“You could be sitting alone and still be completely outnumbered for your body is home to trillions upon trillions of tiny passengers – bacteria. Your body is made up of around ten trillion cells, but you harbour a hundred trillion bacteria.” says the Science Discover Magazine, in a fascinating article on the Microbiome: Your Body Houses 10x More Bacteria Than Cells.
Did you know that for every gene in your genome, there are 100 bacterial ones? The human microbiome is the population of more than 100 trillion microorganisms that live in our gut, mouth, skin and elsewhere in our bodies. The total number of genes associated with the human microbiome exceeds the total number of human genes by a factor of 100-to-one.
This is your ‘microbiome’ and it has a huge impact on your health, your ability to digest food and much, much more. We, in turn, affect them. Everything from the food we eat to the way we think, from the drugs we use to the way we’re born, influences the many species of bacteria that take up residence in our bodies over our lifetime.
Wikipedia lists the micro biome as: “the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic, and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space.” These microbial communities have numerous beneficial functions relevant to supporting our life. Science has only now discovered that they are needed (in fact essential) for us to digest food, to prevent disease-causing bacteria from invading the body, and to synthesize essential nutrients and vitamins. To our microbiome, the human body must seem like an entire planet, full of different ecosystems. Despite its diversity, your skin microbiome is a tiny country village compared to the bustling metropolis inside your bowels.
What Does This Mean For You?
The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) Consortium, a five-year collaboration of large sequencing centers including the Broad Institute and dozens of other multidisciplinary research institutions across the nations of the western world, set out to build a foundation understanding of how these microorganisms coexist with their human hosts.
The above picture was the cover of a Nature magazine, “Our Self-Portrait: the Human Microbiome” by Joana Ricou depicting a microbial reflection in dialogue with its host, for an article examining how the human body is colonized by a vast number of microbes (collectively referred to as the ‘human microbiota’). The article examines the link between these microbes and our health. It is the focus of a growing number of research initiatives, and in their special editions Nature presents some of the new rapidly emerging insights.
Do you ever wonder why children can’t take peanut butter sandwiches to school any more? Apart from the obvious potentially lethal affect this unassuming legume may have, it is a very obvious sign that should tell us to be warned. Physicians from ancient Rome and Greece felt that death begins in the colon. Hippocrates, said to be the father of modern medicine, told us 2000 years ago that “bad digestion is the root of all evil.”
In 1908, Nobel laureate Elie Metchnikoff won the Nobel Prize for Medicine (along along with Paul Ehrlich) for his work on intestinal milieu and on the theory of immunity. Metchnikoff’s discovery of amoeba-like cells that engulf foreign bodies such as bacteria – a phenomenon known as phagocytosis – are a fundamental part of the immune response is what led to his lifetime of work and the Nobel prize. He became fascinated with the biology of ageing and death, and has often been ascribed the aphorism “Death begins in the colon”.
He believed that the ageing body was gradually poisoned by waste products from harmful bacteria in the intestines, which could be neutralised by good bacteria. Some say it was Professor Ilya Mechnikov who coined the term “probiotic” to describe friendly bacteria, and he is renown for studying societies that practised eating fermented foods and special bacterial cultures called ‘kefirs’. Here is a look at a remote culture in Western Tanzania whose guts are home to a microbial community unlike anything seen in a modern human population.
Your Gut Microbia Determine Your Health
When people ask us about a program to improve their wellbeing, we almost always start them on the path to good health by teaching them how to improve their gut and digestive tract by . As Bernard Jensen noted last century, “In the 50 years I’ve spent helping people to overcome illness, disability and disease, it has become crystal clear that poor bowel management lies at the root of most people’s health problems.” Jensen taught us that we can regenerate the body when our tissues are clean and able to assimilate the nutrients and elements we need from our foods.
Jensen used to say “.. processed, devitalised foods are notoriously lacking in fibre and bulk. They tend to be dry, gooey, sticky and pasty. They do not do well in making the transit in the bowel. They have a tendency to stick to the insides like glue and are difficult to move out.” And that was 50 years ago. How much worse is the prevalence of processed food today? Plus, the severe depletion of nutrient rich foods, which compounds our internal problem? This adds to an already overburdened body, overwhelmed with toxicity issues. Our bodies are unable to recover from bouts of antibiotics, unable to get on top of infection, unable to deal with inflammation or with ongoing bacterial and fungal overgrowth.
It’s no wonder so many people are sick and unwell.
An imbalance in the gut means out-of-balance in immunity, and recent research shows that this appears to be an underlying component of many of the increasingly common paediatric disorders. At last we are taking notice of what Metchnikoff discovered over a century ago.
Over the course of the past twenty years we have seen that an upset micro-biome is often the root cause of many chronic adult and childhood diseases. A healthy colon eliminates waste within six to 18 hours after every meal–this means having two or three bowel movements a day.
A clean, healthy colon efficiently also eliminates potentially harmful toxins (more on this here). A clogged, unhealthy colon allows toxins to back up into the liver and bloodstream, polluting the entire system.
How To Regain A Healthy Gut
To effectively treat inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, immune dysfunction and digestive dysfunction a comprehensive treatment program must be initiated. The program we recommend consists of three primary elements: dietary modification, nutritional supplementation, detoxification, that sit alongside any medications you may be on. Bowel cleansing is an essential element in any lasting healing program. As Jensen taught years ago, the toxic waste must be removed as quickly as possible to halt the downward spiral of falling health.
