May 2016 was a month that inspired health and inspiration to many integrative doctors. This is because there were many articles that supported the transformation of medicine into a more broad-based and inclusive model.
In my latest blog on my homepage, I discuss the topic of the “Re-connection and Integration of the Mind-Body in Modern Medicine- May 2016 Top Holistic and Integrative Health Reads.”
In the past, I discussed how another topic, the microbiome, may be a discovery that unites the conversations between conventional viewpoints and holistic physicians.
If you’ve missed any of the important news on the tiny inhabitants that line our inner tubes and outer
layers, you will want to skim through this link. Research is finding that these critters have an impact on almost anything you can think of in regards to modulating health!
For example, a May 4th article in Science Daily from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute reports:
Scientists have grown and catalogued more than 130 bacteria from the human intestine. Imbalances in our gut microbiome can contribute to complex conditions and diseases such as obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and allergies. This research will enable scientists to understand how our bacterial ‘microbiome’ helps keep us healthy and start to create tailor-made treatments with specific beneficial bacteria.
In this mentioned article published in Nature, researchers were able to come up with a unique method to study the behavior of our little buggy friends (via a combination of whole-genome phenotypic analysis, culture methods, and fecal specimen study of six healthy individuals). The goal was that this method would allow ways to accomplish microbe transfer between humans via their encapsulation into a pill, potentially replacing the “yuck factor” of those fecal transplants (more on that later). The research may also allow the scientific community to better understand these critters by finding ways to culture them and keep them alive, as most are not oxygen loving. The answer was speculated to be via spores!
Therefore, the way we treat our “bug forest” in our bodies (mostly by lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, stress, sleep, etc.) has major implications. This is not only related to our own health, but potentially using our healthy bugs to help others with a less desirable mix of friendly-crawly-friends.
Interestingly, it was also recently found that our bug residents are also fighting to keep us flexible in stressful circumstances. They don’t only respond to their environment but also offer resilience when food is scarce, changing the diversity in our bellies. (Another explanation for how diet modulates our health). Science Daily reported:
In a recent paper in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers working with Frank Schreiber have shown that individual cells in bacterial colonies can differ widely in how they respond to a lack of nutrients. Although all of the cells in a group are genetically identical, the way they process nutrients from their surroundings can vary from one cell to another. For example, bacteria called Klebsiella oxytoca preferentially take up nitrogen from ammonium (NH4+), as this requires relatively little energy. When there isn’t enough ammonium for the entire group, some of the bacteria start to take up nitrogen by fixing it from elementary nitrogen (N2), even though this requires more energy. If the ammonium suddenly runs out altogether, these cells at least are prepared. While some cells suffer, the group as a whole can continue to grow. “Although all of the bacteria in the group are genetically identical and exposed to the same environmental conditions, the individual cells differ among themselves,” says Schreiber.
In celebration of focusing on the progress we are making, I wanted to review some more of the top articles in May 2016 that focused on our buggy foods and summarize them here for you.
Speaking of the Yuck Factor…
Currently, stool transplants are approved for treatment of an infectious gastrointestinal disease caused by Clostridium difficile. Health Day reported on another application of fecal transplant:
Stool transplants helped ease debilitating symptoms and heal the colons of tough-to-treat ulcerative colitis patients, new research shows.
Australian scientists said the findings could pave the way for such transplants to be used on a more widespread basis. Transferring fecal matter from healthy donors into these patients alters the composition of their gut bacteria, circumventing one of the drivers of ulcerative colitis, experts said.
Immunizing with Bugs
A rodent study published in PNAS demonstrated that vaccinating with a specific strain of bacteria modulated the immune response in stress-induced pathology.
The hygiene, or “old friends,” hypothesis proposes that lack of exposure to immunoregulatory microorganisms in modern urban societies is resulting in an epidemic of inflammatory disease, as well as psychiatric disorders in which chronic, low-level inflammation is a risk factor. An important determinant of immunoregulation is the microbial community occupying the host organism, collectively referred to as the microbiota. Here we show that stress disrupts the homeostatic relationship between the microbiota and the host, resulting in exaggerated inflammation. Treatment of mice with a heat-killed preparation of an immunoregulatory environmental microorganism, Mycobacterium vaccae, prevents stress-induced pathology. These data support a strategy of “reintroducing” humans to their old friends to promote optimal health and wellness.
