It’s only been a few months since my last post on the topic of belly bugs and I still can’t seem to stay away from this subject! As additional studies are released on these microbes that inhabit the lining of our various body parts, I am becoming even more intrigued.

When the National Institute of Health undertook the Human Microbiome Project as a research initiative to study our gut microbes, no one imagined at the time just how extensive a role they had on wellness. Our microbiome’s collective genes of 10,000+ species outnumber our human genes 150 to 1. This makes their impact profound. (1) In fact, many scientists and clinicians are beginning to wonder who inhabits who?

Recently, one of my amazingly, smart clients and I had a discussion about her gut bugs. She had actually spoken to a researcher in the Human Microbiome Project…so cool! After our chat, I did some more research and decided I wanted to get you up to date on why treating your own unique bug blueprint with tender care is so important.


Appetite, Weight, and the Role of the Microbiome

Obesity and excess weight negatively impacts health and the number of people that struggle with being overweight continues to rise. Therefore, the role the microbiome plays on determining one’s body composition is vital.

1. Animal Study with Satiated Mice

Recently, researchers at Vanderbilt injected a bacterial strain of the human gut -Escherichia coli Nissle 1917- which is a common probiotic treatment for diarrhea, into mice to explore its effect on weight and appetite. First, they genetically manipulated the strain (scary) to produce a lipid commonly found in the small intestine, N-acyl-phosphatidylethanolamine (NAPE). NAPE is then converted to a compound that reduces appetite, N-acylethanolamide (NAE). After this, the researchers fed the modified NAPE-producing bacteria to mice on a high fat diet for 8 weeks and compared their food intake to controls. (2-4) According to the Journal of Clinical Investigation:

The results showed that the mice that received the NAPE-producing bacteria had significantly reduced food intake, body fat, and fatty liver, compared to the mice that received the control bacteria.

Furthermore, the researchers reported that the weight loss effects of mice that ingested the bacteria lasted for up to 6 weeks after administration. Interestingly, the slimmer rodents maintained total body weight and lower adiposity “than that of control-treated animals even 12 weeks after…” (3) This data supports other studies which demonstrate the role of the microbiome on obesity. (5)


2. Humans, Appetite, and the “Invasion of the Belly Snackers”

Read this blog here.


3. What’s a Healthy Gut?

That’s a good question. Everyone seems to have their own microbiome genetic blueprint (metagenome). Still researchers have found correlations between certain microbial species and their ratios in healthy populations. (12-14) According to a 2011 journal article in Nature, the most predominant bacteria phylum in an international human sample population are Firmicutes (clostridia and Bacilli, Bacilli contains lactobacilli) followed by Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, and finally Proteobacteria (13).

In fact, studies have reported that certain beneficial bacteria do modulate the immune system. This has been found in relationship to allergies in mice (15-16) and in the risk for autoimmune disorders. Specifically, researchers have found that commensal bacteria play a role in balancing three immunological factors related to immune cells (T helper cell polarization, T regulatory cell function, and B cell activity). (17)

Furthermore, a study reported in Cancer Prevention Research revealed that the gut microbiome could be used to determine the risk for developing colon cancer:

We characterized the gut microbiome in patients from three clinical groups representing the stages of colorectal cancer development: healthy, adenoma, and carcinoma. Analysis of the gut microbiome from stool samples revealed both an enrichment and depletion of several bacterial populations associated with adenomas and carcinomas. Combined with known clinical risk factors of colorectal cancer (e.g., BMI, age, race), data from the gut microbiome significantly improved the ability to differentiate between healthy, adenoma, and carcinoma clinical groups relative to risk factors alone. (18).

This study is exciting because it is putting a clinical application to how our gut microbiome interacts with our environment to modulate cancer risk. (19) For this reason, I’m really excited about a recent advancement in functional testing with the GI Effects Stool Profile from Genova Diagnostics. This profile not only evaluates markers of digestive dysfunction, but it also measures microbial diversity and ratios of various species in comparison to a healthy population! (12)

It seems that the next level of healthcare will be based not just on our unique genetic markers, but our metagenome and its function. In fact this new test may be what the 2011 journal article in Nature, was hoping for when they reported in their findings a need for a functional analysis for understanding how the microbiome interacts with environmental factors (12):

This further indicates the existence of a limited number of well-balanced host-microbial symbiotic states that might respond differently to diet and drug intake. The enterotypes are mostly driven by species composition, but abundant molecular functions are not necessarily provided by abundant species, highlighting the importance of a functional analysis for a community understanding.



4. Probiotics and Antibiotics

Diet, stress, genetics, toxins, and drugs all have an effect on our microbiome. Antibiotics have been shown to have a detrimental effect on our gut microbiome and can impact our health (20).

Still, what about if one feels that their only option is an antibiotic?  Can one safely take probiotics with antibiotics to protect the belly bugs and prevent associated side effects?

Turns out, several studies have shown this can be done and may be helpful (21-26). However, I do suggest to my clients to take them at separate times and to monitor how they feel.


