in order to produce energy, you’re putting out exhaust and so on.

So that same thing occurs at the cellular level. So if those things are not cleaned up, if the exhaust and the waste is not cleaned up, the cell eventually gets choked up and dies. And that’s massive problem with aging. That’s part of what happens to the body as you age. That’s why you get weaker. That’s why your cells and muscles and all don’t function the same way as when you were 20 years old.

Your body starts to go through this process of deterioration because it’s a natural byproduct of the metabolic process. Now, the brain, as I mentioned, it has the highest metabolic requirements in the body. So as you can imagine, with more metabolic processes going on in the brain, there’s more waste being produced in the brain as well.

So not only does the brain need really high-quality nutrition, it needs lots of ability to produce energy from caloric content. It also needs lots of compounds that help clear the waste from the system. All three of those requirements require a healthy gut microbiome to not only break down and assimilate the foods and nutrients that you eat so that you can actually absorb it into your system and it can get to the brain where it can feed the brain and help support the brain and all its activity.

But then the gut microbes in your intestines also produce compounds that are critically important to detox the brain and remove all of that waste and regenerate brain cells, and so on. Things like brain-derived neurotrophic factor, eurolythenes. These are compounds that your microbes make for you from digesting the foods that you put in the system.

So that’s one way in which the gut is extremely important to the brain. Now, if your gut is messed up, meaning you are dysbiotic, you have inflammation, your digestion is not healthy, A, you’re not getting the nutrients broken down and absorbed into the system like your brain needs it. B, your gut is not producing those critical compounds that are required for cleaning up all of the waste and byproducts that occur in the brain.

So that’s one way in which a dysfunctional gut becomes toxic to the brain. It’s just not supporting the brain. It’s not providing the brain with what it needs. The second way is in the fact that when your gut is dysfunctional, and you’ve got an imbalance of microbes in your system, what tends to happen is your gut becomes leaky.

You get intestinal permeability. The lining of your intestines become leaky, which means that there are lots of toxins and microbes, and microbial parts that leak through into circulation.

One, in particular, is really problematic for the brain. And it’s called LPS, lipopolysaccharide. It’s being generated all the time in your gut because lots of microbes in your gut actually make LPS. And they use it for all kinds of things that bacteria need it for. But when your gut is leaky, it actually is allowed to leak through and enters your circulation.

When it enters your circulation, it makes its way up the circulatory system and sometimes up the vagus nerve itself and enters into your brain. Once it enters into the brain, it triggers a really profound inflammatory reaction in the brain.

That inflammatory reaction in the brain has a number of effects. Number one, it triggers something called the HPA axis, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. When inflammation triggers the HPA axis, what results is the brain starts releasing cortisol, stress hormones in response to that inflammation.

The problem there is now you’re releasing stress hormones all the time, whether you are being inundated by external stressors or not. And so you’re feeling uneasy. You’re not feeling well. You can’t get happy. You can’t feel that elation that people feel from things because you’re constantly in this stress fight or flight state.

And that becomes your basal state. That’s your foundational state. Now imagine when you’re in that state, a tragedy happens or like a big stressor, like you lose your job or something significant, someone close to your leaves or passes away. From that heightened state, now you’ve been kicked up a few notches because of a true event that should make you feel that stress.

But now, even when you come down to your base level, you’re still at an elevated stress, anxious, sad state. So that leakiness in the gut and the inflammation that it causes makes it almost impossible not only to bring yourself down to a good balanced state under normal circumstances, but when you, on top of that, have extrinsic stress factors, then you’re at this heightened state all the time, and it becomes very hard to come down from it.

Because that is a self-perpetuating loop, so here’s what happens. You’ve got inflammation in the brain from leaky gut. That inflammation leads to cortisol being released all the time. As the cortisol is being released, the other thing that’s happening is your neurological system in the brain is triggering your sympathetic nervous system.

Now your sympathetic nervous system is activated because you’re supposed to be in flight to fight mode. You’re supposed to be able to run away from whatever this danger is that doesn’t exist that your brain things exist. It is haunting you. And so now your neurological system and then your digestive system is in the sympathetic mode.

