Just in time to make sure you’ve got your game on with geeky-coolness for your Memorial Day festivities, I’m going to help you impress your friends with the answer to this question! First, let’s have another quick review of the last discovered and most popular organ of our body today.1
Microbiome Review 101
Our microbiome’s collective genes of 10,000+ species outnumber our human genes 150 to 1. This makes their impact profound and kind of “Freaky-Friday” like.2-3 In fact, many scientists and clinicians are beginning to wonder if we are really just “bug vehicles” in a sci-fi movie. This makes one wonder, “Who inhabits who?”
Evidence abounds on the power of these bugs and what they can do. Besides digestive functions, a favorable microbiota has been shown to manufacture vitamins,3 play a role in cancer;4 effect pathogen inhibition;5 modulate cardiovascular disease risk;6 effect mood7 and behavior;8 assist with detoxification,9 digestive health,10 estrogen metabolism11 and weight;12-15modulate diabetes;16support skin health;17 decrease food sensitivities;18 and impact risk of autism,19 fatty liver disease,20 autoimmunity,21 and more. As you can see, “gut bugs gone bad,” is not a good thing.
It’s no wonder a bunch of us health devotees regularly swallow bugs! After all, if the microbiome is so important for wellness, wouldn’t modulating their growth by imbibing various organisms that have been shown to exert beneficial effects in the body assist with achieving optimal health? 23-25
OK, So….Why Am I Swallowing Bugs (Probiotics)?
Most clinicians will agree that probiotics help their patients. But how?
There has been a major gap in the research between the efficacy of probiotics and the role of microbiome health is the mechanism of action of how these little critters that we swallow ignite their magic, specifically inside Homo sapiens. Recently, a new study shined some light on this scientific mystery.25-27 The trial was a small study published in the April issue of mBio®. University of Maryland’s School of Medicine researchers studied the results of ingesting a popular strain, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) in 12 healthy individuals (seven females and five males) aged 65-80 years old. The participants took the probiotic twice daily for 28 days and their gut bacteria was analyzed prior to and after their regimen of bug consumption. Their stool was also analyzed on day 56, one month after stopping the probiotic.
The researchers found a truly fascinating response after evaluating the subjects’ fecal samples! First, the microbiome of the participants were very different at baseline, supporting the importance of biodiversity verses a “general healthy microbiome.” Second, there was an effect on the gut microbial composition and structure in the subjects who took this one strain. It seems as though LGG called upon other species of the subjects’ gut bacteria to multiply. These included Bacteroides, Eubacterium, Faecalibacterium, Bifidobacterium and Streptococcus, all which have been shown to have a range of benefits in humans, including the promotion of a healthy immune system.
Another notable finding was when the researchers assessed for differential expression of genes involved in bacterial responses during probiotic consumption. They found that these effects were predominantly associated with Roseburia and Eubacterium motile gut species. These little guys are notable as producers of the short-chain fatty acid butyrate, which is the preferred nutrient for human colon cells, have anti-inflammatory properties, and decreases epithelial permeability (“leaky gut”).27
What this means is that probiotics are in fact affecting our inner ecosystem and that taking various helpful strains could further boost other helpful inhabitants with more benefits.
This is another notch in the belt of Ilya Ilich Metchnikoff, the famous Russian immunologist, biologist, and zoologist who shared the Noble Laureate in 1908. He is quoted for saying, “death begins in the colon.” Ridiculed in his time, like many other geniuses, he is now once again vindicated and can remain content in peaceful rest that we are now taking care of our once ignored “new organ.”
Check out more buggy news on how your relationship may be modifying your microbiome here.
(1) Baquero F1, Nombela C.The microbiome as a human organ. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2012 Jul;18 Suppl 4:2-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2012.03916.x.
(2) TuftsNow. The Microbiome. September 23, 2013.
(3) Leon Chaitow, N.D., D.O. and Natasha Trenev. Probiotics. Thorsons Publishing Group, Northamptonshire England, c1990 ISBN 0-7225-1919-2 http://www.holisticmed.com/detox/dtx-probio.txt
(4) Schwabe, RF, & Jobin, C. The microbiome and cancer. Nature Reviews Cancer. October 2013. 13; 800-812. doi:10.1038/nrc3610
(5) Anti-infective mechanisms induced by a probiotic Lactobacillus strain against Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium infection. Int J Food Microbiol. 2010 Apr 15;138(3):223-31. Epub 2010 Feb 1.
