Are you taking good care of your microbiota or are they taking care of you?
Joseph Lister started using antiseptic techniques in the 1800s and developed “Listerine” in 1879 hoping to rid the mouth of bacteria. For many years bacteria have been viewed as the enemy and countless products have been developed to destroy as many as possible. Certainly, the development of “antibiotics” has resulted in a longer life span for humans and saved us from many infections that had previously killed thousands of people. But have we overshot the human domination runway again? Bacteria are some of the original forms of life on this planet and have survived despite radical changes in temperature and species domination. We are now appreciating the benefits of living in “harmony or symbiotic “ with our bacteria.
In fact our bodies are composed of about 10 trillion cells and our resident bacteria add another 100 trillion cells. This is the about the weight in bacteria as our brain. 99% of our genes are from our resident bacteria. So you can only blame your parents for a little of your genetics because our bacteria are a dynamically changing our genetics daily.
We are born without these microbes and develop them from the day of our birth with the most abundant increase in the first 27 months of life. This depends on our environmental exposure, nutrition, and antibiotic exposure. Different parts of the body house different bacteria and it is the human host who controls the body’s ecosystem by our nutrition and environment. When a bacterial species overtakes an area or becomes dominant in an area that it is not suppose to dominate, our immune system activates and a state of inflammation or disease can arise. This is called dsybiosis.
There are certain species of bacteria such as Akkermansia muciniphia that are associated with lean body weight and less calorie extraction from food. When the species Firmicutes is more abundant there is a higher calorie extraction and more obesity is present. It has been noted that people undergoing gastric bypass have a change in their gut microbes. Is this the reason for their dramatic weight loss and if so then why not just change their gut flora and avoid surgery? Ridura et al. in 2013 demonstrated and interesting theory why gastric bypass is of limited success in many people. When bacteria of lean mice were introduced to obese mice the mice lost weight as long as they were given a high fiber diet. This is because the bacteria associated with obesity did not utilize the fiber and the lean bacteria could dominate. However, if the diet was low fiber the lean bacteria could not survive and the obese bacteria continued to dominate.
We are learning more each day about our gut microbiota and how to best maintain health and symbiosis. Eat a diet rich in fiber and diverse in different fruits and vegetables to select the healthiest composition of gut microbes and maintain the peace during this holiday season.