the (gut) microbiome: the main root cause

what is the gut microbiome? 

The microbiome is the trillions of microorganisms (also called microbes or microbiota) of thousands of different species that live over and inside the surfaces of our body, like a ‘living’ paint, which at a microscopic scale, is teeming with life. These living microorganisms include not only bacteria, but also fungi, parasites, and viruses. 

The largest concentrations of microbes are found in our gut, particularly in our large intestine (although there is growing evidence that these microbe populations are everywhere, including the lung and even the brain). Since 2007, when the massive human microbiome project2 was first launched, research has exploded and we have discovered that these microorganisms (the number of them, types of different ‘bugs’ and the interplay between them) all have a profound effect on our health. In a way, our microbiome could be said to be the most important ‘organ’ in our body.

The organisms in the microbiome can be either helpful or potentially harmful, and even those deemed harmful can react differently in different environments, meaning there is still a lot to learn! Most microbes are symbiotic (both they and our human body benefit from them being there), but some have been identified as being pathogenic (damaging or causing disease). 

These gut microorganisms can produce chemical signals and proteins that interact with our immune system (80% of which, live in our gut),2 our enteric nervous system (a vast nerve network, which connects directly to our brain, via the vagus nerve) and also our gut wall, either improving our health, or creating leaky gut

Many of our gut villains can disrupt the healthy microbiome balance and when this disruption is severe and prolonged, we call it dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is thought to be a root cause of many chronic diseases,3 mental illness, inflammation and multiple health symptoms.  

how does the microbiome develop?

Each person’s microbiome composition is as unique as a fingerprint.4 It begins developing in your mothers’ womb. The first microbiome ‘seeding’ is from your mother, as you pass through the birth canal. This new microbiome is then nourished and supported by breastfeeding and early infant experiences. 

Antibiotics, caesarean section, your mothers’ microbiome health and bottle feeding can all disrupt this early microbiome and have long-term effects. Throughout life, diet, environmental exposures, stress and medications can all impact the microbiome composition and can either be beneficial to health, or place you at a greater risk of many diseases. 

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references:

  1. Turnbaugh, P., Ley, R., Hamady, M. et al. The Human Microbiome Project Nature 449, 804–810 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature06244
  2. G. A. Castro and C. J. Arntzen Immunophysiology of the gut: a research frontier for integrative studies of the common mucosal immune system | American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 1993 265:4, G599-G610 
  3. Clarke TH, Gomez A, Singh H, Nelson KE, Brinkac LM. Integrating the microbiome as a resource in the forensics toolkit Forensic Sci Int Genet. 2017 Sep;30:141-147. doi: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2017.06.008. Epub 2017 Jun 27. PMID: 28728057.
  4. Dunn AB, Jordan S, Baker BJ, Carlson NS. The Maternal Infant Microbiome: Considerations for Labor and Birth . MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2017 Nov/Dec;42(6):318-325. doi: 10.1097/NMC.0000000000000373. PMID: 28825919; PMCID: PMC5648605.
  5. Clarke TH, Gomez A, Singh H, Nelson KE, Brinkac LM. Integrating the microbiome as a resource in the forensics toolkit Forensic Sci Int Genet. 2017 Sep;30:141-147. doi: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2017.06.008. Epub 2017 Jun 27. PMID: 28728057.
  6. Mosca Alexis, Leclerc Marion, Hugot Jean P. Gut Microbiota Diversity and Human Diseases: Should We Reintroduce Key Predators in Our Ecosystem? Frontiers in Microbiology, Vol7, 2016 P455   
  7. Kristensen N, Nymann C, Konradsen H.Implementing research results in clinical practice- the experiences of healthcare professionals BMC Health Serv Res. 2016;16:48. Published 2016 Feb 10. doi:10.1186/s12913-016-1292-y
  8. McNabney SM, Henagan TM. Short Chain Fatty Acids in the Colon and Peripheral Tissues: A Focus on Butyrate, Colon Cancer, Obesity and Insulin Resistance Nutrients. 2017;9(12):1348. Published 2017 Dec 12. doi:10.3390/nu9121348
  9. JOSE C. CLEMENTE, ERICA C. PEHRSSON, MARTIN J. BLASER, KULDIP SANDHU, ZHAN GAO, BIN WANG, MAGDA MAGRIS, GLIDA HIDALGO, MONICA CONTRERAS, ÓSCAR NOYA-ALARCÓN, ORLANA LANDER, JEREMY MCDONALD, MIKE COX, JENS WALTER, PHAIK LYN OH, JEAN F. RUIZ, SELENA RODRIGUEZ, NAN SHEN, SE JIN SONG, JESSICA METCALF, ROB KNIGHT, GAUTAM DANTAS, M. GLORIA DOMINGUEZ-BELLO The microbiome of uncontacted Amerindians SCIENCE ADVANCES17 APR 2015 : E1500183
  10. Moreno PA, Vélez PE, Martínez E, et al. The human genome: a multifractal analysis BMC Genomics. 2011;12:506. Published 2011 Oct 14. doi:10.1186/1471-2164-12-506
  11. Ravel J, Blaser MJ, Braun J, et al. Human microbiome science: vision for the future, Bethesda, MD, July 24 to 26, 2013 Microbiome. 2014;2:16. Published 2014 Jul 18. doi:10.1186/2049-2618-2-16
  12. Hufnagl K, Pali-Schöll I, Roth-Walter F, Jensen-Jarolim E. Dysbiosis of the gut and lung microbiome has a role in asthma Semin Immunopathol. 2020;42(1):75-93. doi:10.1007/s00281-019-00775-y
  13. Hieken TJ, Chen J, Hoskin TL, et al.The Microbiome of Aseptically Collected Human Breast Tissue in Benign and Malignant Disease . Sci Rep. 2016;6:30751. Published 2016 Aug 3. doi:10.1038/srep30751
  14. Parida S, Sharma D. The Microbiome–Estrogen Connection and Breast Cancer Risk  Cells. 2019;8(12):1642. Published 2019 Dec 15. doi:10.3390/cells8121642
  15. Giuffrè M, Moretti R, Campisciano G, et al. You Talking to Me? Says the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) to the Microbe. How Intestinal Microbes Interact with the ENS  J Clin Med. 2020;9(11):3705. Published 2020 Nov 18. doi:10.3390/jcm9113705
  16. Liou AP, Paziuk M, Luevano JM Jr, Machineni S, Turnbaugh PJ, Kaplan LM. Conserved shifts in the gut microbiota due to gastric bypass reduce host weight and adiposity. Sci Transl Med. 2013 Mar 27;5(178):178ra41. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3005687. PMID: 23536013; PMCID: PMC3652229.
  17. Dominguez-Bello, M., De Jesus-Laboy, K., Shen, N. et al. Partial restoration of the microbiota of cesarean-born infants via vaginal microbial transfer Nat Med 22, 250–253 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nm.4039
  18. Milani C, Duranti S, Bottacini F, Casey E, Turroni F, Mahony J, Belzer C, Delgado Palacio S, Arboleya Montes S, Mancabelli L, Lugli GA, Rodriguez JM, Bode L, de Vos W, Gueimonde M, Margolles A, van Sinderen D, Ventura M. The First Microbial Colonizers of the Human Gut: Composition, Activities, and Health Implications of the Infant Gut Microbiota. Microbiol Mol Biol Rev. 2017 Nov 8;81(4):e00036-17. doi: 10.1128/MMBR.00036-17. PMID: 29118049; PMCID: PMC5706746.
  19. Does Your Microbiological Age Match Your Biological One?

 

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