We have observed that an overload of toxins leads to oxidative stress that in turn leads to systemic inflammation in the digestive tract (food intolerances and digestive disorders), in the lungs (asthma), in the skin (eczema) and in the brain (AD/HD, Autism, behavioural issues). We have also been helping families reverse the symptoms of these diseases for decades – simply by reducing the oxidative stress, created as a result of malnourishment, toxicity and poor digestive health.
In the area of paediatric epidemics such as AD/HD, Autism, Asthma and allergies, biomedical research (otherwise known as ‘experimental medicine’: branch of medical science that deals with the ability of humans to tolerate environmental stresses), uncovers an underlying genetic vulnerability that impairs the child’s ability to detoxify toxic agents from environment, food and medications. At last science is catching up to what has been obvious to parents and natural therapists for decades.
Another area of concern has been the overuse of antibiotics. Thanks to advances in medicine and technology many diseases and infections are part of the past, but at what cost, we might ask, when we consider the general health of our microbiome?
Much research is going into a new class of epidemics that are emerging studying the connections between the brain, the immune system, the gut dysfunction and the body’s metabolism. Many digestive disorders affect the mind and immune system, and even impact what e digest, and the nutrients we uptake. The gut microflora actually make nutrients (or not, if we don;t have these lisle helpers), and the study of this has arisen due to a rapid increase of “brain-immuno-gut disorders” triggered by toxins, malnutrition and infections.
Diseases Implicated With Gut Issues
So often beginning in childhood, the prevalence of disease signals a need for preventative healthcare that focuses on cellular health by optimising nutrient intake while minimising toxins. Many modern illnesses fall into this category, conditions such as asthma, allergies, AD/HD, Autism, anxiety, depression, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Crohns Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, digestive disorders, Schizophrenia, and more. In this paradigm, disease begins at the cellular level and affects many organ systems.
Researchers such as Dr. Campbell-McBride and Dr. Kenneth Bock are finding such an overlap in neurological, immunological and digestive illness in one single patient. All these neuro-psychological disorders are based on a set of symptoms that include impaired brain synchrony and an imbalance in neurotransmitters that may be caused by toxicity and/or infection and/or digestive dysfunction and/or low nutrient levels.
As Dr. Campbell-McBride explains; “We live in a world of unfolding epidemics; Autism, ADD, asthma, allergies, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, diabetes, coeliac… these conditions overlap with each other…and are related by similar underlying causes.” In her Cambridge UK clinic Dr. Campbell-McBride sees hundreds of children labeled with different disease but presenting with similar issues of malnourishment, toxicity and poor digestive health.
Dr. Kenneth Bock describes a similar paradigm of overlapping diseases in his book Healing The New Childhood Epidemics; Autism, AD/HD, Allergies and Asthma. The “4-A Disorders” have risen sharply in the past 20 years in the United States (autism has increased 1500%, ADHD 500%, asthma 300%, and allergies 700%). “These are staggering statistics, and these meteoric increases demand explanations. “
Research reveals that these illnesses runs in families, but that the incidence of it is rapidly rising across the whole community in the west. The research shows that children with Autism, AD/HD, asthma, allergies have a family history of brain-immuno-gut issues such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and more. A combination of genetics, environment and inherited conditions (nutrient levels, gut flora in the gastro intestinal tract, pathogenic microbes) all contribute to this compounding problem.
The prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease in increasing throughout the world, indicating its emergence as a global disease, a systematic literature review concludes. Tony James wrote a paper: IBD ”an emerging global disease’’ for the Gastroenterology Society of Australia. He reported a statistically significant increase in the incidence of IBD was demonstrated in 75% of Crohns disease and 60% of ulcerative colitis studies. Analysing the changing patterns of disease in developing countries could provide important insights James concluded.
Dr. Bock explains that “this concomitant [a phenomenon that naturally accompanies or follows something.] rise is not coincidence. All of these disorders appear to be tied together by a similar mechanism: an underlying genetic vulnerability, triggered by environmental insults. The primary underlying genetic vulnerability appears to be, in many children, an impaired ability to detoxify, which has left them unable to cope with the increasing toxicity to which they are exposed.
And so we come full circle to the micro-biome – that wonderland inside us that produces nutrients, digests our food, produces hormones, immune system function just to name a few. Kill it off with poor nutrient diets, excess chemicals, blocked detox pathways and you will suffer ill-health and disease. For more on what to do to keep your Microbiome healthy, which is an important step to improving your overall health, read the post Feeding Your Hungry Microbiome.
Knowing the simple solutions that can reverse these diseases that severely impact quality of life, can help you turn your life around. It’s obvious (isn’t it always when the truth is made clear), it’s easy, and it impacts not just your health but the health of your children and the subsequent health of their children too – born or unborn.
Everything that an individual does to their body is passed on to future generations – that’s the story of the micro-biome! Make sure you are doing everything you can to be in control of what you pass on in your genes and your micro-biome. Make sure you contact us or the person who sent you to this site for more information: [email protected]
- National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Opportunities and Challenges in Digestive Diseases Research: Recommendations of the National Commission on Digestive Diseases. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health; 2009. NIH Publication 08–6514.
- National ambulatory medical care survey: 2010 summary tables. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. www.cdc.gov/nchs/ahcd/web_tables.htm#2010. Updated March 29, 2012. Accessed May 2, 2013.
- Hadza Huntr Gatherer & Gut Microbiome
- Gastroenterology 2011; doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2011.10.001
- The State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012 (WHO/UNEP 2013) [NOTE: 14MB PDF file]