If you read my last post you will know that I'm on a mission to find out how well, as a host, I am serving my gut bacteria in our symbiotic relationship. There are about 100 trillion microbial cells in an average human gut, compared to only ten trillion human cells. According to Kiran Krishnan microbiologist, and researcher, scientists now believe that 99% of all biological functions that make us human come from bacterial DNA.
Viome is the gut bacteria investigation company that I've put my trust into, since they claim that they are the only company in the world, at this point in time, who are authorised to use the technology that identifies all the bacteria in the gut as well as what they are doing.
Scientists have increasingly identified, over the last decade or so, that the microbiome is linked to many areas of health including mental illness, obesity and autoimmune diseases. According to Krishnan, although there is conflicting data in the microbiome space, the one thing that everyone agrees with, is that microbiome diversity is linked to health and longevity. The larger and more widespread the community in your gut, the more functions can be performed, and the more you will benefit.
We know that diversity is important on so many levels. You'll have a better chance of creating a winning team if you have hundreds of people to choose from, versus a few dozen. If your community only has people who want to do desk jobs, who is going to repair your car, fix your plumbing, work in the grocery store?
Our entire planet is a prime example of the importance of diversity. In fact, although the classification of living things on our planet, is complicated to the untrained brain, in short all living things from plants, to animals to bacteria are classified into groups according to shared characteristics. The eight classifications are ranked with three Domains at the top of the hierarchy, followed by the six Kingdoms (plants, animals, bacteria, archaebacteria, fungi, and protozoa), and Species are the lowest of the eight classifications. Of courses we humans are of the animal kingdom and the human (homo sapien) species.
As you can see, bacteria have their own Kingdom and flow through a different lineage to we humans. I like to remind myself that with reference to evolution, survival is the goal for all species, and that helps me to simplify the idea that they (we) are largely interdependent. Living symbiotically is a much better tactic than fighting to dominate the environment you live in.
So returning to diversity, let's zoom in and reflect upon the diversity among humans, and how different races and cultures behave, what foods they like, how they tolerate different environments – hot, cold, rainy etc. what kind of work they do, in the fields, in the office, fishing, hunting, farming. A range of human interactions contribute to the overall living standards, and even survival of humans in today's world.
The microbes in our gut also perform different functions and thrive on different foods. Some of them behave like IT technicians, assisting with brain functions, and others are like factory workers processing nutrients to create important byproducts that support our tissues and cells. The janitors help clean up, by feeding on damaged cells, and making way for new ones in a biological process known as autophagy.
Clearly humans would be unable to thrive without the species of other Kingdoms, on planet earth, and it is exactly like that in our guts. It is the huge diversity of our microbes that manage to do all the work that keeps our human body thriving.
Scientists are constantly uncovering new information about the work of the different microbes in our gut. We know that they are responsible for producing many of our neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that are essential for the functioning of the nervous system, which affects every part of our body, from the brain to the muscles and from our sleep pattern to our bowel movements. More than 90% of serotonin is synthesised in the gut as well as many other neurotransmitters including acetylcholine and gamma-amino butyrate (GABA), norepinephrine and dopamine.
In the last two or three years, researchers have learned that bacterial cells are capable of making every single hormone in the human body, and that through evolution humans cells have established pathways to synthesise these hormones from our gut bacteria.
We've seen how humans who have changed from their inherited diet to the Standard American Diet, are at higher risk of certain metabolic disorders, such as obesity, heart disease or diabetes. In a similar way, the microbes in your gut have evolved to utilise certain foods, and if we feed them the wrong foods they can get pretty nasty, producing toxins that cause inflammation which disrupts the lining of the gut. The mucosal lining is the part of the body that directs incoming substances, such as your last meal, to a destination, whether it passes through into the blood stream as nutrition or is excreted through the appropriate channels. It is also where the immune system attacks undesirable or foreign substances. Too much war inside the gut triggers inflammation causing gaps between the intestinal junctions. Leaky gut is a term which we are only too familiar with today, and is a root cause of many autoimmune dysfunctions.
It allows undigested proteins and toxins to leak into the bloodstream, causing further inflammation in the organs and tissues, including the brain. Additionally unwanted immune responses over time result in autoimmune diseases like thyroid disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia, lupus, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease, and more. You may be surprised to learn that all of these diseases can originate from an autoimmune response. In many cases it takes decades for the antibodies to build up in the body to a level at which the organs or tissues in question (for example, the brain, thyroid, arteries, joints, muscles) are damaged sufficiently for it to be classified by conventional medicine as “a disease”.
The good news is that under the right conditions, leaky gut can usually be repaired. The cells inside the lining of the gut are the fastest growing cells in the body and in three to seven days a whole new gut lining can be generated. With a healthy diet, reduced stress, an intake of supplements including probiotics, the leaky gut is most often repairable and so begins a journey to improved health.
In future posts I will share with you my journey with Viome, as well as some tips on how to improve your gut bacteria, and how to fix your leaky gut. This is a relatively newly researched area in health, which I find both fascinating and empowering, and I am excited to be sharing this information with the world, as I learn.
For now I am including some resources below for further reading or viewing.
Brand, S. F (2017) Probiotics & Digestive Disorders like IBS, Crohns, Candida, Leaky Gut Syndrome - Microbiologist Kiran Kirshnan discusses the role of intestinal bacteria in a variety of digestive disorders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxoG-jiuiDo
Messier, H. (2018) Viome's guide to recommendations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JI53QeGOI0
O'Bryan, T. (2016) Autoimmune, Gluten and the Practitioner Community - Dr. Tom O'Bryan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoOs_D5xQHY&feature=youtu.be
Sperlazza, C. (2018) Move Over Probiotics. Synbiotics Are the Gut Supplement You Need: https://blog.bulletproof.com/probiotics-prebiotics-benefits/
Yano, J.M. Et al., (2016) Indigenous bacteria from the gut microbiota regulate host serotonin biosynthesis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4393509/