Monday, February 20, 2017

All the stuff that's in you makes you sick, and makes you well. The microbiome is a new frontier.

What you eat feeds not only what you think of as you, but also the millions upon millions of bacteria, yeasts and other microorganisms that are in you—effectively, part of you.

And increasingly researchers are finding that that mixture of gut bacteria and other stuff plays a massive role in what makes you you. This is a new frontier in nutritional and disease science.

Let’s talk a little about how big a deal is this association between us and our biological tenants.

“All organisms, including humans, exist within a sea of microorganisms. A select few microbes cause great harm, but most are benign, some essential,” wrote Caroline Ash and Kristen Mueller in an April 2016 article in the journal Science.

“The human microbiome is a source of genetic diversity, a modifier of disease, an essential component of immunity, and a functional entity that influences metabolism and modulates drug interactions,” wrote the authors Elizabeth Grice and Julia Segre in this paper

The University of Hawai`i at Manoa is active in the microbiome work.

Canadian researchers have found that babies with particular microscopic organisms in their systems in the first three months of life are more likely to have asthma later in life. They studied babies in Canada and babies in Ecuador and found the same pattern, although it was bacteria in Canadian kids and yeasts in Ecuadorian kids.  

A study in the journal Cell found that kids fed the same diets could be healthy or malnourished depending on what bacteria they had in their guts.

A study in the journal Research in Microbiology found that babies born by caesarian section end up with very different gut biota from those born vaginally—often with bacteria picked up in the hospital rather than those from their mothers.

There’s a whole industry, probiotics, that argues that by eating certain things, you can adjust your microbiome to favor microorganisms that keep you healthy and disfavor those that make you sick. But there are cautions.

“The probiotic industry currently faces huge challenges. These range from exaggerated health claims to the difficulties of developing rigorous testing protocols within existing regulatory frameworks. All the same, probiotic development shows great promise for rebuilding microbiotas and restoring health, certainly for some individuals,” wrote Ash and Mueller in Science.

Earlier this month, the University of Hawai`i hosted the author of the book, “Let Them Eat Dirt:
Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World.” In it, Michael Finlay, with co-author Marie-Clair Arrieta, argue that early exposure to a range of microscopic life can be beneficial.

A lot of folks eat yogurt for its effect on gut bacteria. And University of Hawai`i researchers have studied the effects of poi as a non-dairy player in changing the mix of your internal biology. They didn’t find much impact from fresh poi, but they suggested that sour poi might have a different impact.

That paper includes a detailed review of probiotics, and it’s interesting reading. The authors are Amy C. Brown and Anne Shovic, of the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Salam Ibrahim, of the Food Microbiology and Biotechnology Laboratory, Department of Human Environment and Family Sciences, North Carolina A&T State University, Peter Holck, of the John A. Burns School of Medicine, and Alvin Huang, of the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences, University of Hawaii at Manoa. Their paper is here

They wrote, in part, that “The probiotic theory is supported by the fact that a disruption in the intestine’s delicate balance may contribute to diarrhea, gastroenteritis, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), food allergies, and certain cancers. On the contrary, a balanced or “normal” enteric flora may competitively exclude possible pathogenic organisms and stimulate the intestinal immune system.”

So what all is in there? “The human microbiome is composed of bacteria, archaea, viruses and eukaryotic microbes that reside in and on our bodies. These microbes have tremendous potential to impact our physiology, both in health and in disease,” wrote the authors of this paper

Clearly, we’re learning a lot, but there are vast amounts left to learn. Hawai`i will be part of the information gathering, in part through the university’s involvement in the National Microbiome Initiative.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2017

1 comment:

William said...

It appears the link you posted to an article in Research in Microbiology actually points to an article that may imply the opposite of your summary.