Sunday, December 6th, 2015Looking at the all important gut bacteria micro-biome - What it is and how it plays such an integral role in our personal health and longevity.
You could say that health and wellness is no longer just a trend, it’s more of an influential movement, permeating society and now more than ever, real information and education are crucial to a sustainable healthy life.
This 3 part article will give you just that, a better understanding of what is now spoken by many health experts – to be the key pillar of health and wellbeing.
So with the evident health movement in full swing, chances are, you may have heard about the growing importance on gut health, and how it is so closely linked to overall health and longevity.
With food intolerances, allergies, symptoms of dysbiosis, intestinal inflammation like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and leaky gut.. to the more severe IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) and autoimmune conditions – are all on an increase;
If you are wanting a compelling perspective and solid information to help safeguard your own health and wellbeing. Even if you are unsure you suffer from gut issues, reading this highly researched article will not only inform and enlighten, but may even answer a few questions.
As we comprehend & understand disease today, I am almost certain that the way of diagnosing an illness from a symptom is becoming less & less useful.
In Functional Medicine, the origins of disease are now being better understood and we now know that symptoms appearing in one area of the body are often caused by problems in an entirely different body system, located elsewhere in the body.
We know our body, without doubt, operates as an integrated system, all working together to achieve homeostasis (balance). From recent findings, these complex relationships place the overused ‘treat the symptoms approach’ which is offered largely by the conventional medical systems, as a little outdated and often somewhat ineffective.
Would you believe me if I said ‘people who struggle to lose weight will also have problems with their intestinal gut health’?
It is now proven that relief from the symptoms of allergies, acne, arthritis, headaches even autoimmune disorders and ADHD/ADD, can begin from restoring your gut health, even after years of chronic suffering. At the moment, this is unfortunately far from mainstream medical treatment protocols for symptoms of many of these health problems.
Not to argue or oppose positions of mainstream medical but doctors will often suggest to pop a pill for conditions like acne and label it a skin condition, often diagnose a “poor metabolism” for anyone overweight, and the prescribe antidepressants for anyone unhappy or depressed.
While these diagnosis and treatments couldn’t really be considered wrong, it’s the treating of symptoms – rather than correcting the underlying problem that all integrative health professionals including myself agree, could and should be revised.
“Some could say a ‘one-size-fits all’ treatment is often prescribed, which will mask symptoms, generally without consideration for the cause”
An all too common scenario arises when consulting with clients (who are previously under G.P guidance), reveal they battle symptoms of a gut dysbiosis and similar gut related problems on a daily basis. In this instance, they are often given zero indication of the possibility of a gut problem, therefore, the idea they are dealing with a gut related issue – is non-existent.
With an improved understanding of how integrated systems are within our body, the more this treatment scenario could be and will be improved.
So, why is there a shift in the understanding of disease within functional medicine scope?
Venturing in the deepest darkest parts of our digestive tract you will find, what I like to call the “the inner ecosystem”. This ecosystem or gut microbiota is made from trillions upon trillions of single celled organisms, bacterial microbes and yeasts, collectively called ‘Flora’.
Believe it or not… we have the equivalent of a backyard garden compost in our gut, and much like our fingerprint- everybody’s internal compost is quite unique.
A somewhat disturbing yet interesting fact is that you can find approximately 2kg (or more) of these bacterial microbes inside us at any one time, even a large portion of our everyday excrement, is in fact bacterial cells – numbering in the billions
First In Immunity
Believe it or not, this flora works in a beneficial symbiotic relationship to give us our greatest and most important asset, the immune system.
Many people, for good reason will associate bacteria with stinky disease causing organisms that should be avoided and washed away with chemical sanitisers. While a small part of this is true, you should always keep in mind that there is a constant battle going on between the good and the bad bacteria within the body. It’s not until the balance of bacteria is overrun with pathogenic (bad) bacteria that we can experience the associated unpleasant symptoms.
The beneficial bacterial strains inside us can suppress the growth of harmful bacteria by essentially dominating pathogenic species. Whether it’s from this sheer outnumbering, competition of food/energy, or the growth inhibiting compounds that are excreted from beneficial bacteria – it’s this defence system from good bacteria, that will create the foundation of your immune system and so much more
Digestion & Assimilation Powerhouse
Gut bacteria are our prime partners in digestion as many of the types of beneficial bacteria help to break down food (just like that compost bin) into essential vitamins minerals, anti-inflammatory compounds and other components to fuel metabolism and enhance cellular function.