Why Use Bugs, Because Killing Them with Antibiotics Have Negative Effects
According to a new study reported in Science Daily (again):
Antibiotics strong enough to kill off gut bacteria can also stop the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, a section of the brain associated with memory, reports a new study in mice. Researchers also uncovered a clue to why — a type of white blood cell seems to act as a communicator between the brain, the immune system, and the gut.
Our Baseline of Skin Bugs
A new study, reported in Health Day relating to an article in Cell, discussed that our skin may have a “baseline” of buggies. Although it has been found previously that our skin microbiota can be disturbed by cleansers and environmental factors, it appears that there does exist a population of critters on our skin that stay put:
The skin’s “microbiome” — containing bacteria, fungi and viruses — is thought to be important to human health. Segre said it can help the body resist nasty germ invaders and maintain the barrier between the skin and inner organs. The new study aimed to discover how stable these skin germs are over time. This can help researchers understand what happens when skin disease develops, Segre said.
For the study, Segre and colleagues analyzed 17 skin sites of 12 healthy volunteers three times over two years. The researchers found that skin germs as a whole remained fairly steady, although individuals have their own “microbial fingerprints.”
“One person had a higher amount of fungi on their skin, another person had a lot of bacterial viruses on the side of their nose,” Segre said. She thought these collections of germs might be temporary, but “when we examined the person’s skin community a year later, it was still true.”
Germs on the feet were the most variable of all, but it’s not clear why. One possibility, Segre said, is that the feet encounter a lot of temperature differences. Dr. Stanley Spinola, a scientist who praised the research, said the variation seen in feet may have something to do with moist areas between the toes or differences in footwear — from sneakers to leather shoes to flip-flops or none at all.
How is this research useful?
“The study shows over a long period of time, our skin microbiome stays pretty stable although we encounter different environments,” said Spinola, who is chair of microbiology and immunology at Indiana University School of Medicine. This is helpful because it gives researchers insight into the normal variation, allowing scientists to better study how disease causes differences, he said.
Next Time Some One Tells You to ‘Eat Worms’, You May Want To!
According to a recent article in Science Daily intestinal worms may assist with immunity in a surprising way. Yes, our belly bugs also contains worms that modulate our health, not just bacteria. Science Daily states:
In order to fight invading pathogens, the immune system uses “outposts” throughout the body, called lymph nodes. These are small, centimeter-long organs that filter fluids, get rid of waste materials, and trap pathogens, e.g. bacteria or viruses. Lymph nodes are packed with immune cells, and are know to grow in size, or ‘swell’, when they detect invading pathogens. But now, EPFL scientists have unexpectedly discovered that lymph nodes also contain more immune cells when the host is infected with a more complex invader: an intestinal worm. The discovery is published in Cell Reports , and has significant implications for our understanding of how the immune system responds to infections.
The Intelligence of Nature and Nurture- How Mamma’s Hormones Effect Baby’s Food
In another write-up by Science Daily from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, researchers explored the “role of human milk hormones in the development of infants’ microbiome, a bacterial ecosystem in the digestive system that contributes to multiple facets of health.” Specifically:
A new study finds that hormones in breast milk may impact the development of healthy bacteria in infants’ guts, potentially protecting them from intestinal inflammation, obesity and other diseases later in life.
The hormones studied were insulin and leptin. The authors analyzed the stool samples of thirty infants exclusively breastfed- 18 were from normal weight moms and 12 were from obese mom to determine the bacterial population and the metabolic effects. They found the following:
In addition, researchers found significant differences in the intestinal microbiome of breastfed infants who are born to mothers with obesity compared to those born to mothers of normal weight. Infants born to mothers with obesity showed a significant reduction in gammaproteobacteria, a pioneer species that aids in normal intestinal development and microbiome maturation.
Gammaproteobacteria have been shown in mice and newborn infants to cause a healthy amount inflammation in their intestines, protecting them from inflammatory and autoimmune disorders later in life. The 2-week-old infants born to obese mothers in this study had a reduced number of gammaproteobacteria in the infant gut microbiome.
Now, here’s some other noteworthy briefs:
The Microbe-Gene Connection Found in IBD
A recent study found a connection between a gene variation found in Crohn’s disease patients and a certain bug that modulates inflammation in the gut. The study has implications for treatments that effect bacteria in our bellies versus focusing on drugs, which have a poor efficacy rate for Crohn’s disease. According to this study summary by Science Daily:
Investigators found that the beneficial effects of Bacteroides fragilis bacterium, one of billions of microscopic organisms that normally inhabit the human gastrointestinal system, were negatively impacted by variations in the ATG16L1 gene.
