As you know, I’ve become even more enthralled with the gut microbiome within the last few months. Recently, as I was populating my upcoming September 2014 Top Holistic Health Reads, I was amazed at how many articles about the microbiome kept popping up. It seemed like just when I started to feel like I may be caught up, I entered into a game of whack-a-mole with the release of more new research. As I result, I was led to dig deeper into the next article, then the next, and then…
Seriously, the information on the power of our gut bugs is proving to be like the Energizer Bunny!! The research just keeps going….and going…..and growing….I don’t think I’ll be “caught up” for a while.
So, I decided it was time for an update in some of the most fascinating research. This way, you won’t have to wait until the end of the month. (Also, you won’t be at risk of hand cramps from scrolling down the LONG list of topics for September. ;-D)
Eating for Our Gut Bugs
The helpful critters that line our insides and outnumber our cells 10:1, our microbiome, can be modulated favorably by diet. Last week, I discussed that eating a diet consisting of whole, organic, plant foods will provide fiber, flavonoids, polyphenols, and other helpful constituents to feed and fuel the beneficial bugs that populate our gut microbiome. (1-2) This is important because they play a role in supporting our immune function, digestive health, hormonal balance, detoxification processes, vitamin production, and more.
Invasion of the Belly Snackers!
Furthermore, the latest research has demonstrated that a healthy microbiome modulates our hunger cues. (3) This means that the more you feed the good critters with the good foods mentioned above, the more you starve off the nasty body-brain snatcher bugs that cause unhealthy cravings.
A poor diet will can create quit a viscous cycle. This is because it will not only cause an overgrowth of harmful microflora, but it can also create nutrient deficiencies which can lead to various unhealthy responses. (4) Besides the link to obesity, a rodent study demonstrated that nutrient deficiencies, such as magnesium, can intensity an inflammatory response in those with suboptimal microbiomes. (5)
Unhappy Gut Bugs Linked to Risk for Allergies
Another recent rodent study demonstrated how certain microbes in the digestive tract can modulate another immune response- an allergic reaction. Specifically, in comparing peanut allergen exposure to control mice, mice with a suboptimal gut microbiome (from antibiotics), and germ-free sterile mice, “displayed a strong immunological response, producing significantly higher levels of antibodies against peanut allergens than mice with normal gut bacteria.” (6-8)
However, researchers were able to reverse this sensitization by introducing a mix of Clostridia bacteria back into the mice. Introducing another type of bacteria, Bacteroides, failed to alleviate the allergic response. It was thought that the Clostridia accomplished this response through modulating an increase in levels of an immune signaling molecule (IL-22) which decreased the permeability of the intestinal lining. (6-8)
If the microbiome plays such a vital role in our immune response, could it modulate reactions to various triggers, such as vaccines?
A recent article in Green Med Info explored this connection. It outlined in great detail on how vaccines could modulate the risk of autism via the microbiome. (9-10) Specifically, Keith Bell provided evidence that demonstrated how the robustness and diversity of the microbiome played a key role in prevention of a dysfunctional immune response:
Scientists have found gut microbiota play an important role in how well vaccines are absorbed. Imbalanced flora leads to vaccine failure. In sanitation-challenged, toxic nations such as Pakistan, for example, the polio vaccine can be ineffective due to compromised guts known as environmental enteropathy. How ironic that if we made sanitation and toxic pollution a priority, we could also reduce vaccination and its risk of injury. Instead, children suffer malabsorption syndrome misdiagnosed as malnutrition. They can’t properly absorb nutrients or vaccines. (9)
From Birth On- The Holobiont
Of course the role of breastfeeding and delivery by vaginal birth (11) also has implications in establishing beneficial microbiome ratios. Current research has indicated there is a critical period in which children’s micriobiota can be optimized and supported. (12) Although it used to assumed that a baby had a sterile gastrointestinal tract and was rapidly colonized by its environment (13) is now being challenged.
In fact a concept known as the holobiont is now being applied to the interaction between a mother, her micriobiome, her baby, and the transfer of microrganisms to her baby prior to birth! (14)
Dr. Brogan discusses this concept in her recent Green Med Info article: (15)
It turns out that there are more tasks on the bacterial to-do list including:
- Colonization of the placenta, primarily by maternal oral bacteria
- Induction of adiposity or weight gain as the flora changes over the course of the pregnancy to reflect a dominance of Proteobacteria and Actinobacteria between weeks 13 and 33 in preparation for breastfeeding.