When the digestive system is in sympathetic mode, it’s not in the rest and digest phase. It’s in the “I’m not digesting anything.” I’m not diverting energy to break down food. I need to get out of my situation. Which means you cannot assimilate and properly digest food. You can’t even bring in nutrients that are required to help your gut, help your brain, and so on. So you’re going into the state of being constantly malnourished as well.

Jodi: It’s a vicious cycle.

Kiran: It’s a vicious cycle. And then when you’re in that state, what happens is your gut immune system starts to get activated and starts to produce inflammatory markers in the gut lining because it’s not getting the adequate nutrients it needs.

Pathogens are starting to start to grow because when the host is under stress, the pathogens in your gut can detect it. And they say, hey, this is the great time for me to start proliferating because the host immune system is suppressed.

When you’re stressed, your immune system doesn’t function the same way. So now you’ve got pathogens in your gut that are going, hey, guys, this is our party. This is our time. We’re going to start rearing our ugly heads.

Jodi: The opportunistic pathogens.

Kiran: They are opportunistic. Yeah. Which we all have. It’s normal to have them in your system. They’re typically controlled by the other microbes, but when the host is under stress and duress, that’s when they sense it. And they know that the immune system doesn’t function as well. So now they come out to play.

And when they come out to play, a lot of them are designed by nature to increase the expression of anxiety-inducing neurotransmitters to keep the host in a stressed state because that’s the state they want you in. So here now, you’ve got microbes in your gut creating more neurotransmitters to keep you in this perpetually stressed, anxious state.

So again, it’s a vicious cycle that just keeps going, keeps going. So you find people that have this daily, constant stressed, anxious state, and it becomes so hard, if not impossible, to come off of that unless you go back to the root cause that started all of it. And that’s the inflammation and leakiness in the gut.

Jodi: So, breaking the cycle by addressing the root cause.

Kiran: Yeah. And the root cause is in the gut. So what are the things that we kind of do when we’re in that state? Well, maybe we would go to a psychiatrist, and maybe we would get medication to increase– we might get SSRIs. We might get anti-anxieties, but that doesn’t come anywhere close to touching the root cause, which is what’s happening in the gut that’s perpetuating this whole thing. That’s why those medications don’t work all that well.

We might practice some mindfulness techniques to deal with the stress. But you cannot deal with the stress if the stress is physiologically constant from the biochemistry standpoint. It’s not like there’s a true extrinsic stressor that’s putting you in this state that you have to fear. And the mindfulness is trying to teach you how to deal with that.

We might read books. We might try to distract ourselves. But at the end of the day, the chemistry in your system is putting you in that state. And it starts in the gut. So unless you start dealing with the gut, you cannot get out of that cycle because a dysfunctional gut is driving it, and it’s becoming extremely toxic to the brain.

Here’s two other things that that dysfunctional gut’s doing that makes it very impossible for us to get out of this cycle. Number one, that LPS, that endotoxin I mentioned that really goes in and causes all the inflammation, that endotoxin can also bind to serotonin receptors and dopamine receptors in the brain and interfere with the brain’s ability to actually bind serotonin and dopamine.

So here’s another layer of how it screws up your ability to get happy. So you might be producing all the happy hormone, but it’s not binding it in the brain. So it’s interfering with that. And then, because your gut is dysbiotic and dysfunctional– 90% of all the serotonin in your body is actually produced in your gut. That’s not being produced now.

At the same time, GABA is not being produced in your gut, which is where most of the GABA comes from. And GABA’s really important for at night to simmer down and be able to go to sleep. Now you can’t sleep. So you’re not sleeping well. You’re not getting adequate rest. Your microbiome is dysfunctional. You are anxious because you can’t sleep. You are anxious during the day.

And then extrinsic factors like politics or global health crisis or financial things or loss of a loved one, all of these things compound on that and put people in the state of unbearable– in a non-sustainable trajectory. Again, it all comes back down to that root cause, the gut.