5. Three Tips for Feeding the Good Bacteria (6 minutes)

Alas, I was unable to do a personal YouTube video this week, but I still wanted to leave with a video summary. (I have some upcoming exciting events that needed planning and attention.)

Thankfully, Sean Croxton is at it again-moving from the subject of thyroid support to digestive health! Check out this interview he did with Andrea Nakayama, a functional medicine nutritionist for his upcoming Digestive Sessions. I’ll be tuning in to that in November. (6 min)

My comments on the video:

Interestingly, essential oils are HIGH in polyphenols, which means they can feed the healthy bugs of our microbiome while ridding our body of any nasty invaders. I also individualize my probiotic suggestions to my clients’ current symptoms and history, I too don’t believe in a one probiotic for all approach. Diversity is key!

More fun on the horizon…

There’s a new prebiotic/probiotic supplement coming out that focuses on healthy viral populations to modulate our microbiome. I’ll be trying and I’ll keep you posted!

Till next week….keep breaking free from disease mentality and be empowered to remain vital and healthy.


Sources and References:

(1) TuftsNow. The Microbiome. September 23, 2013.

(2) Incorporation of therapeutically modified bacteria into gut microbiota inhibits obesity. J Clin Invest. 2014 Aug 1;124(8):3391-406. doi: 10.1172/JCI72517. Epub 2014 Jun 24.

(3) Michael Jurgelewicz. Can probiotics help prevent obesity? Designs for Health Blog. August 14, 2014.

(4) Mercola, J. Your Health Is the Result of a Symbiotic Relationship with 100 Trillion August 28, 2014.

(5) Obesity and the gut microbiota: does up-regulating colonic fermentation protect against obesity and metabolic disease? Genes Nutr. 2011 Aug;6(3):241-60. doi: 10.1007/s12263-011-0230-1.

(6) Dallas, ME. WebMD News from HealthDay. Diet Changes Can Alter Gut Bacteria, Study Says: Researchers monitored stool samples of two people for a year. July 25, 2014.

(7) 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.

(8) 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.

(9) 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.

(10) 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.

(11) Joe Alcock, Carlo C. Maley, C. Athena Aktipis. Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms. BioEssays, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/bies.201400071

(12) GI Effects: Comprehensive Stool Analysis Profile. Genova Diagnostics.

(13) Enterotypes of the human gut microbiome. Nature. 2011 May 12;473(7346):174-80. doi: 10.1038/nature09944. Epub 2011 Apr 20. (Supplementary Information)

(14)Intestinal Microbiota in Healthy Adults: Temporal Analysis Reveals Individual and Common Core and Relation to Intestinal Symptoms. PLoS One. 2011; 6(7): e23035. Published online Jul 28, 2011. doi:  10.1371/journal.pone.0023035

(15) University of Chicago Medical Center. Gut bacteria that protect against food allergies identified. August 25, 2014.

(16) A. T. Stefka, T. Feehley, P. Tripathi, J. Qiu, K. McCoy, S. K. Mazmanian, M. Y. Tjota, G.-Y. Seo, S. Cao, B. R. Theriault, D. A. Antonopoulos, L. Zhou, E. B. Chang, Y.-X. Fu, C. R. Nagler. Commensal bacteria protect against food allergen sensitization. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1412008111

(17) TelesfordKiel, Ochoa-RepárazJavier, and KasperLloyd H.Gut Commensalism, Cytokines, and Central Nervous System Demyelination .Journal of Interferon & Cytokine Research. August 2014, 34(8): 605-614. doi:10.1089/jir.2013.0134.

(18) The Human Gut Microbiome as a Screening Tool for Colorectal Cancer. Cancer Prevention Research. Published OnlineFirst August 7, 2014; doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-14-0129.

(19). Hullar MA1, Fu BC. Diet, the gut microbiome, and epigenetics. Cancer J. 2014 May-Jun;20(3):170-5. doi: 10.1097/PPO.0000000000000053.

(20) Bactericidal Antibiotics Induce Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Oxidative Damage in Mammalian Cells. Sci Transl Med. Jul 3, 2013; 5(192): 192ra85. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006055

(21) Probiotics in prevention of antibiotic associated diarrhoea: meta-analysis. BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 08 June 2002)

(22) Prophylactic Saccharomyces boulardii in the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea: a prospective study. (PMID:16572062)

(23) Meta-analysis: non-pathogenic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii in the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2005.02624.x.

(24) The effect of oral administration of Lactobacillus GG on antibiotic-associated gastrointestinal side-effects during Helicobacter pylori eradication therapy. DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2036.2001.00923.x

(25) Efficacy of probiotics in prevention of acute diarrhoea: a meta-analysis of masked, randomised, placebo-controlled trials. DOI: 10.1016/S1473-3099(06)70495-9

(26) Chris Kresser. What To Do If You Need To Take Antibiotics.

(27) Sean Croxton. 3 Tips for Feeding the Good Bacteria. Digestive Sessions Interview: Andrea Nakayama.

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