(6) Metagenomics: the role of the microbiome in cardiovascular diseases. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2006 Apr;17(2):157-61. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16531752
(7) Neufeld, K. M., Kang, N., Bienenstock, J. and Foster, J. A. (2011), Reduced anxiety-like behavior and central neurochemical change in germ-free mice (abstract). Neurogastroenterology & Motility. 2011; 23: 255–e119. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2982.2010.01620.x
(8) Rochellys Diaz Heijtza,b,1, Shugui Wangc, Farhana Anuard, Yu Qiana,b, Britta Björkholmd, Annika Samuelssond, Martin L. Hibberdc, Hans Forssbergb,e, and Sven Petterssonc,d,1. Normal gut microbiota modulates brain development and behavior. PNAS. December 2011.
(9) Cho KM, et al. Biodegradation of chlorpyrifos by lactic acid bacteria during kimchi fermentation. J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Mar 11;57(5):1882-9.
(10) Probiotic Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). Jan 2010; 6(1): 39–44. PMCID: PMC2886445
(11) Fecal microbial determinants of fecal and systemic estrogens and estrogen metabolites: a cross-sectional study. J Transl Med. 2012; 10: 253. doi: 10.1186/1479-5876-10-253
(12) Whitman, Claire. Controlling obesity: Is it more than just diet and exercise? January 2010.
(13)Kallus & Brandt. The intestinal microbiota and obesity. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2012 Jan;46(1):16-24. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0b013e31823711fd.
(14) Frequency of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes in gut microbiota in obese and normal weight Egyptian children and adults. Arch Med Sci. Jun 2011; 7(3): 501–507. Published online Jul 11, 2011. doi: 10.5114/aoms.2011.23418.
(15) Stephen Daniells. Gut health linked to excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Nutra. March 2010.
(16) Larsen N, et al. Gut microbiota in human adults with type 2 diabetes differs from non-diabetic adults (abstract). PLoS One. 2010 Feb 5;5(2):e9085.
(17) Bowe WP, Logan AC. Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis – back to the futuMacIntyre DA, Chandiramani M, Lee YS, Kindinger L, Smith A, Angelopoulos N, Hehne B, et al. The vaginal microbiome during pregnancy and the postpartum period in a European population. Scientific Reports. March 11, 2015. doi:10.1038/srep08988
(18) Paddock C. Infants’ gut bacteria linked to food sensitization. MNT. March 5, 2015. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/290377.php
(19) Parracho HM, Bingham MO, Gibson GR, McCartney AL. Differences between the gut microflora of children with autistic spectrum disorders and that of healthy children. J Med Microbiol. 2005; 54(10):987-991.
(20) Michail S1, Lin M2, Frey MR2, Fanter R3, Paliy O4, Hilbush B5, Reo NV4. Altered gut microbial energy and metabolism in children with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2015 Feb;91(2):1-9. doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiu002. Epub 2014 Dec 5.
(21) Steka, B. Multiple Sclerosis and the Microbiome: What’s the Connection? An Expert Interview With Sushrut Jangi, MD. Medscape Neurology. October 01, 2014. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/832385
(22) de Almada CN, Nunes de Almada C, Martinez RC, Sant’Ana AS. Characterization of the intestinal microbiota and its interaction with probiotics and health impacts. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2015 Apr 21. [Epub ahead of print]
(23) Isolauri E, Rautava S, Carmen Collado M, Salminen S. Probiotics in Reducing the Risk of Gestational Diabetes. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2015 Apr 16. doi: 10.1111/dom.12475. [Epub ahead of print]
(24) Braundmeier AG, Lenz KM, Inman KS, et al. Individualized medicine and the microbiome in reproductive tract. Frontiers in Physiology. 2015;6:97. doi:10.3389/fphys.2015.00097.
(25) Medical News Today. New research sheds light on how popular probiotic benefits the gut. April 17, 2015. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/292435.php
(26) University of Maryland Medical Center/School of Medicine. New research sheds light on how popular probiotic benefits the gut. ScienceDaily. 16 April 2015. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/04/150416132021.htm
(27) Emiley A. Eloe-Fadrosh, Arthur Brady, Jonathan Crabtree, Elliott F. Drabek, Bing Ma, Anup Mahurkar, Jacques Ravel, Miriam Haverkamp, Anne-Maria Fiorino, Christine Botelho, Irina Andreyeva, Patricia L. Hibberd, Claire M. Fraser. Functional Dynamics of the Gut Microbiome in Elderly People during Probiotic Consumption. mBio. 2015; 6 (2): e00231-15 DOI: 10.1128/mBio.00231-15
Images courtesy istockphoto.com and the Natural Path