So your original question before I went on this big rant was what should people do with it? But I want people to understand physiologically what is happening in their system. That’s so important because when you are in that state, things seem hopeless. When you’re in that state, and you’ve tried lots of things, you feel like your world is collapsing on you. You feel like nothing can go right.

And that sense of hopelessness is the definition of depression. And when you go from being anxious, stressed, to depressed all the time, it can be very hard to come back from that. So I want people to understand what’s happening in their system because you can absolutely change it, and you can absolutely fix it. And it may not be as difficult and as complicated as you think.

So let’s talk about what you can do. So first step is we need to start changing what your microbiome in the gut looks like. There is a happy microbiome, and there is a stress, anxious, depressed microbiome.

There are two very distinct looks to the ecosystem that is associated with being happy and being in a good positive state. And then one that you are constantly in a stressed state.

And again, happiness is a state, and you’re supposed to go through happiness, sadness, stress. That’s normal human function. I’m talking about more what is your constant state?

And so, one of the key things is increasing the diversity in your gut microbiome. That becomes extremely important. And a number of ways to increase the diversity in your gut microbiome first is, like you said, increasing the diversity of your diet.

So the more variety of foods you put into your system, the more variety of bacteria it feeds, and it enhances the diversity of your microbiome. One of the tips I always give people that’s to me one of the simplest ways to increase diversity is to go to like an ethnic grocery store in your local region.

Whether it’s a Middle Eastern store, an Asian store, you’ll find roots, tubers, vegetables, fruits there that you won’t find at your Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and where else you shop.

So you’ll find unique things there. And it may just be a star fruit, or maybe a bok choy, and something simple like that. One or two things you add into your diet each week, simple preparations. You don’t have to become a middle Eastern chef or an Asian chef.

Jodi: Yeah. You can add it to stir fry. Can you explain a little bit about why diversity is good—the benefit of diversity?

Kiran: Yeah. In your microbiome?

Jodi: Yeah.

Kiran: Yeah. So there’s lots and lots of studies. I mean, in the last five years alone, we’ve had over 50,000 published studies on the microbiome. And when you look at the last 10 years’ worth of microbiome research, the one theme that is really important is that diversity in the gut microbiome is good.

Now, it does a number of things. Number one, a diverse microbiome is resistant to infection and resistant to being taken over by one of these opportunistic organisms. That builds resilience. So in your gut, you always have pathogens. You always have opportunistic pathogens.

And in fact, many of those pathogens and opportunistic pathogens play an important role in the normal function of your gut as long as they are kept in check at a certain level. And the rest of the microbes do that better than anything we could ever do.

So let the rest of the microbes keep them in check. So we get all the benefits out of them without any of the nuisance out of them. And that is a picture of resilience. You have pathogens. You have opportunistic pathogens. You’re getting all the benefit out of them, but you’re resilient to their egregious function because your gut microbiome is diverse.

And that ecosystem is well balanced and stable. Even if you go out to eat and you get exposed to a pathogen through your food, that more diverse microbiome is more resistant to infection from that outside pathogen as well. So that’s one feature.

Second feature is the vast majority of metabolic activity that we conduct we as human comes from the microbes in your gut. We have very few genetic elements in our own chromosomes. So we’ve got somewhere around 22,000 functional genes in our own chromosomes, in our own cells.

And that might sound like a lot, but if you realize that an earthworm has around 38,000 functional genes, you come to realize that, wow, we’re not even as cool as an earthworm is. But we’re so sophisticated. Well, how is that?

Well, we’ve got over two and a half million microbial genes in our system. So the vast majority of genetic elements that gives us functionality comes from microbes. And the more microbes we have, the more functionalities we have, the more pathways we can engage, the more things we can produce, the more metabolites we can create.

All of these things affect our resilience and our adaptability to the environment around us, whether it’s a stress that’s coming in, a toxin that’s coming in that we’re getting exposed to, a new virus, for example. All of these kinds of things that are extrinsic factors that impact our outcomes, we are more resilient against the more microbes we have. So that’s another component to the importance of diversity.

