They Shape Our Lives From Birth To Death
Dear EndoMune subscribers,
This month’s newsletter looks at some of the recent research on the positive effects healthy bacteria can have on the digestive system.
When I went into medicine, we spent a long time studying how bacteria caused serious infectious diseases. We learned about the importance of antibiotics and when to use them.
We never had a lecture on how certain bacteria (microflora) have co-evolved with us and how they help maintain our health.
No one really knew much about these healthy bacteria. But it turns out that they are essential for human life. We need them in our gut to digest food, synthesize certain vitamins and form a barricade against disease-causing bacteria.
But what do they look like in healthy people, and how much do they vary from person to person?
“Studies have found that the healthy bacteria can inhibit intestinal immune system from producing immune reactions against food protein lessening the risk of asthma, eczema and other allergies.”
Human Microbiome Project
The National Institute of Medicine launched the Human Microbiome Project1 (HMP) in 2008. It’s a five-year program to better understand how the bacterial communities (microbiome) that live on and in the human body protect our health.
The HMP involves 200 scientists at 80 institutions. Using the latest genetic techniques, they collect samples of bacterial genetic material from 242 healthy people.
The samples have been collected from five areas of the body: the digestive tract, the mouth, the skin, the nose and the vagina.
The projects reveal some of the ways in which invisible or microscopic bacteria shape our lives from birth to death. The ultimate goal is to test whether changes in the human microbiome are associated with human health or disease.
Benefits of a Healthy Microbiome
For example, researchers2 at Baylor College of Medicine have found that the vaginal bacterial flora or microbiomes change during pregnancy. Particular species, like Lactobacillus johnsonii, become dominant. This bacteria is usually found in the human intestinal tract where it produces enzymes that promote digestion of milk and substances that destroy harmful bacteria.
These findings have implications for the newborn. Before birth, the infant is in a sterile environment. The initial exposure to the world of bacteria is during the passage through the birth canal. It has been speculated that the baby will ingest some of the Lactobacillus johnsonii which will aid in digesting breast milk.
Babies born by Caesarean section start out with different microbiomes, but it is not yet known whether their microbiomes remain different after they mature.
During infancy, the baby’s intestinal microbiome expands and is impacted by breastfeeding. A study of 16 lactating women3 found that human breast milk had up to 600 bacterial species and resistant starches. Breast milk helps to promote the healthy intestinal bacteria which aid in digestion, immune function and protection from harmful bacteria.
Studies have found that the healthy bacteria can inhibit intestinal immune systems from producing immune reactions against food protein lessening the risk of asthma, eczema and other allergies.
Future Research Projects
In addition to the above studies, the HMP is doing research on the how the skin microbiome may play a role in skin disorders like psoriasis and eczema.
Other research projects are evaluating the intestinal microbiome in obese versus normal weight individuals. Previous studies have found that there is a difference in the bacterial flora in obese and thin animals and humans. Hopefully, the flora can be manipulated to lessen obesity and the associated disorders of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
The point of this newsletter is that the scientific community now recognizes the importance of maintaining a healthy microbiome. The concern is that antibiotics can upset the healthy microbiome and can contribute to chronic disorders like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and allergies.
Take Home Message
Consider taking a high quality probiotic like EndoMune to maintain a healthy microbiome balance.
Remember, EndoMune contains 10 strains of bacteria, and it is the only probiotic on the market developed by a board certified gastroenterologist.
Eat healthy, exercise and live well!!!
1) Structure, function and diversity of the healthy human microbiome. Human Microbiome Project Consortium.Nature. 2012 Jun 13;486(7402):207-14. doi: 10.1038/nature11234.
2) A metagenomic approach to characterization of the vaginal microbiome signature in pregnancy. Aagaard K, Riehle K, Ma J, Segata N, Mistretta TA, Coarfa C, Raza S, Rosenbaum S, Van den Veyver I, Milosavljevic A, Gevers D, Huttenhower C, Petrosino J, Versalovic J. PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e36466. Epub 2012 Jun 13.
3) Characterization of the diversity and temporal stability of bacterial communities in human milk.Hunt KM, Foster JA, Forney LJ, Schütte UM, Beck DL, Abdo Z, Fox LK, Williams JE, McGuire MK, McGuire MA.PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e21313. Epub 2011 Jun 17.