Mood, immunity, allergies, obesity are only a few of the bodily functions orchestrated by our GI tract! Medical research (less than 5 years old), has been casting a whole new light on the role of the lowly intestines which we had hitherto considered the “garbage can” of the body. This eye-opening research makes taking care of our intestines essential to our overall health.
Our sources this week come from the article,”Gut Instinct”, by Eric Seaburg, Endocrine News, May 2015, and “Artificial Sweeteners Get a Gut Check”, Scientific American. April 2015. This information makes the importance of providing the right amount and kind of nutrients pivotal to our overall health.
When I first heard about the “theory” that our neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals that control our moods, were created in our gut instead of our brain, I was skeptical. I had learned in medical school (many years ago) that our intestines were created to absorb nutrients, and water while discarding toxins and the parts of food our bodies don’t need. I was told that our gut contained good and bad bacteria however never was taught the complexity and necessity of the symbiosis between our gut bacteria and the organism of the body—neither bacteria or the human body can live without one another!
New medical research has provided evidence that our immunity and our mood comes from our gut as well! Not only is it amazing that the lowly intestinal tract provides us with vital hormonal communication (the mood hormones are called neurotransmitters), but the type of bacteria in our own special “brew” determines our health. The microscopic organisms live symbiotically with us, from birth to death. They populate our gut beginning with our travel down the birth canal when we gulp our own amniotic fluid and bacteria from our mothers’ intestines. The bacterial population is added to by bacteria in our food, and yeast (think aged cheese), as well as the not-so-sterile child play that most of us participated in as toddlers, and this community of microbes are even augmented by who we have sex and other intimate contact with. In the case of populating our intestinal bacteria, being too clean is not good for us! The types of bacteria, the numbers as well as the numerical ratios of each type of bacteria to one another, determine our health and happiness by producing neuro-hormones, metabolic hormones and interleukin to stimulate white cells and for the purpose of fighting deleterious infection.
The most recent study of our bacterial partners hypothesized that the types of bacteria determine our metabolic rate, and in fact whether we are obese or thin! Because a gut that contains many varieties of bacteria increase overall metabolism and cause patients lose weight. The researchers in this study proved their point and gave obese patients a donation (a stool enema) of gut bacteria from a thin person and they found that the obese patients immediately lost weight. The metabolism of obese patients was stimulated to be metabolically active and burn calories, by merely receiving healthier, more varied types of bacteria!
It seems that one of the most important aspects of intestinal bacterial health, is diversity! This diversity comes from exposure to other humans. It impresses us with the need to live with others and physically interact with them. The more types of bacteria, the better the metabolic rate ( making energy out of food). Thin patients have a wide variety of bacteria and obese people only have a few types of bacteria. Why this is so, is not yet known.
Have you ever wondered why a smaller stomach (gastric bypass) causes such dramatic weight loss, and resolution of diabetes? It is because the surgery alters the gut bacteria and diversifies the types of intestinal flora. Weight loss of this kind occurs quickly after the gastric bypass surgery, out of proportion with the mere loss of surface area achieved by removing part of the stomach. The “bad” bacteria that does not work for us, but against us (they increase methane and peroxide in the gut) is reduced by this weight loss surgery.
Before surgery, obese patients house two “bad” bacterium which not only cause gas and flatus, but also make the body metabolically efficient—the body KEEPS all of its calories due to these bacteria, resulting in weight gain. These bacteria disappear with lap band surgery, and more healthy strains of bacteria multiply and improve the metabolic rate, and weight loss is achieved.
Man and his bacteria have evolved together over millions of years, and if a large number of various types of bacteria is important to our health, then we should allow our children to be exposed to “dirt”, other children, and outdoor play to colonize their gut, with the “good” stuff! Lack of colonization of bacteria, due to obsessive “cleanliness” often leads to lack of colonies of bacteria, allergies develop, and chronic sickness occurs. Finally, fat is conserved and these children become fat adults.
If you want to alter your bacteria for the better to help you lose weight, then you should take daily doses of lactobacillus and faecalibacterium praunitzii, to repopulate your intestines with healthy, “weight conscious” bacteria! Short of an enema from a thin relative, this is my best advice!