The last part is the more foods we can break down and assimilate so we can get a larger variety of nutrients out of our diet. And when we pull in those nutrients, then we have a much more improved capability to repair damage that’s going on in our system and so on.

We can deal with the exhaust that’s being produced from each of our cells. So we don’t end up with this severe oxidative stress where our DNA and our cells all start breaking down, and we age too quickly, and we’re slow. Our brains don’t work as well. We get brain fog. We don’t have as much energy to jump out of bed in the morning and be excited for the day.

All of these things are impacted by the amount of nutrients you can assimilate and utilize from your food. And it’s a huge discrepancy. If I have a much more diverse gut than you do, we could eat the exact same thing, and I would get 10 times the benefit from it than you would because all of the nutrients that my system is able to assimilate for me.

So that increased functionality, that increased ability to break down and assimilate food, that increased ability to produce compounds and neurotransmitters and all of these things that are really important, that ability to deal with stress because I’ll talk about how a healthy gut–

I talked about how an unhealthy gut can make it impossible to deal with stress and come out of that cycle. But I also can talk about how a healthy gut actually really helps you deal with stress which are some of the things you experience in your own personal journey.

And so that kind of resilience is really important, and it comes from a healthy, diverse microbiome. And again, the first tip on healthy, diverse microbiome is eating a diverse diet. Our ancestors ate somewhere around 600 different types of foods annually. And we eat maybe 20.

So if we think about that, we can really write down and go, okay, this week, what are all of the different things I ate? And just take a look at it. Look at your food journal, and you’ll go holy crap. I ate like 12 things this whole week. So we want to be careful about that. We want to keep adding in more diversity into our diet. So that’s step one. Intermittent fasting actually increases the diversity within the microbiome. And there’s a few different–

Jodi: Talk about that a little bit.

Kiran: Yeah. So here’s how the microbiome works. It’s really interesting. It’s a very complex ecosystem. And like a rainforest, which is a complex ecosystem, there’s many layers to the ecology. In the rainforest, the canopy ecosystem at the top is very different than the ground-level ecosystem. And in fact, one feeds off of the other.

All of the things that are being broken down at the soil level that the trees then absorb through their roots. And it makes its way all the way up to the canopy in the leaves, and all that that feeds all the organisms and animals that are up there is a direct connection between the canopy and the bottom even though they could be 100 feet apart. And same thing, all of the byproducts that are made in the canopy that drop down into the ground feed the organisms and the animals and so on that are on the ground.

So our gut microbiome is the same way. There are primary digesters that break down the big molecules that come in, the carbohydrates, the fat, the sugars, the protein. And then, when they break those down, they create secondary metabolites that feed a whole new level of bacteria that eat only off of that secondary metabolites.

Now, when they break those secondary metabolites down, they create tertiary metabolites that feeds another layer of bacteria who only can eat those tertiary metabolites. So there’s this feeding cascade that occurs in the microbiome that’s really important to make sure that all of the layers of microbes are getting the food and nutrients they need.

And then they’ll break it down and produce more food and nutrients for the next layer and for the host at the same time. And so what tends to happen is if you are constantly feeding the system and you’re not giving it a long enough break where all of those layers can be fed, then the only layer that tends to stay active is that top layer constantly having to break down the big molecules that come in as primary food from us. So what we need is to feed that and then provide 12, 13, 14 hours of nonfeeding time so that it can go through that whole spectrum of feeding all the different bacteria.

Jodi: Amazing.

Kiran: Yeah. And so, as it turns out, there are microbes that are only active when you’re not feeding the system. When you’re feeding the system, they know to quiet themselves down because it’s not their job at that moment to break down whatever’s coming in. They’re going to just sit and wait for the next couple of layers above them to break down the foods that are coming in and then feed them.

Jodi: Oh my goodness. So the trickle-down. Does that also apply to actual fasting, like water fast and things like that?

Kiran: And in my view, there’s a diminishing return if you go too long because if you go too long with fasting and you’re not feeding the primary digestors, then at some point, their numbers start to dwindle, and you don’t want that to happen. So I like the intermittent fast because it provides that 14, 15 hour period throughout the day that allows all of the layers of microbes to do their metabolic function.

