Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Researchers from Ohio State University recently discovered that your gut virus composition – the viral population present in your gut – is as unique to you as your fingerprint!
The study put together the first-ever viral population database detailing the flora of the human digestive system, identifying over 33,000 unique viral populations living in the gut, titled the Gut Virome Database. (Don’t be alarmed – most of these viruses don’t cause disease.) Compiling this data has established a robust starting point to see what the virus biome looks like in humans, scientists say. Olivier Zabolicky, a co-author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in microbiology, says, “If we can characterize the viruses that are keeping us healthy, we might be able to harness that information to design future therapeutics for pathogens that can’t otherwise be treated with drugs.”
This database confirms some hypotheses made by smaller studies, like the fact that there is no common core group of gut viruses among humans, but there are some trends that can be identified. For example, healthy individuals from the West have less bacterial diversity than non-Westerners, and non-Westerners who move to the United States experience a decrease in bacteria variety. This suggests that dietary patterns influence gut biome differences.
Related: Eating To Improve Gut Health
According to the researchers, the general rule of thumb that greater diversity leads to a healthier ecosystem may stand true for the gut, too: Healthier people tend to have more diverse viral populations. To increase the diversity of your gut flora, consume a diet rich in a wide variety of whole plant-based foods.
Best Gut-Health Foods:
- Probiotics: yogurt, kefir
- Fermented veggies: sauerkraut, kimchi
- Herbs: garlic, ginger
Worst Foods for Gut Health:
- Excessive animal protein: meat, dairy, eggs
- Processed food additives: high-fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, artificial sweeteners
- Fried foods: fried chicken, tempura, calamari
30-Day Gut Reset with Sarah Kay Hoffman
When you heal your gut, you heal your life; but how do you know where and how to begin, and what path is right for you? Thankfully, holistic health coach and author Sarah Kay Hoffman has distilled years of research and a wealth of information into a practical and digestible 30-day program designed to help you kick-start your journey to optimal gut health.
Her four-week program, uniquely developed in conjunction with Clean Eating, cleverly presents all the information, tips, and tools you need to begin your quest for optimal gut health. Go to cleaneating.com/gut-reset for more info.