These genetic variations increase the risk of developing Crohn’s disease, one of the two common forms of IBD. As a result, the bacteria were prevented from carrying out one of their critical functions: suppressing inflammation of the intestinal lining…
“Given the low percentage of IBD patients who respond to drugs directed at the immune system, these results could point the way to improving treatment by identifying patients who might best respond to manipulation of bacteria in their digestive tract,” said study co-author Stephan R. Targan, MD, director of the F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute.
The Microbiome Transfer to the Next Generation
In another gene-microbe interaction study, Science Daily reports:
A genome-wide association analysis of over 1,000 twins in the UK supports that some parts of our microbiomes are inherited and shaped–not through a spread of microbes from parent to child, but through our genes. The results, revealing new examples of heritable bacterial species–including those related to diet preference, metabolism, and immune defense — appear May 11 in Cell Host & Microbe’s special issue on the “Genetics and Epigenetics of Host-Microbe Interactions.”
According to the article abstract:
Repeat sampling of subjects showed heritable taxa to be temporally stable. A candidate gene approach uncovered associations between heritable taxa and genes related to diet, metabolism, and olfaction. We replicate an association between Bifidobacterium and the lactase (LCT) gene locus and identify an association between the host gene ALDH1L1 and the bacteria SHA-98, suggesting a link between formate production and blood pressure.
Additional genes detected are involved in barrier defense and self/non-self recognition. Our results indicate that diet-sensing, metabolism, and immune defense are important drivers of human-microbiome co-evolution.
Finally….the Announcement of a New Gut Research Tool
It’s called the HuMiX, and it supposedly works like the “real thing”. Science Daily states:
Scientists have now proven that a model of the human gut they have developed and patented — HuMiX — is representative of the actual conditions and processes that occur within our intestines. With HuMiX, the researchers can analyze the complex interactions between human cells and bacteria, predict their effects on health or disease onset, and study the action of probiotics and drugs.
Our microbiome has profound impacts on our health and disease risks. What I love regarding research with the microbiota (our critter populations in and on our body) and the microbiome (genes of the buggies) is that it proves there is a connection between our environment and lifestyle (exposures, food choices, exercise, stress, etc) by how both modulate these critters. Furthermore, there’s ways in which our genes can modulate our microbiota and how our microbiome modulates our genetic expression. All of this research is proving the important concept of personalized healthcare- not just our biochemical individuality, but our unique bug blueprint as well!
Make sure to read more on the new healthcare here.
‘Bugs’ as drugs: Harnessing novel gut bacteria for human health. Science Daily. May 4, 2016.
Hilary P. Browne, Samuel C. Forster, Blessing O. Anonye, Nitin Kumar, B. Anne Neville, Mark D. Stares, David Goulding, Trevor D. Lawley. Culturing of ‘unculturable’ human microbiota reveals novel taxa and extensive sporulation. Nature, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nature17645
EAWAG: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. Science Daily. May 9, 2016.
Stool Transplant Soothes Tough-to-Treat Colitis in Study. Health Day. May 23, 2016.
Immunization with a heat-killed preparation of the environmental bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae promotes stress resilience in mice. PNAS. May 2016. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1600324113.
Cell Press. Antibiotics that kill gut bacteria also stop growth of new brain cells. Science Daily. May 19, 2016.
The Skin Microbiome. Dr. Kara Fitzgerald Web Site. April 14, 2016.
Your Healthy Skin Germs Stay Put, Despite Cleaning-Findings suggest your ‘microbial fingerprint’ is
important to well-being. Health Day. May 4, 2016.
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Intestinal worms boost immune system in a surprising way. Science Daily. May 5, 2016.
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Breast milk hormones found to impact bacterial development in infants’ guts: Intestinal microbiome of children born to obese mothers significantly different from those born to mothers of healthy weight. Science Daily. May 4, 2016.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Genetic variants in patients with crohn’s disease prevent ‘good’ gut bacteria from working. Science Daily. May 6, 2016.
Cell Press. Twin study finds that gut microbiomes run in families. Science Daily. May 11, 2016.
Julia K. Goodrich, Emily R. Davenport, Michelle Beaumont, Matthew A. Jackson, Rob Knight, Carole Ober, Tim D. Spector, Jordana T. Bell, Andrew G. Clark, Ruth E. Ley. Genetic Determinants of the Gut Microbiome in UKTwins. Cell Host & Microbe, 2016; 19 (5): 731.
University of Luxembourg. New human microbiome research tool: Gut model HuMiX works like the real thing. Science Daily. May 11, 2016.