And it gives them all a chance to really do well and proliferate so that we can maintain diversity within the microbiome. Now, if you go too long, let’s say you go three days, four days, five days without eating at all, then some of the top layer microbes may start to lose their numbers because they’re not getting the kind of nutrients they need. So there’s a careful balance there.

And as human, we are actually designed to be able to go 28 days or so without eating, but it’s not necessarily a good thing. So I like the intermittent fast because it puts us in just that really sweet spot of giving our microbiome enough time to proliferate and do well without potentially compromising it.

Now, I’ve done a 24-hour fast every once in a while. And it feels great. There are times when my system really needs it, and I I’ll do that maybe once every three, four months. It’s not something I do that often.

Now, here’s the other thing that happens when you fast. The microbiome is something called a diurnal system, meaning it works off of a 24-hour clock like our own circadian rhythm. So there’s two 12-hour phases to our microbiome.

Our microbiome has been programmed over time to have a nighttime phase, just like our system has a nighttime phase. And what happens during the nighttime phase for our system? We go through a lot of this repair. So when you’re sleeping, your body’s going through all of this repair because it doesn’t have to deal with moving around in all of this motion and so on.

Essentially, if you’re sleeping well, you’re essentially paralyzed in bed, and that’s when your body can take advantage of all of this repair mechanism that has to happen. The same thing happens in the microbiome. And in fact, the microbiome at nighttime, there are microbes who come to life, who proliferate, who turn on housekeeping genes, not only in the gut but in the rest of the body.

And they play a very important role in assisting your body in repairing damage that goes on, especially at the cellular level—damage to your mitochondria, the powerhouses of your cell. Damage to your DNA. Damage to your cells. It helps clean up all that stuff.

All the autophagy, all the mitophagy, all of these processes that clean up your system, those are triggered by housekeeping bacteria in your system. And those bacteria are only awake and functioning and turning on their genes when there’s no food coming.

Jodi: Oh my goodness, you explain this so incredibly well. So people that are listening, you kind of mentioned an eight-hour window, seven-hour window if they’re a perfectionist. What would you recommend? Is like just only limiting your eating to eight hours a day enough? Should they go to six, four?

Kiran: No, that’s fine, eight hours. If you can get in a 14 to 16-hour period throughout the day, and that includes the nighttime. So you might be sleeping seven or eight hours of that time. If you can get that into your system every day or even five days a week as a period where no caloric food is coming through or beverage, then you’re in great shape.

And you may be able to start– like, for example, let’s say you typically eat your last meal a day around 8 o’clock at night. And then you typically eat breakfast the next day around 8 or 9. So you’re used to this 12-hour period where you’re not taking anything inactively. Then what you want to do is maybe the next week push that breakfast time from 8 to 9 o’clock.

So now you’re going a 13-hour period. And then push it to 10 o’clock. Now you’re at a 14-hour period and then work your way to noon, where you’re basically skipping the breakfast and your first meal of the day is at noon. So that is one of the easiest ways to incorporate the intermittent fasting and get yourself to that 14 to 16-hour window where no calories are actually coming in.

Jodi: What do you think of coffee?

Kiran: So coffee is an interesting thing. That’s one that I struggle with as well. I definitely don’t do coffee with anything added to it. But I do have some black coffee in the morning.

So there’s a couple of aspects to it. Number one, one of the big benefits of fasting is when your liver is not triggered to have to do all of the metabolic process because your liver is turned on every time you take something in that has to be broken down or is caloric, then that is part of the maintenance housekeeping program that happens in your body.

I think coffee does diminish that to a certain degree, but the metabolic side, the growth hormone, and the sugar control and the fat-burning, all of that stuff, I think still maintains even if you have some black coffee.

So for me, I try to push my coffee out till about 13 hours or so into my fast. So that way, I can try to get as much of the cellular level housekeeping, clean up type of function until I need my coffee to kind of feel like I’m awake. But I’ll continue to have the metabolic function even with the coffee.

