Volume 11, Letter 3
January 4th, 2021
This year we are going to look at the microbiome and the metabolic nature of human physiology as it relates to lifestyle choices. The early newsletters will cover the microbiome as we lead into the very deep dive of insulin resistance.
This set of newsletters may be the most important that I ever write as they appear to be the headwaters of most if not all chronic diseases of aging.
The home grown shiitake mushrooms are a great source of immune fighting chemicals including vitamin D.
Microbiome Health and Probiotics
What have we learned about gut health and the role of food and/or probiotics in the last decade?
The human intestinal microbiome is a phrase used to describe the microorganisms that exist symbiotically within our gastrointestinal tract. The microbes are bacteria, viruses, fungi and archae(non nucleated organisms). For millennia, we had no knowledge of their activity or function within our biology. Now we are finally touching the surface of understanding function. However, this is mostly only occurring with the bacterial microbes. We still know little about the effects of viruses, archae and fungi.
What are the known functions of the resident or non pathogenic commensal intestinal bacteria?
The bacteria that reside within us provide support in these ways:
1) Immune balance and tolerance development - this turns out to be critical for allergy and autoimmune avoidance. There is a cross talk between the microbes and our immune cells helping them differentiate pathogens from non pathogens and ultimately self tissue
2) Detoxification of foreign and endogenous chemicals - we are constantly under pressure from the toxic outside world making this an function important. The microbes have an ability to breakdown chemicals
3) Synthesis of vitamins - necessary for biochemical cell signaling. B vitamins and vitamin K are made by our resident gut bacteria
4) Suppression of pathogenic bacteria - by controlling the intestinal real estate, commensal bacteria reduce the ability of pathogenic bacteria to thrive and promote intestinal disease
5) Promoting mucous development and gut lining health - bacteria promote the production of mucous that offers layers of protection from foreign pathogens and proteins at the intestinal cell surface
6) Maintenance of glucose and fat metabolism - bacteria are involved in promoting the effective use and storage of sugars and fats especially in pregnancy. They can promote or prevent obesity and inflammation depending on the bugs that thrive. Very important in the prevention of insulin resistance
7) Provide neurological cell protection - reduced neurological diseases of all sorts. Translational studies are giving us a window into gut health control of brain function and disease
8) Reduce oxidative stress - decreased mitochondrial damage and cellular death. This is an emerging field of research that is going to be very important in all disease types
9) Decrease inflammation - Maintaining healthy microbes is associated with total body reduced symptoms from inflammation
10) Hormone function - gut bacteria can modulate and metabolize our hormones especially the sex derived varieties like estrogen. Endocrine physiological changes can then present as sex hormone irregularity and symptomatology
11) Microbes produce short chain fatty acids that are direct food source for our intestinal cells helping to preserve the health of the intestinal system's barriers
12) Microbes are dictating our responses to cancer drugs and other therapies including vaccines. Obese individuals have a certain cluster of bacterial species that are associated with a poor response to vaccination immune development
These top 12 functions are likely only the tip of the iceberg of health related effects. We will learn over the coming decades of other benefits and detriments to humans based on the makeup of the intestinal microbiome. We will look at the breakpoints in the next article and then in 2 weeks we will start the repair discussions. Furthermore, the microbiome is just one major player in human health and is not meant to be the single most important discussion point as we will see in time.
See Chef Mark's Recipe this week for a good microbiome feeding meal.
Kho Frontiers in Microbiology