- Insulin resistance, a natural means to help support glucose availability to the fetus, but also one that can lead to gestational diabetes when coupled with the wrong diet.
- Influence food cravings that suit propagation of dominant flora.
Depending on the setting of colonization, gut microbiota determine what bacteria may stay, and what pathogens should go. Acceptance or rejection of other microbes is determined by the original postpartum residents in the neonate.
Scott Gilbert discussed this implication in an article of Frontiers of Genetics:
… (4) the mother may actively provide substances that promote the growth and settlement of helpful bacteria. The birth of the holobiont exemplifies principles of co-evolution, co-development, niche construction, and scaffolding. Birth is nothing less than the passage from one set of symbiotic relationships to another. (16)
Showing Our Bugs Some Lovin’
We need to treat our bugs with some TLC!
Click here to read about “The Strain of Modern Chemicals on Our Microbiota.”
References & Sources:
- Metabolomics view on gut microbiome modulation by polyphenol-rich foods. J Proteome Res. 2012 Oct 5;11(10):4781-90. doi: 10.1021/pr300581s. Epub 2012 Sep 6.
- Up-regulating the human intestinal microbiome using whole plant foods, polyphenols, and/or fiber. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Sep 12;60(36):8776-82. doi: 10.1021/jf2053959. Epub 2012 Jun 12.
- University of California, San Francisco (USCF). Do gut bacteria rule our minds? In an ecosystem within us, microbes evolved to sway food choices. Science Daily. August 15, 2014.
- Effect of barrier microbes on organ-based inflammation. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Jun;131(6):1465-78. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2013.04.031.
- Changes in Intestinal Bifidobacteria Levels Are Associated with the Inflammatory Response in Magnesium-Deficient Mice. J. Nutr. March 2010 vol. 140 no. 3 509-514. doi: 10.3945/?jn.109.117374.
- Gut bacteria that protect against food allergies identified. Health Canal News. August 26, 2014.
- Stefka, A, Feehley, T, Tripathi, P, Qui, J, McCoy, K, Mazmanian, S. et al. Commensal bacteria protect against food allergen sensitization. PNAS.2014; 111(36).:13145-13150. published ahead of print August 25, 2014.
- Mercola, J. Certain Gut Bacteria Protect Against Food Allergies. Mercola.com. September 10, 2014. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/09/10/gut-bacteria-protect-against-food-allergies.aspx?e_cid=20140910Z1_DNL_art_1&utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art1&utm_campaign=20140910Z1&et_cid=DM55368&et_rid=654178931
- Bell, K. Vaccine Injury: The Biological Plausibility of Microbial Predisposition. GreenMedInfo.com. September 8th 2014. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/vaccine-injury-biological-plausibility-microbial-predisposition
- Gastrointestinal flora and gastrointestinal status in children with autism — comparisons to typical children and correlation with autism severity. BMC Gastroenterolog.y 2011, 11:22 doi:10.1186/1471-230X-11-22
- Decreased gut microbiota diversity, delayed Bacteroidetes colonisation and reduced Th1 responses in infants delivered by Caesarean section. Gut. 2014;63:559-566. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2012-303249
- Cox, et. al. Altering the Intestinal Microbiota during a Critical Developmental Window Has Lasting Metabolic Consequences. Cell. 158(4), August 2014; 705–721. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.05.052
- Francesca Bottacini, Marco Ventura, Douwe van Sinderen, & Mary O’Connell Motherway. Diversity, ecology and intestinal function of bifidobacteria. Microbial Cell Factories 2014. 13(Suppl 1):S4 doi:10.1186/1475-2859-13-S1-S4
- Jeffrey Gordon, Nancy Knowlton, David A. Relman, Forest Rohwer, and Merry Youle. Superorganisms and Holobionts. Microbe Magazine. April 2013. http://www.microbemagazine.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6300:superorganisms-and-holobionts&catid=1205&Itemid=1464
- Brogan, K. Holobiont: What Obstetricians Aren’t Trained To Care About. GreenMedInfo.com. September 15, 2014.
- Glibert, S. A holobiont birth narrative: the epigenetic transmission of the human microbiome. Front Genet. 2014; 5: 282. Published online Aug 19, 2014. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2014.00282
Images courtesy of istockphotos.com