So ideally, if you can just do water in the morning, that’s great. But practically again, a lot of us need our coffee in the morning, but I try to push it out. I try not to like wake up, and the first thing I do is go get coffee. I wake up, and I do some things. I move around, and I meditate. I might even go do a workout if I have it that morning and then try to get my coffee in around like 10.

Jodi: Got it. No, this is all great. I mean, you did such an amazing job explaining what’s happening in the gut, how the gut contributes to resilience, diversity of diet, intermittent fasting. Are there any supplements, like your own, that you’d like to recommend and explain how that’s supportive?

Kiran: Yeah, absolutely. So we work with a spore-based probiotic. Our flagship probiotic is called MegaSporeBiotic. The key here with the probiotic is you want a probiotic that can really help with leaky gut. Because that’s one of the hard things on your own to try to improve. That leakiness in the gut, as I mentioned, is one of the biggest toxic sources to the brain causing all that inflammation and so on.

And so, when we designed the MegaSpore product, we designed it with the right species that have been shown already to be able to seal up that gut lining and improve the physical structures of the gut barrier. And so then, once we formulated the product, we validated that with a published clinical trial showing that even in as little as 30 days, we are able to significantly seal up the gut and reduce that leakiness in the gut.

So that becomes such an important step in ensuring that your gut is healthy and your gut is not acting as a toxigenic source to your brain. And so you’re doing the diversity improvements with the diet, with the intermittent fasting. You add in the probiotic. Now you’ve got a significant improvement in your microbiome and what it looks like. And then you’re also sealing up your gut, which is a very critical step in having a healthy overall gut and then overall wellness. Because leaky gut in a number of published papers has been shown to be the biggest driver of mortality and morbidity worldwide.

Because leaky gut is at the root cause of so many chronic disorders that we deal with. Neurological disorders, immunological disorders, mood disorders, all of these things are being driven by the inflammation associated with leaky gut.

So if you can support a much healthier gut lining by having the right type of probiotic, then that’s going to be a huge feather in your cap in terms of improving your gut health. So that is another essential step.

Now, other things you can do as well on top of that is going outside. I try to be very prescriptive about being in nature because there’s lots of studies that show the more interaction you have with the natural environment, the healthier, more diverse, and more resilient your gut microbiome is.

So I have a lot of what do you call it? Forest preserves around me, where there’s either bike trails, walking trails, and all that. I try to go, okay, two or three days a week, at least for 30 minutes at a time. I need to be outside in that environment. Just breathing it in, just being in contact with trees and shrubs and bushes and things like that. And you’ll be amazed at what an impact that makes on your system.

If you’re a gardener and you like that, gardening can be very therapeutic and impactful that way. There are microbes in the soil like [inaudible] that dramatically increase the production of serotonin when you come in contact with that microbe. So it can be this natural boost to serotonin. So go outside. Try to be prescriptive about being outside.

Now, sitting on your porch is not necessarily the same thing. It’s a little bit better because you are outside. You are getting microbes in the air, and the birds flying by they’ll drop microbes. Not poop, but microbes, and you’ll pick those up and so on. But if you can go out for a walk on a trail or something like that, that’s a little bit better. Another thing to do is perhaps get a dog because there are studies that show that households that have dogs actually have kids with lower incidence rates of asthma, allergies, immune dysfunctions, viral infections.

And in fact, the study that was published in the beginning of last year showed that when you bring in a dog into your home, it increases your lifespan. And in particular, because dogs are outside/inside animals. So they go out. They bring all these microbes into your home. And that makes a really healthy ecosystem inside the house, which helps your own microbiome and your resilience.

Now that we’re kind of coming out of this pandemic, close interaction with other people is a really important factor as well. Studies show that households with six, seven, or more people tend to have healthier outcomes than households with two or three people.

So that close interaction with other people, that sharing of microbes among friends and family, and all that makes a big difference. I’m a big hugger when I see people. I like it because, to me, that is a really important exchange of microbes.

