PART 1: THE GUT MICROBIOME -Have we discovered a new organ?
PART 2: THE GUT MICROBIOME -Taking care of our bugs so they can take care of us.
More important, now than ever, is understanding how this new discovery can help us SUPPORT our immunity.
As well as staying safe from the virus and protecting ourselves on the outside…there is a great deal we can do on the inside.
“Recent research has shown that the gut microbiome plays an essential role in the body’s immune response to infection”Professor Tim Spector, King’s College London
This discovery is changing the way we see ourselves as a species, how we interact with our environment, the food we choose to eat and the lifestyle choices we make on a daily basis.
Your very own lush rainforest.
IMAGINE a vast rainforest ecosystem where numerous plant species, animals and bacteria live in harmony with the land and with each other.
The rainforest is our gut and the bacterial ecosystem that thrives within it, is the GUT MICROBIOTA.
Within each of us lives a microbial community, made of trillions of microbial species, that calls us Home.
Ever wondered why you struggle to digest carbs when other members of your family can eat them happily?
Your microbiota has its own genetic code that is particular to you. This may determine certain characteristics like your ability to digest certain types of carbohydrates or why you may react badly to certain medications and not others.
“Your own personal bacterial colony, microbiota, is as unique as a fingerprint”Erica Sonnenburg, pHd, research scientist at Stanford University.
Some Japanese communities have seaweed eating bacteria in their gut- not found anywhere else.
This is to help these populations digest foods commonly featured in their natural diet.
Our Microbial DNA is in fact greater than our Human DNA. This makes YOU one of the largest microbial ecosystems in the world.
Where did these microbes come from ?
Microbes have been here for over billions of years.
During human evolution we have developed a 2-way, symbiotic, relationship with our microbes.
We have become inseparable.
We NEED our microbes to survive.
We have trillions of these little guys on our skin, in our eyes, nose, lungs and mouth…everywhere. We are an incredibly beautiful, intricately designed, walking and breathing microbial ecosystem.
We are ‘seeded’ with our mother’s microbes as we pass through the birth canal.
Throughout life, we nurture this colony and as we grow, it adapts and develops as we do, in response to our lifestyle, environment and diet.
1/3 of human breast milk is indigestible to the baby.
HMOs or Human Milk Oligosaccharides are complex carbohydrates that make up a 1/3 of human breast milk. However HMOs are not digestible by the infant drinking the breast milk. WHY are they there then?
Nature doesn’t get it wrong.
The HMOs are not actually food for the baby.
HMOs are food for the baby’s MICROBIOTA.
The mother manufactures breast milk designed to feed BOTH the growing baby and its newly forming microbial colony, of what will be 100 trillion inhabitants.
Why is our gut microbiome so important?
Scientists led by Gastroenterologist Dr Jeffery Gordon, took two mice, one lean and one obese.
The scientists transplanted the microbiota of the obese mouse into the lean mouse. What happened next took the scientific community by total surprise.
The lean mouse began to put on weight.
Perhaps these bugs in the GUT actually had the ability to change the biology of the host.
This experiment showed that the lean healthy mouse may have gained weight because of the change in it’s gut microbiota.
This was just the beginning.
“The possible microbiota-obesity link is just the tip of the iceberg”Dr Sonnenburg
Our gut microbes have since been linked to over 70 health conditions.
GUT HEALTH & COVID-19
As we now know COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. It can cause respiratory distress and ultimately organ failure. Clinical trials have shown that an overactive immune system may play a major part in this.
However, any drugs that dampen our immune system, weakens our innate ability to fight the virus. This makes it incredibly difficult to treat with drugs and with vaccines some way off, we need to do all we can, with the knowledge we have so far, to support our immunity.
Managing inflammation and Optimising Gut health
May be key to supporting our immune response through this and future diseases.
Studies show that one of the reasons COVID-19 has caused severe illness in some ‘healthy’ people and not others may be due to the gut health of those outwardly healthy individuals.
“Having good gut health may not make us immune, but better gut health lowers our risk of becoming more severely unwell”Dr Megan Rossi, PhD RD APD on COVID-19
Can we change our Gut Health?
Yes we can.
Our guts are home to bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
Our job is to learn how to keep them happy.
Looking after our Gut Microbiome can improve Gut Health and help reduce the risk factors of COVID-19 and the severity of the disease.
The Gut Microbiome helps:
- Strengthen and train our immune system
- Balance blood sugar and lower the risk of type 2 Diabetes
- Improve our heart health
- And help manage appetite.
Is this enough to convince you that these guys need to be loved, protected and nourished?
LOOK OUT FOR THE NEXT PART IN THIS SERIES on
How we can eat and live to maximise the health of our gut microbiota and support our immunity now and for the future.
PART 2 : Gut MICROBIOME -Taking care of our bugs, so they can take care of us.