Bacterial secretions from our gut flora help by adding to the production of enzymes and acids needed for proper digestion.
An example, the ‘Lactobacillus strain’, (I call it the hollywood strain due to it’s T.V appearances), if present will produce the compound Lactase (the enzyme needed for assimilating Lactose)
Lactose intolerance is largely correlated with other food intolerances and allergies, chances are that this is a direct result of some kind compromised gut health.
“The diversity of gut flora will affect every single thing we ingest – everything we ingest will affect our diversity of our gut flora”
Differences in metabolism and effectiveness of certain drugs, both pharmaceutical and illicit can be affected by ones individual bacteria makeup
Detoxifying Your Life
The research literature shows that certain species of bacteria inside your digestive tract, have the job to grab or ‘bind’ with contaminants. Heavy metals have imbedded themselves into our food and ecosystem – mercury, lead, arsenic with other environmental pollutants that enter our digestive tract, have the chance being metabolised by bacteria to end their journey from the body via the toilet, far away from cellular membranes within the body. It is estimated that 60% of our poo is actually bacterial cells. Every time you visit the toilet, you are performing your own natural detox.
You think that overpriced 30 day ‘Skinny detox tea’ or ‘Nutritional cleansing package’ sold to you over social media will give you a good cleanse?
Anyone that knows anything about accumulative heavy metals should be aware they have no place in our body. Today levels of toxic metals in the environment are unfortunately on the increase, so now it’s even more important our gut flora diversity is balanced.
The Bacterial Influence
Guess what, we are not completely human, at least when it comes to the genetic material inside your cells. Humans can have as many as 145 genes that have jumped from bacteria, with several that have been reported in the past as possible horizontal gene transfers. (H.G.T)
Although H.G.T is higher in organisms, including animals, it is less established and somewhat controversial in humans. Studies have shown that gut microbes regulate the activity of a gene important to the production of serotonin and other mood related brain chemicals.
This new study also suggests that gut bacteria can alter brain chemistry, changing mood, behaviour and can even influence factors that contribute to obesity and chronic disease.
In this study gut bacteria from separate human twins was given to two different mice, one twin was obese and the other twin was lean. The mice that received bacteria from the obese twin put on more weight and accumulated more fat than mice that was given bacteria from the lean twin whilst living same lifestyle conditions.
Bacteria cells outnumber ours by 10 to one. And with this bacteria in our gut having their own DNA, naturally their DNA outnumbers our own DNA.
‘In reality, this could leave yourself asking “Are we more bacteria than human?”
You could say that every time you have a meal, you’re eating not just for yourself but for the hundred trillion gut bacteria that line your digestive tract.
If you’re feeding your body crap, then our beneficial little bacterial mates inside us will unfortunately die off and bad bacteria will thrive causing dysbiosis. These bad bacteria as an added insult, produce toxic compounds that can manipulate and alter the bodies biochemistry and can be the cause of so many inflammatory conditions.
The crucial foundation for the gut ecosystem is the moment we are born….. Yes we establish our intestinal gut bacteria from mum’s birth canal. It’s quite amusing to think that our mothers first birthday present to us – was a gentle slathering of vaginal microbes.
From then, our first meal of breast milk, inoculated naturally, full of immune building bacteria and sugar molecules that feed both us and the newly located bacteria in the gut – This is the origins of our gut microbiota
It is an interesting fact to think that our mothers first birthday present to us – was a gentle slathering of vaginal microbes.
Research tells us that during the later stages of a healthy woman’s pregnancy, the bacterial signature of the vaginal region changes to become completely dominated by the bacteria ‘lactobacillus Johnsonii’. This friendly Lactobacillus helps to create the enzymes needed to digest and assimilate breast milk – how appropriate.
Babies that are delivered via ‘C-section’ and/or fed purely bottled milk formula may risk missing out on the crucial formation of this bacteria and the immune system. These facts back the notion that the natural birth process is such a crucial start to healthy life.
Abnormal bacteria in newborn kids has now been linked to excessive crying, recent research suggests that colicky babies (babies who cry for hours, without reason) all had a distinct bacterial signature that lacked beneficial organisms. The study also notes a correlation between C-section birthed babies with higher rates of ADD, Autism, obesity and depression later in life.
If you didn’t already know, this bacteria inside of us is pretty damn important – In ‘Part two and three of this series on gut health we will go deeper into the gut, exploring how it communicates our brain and how it can think for itself to control things we never knew was possible.
Click For Part Two