Not only does it increase oxytocin with the person that you’re hugging and you’re bonding with, but you’re also exchanging microbes. And you’re actually helping one another by doing that. So that kind of close interaction is really important, and we all need it. It’s high time.

So as soon as it’s safe, in whatever degree, however, you measure safety when it comes to the pandemic, hang out with your friends, be in close contact. That really helps as well. Then the last thing to– oh, two more things to consider. Three things, I’ll say, to consider. These are all free, easy things to do. So one, the third to last thing is try not to sterilize your home. We all have this programming in our head that clean means that kind of bleachy chlorine smell.

That fake lemon sense that is in all that stuff. That is our sense of clean. Now, there are some parts of the house that fine, you want to sterilize. You can. The toilet, every once in a while. Maybe you’ve got mildew growing in the shower. You want clean that off. That’s fine. But the vast majority of surfaces in the house do not need to be sterilized. Even in the kitchen, believe it or not.

Except, of course, if you bring like a raw chicken home and you’ve got raw chicken juice now on your counter, you want to sterilize it and get rid of that salmonella that’s probably there. So with the exception of that, most surface in my house, for example, are not sterilized. The way we clean most of my house is we put a few drops of essential oils in a bottle of water, and we spray the water and wipe down the surfaces.

Jodi: That’s what I do too. Or vinegar.

Kiran: Yeah. Or vinegar. Exactly. So you don’t need that bleachy chlorine sterile environment. That actually hurts your microbiome. And there’s studies on that. There are studies that show that households that use chlorine-based cleaners their have kids have higher incidence rates of asthma and allergies and viral infections.

There’s a whole Finnish allergy study, meaning allergy study from Finland, that show that households that use all of that sterility as cleanliness actually have kids with much higher allergy rates. So you get all these immune dysfunctions that come from a dysfunctional gut.

And then, the next step is trying to clean up some of your personal care items. So as you can go more and more natural with your personal care items, I’m talking about your deodorants, your lotions, your toothpaste, and all that. Those will make a significant difference on how your microbiome looks.

I’ve been on a campaign to try to improve my deodorant for the last couple of years. To try to find a clean natural deodorant that works for my chemistry. Same thing with toothpaste and lotion. So if you can change one or two of those things over the next year or two, it’s going to make a profound difference in your overall microbiome and health.

And the last thing is stress management. I talk about how when you go through the cycle, it becomes really hard, but try to see if you can avoid short bouts of stressful things that you know are going to cause you issues. Because those little bouts of stress, that little increase in cortisol will actually change your microbiome over time.

So things like if you’re driving a car and somebody cuts you off on the road, our tendency is to get mad about them. We might honk, and they might honk back, and you might have an exchange, and that’s going to increase your cortisol.

Just keep in mind what all that’s doing is actually hurting you and your overall health. So to me, I try to let those things pass and let it go. Online, getting into these threads where you’re arguing with people and all that, which has no beneficial ending at all. I try to avoid all those kinds of scenarios. So all of those things can have a negative impact on your overall health.

So if you add all of these things that we talked about, it makes a profound difference in what your microbiome looks like, and you will see and realize when your microbiome is profoundly different, your outcomes, your ability to deal with life, your ability to have resilience becomes profoundly different as well. These are all somewhat small things, but when added up, it can be very significant.

Jodi: This was so thorough and so amazing. Thank you so much for your time. Can you let people know where they can find out more about you and more about MegaSpore?

Kiran: Yeah, absolutely. So please come visit us at microbiomelabs, with an S, .com. If you come to our website, we have a wealth of information on there to learn about the microbiome.

You can put my name, Kiran Krishnan, into either YouTube or on Instagram, and you’ll find lots and lots of stuff on there of interviews and all that I’ve done. So come to our website. Hit me up on social media. I try to engage with people as much as I can on there. So there’s always lots to learn, and there’s a lot more that we’re putting out to help you learn.

Jodi: Well, I always learn from you, and this was amazing. Thank you so much for your time.

Kiran: Of course. It’s my pleasure.

About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.