You know the word “irritable bowel syndrome”? Some of you may actually have it – you know, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal cramps, all these kind of things.
You know about colitis, you’ve heard of people that have colitis. These kinds of things are when there is a dysbiosis, there’s an imbalance between the good bugs and the bad bugs.
Also, we’re beginning to understand that a lot of the – what is called – autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, these kind of things may indeed be associated with an imbalance in our microbiome.
So another things that our bugs do is they harvest calories. Now, if you’re starving to death, and you’re having to eat a lot of grasses and grains, and things that have a lot of fiber, your body can only absorb a certain number of calories, and we can’t absorb, normally, any calories from fiber.
Fiber just goes down to the biome, and the biome actually will harvest from the fiber, will actually harvest an extra 10% to 15% of the calories from that food we’ve eaten. This is how humanity has survived very, very severe circumstances.
But just as there’s a positive, there’s also a negative. And we find when we look at this whole obese area, people who are overweight – Anybody have any deficit of calories? Lunch looked pretty good, didn’t it? So we’re not living in a cave anymore and we’re not starving.
So this good thing can then become a bad thing, particularly if we tend towards these particular kind of bugs, they’re called Firmicutes – it’s a big family group – and they harvest extra calories. So when we actually look at the biome of people who are overweight or people who have diabetes, they tend to have a lot more of this Firmicutes family.
Are you following me? Do you see where this is starting to lead? What if we begin to change the biome to a more balanced biome for people that were overweight? Ha! You know how this is going to go, don’t you? And the studies are already being done in mice, but you know, there’s a lot to this.
So this study came out about two years ago – it was a fascinating study – because they took these skinny, little mice and they just gave them an artificial sweetener, and sure enough, the little, skinny mice became fat and became diabetic.
So then the obvious scientific question is, did the artificial sweetener change the metabolism of this little mouse, or did it change the microbiome? Guess what? So they did this elegant study – if you think of fecal transplant as elegant – and they took other little, skinny mice, and they just did a fecal transplant from the heavy mouse that had diabetes, no artificial sweeteners, and that little, thin mouse became obese, and overweight, and diabetic.
So you begin to see how this science is beginning to progress.
And a third area that I think is very critical is what we call the gut-brain axis.
And when you look at animal studies, you can take, again, these little germ-free mice, and when they’re born, they’re kind of autistic. You know, they don’t kind of hang out with their puppy brothers and sisters, and they don’t eat well, and they don’t do things well, and they’re kind of autistic.
But if you then transplant normal mouse biome into these little guys, they become normal, they just kind of hang out with each other and so on. You can see where this is going, can’t you? And sure enough it’s already happening.
So in Europe, there’s some beautiful studies that are being done on humans. Here in America, there’s some people that on the side are giving probiotics, you know, probiotics have the microbiome in them – probiotic enemas – to autistic children, and actually seeing some development.
I have not seen good randomized controlled trials, but where there’s a little smoke, there definitely can be some fire.
Now in the human studies, one of the things that we want to know – so we already know that the gut affects the brain, but we also want to know, does the brain affect the gut?
And sure enough, when we find people that are under high stress – of course, nobody here in the audience, I’m sure high stress you know that must be someplace else – but under high stress the biome actually changes.
And what we find is that there’s a breakdown. So inside the gut there’s a nice little layer of mucus – so you have all this bacteria and here you have your gut wall, and then this first layer of mucus, there is no bacteria, it’s a barrier.
The next layer is another layer of mucus that does have bacteria in it, and under stress, those mucus layers begin to break down, and antigens from the bacteria actually penetrate into the muscle wall and therefore into our circulation.
So this barrier is broken down. And there’s a great deal of study that’s going on now to even look at microbiome and Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is now being called diabetes type 3, because we know that those high insulin levels, those high sugar levels, all these things may well be contributing.
So at first I thought, well, this is a little fringy, but when I began to see that we have neuroscientists that have linked together – 30 neuroscientists in the Scientific American just published an editorial saying we need to take another look at Alzheimer’s disease in relationship to the biome. So let’s kind of think about how we can feed this biome.