Well+Good

The best thing in the world to do for your gut microbiome? Don’t move to the US

Photo: Stocksy/Good Vibrations Images

Hop on the Magic School Bus and let’s get Miss Frizzle about what’s going on in the gut. While it’s not new intel that microbiomes differ from country to country, I have some tea to spill about a brand new study that indicates that moving to the United States from another country could alter one’s flora in a not-so-hot way.

In new research published in the journal Cell, scientists found moving from another country to the US doesn’t just affect your gut bacteria—it can also mess with your health down the line. The study looked at a group of 514 women in a few different categories: those from Thailand and still living in Thailand, those from Southeast Asia who moved to the US, and those born in the US from immigrant parents from Southeast Asia. What they found was the second anyone moved to the US, their gut microbiome began changing. And not in a good way. Crazily enough, by bacteria alone, you couldn’t even tell who was a US native and who wasn’t after a while.

The second anyone moved to the US, their gut microbiome began changing. And not in a good way.

Unfortunately, along with the changes in gut bacteria came some health problems. According to Newsweek, those in the US mainly have Bacteroides bacteria (a prime animal protein digester), while those outside the US mainly had Prevotella bacteria (a prime plant fiber digester). Unfortunately, the move totally made the Prevotella disappear, making immigrants’ bacteria less diverse overall—something that could explain why immigrants have been found to be more likely to develop life-threatening issues, including diabetes and obesity, than those who don’t move to the US. More research obviously needs to be done, but it’s certainly food for thought.

Your gut microbiome might be able to diagnose PTSD. Or, check out the beginner’s guide to the gut-acne connection.